This week, "Our Spilt Milk" looks at our favorite things this week, which include "The Late Late Show," Song Exploder, and Major Lazer's "Peace is the Mission."
"Our Spilt Milk" allows readers to share their current favorite things. If you want to tell people about something you're listening to, watching, reading, or playing, write me at email@example.com and tell me. I'd love to hear from you.
When Craig Ferguson left The Late Late Show, I swore to despise his successor with the kind of loyal, protective loathing that Doctor Who fans conjure for whatever new actor is to take over the show. Watching Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show felt like being part of a secret community. He treated the show like no one else was watching, and a laissez-faire attitude ruled his interview style and running jokes, many of which were only privy to repeat watchers. I liked being in his off-klter in-group.
James Corden, who took over The Late Late Show on March 23, is an entirely different host. Corden originated the role of Richard Timms in "The History Boys," my favorite play of all time, and is a quietly successful comedian, actor, and singer. I begrudgingly relented. Maybe I wouldn't hate him.
Whereas Ferguson couldn't care less, Corden cares, and he cares deeply. He knows that the show's late air time doesn't limit his viewership when his material can gain legs online. More importantly, he knows that he needs to take big risks in order to compete with the other late shows. In the several months that he's been on the air, the sheer number of sketches Corden has taken on is overwhelming: Carpool Karaoke, Take a Break, Act Out Filmography, and many other one-offs.
It's in these mostly unscripted bits that Corden is in his element. He's as unjaded and delighted in the job as Jimmy Fallon, but he's more genuinely comfortable and creative with his audience. He's likable and wants everyone to be in on the joke. Perhaps that's the reason why Corden gets away with pushing further than his colleagues seem at ease with. In his interviews, he would not relent when asking One Direction about Zayn Malik's departure or Mila Kunis about her marriage. Admittedly, not make-or-break topics, but touchy nonetheless.
Corden's personality carries the show but it sometimes gets in the way. He's adopted Graham Norton's multi-guest format on a smaller scale, with mixed results. Occasionally he doesn't allow guests the space to tell a story, and sometimes he's just too enthusiastic. Corden is most comfortable and endearing, however, in his candid bits outside the studio. It's clear he's having fun, and though I miss Craig Ferguson's rowdy, grouchy antics, I think I'm ready for a new era. (Stephanie Chen, med student and former My Spilt Milk intern)
When I first heard of the Song Exploder podcast, I didn’t see enough songs I wanted exploded to listen. When 99 Percent Invisible tacked an episode to one of its episodes, I got it. The podcast allows a musician to explain the process of making a song, playing snippets of isolated tracks to hear its building blocks. Perhaps because the first one I heard featured a song I didn’t know—The Long Winters’ “The Commander Thinks Aloud”—I heard the podcast as not about favorite songs but creativity. The buzz wasn’t the warm, fuzzy glow that comes from knowing the inside story of something I love; it’s about how people who make creative decisions for a living keep the process from becoming rote.
Host Hrishikesh Hirway edits the episodes to let the subjects talk, cutting himself out and leaving behind monologues about intuitive decisions the choices that keep the music fresh. When The Arcade Fire’s Will Butler talks about the making of his song “Anna,” he talks about intentionally finding the almost-but-not-quite-right sound on a synthesizer so that he could tweak it until it became a sound that excited him, instead of simply the one he had in mind when he started.
The show’s pretty addictive, so after The Long Winters episode, I binge-heard four more more, which is easily done since they’re between 10 and 20 minutes—ones on “Anna,” The Avengers: Age of Ultron title theme, TuNe-yArDs’ “Water Fountain,” and Toro Y Moi’s “Half Dome.” For me one of the interesting takeaways was that Song Exploder didn’t exert undue influence over my attitudes toward the songs. I liked the ideas and pieces behind the Toro Y Moi track, which sounds fussy to me, and even though Butler doesn’t mention the seminal electropunk duo Suicide, I hear their influence all over “Anna,” particularly his Alan Vega-like vocals. Suicide may genuinely not have been in the back of his mind, and perhaps Butler really did follow a similar musical path to the places Vega found, but I don’t feel like his explanation boxes out my take. If anything, hearing his process suggests how Vega—may have worked as well. (Alex Rawls, creator of My Spilt Milk)
Peace is the Mission, the newest release from the multinational music project Major Lazer, shows that EDM critics are picky, but its fans aren’t. Most reviews tell you that Peace departs from Major Lazer’s original electro-dancehall vibe in a bad way, and that it’s too mainstream. Those critics have never been to a rave. The beauty of EDM is in its social life, and Peace is the Mission’s high-energy fusion of electro-reggae funk with the well-loved styles of pop, rock, and hip-hop lets a lot of people in. It sparks a connection to a community and music culture that is too big and too diverse to care about the labels of genres or how mainstream everyone’s favorite song sounds. EDM’s fans all come from different backgrounds, but, whether it’s the ecstasy or the beer making everyone friendly, it is the music that brings everyone together. Peace is the Mission doesn’t cater to any one kind of person; it is a gateway album. (Daniel Kelley, University of California-Riverside student)