Song Exploder is my favourite music podcast. It’s really a beautiful piece of work. A valuable and inspiring resource. A fantastic concept executed perfectly.
“A podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.”
Los Angeles-based podcaster and composer Hrishikesh Hirway interviews musicians and producers about a specific track, and then edits himself out of the episode. We don’t hear the questions. All we’re left with is an artist talking about their song.
While talking about each aspect of the song, perhaps the bass, vocals or drum tracks, we hear those isolated parts of the song and discover how it all comes together.
It’s a fascinating insight into the creative process, music production and composition. Sometimes we also delve into stories about how the artists’ personal lives influenced their music.
I’ve listened to most of the Song Exploder episodes, some a few times each. I just listened to the Dirty Projectors one last night and it’s my all-time favourite!
Here’s five of my picks from the 106 total episodes. Descriptions are quoted in full from the Song Exploder website.
“David Longstreth started making music under the name Dirty Projectors in 2002. Since then, he’s released seven albums and collaborated with Björk, Solange, and Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and Rihanna. Dirty Projectors went from a solo project to a full-band, performing on TV, and at Carnegie Hall.
Dave and one of his bandmates were in a relationship for years, but then that relationship—and the band—broke up. In February 2017, with Dirty Projectors as solo project once again, Dave released a self-titled album, a breakup album by all accounts. In this episode, Dave breaks down the song “Up in Hudson” and the winding road he went down to create it.”
“Solange Knowles released her first album in 2002, at the age of 16. Her third album, A Seat at the Table, came out in September 2016, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. It’s gotten widespread critical acclaim, including being named best album of the year by Pitchfork and by Vibe. In this episode, Solange takes apart the song “Cranes in the Sky.””
“In this episode, Alfred Darlington, better known as Daedelus, takes apart his song Experience. This early track of his is made with only acoustic sounds, but Alfred still considers it a piece of electronic music, and explains why. He also talks about the unexpected life the song has had since he recorded it, after being sampled by Madlib for his collaboration with MF Doom, Madvillain.”
“Before The Books broke up, they released four albums that combined composed music and found sounds. In this episode, Nick Zammuto explains how he crafted the song Smells Like Content, off of their 2005 album Lost and Safe, out of unlikely sources, like geometry, chance encounters, and a corrugated PVC pipe.”
“In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as “a complete heartbreak album.” And in November, she released Vulnicura Strings, a companion album that stripped away the electronics. In this episode, Björk breaks down the making of both the original version of the song “Stonemilker,” as well as the strings version. She traces her writing and recording process for the track, her collaboration with the electronic producer Arca, and why she wanted to make a second version.”