Sunday 16 May 2010

Is Steve Lamacq the UK Bob Boilen?

Been thinking about why we don't have an equivalent to National Public Radio's wonderful "All Songs Considered", which is a weekly radio programme, podcast and blog that has been made for NPR since 2000. The show aims to introduce the listener to new music from a wide variety of genres that is generally not heard on other radio stations. It works for me principally because of its presenter, Bob Boilen, who manages to be informative, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and opinionated all at the same time - quite a feat. It's a very personal listen, which plays to radio's strength.

Now of course we have plenty of radio shows in the UK aimed at playing new music, such as Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, John Kennedy (XFM) and many others (please suggest your recommendation below). But somehow they are not the same as All Songs Considered: perhaps because they focus mainly on up and coming artists who you pretty much won't have heard of, but also because of their pace. What I like about All Songs is the relaxed tone which means that rather than simply fitting in as many songs as possible, Bob Boilen gives time to give some context, some history, some musical comparisons and some opinion beyond "this is great". So, rather than a playlist of songs you haven't heard, it becomes a journey you are willing to go on because you value what is being said. I often find myself listening to music I wouldn't normally give ear-time to simply because of Bob's introduction.

Then last night it occurred to me - maybe we do have an equivalent: Steve Lamacq's Radio 2 show, not his 6Music daily outing, is perhaps the nearest we come to All Songs Considered. It's recently moved from late Wednesday night to late Saturday night (clearly aimed at the on-demand listener!). Lamacq sounds relaxed and happy, he takes the time to introduce new music with context, and doesn't only play brand new bands but also introduces you to music from established but generally under the radar artists who are probably never going to be top ten. Sure, it's not cutting edge like Huw or Zane can be, but it's a good listen, and at just one hour in total, is an easily digestible slice of on-demand audio.

Now if only we could make that available in full as a podcast...

If I've missed other programmes which could be described as the UK's All Songs Considered, let me know here.


  1. It's really the wide array of genres that make All Songs so compelling. I rarely hear much classical, jazz or hip hop in my day-to-day listening but for exactly the reasons you say I'm happy to let Bob Boilen expand my horizons. You also feel that he's going on a journey too. He's certainly not an expert on every genre.

    One reason we've never heard much similar on UK radio is that most of our shows are so wedded to broad genres. As "cutting-edge" as Zane or Huw might be, it's still all artists who'd be at home in NME. Late Junction mixes it up a bit and so do certain shows on 6 Music (though I think producers on all 6 shows should be forced to play a much wider range of genres beyond their indie/rock bass level). It's as if there's an asumption people don't have broad tastes or are willing to listen more widely.

    Regarding the podcast, I heard a good i/v with Bob Boilen on a Radio Academy podcast last year. I got the impression he goes to great personal efforts clearing the tracks. A lot of NPR sounds like a cottage industry!

    I tend to hear at least a bit of Steve's 6 Music show most days but admit I've rarely bothered with his Radio 2 programme. I'll give it a go.

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