Musical Space: Music Podcasts

Feb 12, 2019

Most of my listening time is now devoted to music podcasts. They fit the way I live; I like the format - most podcasts are almost as ad-free as what you’re listening to now. And they make car rides feel like less of a waste of time. Some are interviews, others are just curated playlists. My favorite music podcasts, though, are the ones that can really take advantage of the medium. This is the most democratic of all media -- anyone can make and distribute a podcast for next to zero dollars. They don’t have to appeal to a wide audience, so they can be aimed at the true music nerds, and from unique, personal perspectives. Podcasters can take the time to drill into a topic much more deeply than news outlets.

Song Exploder interviews music makers about a particular song; Heat Rocks does the same for iconic R & B albums. Cocaine and Rhinestones is how I learn about Country Music history, and Disgraceland, my guilty pleasure, recounts famous musicians’ tragic descents into debauchery. Dozens of public radio stations release shows as podcasts, which you would know if you’re listening to this on a computer, and I counted over 60 music podcasts from the BBC.

(Music: Beethoven symphony #9, 2nd movement - “Scherzo”, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra


This orchestra is based in San Francisco, uses historically informed performance practices.

Beethoven’s ninth symphony is the most requested item on Desert Island Discs, which since 1942 has been asking interviewees to choose which albums they would want to be stranded with.)

Dissect has to be the most in-depth of them all; it concentrates each year’s episodes on a single album. Season one, on Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” is what really explained to me why Lamar deserved to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Turns out the joy of discovery that I get from critical listening now comes in podcast form.

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Listening list: Things I learned from podcasts:

From Disgraceland:
The latest episode recounts the trial of country star Spade Cooley for the murder of his wife for having an affair with Roy Rogers.
SPADE COOLEY, You Can't Break My Heart,” (1946)


One of his first hits.

From “Cocaine and Rhinestones”:
The Maddox Brothers and Rose, “Stop Whistlin’ Wolf,” (1957)


Early Bakersfield country band and among the  inventors of Rockabilly - part of the country roots of rock and roll. The Maddox Brothers and Rose siblings followed their family to California during the Great Depression, Grapes of Wrath style, and became “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band.” - proto Rockabilly

Betty Davis, “Anti-Love Song,” Betty Davis (1973)


That’s Larry Graham on bass. I was reminded of Betty Davis by the Heat Rocks podcast, with guest Joi Gilliam

Also on Heat Rocks I learned how many times West Coast djs sampled Parliament’’s “The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.”
Parliament, “Let’s Play House,” Trombinipulation (1980)


I also learned that James Brown alums are on the album: Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins.

From the latest Song Exploder:
Hozier (Feat. Mavis Staples), “Nina Cried Power,” Nina Cried Power (2018)  


Really strong vocals; check out Mavis’ rhythm break at 2:48.

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Links to my favorite podcasts:

Desert Island Discs: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr

Disgraceland: https://www.disgracelandpod.com/

Dissect: https://dissectpodcast.com/

Heat Rocks: https://www.maximumfun.org/shows/heat-rocks

Song Exploder http://songexploder.net/

Cocaine and Rhinestones https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/

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