By Amanda DK
If you’re a Los Angeles music nerd, you’re quite familiar with the names Jason Bentley, Chris Douridas, Anne Litt, Raul Campos and Anthony Valadez. You know them as just a handful of the stellar DJs on public radio station KCRW (89.9 on the radio dial in Los Angeles, KCRW.com everywhere else). You may have also heard of Evan Kleiman, the host of Good Food, or Matt Holzman, the man who puts the “Matt” in Matt’s Movies. One name you may not know, however, is someone who I believe to be the one person every listener needs to say thanks to the most. The busiest person on staff: Music Publicity Director, Rachel Reynolds.
The only time you hear her voice on the air is asking for donations (and touting the excellent prizes you can win by giving) during the KCRW Membership Drives, which occur twice a year. Reynolds, however, is also the editor of KCRW’s music blog. She’s the one responsible for getting the word out about all of KCRW’s unique events (like the Halloween Benefit Masquerade coming back again for it’s third year this October!) and programming, and liaising any journalist (or blogger) who wants to write about the station or any of it’s DJs. Considering the fact that it always seems like KCRW is presenting at least three different events every weekend, and how busy most of the DJs are, music supervising hit shows on the side, for example – it’s enough to make your head spin.
So when I first reached out to ask if Rachel would be interested in creating a mix for Tadpole Audio, imagine my surprise (and excitement) when she told me that she was not only happy to make a mix – but knew exactly what she wanted to do.
The KCRW Guest DJ Project is a weekly program where “cultural icons” are invited to share a selection of songs that have influenced their lives and work. Rachel wanted to put together a mix of songs that all gained meaning for her via the Guest DJ Project. I’ve been a fan of the series for a while now, and since this blog has first and foremost always been about using music to tell personal stories, I was enthusiastically on board. I had already told her yes when I learned that not only is it her job to promote the series – she books all the guests as the show’s producer!
Check out Rachel’s picks below, as well as some of her reasons why certain songs made the list. Clicking on each guest’s name will bring you directly to their full DJ set.
And if you have any cash to spare, pick up the phone and donate to KCRW during their Summer Membership Drive, between now and August 19th. Every bit goes to great programs like the Guest DJ Project and the best tunes you’ll find anywhere.
1 ) Michelle Forbes/ The Velvet Underground “Some Kinda Love”
2 ) Kirsten Dunst & Busy Philipps/ The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year”
3 ) Tamra Davis & Tara McPherson/ Bikini Kill “Rebel Girl”
4 ) Anthony Bourdain / ? and the Mysterians “96 Tears”
Since food is the new rock, it seemed really appropriate to have Anthony on. And since I would describe him as “punk” in what he does as a writer/TV host, I wasn’t surprised he had some actual punk songs on his playlist. But this pick surprised me – he took a song I’ve been hearing my whole life and totally changed the meaning of it for me. I had never noticed its darkness before.
5 ) Cillian Murphy / Stevie Wonder “Sugar”
Stevie Wonder is an artist we all know and love but somehow, I had never heard this song and promptly fell in love with it. Why wasn’t this a gigantic hit? As Cillian says, positivity just comes off of it in waves. He was a bit reserved at first, but when Cillian talked about this song, I saw his joy for life shine through.
6 ) Amber Tamblyn / Jolie Holland “Old Fashioned Morphine”
7 ) Amy Krouse Rosenthal / Smoking Popes “Pure Imagination”
I have to highlight this song because it’s by far one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. After we taped this Guest DJ set, I listened to it on repeat for weeks! The Smoking Popes took a beloved song from my childhood and made it fit my current musical sensibilities, but I still got that flashback feeling. Amy is really interesting too, check out her Beckoning of Lovely project.
8 ) Chuck Klosterman / Kiss “New York Groove”
I’ve never been a big Kiss fan, but Chuck made me fall in love with this song. For those who don’t know his work, he is one of the most insightful cultural commentators around (read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs!) I could’ve picked any song from his set, honestly, because he talks so passionately about everything, but I couldn’t resist a disco Kiss song. Disco!
9 ) Lisa Edelstein / Gil Scott-Heron “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
10 ) Tim Sale / Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up”
Tim was the first guest we hosted who was involved in the world of comics. I’m a total newbie to that universe, but I quickly gained a great appreciation for it. He tied this song pick into his collaboration with Jeph Loeb, who sends him a script and then he starts penciling loosely. Sale uses the phrase ‘Archie Bell and the Drells-ing’ as code for when he’s putting the finishing touches on a comic.
11 ) Kevin Rose / Pinback “Good to Sea”
12 ) Padma Lakshmi / The Isley Brothers “Summer Breeze”
I’m a huge Top Chef fan. Padma wasn’t actually in the studio, which is probably a good thing, because DJ/Host Garth Trinidad was definitely enamored by her (she even promised to cook him dinner on his next trip to NYC.) Padma pretty much exudes sexuality – not only in her stories and song picks, but just in her voice. It’s like butter!
13 ) Jason Schwartzman / Jonathan Richman “That Summer Feeling”
Jason is full of energy and obviously a huge music fan. For those who don’t know, he’s recorded two great albums under the artist name Coconut Records. Even though I’ve been at KCRW surrounded by music experts for five years, I still have gaps in my knowledge. This was the first time I heard a Jonathan Richman song – I promptly fell in love and knew I had to dig into his catalogue. It was a great introduction.
14 ) Conan O’Brien / The White Stripes “Ball and Biscuit”
Conan was still in NYC when we taped this Guest DJ set, but he was gearing up for his move to LA. As a fan, he was everything I hoped he would be – smart, funny, and GREAT taste in music. His love for The White Stripes is well documented, but I loved that he chose this specific song – I’d kinda forgotten about this one and he reminded me how much I love it. (You also have to hear what he says about Bob Dylan, I was in tears laughing.)
15 ) Jason Reitman / Penguin Cafe Orchestra “Telephone and Rubber Band”
Jason Reitman is the very first guest we taped for the Guest DJ Project over 3 years ago. At that point, I had never produced a show and was pretty much winging it. I knew if I got the right people, the show would be great. Jason was a perfect way to start – he’s incredibly excitable and a huge fan of the station. In fact, this song is one that he heard first on KCRW – and I quickly added it to my own iTunes. Spacehog sampled this song for “In the Meantime” – my musical education at KCRW has involved learning where a lot of songs I love actually come from!