Podcast Picks

Due to being old and busy and spending more of my home computer time processing photos these days than reading music reviews, I listen to things like NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast on my commute as a way of keeping up with new releases. A lot of the music they feature isn’t really to my taste, probably because I’m just not keen on the music taking the indie masses by storm these days – case in point: Bon Iver, plus my appetite for Animal Collective got satisfied several years ago and I’ve realized I just don’t like them enough to want to listen to each new album and nauseatingly named side project – and there’s nowhere enough hip-hop, dance or electronica either. Still, every now and then there’s an episode I really enjoy and keep on my iPod for repeat listens. I thought I’d share two of my favourites here for anyone who’s getting sick of looking at photos of Phuket.

Thom Yorke’s guest DJ spot was a cool peek inside the music brain of a guy who, apart from making some of the best music of the last fifteen years, also has great taste. You can see his list of picks at the link, but it’s more fun to hear him ramble about them, including having to scan through albums on air while trying to pick the tracks he wants to feature, because he can’t remember tracks based on their names or numbers. I’m just like Thom Yorke! Who knew? I didn’t discover any music from this podcast that I didn’t already love, but his choices totally affirmed the impeccability of my own taste, which is even better. [1. Sorry, I just realized I forgot to mention the Madvillain track as the exception. But since I am still probably the only person in the world who doesn’t like Madvillain, chances are he still has impeccable taste and I am just wrong.]

More recently, they did a round table discussion on the topic “Do Record Labels Matter?” It’s basically some music nerds chatting about this and picking songs to play which give a good flavour, as far as that’s possible, of some of the more celebrated indie labels around. I enjoyed it because I’m now squarely in that group of people who are old enough to remember a time when BigO magazine and Chua Joo Huat music store were the only way for me to discover and obtain access to the music I was interested in. And without the great breadth of music guides and reviews that are now available on the Internet, I would often pluck an album out of the badly lit Chua Joo Huat shelves and listen to it entirely on the basis that the artist was from the same label – usually Sub Pop or Matador, since albums from the smaller indie labels probably didn’t even get distributed in Singapore back then – as another artist I already liked.

Apart from the topic being right up my alley, I particularly enjoyed the music selections. Again, they’re listed at the link up there and you can dip into to them individually if you want to skip the podcast. I liked all of them except for Don’t You Worry (Jim Noir on Barsuk, not surprising because I’m really not into most stuff on that label) and Tournament Of Hearts (The Weakerthans on Anti – well, that label’s roster of artists are simply too diverse to be lumped together in any meaningful way, but personally I would have gone with something by The Field to give a change in sound from the rest of the songs played in the podcast). They don’t manage to get through every significant label in the space of the show, obviously. They mention Dischord themselves as a big omission, and Warp and Rough Trade occur to me immediately as other pretty important labels that weren’t featured, but all in all it was a nice nerdy walk down lanes I haven’t spent enough time in lately.