Currently Unnamed Audio Blog

Why S-Town is the First Most Important Piece of Radio in the Post Trump Age

SPOILERS AHEAD, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK


Public Radio* has a problem. It’s a problem I’ve heard a lot of radio makers and radio listeners talk about, which is that they want to tell stories for everyone, but not everyone will listen. How do you make radio pieces that have an impact beyond the liberal minded, flannel wearing, tote carrying sounding board of public media consumers. As a sound designer and aspiring radio maker this is something I’ve thought a lot about since November. How do we tell stories that help to close the divide between red and blue, that sit in the aisle and reach out to both the MSNBCers and the Fox Newsers.

S-Town, the new show from Serial Productions, does exactly this. It puts an “east coast liberal elite” journalist in the dead center of Trump country, the epitome of the rural white town the 21st century forgot, and it ignores that narrative almost entirely. Sure, Brian Reed does his due diligence, pointing out the demographics, the politics, and the racist history of Bibb County Alabama, but the beauty of S-Town is that it’s a story about people. It takes the kind of small town local quarrell that on its surface seems a dime a dozen, and weaves a beautiful narrative full of rich complicated characters. Brian Reed shows a mastery of what so many of us need to learn how to do, listen deeply and have conversations instead of arguments. Everyone who Brian Reed’s mic finds seems to talk to him for hours and days, and he finds anyone and everyone who has a stake in this story. Part of the success of S-Town isn’t that it humanizes its characters, in fact it does the opposite. S-Town finds humans, and slowly builds them into characters. All of the relationships here have the complexity of lifelong proximity because Brian Reed takes the time to hear out anything and everything his interviewees have to say and lays that out for the listener.

This isn’t to say that all that it takes to make a great piece of radio is to listen and learn. John B McLemore is a one of a kind subject. Great tape seems to flow from his mouth the way a stream flows downhill, every twist and turn creating new and interesting creeks that lead to another great story. Brian Reed and the team at Serial (Sarah Koenig, Julie Snyder, and Ira Glass’ rock solid editorial fingerprint is all over this) pull a narrative out of what appears to be months of rambling tape that’s as strong as some of the best fiction writing out there. S-Town as a story would never work as a normal radio piece. To force this into the standard format of This American Life, or even into an episodic structure like Serial wouldn’t allow the listener to build the empathy for the character necessary to make this story work. So instead, S-Town takes the approach of a novel,** structuring the chronology of the story along that of the narrator’s journey, and because of this we’re allowed to develop the same relationships that Brian Reed does before embarking on a journey for truth. Had this truly been a true crime piece, the need for truth and objectivity would have destroyed any chance at being empathetic to the complex, illogical, and beguiling motives of the inhabitants of Shit-Town.

There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end of S-Town. Why didn’t Faye call the people on the list? Was fire gilding the downfall of John B McLemore? Where is the gold?*** And as much as I want answers, not having them teaches us an even more important lesson, that real life is irreconcilably messy in a way that fiction never is. The characters of Shit-Town could never exist in fiction, because our authorial need for answers would cause all of them to act much more rationally, and therefore less interestingly. To have truly great documentary art we have to accept the trade off of a neat ending for an engrossing story. One of the reasons S-Town resonates so much is that it’s a reminder we need to dig below the surface before we pass judgement on someone, but no matter how much we dig we won’t necessarily find the answer we’re looking for, if there are answers to be found at all. If you have a need for meaning in S-Town, don’t look for it in the life of John B Mclemore,**** his meaning is a moot point. If we want to find the reason this story was told, why some of the best storytellers and journalists in radio spent five years putting it together, all you have to do is listen to the last piece of tape Brian Reed plays us.

“When I think about the end of my own existence, I take the biggest possible picture. I don’t just look at myself as a 49 yr old semi homosexual atheist, living in a shit town full of baptists in butt-fucksville Alabama. I look at myself as a citizen of the world. I try to look at the biggest picture possible.”

That we should all be citizens of the world, and look at the biggest picture possible is the best message we could take from this story of a shit town. And to do any less would be an injustice to a man we never met, but all now know.

Thanks to Alexis Chaney and Markie Gray, who's facebook conversation helped formed and is paraphrased in this piece.
 

*by this I mean public radio’s sphere of influence, not just what you hear on your local NPR affiliate

**I’m not making this up, read Nick Quoh’s interview with Julie Snyder from Hot Pod issue 113 https://www.hotpodnews.com/2017/03/welcome-to-s-town-missing-richard-simmons-post-game-numbers-why-are-podcastssowhite/

***If there really ever was gold

****To Quote Alexis Chaney “What was john’s deal? He was gay and closeted, he was maybe too smart, he had mercury poisoning, he was depressed, he had red hair, he didn’t believe in bands, what does this mean, who is that person?”

Return

The beginning of this new year has been rough. In many ways if feels like the silence of the subway ride I took the morning after the election is still hanging over me, that there's a yawp waiting to be sounded over the roofs of the world, and yet I can't find the stairs to get there.

I took a break from listening for a while. Not the kind of break where I stick earplugs in and ignore, but the kind of break where I avoided the meaningful the and new, the kind of listening that helps to excite and discover, to open up pathways that were otherwise blocked, and then I heard this. Bing and Ruth have been on my radar for a while, but this new album feels different. No Home of the Mind is 59 minutes and 17 seconds of exhale. It is a wordless wave of emotion, a steady stream of "I know how you feel, and I know how hard that is to express". I don't know that this fits in to the shouting culture of our facebook society, but I hope you'll take the time to put on a pair of headphones, turn off all but your moodiest light, and let this album wash over you.

The blog is back...for now. We all need to listen better, and I'd like to help facilitate that conversation. Happy Listening.

Slogging Through Mundanity

Day to day, life is pretty boring. Our goals (or at least my goals) generally revolve around making it to tomorrow without breaking down today, but there are some people who manage to find the music in the monotonous, to take every day life and look at it from an angle that none of the rest of us seem to be able to catch. I envy those people, but I'll never stop following them, because maybe, just maybe I'll learn to see things their way one day too.


Re:Sound - The Anchor Dreams Show

Re:Sound is a show from the Third Coast Audio Festival (they're like the Sundance of radio, don't think too hard about it) that tags itself as showcasing radio you can't hear anywhere else unless you live everywhere else, and they do just that. The radio pieces they curate come from all over the world and are some of the best pieces of documentary radio out there. This episode is particularly fantastic, following the story of a man with Asperger's who's dream is to become a national news anchor, and he's succeeding. 

Link to Re:Sound

 

Gabriel Kahane - The Fiction Issue

There's a style of hand drafting called start strong end strong, and Gabriel Kahane starts strong and ends stronger which makes for a terrible drafter, but a fantastic composer. I've been disappointed by many a new release from some of my favorite artists, but somehow Kahane manages to release album after album I can't stop listening to. This one is no exception featuring the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the singer (and composer in her own right) Shara Worden. In The Fiction Issue Kahane asks "what's a day without a donut?" though I think the real question is what's a day without knowing music this good is out there. 

Best of

Have you missed me? I've been away for a while? You haven't, well I sort of expected that there's like three people reading this. Anyway I've been busy, and I feel bad, and I promise I'll do better next year . . . maybe. This post is a little different, but who cares, formats are for squares.


Best Podcasts of 2015 - The Timbre via Atlantic

The Timbre is a really great podcast blog all of you should be reading. I mean you're reading this poor attempt at a podcast blog and they actually do their job every week so really you should just stop reading this and read them because that's what I did for the last month or so. They're so great the Atlantic (yes the magazine not the ocean) hired them to write a best podcasts of 2015 list. I don't agree with it 100% (Here Be Monsters put out some amazing work this year), but since I'm deflecting from doing my own best of list by posting someone else's I guess I don't really get to complain.

The Atlantic - 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2015

 


Beauty Pill - Describes Things As They Are

I could have posted any of the many best albums of 2015 lists here (NPR has a great one) or I could actually recommend an album like I'm supposed to. Beauty Pill has been on my radar for a while and for some reason I haven't given them a chance. Roman Mars loves them, NPR Music loves them, I'm just late to the game as usual. This album is deep, really deep. You'll hear sounds on the fourth listen that you didn't know existed on the first. This is an album that takes some time to unpack, but once you do it's worth every second. This album makes a lot of references (listen for the books sample) but is fully unique. If you want to jump in and start listening through one of those best of lists, this is a good place to start because it's definitely on mine.


THE NEW JOANNA NEWSOM ALBUM IS HERE

So every idea I had for a through line for this post seemed like something I've already written or just terribly forced. Honestly I'm far too busy to be writing this blog post, but I couldn't not say something about the new Joanna Newsom Album. So here it is, sorry this intro was underwhelming.


Strangers - Love Hurts

Lea Thau understands people in a way that is deeply personal. Her mission to make everyone "strangers no more" is wildly successful. When she started the moth podcast (back in the early days of podcasting in 2008) she gave a stage for everyday people to share their stories with the world. When she started her Love Hurts series it was a leap of faith that ended up becoming one of the best pieces of radio to come out of the podcasting revolution. Her search for love and examination of loss is an inspiration, showing that even though we may be strangers we all have the same struggles.

Link to Strangers

 

 

Joanna Newsom - Divers

When a friend turned me on to Joanna Newsom 3 years ago I was immediately hooked. Her voice, her lyrics, the fact that she plays harp all make for an incredibly unique and immersive listening experience. This new album Divers is long overdue, but worth every minute of the wait. I would go into more depth, but I'd probably just embarrass myself, so instead here's Ann Powers' (all hail the queen of rock criticism) review.

 

Link to Joanna Newsom - Divers

ps I couldn't find a stream of this album anywhere so you're just going to have to buy it, or find me in person so I can play it for you. Either way it's totally worth it I promise.

 

 

My Dealer is a Public Radio Music Show

So I have a problem, and that problem is how much money I spend on music. Now I know what you're thinking "Why would you possibly buy music when it's all free(ish) to stream on the internet?" and my answer is, "shut up". Actually the reason is twofold. 1. By buying music I'm helping to support the artists that make it in a way that is not only more profitable for the artist than if I had just listened to them a bunch of times on a streaming surface, but also shows a more tacit approval of their work than if I had just streamed it. 2. If I buy music and then don't listen to it a bunch of times I feel guilty that I spent money on something I didn't use, so it helps me to be more curatorial in my music listening and also to become more familiar with my library which then in turn allows me to make recommendations to all of you via this blog, so YOU'RE WELCOME.


New Sounds from WNYC

This recommendation is a little different than my normal ones. I discovered this show during late nights driving around NJ in high school. At first when 11pm rolled around on a weekday I used to switch off WNYC and opt for my own music collection instead of (what I thought at the time) the strange assortment of atonal classical and world music that would occupy that hour, but slowly I started to keep my car tuned to 93.9 later and later into the hour until the point where I would look forward to hearing John Schaefer's voice introduce some new hour of music vastly different than what I would hear in my own indie rock circles. New Sounds is like the dealer that enables my addiction to new music, and probably half of the albums I've bought in the last 5 years are a result of listening to this show. New Sounds has been running since the mid 80s and honestly feels like one of the last vestiges of DJ oriented radio left (not that this show would have ever fit anywhere on the FM dial besides on frequencies occupied by public radio). Along with the show New Sounds presents live concerts and is an integral part of the NYC new music scene. Below are a few recent episodes to get your feet wet. Some of this music may sound strange at first, but if you're not looking to break away from the same things you always listen to then why are you reading this blog anyway?

Find The Conventional And Smash It With A Hammer

Sometimes the expected is boring . . . ok the expected is almost always boring, but the problem is how do you break the mold without it all coming crumbling down. How do you make something that's new enough that it catches people's attention, but not so foreign that it takes decades for it to become accepted. I'd like to think that everyone who makes something has this sort of idealism about their work, but so much of the media shoved down our throats is just derivative junk, and that's not to say I'm not excited for the newest Bond movie (I'm always excited for the newest Bond movei), but no matter what twist the second or third or tenth movie of successful franchise throws at you it still seems like the safe option. So I guess what I'm saying is try something original, even if it crashes and burns, don't do something that seems safe because the harder and more radical option will pay off in the end . . . probably . . . it will at least be more fun.


Snap Judgement - Breakout Live

Snap Judgement's slogan is "Storytelling with a Beat" and that's exactly what you get. Their stories sound like This American Life with a hip hop sensibility, with masterful beats scoring every story and Glynn Washington as the MC. Snap brings together people from all walks of life. Poets, storytellers, and every day people all get equal treatment. The magic of Snap Judgement though, isn't only in the weekly hour long radio shows they produce, but in the live ones they perform on stage to sold out theatres. These shows have the intimacy of a story slam and the energy of a rock concert, with a live band on stage backing up every story. Snap Judgement is the kind of show that you never would have heard 10 years ago, and is probably the opposite of what most people think of when they think public radio, which is exactly what makes it so good.

Link to Snap Judgement

 

Dawn of Midi - Dysnomia

There's a lot of music out there that feels overly sequenced, lifeless, and just plain boring. This is not that. Dawn of Midi is a Jazz trio that takes minimalist techniques usually reserved for the likes of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass and just runs with it, performing phase shifts and mesmerizing rhythmic sequences with a precision you could have only assumed was achievable by a computer. This album has tracks with interesting names like Sinope, Ymir, and Ijiraq, but this is the type of album you want to sit with for a long haul.

Getting To The Heart Of The Matter By Leaving The Well Worn Path

I get angry every time the political shit show that is the American Presidential campaign ramps up. To hear so many of the political elite who likely have never worked outside of an office (except of course to raise money to get a fancier office) in their lives shout about how they have all the answers just makes me want to give up and move somewhere quite and remote. To some idyllic place where people listen to each other, and accept that someone else who has spent all of their life on a subject might know better or at least have a justified opinion. I want to go out into the world and connect with the things that just show up as another image on my computer screen in a way that seems more tangible, in a way that might change something. Unfortunately the realities of life make this goal just slightly out of reach for the foreseeable future, but I can take solace in the fact that other people are doing it, likely better than I ever will.


Fugitive Waves - Cry Me A River

The Kitchen Sisters are the OGs (Original Gangsters) of public radio. Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva craft some of the most engaging documentaries around, using the voices of normal every day people, archival audio, and perfectly placed music. Their projects including The Sonic Memorial Project, The Hidden World of Girls, Hidden Kitchens, and Lost and Found Sound are some of the best examples of what public radio can be both in their mission and execution. Their goal to "create public media and educational programs that work to build community through storytelling" is one they have met successfully for over 30 years winning 2 Peabodys for their work. They find the heart of America (and everywhere else they travel) through work that sounds breathtaking and effortless while being intricately complex at the same time. You can start anywhere with the Kitchen Sisters and you won't be long, but below is one of my favorite episodes from their podcast, which is a collection of some of their best stories.

Link To The Kitchen Sisters

 

John Luther Adams - Become Ocean

This music is in touch with nature in a way I'm not sure I could ever be, even if I gave up everything and moved to a cabin in the middle of the woods. Thankfully I don't have to since John Luther Adams (not to be confused with composer John Adams of Nixon in China fame) has already done it for me. Having lived in Alaska for most of his adult life, his music is ethereal and all encompassing, sometimes meant to be performed in a concert hall and sometimes site specific using the land as his instrument. He harnesses the power, not of the single musician, but of the collective, weaving together textures that have no right to exist from man made instruments. In Become Ocean, his pulitzer prize winning piece for symphony orchestra, John Luther Adams finds a way to harness the beauty of the ocean, and the growing fear that it will engulf us as climate change becomes more and more pressing. 

The Whispering Past in the Roaring Present

I've forgotten more things than I care to remember. I'm sure we all have, but some memories stick with us for far longer than we'd like them to. An embarrassing family get together, a joke gone wrong that ended a friendship, a first kiss. We all want these memories to stop haunting us, but they never will, not until we address them head on and take the message they try to send us to heart. That we can be better than our past selves, and we can move forward to a new, slightly less embarrassing future.


The Memory Palace - Six Scenes in the Life of William J. Sidis, Wonderful Boy

Nate DiMeo remembers the stories that history forgot. The stories that history book editors decided are less important than wars and conquests and arcane bits of political theatre. The memory palace is full of all night dance marathons and the shenanigans of PT Barnum, of ferris wheels and boy geniuses. It holds stories of injustice and loss, of hard won battles and happenstance fortunes. In the memory palace we learn that people are as they always were, no matter how the world around us changes.

Link to Episode

 

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

I chased this album for a while. I first heard Sharon Van Etten's music as a solo acoustic recording, and fell in love with the power of her songwriting and the strength of her voice. Her songs find a way to grab on and remind you at your darkest moments that you're not alone. This album whispers and screams, it curls up in the sheets and then opens up to let you in. You can follow it to it's deepest depths and come out ok, possibly better than you were before.

The Definitive Radiolab Listening List, sort of

For me, this is the show that started it all. This is the show that creates obsessions, changes the way you listen. If This American Life changed what we expect from audio storytelling on the radio that makes Radiolab the This American Life of podcasting. It doesn't just ask to keep you sitting in your driveway, waiting for a story to end. Radiolab asks you to set aside time from your life, to become so engrossed in a story that you come back for a second or third or tenth listen the same way your favorite books or movies will. This is the show about which Ira Glass said "I marvel at Radiolab when I hear it. I feel jealous."

The depth to which Jad Abumrad goes to illustrate a story is maddening. You can hear that every note of every piece of music, every millisecond of every piece of ambience is perfectly placed, but it takes a genius (and Jad has the award to prove it) who also happens to be an Oberlin trained composer to put all of that in place. Paired with Jad is Robert Krulwich, a veteran of the news in all mediums. He's covered Watergate, been a bureau chief for Rolling Stone, hosted shows on PBS, ABC, CBS, has an Emmy, Peabody, and a degree in Law. Together they spend months on shows, recording hours and hours of audio for the perfect minute of commentary on the perfect cut of an interview. 

This show is worth every minute of your time, and here's the list to help you get started.

 

A note on this list

In an attempt to limit myself from posting every episode ever I set a few rules for myself.

1. Only full episodes that have aired on the radio. Nothing from before season 1 and no podcast only episodes.

2. Only episodes from the first six seasons and and only one episode per season.

This list in by no means exhaustive, there are 235 episodes in the stream by now, and while I've listened to most of them more than once, I figured a shorter list would be more helpful for someone looking to start, and the best place to start something is usually the beginning. All of the commentary below is from the respective episode page on the Radiolab website.


Season 1 - Emergence

What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies -- all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony. This hour of Radiolab, we ask how this happens. We gaze down at the bottom-up logic of cities, Google, and even our very own brains with fire-flyologists, ant experts, neurologists, a mathematician, and an economist.

Season 2 - Detective Stories

Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring out what really happened. In this hour of Radiolab, digging up the past leads to some very unexpected finds. We begin at a trash dump in Egypt, where we find Jesus, Satan, sissies, and porn. Next, a goat on a cow leads us to hundreds of old letters scattered on the side of Route 101. And lastly, a blood-sampling tour of Asia reveals a prolific baby-maker...and potentially a world conqueror.

Season 3 - Placebo

With new research demonstrating the startling power of the placebo effect, this hour of Radiolab examines the chemical consequences of belief and imagination. Could the best medicine be no medicine at all? We take stock of the pharmacy in our brains, consider the symbolic power of the doctor coat, and visit the tent of a self-proclaimed faith healer.

Season 4 - Deception

Lies, liars, and lie catchers. This hour of Radiolab asks if it's possible for anyone to lead a life without deception. We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others.

Season 5 - Choice

Logic and emotion aren't the only forces that guide out decisions. This hour of Radiolab, we turn up the volume on the voices in our heads, and try to make sense of the babble. Forget free will, some important decisions could come down to a steaming cup of coffee.

Season 6 - Afterlife

This hour: Radiolab stares down the very moment of passing, and speculates about what may lie beyond. What happens at the moment when we slip from life...to the other side? Is it a moment? If it is, when exactly does it happen? And what happens afterward? It's a show of questions that don't have easy answers. So, in a slight departure from our regular format, we bring you eleven meditations on how, when, and even if we die.

Stop Your Ipod From Being Sexist, It's Really Unflattering

You'd think we'd have gotten over this whole gender thing by now, but sadly that's not the case. As of this post the Itunes top 10 music albums have one female artist (Taylor Swift) and the top 10 podcasts have one female hosted show (Serial - Sarah Koenig). That can't be right, there's too much good work out there for that to be right. A friend of mine has spent the last year only reading books not written by white men, and while that's left her with no shortage of good literature (Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel is one of the best things I've read this year btw) to think that you'd need to set a limitation like that just to make sure you're exposed to a broad range of creators upsets me every time I think about it. 


The Heart (formerly Audio Smut) - Movies In Your Head

I'm sorry it took me this long to post a women hosted podcast. I'm sorry that some of you won't like if for being both NSFW and unapologetically feminist. If that's the case you're missing out. Kaitlin Prest and Mitra Kaboli (and the rest of The Heart team) are making some of the most inventive and inspiring radio work, telling stories that are at the same time deeply personal and entirely universal. Listen to this with headphones on, lights off, and a glass of wine. You won't be disappointed

Link to The Heart

 

Gabi - Sympathy

Gabi isn't real, she can't be. She's probably some computer algorithm that was about to take over the world, but instead used the singularity to make music. That's the only logical explanation for an album that twists and morphs the human voice so perfectly that I forget that it came from just one person's vocal cords. But alas, Gabrielle Herbst isn't a super robot ready to relieve us all from the grind of every day humanity, but a human composer who has an ear for the hauntingly unexpected.

Staring Into The Past And Seeing Your Reflection

The past is a strange thing. Holding a fossil can feel no different than picking up a rock, but the stories that fossil wrote while it was part of a living breathing body can shout at us from the depths of time. Crossing a chasm too large to comprehend and resonating all around us. We hope we can do the same for whatever future humanity has, however bleak that future may look. Though I guess our ancestors felt the same way about us.


Love + Radio - Greetings from Coney Island

Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker have a knack for telling stories in a way that find your deepest most innermost depths and just twisting them ever so slightly. An episode of Love + Radio comes at you very slowly and then all at once, slowly dragging you into someone's life so that you feel every moment as they do. If the past lives on in the stories we tell each other then Love + Radio is like your first film in technicolor, with depth and layers you never knew existed in the medium. Add that to Sruthi Pinnamaneni's total inability to report a boring story and Nate DiMeo's voice as the literal embodiment of the past and it's hard not to love this episode.  

Link to Love + Radio

 

Sam Amidon - Lily-O

Sam Amidon plays folk music, but not your father's folk music. There's no Dylan-esque calls to action, or Simon and Garfunkel inspired vocal harmonies. This is the music your great great grandparents listened to, the songs they heard sitting around a fire after a long day on the farm pulled forward into the present, an echo of what was resonating into what is. Backed up by Bill Frisell and Shahzad Ismaily this album is well worth the listen.

How To Shout at The Abyss and Get an Answer

We all fear the future and the unknown. We devote huge amounts of time to planning our future, hoping to have some control over what's in store for us, but sometimes you just have to let life play itself out. Sometimes you need to have an adventure to find the parts of yourself that get hidden by every day life. 


Here Be Monsters - How I Learned to Love Rejection parts 1 and 2

Jeff Emtman is that kid who ran the radio station in your high school. The one who seemed to live a life of his own outside of the bustle of everyday life, somehow avoiding all of the drama that engulfed the rest of our adolescent lives. He faces his fears in the way most of us face breakfast, like it's an urge you can't refuse, but don't ever try to justify. His work is unapologetically introspective, revealing things most of us aren't comfortable telling anyone except our closest companions. To hitchhike across the country to discover yourself is the kind of thing you would expect to hear someone say they'll do during one of those late nights under the stars, drinking and telling your deepest secrets to whoever is within earshot, only to be forgotten with the sunrise, except Jeff didn't forget, he did it, and shared every moment with us.

Link to Here Be Monsters

 

Andrew Bird - Echolocations

There's a truth in this album that I haven't heard in Andrew Bird's music in a long time. The truth that when your music has something to say, it's probably more powerful without words. So much music now feels sterile and produced, but this album is the literal embodiment of Thoreau's Yawp. A shout to the canyon expecting nothing but your own echo and the response of the wild. This album has a sense of discovery, of going to a place and finding what story the world has in store for you.

A Love Letter to Roman Mars

If you can't tell I really like podcasts, and the one below is the latest from one of my favorites. I found Roman Mars through Radiolab, way back when 99pi was in it's first season and was immediately hooked. It's about the curiosity in all of us, the drive to find a story behind even the most mundane parts of our modern world, and let's face it, everything has a story, and Roman Mars is here to find it for us.


99 Percent Invisible - A Sweet Surprise Awaits You

I'm pretty sure that 90% of interesting things I say come from public radio, and another 75% of that comes from Roman Mars' beautiful brainchild 99 Percent Invisible. 99pi is one of the shows that can jump seamlessly from discussing lottery winners, to the origin of the fortune cookie, to Japanese internment camps, melding the interesting and the serious, the funny and the emotional. Roman Mars and co consistently create stories you can't put down, stories that leave you smarter and more aware of the world around you at the end of every episode.

Link to 99pi

 

Balun - Memoria Textil

I was tempted to put something from Hel Audio, or Melodium, or Lullatone here, but that seemed like the easy way out. Instead I'm pairing 99pi with this album since everyone needs more puerto rican 8-bit dream pop in their lives. Angelica Negron is a master of the fun and interesting, taking toys and making really exciting music for everyone to listen to. Her music takes everything you would hear in the back of a 99pi episode and turns it up to 11 in the best way possible.


Missed the Train

There are a lot of things I missed the train on. Many classic movies, Instagram, an album I'm probably never going to tell you about because pitchfork gave it a great rating in 2001 and I just discovered it last week. I shouldn't feel embarrassed when things like this happen, but I do. I'm sure this happens to other people. I realize this might make me a hipster. I don't really care and neither does my handlebar moustache .


Benjamin Walker's Theory of Everything - 1984 (the year not the book)

To say that TOE is one of the most under appreciated podcasts producing the best work is probably an understatement. Benjamin Walker's show is one I'm convinced no one else listens to, and I don't know how that could possibly be the case. After listening to an episode of TOE there is always at least one part of how I view the world that becomes rocky at best and this episode knocked me on my ass. I have to confess that I didn't get this one the first time I listened, but when the expanded version came out I was all ears. 12 year old Benjamin Walker is introspective in ways that many people I know will never be, and voices it in writing in ways that I can only hope to match one day. Listen to it all, you won't be disappointed.

Link to Benjamin Walker's Theory of Everything

 

Son Lux - Bones

I didn't listen to Son Lux before this summer. I had heard some tracks off Lanterns, but I wasn't hooked. I found this album by way of its guitarist, Rafiq Bhatia. I was looking to see if he was playing any shows near me and instead found him on Bones the week it came out. I don't know what genre this is, I don't want to know what genre this is*, I just want to keep listening to it and giving up my conception of what I thought worked in music.

*(though someone will post electronic on this ((if anyone ever reads it)) and I'll get angry, write a 3 paragraph response proving them wrong and lazy, and then delete it right before hitting send)

Currently Unnamed Audio Blog

I've have a lot of people tell me I should do this. Probably because my default reaction to hearing something new that I like is to grab the nearest person to me, shove a pair of headphones in their face, and say "LISTENNNNNNNNN" (if that sounds like an exaggeration you should talk to some of my former roommates). 

Anyway this space is going to be where I post about all the audio I listen to and don't feel like jealously keeping to myself. I won't post reviews that go beyond a sentence or two of why I think you should listen, there are plenty of smarter people on the internet doing reviews. My goal is just to help spread music and audio I find interesting.

My first two recommendations are below

 

Reply All - Today's The Day

This might be the best piece of radio that PJ and Alex have ever put out, and it's the least technology based episode they've done. As someone who tends to spend entire Sundays inside of their apartment I feel like this episode captures all the adventures I should probably be having.

Link to Reply All


Eskimeaux - O.K.

I just discovered this album even though it's been out for a few months now. She played a tiny desk concert that blew me away and the album is even better. I don't usually pay much attention to lyrics (I'm weird like that), but the lyrics on this album are far to beautiful to ignore.