Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Semisonic at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, 1999.
Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images.
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

I Learned Nothing
ILN EP 115: The Anthropic Principle

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think
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Ben Cholok is a Princeton graduate with a degree in philosophy and no other accomplishments. Pat Dean is a stand-up comedian who lives in ignorance. Each week on I Learned Nothing, Cholok tries to teach Dean a different philosophical concept in order to add meaning to both their lives. This has proved difficult: After 115 episodes, Cholok has only managed to present Dean with philosophers and ideas that annoy the hell out of him. Even something as cosmic and all-encompassing as the anthropic principle fails to grab Dean’s imagination; he’s much more interested in trying to work out how paid professionals managed to screw up The Rise Of Skywalker so badly. Despite Cholok’s best efforts, he’s constantly thwarted by Dean’s riffs on the pair’s mutual lapsed Catholicism and hatred of C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels. But that’s not to say you’ll be left in the dark. Cholok always manages to clearly explain the basic principles of a concept, and by the end of the episode, listeners will understand that the universe has been fine-tuned, whether through design or chance, to enable the existence of I Learned Nothing. Keep up the great work, universe. [Anthony D Herrera]


Imaginary Advice
Exquisite Corpse (With Clive Desmond)

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think

Ross Sutherland of Imaginary Advice is something like the Merce Cunningham of audio producers, constantly trying to play with the notions of spontaneous creation through randomness, obstacle, and limitation. His podcast is delightfully different, as Sutherland actively tries to eschew an intentional production. The show’s latest episode is emblematic of that, and it’s a real standout in a catalog loaded with gems. In it, Sutherland and fellow audiomaker Clive Desmond attempt to take the well-known dadaist parlor game exquisite corpse—wherein participants take turns drawing a section of a human body without being allowed to look at what others have drawn before them—and map it onto the audio format. Over the course of the past year, Sutherland and Desmond divvied up the parts of the body to use as inspiration, composing their segments sequentially in secret, sharing only the barest of ending snippets with one another to make for seamless transitions. The result is full of humor, surprises, artistry, and genuine emotion. [Ben Cannon]


Murmurs
Ten

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think

The BBC’s ventures into fiction podcasting have been getting steadily stranger in the best of ways, and the anthology Murmurs is an imaginative and challenging work created primarily by independent podcast artists. Janina Matthewson’s (Within The Wires) three-part story about Millie and her mother is stellar. Millie and her mother trade phone calls and voicemails after Millie moves to London, talking about the little things that plague them, until those little things suddenly start fixing themselves in impossible ways, like an enormous tear in a dress repairing itself. Matthewson steadily ups the stakes, driving a wedge between Millie and her mum: Every time they talk, there’s more disruption in their lives. This whole series is an intricate story puzzle that winds in on itself by the end. [Elena Fernández Collins]


Song Exploder
“Semisonic – Closing Time”

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think

Semisonic’s 1998 classic “Closing Time” might seem straightforward in its lyrics and production: It’s a college rock standard about closing time at a bar and looking for someone to go home with at the last minute. But it turns out there’s more to the song than that. On Song Exploder, Semisonic writer and lead vocalist Dan Wilson dissects the lyrics line by line with host Hrishikesh Hirway. According to Wilson, the hit song employs a double meaning, using the imagery of closing time at a bar to half-earnestly, half-jokingly mirror the anxiety of a difficult childbirth, shoving a human out into the world whether or not they’re ready. It isn’t just the lyrics that take on new depth with this conversation. As Wilson breaks down the key changes, differences in drums and distortion, and sweeping string section, it’s impossible to listen to “Closing Time” the same way again by the time the episode wraps. [Wil Williams]


Storybound
Adelle Waldman Reads An Excerpt From Her Novel “The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P.”

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think

This podcast from the book lovers at Lit Hub has a pretty straightforward premise: An author reads one of their stories, essays, or a novel excerpt accompanied by an immersive soundscape, complete with an original score and a cast of voice actors performing the dialogue. This deceptively simple format is an engrossing audio experience. Anyone who finds themselves drifting off while listening to conventional audiobooks will quickly notice the difference a little quality sound design can make. Writers like Mitch Albom, Kim Barnes, and Matt Gallagher have already graced listeners with readings in the first batch of episodes, and this week features an excerpt from The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman’s biting examination of the promiscuous, self-identifying intellectual males that populated Brooklyn in the early 2000s. From the first sentence, listeners are transported to a dive bar in New York City where the jukebox bumps in the background during one of Nathaniel’s many first dates. As a bonus, Waldman sticks around to discuss the making-of process behind the episode and the anxiety that comes with bringing any piece of writing to an audio format. [Dan Neilan]


Xena Warrior Podcast
Minisode 10: Reboot Or Revival Extravaganza!

Illustration for article titled iSong Exploder/i says there’s more to Semisonic’s “Closing Time” than you think

The groundbreaking ’90s series Xena: Warrior Princess managed to be fiercely feminist, queer, campy, and fantastical, establishing a loyal fanbase that remains obsessed with a show that ended in 2001. Among those fans are the hosts of Xena Warrior Podcast—Vera, Katie, and Livy—who are bursting with commentary on all six 22-episode seasons. In our current age of reboots and revivals, the three hosts consider options for revamping a beloved series. They also point out how the original show was a product of its era, and how the limitations of serialized TV have changed, for better or worse. Xena has an undeniably mercurial tone, which the hosts factor into their own compelling ideas for a reboot/revival. [Jose Nateras]

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