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Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]

You might see some of it pop up on the All Songs Considered Twitter account (@allsongs), my Instagram feed or our Facebook page in real time, but this will be a permanent home for the amazing rainbows in my life.


Real Estate at Subculture in New York City, February 27

Real Estate, blissed-out while performing live at SubCulture in New York.
Ebru Yidiz / for NPR
for NPR
Real Estate, blissed-out while performing live at SubCulture in New York.

The band from Ridgewood, N.J. performed its entire third album, Atlas, song for song, a week before its release. The five members of Real Estate wrote the tunes on Atlas as a performing band, so they already seemed comfortable with these breezy melodies. After an hour of warm, melodic music I half expected to leave the venue and walk into a sweet summer evening. Reality had it more at around 20° F. You can watch the entire performance in our First Listen Live series.


"Gouge" by Eternal Summers

There's a moment about 40 seconds into to this flangey summer pop song where liftoff happens, that moment where the song goes from good to unforgettable. Listen to it, it's right there in Nicole Yun's voice. That note. I means she's already told us she's going to gouge her eyes out and cut the tongue from her mouth and we're not a half a minute into the song. But then that line — "Cause I'm losing it" — sung so succinctly above everything else going on. Ah pop music, how do you do that?

The Eternal Summers' record The Drop Beneath comes out on March 4. They're on tour, so be on the look out. I'll see them in Washington, D.C. next week. I'll report back.


Island Intervals by Death Vessel

/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

This is what you need to know about Death Vessel: Joel Thibodeau's new record, out this week, was recorded in Reykjavik with Jonsi of Sigur Rós and produced by his partner, the American artist Alex Somers. Honestly, that should make anyone curious about ethereal pop run and listen. And though Thibodeau shares aesthetic similarities with Sigur Rós, there is a personal and intimate tone in this, his third record, that works well. A wonderful Saturday morning record.


Fantastic Man: A Film About William Onyeabor

Here's a short documentary that popped up on YouTube this week about a visionary loner making catchy dance music with electronics at a time when few people were thinking of electronics and dance together. In that sense, William Onyeabor can best be thought of as the Kraftwerk of African music, in particular, of Nigeria in the 1970s. He made many brilliant psychedelic dance records, popular at home but unknown most other places. A compilation of his music that came out last year was one of NPR Music's favorite albums of the year, but the man himself is a mystery and now days won't even talk about his music to anyone. Fantastic Man is about 30 minutes long and tells a story worth hearing. And if you've not already discovered the music ... well here you go!


I Made A Record

For the past eight years, starting each February 1, I make a new album as part of The RPM Challenge. For most of these years, I do it with my musical partner and longtime friend Michael Barron. Our project was inspired by the death of our friend and drummer, Lorenzo "Pee Wee" Jones. Life is short. It's a musical challenge we take on under the name Danger Painters — with Pee Wee, we used to be called Tiny Desk Unit in the olden days. We make the Danger Painters records long distance, via file exchange. I'm in the D.C. area, Michael is in Providence and we involve other friends too, but most days and nights the collaboration goes something like this over text: "Dropped you some drums ... it's a bit complicated ... it may be worth looping sections 'till you get the hang of it." Or, "Just uploaded guitar tracks for a new song."

The project re-arranges our lives for the month. I'll mix while the oven is preheating, write words between listening to hundreds of songs from artists playing at SXSW. Michael recorded an entire guitar track while on hold with United Airlines. I generally stay up 'til 2 a.m. and wake at 6:45. I do the mixing, write songs, play synth, play guitar and even sing on one song. Michael is the main songwriter and lyricist and singer of most songs. When the songs take shape I send them to Bill Harvey, another old D.C. friend. He'll lay down the bass from Brooklyn. When we're stuck for words there's our old buddy KD Lay. He'll always send something inspiring to mould around the tunes that are taking shape.

Writing on deadline may go against that idea of waiting for the muse, but frankly I've always found the muse when I have to find the muse. It never just decides to show up. The songs are fresh, not overworked and often first or second takes. All in all we made 10 songs, 35 minutes of music in February. We're proud of it. The sixth Danger Painters record is called [Sic]. We put it on Bandcamp free. It's a name your price thing cause that's they way Bandcamp is, but we don't want you to pay.

In all the years I've talked to musicians about their craft I've always found that being a musician makes those conversations so much easier. I madly love making music but with a wonderfully crazy schedule the only way it happens is to force myself to find the time. Try it sometime. Go to the RPM Challenge site for more information on the challenge. So until next February, after almost five nights in a row home, it's back out to concerts for me.


I'm still on a goat thing

And I'm so not alone. Once you peg yourself a fan of goats as I did by offering my appreciation of the "Goats Standing on Things" tumblr here last week, you'll get emails/text messages pointing to things like this. For now I'm OK with that.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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.
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