Photo credit: Tyler Mahan Coe
As the spread of the coronavirus continues to force everyone to stay home, people are turning to all kinds of entertainment to pass the time. Ironically, music streaming on services like Spotify and Apple Music is down – an indicator that perhaps most people are more casual music fans than one would assume. This also has to do with less commuting to and from work and gyms being closed, but the numbers show a decline in engaged listeners nonetheless.
Still, being trapped inside with no place to go offers a great chance to get acquainted with new music and other music-related content, including podcasts. As today’s premier means of audio entertainment, podcasts are a fun, easily digestible way to learn about our favorite artists, songs and music history.
Since it doesn’t appear we will be leaving the house anytime soon, here are 10 great music podcasts to check out during (and after) quarantine.
We’re all familiar with music’s most infamous club and its many high profile members. Hendrix. Morrison. Joplin. Iconic figures and tormented talents, many of whom met grim, self-inflicted ends. Is it all coincidence or conspiracy? That’s beside the point. While members of the 27 club maintain a legendary mythos, the twists and turns of their individual journeys are sometimes overlooked. Hosted by Jake Brennan, 27 Club tells the stories of musical icons that prior to burning out, left an immeasurable influence on their culture through their art and actions. Season 1 takes on the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, from his come-up in the ranks of top tier R&B bands, to his first experiences with LSD, to some of his historical festival performances. Future seasons will include Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Robert Johnson, Amy Winehouse and others.
Rick Rubin talking about anything would make for an amazing podcast, but it doesn’t get much better than listening to the legendary producer and label owner chop it up with iconic music figures from the past and present. Broken Record is exactly that. Hosted by Justin Richmond and also featuring contributions from former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam and writer Malcolm Gladwell, this one-of-a-kind pod dives deep into the mind of game-changing creatives, such as Robbie Robertson, Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne and Tyler, The Creator, taking a liner notes style approach to casual conversation.
Cocaine & Rhinestones
Country music has always been cool. Yet over 100 years after its inception, much of it remains misunderstood. On Cocaine & Rhinestones, host Tyler Mahan Coe (son of outlaw country legend David Allan Coe) makes it his mission to educate and inform his audience on the genre’s historical significance and its most colorful characters. Each episode recounts a specific event, song or movement in 20th Century country music with impeccable detail and a charming sense of humor. Whether it’s the time Ernest Tubb attempted to shoot Jim Denny in the middle of the Nashville night, when Rusty Kershaw comatosed Neil Young’s On the Beach sessions with his infamous weed snack, honey slides, or Southern soulstress Bobbie Gentry’s sudden vanishing from the spotlight, every story is thoroughly researched and exquisitely told, making for an immersive country music listening experience unlike anything else.
Out of all the serial-style podcasts out there, Dissect ranks among the densest and well-articulated bodies of consumable media. Each season takes a magnifying glass-like look at one album, forensically picking apart one song per episode. Host Cole Cuchna lends his surgical analysis to a variety of modern musical masterpieces, justifying why contemporary hip-hop deserves academic spotlight in the process. So far, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and DAMN., Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy have been offered the full Dissect treatment. The show’s rabid fan base is currently speculating who the next season’s subject might be – Radiohead appears to be a likely candidate, though Cuchna’s affinity for modern hip-hop can never be counted out.
Dolly Parton’s America
In a time where people tend to disagree on virtually everything, Dolly Parton is an enigma. As one of country music’s greatest songwriters and vocalists, Parton’s rise as a cultural icon has been disputed by few, if any, groups or individuals. How exactly can this be? To get to the bottom of this question, on Dolly Parton’s America, Jad Abumrad – creator of Radiolab and More Perfect – dives into Parton’s career journey, musical upbringing and personal evolution. Over the course of nine episodes, Abumrad taps into revered authors, Parton-adjacent country music stars, college educators and many others to connect the dots around one of America’s most beloved music figures.
Hippies & Cowboys Podcast
If nothing grinds your gears like pop-country radio, Hippies & Cowboys is the podcast for you. Not only is the show a safe space for smack-talking the over-commercialized crap being served up by mainstream Nashville, it also serves as a healthy platform for promoting quality roots music and notable up and comers through fresh interviews and song recommendations. The soul of country is very much alive and well in modern music, you simply have to dig a little to find it. In this vein, Hippies & Cowboys is a goldmine of content filled with genuine conversations covering essential talent, all in the spirit of keeping true country music alive.
In Search of Sauce
The streaming era and playlist culture are synonymous with the decline in urgent music journalism. Nowadays, clickbait trumps research and good writing, but does it have to be that way all the time? In Search of Sauce exists to debunk this common notion by bringing to light high-quality music content from journalists who deserve more praise and a bigger platform. A group of well-studied hip-hop and R&B heads, the Central Sauce Creative Collective brings a heartfelt enthusiasm into every episode, each of which explores the latest music, movements and ongoing hot topics in hip-hop. This is essential listening for rap stans and all fans of thorough, well-written journalism.
Music Exists with Chuck Klosterman and Chris Ryan
Why does music matter? Do music opinions even count for anything? Does music make us think of a place? For anybody who takes art seriously, these types of questions inevitably enter our train of thought and pondering on them for too long typically leads to a stagnant, no-answers kind of mind-fuck. Luckily, to spare us the stress and brain energy, on Music Exists, best-selling author Chuck Klosterman and The Ringer’s Chris Ryan attempt to answer these complex questions for us. In each episode, they explore a variety of encompassing music-related topics that range from deceptively complex to extremely philosophical. The end result is an abundance of lengthy, thought-provoking discussions surrounding music and the vital role it plays in our lives.
Rivals: Music’s Greatest Feuds
On this iHeart Radio production, music critics Steven Hyden and Jordan Runtaugh recount some of the juiciest beefs in rock and roll history. From the petty back and forth jabs between legendary piano men Elton John and Billy Joel, to the PNW grunge wars of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, to the lust-fueled hatred between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, each episode of Rivals is packed with top-shelf primers on essential songs and albums, along with wildly amusing stories that will have rock fans of all ages locked in and wanting more.
Ever wonder how Fleet Foxes creates such mistifying harmonies? Or how Gorillaz are still able to achieve such great genre-bending collaborations? How about Thundercat’s ability to turn electric bass wizardry into jazz-funk magic? On Song Exploder, host Hrishikesh Hirway goes behind the scenes of great tracks with the creators themselves, breaking down the construction of individual songs we love, piece by piece. The show’s archives include over 180 episodes of song breakdowns, ranging from classic acts like Fleetwood Mac and Metallica to modern favorites like Meek Mill and Jay Som.