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Song Exploder

295 EpisodesProduced by Hrishikesh HirwayWebsite

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 Hir… read more

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February 22nd, 2024


An important message from RadioPublic

Re-issue: Arlo Parks - Black Dog

February 21st, 2024


I wanted to revisit an episode about one of my favorite songs from 2021, “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks. A few months after this episode originally came out, Arlo Parks won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. She was …

Green Day - Basket Case

February 7th, 2024


Green Day is a punk band from the East Bay in California. Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool have been playing music together since 1987. …

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Deluxe Anniversary Edition)

January 24th, 2024


The first episode of Song Exploder, about The Postal Service song "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," came out 10 years ago, in January 2014. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the podcast, we're doing what bands do, …

Foo Fighters - The Teacher

December 20th, 2023


For the last episode of the year, I got the chance to drive up to Northridge, California, and have a conversation with Dave Grohl. We talked about the Foo Fighters song “The Teacher,” which is an epic, 10-minute-long …

Raye - Escapism (feat. 070 Shake)

December 6th, 2023


Raye is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. Besides being an artist in her own right, she’s also been a songwriter for other artists since she was a teenager. She’s co-written songs for Beyoncé, Charli XCX, …

Sampha - Spirit 2.0

November 15th, 2023


Sampha is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. His first album, Process, won the Mercury Prize in 2017. He’s collaborated with artists like …

Paramore - Liar

November 1st, 2023


I think one of the hardest things there is to do in music is to write a love song that expresses something real. I read that the song "Liar" by Paramore was written by Hayley Williams, the singer of the band, about her …

Kesha - Eat The Acid

October 18th, 2023


Kesha is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She put out her first song in 2009, and it was a huge #1 hit in the US and 13 other countries. …

Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me

October 4th, 2023


Alvvays is from Toronto. Their first album came out in 2014, and they’ve put out two other albums since then. In Canada, they’ve won the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year, and all three of their albums have …

Laufey - From The Start

September 20th, 2023


Laufey is a singer and songwriter originally from Iceland. She studied piano and cello as a kid. When she was 15, she was a guest soloist with the …

Re-issue: Janelle Monáe - So Afraid

August 30th, 2023


This summer, in June 2023, Janelle Monáe put out her fourth album, The Age of Pleasure. Listening to it made me want to revisit her Song Exploder episode, from 2018. One thing on Song Exploder that I personally love is …

Siddhartha Khosla - Only Murders in the Building (Main Title Theme)

August 16th, 2023


The "Skip Intro" button first got introduced to us through Netflix in 2017, and, I know, a lot of people use it – including me. But, if I can get …

Local Natives - Dark Days

August 2nd, 2023


It can be hard to be in a band, or really, in any kind of group where there’s creative collaboration, and you’re supposed to act like it's a …

Bakar - Hell N Back

July 19th, 2023


Bakar is a singer and songwriter from London. In 2018 he put out his first release, Badkid. A year later, he put out the EP, Will You Be My Yellow?, …

Natalie Merchant - Sister Tilly

June 28th, 2023


Natalie Merchant is an award-winning singer and songwriter from upstate New York. She was the lead singer of the band 10,000 Maniacs until she left …

Re-issue: Julien Baker - Appointments

June 14th, 2023


This week, I wanted to go back and revisit an older episode. I recorded an interview with singer and songwriter Julien Baker in 2018. It was a few …

Feist - In Lightning

May 31st, 2023


Feist is a singer/songwriter from Canada. She put out her first solo album in 1999. She’s won 11 Juno awards, including two for Artist of the Year, …

Madison McFerrin - Run (feat. Bobby McFerrin)

May 17th, 2023


Madison McFerrin is a singer, songwriter, and producer from New York. She’s sung with legends like Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, and De La Soul …

New Order - Blue Monday

May 3rd, 2023


In May 1980, the band Joy Division was devastated by the death of lead singer Ian Curtis. The three remaining band members, Bernard Sumner, Peter …

Re-issue: Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II

April 19th, 2023


It’s usually hard to pin down when a genre of music starts. But people point to this one party in August 1973 in the Bronx as the moment where hip-hop was born. That makes this year the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. In …

Yaeji - Passed Me By

April 5th, 2023


Yaeji is a singer, songwriter, and producer from New York. During her childhood she moved between Queens, Atlanta, and Seoul. While she was at …

Seal - Kiss from a Rose

March 22nd, 2023


Seal is a multi-Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from England. His song “Kiss from a Rose” was first released in 1994, on his second album. It …

Kenny Beats - Still

March 8th, 2023


Kenny Beats is a hip-hop producer who’s been making beats and producing songs for other artists since 2010. He’s got a long list of collaborations, …

Re-issue: Kimbra - Top of the World

February 22nd, 2023


Last month, in January 2023, Kimbra put out her fourth album. I was listening to it, and it made me want to go back and revisit her Song Exploder episode from 2018. Here it is:

Kimbra is an artist from New Zealand. Her …

MUNA - What I Want

February 8th, 2023


MUNA is a trio from Los Angeles, made up of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson. They’ve been making music together since 2013, when …

Noah Kahan - Stick Season

January 25th, 2023


Noah Kahan is a singer and songwriter from Strafford, Vermont. Last year, in 2022, he released Stick Season, his third record. The title track from that record went viral on TikTok when Noah was first writing it, and …

Sampa the Great - Let Me Be Great (feat. Angélique Kidjo)

December 21st, 2022


Sampa The Great is a songwriter, rapper, and singer from Zambia. She was based in Australia for years, but came back to Zambia in 2020, shortly …

Son Lux - This is a Life (from 'Everything Everywhere All at Once')

December 7th, 2022


Everything Everywhere All at Once is a sci-fi comedy independent film that came out in the spring of 2022. It’s a huge hit that made over $100 million at the box office. It’s already been named the best movie of the …

Omah Lay - Never Forget

November 16th, 2022


Omah Lay is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s one of the young stars of Afrobeats, the West African genre that's become a global …

Book Exploder: James McBride - Deacon King Kong

November 9th, 2022


The final episode of Book Exploder is with author James McBride. He was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses housing projects until the age of seven. That housing project became the setting for …

Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth

November 2nd, 2022


In 2002, Sam Beam’s first album as Iron & Wine was released on Sub Pop Records. He’d given them a bunch of demos, and rather than have him re-record these songs, they released the demos themselves. Since then, he’s …

Book Exploder: George Saunders - Victory Lap

October 26th, 2022


George Saunders has won the Booker Prize, and he’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. He won the Folio Prize for his collection of short …

Santigold - Ushers of the New World

October 19th, 2022


Santigold is a singer, songwriter, and producer. She’s put out 4 albums since 2008, and she’s been featured as a collaborator on songs with Jay-Z, …

Book Exploder: Celeste Ng - Little Fires Everywhere

October 12th, 2022


Celeste Ng is an American writer and author of three novels. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was published in 2017 and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. A television adaptation of the novel, starring …

King Princess - Let Us Die

October 5th, 2022


King Princess is the project of Mikaela Straus, a singer, songwriter, and producer from Brooklyn. She’s a platinum-selling artist, and she put out …

Book Exploder: Tayari Jones - An American Marriage

September 28th, 2022


Tayari Jones is the author of four novels. She won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus. Her novel An American Marriage was an …

Panic! At the Disco - Viva Las Vengeance

September 21st, 2022


Panic! At the Disco is the Grammy-nominated project of Brendon Urie, who originally started it as a band with his high school friends from Las Vegas …

Book Exploder: Carmen Maria Machado - In the Dream House

September 14th, 2022


Carmen Maria Machado is the award-winning author of In the Dream House, a memoir where each chapter has its own vivid style of storytelling. It won …

Re-issue: Björk - Stonemilker

September 7th, 2022


(This is a re-issue of Björk’s episode from December 2015.)

In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as "a complete heartbreak …

Book Exploder: Michael Cunningham - The Hours

August 31st, 2022


Michael Cunningham is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours. He’s the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a …

Madonna - Hung Up

August 24th, 2022


Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. She has twelve albums that have gone multi-platinum. She’s won seven Grammys, and …

Book Exploder: Min Jin Lee - Pachinko

August 17th, 2022


Min Jin Lee is the author of the best-selling novel Pachinko. She’s a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for …

Kae Tempest - Move

August 10th, 2022


Kae Tempest is a songwriter, rapper, an award-winning poet, and best-selling novelist. They’ve been nominated for the UK’s Mercury Prize and Brit Award. Their most recent album is The Line is a Curve, which came out …

Book Exploder: Susan Orlean - The Library Book

August 3rd, 2022


Introducing a new miniseries: Book Exploder, where authors break down a passage from one of their books, and discuss the creative process that went into writing it. Every other week, in between episodes of Song …

Sudan Archives - Selfish Soul

July 27th, 2022


Sudan Archives is a singer, songwriter, producer, and violinist. She grew up in Cincinnati before moving to LA. Her music has been called "viscerally …

mxmtoon - Mona Lisa

July 13th, 2022


Maia from mxmtoon released her first EP in 2018. She was 18 years old, recorded it in her bedroom, and self-released it. It went on to be streamed …

Monica Martin - Go Easy, Kid

June 29th, 2022


Monica Martin is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. Before that, she was based in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was part of the indie rock band Phox. She’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by James …

Maren Morris - Humble Quest

June 15th, 2022


Maren Morris is a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum artist. She’s also won multiple country music awards, including CMAs for Female Vocalist of the …

Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up

June 1st, 2022


Rick Astley is a singer and songwriter from England, whose debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up," became an international smash hit. The song came …

Kevin Morby - This Is a Photograph

May 18th, 2022


Kevin Morby is a singer and songwriter based in Kansas City. He’s put out seven albums since 2013, including his most recent one, This is a Photograph, which just came out last week. For this episode, I talked to Kevin …

Arooj Aftab - Mohabbat

May 4th, 2022


Arooj Aftab is a singer and composer based in Brooklyn. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, but her family is from Pakistan. And earlier this year, she made history by becoming the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. Her …

Partners: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

April 20th, 2022


This week, I want to introduce you to another podcast that I make, called Partners. It’s a show about partnerships that was born out of Song Exploder. I’ve made a bunch of episodes with bandmates, or co-writers, or an …

Peaches - Boys Wanna Be Her

April 6th, 2022


Peaches is a musician, producer, and performance artist. She’s released six albums and in 2015, she won the Polaris Heritage Music Prize. Her fourth …

Steve Reich - Different Trains: America, Before the War

March 23rd, 2022


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 …

Re-issue: Perfume Genius - Slip Away

March 9th, 2022


This week, I want to revisit one of my favorite episodes of Song Exploder, with Perfume Genius telling the story of making Slip Away. This episode originally came out in May 2017. The album the song’s from, No Shape, …

Sarah Kinsley - The King

February 23rd, 2022


Sarah Kinsley is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Her most recent release is an EP called The King, which came out in 2021. When she …

Brandi Carlile - You and Me On the Rock (feat. Lucius)

February 9th, 2022


Brandi Carlile is a singer and songwriter from Washington State. She's  released seven albums and won six Grammys. Her most recent album is In These …

Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

January 26th, 2022


The band Franz Ferdinand formed in 2002, in Glasgow, Scotland. They’ve won the Mercury Prize and two BRIT Awards, they have five Grammy nominations, …

Joy Oladokun - Look Up

January 12th, 2022


Joy Oladokun is a singer and songwriter from Arizona, now based in Nashville, who’s been releasing music since 2015. Last year, she was named an Artist to Watch by NPR, Spotify, and Amazon, and she was #1 on …

Danny Elfman - What’s This? (from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”)

December 15th, 2021


Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993. It’s a stop-motion animated musical, with music by legendary composer Danny Elfman. He’s won Emmys, a Grammy, and been nominated for four Oscars. His work …

Halsey - You Asked for This

December 1st, 2021


Halsey is an award-winning singer and songwriter from New Jersey. She's been nominated for two Grammys, and sold over a million records. In August, …

Hans Zimmer - Dune

November 17th, 2021


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 …

The War On Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore (feat. Lucius)

November 3rd, 2021


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 …

Willow - Transparent Soul feat. Travis Barker

October 20th, 2021


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, …

Hrishikesh Hirway TED Talk - What You Learn When You Listen Closely

October 13th, 2021


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 …

John Lennon - God

October 6th, 2021


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 …

Lucy Dacus - Thumbs

September 22nd, 2021


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 …

Mustafa - Air Forces

September 8th, 2021


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 …

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers

August 25th, 2021


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. …

The Shins - New Slang

August 11th, 2021


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

Cheap Trick - Surrender

July 28th, 2021


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 …

Fousheé - Deep End

July 14th, 2021


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. …

AURORA - Runaway

June 30th, 2021


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 …

Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

June 16th, 2021


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 …

Arlo Parks - Black Dog

June 2nd, 2021


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 …

Imagine Dragons - Follow You

May 19th, 2021


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 …

girl in red - Serotonin

May 5th, 2021


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 …

Porter Robinson - Get Your Wish

April 21st, 2021


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 …

Lianne La Havas - Can't Fight

April 7th, 2021


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 …

Jon Batiste - We Are

March 24th, 2021


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 …

Glass Animals - Heat Waves

March 10th, 2021


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 …

Sasha Sloan - Until It Happens To You

February 24th, 2021


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 …

PJ Morton - Say So (feat. JoJo)

February 10th, 2021


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, …

HAIM - Summer Girl

January 27th, 2021


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 …

Yusuf / Cat Stevens - Father and Son

January 13th, 2021


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 …

Common - A Riot In My Mind

December 16th, 2020


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 …

Jewel - You Were Meant For Me

December 2nd, 2020


Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who’s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album,

Billie Eilish - Everything I Wanted

November 18th, 2020


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 …

Re-issue: Phoebe Bridgers - Scott Street

November 11th, 2020


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 …

Deftones - Ohms

November 4th, 2020


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 …

Run the Jewels - JU$T

October 21st, 2020


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 …

Dua Lipa - Levitating

October 7th, 2020


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 …

Selena Gomez - Lose You to Love Me

September 23rd, 2020


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 …

Re-issue: Ludwig Göransson - Black Panther

September 16th, 2020


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 …

Kelly Lee Owens - On

September 9th, 2020


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 …

Black Pumas - Colors

August 26th, 2020


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, …

The 1975 - The Birthday Party

August 12th, 2020


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 …

Waxahatchee - Fire

July 29th, 2020


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 …

Khruangbin - So We Won't Forget

July 15th, 2020


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

Apparat - Goodbye (Theme from "Dark")

July 1st, 2020


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 …

Mobb Deep - Shook Ones, Pt. II

June 17th, 2020


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 …

Re-issue: Michael Kiwanuka - Black Man in a White World

June 4th, 2020


Instead of a new episode this week, revisiting this episode originally published in May 2017. Please consider donating to local and national …

100 gecs - Money Machine

May 20th, 2020


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

Laura Marling - Song for Our Daughter

May 6th, 2020


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 …

Tame Impala - It Might Be Time

April 22nd, 2020


Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in …

FKA twigs - Mirrored Heart

April 8th, 2020


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 …

Nathaniel Rateliff - And It's Still Alright

March 25th, 2020


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 …

Eric Nam - Love Die Young

March 11th, 2020


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 …

Soccer Mommy - Circle the Drain

February 26th, 2020


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 …

Caribou - Home

February 12th, 2020


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 …

Vagabon - Water Me Down

January 29th, 2020


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 …

Semisonic - Closing Time

January 15th, 2020


The song “Closing Time” by the American rock band Semisonic came out in March 1998. It hit #1 on the Alternative charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song. It gets played in stadiums, Weird Al covered …

Vampire Weekend - Harmony Hall

December 25th, 2019


The band Vampire Weekend started in 2006, in New York. Their third album came out in 2013, and was named one of the best albums of the year all over the place, and it won a Grammy. But it took six years for their next …

Intro Theme and Thao's Farewell

December 17th, 2019


Thao Nguyen has been guest hosting Song Exploder this year, with Christian Koons producing, to give Hrishikesh a little room to daydream. That’s all been possible because of the support of Radiotopia listeners. In this …

Meek Mill - Trauma

December 11th, 2019


Meek Mill is a rapper from Philadelphia. He’s put out five albums. His most recent, Championships, debuted at #1 on the charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Back in 2007, He was arrested on a gun …

Bat for Lashes - Kids in the Dark

November 27th, 2019


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 …

Jay Som - Tenderness

November 13th, 2019


Melina Duterte goes by the name Jay Som. She’s a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She’s released three albums as Jay Som, and has …

Slipknot - Unsainted

October 30th, 2019


Slipknot is a Grammy-winning metal band from Des Moines, Iowa, who first formed in 1995. They’ve sold over 30 million records. In this episode, …

Raphael Saadiq - Kings Fall

October 16th, 2019


Raphael Saadiq is a Grammy-winning songwriter, producer, and artist from Oakland, California. He was the lead singer of the legendary ‘90s R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone!. As a producer, he’s worked with D’Angelo, TLC, …

Clairo - Alewife

October 2nd, 2019


Claire Cotrill is a singer, songwriter, and producer who goes by the name Clairo. She started releasing music in 2014 as a teenager. A few years later, songs she had uploaded to YouTube had racked up over 40 million …

Brittany Howard - Stay High

September 18th, 2019


Brittany Howard is the guitarist and lead singer of the four-time Grammy-winning band Alabama Shakes. This month, she’s releasing her first solo …

Robyn - Honey

September 4th, 2019


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 …

Bon Iver - Holyfields,

August 21st, 2019


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 …

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here

August 7th, 2019


Sleater-Kinney was formed in 1994 by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Drummer Janet Weiss was a member of the band from 1997 until 2019. In Time Magazine in 2001, author and critic Greil Marcus named Sleater-Kinney …

Denzel Curry - RICKY

July 24th, 2019


Denzel Curry is a rapper from Miami. He started his career at age 16 as part of the hip hop collective Raider Klan. He released his first solo album …

Jamila Woods - BALDWIN

July 10th, 2019


Jamila Woods is a singer, songwriter, and poet from Chicago. She’s released two albums, and she’s collaborated with artists like Chance the Rapper, …

Big Thief - Cattails

June 26th, 2019


Big Thief is a four piece folk-rock band from Brooklyn, New York. In May 2019, they released their third album, U.F.O.F., to critical acclaim. …

Sheryl Crow - Redemption Day (feat. Johnny Cash)

June 12th, 2019


Sheryl Crow is a singer-songwriter from Missouri. She’s released ten studio albums, sold over 50 million records, and has won nine Grammys.

In April …

Raleigh Ritchie - Time in a Tree

May 29th, 2019


Raleigh Ritchie is the musical alias of Jacob Anderson, a musician and actor who’s probably best known for playing the character Grey Worm on Game of Thrones.

Raleigh Ritchie released his first album in 2016, and he’s …

The Mountain Goats - Cadaver Sniffing Dog

May 15th, 2019


John Darnielle has been writing and recording songs as the Mountain Goats since 1991. He’s released 17 studio albums, and also written two books of fiction.

In April 2019, the Mountain Goats released the album In …

The Cranberries - All Over Now

May 1st, 2019


The Cranberries formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989. Singer Dolores O’Riordan joined a year later, and the group went on to become one of the …

Panda Bear - Dolphin

April 17th, 2019


Panda Bear is musician Noah Lennox. He’s a founding member of the experimental, genre-defying band Animal Collective, and as a solo artists, he’s …

Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen

April 3rd, 2019


Sharon Van Etten is a singer and songwriter who’s put out five albums. She's also an actress—she’s in The OA and Twin Peaks. Her most recent album, Remind Me Tomorrow, came out in January 2019.

In this episode, Sharon …

Nakhane - New Brighton (feat. Anohni)

March 20th, 2019


Nakhane is a singer and songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. His first album, Brave Confusion, won the South African Music Award for best alternative album in 2014. He starred in the award-winning film “The …

Mumford & Sons - Beloved

March 6th, 2019


Mumford & Sons are a Grammy-winning band that formed in London in 2007. They’ve put out four albums, and sold millions of copies. Their last …

Phoebe Bridgers - Scott Street

February 20th, 2019


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 cowrote with …

Wonderly - The Daily (Theme)

February 6th, 2019


The Daily is a hit podcast from The New York Times, hosted by Michael Barbaro. Every weekday, over 1.7 million people download the show. It launched in February 2017, and in honor of its two-year anniversary, we’re …

Japanese Breakfast - Boyish

January 23rd, 2019


Japanese Breakfast is the musical project of Michelle Zauner, who’s been making music under that name since 2013. In July 2017, she released her …

Hozier - Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)

January 9th, 2019


Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Ireland. His debut single from 2013, “Take Me to Church,” was a massive, …

Yo-Yo Ma - Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major

December 20th, 2018


Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the most famous and well-loved cellist in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955; his family moved to the U.S. when he was seven. He played for President Kennedy that year. He played at Carnegie …

Re-issue: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Astonished Man

December 13th, 2018


Thao Nguyen is taking over as the new host of Song Exploder in 2019. This is a reissue of an episode from 2016 in which she was the guest.

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down released the album A Man Alive in March 2016. …

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

December 5th, 2018


Lindsey Buckingham is a singer-songwriter, a guitarist, and a producer. In 1974, he joined the band Fleetwood Mac, along with Stevie Nicks, his girlfriend at the time. A few year later, in 1977, Fleetwood Mac released …

Breakmaster Cylinder - Reply All

November 26th, 2018


Four years ago, on November 24, 2014, the first episode of the podcast Reply All came out. It’s a podcast about the internet hosted by Alex Goldman …

Empress Of - When I'm With Him

November 19th, 2018


Lorely Rodriguez is a singer, songwriter, and producer who goes by the name Empress Of. She’s released two albums, and she’s sung on tracks with Khalid, Blood Orange, and Dirty Projectors. Her first album, Me, was made …

Big Boi - Order of Operations

November 5th, 2018


Big Boi is a rapper from Atlanta. When he was a teenager, he and Andre 3000 formed OutKast, and went on to sell over 25 million records and win six …

John Carpenter - Halloween (Theme)

October 26th, 2018


In 1978, John Carpenter wrote, directed, and scored the film Halloween. It was made on a $300,000 budget, and ended up grossing over $70 million, …

Janelle Monáe - So Afraid

October 15th, 2018


Janelle Monáe is an award-winning musician and actress who released her first record in 2007. She’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and starred …

Cat Power - Woman

October 4th, 2018


Chan Marshall is a singer-songwriter who’s been making records under the name Cat Power since 1995. In 2018, she put out her tenth album, Wanderer. It includes this song "Woman," which has Lana Del Rey on backing …

Blood Orange - Saint

September 25th, 2018


Blood Orange is the project of songwriter and producer Devonté Hynes. He’s produced and co-written songs for artists like Carly Rae Jepsen, Solange, …

Re-issue: Patrick Carney feat. Ralph Carney - BoJack Horseman (Main Title Theme)

September 19th, 2018


Last week, Netflix released the fifth season of BoJack Horseman. I wanted to revisit this episode about the show’s Main Title Theme, which was written by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, and his uncle, Ralph Carney, …

The Decemberists - Once In My Life

September 5th, 2018


The Decemberists are a Grammy-nominated five-piece band from Portland, Oregon. They released their first album in 2001, and since then they’ve put out seven more, including the 2018 album I’ll Be Your Girl. In this …

Re-issue: Mitski - Your Best American Girl

August 29th, 2018


In honor of Mitski’s new album, “Be the Cowboy,” here’s the episode she did in 2016. — Mitski has been making records since 2012. Her third record, Puberty 2, came out in June 2016 and was critically acclaimed Pitchfork …

Christine and the Queens - Doesn't Matter

August 15th, 2018


Christine and the Queens is a singer, songwriter, and producer from France. Her debut album was first released in 2014 in French, and in 2015, she released an English version of it. It was critically acclaimed and she …

Neko Case - Last Lion of Albion

August 1st, 2018


Neko Case is a singer and songwriter. She’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and in addition to her own music, she’s a member of the band The New …

Re-issue: Courtney Barnett - Depreston

July 25th, 2018


Earlier this year, in May 2018, Courtney Barnett released her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. And last fall, she and Kurt Vile made an …

Action Bronson - The Chairman's Intent

July 18th, 2018


Action Bronson is a rapper from Queens who’s been making records since 2011. He also stars as the host of two TV shows about food on Vice’s channel, Viceland. His third album, Blue Chips 7000, came out in 2017, and …

Jhené Aiko - Sativa (feat. Swae Lee)

July 4th, 2018


Jhené Aiko is a Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter. She’s released three albums so far. In addition to her own records, she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Childish Gambino, and …

Re-issue: CHVRCHES - Clearest Blue

June 28th, 2018


I interviewed the Scottish band CHVRCHES back in March 2016, in Austin, Texas. A few weeks ago, in May 2018, they released a new album called Love is Dead. It features contributions from David Stewart of the Eurythmics, …

Yo La Tengo - Here You Are

June 20th, 2018


Yo La Tengo formed in 1984. The band is made up Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew. In March 2018, they released There’s a Riot Going On, their 15th album. They made the record themselves—they recorded it …

Wolf Alice - Don't Delete the Kisses

June 6th, 2018


Wolf Alice is a band from North London. Their second album, Visions of a Life, was released in September 2017. In this episode, singer Ellie Rowsell …

Re-issue: Kelela - Rewind

May 31st, 2018


In November 2015, I interviewed Kelela about her song “Rewind,” from her debut EP, Hallucinogen. Since that EP was released, she's gone on to …

Jon Hopkins - Luminous Beings

May 23rd, 2018


Jon Hopkins is an electronic music producer whose been nominated twice for the UK’s Mercury Prize. Along with his frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, …

Liz Phair - Divorce Song

May 9th, 2018


In 1993, Liz Phair released her debut album, Exile in Guyville. It was an instant hit, critically and commercially. It sold hundreds of thousands of …

Arcade Fire - Put Your Money On Me

April 25th, 2018


Arcade Fire is a Grammy-winning six-piece band originally from Montreal. They’ve released five albums, and the last three have all debuted at number one on the charts. In this episode, singer Win Butler takes apart "Put …

Kimbra - Top of the World

April 11th, 2018


Kimbra is a singer from New Zealand. Her first album came out in 2011, and in 2013 she won two Grammys for her collaboration with Gotye, the …

Jack Johnson - You Can't Control It

March 28th, 2018


Jack Johnson is a grammy-nominated singer-songwriter from Hawaii. He's had four number one albums on the Billboard charts. In September 2017, he released his seventh album, All the Light Above It Too, and in this …

Ludwig Göransson - Black Panther

March 14th, 2018


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 …

Natalie Prass - Short Court Style

February 28th, 2018


Natalie Prass released her debut album in 2015. That year, Time Magazine called her an Artist to Watch, Pitchfork gave the album Best New Music, and Stereogum named it one of the Top Albums of the Year. In this episode, …

Moses Sumney - Quarrel

February 14th, 2018


Moses Sumney is a singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. His first album, Aromanticism, came out in September 2017, but before that, he’d already …

Bleachers - I Miss Those Days

January 31st, 2018


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., …

Julien Baker - Appointments

January 17th, 2018


Julien Baker is from Memphis, Tennessee. She released her second album, Turn Out The Lights, in October 2017, on Matador Records. The New York Times

The Roots - It Ain't Fair (feat. Bilal)

January 3rd, 2018


Drummer Ahmir Thompson, also known as Questlove, and rapper Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought, started The Roots when they were in high school in …

R.E.M - Try Not to Breathe

December 20th, 2017


R.E.M. was formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills, guitarist Peter Buck, and drummer Bill Berry. They’ve won …

Nine Inch Nails - The Lovers

December 6th, 2017


Trent Reznor started Nine Inch Nails in 1988. He released eight albums, sold over 20 million records, won two Grammys and was nominated for 11 more. …

Rachel Platten - Broken Glass

November 8th, 2017


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 …

Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things (Main Title Theme)

October 26th, 2017


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 …

TOKiMONSTA - Bibimbap

October 18th, 2017


Los Angeles producer and beatmaker Jennifer Lee released her first album as TOKiMONSTA in 2010. She has released music on Flying Lotus's label …

The Killers - Rut

October 6th, 2017


The Killers formed in Las Vegas in 2001. Since then, they’ve released five records. Their newest album, Wonderful Wonderful, came out in September …

Lorde - Sober

September 25th, 2017


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 …

Rostam - Bike Dream

September 14th, 2017


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 …

Ibeyi - Deathless

September 5th, 2017


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 …

Maggie Rogers - Alaska

August 24th, 2017


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. …

St. Vincent - New York

August 15th, 2017


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 …

Grizzly Bear - Four Cypresses

August 3rd, 2017


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 …

Phoenix - Ti Amo

July 25th, 2017


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 …

Slowdive - Sugar for the Pill

July 13th, 2017


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 …

Goapele - Stand

July 5th, 2017


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 …

Fleet Foxes - Mearcstapa

June 22nd, 2017


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 …

Michelle Branch - Best You Ever

June 14th, 2017


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 …

alt-J - In Cold Blood

June 2nd, 2017


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, …

Michael Kiwanuka - Black Man in a White World

May 22nd, 2017


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 …

Perfume Genius - Slip Away

May 11th, 2017


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 …

Little Dragon - Sweet

May 2nd, 2017


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 …

Aimee Mann - Patient Zero

April 21st, 2017


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 …

Gorillaz - Andromeda (feat. D.R.A.M.)

April 11th, 2017


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 …

Norah Jones - Day Breaks

March 30th, 2017


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 …

Dirty Projectors - Up in Hudson

March 21st, 2017


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 …

Sleigh Bells - I Can Only Stare

March 14th, 2017


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 …

Bonobo - Break Apart (feat. Rhye)

February 28th, 2017


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 …

Sara Watkins - Without a Word

February 17th, 2017


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 …

Dropkick Murphys - Blood

February 7th, 2017


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 …

Nicholas Britell - Moonlight

January 30th, 2017


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 …

Solange - Cranes in the Sky

January 16th, 2017


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 …

Metallica - Moth into Flame

January 6th, 2017


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 …

Justin Hurwitz - La La Land

December 21st, 2016


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 …

DJ Shadow - Mutual Slump

December 8th, 2016


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 …

Angel Olsen - Shut Up Kiss Me

November 30th, 2016


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 …

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Arrival

November 17th, 2016


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 …

Flatbush Zombies - Bounce

November 8th, 2016


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 …

Oathbreaker - 10:56 / Second Son of R.

October 28th, 2016


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 …

James Vincent McMorrow - Get Low

October 19th, 2016


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 …

Phantogram - You Don't Get Me High Anymore

October 6th, 2016


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 …

Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks

September 21st, 2016


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 …

Mitski - Your Best American Girl

September 7th, 2016


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 …

Tobacco - Gods in Heat

August 25th, 2016


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 …

Andra Day - Forever Mine

August 15th, 2016


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 …

Patrick Carney feat. Ralph Carney - BoJack Horseman (Main Title Theme)

August 4th, 2016


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 …

Band of Horses - Solemn Oath

July 25th, 2016


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 …

Grimes - Kill V. Maim

July 14th, 2016


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 …

Andrew Bird - Roma Fade

July 5th, 2016


Andrew Bird is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, maybe known best for his violin playing and his whistling. In this episode, Andrew …

CHVRCHES - Clearest Blue

June 23rd, 2016


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 …

ODESZA - Kusanagi

June 14th, 2016


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 …

Old Crow Medicine Show - Dearly Departed Friend

May 29th, 2016


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 …

Busdriver - Worlds to Run

May 24th, 2016


Busdriver is a rapper from Los Angeles, and since 2001, he's been releasing albums with a signature hyperliterate, intellectual style. But over a decade later, Busdriver has found himself reaching for something more …

Carly Rae Jepsen - When I Needed You

May 9th, 2016


Carly Rae Jepsen released her third album, Emotion, in 2015. The closing track on the record is When I Needed You. In this episode, Carly tells the story of how the song was made. You'll hear the first demo for the …

The Lumineers - Ophelia

April 28th, 2016


The Lumineers released their second album on April 8, 2016. Their first album went platinum, and they spent months touring relentlessly in support of …

Weezer - Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori

April 18th, 2016


Weezer's 10th album, the self-titled "White" album, came out April 1, 2016. In this episode, Rivers Cuomo breaks down the meticulous process of …

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Astonished Man

April 5th, 2016


Thao and the Get Down Stay Down released the album A Man Alive in March 2016. In this episode, Thao Nguyen breaks down the song "Astonished Man." Thao talks about working with Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, who produced …

Iggy Pop - American Valhalla

March 22nd, 2016


Iggy Pop is a pioneer of punk rock, whose legendary career began over fifty years ago. In 2015, he began collaborating on music with Joshua Homme, of …

Oneohtrix Point Never - Sticky Drama

March 10th, 2016


Daniel Lopatin has been making experimental electronic music as Oneohtrix Point Never since 2007. In this episode, he takes apart the song "Sticky Drama," from his 2015 album Garden of Delete. He breaks down how he …

KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See

March 1st, 2016


Singer/songwriter KT Tunstall released her debut album in 2004. It was nominated for a Mercury Prize. The song "Suddenly I See" from that record was a hit on the radio and it’s been used in the soundtracks of big movies …

Clipping - Work Work

February 18th, 2016


Clipping is a trio made up of producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, and rapper Daveed Diggs. You might be familiar with Daveed’s voice from …

The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

February 9th, 2016


The New Pornographers are kind of a supergroup, with seven members in the band, including Neko Case and Dan Bejar, who are both acclaimed songwriters …

Kelela - Rewind

January 28th, 2016


Kelela is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. In 2015, she released Hallucinogen, and landed on critics' lists in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Pitchfork, and more. In this episode, Kelela takes …

MGMT - Time to Pretend

January 19th, 2016


MGMT was formed by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden in 2001. The song Time to Pretend was one they wrote early in their career. It first came …

Courtney Barnett - Depreston

January 7th, 2016


Courtney Barnett released her debut album in March 2015. By the end of the year, she had been nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist, Spin named her the Songwriter of the Year, and she won four ARIA Music Awards in …

Björk - Stonemilker

December 17th, 2015


In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as "a complete heartbreak album." And in November, she released Vulnicura Strings, a …

Dustin O'Halloran - Transparent (Main Title Theme)

December 11th, 2015


Transparent is an Amazon original series, created by Jill Soloway. The story centers on a family where the father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, comes …

Wilco - Magnetized

December 3rd, 2015


Wilco formed in 1994, and 21 years later, they released their 9th album, Star Wars. In this episode, Jeff Tweedy, the band’s singer and principal …

Natalia Lafourcade - Hasta la Raíz

November 23rd, 2015


Natalia Lafourcade has won eight Latin Grammys, including three for the song Hasta la Raíz, which won the 2015 Song of the Year and Record of the Year, as well as Best Alternative Song. In this episode, Natalia breaks …

Youth Lagoon - The Knower

November 16th, 2015


Youth Lagoon is the moniker of Trevor Powers, who has been releasing albums under the name since 2011. In this episode, Trevor breaks down “The Knower,” the lead single from his newest record, Savage Hills Ballroom. He …

The Arcs - Put a Flower in Your Pocket

November 5th, 2015


The Arcs is a new project from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. He started the band with some of the musicians and producers he's worked with over the years. For this episode, Dan and his bandmates Richard Swift and Leon …

Chet Faker - Gold

October 26th, 2015


Chet Faker is the stage name of Australian singer and songwriter Nick Murphy. His debut album, Built on Glass, won five ARIA Awards, Australia’s version of the Grammys, including Best Male Artist, Producer of the Year, …

Harry Gregson-Williams - The Martian

October 15th, 2015


In the film "The Martian," astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars, forced to rely on science and his ingenuity in order to survive. The film opened at #1 at the box office, and has earned …

Deradoorian - A Beautiful Woman

October 5th, 2015


Angel Deradoorian has been a member of the bands Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, and has contributed to albums by Vampire Weekend, Flying Lotus, and Brandon Flowers. This year she released her first …

The Magnetic Fields - Andrew in Drag

September 24th, 2015


Stephin Merritt has fronted the band The Magnetic Fields for over twenty-five years. In this episode, he breaks down the song "Andrew in Drag" from the band’s latest album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, even though he …

Joey Bada$$ - Hazeus View

September 15th, 2015


Joey Bada$$ released his debut album on January 20, 2015: his 20th birthday. It hit the Top 5 on the Billboard charts. For the track "Hazeus View," he worked with Kirk Knight, another member of the Pro Era hip-hop …

American Football - The One With The Tambourine

September 3rd, 2015


The band American Football formed in 1997, and released only one album and an EP before breaking up about three years later. Their critically …

Best Coast - Feeling Ok

August 27th, 2015


In this episode, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of the band Best Coast take apart their song "Feeling Ok," from the 2015 album California Nights. They trace their process and their influences, from the movie "10 …

HEALTH - Stonefist

August 18th, 2015


The band HEALTH formed in Los Angeles in 2005. Their newest record, Death Magic, came out in 2015. They spent four years trying to make it. They describe themselves as a noise band, but for this record, they reinvented …

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love

August 10th, 2015


Multi-Love is the title track from the 2015 album by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. In this episode, Ruban Nielson tells the story of how he made the song …

Thundercat - Them Changes

July 30th, 2015


Thundercat is the alter-ego of bassist and singer-songwriter Stephen Bruner. He’s played bass for both Suicidal Tendencies and Erykah Badu and went on to help shape Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.' In this …

Death Cab for Cutie - El Dorado

July 20th, 2015


Death Cab for Cutie released Kintsugi, their 8th album, on March 31, 2015. The song El Dorado, like other songs on the record, was written in the wake of the divorce between the band's lead singer Ben Gibbard and …

Sylvan Esso - Coffee

July 8th, 2015


Sylvan Esso has two members, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, who met while they were both working on other projects. Amelia asked Nick to do a remix of a song by the band she was in at the time, and when that remix was …

U2 - Cedarwood Road

June 29th, 2015


10 Cedarwood Road is the address of Bono’s childhood home in Dublin. For the U2 song "Cedarwood Road," Bono looked back to his life there as a …

Will Butler - Anna

June 22nd, 2015


Will Butler is a member of the band Arcade Fire, and he co-wrote the score for the film Her, which earned him an Oscar nomination. In March 2015, he …

Ramin Djawadi - Game of Thrones

June 11th, 2015


Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in April 2011 and became the most watched show in HBO's history. The main title theme was written by Emmy-nominated composer Ramin Djawadi. In this episode, he'll break down the …

Brian Tyler - Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 29th, 2015


The title card for Avengers: Age of Ultron comes up twelve minutes into the movie. Against a black background, the Avengers logo takes up almost the entire screen. You might expect a triumphant, heroic piece of music, …

tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain

May 18th, 2015


In this episode, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs breaks down "Water Fountain." It's a song that draws inspiration from the politics of drought and …

My Morning Jacket - Spring (Among the Living)

April 23rd, 2015


Jim James is the lead singer of the Grammy-nominated band My Morning Jacket. Since starting in 1998, they've put out six albums, and in this episode, Jim breaks down the song Spring (Among The Living), from their …

Toro y Moi - Half Dome

April 14th, 2015


Over the past five years, Chaz Bundick, aka Toro y Moi, has made music that's spanned a range of genres and styles. On his newest album, What For?, he shifted styles again. In this episode, Chaz explains why. He'll …

RJD2 - Games You Can Win (feat. Kenna)

April 1st, 2015


RJD2 has been making music since 2002. His song "A Beautiful Mine" was turned into the opening credits music for Mad Men. He's a producer and …

How to Dress Well - Pour Cyril

March 25th, 2015


In an interview with Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne brothers, talking about the kinds of stories they tell, Luc Dardenne says, "Human suffering; that interests us very much." It also interests Tom Krell, a songwriter …

White Hinterland - Ring the Bell

March 13th, 2015


Casey Dienel is a producer, singer, and songwriter who goes by the name White Hinterland. In this episode, she'll break down her song Ring the Bell. To make it, she had to break out of her comfort zone of working alone …

Warpaint - Love Is to Die

March 3rd, 2015


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 …

Jeremy Zuckerman - The Legend of Korra

February 20th, 2015


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 …

The Long Winters - The Commander Thinks Aloud

January 30th, 2015


On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart while reentering the earth's atmosphere. John Roderick, singer and songwriter of The Long …

Blonde Redhead - Penultimo

January 19th, 2015


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 …

Ghostface Killah - The Battlefield

January 7th, 2015


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 …

The National - Sea of Love

December 22nd, 2014


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 …

Tycho - Awake

December 8th, 2014


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 …

Stars - No One Is Lost

November 26th, 2014


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, …

The Books - Smells Like Content

November 12th, 2014


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 …

Julia Holter - Horns Surrounding Me

October 29th, 2014


Julia Holter studied composition, and in the song Horns Surrounding Me, she arranges not only acoustic and electronic instruments, but also layers of …

Valley Lodge - Go

October 15th, 2014


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 …

RAC - Let Go (feat. Kele & MNDR)

October 1st, 2014


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 …

The Thermals - No Culture Icons

September 18th, 2014


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 …

Anamanaguchi - Prom Night

September 2nd, 2014


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 …

Spoon - Inside Out

August 19th, 2014


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 …

Brian Reitzell - Watch Dogs

August 6th, 2014


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 …

Open Mike Eagle - Dark Comedy Morning Show (feat. Toy Light)

July 15th, 2014


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 …

The Microphones - I Want Wind to Blow

July 1st, 2014


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 …

Converge - Dark Horse

June 19th, 2014


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 …

Nite Jewel - One Second of Love

June 2nd, 2014


In this episode, we'll get a deconstructed view of the song One Second of Love by Nite Jewel. I spoke to Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel and her …

Garbage - Felt

May 15th, 2014


The band Garbage formed in 1994 when three guys from Madison Wisconsin — Butch Vig, Steve Marker, and Duke Erikson, met Scottish singer Shirley …

Poliça - Smug

May 1st, 2014


Ryan Olson is a member of the band Polica. Though he doesn't perform with them live, he put the band together, produces the songs, and co-writes …

Loren Bouchard - Bob's Burgers (Theme Song)

April 15th, 2014


Loren Bouchard is the creator of the animated television comedy Bob's Burgers, a series about a family and the restaurant they own and live above, currently in its fourth season on Fox. In addition to being the …

Jeff Beal - House of Cards (Main Title Theme)

April 1st, 2014


Composer Jeff Beal deconstructs the main title theme music to the Netflix original series House of Cards. The show has been nominated for multiple …

Daedelus - Experience

March 17th, 2014


Alfred Darlington, better known as Daedelus, takes apart his song Experience. This early track of his is made with only acoustic sounds, but Alfred still considers it a piece of electronic music, and explains why. He …

Sea Wolf - Kasper

March 1st, 2014


Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf breaks down Kasper, a song from the album Old World Romance. He talks about his songwriting process, collaborating with …

Baths - Miasma Sky

February 14th, 2014


Will Wiesenfeld of Baths breaks down his song Miasma Sky, which came out last year on his highly-praised sophomore album Obsidian. Will talks about using the computer to intentionally destroy sounds, trying to find a …

YACHT - Plastic Soul

February 1st, 2014


Claire and Jona of the band YACHT deconstruct their brand new single Plastic Soul, a fun pop song about human suffering. They explain how technology …

The Album Leaf - The Outer Banks

January 15th, 2014


Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf takes apart The Outer Banks, a song he recorded in Iceland with members of Sigur Ros accompanying him. He reveals how …

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

January 1st, 2014


Our first guest on Song Exploder is Jimmy Tamborello, aka Dntel, aka one half of The Postal Service (the other half being Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie). Jimmy breaks down the song The District Sleeps Alone …

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