Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording.
In April 2019, the Mountain Goats released the album In League with Dragons, and in this episode, John Darnielle breaks down a song from it, called “Cadaver Sniffing Dog.” We’ll hear his original demo, and then, hear how the song evolved at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, with the help of John’s band, some incredible session musicians, and producer Owen Pallett.
The Cranberries formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989. Singer Dolores O’Riordan joined a year later, and the group went on to become one of the defining bands on the ‘90s, eventually selling over 40 million records worldwide.
In January 2018, while the band was working on their eighth album, Dolores O’Riordan passed away unexpectedly. Later that year, remaining members Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler announced that they would end the band, and that this would be their final album. It’s called In The End.
It was released in April 2019, and in this episode, guitarist and songwriter Noel Hogan breaks down a song from it called “All Over Now.” You’ll hear how Hogan and O’Riordan first started the song, and how the remaining members worked to finish it without her.
Panda Bear is musician Noah Lennox. He’s a founding member of the experimental, genre-defying band Animal Collective, and as a solo artists, he’s released six solo albums.
In February 2019, Panda Bear released the album Buoys, and in this episode, he and his co-producer Rusty Santos break down the opening song, “Dolphin.” You’ll hear the original demo, and how they drew inspiration from music from all over the world.
Sharon Van Etten is a singer and songwriter who’s put out five albums. She’s also an actress–she’s in The OA and Twin Peaks. Her most recent album, Remind Me Tomorrow, came out in January 2019. In this episode, Sharon breaks down a single from that album called “Seventeen.” She shares the original demo she made with the song’s co-writer Kate Davis, and we’ll hear from producer John Congleton, who helped craft Sharon’s new, more electronic sound.
Nakhane is a singer and songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. His first album, Brave Confusion, won the South African Music Award for best alternative album in 2014. He starred in the award-winning film “The Wound,” which was shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
Nakhane’s second album was originally released in 2018, and then released in the US in 2019, as a deluxe version. The deluxe version includes this song, “New Brighton,” featuring guest vocals from Anohni. In this episode, as Nakhane breaks the song down, he talks about his complicated relationship with Christianity, why the song wasn’t on the original version of the album, and what it was like to work with one of his musical heroes.
Mumford & Sons are a Grammy-winning band that formed in London in 2007. They’ve put out four albums, and sold millions of copies. Their last three albums have all debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. The most recent of those albums is Delta, which came out in November 2018. The band is made up of Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane, and in this episode, Marcus and Ben break down a song from Delta called “Beloved.” You’ll how the song went from Marcus’s original raw voice memo to the intricate finished track.
Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. In this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how the song went from an unfinished cassette demo, to the finished album version.
Japanese Breakfast is the musical project of Michelle Zauner, who’s been making music under that name since 2013. In July 2017, she released her second album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, to critical acclaim.
In this episode, Michelle breaks down a song from that album called “Boyish,” along with her co-producer and bandmate Craig Hendrix. We’ll hear the original demo, plus a version Michelle recorded with her old band. And she’ll talk about how her perspective on the song has changed over the years.
In September 2018, Hozier released the song “Nina Cried Power,” which features the legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples. In this episode, Hozier breaks down how he made the song, and Mavis Staples tells the story of how she got involved.
Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the most famous and well-loved cellist in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955; his family moved to the US when he was 7. He played for President Kennedy that year. He played at Carnegie Hall for the first time when he was 16. He’s won 18 Grammys and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And for this special episode of Song Exploder, the last episode of this year, Yo-Yo Ma’s is going to break down this piece—which he didn’t create, but he’s performed so many times. It’s the Prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite Number 1 in G Major. It’s one of the most famous pieces of music written for the cello. Yo-Yo Ma first recorded the Bach Cello Suites in 1983, at age 27. He recorded them again in 1998. Now, at age 62, he’s recorded them for what he says may be the last time. It’s for an album called Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites. Yo-Yo Ma talked to me about what’s changed about the way he approaches this piece of music.