It's almost Christmas, which means long car, bus and train rides are likely in your near future. We've given you plenty of the year's best music to fill your iPod with (do people still have iPods?), but there's one thing that cuts a commute in half: music podcasts. You may think that music podcasts are mostly limited to DJ mixes and repackaged radio shows, but there were some clear ones across formats for music fans this year. So here are 2013's best music podcasts, with links to individual episodes to make this as easy on you as possible. Get downloading.
The Podcast: WTF with Marc Maron
The episode: J Mascis
Marc Maron built the mould for the “comedians interviewing comedians” podcast format that dominates iTunes, but 2013 saw him branch more aggressively into music, landing big guests like Thom Yorke, Dave Grohl and Nick Cave. Those episodes can admittedly be hit or miss – his reverence for his classic and college rock heroes often translates into sycophancy, untempered by his usual passive-aggressiveness – but the J Mascis episode is a big hit. Speaking as someone who’s attempted to interview the laconic Dinosaur Jr. guitar god myself, it’s a challenge to get Mascis to talk for five minutes, let alone an hour, but Maron’s disarming garage chat gets him to open up about his upbringing, on-again-off-again feud with Lou Barlow and his devotion to yoga and meditation. And he plays a few acoustic songs at the end, which is great, obviously.
Uncortunately, the Mascis episode is behind a paywall, but the sequel, an interview with Mascis’ Dinosaur bandmade Lou Barlow, is well worth a (free) download.
The Podcast: The Nerdist
The episode: Brendon Small
The Nerdist is one of the most frustrating podcasts available. Host Chris Hardwick’s effusive positivity is grating at best, and what he calls “geeking out” often just sounds like pandering. I’ve wanted to quit it for a long time, but he just keeps landing fantastic guests. And sometimes, like in the case of Brendon Small, the comedian/guitar hero behind Metalocalypse, his unwillingness to structure interviews leads to something great. The Nerdist hosts let him bring in his guitar, which gives him a chance to punctuate his hilarious stories with actual riffing.
The Podcast: Low Times
The episode: Live In Chicago with Steve Albini and Richard Marx
Low Times takes the pervasive comedy podcast model – longform interviews with legends of their field – and transposes it to music. But where comedy podcasts often fail, Low Times is at its sharpest: the live episode. Hosts Maggie Serota, Tom Scharpling and Daniel Ralston play brilliantly off their Chicago audience, coaxing some of Steve Albini’s sharpest, most acerbic wit, and even eliciting an A+ conversation from ‘80s mullet-pop star Richard Marx. Who knew?
The Podcast: Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna
The episode: Steve Albini
And speaking of Steve Albini, Exclaim!/CBC contributor Vish Khanna scored what might be his most popular interview by pummelling him almost exclusively with questions about Nirvana. That’s the kind of thing that usually inspires a brilliant takedown from the legendary producer/curmudgeon, but Albini is surprisingly game (probably because of his 20th anniversary re-master of In Utero), only refusing to dignify questions about Courtney Love.
The Podcast: The Official Danko Jones Podcast
The episode: Leslie Feist and Brendan Canning
Canadian hard rock mainstay Danko Jones has a podcast, which blesses iTunes with a lot more Guns N' Roses related interviews than it’s ever had, but it also gave us this casual little gem with Broken Social Scene affiliates Leslie Feist and Brendan Canning. Feist isn’t normally the podcast type, but we’re glad she appeared on this one, if only for the talk about accidentally committing to covering Mastodon for Record Store Day and then trying to figure out just how the fuck to go about doing it.
The Podcast: Weird Canada Podcast
The episode: Episode #1
Weird Canada continues to tick off their list of objectives with their much-celebrated FACTOR grant, and they kicked off a hell of a year with the debut episode of their new podcast. They describe the show as “thematic vibrations and dispatches from our New Canadian heritage,” which enacts itself in much the same way as their website: you never know quite what you’re going to hear, or whether it’ll even have notes, but you know it’ll be interesting. And requests from the likes of Chad VanGaalen and Damian Abraham don’t hurt, either. Recommended for Canada’s most genre-agnostic music fans.
The Podcast: Food is the New Rock
The episode: Tenacious D
There are already so-called “rock star chefs,” so there might as well be a podcast devoted to the intersection between music and food. This episode with Tenacious D is a definite highlight, as KG and JB cover every instance of the overlap between rocking and eating: festival food, concert riders, fast food, pre-show meals, and the list goes on. And here’s something you probably wouldn’t expect given their devotion to fried chicken and Dorito burritos: Jack Black and Kyle Gass are pro-vegan. Yup.
The Podcast: Comedy Bang! Bang!
Comedy Bang! Bang! is a strange and hilarious podcast. Host Scott Aukerman seems to have a taste for underappreciated singer/songwriters, which often yields great musical results, but can be a comedy-killer when those artists are expected to stick around for the episode and interact with the antics (see: Ron Sexsmith and Bill Callahan). But Neko Case doesn’t just hold her own amongst the comedians – she often shows them up. Her songs are characteristically jawdropping, but the highlight comes when Aukerman, Huebel and Lennon attempt to one-up each other with dramatic readings of Case’s album: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. Neko wins.
The Podcast: Analyze Phish
The episode: A Crazy Moment in Phishtory
If you haven’t heard it, Analyze Phish’s concept is pretty simple: Phish Phan (and Parks & Recreation writer) Harris Wittels tries to convince Scott Aukerman to like Phish. By this point, Aukerman has dropped his “open heart and open mind” stance and just openly derides the long-running jam band. So they brought in a couple of guests: The Dissolve’s Nathan Rabin and Chart favourite Nick Thorburn from Islands and The Unicorns. It's basically a pile-on, but a hilarious one.
The Podcast: The Best Show on WFMU
The episode: The final episode!
The Best Show on WFMU ended its 13 year cult run this past week, and it left many feeling very sentimental, including many from the indie rock world. To find out why, read our Best Show eulogy/Tom Scharpling music video roundup, then come back and download the final swan song. You might leave feeling a little teary eyed.