Bob Boilen

What were you doing when you were 7 years old?

Even in an office in broad daylight, Julie Byrne sings with both a husk and a whisper as if she's gone a long time without speaking - as if she's been alone, as if she's been traveling. Her opening number at the Tiny Desk, "Sleepwalker," sings of the road as a source of freedom.

I lived my life alone before you
And with those that I'd never succeeded to love
And I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude
I fought you, I did not know how to give it up

AMERICANAFEST just ended and we're back from Nashville with 10 thrilling tunes for you. The artists are, for the most part, emerging musicians who tackle this diverse genre from all angles.

Defining Americana isn't easy. At the festival, there were musicians from all around the world. Some were rooted in blues, jazz, boogie rock, bluegrass, soul, gospel, comedy, country, Tejano and much more.

About a year ago, Ten Flowers, the debut album from Kalbells, came out and brought me a great deal of joy.

At 76, Paul Simon has been writing music for more than 60 years. And all that's about to come to an end.

They're vulnerable and fearless, filled with love but in pain, thoughtful but prone to cathartic outbursts. IDLES is the best 21st century punk-ish band I've heard. Where most outlandish bands spit out lyrics as one-line headlines, IDLES are tellers of truthful tales.

I love everything about Ohmme's debut album, Parts. Here we have two classically trained pianists, picking up electric guitars and diving into uncharted musical waters.

First Watch: Luluc

Aug 23, 2018

Today, The Band's Robbie Robertson is going to take us back 50 years, to a basement just outside of Woodstock, New York and the formation of a sound and an album that all these years later still shapes the musical landscape.

It's fitting for Haley Heynderickx to be singing at the Tiny Desk. The Portland singer entered our Tiny Desk Contest three years in a row with strong, though often frail songs. And she'd be among the first to tell you how entering that Tiny Desk Contest changed her life.

You can hear the birds chirping and the traffic sounds outside the window of this makeshift studio window. The Brooklyn apartment is where Cautious Clay and his friends, guitarist Chris Kyle and drummer Francesco Alessi, chose to record a stripped-down version of their new song "Call Me."

For all of the bigger names at this year's Newport Folk Festival, it was this under-the-radar quartet from the Boston area that I was most eager to see. Darlingside kicked off the weekend with extraordinary harmonies and a dystopic vision embraced on Extralife, including mushroom clouds, acetylene burns and a future forever trapped in a video game.

The Newport Folk Festival's nearly 60-year history is permeated with gospel music; though Moses Sumney uses loop pedals and an electric guitar to animate his work, his voice flows deeply in tune with a spirit and conviction that's recognizably tied to that tradition.

There is a moment, near the top of this Tiny Desk concert — when three voices gather 'round a single microphone to deliver the chorus of "That Ol' Train" — that is so pure and beautiful it made my eyes well up with tears when we filmed it. Not since bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley played the Tiny Desk in 2009 have I felt vocals resonate so deeply.

This Newport Folk Festival set from Lucius, their fifth, is maybe most poignant yet.

Accompanied by members of yMusic, students from the Berklee College of Music on strings and J. Blynn, along with Lucius regulars Jess Wolfe, Holly Laessig, Dan Molad, and Peter Lalish. The group also incorporated choreography into the set, with the dancers known as The Seaweed Sisters.

Flasher are a rock trio where the crafted details of its songs aren't buried by a clear love of noise. But for its visit to the Tiny Desk, this young Washington trio set aside the distortion and worked up a semi-acoustic set of three songs — taken from its debut album, Constant Image, released on Domino in early Junewith vocals made central; voices sometimes in unison, sometimes swapping leads, adding a shifting point of view to songs that, on record, give equal footing to a precise noise.

It's as if the pianos were haunted. Somewhere about midway through this Tiny Desk, as Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds performed on his electronic keyboard, two upright pianos were playing lilting melodies behind him, absent any performer at the keys. And yet these "ghosts," along with Ólafur's band of strings and percussion, put together some of the most beautiful music I've heard at the Tiny Desk, made all the more mysterious through its presentation.

I'm thrilled to have two new songs from one of our greatest living guitarists and songwriters, Richard Thompson. His just-announced 19th solo album, 13 Rivers, still finds him brimming with bursts of guitar magic and storytelling. It's a trademark sound that has been incredibly influential since the days when he electrified British folk music in the 1960s as part of Fairport Convention and, later, some of the most brilliant records of the 1970s with his wife at the time Linda Thompson.

Fans of early Talking Heads albums, listen up. This group of teenagers from Brisbane could be your favorite new band. The Goon Sax frontman Louis Forster sings with a David Byrne-like delivery when he says the line that won me over, to his tenuous lover: "Let's get nervous in your room again." That's the moment I turned up the volume.

It's a rare pleasure to find music that gives me pause, slows me down from the daily deluge and gives me a moment to think. That's exactly what happened when I first heard "Caravan" from Opium Moon's self-titled, debut album. This music with violin, santur (a hammered dulcimer,) ancient percussion and bass is spacious and timeless.

Our 2018 Tiny Desk Contest tour has come to an end. Over the last two months, we've hosted concerts in eight cities featuring 21 bands who entered the Tiny Desk Contest — plus our winner, the brilliant guitarist and singer Naia Izumi.

It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn't until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real.

Our 2016 Tiny Desk Contest winner Gaelynn Lea is back with a new video and a new album on the way.

Death Cab For Cutie is back with some pretty great new music. The band has just announced that a new album is on the way called Thank You for Today. And in this special episode of All Songs Considered, singer Ben Gibbard shares and talks about the first single, "Gold Rush."

Singer Meg Myers' exasperation with her former record label birthed the song "Numb." She wrote me to say that the song "is about how I was feeling when my (former) record company was looking for something out of me that just didn't feel right for many reasons. I was frustrated and it came through in this song."

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