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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.
 
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Lin-Manuel Miranda is a playwright, actor, and songwriter. He’s the creator of the broadway hits Hamilton and In the Heights, and he’s a Tony-award winner, a Grammy winner, an Emmy winner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. Lin-Manuel grew up in New York, and would spend summers in Puerto Rico, where his par ...…
 
Rachel Platten is a singer and songwriter who’s released four albums, including her 2016 album Wildfire, which went Gold. The lead single from that album, “Fight Song,” was used prominently by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. For a normally apolitical artist, the sudden proximity to the election had profound effects, both positive and n ...…
 
The show Stranger Things is a Netflix original series. It was first released in July 2016. Season two’s release date: October 27, 2017. After the first season, the show was nominated for 18 Emmys, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. The theme music, along with the rest of the show’s score, was composed by Michael S ...…
 
Los Angeles producer and beatmaker Jennifer Lee released her first album as TOKiMONSTA in 2010. She has released music on Flying Lotus's label Brainfeeder, and has collaborated with Kool Keith and Anderson .Paak, among others. Her newest album, Lune Rouge, was released in October 2017. In this episode, TOKiMONSTA breaks down her song "Bibimbap, ...…
 
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The Killers formed in Las Vegas in 2001. Since then, they’ve released five records. Their newest album, Wonderful Wonderful, came out in September 2017. In this episode, singer Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci break down the song "Rut" from that album. songexploder.net/the-killers
 
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Lorde is a Grammy-award winning singer, songwriter, and producer. Her second album, Melodrama, debuted at number one on the charts in June 2017 – five months before her 21st birthday. In this episode, Ella breaks down her song “Sober.” You’ll hear how it started, with the original demos she made with her co-producer Jack Antonoff, and how the s ...…
 
Rostam Batmanglij is a songwriter, producer, and composer, who first rose to prominence in 2006 as one of the members of Vampire Weekend. He’s produced songs for Frank Ocean, Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, and more. But his September 2017 album ‘Half-Light’ is his first as a solo artist. In this episode, Rostam breaks down his song “Bike Dream.” He ...…
 
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The band Ibeyi is made up of twin sisters Naomi Diaz, and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz. When they were only teenagers, they were signed to a record deal by Richard Russell, who had previously signed artists like Adele and Vampire Weekend to his label, XL. He also co-produces their records. In this episode, Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé take apart their 2017 song D ...…
 
Maggie Rogers had a breakthrough moment when she was a student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute. Pharrell Williams visited to her class, and when he heard her song "Alaska," his reaction was dramatic, and caught on video. The video of Pharrell listening to Maggie’s song went viral, and "Alaska" became a hit, with over 40 million streams on Spotif ...…
 
Annie Clark grew up in Texas, studied the guitar, and moved to New York in the mid-2000s. She started recording and performing under the name St Vincent in 2006. She’s released five albums, and won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2014. Earlier this year, in 2017, St Vincent released this song, called “New York,” partly inspired by the ci ...…
 
Between 2004 and 2012, Grizzly Bear put out four critically-acclaimed albums. Their newest album is called Painted Ruins, and it features this song, Four Cypresses. In this episode, two members of the band, Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen, tell the story of how the song came together. songexploder.net/grizzly-bear Song Exploder listener survey: ...…
 
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Phoenix is a Grammy-winning band from Versailles, France. They started putting out music in 1999, and in June 2017, they released their sixth album, Ti Amo. In this episode, singer Thomas Mars and guitarist Laurent Brancowitz break down the song "Ti Amo," the title track from that album. songexploder.net/phoenix…
 
Slowdive formed in 1989 in Reading, England. They put out 3 albums between 1991 and 1995, and their sound helped define the shoegaze genre. In 2017, the band released a critically-acclaimed self-titled album, their first in over twenty years. In this episode, singer and guitarist Neil Halstead takes apart the song “Sugar for the Pill.” songexpl ...…
 
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Goapele is a singer/songwriter from the Bay Area. She released her first album in 2001. Since then, she’s released five more albums and collaborated with Snoop Dogg. In 2017, on her album DreamSeeker, she put out the song "Stand." It was written in the wake of the shooting death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed wh ...…
 
Fleet Foxes formed in Seattle, Washington in 2006. In 2011, they put out their second record, which was nominated for a Grammy, and then, the band went on hiatus. The lead singer and songwriter, Robin Pecknold, moved to New York to go to Columbia University. After six years, in 2017, the band returned with their third album, Crack-Up. And in th ...…
 
Michelle Branch is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. She released two platinum albums when she was still a teenager. Because those records were such huge hits, for a long time they defined her as an artist—for better or worse. Over a decade later, in 2017, Michelle put out her third album, Hopeless Romantic. In this episode, Michelle talks ab ...…
 
Alt-J formed in Leeds, England in 2007. Their debut album won a Mercury Prize and their second was nominated for a Grammy. Their third album, Relaxer, came out in June 2017. In this episode, they break down “In Cold Blood,” from their new album. songexploder.net/alt-j
 
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 M ...…
 
Mike Hadreas has been making music under the name Perfume Genius since 2008. In May 2017, he put out his fourth album, No Shape to widespread critical acclaim. In this episode, Mike breaks down the song Slip Away. I also spoke with producer Blake Mills, who also plays on the track, and recording engineer Shawn Everett about the unusual way the ...…
 
Little Dragon is a Grammy-nominated band from Gothenburg, Sweden. They formed in 1996, and they released their fifth album Season High in April 2017. In this episode, Yukimi Nagano and Erik Bodin from the band break down the song “Sweet.” songexploder.net/little-dragon
 
Aimee Mann is a Grammy- and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter. In the 80s, she fronted the band Til Tuesday, and in 1993, she released her first solo album. In 2017, Aimee released her 9th album, Mental Illness, and in this episode, she tells the story of how the song "Patient Zero" was made. I talked to Aimee along with the song’s co-writer, J ...…
 
Gorillaz is the creation of musician Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett. They’re a virtual band made up four animated characters. Their songs are written by Damon Albarn and a roster of collaborators. Since the first album was released in 2001, Gorillaz have sold over 16 million records worldwide. In this episode, Damon breaks dow ...…
 
Since her debut in 2002, Norah Jones has sold over 50 million albums, and won 8 Grammys. She released Day Breaks, her sixth album, in 2016. In this episode, she takes apart the title track and details how all the pieces unexpectedly came together. You’ll hear her original demo for the song and how it was transformed in the studio, including a s ...…
 
Dave Longstreth started making music under the name Dirty Projectors in 2002, while he was in college. Since then, he’s released seven albums and collaborated with Bjork, Solange, and Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and Rihanna. And Dirty Projectors went from a solo project to a full-band, performing on TV, and at Carnegie Hall. Dave and one of his ...…
 
Sleigh Bells formed in 2008. They released their fourth album, Jessica Rabbit, in 2016. In this episode, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller break down their song "I Can Only Stare." I interviewed the two of them in front of a live audience at the Kaufman Music Center in New York, as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival. songexploder.net/sleigh-bells…
 
Simon Green is a producer and DJ who’s been making music under the name Bonobo since 2000. In January 2017 he released his sixth studio album, Migration. For the song “Break Apart," he enlisted Rhye to add vocals, and in this episode, the two of them tell the story of how the track came together. songexploder.net/bonobo…
 
Sara Watkins began her music career when she was only 8 years old, as one of the founding members of the Grammy-award winning band Nickel Creek. In 2016, she released her third solo album, Young in all the Wrong Ways. In this episode, Sara breaks down her song "Without a Word." This interview was recorded in front of a live audience at the Chic ...…
 
The band Dropkick Murphys formed in Boston in 1996. For over twenty years, they’ve made music that’s reflected the culture and community they’ve come from, including their platinum single "Shipping Up to Boston." In January 2017, they released the album "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory," which includes the song Blood. In this episode, guitaris ...…
 
The film Moonlight tells the story of its main character, Chiron, in three chapters: when Chiron is a young boy, nicknamed Little, when he's a teenager, and when he's an adult, nicknamed Black. For each chapter of the film, composer Nicholas Britell created a theme, and in this episode, Nicholas takes those themes apart. The score for Moonlight ...…
 
Solange Knowles released her first album in 2002, at the age of 16. Her third album, A Seat at the Table, came out in September 2016, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. It’s gotten widespread critical acclaim, including being named album of the year by Pitchfork and by Vibe. In this episode, Solange takes apart the song "Cranes in the S ...…
 
Metallica formed in 1981. They were teenagers. Since then, they’ve gone on to become one of the most successful bands of all time, selling over 110 million records worldwide. In November 2016, they released their tenth album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. In this episode, the song “Moth into Flame" gets taken apart by singer and guitarist James H ...…
 
The film LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling, both of them struggling artists in Los Angeles. The musical was written and directed by Damien Chazelle in collaboration with composer Justin Hurwitz. It’s the third film they’ve made together, the follow-u ...…
 
In 1996, Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, released his first album, Endtroducing. It’s been hailed pretty much universally as one of the best albums of the 90s, and Time Magazine included in its top 100 Albums of all time. It changed hip-hop and electronic music, and helped define the trip-hop genre. Now, for the 20th anniversary of the release, DJ S ...…
 
Angel Olsen released her third album, My Woman, in September 2016. It’s been critically acclaimed, including Pitchfork’s Best New Music and NME’s best albums of the year. In this episode, Angel Olsen takes apart the song "Shut Up Kiss Me." She breaks down how she recorded it live in the studio with her band, and how she tried things with her vo ...…
 
In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguist trying to decode an alien language. The score was composed by Johann Johannsson, his third film collaborating with director Denis Villeneuve. In this episode, Johann breaks down a piece from the score called Heptapod B, and how, like the film, it revolves around the concept of language. songexplod ...…
 
Flatbush Zombies are a hip hop trio from Brooklyn. They formed in 2010. Their album 3001: A Laced Odyssey came out in 2016, and debuted in the top ten on the Billboard charts. Erick the Architect is one of the three MCs in the band (along with Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice) and he's also the group's producer. In this episode, Erick breaks down ...…
 
The band Oathbreaker formed in 2008 in Belgium. In this episode, Caro and Gilles from the band break down the two-part song that opens their third album, Rheia. These two tracks, 10:56 and Second Son of R., were written and performed as one song. Coming up, they talk about how and why their sound transformed from a pure hardcore band to somethi ...…
 
James Vincent McMorrow is a singer/songwriter whose first albums fell somewhere on the folk music side of things. But his sound has changed over the years, incorporating elements of R&B and electronic music. On the album We Move, James worked with the producer Nineteen85, whose credits include tracks by Drake and Nicki Minaj. In this episode, J ...…
 
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter started Phantogram in 2007. They’ve worked on crafting a particular sound and they’ve had a particular way of making their dense productions since the beginning. But for their new record, Three, things changed. The song "You Don’t Get Me High Anymore" took the band outside of their comfort zone. And, in this episod ...…
 
In 2006, Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John released their third album, Writer’s Block. For months and months after that, it felt like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the first single from that album, "Young Folks." It was on top 10 lists for song of the year in places like Pitchfork and NME. It’s been covered by James Blunt, and remixe ...…
 
Mitski has been making records since 2012. Her third record, Puberty 2, came out in June 2016 and was critically acclaimed Pitchfork gave it Best New Music status. Her music has been featured in the tv show Adventure Time. In this episode, Mitski breaks down her song Your Best American Girl, along with her long-time collaborator Patrick Hyland. ...…
 
Tom Fec, aka Tobacco, has released four albums since 2008. He's also the frontman of the band Black Moth Super Rainbow, and he created the theme music for the HBO show Silicon Valley. In this episode, Tom breaks down his song "Gods in Heat" from his newest album, Sweatbox Dynasty, recorded entirely on cassette. More at songexploder.net/tobacco.…
 
Singer/songwriter Andra Day put out her first record in August 2015. Since then, she’s been invited by the Obamas to perform at the White House on multiple occasions, and the record was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B album. In this episode, Andra breaks down her song Forever Mine along with the track’s producer, Rob Kleiner.…
 
BoJack Horseman is a Netflix original series, an animated comedy about a washed up 90s sitcom star who's trying to figure out his life and career without drowning in self-loathing and existential despair. It won the 2016 Critics Choice award for best animated series. The theme song for the show was created by Patrick Carney, who is one half of ...…
 
Band of Horses released their 5th album in June 2016. In this episode, the band’s frontman, Ben Bridwell breaks down the song Solemn Oath, and how in the process of writing it, he confronted writer’s block, and balancing his life in the band and at home as a husband and father.
 
Grimes is the project of Claire Boucher. In 2015, she released Art Angels, her 4th album. In this episode, she breaks down her song Kill V. Maim, her feelings about singing, and how the experience of writing songs for other artists opened up the way she writes for herself.
 
Andrew Bird is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, maybe known best for his violin playing and his whistling. In this episode, Andrew breaks down his song Roma Fade, from the 2016 album Are You Serious?
 
CHVRCHES is a trio from Glasgow, Scotland. In this episode, they break down the song "Clearest Blue," from their sophomore album Every Open Eye. You'll hear the band's original demo as well as why they start songs with a set of rules, but then quickly abandon those rules.
 
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Song Exploder
 
In September 2014, Odesza put out their album In Return. It debuted at #1 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic charts, and spent 13 weeks in the top 10. But the song Kusanagi isn't a dance track. It slows down the pace of the album, and in this episode, Clay and Harrison of Odesza explain why. They tell the story of how they made the track, along wi ...…
 
Old Crow Medicine Show is a six-piece band from Tennessee, who have been around since 1998. They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013, and they won the Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2015, for their record Remedy. In this episode, bandleader Ketch Secor tells the story of how they made "Dearly Departed Friend," one of the songs from Remedy.…
 
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