Happy Wednesday, everyone. This is a newsletter that will involve mention of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, the legendary New Jersey hip-hop group Fugees, and gardening. We contain multitudes.
The 11th: ‘Time Machine: The Score’
Given my deep enjoyment of Hanif Abdurraqib’s previous podcast work — his season of KCRW’s Lost Notes was in my top-ten list for 2020 — it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was quick to pick up his latest audio effort, and even less of a surprise that I enjoyed that too.
Time Machine: The Score comes as the second release from The 11th, Pineapple Street’s feed dedicated to publishing works that don’t naturally fit conventional podcast structure (at least according to the studio’s judgment). Here, the team has built a “concept album” featuring a series of essays from Abdurraqib about The Score, the second and final studio album by the legendary hip-hop group Fugees that broke records when it was released in 1996. Adhering to the concept-album conceit, Time Machine: The Score takes the shape of a two-parter — “Side A” and “Side B” — each containing four essay “tracks.”
If you are familiar with Abdurraqib’s work in any way, you probably know what you’re getting here. But for the unfamiliar, here’s what to expect: vignettes that stretch across time and memory; sharp observations that conjure vivid imagery; reflections on the ways in which a piece of art can attach to one’s self and help form the basis of an identity.
The essays are also, of course, gorgeously written. Of the Booga Basement, the home studio where Fugees recorded The Score:
The basement was a place where one could be both brilliant and foolish depending on the hour or second. It can summon low-stakes experimentation with high-stakes results. The basement is where you might go to get away with something, and when you get away with something enough times, you’ll chase the next forbidden thing until everything feels like an unlocked door.
Kicking Abdurraqib’s lyrical deliveries up to a higher gear is some excellent scoring and sound design by Raj Makhija. When Abdurraqib describes Lauryn Hill’s vocals in “Killing Me Softly” — “I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style” — as gliding over the harmonies and beats, one can say that he is doing the very same thing himself.
What good timing, too. Yesterday, ten days after Time Machine’s release, Fugees announced that they were reuniting for an international tour to celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary.
Say You’re Sorry
Would it be inaccurate to say that we seem to be in an era where public apologies have never felt more ubiquitous and elusive? On the one hand, whether from a celebrity or a corporation, they are a routinely expected occurrence nowadays, coming and going like the weather. On the other hand, the air is utterly thick with powerful individuals and institutions that simply see no need to apologize at all. Furthermore, the apologies we do get rarely feel consequential. Such pronouncements hardly ever transcend suspicion of being mere exercises in image management. It’s a sorry state of sorries, enough to make one wonder why we even bother at all.
Into this muck steps Say You’re Sorry, a new Audible Original that dropped earlier this month. Created by the writer Lux Alptraum, who co-hosts the series with producer Siona Peterous, the series bills itself as a study of public apologies that intends to understand why they’re so hard to execute well and why they’re often difficult to believe. The premise is instantly head-turning, made even more compelling by the fact that Say You’re Sorry is a project by Bucket of Eels, the new audio studio founded by Rose Eveleth, best known as the creator of the popular futurism podcast Flash Forward. (Alptraum, by the way, also hosted the second season of New York Magazine’s audio-documentary series, Tabloid.)
Say You’re Sorry is built as a survey of case studies from a few different “apology arenas.” Its nine episodes run the gamut. A few installments are dedicated to unpacking celebrity apologies — perhaps the most popularly traded form in the genre — while the rest stretch across significantly heavier material: apologies from institutions, corporations, and countries, along with apologies grounded in situations involving sexual assault. Say You’re Sorry recounts the details of these stories in forensic fashion, sometimes to an extreme degree, but the meticulous approach is a big part of what makes the show work. Alptraum and Peterous ultimately build toward a concluding thought that’s a little too optimistic for my sensibilities, but the series nevertheless offers a solid meditation on why we bother with public apologies in the first place. (You can head here for my full review of the podcast.)
➽ If you’ve been furiously reading (as I have, admittedly) about the extremely convoluted and strange Alex Murdaugh case in South Carolina — which involves a double-homicide investigation, a failed self-assassination attempt that’s part of an insurance-fraud scheme, and an upwardly creeping body count — and at any point said to yourself, “I bet there’s a podcast about this,” obviously you’d be right. There are, in fact, several. At this writing, the one that’s been trending the most on the various podcast charts seems to be Mandy Matney’s Murdaugh Murders (say that fast three times), and if I’m not mistaken, one of the hosts of The Murdaugh Family Murders: Impact of Influence popped up on CNN to discuss the case recently. As with the case of most true-crime media on the internet more generally, do remember to exercise good news hygiene should you find yourself down this podcast rabbit hole. Keep in mind, for example, the fact that Matney is affiliated with FITSNews, a conservative-libertarian political blog based in South Carolina that has a bit of a reputation for being a questionable tabloid-esque rag, and that a considerable number of DIY true-crime pods that appear in search results of the case rarely amount to more than amateur sleuthing. (See also: the internet focus on the Gabby Petito story.) Podcasting’s democratic nature cuts both ways, after all.
➽ JJ Redick, the journeyman NBA veteran known for his three-point shot and to some extent his contentious college career, is retiring from professional basketball at the ripe age of 37, which means he’ll likely be spending more time working on his relatively new career as a podcaster and budding podcast mogul. His show, The Old Man and the Three, is one of the more interesting entries in the steadily growing subgenre of athlete podcasts — by the way, The New Yorker’s Hua Hsu wrote a great piece about that trend back in March — and it serves as the centerpiece of ThreeFourTwo Productions, the podcast network he co-founded with Tommy Alter, whose production credits include Desus & Mero and The Shop. As a huge NBA consumer, I listen to Old Man and the Three quite a bit, though now that Redick’s retiring, I’m probably going to shift more attention to the other sharpshooter in the network that’s still in the league: noted podcast fan Duncan Robinson, who co-hosts with The Long Shot with Davis Reid.
➽ Was that too niche? Let’s end with a slight digression that might be even more niche for this readership: I’m plenty pumped about Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which returned for its second season last week. The opening episode was smoldering with promise, teeing up a series of intriguing questions: Is it logistical for Jen Shah to still be on the show while being investigated for her part in a wire-fraud scheme? Did one of her co-stars tip the Feds off to her location? Are they only filming the show in the winter to play up the Salt Lake City aesthetic? The show will probably drag things out for a few more weeks before it gets around to all that, but in the meantime, let’s keep things relevant to the original subject matter of 1.5x Speed: Mary Crosby started a podcast? One that doesn’t seem to be listed in any of the major podcast players at this point in time? Curious!
Reader Pick: Epic Gardening
“When I first discovered Epic Gardening a couple years ago, there weren’t a whole lot of gardening podcasts that I could find. (I’d listened to a British gardener discussing a garden show somewhere in England. Imagine someone with her apron and secateurs meandering about.) Epic Gardening is short and sweet, five to ten minutes each, dropping daily Monday through Friday. The host, Kevin Espiritu, has a gardening assistant named Jacques, and you’ll get to know both of them in their own ways. There are lots of guests, and the topics cover the usual subjects — perennials, cover crops, fruit trees, pests, and the like — but there are also more unusual topics. Here’s a recent smattering: ‘Chicken Keeping for Urban Dwellers,’ ‘Gardening to Save Money,’ ‘Neem for Powdery Mildew,’ ‘Eating a Sunflower Head,’ and ‘Watermelon Mistakes to Avoid.’ I’m not quite sure where Kevin broadcasts from. Maybe Florida.” —Christi C.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at email@example.com.
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