Records & Riffs

By Matt Norlander

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A gabfest podcast on all things music-related. This listener-interactive pod encompasses the ever-expanding universe of popular music and touches on everything from interviews with well-known musicians to episodes debating the legacies of bands spanning dozens of genres. For any fan of music, it's a must-listen.

Episode Date
Episode 25: DMB's Busted Stuff 20 years later

The previously untold story of just how rocky this album-making process was at a critical time in DMB's history. Producer Steve Harris reveals the highs and lows of DMB's fifth major studio LP, with never-before-told stories from the studio. He also goes track-by-track with each song, detailing some of his favorite cuts and best memories. The highlight is “You Never Know,” a tune that comfortably ranks among the band’s best. Twenty years on, here’s a lengthy look back at Busted Stuff, and how busted it could have been. Plus: a few extra DMB goodies unrelated to the record that will get fans all the more curious on other projects.

Jun 15, 2022
Episode 24: The Lillywhite Sessions, with Steve Lillywhite (Part 2)

Jun 07, 2022
Episode 23: The Lillywhite Sessions (Part 1)
In 2000, Dave Matthews Band was the biggest rock act in America. The group set out to record a fourth record, on the heels of its massive hit, 1998's Before These Crowded Streets. It was a doomed process. The album's sessions eventually leaked anyway—to widespread positive reviews. The band obviously and rightfully rejected this act of defiance and piracy. The record-that-wasn't maintains a stellar reputation by fans all these years later, flaws and all. It's become one of the most well-known aborted albums in popular American music history, in part because it happened near the birth of the Napster era. Twenty-two years later, the story of the infamous sessions is recounted by DMB's lead engineer, Steve Harris. Lillywhite himself will be featured in part two.
Jun 01, 2022
Episode 22: The end of the iPod also marks the end of an era we'll never get back

In May of 2022, Apple announced it was no longer manufacturing the iPod. RIP. Of course, this is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on the so-called "iPod era," a particular near-decade of music obsessiveness that paved the way for the streaming-service dominance we live in now. Matt Norlander is joined by Joe Ovies to reflect on what was better 15 years ago vs. now, but also what wasn't. Best of all: an incomplete list of iPod artists that you will not want to miss. Get ready for the flashbacks!

May 21, 2022
Episode 21: Bob Mould + Hüsker Dü + Sugar

I’m thrilled to have noted author, Chopped champion and robe enthusiast Drew Magary join the pod. His most recent novel, Point B, is available in electronic and print form now. If you’d like to purchase a copy — and I do recommend that! — there are multiple ways to do so, but print versions can be found at Barnes & Noble here and at Amazon here. Most importantly, it was a joy to do this podcast with Drew, considering the brain hemorrhage, and subsequent coma, he suffered in late 2018. He eventually wrote a gripping, vital recollection of that incident, and so much more, for Deadspin in 2019. I can’t recommend it enough; the piece was so good, Magary’s next book will be centered around the near-death experience. This episode begins with some writing and book chat, then soon enough delves into Magary’s favorite artist: Bob Mould. He of Hüsker Dü and Sugar. Why is Mould’s work worth a deep dive? The reasons are many, led by his steadfast consistency at putting out heartfelt records that seem incapable of ever letting his fortified fan base down. And as usual, if we’re talking about an artist, we’re ranking the best records. That comes at the end of the podcast. Magary’s got a couple of curveballs in there, for sure.

Jun 14, 2020
Episode 20: Bob Dylan

This episode was handled with care and with special attention for Chris’ family, most specifically his wife and daughter. It is a gift to be able to bring him back to life in this way. Rest in peace, Chris Chase, you are so missed.

May 13, 2020
Episode 19: Is the jam-band genre past its peak -- forever?

Relix co-editor-in-chief Dean Budnick joins R&R to look at the legacy of the Grateful Dead, discuss what's changed with the jam-band scene and offers up thoughts on how the genre has evolved -- and not.

Sep 15, 2019
Episode 18: The Rolling Stones (The Lost Episodes)

Records & Riffs returns from hiatus with a surprise: a batch of old episodes, recorded in 2016 and 2017, will be published in the coming weeks before new episodes go into the feed. This episode doesn’t just discuss the Rolling Stones and their discography, but also features a conversation and behind-the-scenes details about the band from writer/author Rich Cohen, who’s written a book on the Stones and previously documented the band in Rolling Stone magazine.

Sep 01, 2019
Episode 17: Steve Lillywhite on Before These Crowded Streets (Part 2)

Before These Crowded Streets was a game-changer for DMB. The band never made another record like it.

In this episode, Lillywhite talks with host Matt Norlander not just about the intricate details of each song, but gets into the working and musicianship dynamic of every member of the band. He opens up about how he got the best out of Boyd Tinsley in the studio, his appreciation for Stefan Lessard’s approach to the bass, and what made LeRoi Moore a beautiful but complicated person.

Norlander also wrote a piece for Relix Magazine about the album.

Apr 30, 2018
Episode 16: Producer Steve Lillywhite reflects on 20-year anniversary Dave Matthews Band's "Before These Crowded Streets" (Part 1)
The most celebrated album of Dave Matthews Band's career is 1998's reputation-bending Before These Crowded Streets, a 70-minute magnum opus that features the band at its biggest and best. Steve Lillywhite produced the album, in addition to other DMB records from the 1990s, and joins the podcast for two episodes to discuss so much of what makes this album the band's most respected -- and yet still doesn't get its mainstream due 20 years removed from its release. 
 This episode details Lillywhite's approach to producing DMB and what designs he had on the album well before he even knew what songs the band was bringing to the table. He also gets into why he got sober and how, ironically, this record is what he feels is his most psychedelic despite the fact he was not on drugs or alcohol while producing it.
Apr 27, 2018
2016: The Year in Music
From Chance the Rapper to David Bowie, Kanye West to Culture Abuse, Sturgill Simpson to Bon Iver, a look at what did and didn't land in music in 2016. Matt Norlander runs down his 15 favorite records, and 15 more than he thought were overrated or under-delivered.
Jan 16, 2017
2015: The Year in Music
So, how good was 2015 for mainstream music? Matt Norlander runs down more 40 of the most notable albums that were put out over the past 12 months.
Dec 31, 2015
Episode 13: Guitar Gods
The epic conclusion to the first season of the Records & Riffs podcast is a self-indulgent and entirely enthusiastic 90-minute examination into some of the best mainstream guitarists in music history. What makes/made them great, who are the underrated would-be gods, who are the best guys going under 40, etc. Jimi, Jimmy, Stevie, Eddie, Angus, Duane, Mayer, Gilmour, Berry, Beck, Rhoads, Neil and more. This episode is for the gearheads and historians alike. Plus: What happened to the guitar solo? Is it gone for good? Is that a good thing. Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee -- who is as knowledgeable and enthusiastic on this topic as anyone -- joins Matt Norlander for a triple album-length gabfest on why they'll always love the power of the guitar.
Oct 09, 2015
Episode 12: Ben Folds Five
How could a band that came to be in the heart of the 1990s alt-rock spell find a footing adn a following without a guitar player? That's what Ben Folds Five did, and the band's reputation continues to remain in good standing despite just one album released from the group in the past 15 years. Folds himself has put out plenty of music, much of it esteemed. Chip Patterson, sportswriter at CBS Sports and a Ben Folds Five freak, joins host Matt Norlander to gab about a group that still clearly has plenty left to say. Darren Jessee, Robert Sledge and Ben. Let the trio play on. Ben Folds Five fans are proudly anti-emo but geeky in their own right at the same time. For those of y'all that wear fannypacks: come on. Give it a listen.
Oct 09, 2015
Episode 11: Talking Real Estate -- with Real Estate!
What is it about certain bands' sounds that make them stand out? Is it luck? Timing? Some of that, but songwriting and sonic conviction is also key. Few indie rock acts over the past 15 years have had as strong a three-record showing to start a career as Real Estate. Martin Courtney is the primary songwriter and vocalist for the band. He joins the pod to discuss how the group formed, how he writes and approaches the band's sound, and how he stumbled into a solo record (which is good in its own right). Also, there's that name. Kind of a boring name, but the story on it dates back to a dinner with his parents.
Oct 09, 2015
Episode 10: The State of Pop Music in 2015
What makes a good pop song, and has the value of a good pop song changed? In many ways, yes. Has the "soul" of a song been altered in a new landscape for music-making and music listening? Absolutely. Tom Junod is an award-winning writer-at-large for Esquire, and he's the guest on this episode. Junod has laments, theories, questions and frustrations over the current state of what makes it to modern radio and how the process has reach a saturation point. Popular music has never been more widely retrievable and yet at the same time never been this seemingly disposable. How did we get here, and what's coming in the next decade?
Oct 09, 2015
Episode 9: David Bowie
All told, David Bowie is probably one of the three most important and influential solo artists to come out of the 1970s. That's the premise of the ninth episode from season one of the Records & Riffs podcast. The guest? Bomani Jones, most known for his comprehensive commentary on sports, is also well-versed in many a music topic. His opinions strike a spectrum of emotions in readers, listeners to his radio show, his litany of Twitter followers and hate-followers, but Jones is undeniably qualified to gab on music and to do it for long periods at a time. In Bowie, Bomani details what made his work vital, how he is singular in the world of music, and what records are the go-tos. Never gotten into Bowie's stuff? We understand why that might be, but this podcast details exactly why you should give it a closer listen. There are many phases to Bowie, and chances are at least one of his 26 studio LPs will find its way to an enjoyable cul-de-sac in your brain. With Bowie, the appreciation seems to be waning just a bit, so listen and acquaint yourself with the strange and aesthetic world that is the music of Bowie.
Oct 08, 2015
Episode 8: Phish
It's the perfect podcast episode about Phish. Enough information and minutiae to appease the diehards, but plenty of primers for casual and newbie Phish fans. The band has finally graduated to a level of no longer being a pop culture joke. This is a group that's become one of America's most successful touring acts of all time, and somehow the band has survived a serious hiatus to improve its music and live shows to a level never thought attainable before. In many ways, what Phish is doing now -- love or hate their music -- is unprecedented. Floppy-haired fanboi Will Brinson, CBS Sports colleague of host Matt Norlander, joins the podcast to dish on Phish.
Oct 08, 2015
Episode 7: Talking Umphrey's McGee -- with Umphrey's McGee!
Go ahead and do the research: You'll discover few, if any, rock acts out there today are as multifaceted, talented, nimble and forward-leaning as Umphrey's McGee. The band has an EXTREMELY dedicated hardcore fan base. Band bassist Ryan Stasik joins the pod to discuss all things Umph, including his hate for the band's name, and how it came to be. Stasik details how the band practices, how it trusts each other on stage and how no one is allowed to say "no."
Oct 02, 2015
Episode 6: Vinyl records
Let's go beyond the surface discussion of the "vinyl boom" and look at the good and the bad that's come with the hobby's massive rebirth over the past eight years. Chris Lantinen runs He joins host Matt Norlander to discuss how the music business is putting one foot in the grave yet again -- and how independent record stores hold a responsibility in all of this as well. Plus, of course: Why vinyl is the best way to become a music fan.
Oct 02, 2015
Episode 5: Taylor Swift
Yes, it's OK to admit: You love Taylor Swift. Or maybe you really don't get it at all. But that's why this episode was recorded. Is Taylor Swift the most powerful person in music? And how did she get so big by the age of 25? Deadspin culture writer Rob Harvilla joins the pod to explain how Swift continues to rightfully earn praise. There's an element to her success that's frequently overlooked yet pretty important. And yes, we touch on that Ryan Adams 1989 cover LP, too.
Oct 01, 2015
Episode 4: Nirvana
Nirvana is considered by most to be among the most influential and important rock acts ever. Does that mean it's true? How has the band's influence and standing in popular culture and music culture changed in the past decade? Writer/journalist Will Leitch, a well-versed Nirvana fan, joins the pod to debate many a Nirvana topic with host Matt Norlander.
Oct 01, 2015
Episode 3: Talking Guster — with Guster!
Guster has achieved national acclaim as an ever-evolving alternative pop band for more than 20 years now. Its drummer, Brian Rosenworcel, joins the podcast to discuss the origins of the band, what comes next, how it ever got to this point, and so much more.
Oct 01, 2015
Episode 2: Favorite album-opening tracks
A great album has to start with a great first track. Here are some of the best. Grantland staff writer Steven Hyden joins host Matt Norlander to talk some of their favorite side one, track ones of all-time.
Sep 10, 2015
Episode 1: An introduction.
Matt Norlander's introductory episode of the Records & Riffs podcast quickly details what to expect from a music podcast that, hopefully, us unlke any you've listened to before. And just what you've been hoping to find.
Sep 03, 2015