This week’s featured podcasts are Switched on Pop, Your Art Sucks, Misfortune, CANADALAND, and Critical.
Switched On Pop E83: Jeremy Lloyd of Philly music duo Marion Hill is proud. He’s cracked the code on Lorde’s song Ribs. The first verse has the same lyrics as the first chorus, and ditto for the second verse and chorus. They are made different via melody – slow in the verses, double-time in the chorus leading to what Jeremy believes to be a meditative effect. Switched on Pop is a show that deconstructs pop songs to find their true inner meaning. Hosts Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding express disbelief that Lorde created a song about the aging process that is constantly active; before having Marion Hill break down their own song Differently. Discussion is in-depth and big on musical theory, and as someone who doesn’t come from that world I found myself getting lost on what was being communicated more often then I would listening to a similar show like Song Exploder. Ultimately, if you find yourself googling lyrics to understand what’s being sung, you’ll probably get a kick out of Switched on Pop.
Your Art Sucks S02E02: Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t one of those shows where the host(s) take a well known piece of art and rip on it. Instead, Your Art Sucks is a thoughtful guide for young artists where host Trevor Stoddart investigates the larger methods and techniques used by memorable artists and questions whether they can be applied to the works you are making. “Outsource Me” looks at two artists who contracted others to make works for them, sold them under their names, and then bragged about the fact – Mark Kostabi and Damien Hirst. The episode is structured as an audio essay, with Stoddart quoting Kostabi in a 60 Minutes interview where he claims to buy ideas and then have his staff execute them; and telling the story of Hirst stealing the idea for his twenty foot statue Hymm from a children’s toy design. The episode ends with Stoddart asking the listener a bunch of questions to consider instead of making judgements – Is an artist still an artist if they choose to design works and market themselves instead of drawing each line or painting each stroke? If someone wants to pay you thousands of dollars for a work of art you didn’t create, is it OK to take the money and run? I found Your Art Sucks to be a pleasurable listen, bringing me into world I was not familiar with and making me ponder larger questions about art, commerce, and behaviour.
Misfortune E08: If not for all the TV recap podcasts, I’d say that comedy podcasting is currently dominated by the “riffing on stories from history” trope. Pods like The Dollop and My Favorite Murder sell out live shows and dominate the podcast charts, so I guess it should come as no surprise that a show like Misfortune exists. Adam Tod Brown and Danger Van Gorder’s take on the genre looks in at the world of white-collar crime, which could lead us down the path of some fascinating characters and insane stories. Sadly, it’s not the premise that fails the show – it’s the hosts. Stories are less like complete tales and more like readings of Wikipedia, Adam and Danger take tangents that frankly lead to uninteresting paths, and riffing and jokes are frequently lowest common denominator. I really wanted to like this show, but Misfortune feels more like an excuse for it’s hosts to get together and mess about, unaware that people are spending their time listening to it.
CANADALAND E229: A man murders ten, plowing them down inside a rented van in Toronto. Afterwards, it comes out that the accused identified as an incel, a person who declares themselves as involuntary celibate. It would be easy to joke or dismiss incels as something ridiculous, but we’re living in post-Charlottesville times where the crazy talk online is leading to alarming actions in the people world. Jesse Brown of CANADALAND brought on journalist Arshy Mann to discuss the terrorist attack in the guise of the manosphere – a collection of internet based subcultures ranging from pick up artists to MGTOWs (men going their own way) who all have one thing in common – misogyny. The episode provides a high-level look at these groups, with Jesse pondering whether this kind of behavior was built into the internet since it’s beginning, and Arshy stating that while we shouldn’t respect these groups, we should be shutting down their platforms to prevent further attacks. CANADALAND is largely focused on news and media criticism occurring in Canada, so it’s not always relevant for those outside the great white north. For me, there’s no other show making these stories accessible, punchy, researched, and interesting. If you’re interested in the why of news, CANADALAND is worth your time.
Critical E03: Nick Thorburn and David OReilly, hosts of new podcast Critical are pumped for this week’s episode with guest Michael Cera. They tell you this no less than a dozen times, also telling you that they are not going to waste any time and get straight to the interview. Five minutes pass, ten. Bedding music fades in and out, the hosts plug their Venmo accounts for donations and urge you to review the show on iTunes. Finally at 19 minutes in, “without any further ado” they are ready for the interview. And then an ad for Audible kicks in. Critical is a satirical take on podcasting as a medium and the desperation of people who call themselves content creators without having anything to say. When the Cera interview actually begins (around 30 minutes in) the three have a discussion over the best names for boys, mainly concerned on whether a name is fun to say. There’s nothing critical about it, and OReilly in particular has an incredible skill of creating banal conversation while using as many words as possible. The format of the show is its greatest downfall, with its hosts getting into repetitive situations often. While this is the joke, it’s something that seems more fun for hosts to do than for listeners to listen to. That said, several days after listening to this episode I found myself wanting more Nick and David, so they must be doing something right. If you’re a fan of Hollywood Handbook you’ll probably get a kick out of Critical, but for everyone else you may find it pointless (and I suspect that is the point).
Pod News: Popular podcast app Pocket Casts has been acquired by a consortium of public radio companies, but the folks behind it say nothing will change for the worse, only the better. Gimlet Creative and Squarespace are creating a podcast reality show to find the next great host – Casting Call. Google are going to prioritize podcasts in their search results. Nicholas Quah of industry newsletter Hot Pods rounds up the best podcasts of 2018 (so far).
The Final Question: Do you mess with playback speed? I found myself listening to a show that may be reviewed in a future Pod People edition, and I forgot a long time ago that I set it to play at 1.2x speed (with trim silence, thanks Pocket Casts!). When I changed the show back to the defaults, I realized how hard it must be to listen to, ‘cuz the host speaks so freaking slowly. How do you do?