Friday, August 22, 2008

College & Independent Radio

Ever since my college days way back when I’ve always been fascinated with college and independent radio. Even as a high school weekend new waver/punk rocker lite, I’d tune into WLYN in Lynn (which later morphed into WFNX – another k-rock monolith). Was it the poor signals? Maybe, but it was the fact that I was, as now, treated like a listener rather than a consumer.

The real seeds were sown back in my UVM days, hanging out at WRUV. Fun times.

Nowadays the stations air shows with brilliant names like McAllister’s Hostile Makeover, Gorilla Got Me, the James Dean Death Car Experience, the Pontoon Palace, Music for Nimrods, Coffee Time, Mélodie du Jour, Alma del Barrio, etc. Most importantly, these DJ’s totally know their shit; I come away having learned about a new album or artist every time.

I appreciate that. But I really appreciate that you have no commercials (I'll say it again, no commercials), and you hear music and programming that you cannot hear anywhere else. And save for the occasional fundraiser week (hey they need money, and you might just score a hip t shirt or sticker), Yah-hoo!

So if you are into indie* rock, jazz, punk, garage, underground 60’s (not oldies), please check out these stations:

WMBR:
Yup, MIT sets the gold standard. There are programs for indie rock*/pop, punk, jazz, electronic, house, funk, soul, roots, reggae, bluegrass, and even pub rock. The concert reports are most welcome, and they give out tickets most liberally. First on the FM dial, and first in my heart. My favorite shows are Breakfast of Champions, Late Risers Club, Lost and Found, Gorilla Got Me. Do yourself a huge favor and listen to this station.

KXLU:
Out in Los Angeles. Loyola Marymount University’s station. Super fun, great programming, and the DJ’s have no idea how cool they are (for the most part). Lost of indie* pop, rock, shoegazer, twee, with a healthy dose of garage, surf and hip-hop.


WZBC:
Very similar to KXLU, with a slightly more electronic edge. Straight outta my alma mater, Boston College, they are a great alternative to MBR. You’ll here indie* pop, rock, shoegazer, twee, with another healthy dose of garage. Warning: at noon is Democracy Now! It sucks – Amy Goodman sucks. If those Jesuits ever heard the bullcrap that miserable hag spews they’d shut the whole station down. And I’m an Obama supporter! Seriously, as soon as you hear that wench, it’s time to tune in WMBR! OK, I'm better now. Alex's Mélodie du Jour on Friday mornings is not to be missed. After listening to her I have a list of songs I by on iTunes. Thanks Alex.


KKJZ:
Yes, the jazzy side of yours truly. KKJZ: It's Cal State Long Beach’s very own, and America's Jazz and Blues Station. Amazing jazz programming. One outstanding show is Jazz on the Latin side hosted by José Rizo. Wow! And on the weekends it’s nothin’ but the blues. Tune in here: jazzandblues.org. You won't be disappointed.

WGBH:

For more jazz, Eric in the evening is great. Otherwise GBH is yet another fallen NPR affiliate. NPR: it ain’t what it used to be. A pity.

WHRB:
I run hot & cold on these guys. It's Harvard after all, what should I expect? There’s a good HRB and a bad HRB. The Jungian thing, the duality of radio? When HRB is good, it’s sublime, incredible, tops! When HRB is bad it’s bloody awful. But let’s focus on the good. Super jazz and garage shows. And classical if you like that. And their orgies (!!): 18-24 hours of one artist. Can they do that now? Back in ’94 they did an Orgy for Sky Saxon and the Seeds, an orgy for the books! Tune out for the Harvard football & hockey games unless that’s your bag. Harvard is like life, you must take your good with your bad.

WERS:
Great reggae, the only time I tune in, really. BUT why did they move it from the 5-8 evening commute timeslot? Nothing was better than chilling out with some rankin’ skankin’ reggae while dealing with Boston area traffic. Outside of reggae programming they try so hard, lots of spirit, they are always worth checking out.

There are loads of honorable mentions, like WRUV (UVM), WUNH (UNH), and I think Penn had a great station too (WXPN).

So whatever your preference, take some time and tune in at the bottom of the f.m. dial, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. All these stations steam over the web, so you can hear them via iTunes or WinAmp.

*Indie: that word has been hijacked by the man. It means music form smaller independent record labels, or music you wouldn’t normally hear on the big corporate commercial stations up the dial. The man is cunning, a master of linguistics to keep us blind, to define happiness for us, the consuming sheep.

Stay trim! - HT.