Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Boilen's first book, Your Song Changed My Life, will be published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

On River Whyless' masterful second album, We All The Light, four ego-less musicians blend their talents on violin, guitars, drums, harmonium, cello, banjo, toy piano and (most importantly) vocal harmonies to make a record steeped in the American acoustic tradition. And, though I first came across the Asheville, N.C., band at a small club in Nashville during AmericanaFest 2015, River Whyless doesn't play country, folk or roots rock.

There's new music from The Tallest Man On Earth. Though the song, "Rivers" feels familiar, there's an immediacy here, as though singer Kristian Matsson quickly captured a passionate moment in time. The voice is rawer and homespun, with lovely horns and piano accompanying a tale about leaving.

The music of Kevin Morby is fairly straightforward and acoustic for the most part, with traditional, folk-based rock at its core. The mystery and intensity lies in the lyrics. His biting song "I Have Been To The Mountain," performed here at the Tiny Desk and on his 2016 album Singing Saw, was inspired by the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City police officer.

That man lived in this town

Till that pig took him down

And have you heard the sound

What if you could see your favorite band in a living room, without all the background noise and cellphones you get at a live show? That's the question Rafe Offer, founder of Sofar Sounds, asked himself and a few friends after they'd seen a show where he couldn't even hear the band. Sofar Sounds operates around a simple idea: You gather together a few bands, a house in which they can perform, and an eager audience. However, the lineup isn't announced, which means the audience has no idea who's scheduled to perform until they arrive.

For Lucy Dacus, a 21-year-old with a warm and deep voice, singing comes as naturally as talking. As an adopted child in Richmond, Va., she was raised by a piano-playing mother; now, she writes songs that can be thoughtful, playful and powerful, with tremendous arrangements from guitarist Jacob Blizard.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Paul Simon has a new album coming out and it's wonderful. Titled Stranger To Stranger, it's his thirteenth solo release and he told me he it could be his last, at least for a while. For this week's +1 podcast, I sat with Paul Simon at NPR's New York bureau to talk about the new record, but more specifically to talk about a single song on the album, the puzzling and quirky opening cut, "The Werewolf."

There is new music from Gregory Alan Isakov, the South African-born, Philadelphia and Colorado troubadour. It's an album with the Colorado Symphony and his band. This song, "Liars" was written by Ron Scott and will be on Gregory's new album Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony.

While Kristine Leschper was singing her songs behind my desk, in the crowd was a tiny baby in a stroller. As I watched the child and the band, I couldn't help but think about both the promise and innocence of youth and the struggles of adulthood, as Leschper sang:

We lived unloved in unmade beds

You wore me like a necklace

You closed me like a locket

Is there a song that changed the way you think about life? A song that changed your path? I've been thinking a lot about this the past few years and I've posed that question to 35 musicians. Their answers are in a book I just wrote: Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St.

At first, it's an unlikely pairing. I think of Sam Amidon unadorned, his yearning voice perhaps paired with a guitar, banjo or fiddle. On the other hand, San Fermin, the project of Ellis Ludwig-Leone, is about the mighty power of great arrangements and orchestration. It took Sam's young son to pull the two sounds together for this song new collaboration, along with words taken from a poem called "Against Winter" by poet Charles Simic. Ellis Ludwig-Leone wrote to us, describing the simple beginnings of this new song:

Gaelynn Lea, the winner of NPR's second annual Tiny Desk Contest, makes music like nobody else. Her sounds are steeped in the deep melodies of great Irish fiddle tunes, but her performance and singing style aren't traditional. More than 6,000 artists submitted videos in which they performed an original song behind a desk of their choosing with the hope of winning a chance to play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR. Gaelynn Lea was the overwhelming favorite of our six judges.

I'd already been thinking a lot about George Martin. I've spent the last year writing a book about the songs that changed the lives of musicians, and in the introductory chapter I offer my own selection. "A Day in the Life," by The Beatles, changed the way I think about music. It's a song George Martin, who died on Tuesday at the age of 90, had a clear hand in.

The Ballroom Thieves is a folk trio with a cellist at its core. Singer Calin Peters and her bandmates, guitarist Martin Earley and percussionist Devin Mauch, have now teamed up with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra on a music video for its song "Bury Me Smiling," and the combination makes for a compelling song.

It's been a good year.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

"These are just the strongest melodies and the strongest ideas that occurred to me over a three to four year period, distilled."

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