I don’t know how I survived before NPR Music’s First Listens. I’m a huge music fan but I’m burdened by this need to pay for my tunes. I’m not a torrent fan and I’m still very much in love with the nostalgia of listening to the radio to hear my favorite songs in anticipation of buying new albums on iTunes or — gasp — at the record store.
I’m so grateful for NPR Music’s First Listens for providing a reliable and nonvirus-infested way for me to listen to great music before it goes on sale all while not having to compromise my admittedly old-fashioned “morals.”
The fact that I’m a beyond-huge R.E.M. fan is no secret — there’s an R.E.M. reference in the description of this Tumblr account — and the band’s recent breakup announcement had me shaken. Despite a recent renewal and subsequent creative upswing, I knew the band’s best days were no longer a destination — they were memories.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the Georgia quartet, four men whose music ushered me through an awkward and painful adolescence and comforted me during my confusing quarterlife, is its commitment to its fans and each other. Even if you think R.E.M. sounds like an over-the-hill incarnation of The Decemberists, I’d encourage you to spend some time over the next week taking advantage of NPR Music’s stream of the band’s first comprehensive greatest hits collection, “Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage.” The title, in true R.E.M. spirit, is honest, humorous, self-effacing and just a little too on point yet simultaneously outlandishly original.
The tracklist isn’t perfect — I would’ve loved the inclusion of more tracks from “Monster” and “New Adventures in Hi-Fi,” two albums unfairly maligned and forgotten in too many listeners’ and critics minds — but it’s a strong primer for a band that isn’t given nearly enough credit by the Millennials whose tastes have benefitted exponentially by the band’s prominent influence.
I’ve loved oral histories for almost a decade, since Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller revived and revolutionized the format with the legendary “Live from New York: An Uncensored History of ‘Saturday Night Live.’” I spent much of last summer making my way through “Those Guys Have all the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” Miller’s detailed look at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Since I discovered that mode of storytelling, I’ve longed for a lot of media institutions — NBC’s late-night television division, Rolling Stone magazine and the FOX network — to receive the oral-history treatment, including MTV.
So the fact that I’ve been looking so forward to “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” the new book by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum chronicling the first network devoted to teens and their musical tastes, should not come as an earth-shattering shock.
I’ve spent a great deal of time reading profiles of the authors, previews and excerpts from the book — including this awesome piece from Pitchfork — and this link is to a nugget from NPR about the book, which came out on Oct. 27. I haven’t read it yet but can’t wait to crack it open and relive my days as a latchkey Millennial kid and learn more about the era of MTV that preceded my love for — and eventual loathing of — the network turned cultural monolith.
Welcome to a new recurring feature on the One Unique Token Tumblr, called “One More Addiction.” Not just the name of one of Natalie Imbruglia’s semi-stellar songs, this is a place for me to share the things that have a hold on me at the moment.
I’m a late convert, but almost a year after my friend Liza told me to start listening, I’m absolutely addicted to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.
I know, I know: You don’t want to hear from some left-wing hippie about National Socialist Radio brainwash programming. But I promise, this show is everything that a trivia/entertainment buff wants from the media.
I’ve found myself underwhelmed, having to settle for the one-size-fits-all local pop culture talk radio station in my area, which features a bunch of pearl clutchers jabbering away about reality TV so as to entertain the moms driving carpool before heading off to work. There’s NOTHING wrong with this, I want to repeat: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.
However, for the younger and obsessive crowd, who don’t want to just hear about “Dancing with the Stars” — or would like to hear it discussed in great depth, involving winking wit and by hosts who invoke some seriously obscure references as well as engage in broader debate about how it all fits into our culture — I’ve now found an oasis with Linda Holmes and co. and their hilarious but casual “Pop Culture Happy Hour.”
The tone is always light, funny and surprisingly not pretentious, though there’s definitely a learning curve and things move pretty quickly for the uninitiated. Consider it Advanced Placement Pop Culture Programming.
I finally downloaded the NPR Music and NPR News apps to my phone after much anxiety that I wouldn’t really use them and might be doing it out of an obligation to be a news hound (turned out to be very far from the truth) and have been enjoying the “Pop Culture Happy Hour” archives all weekend.
If you’re looking to give the show a first listen, this is the one I’d recommend starting with. It’s dated, sure, but it’s hilarious and focuses on ’90s sitcoms and the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, so there’s nothing too esoteric.