Listened Episode 229: Steve Reich,Song Exploder – Steve Reich from Song Exploder

Steve Reich is a legendary composer who was one of the pioneers of minimalism. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the New York Times called him “America’s greatest living composer.” I had the incredible honor of getting to speak to Steve Reich about his piece Different Trains, written for string quartet and pre-recorded performance tape. It was first performed in 1988 by the Kronos Quartet, and they released a recording of it in 1989, which won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Different Trains is a piece about World War II and the Holocaust. It’s made up of three movements: America – Before the War, Europe – During the War, and After the War. For this episode, Steve Reich breaks down the first movement, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences.

I remember playing this track for my Year 11 English class as a different way of representing the past and experiences. Not sure they had much idea what was going on, but it also seems, from Steve Reich’s discussion that in some ways, neither did I. It was fascinating to hear Reich talk about melding together the different tempos and melodies. It was also fascinating the effort that he went through to produce a backing track to tie it all together.
Listened Episode 222: Dune,Song Exploder – Dune from Song Exploder

The movie Dune was released on October 21, 2021. 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.”

Talking about the power of music and experience, Hans Zimmer makes the comment that, “Music should always let you know that you can have an experience, but never dictate what that experience is.”
Listened Episode 216: Lykke Li,Song Exploder | Lykke Li from Song Exploder

“I Follow Rivers”View this post on Instagram A post shared by Song Exploder (@songexploder)LISTEN: APPLE PODCASTS · SPOTIFYLykke Li is a singer and song,Lykke Li and producer Björn Yttling break down the song, “I Follow Rivers.”

I never realised the main lead was a distorted acoustic piano.
Bookmarked The Secret Sounds of “Song Exploder”  by Amanda Petrusich (The New Yorker)

Though Hirway has a technician’s ear, he is just as deft at distilling the animating impulse behind a piece of music. His goal isn’t merely to demystify production; he wants to study the idea or feeling that carried an artist through a song’s creation.

With the release of Song Exploder on Netflix, Amanda Petrusich reflects on seven years of the podcast and the insight that it has provided.
Listened Episode 194: Dua Lipa, from Song Exploder

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.

What I found interesting about this episode of Song Exploder unpacking Dua Lipa’s Levitating was the way in which different people brought their own piece to the puzzle. Listening to the track, I wondered about Stuart Price’s contribution. In this case, it was the finishing touch. The bass, the strings. This reminds me of the way in which Lorde’s track Sober started with Jack Antonoff and then took some inspiration from Malay.
Replied to

I find Kevin fascinating to listen to. Whether it be not listening to other music during the writing phase or really challenging himself.
Listened Episode 183: Tame Impala,Song Exploder | Tame Impala from Song Exploder

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.”

I am always intrigued by Kevin Parker’s thoughts on writing and recording music. One of the things that stood out in his discussion of “It Might Be Time” was the way in which he develops the song and then lives with the chords on repeat when writing the melody.
Listened Episode 178: Caribou,Song Exploder | Caribou from Song Exploder

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.

Dan Snaith talks about his track Home.

He unpacks the journey from a sample found on YouTube, the inspiration from a friend’s experience of refinding home and the challenge of finding a bridge for the song.

There were two aspects that stood out to me was. One was Snaith’s work with Keiran Hebron (FourTet) as a sounding board. This reminded me of Norman Cook’s discussion of the early days were he, the Chemical Brothers and Darren Emerson would often collaboratively complete:

So, I started hanging out and partying and DJing with people like The Chemical Brothers, and John Carter and Darren Emerson. On a Saturday night we’d play each other new tunes, then next week it would be in the charts.

It was a really weird thing where I was hanging out with other people, we were making records, they were getting released, and we were getting away with it. And we were all over the charts together. It was a wonderful thing.(source)

Another interesting observation from Snaith was the intent to regularly just make. This is not about a particular purpose or intent.

Listened Episode 175: Vampire Weekend,Song Exploder | Vampire Weekend from Song Exploder

In this episode, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend takes “Harmony Hall” apart. I spoke to him along with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, and the two of them detailed winding path the song went down, over several years, before it finally took shape.

I am always fascinated with the journey of songs, especially that Ezra Koenig planted the seed in a recording on his phone in 2011. I was reminded of Robyn discussing how she spends hours riffing on melodies, in the same way Koenig discusses trying different variations of the chord sequeence over time to find the right sound and rhythm to work with. I also like how sometimes it takes a fresh set of ears to put the pieces together. In this case it was producer Ariel Rechtshaid.
Listened Episode 173: Bat for Lashes,Song Exploder | Bat for Lashes from Song Exploder

Natasha Khan makes music under the name Bat for Lashes. She’s released five albums, including Lost Girls, which came out in September 2019. In this episode, she breaks down the making of the lead single from that album, called “Kids in the Dark.” But just before she started writing it, she wasn’t sure if she would make another album at all.

Listened Episode 167: Robyn from Song Exploder

Robyn is a Swedish singer and songwriter. Her first album came out in 1995, when she was 16 years old. It went platinum in the US, double-platinum in Sweden. Since then, she’s been nominated for five Grammys and started her own record label. But there was an eight-year gap between Robyn’s album Body Talk, which came out in 2010, and her most recent album, Honey, which came out last October. Time, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork all named it one of the best albums of the year.

For Song Exploder, Robyn breaks down the song “Honey,” the title track from that album. The first time the public heard the song was in a 2017 episode of the HBO show Girls, but that’s not the final version that was released on the album. In this episode, Robyn traces the long history of how she made “Honey,” a song that The New York Times called “her masterpiece.”

Robyn discusses the process she took in writing her track Honey. Whether it be the discovery of a seed in a sample, hours a riffing to find a melody and additional production from others. In the end, the initial beginning is there in beat and spirit, but has been progressively mixed out.
Listened Episode 166: Bon Iver,Song Exploder | Bon Iver from Song Exploder

Justin Vernon founded the band Bon Iver in 2006. Bon Iver’s released four albums and won two Grammys, including Best New Artist.

The most recent album i,i came out in August 2019, and in this episode, Justin breaks down a song from it called “Holyfields,.” He’s joined by producers Chris Messina and Brad Cook. We spoke to him in July, from his studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the song started. They finished it at Sonic Ranch studio in Tornillo, Texas, on the border between the US and Mexico.

In this episode, Justin Vernon reflects on his use of electronic instruments and the inspirations to his music. This includes a short discussion of the use of The Messina, a synthesiser developed by Chris Messina.
Listened Bleachers – I Miss Those Days from Song Exploder

Bleachers is the moniker of Jack Antonoff, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He won two grammy awards as a member of the band fun., and another for his production work on Taylor Swift’s album 1989. He’s also co­-written songs with St. Vincent, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lorde, Sia, and more.

In June 2017, Antonoff released his second album as Bleachers, Gone Now. In this episode, he breaks down a song from that album, called “I Miss Those Days” and traces the process of making it—from the original demo, to a version he discarded, to the final song.