Music, Podcasts

A Couple of New Podcasting Discoveries for Eager Ears

Your Monkey is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest podcasts to fill his workday and take up all the possible memory space on his outdated computers.  Just having one good podcast is not enough– he must have eight, ten, twenty, thirty-three.  Heck, it never seems to end.

Bad for this Monkey’s ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder. Good for you and your ears, because this means that you have someone to filter through the good, the bad and the ugly to find the true gems.

For instance, your Monkey can tell you that the M. Ward Live Performance podcast that was recently released by KEXP is a real winner. He can also tell you that the latest JeffMix podcast has an excellent Neko Case song at somewhere around the 30 minute mark. (It’s track number 8 of 20, to be specific).

But the big news for today is a couple new additions to your must-hear list.

First and foremost, your Monkey is falling all over himself for the Clockwork Cabaret. This is a steampunk-themed radio show hosted by the magnificent Davenport sisters that offers a blend of the unusual and unique.

The Cabaret playlist includes songs from artists as varied as Thomas Dolby, the Decemberists, Grinderman, renowned theramin player Clara Rockmore, and lots, lots more. A future post will explore this excellent show further, but for now let’s get the word out.

Second on the list is Spirited History, and podcast that explores haunted happenings at various historial sites in the United States. So far, your Monkey has heard podcasts about the spooky goings on at the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, and a report on possible ghost sightings on the battlefields of the Civil War.

How about some music for a change? Here is a song from Grinderman that was featured on Clockwork Cabaret.

This, by the way, is how we should all be rocking and rolling and making better films every day. Nick Cave is in his 50s and he may be a prickish interview, but he knows how to make interesting music and command a stage.

Now if you’ll excuse this Monkey, he’s off to grow a long beard, buy an ill fitting suit, and play some of that rock music the kids like.

Music, Podcasts

A frank discussion of stage banter

In which the Monkey asks the age old questions: what is the sound of one hand clapping, and more importantly (and far more relevant to this post) how much interaction should an artist have with the audience while he or she is performing?

The great thing about seeing a live music act is that it is always a different experience than listening to the recorded music. More often than not, the live show is better. It has more energy, more spontaneity, and more life.

Seeing an artist live will often give you a new appreciation of their recorded work. The next time you hear an album track, you can actually picture how the song is brought to life on stage.

Sure, there are plenty of performers who can’t hack it live. Some need studio tricks to make their magic, others just don’t have the stage presence needed to command a room.

But what is the key to having a good stage presence? Is it just being high energy performer, or is it understanding how to best use your talents to present your music to the crowd?

Your Monkey is asking this question after having two very different experiences listening to live shows in which the artist spent a great deal of time interacting with the crowd. Both of these shows were recently broadcast as part of NPR’s All Songs Considered Concert Series. A link to the page is here.

On the positive side, the Swedish artist Loney, Dear (real name Emil Svanängen) did an excellent job of incorporating the audience into his performance during a recent show at the 930 club in Washington, D.C. Svanängen not only engaged the crowd in conversation in a way that fit the flow of the show, but also used the audience as a choral instrument during a memorable performance of his single “I Am John.” It was awesome to listen to.

But sometimes, too much banter can be a bad thing. Take for example the recent performance by Neko Case at the same 93o club in Washington, DC.

This Monkey believes that Neko Case is a special artist with a magical voice and a wonderful, reverb-heavy atmosphere to her alt-country songs. Her talent is undeniable, and her live voice is every bit as good as her studio voice.


The Monkey has to say that he found it hard to appreciate Case’s live performance because there was so much stage banter between songs.

Sure it is fun to joke around and be loose with the crowd and have a good time, but Case’s music is so soft and dense and dependent on atmosphere that it was distracting to have the performance cluttered with so much chattering.

One can’t get lost in the depth of her voice and the moodiness of her lyrics if there are jokes between each song.

Maybe the performance would have been more effective if she had saved the talking for the beginning and end of the show, and let the music take center stage for the bulk of the performance.

Or maybe your Monkey is just a grumpy old crank.

What do you think?

By the way, these are all nice problems to have given the fact that these artists are nice enough to let NPR podcast their shows and NPR is nice enough to archive them to you can go back and listen any time you want. Plus, Neko Case is great. Your Monkey is just being nitpicky because he is greedy.