Gold Star for the Internet: KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

On weekday work mornings, I listen to music to focus myself and tune out ambient office noise. There are two things that happen to me quite often:

1. I end up listening to the same bands and records over and over and over again.

2. I feel like a slug from 8 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., even with coffee.

In the fall, I discovered a solution that has worked for me every morning and puts me in the right headspace. It’s the KCRW Radio app — specifically the Morning Becomes Eclectic show.

KCRW is a National Public Radio member station that operates out of Santa Monica College, and it seems to have a cult following in Los Angeles. Its programming is mainly for the Southern California and Greater Los Angeles area, but anyone can tune in on its website or its app. Their music director, Jason Bentley, hosts the Morning Becomes Eclectic program every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon. For three hours, he plays all kinds of music: new stuff from new artists, genres you don’t hear on mainstream radio and super deep cuts. A few times a week, the last hour will feature realtime live performances with mini-interviews.

I discovered Morning Becomes Eclectic when I saw social media advertising that Iggy Pop had dropped by to play a live set in support of Depression Cherry. I downloaded the app one night to listen and look through the rest of the recordings, and found out they came from a daily program. The next morning I tuned in, and I was instantly hooked.

Bentley plays a lot of my favorite artists — like Spoon, Angel Olsen, Real Estate and Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — that have stellar tracks I sometimes forget about, and rediscovering those songs through someone else’s set is like experiencing them for the first time. I’ve also been introduced to or further acquainted with so many good artists and bands over the past few months, like Rubblebucket, Ty Segall, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cherry Glazerr and Jim James. These new influences spill into my music library, as I have a running list of tracks to buy on Bandcamp or iTunes. Sometimes the show has tracks I don’t really care for, but I never consider it boring. The artist/song variety is the stimulation I need to focus and get my work done, and I’m simultaneously exploring what’s happening in the music world.

The other thing that I’ve come to appreciate about Morning Becomes Eclectic is its place in both Los Angeles and public radio culture. The programming is a reflection of the best of the LA music scene. That’s partly because some of the the track picks for the day often coincide with the artists being in LA that night for a show, but mostly because Bentley is attuned to what Angelenos like. The music is diverse in origin but always refined in tastes, just like the people who live here. I also love that Bentley’s daily sets are ephemeral, and the latest show disappears from the app and website after a day. It’s refreshing in a world where everything else is always on-demand, and to know that the only people who have had that particular listening experience are you and the others that happened to tune in too.

People often think about the news, traffic alerts or programs like This American Life when they think about NPR, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know there was anything like Morning Becomes Eclectic before I discovered it. Both types of programming are equally important when it comes to public access and community building. When politicians want to defund the public agencies that support the arts, it makes me angry. It’s crucial that we support those public agencies by both listening and donating, so that everyone continues to enjoy them. The producers, journalists and creative professionals behind KCRW and other public radio stations deserve more recognition for the work they do, and I’m giving them a huge gold star.

Do you listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic, or other public radio programs? Let’s talk about it in the comments.



Link Party: 10/3-10/7


Here’s what I read this week:

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives the best advice.

2. Barack Obama on five days that shaped his presidency.

3. A letter of complaint for Cards Against Humanity.

4. Elena Ferrante and the myth that female artists owe us something more than just their work.

5. An excerpt from a book about haunted places in America, which I’m planning to pick up.

And a bonus: Bruce Springsteen on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Enjoy your weekend.

Link Party: 6/27-7/1

Saturday was wonderful.
Saturday was wonderful.

Here’s what I read last week:

1. I will really, really miss The Toast.

2. Bill Cunningham was a rare gem and I was very sorry to hear of his death. Because I really, really think you should know about him, here are two articles.

3. The present and future of the Washington Post, courtesy of Jeff Bezos.

4. What President Barack Obama does during the evenings.

5. An investigative journalist returns from an undercover mission in North Korea — only to face her critics.

And a bonus: I need to use it more often, but I love the idea behind This. — a social media network where you can only share one link per day. I get a daily newsletter sharing links from my network and the editor’s top picks. Sign up, find me and we can turn up the Link Party.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Gold Star For The Internet: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

In my travels across the Internet, I stumble upon many gems that when I see them, I wonder where they’ve been the whole time. One of these gems I want to share is NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

Back when I had a much longer commute, I loaded my phone up with as many podcasts about art and pop culture as I could to pass time that was otherwise dead. In trying to find more shows about music, I discovered Tiny Desk Concerts on my phone’s podcast app. Bob Boilen, the guy who started NPR’s All Songs Considered, hosts a range of musical performances at his desk at the NPR offices. You can read more about Boilen here.

The first Tiny Desk concert I watched was its 500th episode a few months ago. It happened to feature one of my favorite bands, The Arcs, which initially hooked me — if the program was featuring an act I really liked, there was probably more where that came from. I don’t watch every episode that pops up on the feed, but if it sounds like something I’d be interested in I usually end up loving it. The standard set seems to be about three songs, which ends up being a 11-20 minute video. I like that I have to sit down and carve out time to keep up with the episodes.

I’m a big believer in the power of the live music experience, and highly suggest that if you love a band you need to go see it perform — recordings are incredible, but you can’t replace the emotional experience of going to a concert. The only exception to my suggestion is now Tiny Desk, mostly because of how high the production values are. In my honest and humble opinion, the cinematography rivals Oscar-winning movies. The cinematography is varied enough so that you see shots like close ups of hands on pianos — which are always beautiful — as well as the overall configuration, as if you were standing right in front of the artists along with the office audience. Even though these performances are shot in an office space and sometimes unplugged, the sound is great. And when you go to look up a band to find their recordings, you’ll have how they looked in the back of your mind.  These videos add to the overall experience of a particular band’s music, and I think that’s wonderful.

As much as I have tried, I’ve never been an NPR groupie. I promise you don’t have to be one to enjoy Tiny Desk Concerts.

My favorite episodes have been the Arcs, Benjamin Clementine, Monsieur Periné, Timber Timbre, Reggie Watts and the Bots. I had seen the Bots in concert before watching their episode, and thought they did an incredible job translating the power and layers of their music into an intimate setting. When I saw the Arcs last week in a crowded and tiny venue, I was extra hyped because of their Tiny Desk performance. I’ve always wanted to see Timber Timbre, and now I really really want to. Even though these videos were my first introductions to Benjamin Clementine and Monsieur Periné, I had some real “whoa” moments that added them to my must-see list. For whatever episode you decide to watch, I think you’ll have the same reactions. In scrolling through the list of 500+ shows, I’ve found even more that I want to look at.

What I really love about Tiny Desk Concerts is that it celebrates incredible music, and uses the digital platform to share performances that most people wouldn’t get to see elsewhere. When I watch a Tiny Desk concert, I feel like it’s just me, the performer and an audience that just happens to be in the background. That’s a really special experience, even if it is being facilitated by a screen. And most importantly, it has introduced me to new artists and sounds that I wouldn’t have found without it.  And for that, I give it the biggest gold star in the world.

Do you watch Tiny Desk Concerts, or have an Internet gem you want to share with me? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Gold Star for the Internet: Podcasts I’m Currently Listening To

On Monday, I started a new contract gig for a media company that’s based in Santa Monica. Because of traffic, it takes me about 2 1/2 hours to get there and about the same time to get home. I have a solid iTunes library, and I put my iPhone on shuffle in the morning to help me zen out on the freeway / get pumped for work. But because I don’t have a lot of time to read during the day, I feel insanely out of the loop news and culture-wise by 5 p.m. To help combat that feeling, I’ve gotten really into podcasts. I listened to a few before, but now I’m obsessed. Here are the ones I’m currently loving:


Another Round. 

I originally found out about Another Round via Ezra Koenig’s Internet radio show on Beats 1, which I’ve been meaning to blog about (but that’s another post for another day). Heben Negatu and Tracy Clayton interview some really incredible people, like a journalist who writes about school segregation and an artist who has spearheaded a street art campaign about harassment.  They also do some awesome games, like asking the editor of NPR’s Code Switch to connect random concepts to the problem of housing segregation in six degrees or less. What I like about this podcast is that I feel like I’m learning tons. It’s expanding the discourses of race and gender for me, even though I’m crawling on the 405 Freeway. This podcast is a Buzzfeed production, but it is really too good for Buzzfeed.

Call Your Girlfriend.

Now that my best friend Paige is living in Washington, I completely understand the ethos of Call Your Girlfriend. This podcast, touted as “a podcast for long-distance besties,” features one of my favorite writers, Ann Friedman, and Aminatou Sow. They talk as if they’re on the phone with each other just chatting about what’s happening in pop culture, and the audience just happens to be there. I like hearing about what other smart women close to my age group find interesting about culture and how they’re talking about it. Pro tip: They’re going on hiatus for awhile for tech upgrades, but past episodes are still good to listen to.



The best way to describe Limetown, I feel, is to say that it’s Serial meets The X-Files. Limetown is an entirely fictional story about a remote town in Tennessee, which was built for and centered around a research facility. One day in 2003, hundreds of people just go missing. A young journalist decides to find out what happened, and gets sucked further and further into the mystery. There are also some flavors of government conspiracy and the supernatural. I will warn you that the first episode is awesome and gives you a lot of important background information, but really sets up the second episode as a doozy. It’s so incredibly well-written and produced that I was frustrated I couldn’t binge-listen. (I don’t know if that’s a word but I’m making it one now.)


The Modern Art Notes Podcast.

I found this podcast because I follow Tyler Green on Twitter. Every week the show starts with a digest of interesting modern art exhibits happening around the country, and I like hearing about what’s going on beyond my little Los Angeles museum world. I also like how he interviews people from all aspects of the art world, because people like the conservators and art historians are just as important as the curators or artists themselves. On Monday I listened to one from last week where Green interviewed a curator for a Mark Rothko exhibit in Houston, and I learned so much about Rothko’s career and how he viewed his own art.


Oh Boy by Man Repeller.

I love, love, love Man Repeller. I love Leandra Medine, who I see as a role model in the murky world of new media. I love Man Repeller’s editorial voice. I love the content they put out on all of their channels. So I was overjoyed that they started up a podcast where their friend Jay Buim interviews women about their professional success. I find the concept to be refreshing and inspirational, and I like hearing from women who have been in my spot and are successful now. So far, my favorite episodes have been with Leandra herself, Stacy London, and yesterday’s Payal Kadakia. Pro tip: Skip the second episode, because that’s the only one so far that has been Not Good. You’ll thank me.


Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

Occasionally I used to listen to this in the car with my mom, and I’ve started listening to it again. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is NPR’s weekly quiz show. It has a few different segments with different call-in participants, which all test the participants’ knowledge of current events. It’s performed and recorded live in Chicago, and the energy of the studio atmosphere translates really well to audio. I giggle throughout the show along with the audience, which in a way makes me feel looped into what’s going on in the news. In addition to being funny, it’s wickedly smart. I think that’s what I love about all of these podcasts in general. It has become one of my new favorite ways to stay connected to culture. And for that, I’m giving all these podcasts the biggest gold star.

Do you love podcasts? Give me your recommendations in the comments.