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Best Music Podcasts: Shows You Need To Hear

The best music podcasts are equal parts fascinating and addictive, telling the stories behind the music and breaking down what’s in the secret sauce.

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We’ve entered the golden era of podcasting, especially when it comes to music podcasts, but as the ecosystem grows larger and more diverse, decision paralysis inevitably sets in. Where to begin when there’s a seemingly endless amount of options? From band-specific shows to genre-, era-, and album-devoted series, there is a podcast for every type of music fan, from the most esoteric obsessives to mainstream-pop heads. Here are some of the very best music podcasts out there today.

20: Dad Bod Rap Pod

For those who take hip-hop seriously, want to hear conversations with a bit of historical grounding, and enjoy listening to old friends nerd out together, Dad Bod Rap Pod may be the music podcast for you. Hosts Demone Carter, David Ma, and Nate LeBlanc have been hip-hop participants and fans for decades, and they clearly know their stuff. Listening to them interview musicians and journalists – or simply chat about the latest releases among themselves – will give you a wealth of new music to explore.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

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19: Name 3 Songs

Fangirls have long been demonized (or worse), but the music world would be nowhere without them. Name 3 Songs addresses this fact head-on, looking to “challenge sexism in the music industry and empower fangirls.” Topics have included “fatphobia in the music industry,” “when idolization goes too far,” and “misogyny in pop music.” Co-hosts Sara Feigin and Jenna Million take on these issues with empathy, creating a safe space where difficult conversations can be had.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

18: On Wednesdays We Wear Black

On Wednesdays We Wear Black is hosted by three folks in the alternative music space that are brave enough to bring what would normally be taboo topics into public view. As their podcast description puts it, “They talk about everything from sex, racism and gigs to myspace emo fashion…. Warning, do not have this on with your gran in the room.” In a scene where these types of voices have long been silent (and silenced), it’s a refreshing listen.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

17: The Ringer Music Show

Hosted by music critic Charles Holmes and comedian/musician Grace Spelman, The Ringer Music Show has a perfect balance between treating music extremely seriously and taking it with an enormous grain of salt. Hot takes abound, but they’re always offered with a considered point-of-view. The weekly podcast takes its topics from whatever is in the news at any given moment, which makes listening to it feel a bit like having two friends update you on what everyone else is talking about.
Listen on Spotify

16: Rolling Stone Music Now

Ever wanted to eavesdrop on an editorial meeting of the world’s most famous music magazine? That’s what it often feels like when Rolling Stone Music Now brings on a cadre of its writers to talk about a specific topic. In addition to hearing expert listeners debate the merits of the latest releases, host Brian Hiatt also conducts in-depth interviews with news-making musicians. For those wanting to dive deep into what’s going on in the world of music, this is one of the best podcasts around.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

15: Tape Notes

The secret to Tape Notes is in the premise itself. Reuniting artists and producers to talk about great projects, it often finds the guests talking to one another for the first time in ages. Hearing the participants reliving special moments together is like eavesdropping on a conversation between old friends. As if that wasn’t enough, the podcast often comes complete with unreleased material from those sessions, giving listeners a front-row seat to the creative process.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

14: Mogul

One of the first great narrative podcasts about music, Mogul’s debut season followed the life of record company exec Chris Lighty, whose path seemed to intersect with just about every major movement in the world of hip-hop. (Lighty managed 50 Cent, LL Cool J, and Missy Elliott, just to name a few.) The podcast returned a few years later to tell yet another iconic hip-hop story: The birth of Southern hip-hop and how 2 Live Crew’s explicit music ended up at the United States Supreme Court.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

13: Broken Record

With interviews conducted by producer Rick Rubin, writer Malcolm Gladwell, and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam, you know that the quality of Broken Record will be high. The guest list, as you might imagine, is no less impressive: Brian Eno, Liz Phair, Pharrell Williams, and John Legend are just a few of the names that have gone deep on their craft. Despite the variety of interviewers, Broken Record largely takes its guiding philosophy from Rick Rubin, whose patient and empathetic conversational style often brings out surprising insights from the high-profile guests.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

12: Afropop Worldwide

The long-running Afropop Worldwide shines a light on some of the most fascinating music from around the globe, telling the stories behind artists and tunes that often don’t get lengthy and careful treatment from media outlets. Since its beginnings, Afropop has operated under a non-profit model, relying on generous donors to send its audio documentarians out into the world. They’ve come back with incredible material, working to fulfill the self-described mission of increasing “the profile of African and African diaspora music worldwide, and to see that benefits from this increased profile go back to artists, music industry professionals, and the countries that produce the music.”
Listen on Apple Music

11: Twenty Thousand Hertz

“The stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds” is the tagline for Twenty Thousand Hertz, and that’s exactly what it does. It’s one of the best music podcasts around because it takes a broad view of what music actually is… and digs deep into those stories. Ever wanted to know how the “Netflix sound” came to be created? What you might hear if you were on a different planet? Or what it’s like to dub movies in a foreign language for George Clooney? There’s an episode for all of those scenarios and much more.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

10: Punch Up the Jam

Comedians are regularly called upon to punch up a joke or fix a script, but to improve a pop song? Not so much. Enter Punch Up The Jam, the comedic tag team of Miel Bredouw and Demi Adejuyigbe who both champion and tear apart some of popular music’s enduring hits. Each week the duo (and guest) break down a hit song and then attempt to re-arrange it with hilarious results. Look no further than their take on Guns N’ Roses’ iconic hit “Welcome To The Jungle” or ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’. Nothing is off limits.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

9: R U Talkin REM Re: Me

Comedy writer Scott Aukerman had a few musical-comedy podcasts under his belt before starting R U Talkin REM Re: Me with his friend and collaborator Adam Scott (of Parks And Recreation fame). What started out as a few sporadic episodes of U Talkin’ U2 To Me? later evolved into their greater passion… R.E.M. Less a deep dive into the musicality of the band than addictive banter and wild tangents that also revolve around R.E.M., clearly the duo were onto something, as they counted Mike Mills and Peter Buck as guests in the show’s run. Now complete, the duo more recently did a full season devoted to Talking Heads, but the R.E.M. archives are still available and well worth exploring.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

8: KCRW’s Lost Notes

The best music podcasts fill in the blanks, providing context and telling the stories behind some of the music you love, but KCRW’s Lost Notes takes it one step further, interrogating the past through the lens of today and how to reconcile those differences. Seasons have been hosted by music writer Jessica Hopper (author of The First Collection Of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic) and poet and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib, but the idea always remains the same: Highlighting “the greatest music stories never told,” from a punk-rocker turned father who revisits his misogynistic past, to the legacy of John Fahey re-evaluated through the women who were in his life.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

7: Sound Opinions

Dubbed as the “world’s only rock and roll talk show,” Sound Opinions has existed in many forms since its first incarnation as a Chicago radio show back in 1993. Hosted by veteran rock critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, the duo has decades’ worth of musical knowledge at their disposal, but also an insatiable curiosity for what’s happening in music today. Ambitious in scope, the pair will tackle anything from the legend of Robert Johnson to De La Soul and the Paisley Underground, alongside exclusive interviews and live performances. With more than 800 episodes, you’ll never run out during a long road trip.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

6: Dissect

While many of the best music podcasts break down classic songs, genres, and artists, the Dissect podcast trains their lens on the album, dismantling a single title across a whole season. From unpacking Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to analyzing Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Dissect is less cultural criticism and more musical sleuthing. Initially started as a passion project by host Cole Cuchna, it’s now part of the Spotify podcast network.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

5: Switched On Pop

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding make it their goal to solve this question without taking away the magic of the music. Like all the best music podcasts, Switched On Pop is democratic in scope, pondering the secret formulas of pop music and going off the rails in the best way possible. From the weirdness of 90s pop to the timeless catharsis of Martha And The Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Street,” life after Auto-Tune, and what “Cotton Eye Joe” tells us about a century-plus of pop music, Switched On Pop is there to answer life’s big questions.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

4: Cocaine & Rhinestones

As the son of outlaw-country artist David Allan Coe, Tyler Mahan Coe knows a thing or two about country music. On the first season of his podcast, Cocaine & Rhinestones, Coe doesn’t just recount the wild stories of country music, but backs them up with an arsenal of facts. Along with covering the big names of the genre – Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline – Coe also highlights some of the overlooked names in country – from The Louvin Brothers to Doug and Rusty Kershaw. Coe doesn’t just tell you the story behind Loretta Lynn’s banned song “The Pill,” he digs into US history and the cultural politics of birth control. Season two, released in 2021, ostensibly focuses on the country music legend George Jones, but covers so much more.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

3: Song Exploder

Explaining the creative process can be, well… a process, but hit podcast Song Exploder has succeeded in explaining the origins behind the biggest hits without getting lost in the weeds. Often copied but never replicated, Song Exploder lets the artists themselves break down their songs without getting in the way. Since 2014, musician and composer Hrishikesh Hirway (now musician Thao Nguyen) host and produce the show, revealing the creative process of artists as diverse as Lorde, The Mountain Goats, and John Carpenter, to name a few.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

2: Questlove Supreme

Even as more musicians are getting into the podcasting game (Hozier, Nicki Minaj, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Perry Farrell, and even Rick Rubin), no other host holds it down quite like Questlove. The Roots drummer and author possesses an encyclopedic musical knowledge quite like no other and can convince his guests to fall down the rabbit hole with him. Past guests have included the likes of Chaka Khan, Michelle Obama, Herb Alpert, and even Michael McDonald. It’s nirvana for music nerds but also one of the most engaging talk shows on air.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

1: New York Times Popcast

It may be called Popcast, but the New York Times’ music podcast covers a wide scope of music. Hosted by music critic Jon Caramanica, you can count on the roundtable of critics to tackle every subject matter with rigorous enthusiasm, from the rise of Post Malone to Chris Cornell’s legacy, the bootleg merch trade, the future of jazz, and the unfair hand dealt to Ashlee Simpson. While each episode usually includes an expert guest (or guests) on the topic at hand, the dream team of writers Joe Coscarelli, Caryn Ganz, Jon Pareles, and Caramanica each offer diverse expertise in genres and eras to keep the discourse piping hot.
Listen on Apple Music and Spotify

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Skimbo

    March 9, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    There is a new one called Fear and Loathing on the Turntable all about Loving to hate the songs that you hate. Very entertaining. http://www.falott.net

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