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Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
Bob Boilen
St. Vincent at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.

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.


St. Vincent at 9:30 Club, March 1 & 2

Oh my! These two shows are among the top five best I've seen in my concert-going life! So good I went to see it twice! St. Vincent's show is marriage of great songs played brilliantly and amazing visuals. You won't see projections or pyrotechnics, simply Annie Clark in performance with simple lights, choreography and a single prop — a small set of stairs for Annie to climb and later slink down. Her movements were well thought out and didn't feel superfluous, as a lot of choreography can feel. It was stunning and any moment could have been a fabulous still frame (I know, I took a few pictures, one of which you can see above). In the end it was the songs, the words, the guitar, the sounds and the place that made this ingrained forever as a truly memorable show.


"The Satellites" by Brian Eno and Karl Hyde

There's new music from Brian Eno. It's a collaboration with Karl Hyde, a painter, singer and longtime musician with the electronic duo Underworld. I've only heard this one song, but it's a majestic pop tune with a good sense of mystery. Instrumental Eno is wonderful, but my hope here was that there would be singing, and at just about the two minute mark we hear Eno and Hyde singing in harmony. Eno is working with electronic drums here; Hyde plays guitar. Both of them wrote the words and sing. And in that big pulsing sound, amongst others playing piano, drums and more, you can also hear Eno's former Roxy Music bandmate Andy Mackay on alto sax. A new album called Someday World will be out on May 6 on Warp Records.


Almost Home: Live At The Fonda by Moby and Friends

A new Moby DVD was released this week, a concert video from his last tour with Innocents, his best record in years. The songs have this epic "Hey Jude" feel and feature Damien Jurado, Mark Lanegan, Inyang Bassey, Cold Specks and more. Here's a long sample, nearly 50 minutes. Big fun!


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The last Elton John record I could fully embrace was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. On March 25, there'll be a new edition of that album. Back when it was originally released, 40 years ago, I felt like it was filled with everything that was right and wrong with pop music at the time. What was right was the songwriting — a brilliant maker of melody meets a perfect wordsmith. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's songs managed to move from poignancy ("Candle in the Wind") to silliness ("Benny and the Jets") within just a few turns of the record. What was amazing is how big it got and production-wise how clear and distinct all the instruments were. This was a great record to put on the hi-fi.

What was wrong about this record wasn't their fault. It paved the way for grandiosity in rock 'n' roll made by too many pop musicians without the songs or words to match the size of the music. A few years later we had punk. It's no coincidence.

The multilple new editions of Elton John's monumental 1973 pop record include a yellow vinyl version, a concert recording, a film called Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things, a book of rare photos and other goodies including remakes by Ed Sheeran, John Grant, Fall Out Boy and more.


Public Service Broadcasting Live

Had I not seen those two brilliant St. Vincent shows, seeing Public Service Broadcasting would have been my number one show of the week. The English duo of drums, electronics, guitar and banjo mix imagery and sounds from British public information films from the '40s and '50s with hard-driving, droning noise and rhythms. Their debut album is aptly titled Inform - Educate - Entertain; I'll just call it thrilling. We'll have a Tiny Desk Concert online in early spring.

Public Service Broadcasting performing at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C.
Bob Boilen / npr
Public Service Broadcasting performing at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C.


Listening to 1,500 songs by the bands who are going to be at SXSW next week

In prepping for SXSW, the quirkiest parts of my personality shine. I'm not alone in listening to over 1,500 songs — Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson do that as well (and Stephen culls from that list to make The Austin 100, a bundle of songs you can download). But I also star rate every single song — the goal is to figure out who I like based solely on what I hear. One major goal of going to SXSW is to see bands that I've never seen and mostly never heard of. What I'm trying to do when I listen is to find a nugget in a song, something that stands out it says to me, "This band could be interesting." I don't have to love the song, I just need to know that something is going on that I'm curious about.

From those 1,500 songs, I made a list of about 40 artists I found intriguing that I'd never heard of. Here it is if you want to listen along.


Sam Dance: Future Islands On TV

This week on The Late Show With David Letterman, a much poppier than usual Future Islands performed "Seasons (Waiting on You)," the opening track to their new album, Singles. This is a band that can feel a bit serious, but on that night it was just plain serious fun. Watch Samuel Herring move. And here's a Tiny Desk Concert with Future Islands from 2011.

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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