daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian!

How 'All Songs' made me realize my dad is cool

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

FEBRUARY 08, 2016

A few weeks ago, National Public Radio’s podcast “All Songs Considered” celebrated its 16th birthday with a special episode in which hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton counted down their favorite songs from the past 16 years. It was fun, and it really made me appreciate the breadth of musical styles found on the podcast. From Arcade Fire’s emotionally-fired, sweeping anthem “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” to Kanye West’s comedic banger “Gold Digger,” to Kendrick Lamar’s dense, socially relevant “King Kunta,” each track perfectly reflected the mood of its time.

As I listened to the episode and heard some of the best songs of the 2000s, I thought about a lot of things — how long it had been since I had last listened to Regina Spektor, how revolutionary Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was, how thankful I am that I never pursued a career in music because I could never make anything that sounds half as good as any one those artists just blowing their nose.

But perhaps the most interesting thought I had went something like this: “Whoa, my dad is … like … really, really cool.”

I know — weird, right? You’re not supposed to think your dad is cool. Especially not when he’s a middle-aged Jewish man whose favorite TV show is “The Muppets,” who regularly gets mistaken for Woody Allen and whose most intriguing attribute is his ability to fall asleep in the exact same lazy-boy chair at 7 p.m. sharp every night while watching CNN.

But despite the fact that my dad possesses qualities that would be helpful to a spelling bee proctor who is being asked to use the word “uncool” in a sentence, listening to this “All Songs” episode made me realize that my dad really is cool.

Here’s why:

When most people reach a certain age (don’t worry older readers, I won’t give an exact number — I’ll just say, right around when birthdays stop being something to celebrate), it seems they go one of two ways: 1) They form a sports-fan-like obsession with the music of their youth, proudly refusing to listen to any new artists, claiming that back in their day musicians wanted to send a positive message and didn’t need to use profanity (I’m looking at you, Mom); or 2) They abandon all loyalty to the music of their day, deem self-respect unimportant and, perhaps in an attempt to connect with their children, blindly turn to the Billboard Top 40 pop songs.

But growing up, my dad was neither of those. He kept up with all the newest indie artists that I listened to. He was open-minded about hip-hop and EDM. Hell, he even introduced me to Vampire Weekend, Radiohead and Arcade Fire. And this was way before any of those artists became “mainstream.”

How could this be? “All Songs Considered.” My dad listens to every episode.

“All Songs” is an amazing podcast for those who don’t have time to listen to every single new album released every day, for those who appreciate densely insightful yet easily accessible musical analyses and, most importantly, for those who suffer from getting older, like my dad has for most of his life. The podcast follows the same, simple format most episodes: Bob and Robin take turns talking about and playing songs they like until, well, until the show ends. But that description doesn’t do the show justice — there’s more to it. Bob, Robin and the rest of the “All Songs” team spend their days sifting through piles of CDs sent to them from bands across the globe. They listen to everything. They give everything a chance. And the music they play on the show isn’t just music they arbitrarily decide sounds good, not just the same big-name American folk trios and avant-garde rappers you might find in “Pitchfork;” it’s music you wouldn’t hear anywhere else: Ukrainian folk theater, Parisian electro-swing — artists who deserve to be heard but aren’t given a voice on any other program.

And because of this, my dad is more knowledgeable about contemporary music than any youngster I know. We send each other songs all the time. We talk on the phone about Joanna Newsom, about Girlpool, about Kendrick, about everything we heard on the latest episode of “All Songs.” He’s cool. Really, really cool.

But now that I, too, have started listening to “All Songs” in order to keep up with new music, I wonder, am I getting old? Or am I just getting cooler with age like my dad?

“Cutting Room Floor” columns are one-off, arts-oriented pieces written by Daily Cal staff members.

Contact Jeremy Siegel at [email protected].

FEBRUARY 08, 2016