Radio David Byrne: Stream Free Music Playlists Created Every Month by the Frontman of Talking Heads

Pho­to cour­tesy of CC-BY-SA‑3.0.

David Byrne has played many roles: front­man of Talk­ing Heads, archi­tec­tur­al observ­er, com­pos­er of opera (specif­i­cal­ly opera about Imel­da Mar­cos, for­mer first lady of the Philip­pines, the coun­try from which I write this post today), enthu­si­as­tic musi­cal col­lab­o­ra­tor, urban cycling advo­cate — and that only counts the ones he’s played here in Open Cul­ture posts. (Some­day, we’ve got to write up his love of Pow­er­point.) But did you know he’s also done a free inter­net radio show, and for near­ly a decade at that? “For one or two days a month I queue up David Byrne’s Radio Sta­tion on the web and lis­ten to his two-hour loop of new, won­der­ful, deli­cious tunes,” writes Kevin Kel­ly in a Cool Tools post from 2008, just over halfway into the life of the show so far. “Rock-star Byrne is a pro­fes­sion­al musi­cal pio­neer, admirably eclec­tic in his taste, yet astute­ly dis­crim­i­nat­ing at the same time. Over years of lis­ten­ing to all kinds of music — exper­i­men­tal, indie, inter­na­tion­al, fringe, clas­si­cal, pop — he’s heard enough to make some great rec­om­men­da­tions.”

Kel­ly cites such tan­ta­liz­ing Byrnean playlists as “Ice­landic Pop,” “Opera high­lights,” “Eclec­tic Stuff,” and “African Fusion Pop.” More recent ses­sions, which can run for three hours or longer, include “South­ern Writ­ers,” “Songs of Burt Bacharach,” and “Raga Rock.” A new playlist comes out every month. You can list to his August playlist, “Cus­tom Jack­ets, Now and Then,” a cel­e­bra­tion of women “who have been taint­ed or touched by coun­try music” includ­ing Neko Case, Emmy­lou Har­ris, Gillian Welch, and Lucin­da Williams. You can also hear a brand new Novem­ber playlist on the front page, which uses a new­er audio play­er than all the pre­vi­ous install­ments. “Viva Mex­i­co Part 1” promis­es a selec­tion of artists from that vibrant coun­try who “have found ways to incor­po­rate their Mex­i­can musi­cal her­itage and cul­ture into what might be called the glob­al pop form,” result­ing not in “imi­ta­tions of North Amer­i­can or UK alt-rock” but songs that “sound like noth­ing but them­selves.” And if you can’t trust David Byrne to know musi­cal unique­ness when he hears it, who can you trust?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Byrne: How Archi­tec­ture Helped Music Evolve

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.