DVD commentary for music


I’m currently deep in binge mode with Dissect, a music podcast that picks an album and spends an entire season analysing it, one episide per track. It’s a one-man show entirely created by host Cole Cuchna, and it’s serious music nerd-out territory.

The first season takes on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, an album which I had already loved, but in retrospect had no real appreciation of the depth of theme and narrative throughout it. Kenrick’s album is genuis on a level that I hadn’t understood before listenting to Cuchna’s 12+ hour critical analysis of it. Which to me is not a bad return.

Dissect fits into what seems like a new category of “breaking down music” podcasts: Switched on Pop (previously recommended here) and Song Exploder do somewhat similar things with individual tracks.

It strikes me that this is a new genre that could really only ever exist in podcast form. More than ever music that deserves analysis like this has become an internal affair, listened to privately on headphones while working or commuting. Podcasts seem like a natural fit. They are well suited to audio exploration, obviously, but also match the intimate nature of how I think people dissect music themselves: largely as a private internal monologue picking apart tiny phrases or production touches. There are probably hundreds of brief moments in songs that I privately recognise as something that resonates, but it would feel weird to talk to someone about. Yet the one-on-one format of someone speaking directly into your ear with no time limit seems to create space for that, even if it does mean a 40 minute episode discussing a 4 minute song.

Looking back at the short period during which DVDs were actually a thing, I only miss bonus material: those little extras that were often included with a movie like a director’s commentary or behind-the-scenes featurette. For a certain type of person, me included, understanding how or why something was made only increases my appreciation of it; to me, that’s the main function of good criticism. The rise of YouTube video essays seems to have bridged the gap for movie criticism, but I can’t think of anything similar that had already existed in this space for music.

Which is why Dissect and other podcasts like it are exciting to me: the content is often great in itself, but it’s also cool that there are new types of media to be invented that are truly native to these new formats – in this case in-depth musical analysis. Who knows what further new art forms podcasts or Stories or messaging apps or whatever else will throw up.

Anyway, I reccomend Dissect, I guess is what I’m saying. Season 2 did Kanye’s epic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I’m fully here for. Meanwhile Spotify gave Cuchna a full time job and Season 3 (subject still a mystery) is dropping next week. Good times for music nerdery! \o/

— 10 May 2018