A lively podcast about music and ideas.
Unsung Soul: Iconic but obscure tracks by (mostly) famous singers
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, an episode that celebrates extraordinary vocal performances in one of our most influential and significant musical styles: American Soul. Joined by our resident vocal expert, we listen to a playlist of fantastic--but relatively obscure--recordings by mostly famous soul singers, with a couple of lesser-known artists included, too.
This episode's playlist covers recordings from 1964-1976, and also captures the pivotal moment when more traditional, blues- and gospel-tinged Soul transmogrified into Funk (that most essential of styles). Playlist with links at www.loosefilter.com.
Organized Chaos: the art & craft of metalcore
The niche sub-genre of metalcore has quietly built a dedicated fanbase over the past 20 years. With a sound world that is complex, dense and industrial in nature, it’s often kind of impenetrable or off-putting to those who aren’t fans—but there is much worth listening to. In this episode, we listen to The Dillinger Escape Plan, whose distinctive music—replete with complex polyrhythms and dissonance—pushed metal and hardcore to a greater level of sophistication. The progression of songs in our playlist illustrates the wide range of influences and techniques that the band incorporated and developed, and serves as a great introduction to this style.
Playlist with links at www.loosefilter.com.
The Digitization of Music: Platform Wars
In this episode we check out a couple of new releases by Watsky and Weezer, and then survey the explosion of digital music platforms over the last two decades, outlining significant events starting with the advent of Napster in 1999 and culminating in our current streaming media landscape, noting the tectonic cultural impacts we’ve experienced along the way. It all started in the late 1980s, when Karlheinz Brandenburg created the technology that enables the conversion of analog audio signal to digital information, the mp3 file format. This launched a 3-way race to capitalize on this new technology, among established music industry corporations, Silicon Valley startups, and regular folks in their bedrooms at home.
Starting in 1999, Napster enabled large-scale file sharing by using peer-to-peer software as a connective tissue between disparate individuals and musical communities, and though it was litigated out of existence within two years, Limewire and Kazaa had already emerged to take its place. Pandora merged the internet with terrestrial radio and turned playlist curation into a data science project starting in 2001, the same year that the iPod and the iTunes Store conquered the titans of a century-old industry. Listeners quickly came to expect their music libraries to fit in their pockets.
Youtube (2005), Spotify (2006), and SoundCloud (2007) have since emerged to serve the content of those libraries, and now multiple platforms exist to either sell access to a comprehensive collection of recordings; or to empower creators with the tools they need to publish, distribute, and market their own work. ByteDance (2012) represents a growing tide of listeners and creators from China, while Tidal (2014) is a cautionary of tale of musicians fighting to take back control of their recordings. Playlist and links at www.loosefilter.com.
Continual Reinvention of an Old-Fashioned Machine: Hearing the 20th century through the piano
For a lot of reasons, music and music-making proliferated and diversified in many, many directions, throughout the 20th century. Not just because of ideas (i.e., Modernism) and tools (so many new technologies), but the convergence of culture, technology and mass communication enabled a creative crucible that’s unprecedented in human history. Unfortunately, this makes any comprehensive musical exploration of the past 100 years daunting for many, and challenging to the tastes and expectations of most.
In this episode, we hope to distill an amazing century of musical thought and practice into a comprehensible summary, by using a consistent, unchanging frame of reference: the piano. The piano is an instrument that existed in its present form prior to the 20th century, and remains essentially unchanged from that version through today. We hope that this familiar and constant tool for musical creation and expression will help elucidate the amazing variety of ideas and inventiveness of composers from the past century, up to and including our own decade.
Full playlist (with links) at www.loosefilter.com!
Best Music of 2018 & Other Interesting Things
Well, 2018 was maybe not the greatest year in human history, broadly speaking, but it sure was musically interesting. In this episode, we discuss a handful of the most thoughtful “best music of 2018” lists, and then listen to a few of the recordings shared by those lists, ones that are particularly outstanding and engaging (and that we haven’t already recently discussed).
We also briefly consider some paradigm-shift-type happenings in creative culture: the potential impact of new works entering the public domain for the first time since 1998, and the first Kennedy Center Honors award to a collaborative work rather than an individual artist.
Original Versions of Famous Tracks
A funny thing happens sometimes in music, where the original version of a song as recorded by the artist(s) who wrote it, is not the most popular or well-known version. In fact, if a cover or remake of a song is successful enough, the original version is supplanted in popular imagination.
In this episode, we give a listen to eight terrific songs, each in two versions: the famous one and the original one, and the contrasts within each pair are sometimes striking. We also discuss some recent musical finds you’ll enjoy, from all over the world.