Heat Rocks

Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock - a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.

Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don't exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin and more.

New episodes every Thursday on Apple Podcasts or whatever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to our website updates for exclusive bonus content (including extra interview segments, mini-episodes, etc.)

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EP72: Lyrics Born on Curtis Mayfield's "Back to the World" (1973)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lyrics Born

The Album: Curtis Mayfield's Back to the World (1973) In 1973, Curtis Mayfield had already become one of the biggest soul stars in the world thanks to the success of his Superfly soundtrack. He could have doubled-down with another album of lurid and cautionary street tales but instead, he wrote an album that many think of as a soundtrack to a movie never made, chronicling a returning Vietnam War veteran who finds America to be a different kind of war zone. Back to the World showcased Mayfield at his best — as a musician, composer, arranger, singer, producer, guitarist and songwriter — and decades later, we can still hear some of its influence reverberating in the dozens of artists who sampled from this album's lush music. 
The Bay Area's Lyrics Born brought this album to us to talk about. As part of the Solesides/Quannum crew that dates back to the mid-90s, LB has represented a much admired indie hip-hop ethos and he's been embraced by fans around the world. In our conversation, we talked about Mayfield's commitment to social issues, his gifts as a songwriter and whether or not "Right On For the Darkness" is, in fact, about a blind person. 
More on Lyrics Born

More on Back to the World

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Back to the World unless indicated otherwise):

  • Back to the World
  • Future Shock
  • Mac Mill: Straight Dangler
  • The Impressions: Keep On Pushing
  • Curtis Mayfield: Eddie You Should Know Better
  • The Impressions: I've Been Trying
  • Back to the World
  • Keep on Trippin'
  • Right On For The Darkness
  • Wiz Khalifa: Glass House
  • Right On For The Darkness
  • Gang Starr: Take A Rest
  • Mase: What You Want
  • Filthy Phil: The Payback
  • Willie Wright: Right On For The Darkness
  • Future Shock
  • Can't Say Nothin'
  • If I Were A Child Again
  • Curtis Mayfield: So In Love
  • Cissy Houston: Warning-Danger
  • Aretha Franklin: Something He Can Feel

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Heat Rocks Live! with Pop Rocket's Guy Branum, Saturday 2/9/19 @ 6pm

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Date: 
02/09/2019 - 06:00 - 08:00
Show: 
City: 
Los Angeles CA
Venue Name: 
Zebulon Cafe

The next Heat Rocks Live! show is coming up on Saturday, February 9th at Zebulon Cafe in Atwater Village, starting at 6pm. This FREE event is part of our partnership with Voyager Institute who've graciously hosted our last two live shows.

This time around, our special guest will be comedian Guy Branum, host of Max Fun's Pop Rocket podcast! We're keeping his album pick under wraps so it can be a surprise. Come out and join us!

EP71: Lindsay Zoladz on Bryan Ferry's "These Foolish Things" (1973)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lindsay Zoladz

The Album: Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things (1973)
Bryan Ferry first came to notice in the early 1970s thanks to the art rock group, Roxy Music, that he helped form. Most other artists would have focused their energies on their budding, hit band but Ferry, throughout his career, has never been one to be like "most other artists." Even as Roxy Music was blowing up, Ferry used time between those albums to record his own solo works and though his voice might bridge the two, his solo debut album, These Foolish Things was unlikely to be confused for a Roxy Music project. 
Ferry, at heart, is a crooner and so it's only fitting that this album would inspired by his eclectic interpretations of different rock, pop and soul standards, including everything from Erma Franklin's "Piece of My Heart," to The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" to the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." We talk about an artist trying to "make a song their own" whenever we discuss covers and it's hard to argue that when it comes to Ferry here, he's putting his own, distinct stamp on these hits. 
These Foolish Things came to us by way of our guest, music critic Lindsay Zoladz, who's spent the last ten years stocking up clips for everyone from Pitchfork to New York Magazine to The Ringer, where she's been a staff writer for the last several years (alongside the likes of previous Heat Rocks' guests, Shea Serrano and Chris Ryan). Zoladz shared with us how she discovered this particular album (especially as someone who wasn't even born in the 1970s), what she hears in Ferry's interpretations and whether or not he lives up to the title of being a "bobby dazzler." 
More on Lindsay Zoladz

More on These Foolish Things

Show Tracklisting (all songs from These Foolish Things unless indicated otherwise):

  • These Foolish Things
  • A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
  • Baby I Don't Care
  • It's My Party
  • Piece of My Heart
  • The Tracks of My Tears
  • Sam Cooke: These Foolish Things
  • James Brown: These Foolish Things
  • River of Salt
  • Lesley Gore: It's My Party
  • It's My Party
  • Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
  • Don't Worry Baby

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP70: Jamie Stewart on Otis Redding's "The Very Best of Otis Redding" (1992)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jamie Stewart

The Album: Otis Redding The Very Best of Otis Redding (1992)

Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart is the son of a record producer and session player who blessed him with the gift of The Very Best of Otis Redding, the 1992 compilation of sixteen of the best songs from the late Otis Redding's catalogue. His father gave him instructions for listening - the charge to learn all about feel.

We talked about the nuances of jabs and riffs and Otis Redding's pathos, his restraint, Otis' use of "uncool words" his penchant for the word "lovely", and his wonderfully nuanced cover of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction".

We discussed the sound Memphis music - Stax/Volt, the musicianship, the organic country friend soul sound of the label, and how that sound benefitted Otis Redding.

What Jamie Stewart learned most from Otis Redding was awareness, how beats affect emotion, awareness of feel and how rhythm and emotion impact singing.

It was a great conversation about a career and a life interrupted.

Xiu Xiu's newest album Girl with Basket of Fruit  releases 02/08/2019 via Polyvinyl.

Check out the music video for their newest single Scisssssssors.

Editor's note: Xiu Xiu was formed in San Jose, but the band is now LA-based.

More on Jamie Stewart

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Very Best of Otis Redding unless indicated otherwise):

  • I've Got Dreams to Remember
  • Shake
  • Pain in My Heart
  • Otis Redding: Ole Man Trouble
  • Try a Little Tenderness
  • Frank Sinatra: Try a Little Tenderness
  • The Happy Song (Dum-Dum-De-De-De-Dum-Dum)
  • Satisfaction
  • Respect
  • I've Been Loving You Too Long
  • Jay-Z and Kanye West: Otis
  • I've Got Dreams to Remember
  • These Arms of Mine
  • Otis Redding: Free Me
  • Otis Redding: Hard to Handle
  • Otis Redding: Change Gonna Come
  • Otis Redding: Try a Little Tenderness (Live on Upbeat)

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP69: Open Mike Eagle on Ol Dirty Bastard's "Return to the 36 Chambers" (1995)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Open Mike Eagle

The Album: Ol Dirty Bastard: Return to the 36 Chambers (1995)

"Ain't no father to his style." That's how Ol Dirty Bastard was introduced to the world on 1993's Enter the 36 Chambers by hip-hop's posse supreme, the Wu Tang Clan. At the time, we got an inkling of ODB's eccentricity but on that first Wu album, so overloaded with personalities, it was hard to pluck him out of the stream and think "he might be the Clan's most memorable talent" but two years later, sandwiched between a stream of solo efforts by Method Man, the GZA, Raekwon and Ghostface, ODB put the world on notice with Return to the 36 Chambers. Here was Big Baby Jesus aka Dirt McGirt in all his weird, wonderful glory, with a raspy, rumbling voice that was like no other, singing and rapping in a way that was either wholly unhinged, creatively brilliant or perhaps, both.

These are the part of the mysteries that we tried to unpack with the help of Open Mike Eagle. He's no stranger to Max Fun listeners as OME is half the team behind Tights and Fights, when he's not also helping host the Secret Skin or Conversation Parade podcasts. He also, of course, is a prolific MC himself, with well over a dozen EPs and LPs to his name including last year's What Happens When I Try to RelaxAs you'll hear, Return to the 36 Chambers wasn't just OME's intro to Dirt Dog, it was how he discovered the Wu and he, and hip-hop, would forever be changed.

More on Open Mike Eagle

More on Return to the 36 Chambers

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Return to the 36 Chambers unless indicated otherwise):

  • Shimmy Shimmy Ya
  • Intro
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • GZA: Investigative Reports
  • Hippa to da Hoppa
  • Thelonius Monk: Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
  • Cuttin' Headz
  • Raw Hide
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • Shimmy Shimmy Ya
  • Goin' Down

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP68: Chani Nicholas on Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" (1983)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Chani Nicholas

The Album: Cyndi Lauper She's So Unsual (1983)

She's So Unusual dropped October 14th, 1983, and introduced much of the world to Queens' pop punk tough girl Cyndi Lauper. She presented as a colorful character with colorful hair and colorful homies and charmed her way into pop culture with ten tracks recorded for CBS at the Record Plant, NYC.

The former front woman for rockabilly band Blue Angel took a demo written by Philly rocker Robert Hazard and retooled it to become an anthem for her and the Eighties. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was the hit single that launched She's So Unusual and Cyndi Lauper into fame and led the album to platinum success, with six singles, two Grammy Awards, and critical acclaim for days.

She's So Unusual was the pick of astrologer/activist Chani Nicholas, who joined us to break down the relevance and resonance of the album in her life, Cyndi's star appeal, the queer gaze present on the album, Cyndi's quirky Cancerian coolness, and the her impact on music and the masses.

More on Chani Nicholas

More on She's So Unsual

Show Tracklisting (all songs from She's So Unsual unless indicated otherwise):

  • Time After Time
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Money Changes Everything
  • She Bop
  • Divinyls: I Touch Myself
  • When You Were Mine
  • Prince: When You Were Mine
  • When You Were Mine
  • Money Changes Everything
  • The Brains: Money Changes Everything
  • Time After Time
  • Money Changes Everything
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Early Guitar Demo
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Demo
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP67: Mayer Hawthorne on Parliament's "The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein" (1976)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Mayer Hawthorne

The Album: Parliament: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976)

In the 1970s, no single artist was as influential in transforming the sound of funk as George Clinton. If the funk of the late '60s was embodied in the sparse, frenetic rhythms of James Brown, Clinton filled out and polished the sound across the '70s, with beefy banks of horns and raucous guitars. By the time The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein came out in the mid 1970s, the P-Funk sound was in full flower and that's when a young DJ from outside Detroit crossed paths with The P.

Mayer Hawthorne, back when, was still known as DJ Haircut but a move to Los Angeles in the 2000s lead to a transformation into the smooth crooner we know of him today.  Besides the four solo studio albums he’s recorded, he’s also one-half of the retro boogie team known Tuxedo (alongside Jake One) as well as half of the post-punk n’ funk duo, Jaded Incorporated, (alongside 14KT). Fun fact: Jaded Inc’s 2014 album The Big Knock was released by Casablanca Records, long-long time home to Parliament’s recordings, including The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.

More on Mayer Hawthorne

More on The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein unless indicated otherwise):

  • Prelude
  • Parliament: Body Language
  • Digital Underground: The Humpty Dance
  • Dr. Funkenstein
  • Ice Cube: Steady Mobbin
  • Parliament: P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up
  • NWA: 1-900-2-COMPTON - Interlude
  • Disco D: Ghettotronics
  • Funkin For Fun
  • OutKast: Funky Ride
  • OutKast: Liberation
  • The Parliaments: All Your Goodies Are Gone
  • Parliament: All Your Goodies Are Gone
  • Rose Williams and George Clinton: Whatever Makes My Baby Feel Good
  • Parliament: Whatever Makes Baby Feel Good
  • Gamin on Ya
  • Dr. Funkenstein
  • The Ohio Players: Funky Worm
  • Mayer Hawthorne: Lingerie and Candlewax
  • Do That Stuff
  • Yo-Yo: Mackstress
  • I've Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body)
  • Getten to Know You
  • Children of Production
  • Funkin for Fun

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP66: Lynell George on David Bowie's "Young Americans" (1975)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lynell George

The Album: David Bowie Young Americans (1975)

Super cool Grammy winning writer and archivist Lynell George came to know David Bowie's music through celebrated Los Angeles radio station KGFJ. KGFJ blasted the sounds and she received them courtesy of a wrap around Panasonic radio. (Salute!)

She was attracted to the Philly soul sound ever present on David Bowie's Young Americans because Philly soul was in her DNA as she is the daughter of a Philadelphia Native. David Bowie's desire to pay homage to both the black soul music he was fond of and Aretha Franklin, was a shift that most critics weren't prepared for.

We talked about the title track as an ahead-of-its-time commentary on gentrification, UK artists and their love affair with R&B music and the thin line between festishization and fascination.

Sax solos, guitar solos, soulful arrangement galore, Young Americans was the sound of Philadelphia and the sounds of blackness.

Best quote EVER, "you feel like you're walking through humidity" (Lynell George)

She wooed us and schooled us. We'd expect nothing less from a historian and an OG member of David Bowie's fan club.

More on Lynell George

More on Young Americans

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Young Americans unless indicated otherwise):

  • Young Americans
  • Fame
  • David Bowie: Let's Dance
  • David Bowie: TVC15
  • Young Americans
  • Right
  • Across the Universe
  • Young Americans
  • Can You Hear Me
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • The Flares: Foot Stomping (Part 1)
  • David Bowie: Footstompin'
  • Fascination
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • Fascination
  • Fame

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP65: Holiday Music Special with Alonso Duralde

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Alonso Duralde

The Albums:
Vince Guraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Andy Williams' The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)
Stax Records' Christmas in Soulsville (2007)

Heat Rocks was hyped to have film critic Alonso Duralde (The Wrap), one of the hosts of Maximum Fun's movie podcast Who Shot Ya? guest with us to talk about our favorite Christmas songs, holiday fare, songs that should play when it's cold outside, baby.

We visit the canon of Christmas music over the years (Andy Williams 1963 The Christmas Album, Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas and Stax Record's 2007 compilation Christmas In Soulsville and across genres and styles - crooners, sweeping orchestral cinematic pieces, summer songs vs. winter songs, modern Christmas traditions, etc.

Alonso broke down the power of nostalgia as it relates to Christmas music and how our tastes in music are informed by tradition.

Don't be a grinch. Listen to this wintery wonderland of an episode about favorite Christmas tracks.

More on Alonso Duralde

Show Tracklisting

  • Booker T and the MG's: Winter Wonderland (Take 2)
  • The Waitresses: Wrapping Paper
  • Ella Fitzgerald: The Christmas Song
  • The Shins: Wonderful Christmastime
  • Michael Jackson: Little Christmas Tree
  • Wild Man Fischer: I'm A Christmas Tree
  • Brian McKnight: Let It Snow
  • Frank Sinatra: White
  • Andy Williams: Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells
  • Andy Williams: Happy Holiday/ The Holiday Season
  • Andy Williams: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  • Andy Williams: Sweet Little Jesus Boy
  • Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas is You
  • Vince Guraldi: Christmas Time is Here (Vocal)
  • Vince Guraldi: Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)
  • Vince Guraldi: Skating
  • Vince Guraldi: O Tannenbaum
  • Vince Guraldi: The Christmas Song
  • Otis Redding: Merry Christmas, Baby
  • The Staple Singers: Who Took the Merry out of Christmas
  • Albert King: Santa Claus Wants Some Loving
  • The Emotions: Black Christmas
  • Isaac Hayes: The Mistletoe and Me
  • Booker T and the MG's: Winter Wonderland (Take 2)
  • Nate Dogg: Be Thankful
  • Little Johnny Taylor: Please Come Home for Christmas
  • Juice Crew: Cold Chillin' Christmas
  • The Free Design: Close Your Mouth It's Christmas
  • Kenny Bobien: Let Us Adore Him (Come O Ye Faithful)

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Macy Gray on Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" (2010)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Macy Gray

The Album: Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

2018 has been a tough year for Kanye West and Kanye West fans. He's showed up in unlikely places and waxed problematic about virtually everything , earned the ire of some of the West Coast's most loyal representatives, inspired critical analysis , all the while releasing Ye, his eighth solo album, an album as part of a group, and executive producing albums for Teyana Taylor, Pusha T and Nas.

Sure, he's been booked and busy, but also the center of controversy and speculation.

In 2010, he embraced his controversy, on the thirteen track My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.'

Macy Gray joined us to talk about her fanship and hardcore love of this album, why she bumped one song all the way to Vegas, what caused her to rock a "MAKE KANYE GREAT AGAIN" hat for the 'gram and Kanye's impressive production on the album. We talked about Kanye's choice of samples, what can be learned about Kanye via MBDTF and why this album is great, but not his greatest.

Ironically, we recorded this episode before Kanye's SNL appearance.

Eavesdrop. Please.

More on Macy Gray

More on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Show Tracklisting (all songs from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy unless indicated otherwise):

  • Power
  • Macy Gray: I've Committed Murder
  • Macy Gray: Shinanigins
  • Kanye West: Jesus Walks
  • Lost in the World
  • Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Aphex Twin: Avril 14th
  • Blame Game
  • Gil Scott-Heron: Comment 1
  • Who Will Survive in America
  • Bon Iver: Woods
  • Lost in the World
  • Monster
  • Runaway
  • Power
  • Devil in a New Dress
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Runaway

Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!