This week, the gang (minus Guy) is joined by Gerrick Kennedy, music writer at the Los Angeles Times, to discuss the best album releases of 2017. For the first time in 33 years, there are no women in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100's chart. The gang discusses whether they think this is a fluke or a trend, how they think streaming services affect the numbers, and what this means for women musicians of color. They discuss the importance of the new Kendrick Lamar album D.A.M.N. and about early contestants for "The Song of the Summer" title. They talk about whether they think Ed Sheeran is creepy and why Harry Styles is a #HeForShe hero. Then, in lieu of jams and because Coachella just kicked off the start to the music festival season, the panel tells us about their dream music festivals-where they would be, who would be playing, and how much they would cost. All of this, plus each panelist tells us what they're all about.
Each week we’ll add everyone’s jams to this handy Spotify playlist.
First up: Phil Elverum. He's a recording artist and songwriter. Elverum's career dates back over 20 years, first as the Microphones and later Mt. Eerie. He's produced ambitious, beautiful records that mix genres like folk, noise, death metal, shoegaze and more. It sounds a little like we're listing off different bins in a record store, but it's really compelling stuff.
His albums have all gotten a lot of acclaim, not just because of the studio experimentation but because of the beautiful, kind of ephemeral lyrics he used to tackle big, existential questions.
On his latest record, A Crow Looked At Me, he abandons pretty much all of that. His wife, Geneviève, died of pancreatic cancer last summer.
Phil wrote and recorded the album in the room where she died, using instruments she owned. As an album it's raw, plainly spoken and kind of therapeutic. He talks about really specific moments - trips to the hospital, getting rid of old clothes, getting her mail still.
He talks to Jesse about death and dying, and how he processed thatloss through music. Plus, for a little levity, he talks about his high stakes gambling game: Wad Lord
Phil's new album A Crow Looked At Me is out now.
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From eating a shoe onstage to hauling a steamboat over a huge hill in the Amazon, German film director Werner Herzog is one of those public figures that has a kind of mythology to him him. But in Werner's case, a lot of it's true. He has had a career that spans more than 5 decades and dozens of awards, working both in documentaries and narrative films. He's known for Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Fitzcarraldo and Little Dieter Needs To Fly. He says that although he doesn't consider himself a workaholic, he has directed a film almost every year from the beginning of his career, with 3 being released in the last year alone.
Jesse and Werner talk about his new film starring Michael Shannon and Veronica Ferres and what it was like when he was shot during a routine interview with the BBC.
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Jesse tells us about his why the 1987 classic dramedy Broadcast News is his favorite James L. Brooks film.
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What does the career trajectory of a lifelong political junkie look like? There are the obvious choices, like a major in Political Science, law school...maybe even a career in politics. But Armando Iannucci took a different path – one that led him to Oxford, an incomplete PhD, and work writing and producing comedy, like his acclaimed political satire The Thick of It and the feature film In the Loop.
Iannucci created a new take on American politics in the HBO comedy Veep. Now in its second season, the show follows a fictional Vice President (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with lofty ambitions but little actual power. Veep showcases the comedy inherent in the struggle for the political upper hand, the constant panic and exhaustion. Seemingly small gaffes quickly escalate into ridiculous catastrophes. The show's dialogue is marked by careful attention to absurd politi-speak and some especially creative cursing.
Iannucci joins us to talk about the difference between UK and US politics, why he sympathizes with our elected officials, and conducting swearing research in Washington, D.C.
Ianucci's new film The Death of Stalin comes out later this year.
Billy Bragg performs politically-minded folk music with a punk rock edge, songs with a tone and attitude somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Sex Pistols. But what led to him developing his voice as an artist?
As Bragg explains, one of the most pivotal moments in his life happened during his lunch break at a record store. He put on a record that changed his life: Bob Dylan's folk anthem "The Times They Are A-Changin'".
Most of us first knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus from her Emmy-winning role as Elaine on Seinfeld. Elaine flailed, fought, and danced her way into our hearts as the friend to "losers" Jerry, George and Kramer. But Louis-Dreyfus first arrived in entertainment fresh off her college comedy sketch group, as a repertory player in the Dick Ebersol-helmed cast of Saturday Night Live.
After Seinfeld, she went on to anchor several sitcoms, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, with delightful guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. Her career has now taken her to a different cast of skewed characters on HBO's Veep.
On Veep, Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, Vice President of the United States. Though the vice-presidency is a prestigious position, Meyer's day-to-day work is less than impressive. Her staff members claw at each other for power and prestige. She suffers awkward encounters with the media and consistent snubs from the President (a running gag on the show is Selina's off-hand question, "Did the President call?" The answer is usually no).
Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about the similarities she's discovered between show business and politics, the boys' club that was SNL in the 80s, and a certain terrible dance that still haunts her to this day.
Veep airs on HBO on Sundays at 10:30/9:30 PM central.
This week the gang is here to talk about the year 1997 in music and culture. There are a surprising number of 20 year old infallible pop hits that were influenced by a number of factors; the internet, CD-R's, Princess Diana passing, the death of Gianni Versace, the 24-hour news cycle, and of course Tupac and Biggies deaths. Wynter and Karen make it clear that they had the best 1997 as they were living in the city of possibilities (San Francisco), Margaret tells us why she doesn't know any Spice Girls songs, and we find out which panelist played sax in a ska band. Plus, in lieu of jams, we hear from each of the panelists what podcasts they are listening to lately.
And remember, if you haven't yet become a member or upgraded your membership, please do it before the end of #MaxFunDrive. Margaret Wappler has vowed to send every new person that joins a denim jacket w/ a celebrity inside, Karen Tongson will eat weird vending machine food for you and Guy Branum will share his family's fruit cobbler recipe. And his family is from Arkansas!
We made a special playlist with all of the songs we talked about in this week's episode (plus some other gems).
This week, Wyatt Cenac sits in for Jesse Thorn.
Sam Richardson is an actor, writer, and comic. He was born in Detroit, but he has a Ghanaian mother. His childhood was split between the two places. After college, Sam moved to Chicago to pursue comedy through The Second City improv theater. He then moved to LA where he landed a couple of small roles in TV comedies like The Office and Arrested Development, eventually getting his breakout SAG nominated role as Richard Splett on HBO's Veep. Now, Sam's co-created and starred in the new Comedy Central show Detroiters produced by Lorne Michaels and Jason Sudeikis. It's about two young men (Sam and co-creator Tim Robinson) who acquire an advertising company in Detroit.
Sam talks to Wyatt about creating his new show, what it was like growing up between the United States and Ghana, and what people get wrong about Detroit.
Syd was born and raised in Los Angeles, and has been making music for most of her life. She began her career producing and singing on tracks in the music collective Odd Future when she was still in high school. In 2011, she and producer Matt Martians started an R&B band called The Internet. Six years later, they are signed to Columbia Records, have three albums under their belt, and one Grammy nomination. This year, Syd decided to venture out on her own and released her first solo album Fin to great reviews
Syd sits down with Wyatt to talk about about how she wrote and produced her new album, the influence of her parents on her music, and why she is not in a rush to meet her idols.
This week, Wyatt tells us about the 1972 Blaxploitation film The Thing with Two Heads.
It’s finally going to happen, people. Many songs enter, but only one jam can be crowned the Song of the Summer. Guy, Oliver, Margaret, and Wynter bring their picks and some suggestions from the Facebook group and discuss what really makes a summer jam. Writer and analyst Chris Molanphy comes in with hard data to see what is objectively the Song of the Summer. Sia, Calvin Harris, DNCE, Lizzo, and so many more are brought into the fight. Who wins? The answer may shock you.
That’s My [Podcast] Jam:
Though most people find it difficult to find anything funny about depression and anxiety, comedian Aparna Nancherla. has used her own struggles with mood disorders to inspire her comedy. A rising star in the comedy world, Nancherla bravely reveals her struggles with depression in a way that makes the experience both relatable and hilarious.
Named by Variety as one of the Top 10 Comics to Watch in 2016, Nancherla has appeared as a performer on Conan and Inside Amy Schumer. She's also written for Late Night with Seth Meyers and Totally Biased with Kamau Bell.
Nancherla sat down with Jesse to talk about about her experiences living with anxiety and depression, the ups and downs of writing comedy for television and how she deals with hecklers on Twitter.
As with any established musical genre, there is a quality of sameness that can pervade artists. It’s no less so in the world of hip-hop. But Clams Casino (born Michael Volpe) provides a unique and surprising voice in that world. As an electronic musician and music producer, he has created a distinctive body of work of his own as well through his collaborations with artists including ScHoolboy Q, FKA Twigs and Vince Staples.
Clams Casino joined Jesse to talk about the influences that lead to his unique sound, and some of the ways he paid his dues coming up in the world of hip-hop production. They also discuss his new album, 32 Levels, and how he developed his relationship with rapper Lil’ B. The two of them have long been collaborators, including on the new album, but didn’t really get to know each other until making of the new record.
Clams Casino’s new album is called 32 Levels.
Jesse checks in on the classic movie you should see before going swimming this summer.
Emily Axford plays Adam's foil on Adam Ruins Everything, but on this week's podcast, Emily's front and center. She also happens to be just as hilarious and charming in person as she is on the show.
Adam and Emily go way back - they began working together at College Humor - and the laughs never stopped.
On the episode, the two go from deep discussions on aliens and dreams to Emily's yet-to-be-created video game called Space Bears.
Rachel Bloom is a comedian whose humor often involves her bursting into song. She embraces the classic tropes of the Hollywood musical comedy adding her own contemporary twist on her CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The show has already earned her a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award.
A veteran of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Bloom has also worked on television shows Allen Gregory and Robot Chicken. But it was her absurdist and hilarious musical videos that first brought her to the industry's attention. The video for her song, Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury went viral and earned Bloom a Hugo Award nomination. She has released two albums including Please Love Me and Suck It, Christmas!!! (A Chanukah Album).
Rachel Bloom sat down with Jesse to talk about her love for musical theater, gaining self-confidence in Hollywood and the logistics involved in being lifted in the air in a giant pretzel.
Singer, songwriter, bassist and cellist Esperanza Spalding explains how Petrouchka by Igor Stravinsky introduced her to a world of sound that she hadn’t known existed.
The Grammy Award winning artist’s latest album is Emily’s D+Evolution.
Find Esperanza Spalding online at EsperanzaSpalding.com.
Jesse explains why he loves a movie that aspires to be nothing more than silly, goofy and funny.
Popstar is in theaters now.
Mike Judge entered the world of animation with little more than a 16mm Bolex film camera, an audio recorder and a stopwatch. In the early nineties, his animated shorts were extremely popular as part of touring animation shows including Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival. These shorts served as the birthplace for some of his most memorable characters, including the iconic Beavis and Butt-Head.
Beavis and Butt-Head were awkward and naive teenage boys, whose vocabulary seemed limited to a series of snickers and grunts. However, the show became a cultural touchstone as well as a lightning rod of criticism for conservative social critics.
The show led to more opportunities for Judge both in film and television. They included the hit animated series, King of the Hill and forays into films with the cult classics Office Space and Idiocracy. His latest show, Silicon Valley is in its third season on HBO.
Mike Judge joined Jesse to talk about the parallels between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, his early years in animation and how the character of Homer Simpson helped him maintain the integrity of his own animated patriarch, Hank Hill.
Sharon Horgan has a knack for the creating shows that reveal her characters as determined, funny, sexy, complex and at times, very flustered. Her comedy is more than a series of jokes (though there are plenty of them), and includes insightful observations into what it means to be a professional woman trying to negotiate her other roles of lover, wife and mother. In other words, a real person. You can see that in full display on her latest show, Catastrophe which streams on Amazon Prime.
Though she may be relatively new to American audiences, she has proven herself a talented actress, writer and producer and enjoyed success with her previous show, Pulling which she co-wrote and starred in. Though it ran only for two seasons on British television, it was nominated for several television and comedy awards and established her as a modern comedic voice.
Sharon Horgan sat down with Jesse to talk about getting past the awkwardness of writing (and then having to film) sex scenes with her co-star, the challenge of showing the evolution of a relationship before and after having kids and why she likes playing a character who can sometimes come off as a jerk.
Jesse remembers how the musician Prince inspired people to dare to be themselves.