Robin Hilton

Robin Hilton is the producer and co-host for the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered. He joined NPR after co-founding Small Good Thing Productions, a non-profit production company for independent film, radio and music in Athens, GA. Before that, he lived and worked in Japan as a translator for the government, and taught English as a second language to junior high school students. From 1989 to 1996, Hilton worked for NPR member stations KANU and WUGA as a Senior Producer and Assistant News Director and was a long-time contributing reporter to NPR's daily news programs All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

He's also worked as an emergency room orderly, a blackjack dealer and a fruitcake factory assembly lineman.

I grew up in a town of about 6,000 people in rural Kansas back in the '70s and '80s. I've never romanticized it much, though it was certainly a simpler time and, for better or worse, it's where I learned to make some sense of my life. The world you inhabit when you come of age in your teen years has a way of digging its claws in you. As the years pass, no matter how far you try to get away from it, it stays with you. The people, the places, the sounds and even the smells become a part of your DNA.

Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has one of the most arresting voices of any young singer you're likely to hear this year: He's got the heartbreaking falsetto of a Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and the raspy soul of a Ray LaMontagne, in a way that sounds both fragile and grand.

Thousands of votes poured in from NPR Music listeners in our poll for the best music of the year (so far). In the end, The Decemberists' album The King Is Dead was the clear winner, followed by Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, Adele's 21 and Bon Iver's Bon Iver. Radiohead's The King of Limbs rounded out the Top 5.

You blinked, and somehow, the whole first half of 2011 is nearly behind us. Before we get too deep into the summer months and descend rapidly into the final stretch of the year, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on some of the great music we've heard so far. Tell us your picks for the best albums from the first half of 2011 by picking up to 10 in the poll below. We'll list the results next week.

What's Sasquatch? It's a big, beautiful music festival held in Washington state on Memorial Day weekend, with a whole bunch of our favorite bands, such as Wilco, Death Cab For Cutie, The Antlers, Bright Eyes and many, many more.

Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda, the duo behind the quirky, hip-hop and pop group Cibo Matto, announced today that they're getting back together for a new album and tour. The first leg of the tour, which they're calling "Yeah Basically Cibo Matto," launches June 21 in Seattle, Wash., with later dates on the east coast in July. Hatori and Honda also say they're working on a batch of new songs for an as yet untitled album, due out early next year. It'll be the band's first release since the 1999 album Stereo * Type A.

Tonight, starting at approximately 9:45 p.m. ET, we'll webcast a full concert by Fleet Foxes from Stubb's Barbecue in Austin, Texas. We'll have live video, so you can watch the whole thing. It should be a memorable performance.

Growing up in Toronto in the 1990s, Katie Stelmanis knew she'd one day be an opera singer. She studied piano and violin and, as a child, sang with the Canadian Opera Company. Later, after years of private lessons, she was set to study opera in college.

Pity the band with a swarm of anxious fans clamoring for a new album — especially when the last one was a career-making breakout like Hospice, the 2009 release that took The Antlers from near-total obscurity to vast critical acclaim, sold-out shows and a worldwide tour.

What do you do when your first major release is a defining moment? Two years after Hospice transformed The Antlers' world, the Brooklyn band's three affable, unassuming members faced the daunting task of producing a worthy sequel.

Watching John Maus talk about his music in an interview (see the one from The Drone at the end of this post), it's not surprising to learn that the synth-pop deconstructionist is also a political philosophy and theory instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He's also working towards a Ph.D. in Political Science. The guy's got an incredible amount of energy and a million different ideas colliding in his wildly creative brain at any time.

I first heard the music of Son Lux (a.k.a. Ryan Lott) when he released his breathtaking debut, At War With Walls and Mazes, in 2008. Lott was unknown at the time, and his record — a startling mix of mangled hip-hop beats, cut-up string arrangements and fragments of field recordings — came out of nowhere like it was shot from a cannon.