The Best Song Exploder Episode

by Podcast Paul | Last Updated: August 9, 2015

In a previous post I mentioned that I quite enjoyed the hit podcast ‘Song Exploder’ – but only when I knew the song they were talking about. If you’ve never heard of it, Song Exploder takes a song and explodes it into its component pieces – the composer/musician behind the song explains the thought process behind each piece. ‘I chose a cello because it’s epic’, ‘I wanted it to sound creepy so I murdered my friend and used his pelvis as a drumkit’ – etc. I’m the type of person who likes Director’s Commentaries because it’s fascinating hearing creatives talk about being creative, and Song Exploder scratches the same itch.

My premise – that I need to know the song to appreciate the analysis – mostly holds true. Sometimes I dip in to episodes about bands I’ve never heard of and am never hooked. Whereas if I know and like the music already – e.g. the Game of Thrones theme, the House of Cards theme, it’s utterly fascinating. (I hadn’t even noticed that House of Cards season 2 had different intro music to season 1. Did you?)

But an examination of a song I’ve never heard from a band I’ve never heard of is one of the year’s best bits of radio. The song is called The Commander Thinks Aloud and it’s by The Long Winters. It’s an homage to the doomed Columbia Space Shuttle. Bit of a bleak topic, but when John Roderick explains his thought process and his emotional state the song becomes cathartic and even uplifting. The interview with him was recorded in front of an audience and we hear them laughing several times – such is his charm and wry humour.

Roderick explaining his own process is fascinating, emotional, and impactful, but the episode reaches new heights when he tells of how the drum section was recorded. That story is, for me, utterly mind-boggling. It’s an anecdote about what truly world-class performance looks like. As Roderick says, ‘Watching it all happen was a revelation to me as a musician; I understood how much I had to learn.’

Having analysed all of the song’s components, we then hear the whole thing in its entirety. The effect is stunning. 10/10 MUST LISTEN.