Podcasts. Everyone is either listening to, making, or evangelising about their favourite one. They range from cute to challenging; informative to inspiring; educational to escapist. The best ones might do the lot. With so many voices in the space vying for your attention, it can feel overwhelming. That’s where we come in, with a curated selection of the finest listening material for your ears and brains.
Dissect, by Cole Cuchna, is our first recommendation. Dissect is a serialised music podcast, picking one contemporary album per season and analysing one song per episode measure by measure, word by word. The anatomy of an album. Cuchna orients the series as existing within “a world creating and accessing more content than ever before... a scrolling culture, hurriedly swiping through this infinite swath of content that seems to replenish without end.” Dissect was created with a mind to counter this cultural shift.
While it hasn’t yet received the same level of cultural ubiquity as the now infamous Serial podcast series, Dissect is nevertheless acclaimed. Featured in the iTunes Best of 2016 Podcast List, named Best Podcast of 2017 according to Quartz, appearing in Time Magazine’s and The Guardian’s Best Podcasts of 2018 lists and topping the New York Times’ Best of 2018 list, Dissect has certainly earned your attention.
From humble beginnings in 2016 as a self professed music nerd’s passion project, recorded late in the evening after a full day of work and once his wife and newborn daughter had gone to sleep, Dissect has fulfilled a niche for lovers of music, lyricism, poetry and cultural anthropology. Over its life, Dissect has illuminated the artistry and cultural impact of contemporary musical masterworks including To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, Blonde and Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Ms. Lauryn Hill, and most recently Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator.
In interviews, Cuchna has estimated that he spends around 20 hours on each 30-something minute episode, meticulously researching artist biographies, influences, past interviews, and deconstructing lyrics and musical production techniques. Cuchna has described the format of this niche undertaking as modelled off The Great Courses university standard audio and video lecture series. In an interview with The Fader magazine, Cuchna makes the case for placing recent great works on par with the great works of history; Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. “What I’m trying to do with Dissect is reframe people that we don’t think about on that level yet,” he said.
“I’m trying to fast forward that historical process . . . here’s my best guess at what albums are going to stand the test of time, and why they’re going to stand the test of time”.