Five This American Life episodes to listen to (while Serial is on break)

Yes, I’ve been listening to Serial these past few weeks. Yes, I’m actually surprised it’s gotten this big. Not that I doubted it – it is, after all, a spin-off to This American Life, and Sarah Koenig’s one of that show’s most reliable producers – but, still, it has gotten big. It might be the whole crime-story-in-installments premise. (They did say the second season, which was just confirmed, wouldn’t necessarily be about a cold case.) Or it might be the circumstances, of our new ability to become more involved armchair detectives. Anyway, the podcast’s on Thanksgiving break this week, so I figured I’d list five This American Life stories that one can listen to to while away the break. Some of my friends listen to Serial but have not encountered This American Life before, so hopefully this serves as a bit of a guide. Not that my picks are the most representative – I’ve only been listening for six years, and the show’s been going on for nineteen; you can also peruse that show’s own picks here – but, you know, I like these stories.

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Live blog: A day listening to Jam 88.3

[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Let’s just say it: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Jam 88.3 in the past couple of years. I should be a fan of the station, considering how we share similar musical sensibilities – and, for a few years, when it assumed the format K-Lite had before it became Max FM, I was. Then things changed and I listened less and less, and now I avoid it, either because they’ve gotten more juvenile or I’ve grown up and moved on. Have I been unfair to the station, now perhaps the only one in the Philippines to wave the flag for alternative music? Perhaps, so today, I’ll be listening to it and live-blogging the whole thing. I don’t know what will happen after today, but I hope it’s enlightening, in one way or another. [NB]

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Live blog: A day listening to 107.5 Wish FM

[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Just last May, we spent a whole day listening to 107.5 Win Radio, the masa station that replaced NU 107, flag-waver of Philippine alternative music. A shift from a “classy” format to a “trashy” format would inevitably get some people bemoaning the death of local radio, but we thought the station had potential… if only they got off their asses. Last August, however, things changed. UNTV (who originally ran NU, but is now better known for its TV channel showing lots of news and Ang Dating Daan) took full control of the frequency, forcing Win to effectively merge with its sister station Big Radio on 91.5. Now, 107.5 is home to Wish FM, which isn’t “trashy”… but nope, it is not an alternative radio station. We spend a whole day listening to a radio station that “grants your wishes”, whatever that means nowadays. [NB]

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The R&B Show

I haven’t heard much of Natural 97.9 since it was born out of the ashes of Home Radio. All I know is it’s a masa format, and it has Braggy, who was supposed to be on Retro 105.9 but isn’t for some reason. Anyway, their evening show has singers Duncan Ramos and Jimmy Bondoc hosting (which explains the title), and it’s different than most masa station fare. Squarely focused on local music, with lots of local acts – mostly those performing in small shows across the country, although they had Kelly Badon tonight – coming in, The R&B Show evokes the atmosphere of a bar, albeit one that needs a lot of structure. (Similar shows abound: Retro’s Saturday Retro Onstage, and to an extent, Sikat Sa Barangay on LS.) Duncan and Jimmy obviously aren’t used to the demands of radio broadcasting yet – they really should stop cheering loudly when their guests sing, or at least fade down their mics – but their musical backgrounds show: they’re cheerful, know their stuff without getting too geeky, and manage to keep things going, even if it means Jimmy’s corny (but not forced) jokes. I’ll have to admit, the disorganized feel can lead to some brilliant moments: tonight I heard 15-year-old Kris Angelica sing “Love On Top” accompanied by a guitar, a last-minute thing since the backing track wouldn’t play on the console. It was magical. But the hosts really should stop cheering so loudly. [NB]

The whimsy of Option Musique

Thanks to the complicated nature of Swiss national identity, there are many public radio stations in Switzerland: six for the Germans, three for the Italians, one for the Romansh and four for the French. Option Musique falls in the latter category, and of all the French-language stations I’ve listened to, it’s definitely the most, uhh, quirky. And I say this as a listener to FIP, the eclectic radio station that plays Beethoven and Blur next to each other (and where I found some of the songs I’ve written about). Option Musique is filled with classic French pop, and some newer songs here and there, and the occasional English song (they had Tears for Fears when I listened) – but it’s built so that it sounds like you’re listening from an AM radio in your home in generic idyllic mountains. Like you’re in an idealized version of the 60s, completed with faded colors and grainy images. There’s a sense of whimsy throughout, from the French-speaking DJs, to the choice of songs (the melodic, familiar mix means you don’t have to understand French to get it), to the jingles themselves. Ah, yes, the jingles. Option Musique has the most adorable jingles I’ve ever heard. It’s, should I say, flower-y. [NB]