Discord & Rhyme: An Album Podcast

Discord and Rhyme is a podcast where we discuss the albums we love, song by song.

023: Kate Bush - The Dreaming (1982)

Discord & Rhyme’s panel is just a power trio this week of John, Rich, and host Producer Mike, but that didn’t stop them from covering an album with some of the headiest concepts in popular music. On 1982’s The Dreaming, Kate Bush opines on the futility of squeezing the totality of human knowledge into your puny brain; tells a tale of a heist caper that’s more about the anxiety of pulling off a heist; and puts you in the head of a Viet Cong soldier who’s about to throw a grenade — and that’s just the first three songs! Mike loves The Dreaming because the music sounds like it’s “happening in some non-Euclidean space inside Kate Bush’s head,”  and if you’re only familiar with her already out-there hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “Wuthering Heights,” the pure sonic experience of this album may be overwhelming. But if you sit back and let the weirdness in, this is music unlike anything else on this plane of reality.

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022: Blue Öyster Cult - Secret Treaties (1974)

Yeah, yeah, we know, I got a fever, yadda yadda. At this point, Blue Öyster Cult are probably best known for the 2000 Saturday Night Live sketch “More Cowbell,” where Christopher Walken repeatedly demands that the band play up the faint cowbell in their 1975 hit single “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and we all had a good laugh. But the sketch barely scratches the surface of the fascinating, strange depths of BÖC’s music. The band started off as basically a vessel for the vision of rock critic Sandy Pearlman, who filled their lyrics with convoluted mythology and gave the band rock music’s very first decorative umlaut. And despite their goal of being “the American Black Sabbath,” BÖC didn’t really sound like any rock music of the time, to the point where Eric Bloom could call his rhythm guitar “stun guitar” and nobody would think to ask why. In this episode, Phil leads Dan, Mike, and Rich through Secret Treaties, the pinnacle of the band as a cohesive vision, featuring a lyrical cameo by Patti Smith and the story of a U.S. Supreme Court justice who steals people’s eyeballs. You know, like people do.

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021 (feat. Barbara Manning): The 6ths - Wasps' Nests (1995)

Tribute albums are generally mighty rough terrain. Admittedly, you will every so often come across a gem of an interpretation like the Cowboy Junkies' killer version of "Ooh Las Vegas" (on Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons), but these collections generally require you to paw through a disproportionate amount of oyster gunk to get to their pearls. Lucky for us, the Magnetic Fields' fastidious idea-geyser Stephin Merritt decided to preempt anyone else's attempts to pay tribute to his music by doing it himself. The result was 1995's indie-pop classic Wasps' Nests, recorded under the tongue-punishing name the 6ths, for which Merritt wrote and recorded all original songs, but recruited the cream of the who's-who of mid-'90s indie-rock to sing each of the tracks.

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020: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)

Remember when Amanda said T-Bone Burnett is her favorite producer? She’s proving it this episode by walking Rich, Will, and John through Raising Sand, the unlikely collaboration between blues-rock god Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss. These two found the common ground between their respective genres by covering artists from the Everly Brothers to Sam Phillips, and found their own beautiful sound while they were doing it. All of the musicians on this album are incredible, but nobody except T-Bone Burnett could have seen this project through, and that is why we love him.

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019: Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Good morn and evening, friends, and get ready for a super-sized episode. Stevie Wonder has a deep catalog of classic, beloved LPs, but since this week’s host, Ben, follows the “because it’s there” approach to choosing albums for this podcast, we’re tackling the longest, most epic one of all: 1976’s Songs in the Key of Life. Encompassing two LPs and a bonus EP, Songs is “massive and meant to be massive,” Ben argues to co-hosts Phil, Mike, and John — and just look at the list of personnel if you don’t believe us. Even if not every song lands, the album is such a mountain range of joyous musical peaks that you’re likely going to emerge from it adoring at least a dozen tracks. Plus, ‘90s kids will recognize the source material for both Coolio’s legendary anthem “Gangsta’s Paradise” and Will Smith’s much less legendary soundtrack cash-in “Wild Wild West.” This one might take you a few commutes, but if you’ve somehow not yet experienced the music of Stevie Wonder, we promise you’re about to have a new favorite artist.

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018: Devo - Duty Now for the Future (1979)

Put down the chainsaw, and listen to us — it’s time for Discord & Rhyme’s guide to Devo! You probably best know Devo for their 1980 hit “Whip It,” but that song is only the tip of the Devo iceberg, which is red and shaped like an energy dome. This episode, Dan skews from the standard Devo path, choosing neither their critically adored debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo nor their commercial breakthrough Freedom of Choice. Instead, he guides Mike, Rich, and Will through the album between those two, Duty Now for the Future, a pioneering album in the genre of synthpop, and an example of the gristly “connective tissue” that enriches a really great band’s discography. You might not have heard of anything on the album, but every single song is brimming over with that distinctive Devo identity.

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017 (feat. Shivam Bhatt): Takashi Tateishi - Mega Man 2 OST (1988)

Discord & Rhyme is breaking format this week to talk about ... a video game soundtrack! This week’s host, Rich, has a love for the classic Capcom NES series Mega Man that may run even deeper than his love of music, and composer Takashi Tateishi’s legendary soundtrack combines the two with panache. Mega Man 2 was a true passion project, developed on the side while its team worked on games that were deemed more profitable. To give Tateishi inspiration under such stressed circumstances, producer Akira “A.K.” Kitamura encouraged him to build the level design into his compositions, giving him a series of punchy phrases (“Keep moving along at a brisk pace… don’t stand in one place for too long!”) to use as frameworks. The result is routinely considered one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time, and a fine standalone piece of electronic music, to boot. Rich takes Phil, Will, and special guest Shivam Bhatt through the soundtrack’s most important cuts — including a handy primer on the NES sound chip!

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016: Procol Harum - Exotic Birds and Fruit (1974)

British art rock band Procol Harum is remembered today mainly for its 1967 single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” and for almost nothing else. This is a mistake; far from a one-hit wonder, Procol Harum established itself from 1967 to 1974 as one of the more consistently solid album-oriented bands of the era, even as their style shifted from art rock to hard rock and back. In this episode, Prog John makes his triumphant return by leading Rich, Phil, and Mike through a look at a long-time favorite of his, the 1974 album “Exotic Birds and Fruit.” The album saw the band make a conscious turn from an orchestra-centered style towards a style that synthesized its whole past (including its mid-60s R&B roots). Join us we take a journey through a wonderful (mostly) album and a band that does, indeed, go far “Beyond the Pale.”

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015: Parliament - Mothership Connection (1975)

You can’t have the funk unless you have the whole funk and nothing but the funk, so Discord & Rhyme is treating you to a second round of P-Funk. This time, Mike rounds out the story by discussing Parliament, who are tighter and much more orderly than the looser, rougher Funkadelic, and feature a truly excellent horn section. Their 1975 masterpiece Mothership Connection officially declared Parliament-Funkadelic as a cohesive, galactic entity, and its space-age soundscapes have massively influenced music since, even spawning the “G-Funk” subgenre of hip-hop most famously associated with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Even more relevant to this podcast’s very particular tastes — it’s kind of proggy! And if you don’t believe us, read the epigraph above and then join us as soon as you are groovy.

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014: Funkadelic - Maggot Brain (1971)

Do not attempt to adjust your podcast apps. Discord & Rhyme is devoting the whole month of January to the world of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, better known as P-Funk. Though P-Funk eventually came to comprise a single, massive collective of musicians releasing records under the names Parliament and Funkadelic, the two sides of P-Funk have different sounds and histories, and in this episode and the next, we’re going to dive in to what makes each one supergroovalistic. We’re starting with Funkadelic, as Phil takes Ben, Dan, and Mike through 1971’s Maggot Brain, a ragged, scuzzy, surreal album that some consider P-Funk’s crowning achievement. And be sure to come back in two weeks, when Mike will be covering Parliament’s masterpiece Mothership Connection, thus completing the P-Funk cosmology.

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