Best Radio Station Ever
January 28, 2005 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Revolution Radio is a concept that died in Minneapolis years ago. It never had a chance to take off before being assimilated by the RadioBorg -- the idea that you play good songs, regardless of whether or not they fit under some canned "format." The Suburbs. The Beatles. G-Love and Special Sauce. X. Tori Amos. Adam and the Ants. Loretta Lynn. Trip Shakespeare.Their playlist definitely leans more toward the "alternative" side of the dial than anything else, but now, thanks to Minnesota Public Radio's brand-new station, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the musical variety. Submit a request online. Not fortunate enough to live in Minnesota? You can still listen along to commercial-free radio a couple of different formats. Viva la revolution!
posted by RKB (39 comments total)
Hip. I'm a big big fan (and since I've gotten a job, a money supporter) of Radio Paradise, but this sounds like a good listen when Bill goes on one of his bad reggae moments.
posted by eriko at 7:41 PM on January 28, 2005

I was this close to posting this last Monday I was so excited about it. It's the best thing to happen to the Minneapolis FM band, well, maybe ever.

The aacplus stream is really high quality with low bandwidth requirement (32kpbs I believe to achieve pretty close to CD quality). It is, however, hard to find players that support it. So, if you choose to try-- in Windows you should try Winamp, in MacOSX or Linux use VLC.

I really love this station.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:44 PM on January 28, 2005

I've been listening online during each evening since the format change happened and I've been impressed on the quality of the programming already. Seems a little "VH1 Classic" at times, but cheap shot aside, they might be up there with KEXP and KCRW already. Kudos to St. Paul.

Of course, here's a simple question: why can't they advertize their KCMP call letters? or did those change?
posted by myopicman at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2005

I can't begin to explain how happy I am to have this station to listen to. FM had become just a huge wasteland. The only thing I ever listened to was MPR's news station. Now I can finally listen to music on the radio again.
posted by jnthnjng at 8:25 PM on January 28, 2005

Seems a little "VH1 Classic" at times

Not a cheap shot at all. Man, I'm so disappointed with KCMP so far. They play everything and nothing, and you're as likely to tune in and get crappy disco, classic rock, or alternadrivel as good music.

In a typically Minnesotan display of excess virtue, they'll also play UTTER shit, and their excuse for this is that they are promoting "new" and "local" music (or, just as likely, the favorite band from the teen-angst period of whatever DJ happens to be spinning records).

These guys should take a leaf from the WNCW playbook: you can have a public radio station with a kicking eclectic roots/blues/everything format. (I also think they should play the headlines at the top of the hour, while making the shift to music that will appeal to twenty- and thirtysomethings who actually want to know what's happening in the world.)

My guess is that Minnesota Public Radio is so in thrall to the idea of a "younger audience" (and to the tragically hipper than thou staff they seem to have brought on) that they're playing the sort of pabulum they figure will appeal to those untutored ears. We've got to edumucate the youth of this country, daggit!

I dunno... I could be unlucky, but every time I turn it on it sucks. Somewhere I'd read a newspaper story that said they were going to play, for example, "Lucinda Williams and Johnny Cash." Lemme tell you, Lucinda Williams and Johnny Cash are a lot better than 90% of what they're playing.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2005

If I had posting capabilities, I would have been all over this a few days ago. I've been listening pretty much non-stop since it started up.
posted by panoptican at 8:27 PM on January 28, 2005

Utah's is pretty good.
posted by mecran01 at 8:57 PM on January 28, 2005

The new radio station is fantastic. It seems to me to be quite a bit like Radio K, except that it has an actual signal and the DJs are professionals.

I tuned in for about ten minutes on my way home and heard some little-known Bowie followed by a live recording of Karma Police. I had a smile on my face for an hour. But, like any station, it's going to be hit or miss at times no matter what.

posted by Arch Stanton at 9:00 PM on January 28, 2005

How, exactly, does this format differ from freeform, which has been around for decades? Except being less "revolutionary," and less eclectic. (More freeform info from WFMU: a history, and a timeline.)
posted by thirdparty at 9:25 PM on January 28, 2005

thirdparty: How, exactly, does this format differ from freeform, which has been around for decades?

It doesn't, really. The point isn't that this station is something fantastic and new to the world of radio across the globe, it's that we haven't had anything like this in the area in a long time. (While some will argue that we have Radio K and should appreciate it more, it's a totally different animal and not even an FM station with 24/7 hours.)

The closest thing we had in the past on the FM band was Rev105 (the Revolution Radio referenced in the opening of the post), which met its tragic demise in March 1997. The Current now even has one of my favorite Rev105 DJs on the air in the afternoons.

Sure, it's hit and miss, and a lot of it isn't music you'll find in my own personal collection, but it is incredibly refreshing for radio in this area, where everything else is either Clear Channel-owned or -esque, unless you're looking for classical or talk radio.</gross-generalization>
posted by ibidem at 10:49 PM on January 28, 2005

Just for the record....

...I find it very hard to consider any collection of pre-recorded records being played one after another on a broadcast station to be "revolutionary". "Enjoyable", perhaps, "good music", maybe, but I think that the fact that someone's taking a stack of CDs and shoving them out into the airwaves, hardly makes it a big whoop.
posted by jscott at 1:29 AM on January 29, 2005

I have to agree with jscott. It might be a nice radio station for your local FM band, but it isn't broadcast nationwide, except for on the internet.
Sorry to say, 32 kbps isn't a very good quality for a stream. Certainly not "CD Quality".

This station is probably only relevant to those in Minnesota, as there are plenty of great streaming stations with eclectic freeform programming elsewhere on the web.

stations like kxlu, and wfmu as mentioned before. I like myself. Anyone else have any favorites?
posted by benhugstrees at 2:36 AM on January 29, 2005

At first I had mixed feelings about the new radio station, mainly because MPR is such a monolith. After having listened a bit, I have to say I am a convert. I think Mark Wheat is a pretty good DJ, he is always playing some crazy shit.

The only thing I can say to those naysayers out there is: Consider the alternatives
like KS95 of KDWB
posted by kuatto at 6:46 AM on January 29, 2005

It's not a new concept, but it is revolutionary in the sense that a station with this format is a paradigm shift from what FM radio programming has recently become in the U.S.

Thanks to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Clear Channel now rules our airwaves, with their McDonald's-like vision of what we want to listen to.

In Minneapolis, there is an 80s format station that advertises themselves proudly as "not affiliated with ClearChannel Communications", then goes on to play John Cougar's "I need a lover that won't drive me crazy" once an hour every hour. Why anyone would choose to overplay that song is a mystery to me, but it still exposes them as being just as crappy in their "effort" towards quality programming. It's pre-programmed, and it stinks.

I've found that while listening to The Current, some DJs are much better than others. For example, I really dislike the selections of the weekday afternoon DJ, but here's the thing: that's *good*. It actually shows that the DJs are making some choices that are their own.

I always keep a list of bands/albums I need to check out. This station in its first week has helped add several to my list (Carla Bruni, Frou Frou, Styrofoam, The Bad Plus, new Jim White).
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:42 AM on January 29, 2005

There's another station in the Twin Cities that does the 'we're not a clear channel station' as well. Drive 105 proudly claims that and they aren't, but they're owned by Disney.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:03 AM on January 29, 2005

Arch Stanton: that's exactly the station I was talking about in my last post. Disney. That makes sense now...
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:08 AM on January 29, 2005

Sorry to say, 32 kbps isn't a very good quality for a stream. Certainly not "CD Quality".

Have you listened to it? It's aacplus, which does some pretty wondrous compression.

Don't knock it 'til you try it, the quality is quite excellent.

btw, Arch Stanton: I was wrong, Drive 105 and the 80s station are different (although they both suck). Just shows how much I listened to the radio for music in Mpls before this week...
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:23 AM on January 29, 2005

it's a totally different animal and not even an FM station with 24/7 hours

Yeah, sunrise to sundown broadcasting is brutal in winter up here. I tried keeping Radio K on my car radio presets, until November rolled around and I realized I was almost never driving during daylight.
posted by gimonca at 8:25 AM on January 29, 2005

ibidem: Gotcha. Just wanted to provide some historical context on radio genres.
posted by thirdparty at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2005

I'm going to jump in here and also mention Radio Paradise as being most excellent and worthy of your listening time. A few days ago, I heard them go from Jesus and Mary Chain to, um, someone that sounded like Ray Charles, to 50's era big band, to Peter Gabriel, in about 90 minutes. They're a radio station that simply Doesn't Suck(tm).... ever. I'm looking at their playlist right now... in the last six hours, they've played (skipping many, just pulling out some highlights):

Crosby, Stills, and Nash;
Moxy Fruvous;
The Cure;
Elton John;
John Mellencamp;
Wall of Voodoo (don't know who this is, but love the name :) );
Pink Floyd;
Johnny Cash;
Peter Gabriel;
Fleetwood Mac.

I've heard a very few songs there that I didn't like, but when you consider the sheer amount of time I've put in, that's a vanishingly small suck percentage.

I think my only real complaint is that their best-sounding stream is mp3 at 128k. They offer a 48k AAC+ stream that sounds about the same, but I wish they'd go to either 192k mp3 or 128k AAC+. A playlist this good deserves better.
posted by Malor at 8:31 AM on January 29, 2005

Now that WHFS has changed to a Latino music format, I don't even turn on the radio in DC anymore (not that it was really that good before). My old college radio station regularly received awards and was (I guess) freeform, but I found most of the stuff they played to be unlistenable. It was mostly weird for the sake of weird. I think that turned me off of deliberately obscure radio stations. I'll have to try some of the stations listed here, like Radio Paradise, and see if I can wash off the bad memories.

Benhugstrees, the point of the aacplus format is that 32kbs *is* a CD quality stream with a much lower bandwidth requirement.
posted by Planter at 8:32 AM on January 29, 2005

Some back story: this discussion shows some of the misgivings people had before the new station came on the air. (Misgivings that at time time were fairly well-founded, but happily don't appear to be coming true.)

They don't call MPR the "Kling-On Empire" for nothing.
posted by gimonca at 8:37 AM on January 29, 2005

This is exactly the station that everyone who mourned REV 105's passing wanted. Why not a public eclectic radio station? I'd pay for that! I read that they had 333 members within a few days, and I hope that number grows. I was a "founding member" with my pledge dollars within a few hours of tuning in on Monday morning. They played the Decemberists and shazam! Out came my credit card. No corporate playlists, no commercials... whether or not you appreciate what they're playing — I for one think that hearing, in a row, The Shins, Trip Shakespeare, and The Replacements is nothing less than orgasmic — it is insanely unique for the Twin Cities especially. They've put up with Clear Channel and Disney for too long.

And seriously, how can you go wrong with Paul Westerberg's sister as a DJ? Mary Lucia is the awesomest.
posted by kittyb at 8:37 AM on January 29, 2005

As far as "revolution radio" goes, it's kind of an inside joke -- it was the tag line of the now-defunct Rev105. I'd originally meant to link to this story which bemoaned the consolidation of radio stations in major metro areas, featuring the aforemention station as the first example of "what's wrong with radio in 1998."

As cool and varied as other internet stations are -- Radio Paradise included -- it's nice that this is actually broadcasting on a clear FM signal, available for those many times I'm not connected to the internet. It's good for a semi-major market that, as others have noticed, has had a remarkable lack of FM radio diversity over the past several years. It's good for other cities, in general, because it will hopefully demonstrate that there is a market for something other than ClearChannel or Disney.

Another reason to like the station: not long after I'd started listening again, Mary Lucia shared some information about the band they'd just played (X). I'd known that Exene Cervenka had been married to band-mate John Doe. What I didn't know was that she'd also been married to Viggo Mortensen, for like, ten years.

I agree, kittyb. Very, very awesome.

(ps to Malor -- Wall of Voodoo was a side project from The Police's Stewart Copeland around the time they'd released their Synchronicity album, if I remember correctly. One hit wonder with "Mexican Radio.")
posted by RKB at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2005

actually, I don't think Copeland had anything to do with Wall of Voodoo. Stan Ridgeway was the singer through most of the band's lifespan, which started well before Synchronicity. I liked pretty much everything they did, both before and after Ridgeway's departure. I recommend any of their albums. "Mexican Radio" is fun, but it's analagous to Devo's "Whip It"-- a song that really incorrectly typed the band.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:00 AM on January 29, 2005

mcS -- of course you're right. I need to do a better job keeping my non-Sting Police members straight. Thanks.
posted by RKB at 9:49 AM on January 29, 2005

random bits...

Wall of Voodoo Bio. I listened to the album "Seven Days in Sammystown" a lot when I was in Jr. High/High School. Now it can be yours for just $95! Wow, that thing is a collector's item...

RKB-- looks like Ridgway later collaborated with Copeland, which is probably why that stuck in your head. Copeland had a band post-Police, but it was not particularly notable.

I'm not in the hate-MPR camp, but here's a link to an article about how The Current acquired it's space on the FM band

They don't call MPR the "Kling-On Empire" for nothing.

For those who don't know this reference, it's referring to Bill Kling, head of MPR. I had an email discussion with a former WCAL employee (who gave me the link to the article linked above), and he told me this anecdote:
`in 1982 that then National Public Radio president Frank Mankiewicz introduced Bill Kling to the attendees at the Public Radio Conference with the line, "And of course, you all know Darth
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:52 AM on January 29, 2005

97x (Bam! The future of Rock and Roll) went of the airwaves about a year ago but recently came back as streaming only.

They rock harder sir.
posted by Mick at 10:10 AM on January 29, 2005

why can't they advertize their KCMP call letters?

From the website, it looks like they're simulcasting on KMSE out of Rochester to cover the SE part of the state.
posted by gimonca at 11:03 AM on January 29, 2005

Just a shout-out to Kevin Cole - now DJing afternoons at KEXP, he was one of the designers of the "Revolution Radio" format at REV105 in Mpls. Both Thorn & Mary Lucia (now on KCMP) were DJs on REV.

I doubt that MPR would have taken this step without REV having blazed a trail in the market (notwithstanding a desire to emulate stations like KCRW, KEXP, WXPN, etc. and set up a third channel.)

In the Twin Cities, we now have an even better choice of radio-that-doesn't-suck (i.e. Radio K & KFAI) to tune in.
posted by omnidrew at 12:59 PM on January 29, 2005

It never had a chance to take off before being assimilated by the RadioBorg

I'm not so sure of that - i spent the majority of my middle school career listening to REV105 in its earlier incarnation, KJ104. Then it went off the air for a year or two, but REV105 was on the air by the time i was a sophomore in high school, and it was definitely still on when I was a freshman in college. That's a pretty good run.

Anyway, I no longer live in the twin cities, and i'm not much for internet radio... so regretably I won't be hearing much of the current. I'm glad to see that they're back in action though. It's awesome that it's an MPR station too.
posted by chrisege at 3:48 PM on January 29, 2005

I've been skeptical too, but The Current was playing some good stuff this Saturday afternoon--Steve Earle, Hank Williams, other songs I didn't recognize but liked.
posted by Pattie at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2005

I love the station, but it's truly pathetic that this is such a breath of fresh airwaves. There ought to be several of these stations. It's my hope that clear channel can't compete for an audience with this music chosen by sentient human beings and not plastic record executives with payments to make and hits to produce.

As for the programming, some audiophiles will of course always have some hipper-than-thou kvetching to do, but for the time being I'm pinching myself; there's actually a decent, commercial-free station on.

Thanks mpr.
posted by daleshipley at 4:37 PM on January 29, 2005

Agreed on the lament and the kvetching sentiment, dale. I've been listening to KCMP in my office ever since I saw the link. Unfortunately I live in a town owned by CC-esque media concerns, so in my car I'm still stuck listening to CDs or opera on NPR.

Hell, this station might even beat KCRW. The DJs are 50 percent less smarmy than Nic Harcourt.
posted by hifiparasol at 6:21 PM on January 29, 2005

What would be really good is if I could just play the mp3s on my hard disk with someone breaking in on the hour with a news summary. That would work.
posted by feelinglistless at 6:50 AM on January 30, 2005

i just wish they would hire dj jose on kxlu every tuesday night ... a half hour better spent listening to a little indy station from LA rather than "Indy" station from St.Paul..

Thanks for the link to kevin cole's new gig - miss that cat in this town...
posted by specialk420 at 9:57 PM on January 31, 2005

WMSE is an absolutely amazing station broadcasting in Milwaukee. It's the only music station worth listening to in the area and has saved me on multiple CD-less occasions. There's 8 shows per day with a really wide variety of formats and even if I don't usually like the genre the music is always at the very least interesting. The hosts are pretty funny on some of the programs, too. They have wma and mp3 streams and listeners all over the world. They also have ~1 year of archives for almost all the shows which you can download or stream at various bitrates and formats.
posted by nTeleKy at 11:31 AM on February 1, 2005

I wish iTunes didn't think it knew how to play their aacplus format. It's kind of annoying, since it looks like it works, and then it just doesn't play. OTOH, VLC plays it, as suggested above, but I don't get any title metadata like I would on a MP3 stream. Which is a bummer.

The aacplus does sound quite nice for such a low bandwidth though.
posted by smackfu at 8:12 PM on February 1, 2005

« Older vote and/or die   |   FridayGossipFilter, Part infinity Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments