With car dashboards eliminating CD inputs and relying more on smart displays and smartphones, podcasts — both music-related and others — are increasingly becoming big players for a captive mobile audience. In a recent Nielsen Podcasts Insight Report, the number of homes that considered themselves “avid podcast fans” went from 13 million in 2016 to 16 million in November 2017.
With more than 240 music-related podcasts available on iTunes alone, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, so we’ve done it for you: Below is a subjective selection of 10 of our favorite music podcasts, in no particular order.
“Song Exploder” (iTunes/SoundCloud/Tidal) — Film and TV composer Hrishikesh Hirway hosts this bi-weekly, 20-minute deep dive into a single song, with musicians from Solange and Lorde to Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent and Phoenix offering both anecdotes and the thought process behind their creations. In an episode spotlighting Lorde’s “Sober,” she tells the story of the collaboration with Jack Antonoff that dwells on her recovery from a ruptured relationship. “The DNA of the song is wanting to tell someone how you feel and knowing they feel the same way,” she explains. Song Exploder episodes are available exclusively on Tidal two days before other DSPs.
“Talkhouse Music Podcast” (iTunes/Soundcloud) — This Webby Award-nominated podcast and print site previously made a name for itself by having musicians review albums (like Lou Reed most famously dissecting Kanye West’s “Yeezus”) as well as pairing two artists for a one-on-one conversation. Recent pairings include Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz and Television’s Richard Lloyd comparing notes about the halcyon days of CBGB from New York’s famed Strand Bookstore (where Patti Smith and Lloyd’s former bandmate Tom Verlaine once toiled as clerks); Genesis P-Orridge speaking with Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace on being trans; jazz sax virtuoso Kamasi Washington and bassist Thundercat and others.
“Disgraceland” (iTunes/Stitcher) — The initial season of this UTA-repped podcast is the rock ‘n’ roll version of the Peabody Award-winning “Serial,” with each episode covering such mysteries as the disappearance and death of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” guitar player Rick Philp, Sid Vicious’ heroin overdose, the demise of Jerry Lee Lewis’ fifth wife, Sam Cooke’s passing in a Los Angeles motel room and a glimpse at the extreme horrors of Norwegian Black Metal. Upcoming episodes include the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes burning down her NFL player boyfriend Andre Rison’s mansion, the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and club kid Michael Alig’s 1996 murder of friend Angel Melendez. Season two kicks off in July with podcasts on Lil Kim, ZZ Top, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix and Rick James.
“Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty” (iTunes/Spotify/Gimlet Media/Loud Speakers Network) — Released last year, this exclusive Spotify podcast — one of its first — offers another “Serial”-like exploration of the career, life and tragic death of hip-hop pioneer Chris Lighty. The veteran exec founded the label/ management company Violator, whose roster included the likes of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, 50 Cent and Ja Rule, among others, but was found dead in an apparent suicide in 2012. Created by the late Reggie Osse, founder of the highly touted “Combat Jack Show” podcast, the six-part series spotlights Lighty’s significance in hip-hop along with the questions surrounding his death.
“Rolling Stone Music Now” (iTunes/SoundCloud/SiriusXM’s Volume) — Hosted by veteran journalist (and Stone senior writer) Brian Hiatt, this topical podcast covers both current issues and items from deep in the vaunted magazine’s archives, such as Jann Wenner’s famed 1970 interview with John Lennon to hosting photographers taking about their greatest pics. Recent episodes include “The Genius of Nina Simone,” “The Death of Downloads,” “Is the Smashing Pumpkins Reunion Really a Reunion?” and an interview with Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls (aka Harry Shearer).
“LSQ by Jenny Eliscu” (iTunes) — Veteran journalist and SiriusXM Radio host Jenny Eliscu’s podcast features conversations with musicians, songwriters, producers and other music personalities, exploring the individual artists’ creative and personal evolution with highlights from her extensive interview archive. Recent installments include Jack Antonoff/Zack de la Rocha, Angel Olsen/Avril Lavigne, Tegan & Sara, Spoon’s Britt Daniel/Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and Beyonce.
“Questlove Supreme” (Pandora) — Hosted by The Roots’ erudite musical scholar Questlove, this podcast offers intelligent conversation with the likes of musicians such as Scarface, Charlie Wilson and Steve Miller, label executive Jason Flom, Grammy-winning engineer Michael Brauer, legendary hip-hop producer Prince Paul and even TV personalities John Oliver and Donnie Simpson.
“New York Times Popcast” (iTunes) — Hosted by Times music writer Jon Caramanica and including fellow staffers like Jon Pareles and Ben Ratliff, this weekly podcast offers in-depth discussion and analysis on the stories of the day in popular music, from the rise of Cardi B and the reign of neo-country rebels like Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde to the future of indie-rock, examined through new releases by Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy and the Breeders.
“All Songs Considered” (iTunes/NPR) — National Public Radio is the home of such podcast standards as “Tiny Desk Concerts” and “Microphone Check,” but this is its main franchise. Hosted by self-described fellow music “nerds” Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the twice-weekly podcast features a segment on the week’s best album releases (“New Music Friday”) and an offering of “essential new songs” (“New Mix”) that ranges from Icelandic pianist Olafur Arnalds and punk band Abuse of Power to psych-poppers Whyte Horses.
“Sound Opinions” (iTunes/WBEZ) — The granddaddy of rock ‘n’ roll talk shows, this production of Chicago Public Radio features veteran Chicago Tribune music writer Greg Kot and rabblerousing R. Kelly provocateur and Lester Bangs biographer Jim DeRogatis, who originally launched the show on WLUP back in 1993 with fellow Chitown critic and partner Bill Wyman (the veteran music writer, not the Rolling Stones’ former bassist). The show’s current episode — which covers the legend of Captain Beefheart, country singers Kacey Musgraves and Sarah Shook — is its 646th since and is the longest-running show of its kind.
“Dave Navarro’s Dark Matter Radio” (Stuffed Sausage Media/iTunes/SoundCloud) — The Jane’s Addiction guitarist has been hosting this podcast for two years now, but it was only recently picked up for distribution by podcaster Stuffed Sausage Media. Taking a cue from his pal Howard Stern, Navarro and his in-studio gang explore his own free-ranging obsessions with sex, horror, movies and, yep, music, too, with guests ranging from guitarists Steve Vai and John 5 to director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie and tattoo artists Anthony Michaels and Audra Lee.