The Best Podcasts for Serious Music Lovers
If we're not listening to music, we're listening to people talk about music
Music obsessives like myself are nothing if not dedicated.
If we’re not listening to music, we’re probably talking about it. And if we’re not talking about it, we’re listening to someone else talk about it.
Enter music podcasts.
Generally speaking, I was a late adopter of podcasts. For a while, it seemed that everyone and their dog was starting a podcast. If I’m being honest, I’d probably have listened to a podcast run by dogs — how cool would that be — but, for the longest time, I was unable to find shows that resonated with me, topically speaking.
I like true-crime shows as much as the next person, but who needs those nightmares? And I have zero interest in listening to some crypto bros discussing the latest blockchain-related craze.
But that was then and this is now.
In the past year alone, some incredibly interesting music podcasts have popped up on the radar, and I want to share them with my fellow music lovers in hopes that you’ll discover a few that strum your strings or bang your drum, whichever the case may be.
If you’re interested in great music podcasts, I did the legwork, so you don’t have to. This list should give you a great start.
Nearly all of these podcasts are available on multiple platforms (Spotify, Apple, etc.) but for the purpose of this article, I’ve linked to each podcast on Spotify. If you’re interested in one, just search for it on your platform of choice.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this list with a rock and roll salute to The Riff Podcast, run by our very own, hard-working editors at The Riff. As I understand it, the podcast is temporarily on hiatus, but there are some great interviews here with some of our fellow writers that you can check out while we wait for new episodes to be recorded.
I’d also see myself out of the room if the next podcast I mentioned wasn’t the wonderful Abandoned Albums podcast run by our beloved Riff brethren, Keith R. Higgons and Rob Janicke. They conduct great interviews with some fascinating (mostly ’90s era) musicians. Remember Tracy Bonham or The Vapors? Of course, you do because they were, and still are, great. These are excellent conversations with fantastic musicians you don’t want to miss.
Bothering the Band
I just discovered Bothering the Band a few days ago when I came across an Instagram post advertising an upcoming episode featuring a band I’m a big fan of, and have written about before, Illiterate Light. This one is great because host Ryan Buynak asks the guests unique (and purposefully silly) questions that no one else would ask, making for hilarious interviews like you wouldn’t hear elsewhere.
Kyle Meredith With…
Kyle Meredith With… is a podcast hosted by — you guessed it — Kyle Meredith, from WFPK out of Louisville, KY. Meredith regularly conducts truly killer interviews with legendary artists like Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, U2, and Bryan Ferry, to newer artists like The National, St. Vincent, Arctic Monkeys, Haim, Ben Bridwell, and Father John Misty.
Legendary producer Rick Rubin started the Broken Record Podcast along with Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam, and Justin Richmond. They have hundreds of amazing interviews with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Kravitz, Daryl Hall, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, and so many more.
Song Exploder takes one song from a single artist and deep dives into the inspiration, instrumentation, recording, and legacy of that track. Past episodes cover Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, The Shins, Billie Eilish, Black Pumas, Nathaniel Rateliff, Semisonic, Hozier, Aimee Mann, and Michael Kiwanuka to name a few.
Indiecast is hosted by music critics Steven Hyden and Ian Cohen. They deep dive into indie rock, discussing the genre’s biggest news, names, and historically significant moments. Shows include coverage of Band of Horses, The War on Drugs, My Morning Jacket, Manchester Orchestra, Faye Webster, and Arcade Fire.
The incomparable Questlove and his Team Supreme run the fun, irreverent, and educational Questlove Supreme podcast, interviewing legends and legends in the making. Past guests include Steve Miller, Weird Al, Chaka Khan, John Oates, Jack White, Morris Day, and so many more.
The Rockonteurs podcast, billed as “the real stories behind real music,” is run by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp and legendary bassist Guy Pratt from post-Waters Pink Floyd. Past guests include Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Curt Smith of Tears For Fears, Labi Siffre, Mick Fleetwood, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Steven Van Zandt, Billy Corgan, Johnny Marr, and dozens more.
Los Angeles-based Aquarium Drunkard has been around since 2005 and hosts weekly in-depth interviews with musicians like Neko Case, Nels Cline, Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak & Flock Of Dimes,) David Crosby, Kurt Vile, and hundreds of others.
Bandsplain is a Spotify original, so you won’t find this one on other platforms. This show invites experts to explain cult bands and iconic artists and why people love them. Past discussions range from Rilo Kiley to Radiohead, Primus to the Pixies. Each show uses a curated playlist to help you understand the hype.
Record Breakers Music Podcast is billed as “a virtual lunch table where four friends introduce each other to new music, one album at a time.” Recent episodes include discussions of albums by David Bowie, Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak,) Chick Corea, Rush, Grateful Dead, and musical-god-among-men, Frank Zappa.
In The Studio with Redbeard
Legendary syndicated radio host Redbeard runs the aptly named In The Studio with Redbeard podcast. He deep dives into the stories behind history’s greatest rock bands and albums. From Jimi Hendrix to U2, his magnificent storytelling and interviews go deep and feature many of rock music’s biggest names. If the band or artist is legendary, you’ll find a show about them here.
No Filler Music Podcast is dedicated to “sharing the often overlooked hidden gems that fill the space between the singles on our favorite records.” Past shows cover R.E.M., Spoon, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, and Fleet Foxes to name but a few.
No Dogs in Space
No Dogs in Space is a music history podcast with an obviously hilarious name. Hosts Marcus Parks and Carolina Hidalgo explore classic bands like The Replacements, The Velvet Underground, Beastie Boys, Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, The Ramones, Joy Division, The Stooges, and many more.
Death By Music
Death By Music is a show for “the morbidly curious music fan, a combination of true crime and music history.” They cover death in the music industry, from overdoses to plane crashes to murders. Here you’ll learn things you never knew, like the fact that David Bowie was next on Mark David Chapman’s hit list, or that Motörhead’s Lemmy was once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. Good stuff.
60 Songs That Explain the ‘90s
60 Songs That Explain the ’90s is another Spotify original that, just as the name implies, explores 60 iconic songs that define the decade of the 1990s. Artists covered include Tom Petty, Alice in Chains, Counting Crows, Tori Amos, Björk, Tool, Metallica, Outkast, Oasis, and more.
NPR: All Songs Considered
NPR’s Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton host All Songs Considered, a weekly discussion on the best new music and talk to emerging artists, icons, and more. Artists covered range from Tracy Chapman to Wilco, Elvis Costello to Ólafur Arnalds.
Rolling Stone Music Now
The writers and editors of Rolling Stone take you inside the biggest stories in music with their podcast, Rolling Stone Music Now. It’s Rolling Stone, so they know what they’re doing, and the production here is first-rate.
The Classic Rock Album-By-Album Podcast
On The Classic Rock Album-By-Album Podcast, hosts Chris Karson and Lee Bowie dissect every classic rock album to determine whether it deserves to be classified as a true classic. From Springsteen’s Darkness On the Edge of Town to Depeche Mode’s Violator, they cover a wide range of albums typically agreed on by most to be classics. They get to judge. We get to listen. There’s something fun here for everyone.
Do you have a favorite music podcast that wasn’t listed here? Please drop your response and share it with the rest of the class.