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.
The movie Dune was released on October 21. It's the most recent adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic science fiction novel from 1965. The film was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the score was written by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. Hans Zimmer has scored over 200 films, been nominated for Oscars eleven times. He and Denis Villeneuve first worked together on the film Blade Runner 2049. Dune tells the story of the Atreides family as they relocate from their home world to the desert planet Arrakis. When Hans Zimmer first started working on the music, he made what he calls a "sketchbook" – creating motifs and themes that might occur in the film. And in this episode, he takes us through the first sketch he did for Dune. It’s called "Paul's Dream." For more, visit songexploder.net/dune.
30 min 31 sec
The War on Drugs is a band from Philadelphia who formed in 2005. They won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2018. This year, they put out their fifth album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Adam Granduciel is the singer and lead guitarist in the band, and I talked to him at his recording space here in Los Angeles. In this episode, Adam breaks down the title track from I Don’t Live Here Anymore, from the original demo to the version that was hammered out after months of work. And he explains how the song was influenced by Bob Dylan and his own newborn son. To learn more, visit songexploder.net/the-war-on-drugs.
25 min 35 sec
Willow Smith is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She’s also a member of one of the most famous families in the world. From a very young age, she followed in the musical footsteps of her parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and released her first single when she was just ten years old. Since then, she’s released four albums, and was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most influential people in the world. This year, on her most recent album, she put out this song, "Transparent Soul," which was co-written with her longtime collaborator Tyler Cole, and features Travis Barker from Blink-182 on drums. I talked to her about how her upbringing and her musical evolution from her early pop star days influenced the way she made this song. For more, visit songexploder.net/willow
18 min 15 sec
This summer, I gave a TED Talk at the TED Conference. My talk was about what you discover when you really listen. It was based on how making Song Exploder has changed the way I think about conversations and connecting with people. My talk came out today on the TED website and on the TED Talks Daily podcast, and the very nice folks at TED asked if I would also put the audio of the talk here, on Song Exploder. And I normally wouldn’t put this much of myself on here, but they asked, and like I said, they were very nice. I hope this isn’t too meta, to talk about the show, and what I get out of making it. But it also features some music, including beautiful cello played by Yo-Yo Ma, so there’s that to look forward to. Here it is, my TED Talk on what you learn when you listen closely. To listen to my song with Yo-Yo Ma, visit https://ffm.to/betweenthereandhere. For more, visit songexploder.net/ted.
17 min 1 sec
Earlier this year, I got an amazing email—the estate of John Lennon said that they have a treasure trove of audio material from his life, and they were wondering if I would be interested in making an episode around the song “God,” from John Lennon’s first solo album. I’ve never tried making a posthumous episode before, because hearing directly from the artist is at the heart of Song Exploder. But with all the interview archives that they have of him speaking, plus all the isolated tracks from the recordings, and the original demo, it actually seemed possible. So this is a very different and special episode of the show. In September 1969, John Lennon told the rest of the Beatles that he was leaving the group. Their breakup was announced publicly in April 1970, and that December, John Lennon released his first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The Plastic Ono band was the name for a rotating group of musicians that John and his wife, the artist Yoko Ono, had put together. For the making of “God,” the band included Ringo Starr on drums, Billy Preston on piano, and Klaus Voormann on bass. I got to interview Klaus Voormann about his experiences making this track, and in this episode, you’ll hear from him along with the archival interviews with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Billy Preston. You’ll also hear the original demo for “God,” and outtakes from the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios. They recorded the final version of this song on October 9, 1970—John Lennon’s 30th birthday. Archival audio sources: - John Lennon's audio was excerpted from an interview with Rolling Stone's Jann S. Wenner, recorded on December 8, 1970. The full interview can be found here. With grateful thanks to Jann S. Wenner for his permission and collaboration. - Arthur Janov and Billy Preston's quotes came from interviews conducted in 2005 owned by Yoko Ono Lennon. With grateful thanks to Yoko Ono Lennon for her permission and collaboration. - Ringo Starr's audio came from the 2008 Classic Albums documentary on John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, directed by Matthew Longfellow. With grateful thanks to Ringo Starr for his permission and collaboration. For more, visit songexploder.net/john-lennon.
27 min 1 sec
Lucy Dacus is a singer and songwriter from Richmond, Virginia. She put out her first album in 2016, and in 2018 she formed the band boygenius with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. In June 2021, she released her third album, Home Video, which includes the song "Thumbs." The first time I heard it, I knew I wanted to ask Lucy about how and why she made it. After some COVID testing, we spoke in person here in Los Angeles. And she told me the story of how "Thumbs" took months and months to get right. For more, visit songexploder.net/lucy-dacus.
26 min 17 sec
Mustafa is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Toronto. He gained national recognition in Canada for his poetry. in 2016, he served on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council. Later, as a songwriter, he contributed to the Grammy award-winning album Starboy by The Weeknd, and he’s written songs for Usher, Camila Cabello, and others. In May 2021, he released his own debut album, called When Smoke Rises, inspired by his experiences losing friends to inner-city violence. His album’s been critically acclaimed, and it was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. I spoke to Mustafa about his song "Air Forces," a track he made with his longtime collaborator, Grammy-winning producer Frank Dukes, plus Swedish artist Simon on the Moon, and Jamie xx. For more visit, songexploder.net/mustafa.
21 min 5 sec
Lykke Li is a singer and songwriter from Sweden. She started releasing music in 2007, and for much of her career, she’s worked with producer Björn Yttling, who’s also a member of the Swedish band Peter Bjorn and John. Her second album, Wounded Rhymes, came out 10 years ago. It was named one of the best albums of 2011 by the New York Times, Pitchfork, the Guardian, and more, and it won the Swedish Grammy for Best Album. The song "I Follow Rivers" was the breakout hit from that album, and for this episode, Lykke and Bjorn break down how they made it, with help from co-writer Rick Nowels. I spoke to the two of them while they were at Björn’s studio, Ingrid Studios in Stockholm. For more, visit songexploder.net/lykke-li.
18 min 33 sec
Singer, songwriter, and producer James Mercer of The Shins wrote “New Slang” when he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It came out as a single and then he re-recorded it for The Shins’ debut album Oh, Inverted World, which came out 20 years ago, in 2001. After Garden State came out, featuring the song "New Slang," that album went gold. And the soundtrack for the movie won a Grammy. Nowadays, James Mercer lives in Portland. I spoke to him from his home studio, and he told me how The Shins actually first started as a recording project, a side project, while he was in another band called Flake Music. In this episode, James breaks down "New Slang" and looks back at how his songwriting and his early home recording skills came together to make this iconic song. For more, visit songexploder.net/the-shins.
21 min 56 sec
The song "Surrender" by Cheap Trick was released in 1978. Rolling Stone called it the ultimate 70s teen anthem, and included it in their list of the greatest songs of all time. It’s been in a bunch of movies and tv shows—including South Park, Scrubs, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, New Girl, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Cheap Trick formed in Rockford, Illinois in 1973. They’ve released 20 studio albums, they’ve sold over 20 million records, and in 2016 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rick Nielsen is the guitarist in the band. He wrote “Surrender,” and for this episode, I talked to him about how the song was made. For more, visit songexploder.net/cheap-trick
16 min 55 sec
The story of how the song "Deep End" came into existence and became a hit is kind of wild. One person who really didn’t see it coming is the person who created it, Fousheé. She’s a singer and songwriter from New Jersey. You might have seen her competing on The Voice in 2018. Soon after that, she got asked to make a pack of vocal samples for the music platform Splice, where users can download samples and include them in their own songs, royalty-free. Coming up, Foushée tells the story of what happened with one of those samples, and how that led to her making "Deep End." That song has now been streamed over 385 million times. Fousheé became the first Black female artist to hit the Top 10 Alternative Chart in over 30 years. For more visit, songexploder.net/foushee.
15 min 39 sec
AURORA is a singer and songwriter from Norway, who released her first EP in 2015, when she was 19 years old. It featured the song, "Runaway" and after it came out Aurora went on to win Norwegian Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Pop Artist. And she played the voice of the North Wind in Disney’s Frozen 2. This year, six years after that debut EP came out, Aurora’s song "Runaway" became a huge hit on TikTok. As of this recording, between YouTube and Spotify, "Runaway" has been streamed over half a billion times. In this episode, Aurora looks back at how the song first began, and how it evolved over time, from the demo to the final version. For more, visit songexploder.net/aurora
24 min 9 sec
Sparks are the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, a legendary duo from Los Angeles. Over the last 50 years, they’ve released 25 albums. They’ve collaborated with Giorgio Moroder and Franz Ferdinand, and they’ve influenced bands like Joy Division, Faith No More, Björk, and countless others. Director Edgar Wright, whose films include Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, has made a documentary about the band called The Sparks Brothers. It premiered at Sundance, and comes out in theaters on Friday, June 18th. In this episode, Ron and Russell break down their hit, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us," which came out in 1974, and changed their careers forever. To learn more, visit songexploder.net/sparks Radiotopia's annual fundraiser is going on right now! To support Song Exploder and the mission of independent, creative story-telling through creator-owned shows, please donate at radiotopia.fm/donate.
17 min 23 sec
Arlo Parks is a singer and songwriter from London. In January 2021, she released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. It hit number three on the UK charts, and she won this year’s BRIT award for Breakthrough Artist. Last year, NME called her song "Black Dog" the year’s "most devastating song." In this episode, Anaïs breaks down “Black Dog," which she made with producer Gianluca Buccellati. ("But I just call him Luca.") Here’s Arlo Parks on Song Exploder. If you’re thinking about suicide, or if you have a friend who is, or if you just need someone to talk to right now, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, which is the Crisis Text Line. If you're outside of the U.S., check out the list of international hotlines at suicide.org. For more about “Black Dog,” visit songexploder.net/arlo-parks Also: it’s the Radiotopia Spring Fundraiser! Your support helps foster independent, artist-owned, award-winning podcasts like Song Exploder. Donate today at https://on.prx.org/3wl9pWn. Thanks!
20 min 11 sec
Imagine Dragons are a Grammy-winning band from Las Vegas. They’ve sold over 20 millions albums so far, and they were the most streamed band on Spotify in 2018. In March of this year, they released the song “Follow You." Singer Dan Reynolds started the song at home, and then later, the band took it to the studio Shangri-La, to record parts of it with legendary producer Rick Rubin. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song, which tells a deeply personal story of his relationship to his wife. For more, visit songexploder.net/imagine-dragons
19 min 55 sec
Marie Ulven is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Norway, who makes music under the name girl in red. She just released her debut album in April 2021, but she already has a big fanbase and she’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim from two EPs and singles that she’s released online, including a couple that went gold. The New York Times included her work in their best songs of the year in both 2018 and 2019, and she was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Norwegian Grammys. "Do you listen to girl in red?" has also become code on TikTok, a kind of shibboleth, to ask if someone’s a lesbian. In this episode, Marie breaks down the song "Serotonin," a song that started as a video she posted to her own TikTok in the early days of lockdown in 2020. You’ll hear the original version she recorded on her own, before collaborating with Norwegian Grammy-winning producer Matias Téllez, and later, with Grammy-winning artist and producer Finneas O’Connell, in order to finish the song. For more, visit songexploder.net/girl-in-red
20 min 5 sec
Porter Robinson is a Grammy-nominated electronic artist and DJ from North Carolina. In 2014, his first album hit #1 on Billboard’s Dance chart, and he was named MTVU’s Artist of the Year, and one of the top DJs in the world — but then, he got stuck. He didn’t release his second album for seven years, until April 2021. In this episode, he talks about what he was grappling with in those intervening years, and how all of that became part of his song "Get Your Wish." For more, visit songexploder.net/porter-robinson
19 min 14 sec
Lianne La Havas is a singer and songwriter from London. She’s been nominated for a Grammy and a Brit award, and in 2020, she released her third album. In this episode, she breaks down her song "Can’t Fight," and traces its evolution — along with her own evolution – over several years. For more, visit songexploder.net/lianne-la-havas.
21 min 55 sec
Jon Batiste is a pianist, songwriter, and composer from New Orleans. He’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and just won the Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for the soundtrack to the Pixar film Soul, which he composed along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Jon is also a recipient of the American Jazz Museum’s lifetime achievement award, and on weeknights, you can see him as the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In March 2021, he put out his new album, We Are. But the title track from it came actually came out much earlier, last year, in June 2020. In this episode, Jon talks about how he drew from his roots, at a very personal level — and at a cultural, historical level — and wove all of it into the song. For more, visit songexploder.net/jon-batiste.
24 min 39 sec
Glass Animals is a band from Oxford, England. They’ve released three albums since forming back in 2010. One of their biggest hits is the song "Heat Waves," which came out in June 2020. It was certified Gold in several countries, and Platinum in Australia, where it hit #1. Dave Bayley is the singer, songwriter, and producer of the band. He won the UK’s Music Producers Guild award for "Self-Producing Artist of the Year," and he’s produced songs for other artists, as well. In this episode, Dave tells the story of making "Heat Waves," over several months. First, on his own, and then later with his bandmates, Joe Seaward, Ed Irwin-Singer, and Drew MacFarlane. For more, visit songexploder.net/glass-animals.
20 min 57 sec
Sasha Sloan is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. She put out her debut album, Only Child, last year. Before that, she’d written songs for artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Charli XCX, and she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by electronic artists Odesza and Kygo. Sasha made her album with her boyfriend, producer Henry Allen, aka King Henry, whose other production credits include songs by Beyoncé and Diplo. In this episode, Sasha, along with Henry, tells the story of making her song "Until It Happens to You." For more, visit songexploder.net/sasha-sloan.
20 min 35 sec
PJ Morton is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s the first artist ever to be nominated for a Grammy for the Best R&B album three years in a row. In 2020, he won the Grammy for Best R&B song for his track, "Say So," which is a duet with the singer JoJo, a platinum-selling artist in her own right. But that version of "Say So" almost didn’t come to exist. In this episode, PJ takes us through his original voice memos, the demos, and the isolated pieces of the final studio recording, as he tells the story of how the track was created, then disappeared, and then got re-created—and ended up becoming one of his biggest songs. For more, visit songexploder.net/pj-morton.
20 min 34 sec
HAIM is a band from Los Angeles, made up of the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim. They’ve released three albums, and they’ve been nominated for three Grammys. Over the years, they’ve worked extensively with Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle and Ariel share the emotional backstory of the song “Summer Girl,” from HAIM’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III. In this episode, they break down their experience creating the song, along with Este Haim and the song’s co-producer and co-writer Rostam. For more, visit songexploder.net/haim.
26 min 2 sec
The legendary singer/songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens released his first album in 1967. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his albums have sold millions. In 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman², a re-imagining of his hit 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. In the song “Father & Son,” he sings a duet between the two title characters, doing both voices. But in the 2020 version, he approached this song in a kind of astonishing way—he recorded the part of the father, but for the part of the son, he used a live recording of himself from 1970, taken from a show he played at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. So the two parts are still both sung in his voice, but 50 years apart. In this episode, the 200th episode of Song Exploder, Yusuf / Cat Stevens tells the story of how he created, and then re-created “Father & Son.” For more, visit songexploder.net/yusuf-cat-stevens.
19 min 44 sec
Common is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, and activist from Chicago. He’s been making records since 1992, and in October, he released his thirteenth album, A Beautiful Revolution. In this episode, he breaks down how he made the song “A Riot In My Mind,” along with a handful of collaborators, including Lenny Kravitz and a cameo from Chuck D. songexploder.net/common
24 min 25 sec
Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who’s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, Pieces of You, came out in 1995, and a 25th anniversary edition was released in November 2020. That album contains the hit song "You Were Meant for Me," but it turns out it wasn’t a runaway success—not at first. In this episode, Jewel traces the history of making “You Were Meant For Me,” starting with the demo, and moving through all the different versions that were made along the way. songexploder.net/jewel
19 min 14 sec
Billie Eilish started releasing music when she was 14 years old. Her debut album came out last year, when she was 17. It debuted at Number 1 on Billboard, went triple platinum, and won five Grammys. Billie made that record with her brother and creative partner, producer Finneas O’Connell, in their parents’ house in Highland Park, Los Angeles. While working on that album, they also started writing this song, “Everything I Wanted,” which came out as a single in November 2019. It was Billie’s second top ten hit, and it went double platinum, too. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the original voice memos Billie and Finneas made while writing, and the two of them explain why the song was almost never finished. songexploder.net/billie-eilish
27 min 56 sec
This episode is a little different. It’s a re-issue of Phoebe Bridgers’ Song Exploder episode from January 2019, along with a brand new segment where she and I talk about dealing with writer’s block. Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. Coming up first in this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how that song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, and then finally to the album version. And then, after that, after you hear "Scott Street" in its entirety, Phoebe and I talk about writer’s block: what causes it for her, and how’s she’s dealt with it. So stick around after the full song to hear that conversation. songexploder.net/phoebe-bridgers
31 min 44 sec
Deftones are a Grammy-winning band from Sacramento who’ve sold over ten million albums. Their ninth album, Ohms, came out this year, on September 25th, 2020. In this episode, singer Chino Moreno breaks down how the title track came together, and how they literally went back to where things started in order to create it. songexploder.net/deftones
21 min 46 sec
Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P first met in 2011. They both had established rap careers, but they entered a new era when they started making music together as Run the Jewels in 2013. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, and they released their fourth album, RTJ4, in June 2020. Like all of their albums, they made it available to download for free. In this episode, El-P and Killer Mike break down the song "JU$T," which features guest vocals from their frequent collaborator, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and guest vocals from Pharrell Williams. songexploder.net/run-the-jewels
21 min 51 sec
Dua Lipa is a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from London. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, came out in March 2020. It hit #1 on the charts in thirteen countries, and it was shortlisted for the UK’s Mercury Prize. Dua co-wrote the song "Levitating" with some of her closest collaborators, including producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, AKA Koz. In this episode, Dua and Koz break down “Levitating” and how Dua’s childhood memories shaped its sound. songexploder.net/dua-lipa
18 min 12 sec
Selena Gomez is a singer, songwriter, and actress, who’s spent most of her life in the public eye. She started her acting career as a child, and put out her first albums as a teenager. She’s had three number one albums and eight Top 10 hits, and in 2017, Billboard named her Woman of the Year. At one point, she was the most followed person on Instagram, and the details of her life are constantly discussed in tabloid headlines. So, when your private life is that public, how do you write a song about something as personal as heartbreak? Selena teamed up with the Grammy-winning production duo Mattman & Robin, who she’d worked with before. And she turned to her longtime songwriting collaborators, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Julia Michaels is also a Grammy-nominated artist in her own right, and Justin Tranter, also a Grammy nominee, was named BMI’s 2017 Pop Songwriter of the Year. The three of them have written 10 songs together, including this one, “Lose You to Love Me.” The song came out in October 2019, and went on to become Selena’s first number-one hit. It went double-platinum in the US, and was named one of the best songs of the year by Vulture and Billboard. In this episode, Selena, Julia and Justin break down how the song came to be, from the first writing session to the final production touches from Finneas. songexploder.net/selena-gomez
20 min 1 sec
On August 28, 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died. He was only 43 years old. Unbeknownst to many, even some of his closest collaborators, he’d been battling colon cancer since 2016. His family released a statement, and in it, they said, "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther." After hearing the news, I went back and re-watched the movie, and I don’t know, it was a completely different experience this time. I went and listened to the score again, and that had changed for me, too. So, I wanted to back and share this episode from 2018, about a piece of the film’s score by composer Ludwig Göransson. It’s one of my favorites, and since it first aired, Ludwig went on to win the Grammy and Oscar for the Black Panther score. I hope you enjoy this re-visiting this episode, and I hope it makes you remember how great Black Panther is, and how great Chadwick Boseman is in it, in a role that defined a career that was way too short. · · · Marvel’s Black Panther was released in theaters on February 16, 2018, and in just a few weeks, it made over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s already broken some box office records and it looks like it’s going to break some more. The score for the film was created by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson. His film and tv credits include Creed and New Girl. He’s also Grammy-nominated producer, who’s worked most often with rapper Childish Gambino. In this episode, Ludwig takes apart one of his pieces from Black Panther. The track is called "Killmonger," and it’s the theme for Erik Killmonger, a character played by Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and coming up, Ludwig tells the story of doing research and making recordings in Africa, and how he incorporated that into the score for the film. For more, visit songexploder.net/black-panther
22 min 33 sec
Kelly Lee Owens is an electronic music producer and songwriter originally from Wales. She’s released two critically acclaimed albums and done remixes for Björk and St. Vincent. Her most recent album is is called Inner Song. It came out in August, following what Kelly described as the hardest three years of her life. In this episode, she takes apart her song "On," and explains how its tone and shifts mirrored her journey processing her own trauma. songexploder.net/kelly-lee-owens
21 min 15 sec
Black Pumas formed in Austin, Texas in 2017, when singer Eric Burton met producer Adrian Quesada. Their self-titled debut was released in June 2019, and got them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In this episode, they break down their hit song “Colors,” which Eric started writing ten years ago, when he was first learning how to play guitar. songexploder.net/black-pumas
18 min 28 sec
The 1975 are a band from Manchester, England, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and George Daniel. They started playing music together in 2002, when they were teenagers. Since then, they’ve released four albums, won three Brit awards, and gotten two Grammy nominations. Their most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, came out in May 2020. In this episode, Matty and George break down how they made the song “The Birthday Party.” songexploder.net/the-1975
19 min 7 sec
Katie Crutchfield is a singer and songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s been making music under the name Waxahatchee since 2010. Her fifth album, Saint Cloud, came out this past March. Pitchfork named it Best New Music, and The Guardian called it the best album of the year so far. In this episode, Katie breaks down how she made the song “Fire." songexploder.net/waxahatchee
18 min 42 sec
Khruangbin is a band from Houston, Texas, who first formed in 2010. NME called them the "low key superstars" of psychedelic music. They’ve released three albums. The most recent, which came out in June 2020, is called Mordechai. In the past, most of Khruangbin’s songs have been instrumental, or if they did have vocals, they'd be minimal. Their new album is different. It features vocals prominently, and in this episode, the three of them explain their philosophy on vocals and their process on writing lyrics. I spoke to each of them to get their perspective on how they made the song "So We Won’t Forget." songexploder.net/khruangbin
26 min 20 sec
The Netflix original series Dark debuted in December 2017. It’s a really mysterious, mind-bending German science fiction show with a unique tone. A big part of that tone is announced every episode with the music in the show’s opening title sequence. It’s the song “Goodbye,” by German electronic artist Apparat, the solo project of Sascha Ring. This song actually came out years ago, on the 2011 Apparat album The Devil’s Walk. Since then, before it was used as the theme song for Dark, it’s been featured in a bunch of films and commercials, and notably, in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad. The final season of Dark just came out last week, so I wanted to find out how the show’s theme music was made. “Goodbye” features vocals from Anja Plaschg, an Austrian artist who makes music under the name Soap&Skin. In this episode, Sascha and Anja break down how the song was created. songexploder.net/apparat
27 min 18 sec
The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991. In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the album a rare perfect score, 10 out of 10. The Washington Post called it a “masterpiece” of hardcore rap, and in Slate, it was called one of the best albums of the ‘90s, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. Their biggest song from the album was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Havoc made the now-legendary beat that he and Prodigy rap over. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Havoc told me the story of how the whole song came together. Prodigy passed away in 2017, from complications due to sickle-cell anemia, a debilitating disease he’d battled his entire life. But the legacy of Mobb Deep lives on. A new, expanded, 25th anniversary edition of The Infamous just came out in April. songexploder.net/mobb-deep
21 min 36 sec
Instead of a new episode this week, revisiting this episode originally published in May 2017. Please consider donating to local and national organizations engaged in the work of racial equality. Here are some links: American Civil Liberties Union NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Community Bail Funds Michael Kiwanuka is a singer/songwriter from London. His second album, Love and Hate, came out in 2016, and was named one of the Best Albums of the Year from the BBC, NME, The Guardian, GQ, and more. One of the songs on the album was used as the theme for the hit HBO series Big Little Lies. In this episode, Michael breaks down the song "Black Man in a White World." songexploder.net/michael-kiwanuka
22 min 3 sec
100 gecs is a duo, made up of Laura Les and Dylan Brady. In 2016, they put out an EP called 100 gecs, and three years later, they released their first album, called 1000 gecs. It was named the Best Album of 2019 in Vice and in The New York Times. It was also on year-end lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum and more. Dylan lives in Los Angeles, and Laura in Chicago—they work remotely, sending files back and forth to each other. In this episode, the two of them break down how they made the song "Money Machine." songexploder.net/100-gecs
17 min 49 sec
Laura Marling is a singer and songwriter from London. She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist—she’s been nominated five times for that, along with the Mercury Prize, and the Grammy for Best Folk Album. Since 2008, she’s released seven albums. The most recent album is called Song for Our Daughter. It’s also the name of the song that she takes apart in this episode. songexploder.net/laura-marling
23 min 59 sec
Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in 2008, Tame Impala has been nominated for two Grammys and won eight of Australia’s ARIA Awards. Multiple albums of his have been named best of the year. As a producer, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, and more. The most recent Tame Impala album is The Slow Rush, which came out in February 2020. For this episode, Kevin chose to take apart the song, "It Might Be Time." songexploder.net/tame-impala
17 min 18 sec
FKA twigs is a singer, songwriter, and producer from London. She’s released three EPs and two albums. Her most album, Magdalene, came out in November, 2019, and was named one of the best albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Time, NME, and more. For this episode, twigs chose the song "Mirrored Heart" from Magdalene. She wrote and produced it in Los Angeles with a few collaborators, but it’s an intensely personal song. songexploder.net/fka-twigs
22 min 8 sec
Nathaniel Rateliff is a singer and songwriter from Colorado. He’s released four solo albums, and two with his band, the Night Sweats. Those two Night Sweats albums were produced by Richard Swift, who passed away in 2018. In a statement, his family said that he "suffered from alcohol addiction, and it’s ultimately what took his life." Nathaniel Rateliff’s new solo album, And It’s Still Alright, was supposed to be produced by Richard Swift as well, but Richard died before they could work together again. In this episode, Nathaniel breaks down the title track, which was inspired by his own complicated relationship with alcohol, and by his friendship with Richard Swift. songexploder.net/nathaniel-rateliff
24 min 43 sec
Eric Nam is a Korean-American pop singer from Atlanta. He’s currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he found fame as a K-pop star. He was named “2016 Man of the Year” by GQ Korea, and Forbes named him one of their “30 under 30 Asia.” But his success in Korea has been complicated a little by what he wanted to do with his career versus what he felt he was allowed to do. As his career as an artist has evolved, he’s gotten closer and closer to making the music he wants to make. In November 2019, Eric released Before We Begin — his first album entirely in English. In this episode, Eric Nam and producer Rabitt break down a song from that album called “Love Die Young.” songexploder.net/eric-nam
22 min 5 sec
Sophie Allison makes music under the name Soccer Mommy. Her debut album came out in 2018, when she was 20 years old, and the New York Times named it one of the best album of the year. Her second album, Color Theory, comes out this week, and it includes this song, "Circle the Drain." In this episode, she takes "Circle the Drain" apart and explains how it was influenced by songs from her childhood. songexploder.net/soccer-mommy
21 min 36 sec
Dan Snaith has been making Caribou records since 2001. He won Canada’s Polaris music prize in 2007, and this month, he’s releasing the seventh Caribou album, Suddenly. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song “Home.” He talks about how he managed to get past several moments of creative uncertainty to figure out the final track. songexploder.net/caribou
20 min 13 sec
When Laetitia Tamko started making the second Vagabon album, she really wanted to produce the entire thing on her own. It would be a new sound, and producing was still a relatively new skill to her, but she wanted to tackle it head on, and do it all herself. On this song, though, "Water Me Down," Laetitia actually has a co-producer, Eric Littman. It’s the one exception to her otherwise entirely self-produced album. In this episode, she breaks down how she and Eric made the song, and why it was worth making that exception. songexploder.net/vagabon
19 min 30 sec