Talking About Music: Low Times and other Podcasts

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the NPR All Songs Considered Podcast and its new summer quest in search of albums that we all love. Following up on this thread, I listened to a number of Podcasts this past week, in part because I “needed” to catch up and as a distraction/palliative to the sleep-inducing work in which I was enmeshed. The Podcasts that I subscribe to fall into two very distinct groups: (1) music related and (2) comedy shows. With the ever diminishing number of quality radio programs and “live” (as opposed to computer programmed) radio stations, I, for one, find the podcast format a means of capturing the best of what Radio use to do and what it meant to me and many others in our “youth” – a place of informed and intelligent conversation about music, showcasing new music, quirky off-beat reflections on the times in which we live. The shows I gravitate towards have a healthy dose of all these elements in varying degrees. So without further ado, here are some Podcasts of interest to music lovers and people who like to laugh.

Low Times Podcast featuring Ezra Koening, Colin Hay and DJ Spooky.

By way of background, Low Times is almost entirely a podcast filled with interviews of contemporary musicians. The interviews are conducted by Tom Scharpling, Daniel Ralston, and Maggie Serota. (In case you are not familiar with Tom Scharpling, he is the host of The Best Show on WFMU out of New Jersey. If you are a music fan, you should definitely check out – see here.)  This episode of the Low Times podcast was particularly engaging in my opinion because it focused on three very different artists and perspective on music.

  • Ezra Koening of Vampire Weekend discussed issues of privilege and people’s perception of his band and their relationship to privilege and “preppy culture”. Personally, I think this interview should be heard by all their detractors because I think Ezra has some pretty intelligent responses to the critiques that folks have directed them. There is also a great deal of New Jersey love spilling from Ezra’s and Tom’s lips.
  • Colin Hay, formerly of Men At Work and now a solo artist in his own right, talks about going from icon to starting over and going at it alone – i.e., without a record label or distribution.
  • DJ Spooky is undoubtedly one of the most unique and clever music makers in the business and listening to this interview you will also be impressed by his unique take on contemporary social/digital media (“There is too much of everything, . . . there isn’t too much information, there are just bad filters”). Also, I totally agree with his critique of algorithm-based internet radio stations  (aka Pandora or similar sites, personally the beta version of Pandora years ago was better). According to the interview, he owns 20 to 25,000 records (!!!) and has them in storage.  Man I would love to dig around that storage space.
Comedy Bang Bang Third Anniversary Special featuring Zack Galifianakis and St. Vincent

Quick background: A comedy show hosted by Scott Aukerman who invites fellow comedians to come in and discuss their careers except that crazy celebrities always appear to interrupt and hijack the mics.

I think this show is always hysterically funny but this was an explosion of laughter. I had to bite my hand not to laugh out loud in the space I was working. I still have bruises. A special treat on this episode is hearing St. Vincent perform three stripped down, acoustic songs from Strange Mercy including “Cruel” and “Cheerleader”. It’s worth listening just for that.

Plus, Zack G. and a parade of fellow comedians including Harris Wittels (who writes for Parks and Recreation) and Nick Kroll (from The League) make this an especially amusing episode. Advance warning, there is a healthy dose of “adult language” on this episode, so if you get offended by this kind of stuff, best to avoid.

Sklarbro Country
Another comedy show hosted by twin brothers from St. Louis, who love indie rock music and sports, and discuss and regularly feature both on their show. For the non-sports fans, this show isn’t about stats or opinions about games/players, instead, the Sklar brothers tend to focus on the more amusing (and also triumphant) side of sports.  Personally, I enjoy their educated, comical, and impassioned discussion of sports and entertainment.  Plus, they tend to have pretty great taste in music too.

Two recent episodes that I think will be good introductions include Episode 94 with Madmen‘s Jon Hamm (forewarning there is a great deal of discussion of the St. Louis Cardinals on this episode, a fast forwarded that part) or Episode 93 with Chelsea Peretti (this one included a great discussion about why Chelsea and the brother Sklar like sports).

Perhaps these can provide some nice distraction or entertainment on a lazy Sunday afternoon, on long drives, or during a long day of work.


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