Bob Boilen

Breaking news this morning: Dan Auerbach has been abducted by aliens to compete in intergalactic demolition derbies.

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


It's somewhat rare to find three singers so in sync as The Wild Reeds' Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe. Rarer still is the trio's songwriting skills; think Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Here's a story of how a sentiment, the kernel of a piece, can blossom when the right person comes along. The songwriter is Minneapolis-by-way-of-Wisconsin's J.E. Sunde, but the key transformer was Monica Martin, of the band Phox.

My favorite rock band, alt-J, has a pleasantly surprising piece of new music this morning — "3WW" comes from the band's third album, Relaxer, which they announced this morning and will be out June 9 on Canvasback Music. Unlike some of their brasher music, this song has the feel of a West African tune, with a gentle plucked sound that reminds me of an ngoni or kora.

There's a vibrance to the current music of Esmé Patterson that I wasn't expecting, having listened to her previous band Paper Bird. Gone are the banjos and remnants of folk music, and in their place are electric guitars — sometimes fierce and, here at the Tiny Desk, somewhat understated. She's a relative newcomer to the guitar, making it part of her songwriting only since leaving Paper Bird. But all of this instrumentation is meant to be supportive, not center-stage. At the heart of these songs, from her album We Were Wild, is a reach for independence:

Sean Rowe's voice, a room-rattling baritone, demands attention. The stories he tells with it are portraits that feel simple on the surface... they never are. Within "Gas Station Rose," Sean Rowe is on the road with a partner, they have each other, not much else. Even this little scene is filled with tension:

Sincerity, community and beauty is how I think of Lowland Hum; the sounds of Lauren and Daniel Goans. Thin is the husband and wife duo's third album since their 2013 debut, further refining their hushed harmonies and aural paintings. It's a sound that makes them a quiet Sunday-morning favorite. Some of the imagery comes from the beauty they see in the landscapes and locales they traverse and visit all over this country; art centers, cafes, nightclubs, house shows, racking up something like 45,000 miles in a Toyota Sienna between 2014 and 2015.

It's basically three chords banged out on a piano for 4 minutes. No drums, no guitars, no samples. But then: there's her voice. Haunting.

"Here is your princess / here is your horizon" — Aldous Harding repeats the line as a mantra, as a truth, as a reality. It's as if the gift of life is right here, with all its beauty and its limitations. At least that's how I see it.

He released Iceland's largest selling debut album ever in 2012, and now Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, best known simply as Ásgeir, is back. Today we're debuting "Unbound," the new song from Afterglow, the 24-year-old singer's follow-up to In The Silence.

Wire made three of my favorite albums of the late 1970s: Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978) and 154 (1979). Now, 40 years later, this brash, sonically adventurous British band is back with "Short Elevated Period," a song from a brand new album called Silver/Lead, coming March 31, and they didn't let me down.

For more than 50 years, the recently knighted Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, CBE, has been fascinated with American music and American culture. In the early 1960s, he and his brother Dave formed The Kinks to play Little Richard songs and original tunes steeped in rock 'n' roll.

We've officially closed the books on 2016 (finally), and we're ready to fall in love with some new music, from the big and hopeful to the crushingly sad.

The three women in The Wild Reeds love a good crescendo. They have three powerful upfront voices in Sharon Silva, Kinsey Lee and Mackenzie Howe and they all write songs to honor and embrace their soaring voices. Since their Tiny Desk Concert a little more than a year ago, over a half of a million people have seen it on our YouTube Channel.

Julien Baker never imagined her sad songs would be loved beyond a small circle of friends.

I could call this list "The Songs I Love To Drive Around With." More often than not, these 2016 songs set you up for a brilliant climax, often an unforgettable chorus. And I found a wide variety of artists that made songs with that memorable character, artists ranging from barely 20 years old to a reflective 82, from Niger to Nashville, from British hip-hop to yearning falsetto. I'd be thrilled to turn on a radio and hear this broad world of sound represent the Top 40.

Bob Boilen's Top 40 Songs Of 2016

On Dec. 4, just before Bon Iver took the stage at Pioneer Works, an old ironworks warehouse turned nonprofit arts and culture space, these prophetic words from Union Army officer Sullivan Ballou echoed off the Civil War-era brick walls:

"Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield."

So the other day Martin Atkins sent me an audio file that made me smile. It's called Bad Day, and it's sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Martin, a funny guy driven by a kind heart, used to be the drummer for Public Image Ltd. This is the story of how he quit that band — even though they had a big hit with "This Is Not A Love Song" — and wound up digging ditches for Bon Jovi's drummer in New Jersey.

Today's All Songs +1 podcast is a conversation with The Antlers' Peter Silberman on how hearing loss would eventually lead him to create his first solo album.

The bowed electric guitar droned as Thao & The Get Down Stay Down revved up a mighty sound. This set, recorded live this past August as part of the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors series in New York's Damrosch Park, was the fiercest set I've seen from this San Francisco group. Singer Thao Nguyen has been a bandleader for the past dozen years or so, and these three songs — from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down's fourth studio album, A Man Alive — more than capture her quirkiness and angular power.

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