Song Exploder

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Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.

187 épisodes

3 mars 2015 - 00:13:33
In 2013, Warpaint starting working on their sophomore album. They retreated away from their home in Los Angeles to the nearby desert oasis of Joshua Tree, California. There, they wrote the song "Love Is to Die," and it was decided that it would be the single from the record. Now, with over 6 million plays on Spotify and nearly 3 million more on YouTube, "Love Is to Die" is by some measures their most popular song. Designating it as the single was a decision that was easy to make early on, but it was also carried unforeseen consequences for the band. In this episode, three of the four members break down the sounds in the song, and weigh in on some of the difficulty they faced getting this track from the initial idea to the finished recording.
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20 février 2015 - 00:13:05
In 2005, Nickelodeon premiered an animated series called Avatar: The Last Airbender, about a young boy and his friends who have to keep peace and balance in the world. It combined fantasy and martial arts, and ran for four seasons, won an Emmy and a Peabody, and in 2012, spawned a sequel called The Legend of Korra. This time, the story was about a girl, Korra, a teenager, and just as the characters were older and the world they inhabited was older, the themes of the show matured as well. In December 2014, after 4 seasons of its own, the series and franchise aired its finale. It made headlines for the final shot of the very last scene, where Korra and her female companion Asami come together as a couple, romantically. Composer Jeremy Zuckerman used a mix of Chinese and western instruments for the series. In this episode, he deconstructs the music he wrote, reflects on the significance of that scene, and also what it felt like to close the curtain on a franchise he'd been working on over the course of twelve years of his life.
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9 février 2015 - 00:12:04
The Imitation Game is a biographical film about Alan Turing, a mathematician who pioneered computer science and helped the British government break Nazi codes, but was then later prosecuted by the British government for being gay. Composer Alexandre Desplat created the score, which was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar — his eighth Oscar nomination. In this episode, he breaks down the orchestration of the main theme from the film, which plays during the title sequence.
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30 janvier 2015 - 00:19:35
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while reentering the earth's atmosphere. John Roderick, singer and songwriter of The Long Winters, wrote "The Commander Thinks Aloud" about that fateful moment. This episode was made from an interview I did with John Roderick in front of a live audience in Seattle, where we discussed how and why he made this song.
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19 janvier 2015 - 00:12:12
The band Blonde Redhead formed in 1993. Twenty-one years later, in 2014, the trio released their 9th album, and in this episode, they deconstruct Penultimo, a song from that record that caused some dissent between the band members. At the heart of the controversy was the Pitchfactor effect pedal by Eventide, a harmonizer that does a lot, or maybe too much. Coming up, you'll hear how tricky it was to begin this song, as well as finish it.
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7 janvier 2015 - 00:16:29
In November 2014, Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan released his 11th album, called 36 Seasons. A lot of people worked on it: soul band The Revelations served as a kind of house backing band for the whole thing. Lil' Fame from M.O.P. and engineer Daniel Schlett helped produce, and there's a host of guest vocalists, including the ones on this track: singer Tré Williams, and rappers AZ and Kool G Rap. But the person who put the whole thing together, came up with the idea, and corralled all of these contributors is someone who doesn't appear on the record. His name is Bob Perry, and his title is A&R, which stands for artist and repertoire. Nowadays, that usually means the person at a record label who acts as a talent scout for new artists, but back in the day, the A&R reps were often responsible for much more. In this episode, Bob Perry talks about how the Ghostface song "The Battlefield" came together, and Revelations guitarist Wes Mingus breaks down how the beat was assembled.
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22 décembre 2014 - 00:16:37
The National formed in 1999. They've released six albums, and have been nominated for a grammy. Their music is everywhere from Game of Thrones, to Bob's Burgers, to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In 2013 they released their sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts. The band is made up of singer Matt Berninger along with two sets of brothers: guitarists Bryce and Aaron Dessner, who are twins, and Brian and Scott Devendorf, who play drums and bass, respectively. In this episode, Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner break down "Sea of Love," a song that they co-wrote. You'll hear how it went from Aaron's original guitar demo to a densely layered recording with contributions from their bandmates and others, and they'll talk about how collaboration is an intrinsic part of their process and their band identity. songexploder.net/the-national
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8 décembre 2014 - 00:11:40
Tycho is the project of designer-turned-musician Scott Hansen, along with guitarist Zac Brown and drummer Rory O'Connor. For this episode, which was recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, Scott breaks down the title track from the 2014 Tycho album Awake, including a note he misplayed, and a vocal part you aren't really supposed to know about. songexploder.net/tycho
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26 novembre 2014 - 00:11:47
Stars is a band from Toronto, who have been making music together since 2000. Their seventh album was released in October 2014. For this episode, I spoke to several members of the band: singer Amy Millan over the phone, and to Evan and Patty in their studio in Toronto along with their co-producer Liam O’Neil. In this episode, they talk about the inspiration for the phrase No One Is Lost, which is the title of this song as well as the album. And you’ll hear the original version of the chorus: one that they wrote, recorded, mixed, and finished but then, ended up changing completely.
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12 novembre 2014 - 00:15:51
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.
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29 octobre 2014 - 00:13:27
Julia Holter studied composition, and in the song Horns Surrounding Me, she arranges not only acoustic and electronic instruments, but also layers of ambient field recordings and background noise. The song was released in 2013 on her acclaimed album Loud City Song. In this episode, Julia deconstructs the recording, and talks about what she did to evoke a feeling of fear in both the music and the way she sang, changing her voice on different parts of the song to create character and texture.
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15 octobre 2014 - 00:13:03
Dave Hill is a comedian and host of his own podcast which, like Song Exploder, is on the Maximum Fun network. He's also the frontman of the band Valley Lodge. In this episode, Dave will deconstruct the Valley Lodge song Go, which you might recognize as the opening credits of the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. This is a special episode produced for MaxFunWeek, seven days of celebrating the community of listeners and shows that make up the Maximum Fun podcast network.
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1 octobre 2014 - 00:14:20
Andre Allen Anjos is better known as RAC, a musician who first found success by remixing other people's songs. His remixes for artists like Lana Del Rey have gotten millions of plays online. In 2013, RAC released Strangers, his first album of original material, and in this episode, he breaks down the song Let Go from that record. It features guest vocals from Kele, best known as the frontman of the band Bloc Party, and singer MNDR, who also talks about her experience working on the track.
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18 septembre 2014 - 00:13:40
The Thermals originally began as Hutch Harris's solo recording project. He sang and played all the instruments on the 2003 Thermals record More Parts Per Million. In this episode, Hutch breaks down his lo-fi recording of the song No Culture Icons. The track was later mixed by Chris Walla, who's known best for his work with Death Cab for Cutie, and we’ll hear some thoughts from him as well. I spoke with Hutch in front of a live audience at the XOXO Festival in Portland, Oregon.
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2 septembre 2014 - 00:13:04
In addition to guitars, drums, and bass, the band Anamanaguchi makes their music with the 8-bit sounds that were built into Nintendo video game consoles made in the 1980s. They use software called a tracker to meticulously sequence and produce those sounds. Most of their music is instrumental, but in this episode, they break down one of the first times they’ve incorporated vocals, for the song Prom Night, which features singer Bianca Raquel. Prom Night is from their most recent album, Endless Fantasy, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart when it came out in 2013. 
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19 août 2014 - 00:16:35
Spoon was formed in 1993 by singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. They've released eight albums, including their most recent record, They Want My Soul, which came out in August 2014. In this episode, Jim Eno breaks down the song Inside Out, explaining how it went from the original demo to the finished album version, including what other music influenced the recording. Plus, we'll hear from their co-producer, Dave Fridmann, whose other credits include The Flaming Lips album The Soft Bulletin, and Oracular Spectacular by MGMT.
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6 août 2014 - 00:17:06
In May 2014, the video game company Ubisoft released Watch Dogs, about a vigilante hacker in Chicago in the near future. Here's how the game is described on their website: "You play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice for those events, you'll monitor and hack those around you." It sold over 4 million copies in its first week of release. The music for the game was made by Brian Reitzell, who played drums in the bands Air and Red Kross before becoming a composer and music supervisor for films like Lost In Translation and Beginners. He also creates the music for the NBC television show Hannibal. In this episode, Brian talks about the unique challenges posed by scoring video games, where players control what happens on screen and as a result, what happens in the music. He'll break down a piece called Donovan, which he wrote for a chase sequence within the game. He also describes the instrument he created from a hundred year old piano. This episode is presented in conjunction with Polygon.
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15 juillet 2014 - 00:11:06
In this episode, rapper Open Mike Eagle talks about making the song Dark Comedy Morning Show, along with the track's producer, Walker Ashby, aka Toy Light. Mike breaks down how Toy Light's original instrumental version of this song inspired him, and how his view of his own vocals on the track has changed since recording them. 
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1 juillet 2014 - 00:17:34
In the fall of 2001, Phil Elverum released the album The Glow Pt 2 on K Records. Pitchfork named it the best album of the year. In this episode, Phil recounts how he created the first song on the record at Dub Narcotic Studio. He spoke with me from his home in Anacortes, Washington, about his love of being alone in the studio, evoking nature through music, and where the name The Microphones came from. Plus a few words from Calvin Johnson, the founder of K Records. This episode is presented in conjunction with The Creators Project.   
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19 juin 2014 - 00:12:33
The band Converge formed in 1990, when its members were teenagers. They've been making music that lives somewhere in the intersection of punk, hardcore, and metal for almost 25 years. Guitarist Kurt Ballou spoke to me from his studio GodCity, which is where Converge writes and records. I also spoke over the phone with singer Jake Bannon. Coming up, they'll talk about how the physical space of GodCity influenced their songwriting, how the Boston hardcore scene gave them a home, and how to get the classic Swedish death metal guitar tone.
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