The podcast represents the perfect light-form entertainment – the easy-going listen, the pop-on in the background and zone out. We’ve picked out some of the best which centre on our favourite topic – music.
Who isn’t going podcast-crazy during lockdown? We’ve certainly been enjoying our fair-share of lockdown listens these past few weeks, and it’s true, there’s a lot out there to get lost in. Back-to-back podcasts on a lazy afternoon is a great way to shut off, relax, de-stress, or indeed help you to calmly focus on your tasks at hand. There’s some excellent music-related shows out there so we decided to pick out some of the best. Whether it’s deep-dive music analysis, a round up of the week’s best new songs, comedian Romesh Ranganathan on hip-hop, or music and mental health with George Ezra – we’ve hand selected the very best podcasts for lockdown.
All the below podcasts are readily available on all the usual platforms. Enjoy!
Desert Island Discs
First up, it’s an old favourite. Desert Island Discs has been going strong on BBC Radio 4 since 1943, first hosted by the likes of Roy Plomley, Michael Parkinson, Kirsty Young and now Lauren Laverene. The show has become a national ‘buried’ treasure and is listened to by millions.
The format is simple: well-known and successful figures pick the 8 tracks, a book and a luxury item to take with them on a remote desert island. It’s an inherently musical format but invites guests from all walks of life – writers, musicians, activists, actors, producers, chefs, comedians, festival organisers, farmers, fashion designers and more, to pick the tracks that are important to them, the music that moves them, or has had significance to their lives. Their picks are surprising, enlightening, moving and uplifting, and there’s some great life stories to get lost in here. Perfect to whack on in the background on a lazy afternoon.
Where to start: Bruce Springsteen, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Graham, Thom Yorke, Emily Eavis, Bob Mortimer, Jack Whitehall, Stephen Fry, Naomi Klien, Lily Allen
Listen on: BBC Sounds, Apple.
James Acaster’s Perfect Sounds
Much-loved comedian James Acaster is convinced 2016 was the best year for music, ever. In this podcast he attempts to explain to other comedians why this is the case. His new podcast series is based around the concept of his recent book ‘Perfect Sound, Whatever’ which makes a compelling case for the year as the best for new music. It releases an episode every Friday – so keep an eye out during the coming few weeks.
So far James has chatted to Romesh Ranganathan about Beyonce’s album Lemonade, Phil Wang on Eurosceptic experimental hip-hop album United Diktatürs of Europe, by Anarchist Republic of BZZZ and Sophie Ducker on the samba-punk fusion album MM3 by Meta Meta. Other albums which featured on Acaster’s 2016 list – and could be the focus of upcoming episodes – include David Bowie’s Blackstar, Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Moor Mother’s Fetish Bones and James Blake’s The Colour In Anything.
Listen on: BBC Sounds
“Great art deserves more than a swipe”
Are you ready for a musical deep-dive? The Dissect podcast might be for you. Named “Best Podcast of 2018” by The New York Times, Dissect takes on one album per season, and one track per episode. The podcast aims to dissect – forensically and interrogatively – the cultural and musical significance of some truly great art. Great music can be explained simply – “this sounds great” – but some great tracks deserve a little more attention than this claims Dissect. Cultural significance, what songs and albums embody and represent often gets lost in mainstream culture – and this podcast aims to rectify that.
Specialising in R&B and hip-hop, the podcast is fascinating, soul food for the nerd within you. Some albums the podcast has examined the music, lyrics and themes include, To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (Season 1), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (Season 2), Channel Orange & Blonde by Frank Ocean (Season 3), The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Mini-Series 1), Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator (Season 4), DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar (Season 5) and Lemonade by Beyonce (Season 6).
Listen on: Apple, Spotify, Stitcher.
Hip Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranaganathan
This podcast focuses on hip-hop, and everything in-between – but you don’t have to be an expert to dive-in. Hip Hop Saved My Life is perfect for those either new to the genre, or those who hold a special place in their heart for the music and culture. British Comedian Rommesh Ranganathan hosts a regular ode to the genre in this hilarious, deep-dive podcast, and invites a host of guests along with him.
Some highlight shows include a recent episode with journalist Louis Theroux, who chats all about his love of old school, and his strong feelings about the early UK hip hop scene, and early episode with comedian Katherine Ryan who brings up the hot debate of hip-hop and feminism. Plus some proper good artists have joined him for episodes along the way including the legend DJ Premier, UK rapper Kano, Loyle Carner, Ocean Wisdom and Michael Kitawana.
Where to start: Jaguar Skills, Riz Ahmed, Mikill Pane, DJ Premier, Kano, Louis Theroux, Michael Kitawana, Loyle Carner, ocean wisdom, Katherine Ryan.
Listen on: Apple, acast
Check out our free online hip hop and rap short course.
Loud and Quiet – Midnight Chats AND Music Made Me Do it
This podcast is from music magazine Loud and Quiet. First launched in August 2019, it features interviews and rambling chats with some of the best alternative and indie artists. Plenty to tuck into here.
Where to start: Biffy Clyro, Kim Gordon, La Roux, Jenny Beth, Holly Herndon, Haim, Kate Tempest, Johnny Marr, Mac Demarco, Laura Marling, Mike Skinner, Metronomy.
Listen on: loudandquiet.com, Apple
Another podcast from Loud and Quiet worth recommending is their ‘Music Made Me Do It’ series, where they talk to people working in the industry, from record labels, managers, to promoters, producers, agents, and PR managers, on how they got into working in music. It proudly unpacks the different jobs that make the industry work – it’s just like we say, you don’t have to be on stage to be making waves in the scene.
Where to start: The Festival Founder – End of the Road’s Simon Taffe, The Press Officer – MBC PR Founder Barbara Charone, The Live Agent – Alex Hardee.
Listen on: loudandquiet.com, Apple
Phone A Friend with George Ezra & Ollie MN
Phone A Friend features open and honest discussions about mental health between two long-time friends and musicians, George Ezra and Ollie MN. They share their ups-and-downs of the week, and discuss how to balance mental health concerns with the other stresses of daily life. It’s great to hear a podcast by musicians that puts mental health front and centre. They also encourage listeners to start their own conversations about their well-being. An all-round positive experience. We couldn’t recommend it enough.
Listen on: Apple, Sony, Stitcher.
Resident Asvisor podcast / RA Exchange
If electronic music is your thing, then this is the podcast for you. Dance music and events ticket platform Resident Advisor produces two weekly podcasts: one features the best new mixes in electronic music, and the second chats about production, music culture, dance music history and more with some exciting artists of all kinds plus label heads, scene legends, agents and promoters alike. Techno, house, disco, italo, ambient, dubstep, jazz, soul and more – they’ve got you sorted.
Where to start: Grimes, Jeremy Deller, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, ‘On the Scene: Manchester’.
Listen on: residentadvisor.net, Apple
NRP’s All Songs Considered
First launched in 2000, this podcast is now a cornerstone of NPR Music. Hosted by NPR’s Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the pair talk audiences through the best new music from emerging artists and long-standing legends. It’s a music discovery platform of the highest order. It includes a regular Friday ‘new music’ show and occasional special editions. Their latest episode promises something different from the day-to-day sameness we’re all facing at the moment: “At a time when every day can feel the same, on this week’s All Songs Considered you can meet someone new, with a mix of memorable music discoveries.”
Where to start: The weekly ‘New Music Friday’ show, ‘Kraftwerk’s Remarkable Journey and Where It Took Us’, ‘The Wit, Wisdom and Awe of Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters’.
Listen on: Apple, npr.org.
Grounded With Louis Theroux – EP. 2 Boy George
Journalist and national treasure Louis Theroux’s latest project – his lockdown podcasts – invites well-known figures Louis has been dying to track down for years, for a digital chat. This episode with Boy George is a fascinating interview from a real pro.
Listen on: BBC Sounds, Apple
George Ezra and Friends: Lewis Capaldi
We couldn’t resist recommending this episode with our very own former student and funny-man Lewis Capaldi. He chats to his good friend and host George Ezra in this hilarious episode.
Do you agree with our list? What podcasts are you loving right now? Let us know in the comments!