54 min 41 sec
Clockwise from upper left: Panda Bear, Björk, Lowland Hum, Torres Courtesy of the artists hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artists

This week on All Songs Considered, we get heavy — heavy lyrics, heavy themes — as hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton explore the meaning of life, even breaking it down to the atomic level, with existential music from English folk singer Bill Fay, Björk and more.

Bill Fay disappeared from the music scene after releasing a couple of records more than 40 years ago. He returned with the stellar Life Is People in 2012, and is back again with another gorgeous, contemplative collection of songs called Who Is The Sender?

Also on the show: We imagine the apocalypse with Beyoncé and Run The Jewels collaborator Boots, a musician and filmmaker who's turned a handful of his songs into a short movie called Motorcycle Jesus. We find darkness at the end of the tunnel with Andy Stott's twisted remix of Panda Bear's "Boys Latin." And NPR's Stephen Thompson crashes the show to tell us about this year's Austin 100, a downloadable playlist of 100 songs by the artists we're most excited to see at this year's South By Southwest festival. Stephen shares a song by Torres, one of his favorite discoveries from the list. Plus, the Brooklyn-based dystopian funk super group Lá-Bas, Björk's mind-blowing breakup album Vulnicura, and the joyful sounds of husband-wife duo Lowland Hum.

But first, hear a taste of the album Bob wrote and recorded for this year's RPM Challenge, his seventh with his band the Danger Painters.

Songs Featured On This Episode

Bill Fay

  • Song: Something Else Ahead
  • From: Who Is The Sender?
Rediscovered in his later years, English folk singer Bill Fay writes profoundly beautiful, ruminative music that contemplates life's biggest questions. On "Something Else Ahead," he considers people as clueless fish in a pond. Fay's latest album, Who Is The Sender? comes out on April 28.


  • Song: I Run Roulette
  • From: Motorcycle Jesus
Producer and filmmaker Jordan Asher offers a gritty industrial cut under the name Boots. It's part of the soundtrack to his new short movie, Motorcycle Jesus, about an uncertain and dangerous post-apocalyptic world. The full soundtrack for Motorcycle Jesus is due out on March 3, but you can watch the full film here.


  • Song: Atom Dance
  • From: Vulnicura
Vulnicura is Björk's remarkable breakup album — a mix of profound poetry and mind-blowing sounds. On "Atom Dance," she considers love, passion and lust on an atomic level, with the help of singer Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.


  • Song: Automotan
  • From: Automotan
Lá-Bas is a space-funk collaboration featuring musicians from The War On Drugs, The Shins and more, with appearances by St. Vincent and David Byrne. This song, "Automaton," sounds like a demented disco hit from an imaginary era, and features saxophonist John Natchez. Lá-Bas' debut LP is due out April 24.


  • Song: Strange Hellos
  • From: Sprinter
Torres is the stage name of Mackenzie Scott, a singer originally from Macon, Georgia with a powerful voice and incendiary sound. She's just one of the artists featured in The Austin 100, a downloadable playlist of 100 songs from some of the bands we're most excited to see at this year's South By Southwest festival.

Lowland Hum

  • Song: Olivia
  • From: Lowland Hum
Lowland Hum is the husband-and-wife duo of Daniel and Lauren Goans. After marrying in 2012, the two decided to pursue music together full time. Their new, self-titled full-length is due out on April 14.

Panda Bear

  • Song: Boys Latin (Andy Stott Remix)
  • From: Boys Latin (Andy Stott Remix)
Panda Bear's original version of this song, from the album Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, included a prominent vocal part. But here, dub producer Andy Stott strips out nearly all the voices and locates the darkest parts of the song.