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Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

Deafheaven's George Clarke on stage at Empire in Springfield, Va. i i

Deafheaven's George Clarke on stage at Empire in Springfield, Va. Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR
Deafheaven's George Clarke on stage at Empire in Springfield, Va.

Deafheaven's George Clarke on stage at Empire in Springfield, Va.

Bob Boilen/NPR

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 my 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.

Bob Boilen's Weekly Rainbows

  • SONG OF THE WEEK

    "Digital Witness" by St. Vincent

    There are 3 "songs" inside this one song. You could call them verse/chorus/bridge, but, truth be told, each section on its own is better than most entire songs I hear in a day. Each section sets you up for the next. You can hear the entire record — Annie Clark's fourth as St. Vincent and I think her best — as part of our First Listen series until it comes out next week. Do it.

  • ALBUM OF THE WEEK

    See "Song Of The Week." :)

  • SHOW OF THE WEEK

    Courtney Barnett at DC9 in Washington, D.C.

    Courtney Barnett at DC9 in Washington, D.C. Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

    itoggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

    Courtney Barnett at DC9 in Washington, D.C., February 19

    This was a week filled with multiple four-star concerts (I sadly/geekily keep a spreadsheet of the bands I see and rate them; five stars is the highest). This week I've seen three concerts that rate four stars. That almost never happens.

    On Wednesday alone I had two four-star shows. I saw the talented and popular Israeli singer Asaf Avidan at Sixth and I Synagogue — he's nearly unknown here, but that should change. I loved the performance but I did have a problem having with the sound at the venue, where Avidan's powerful voice was blasted through a PA system. It was not only painfully loud, but the PA took all the warmth from his voice. Still, the songs he writes, the stories he tells and his rich assortment of talents on guitar and various electronics made for a powerful heartfelt evening. After that, I ran to a 10 p.m. show at DC9 to see Courtney Barnett. If you've heard Courtney Barnett's The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas and you go hear her trio live, you're in for a pleasant adrenaline shock. This band ROCKS! and the songs take on new life. On Thursday I saw the band Deafheaven in Springfield, Va. They're a slap in the face, the kind that shakes your soul and washes away the mundane. This was one fierce show.

    That makes three amazing shows, and just a single slot to fill. Since I have to pick one, I'll go with Courtney Barnett, whose set was just flawless. Go see her play in a small space while you can.

  • MUSICAL MOMENT OF THE WEEK

    Asaf Avidan's Voice Slays Me

    I was driving down the road, new music on my phone, and this song comes on with a voice as distinctive as Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin. I'm thinking, "Who is she?" and at the traffic light I look at my phone and it says Asaf Avidan, Different Pulses. next traffic light i search for her. Turns out Asaf Avidan is a 30-year-old man, a singer well known in Israel, formerly with his band The Mojos. Now he's on his own. He put out the brilliant record Different Pulses in 2012, and he's now searching for a label to put it out in the U.S. (you can get it digitally, but not on CD or LP). I'll say this: If I had a label, he'd be mine. Asaf Avidan is now touring 12 cities in North America and Canada. It's just him: Acoustic guitar and that voice. (This week that voice came to the Tiny Desk. We've had Adele here, we've had Tom Jones, great opera stars, but nobody shook my bones the way his voice did. The Tiny Desk Concert will be online March 1. Until then there's this video.)

  • LYRIC OF THE WEEK

    From "Avant Gardener" by Courtney Barnett

    The paramedic thinks I'm clever 'cause I play guitar
    I think she's clever 'cause she stops people dying.
    Anaphylactic and super-hypochondriactic
    Should've stayed in bed today
    I much prefer the mundane.

    This song and these words were some of my favorites of 2013, technically. But the Australian singer and guitar player came through Washington, D.C. this week for a concert at DC9 (see above) and a Tiny Desk Concert (coming soon). Each time I saw her, I felt so good about the human race and the way we take care of each other. Sometimes it's about the way a guitarist entertains and other times it's about how paramedics save lives.

  • FLASHBACK OF THE WEEK

    "Ring Of Fire" Blocked For Use In Hemorrhoid Ointment Ad

    10 years ago this week, a brilliant song was rescued from disgrace. "Ring of Fire," one of the greatest songs in the repertoire of Johnny Cash and June Carter, was almost sold to the makers of a hemorrhoid cream. Obviously attracted to the line, "Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring," the song about the transportive qualities of love could have been robbed of its lyrical power if Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote the song with June Carter Cash, had his way. It was Johnny Cash's daughter, Roseanne Cash, who saved the song's dignity for generations to come, saying the family "would never allow the song to be demeaned like that." Johnny Cash died roughly a year before the incident; Merle Kilgore died the year after.


  • QUOTE OF THE WEEK

    Spandau Ballet in New York City, 1981. i i
    Lynn Goldsmith/Brian Bumberry
    Spandau Ballet in New York City, 1981.
    Lynn Goldsmith/Brian Bumberry

    "THE BAND WHO INVENTED A DECADE RETURN TO AMERICA."

    This was a line in a press release I got about the band Spandau Ballet. It's a sentiment that may have been true for some people's musical worlds. If, in fact, these are the people who invented the '80s, I wish they hadn't.

  • RANDOM RAINBOW OF THE WEEK

    From the "Goats Standing On Things" Tumblr
    Steve McCurry/goatsstandingonthings.tumblr.com

    goatsstandingonthings.tumblr.com

    You may think I only like music. You'd be wrong. I like goats, too.

  • BONUS OLYMPIC RAINBOW

    Germany's Nelli Zhiganshina and Germany's Alexander Gazsi perform in the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 16, 2014.
    Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

    Oh, and I also like ice dancing, apparently.

    Guys, this German ice dancer looks just like Bob Boilen cc: @allsongs @nprmusic @nprolympics #nprsochi pic.twitter.com/v4BSsV1TZ2

    — AllThingsConsidered (@npratc) February 17, 2014

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