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Best LA Radio Shows: Required Listening for Traffic-Clogged LA

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Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM

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In this week's Best of LA issue of LA Weekly, writer Wendy Gilmartin gives proper love to two radio shows on KXLU: Part Time Punks' Michael Stock snagged Best Afternoon DJ, and Melissa McAllister was honored with the award Best Reason to Turn on Your Radio in the A.M.

Both great shows, and deserving of their respective awards. (Right now, at this very moment, Stock is playing the entirety of Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray," all 20-odd minutes of it. Before that they played Joy Division's "No Love Lost." ) But LA is a wide open and radio-hungry place; we're stuck in traffic a hell of a lot, and despite how many songs we've got on the Pod or Phone, or how much CD detritus litters our car, sometimes someone else had better decide. You want surprises. You want a smack in the head. You want "Roadrunner once, roadrunner twice, I'm in love with rock and roll, and I'll be out all night."

You want radio? Here are five other great specialty shows that you should go out of your way to listen to.

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Friday mornings on Global Village, KPFK.

Every Friday morning from 10 a.m. to noon during the "Global Village" block of programming on KPFK, Sergio Mielniczenko hosts a Brazilian show that travels the long and winding path that is Brazilian music. Whether you want a choro, samba, bossa nova, forro or some combination thereof, Mielniczenko offers that uniquely Brazilian feel, from Sao Paolo and beyond.

Here's an archive of last week's show. [MP3]

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  • Chris Carter
Breakfast with the Beatles (KLOS, 95.5 FM)

There's no better time to be a Beatles DJ than now -- unless you were there at the time. Former Dramarama bassist Chris Carter has hosted the huge and all-encompassing LA version of Breakfast with the Beatles since 2001, and for the past year the show has appeared on Sirius/XM's Underground Garage station.

If you're looking for the latest news, dirt, opinions, outtake and insights, there's no better place than Sunday mornings on KLOS (95.5 FM) from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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  • Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins on KCRW.

What can you say about Henry Rollins, other than his new home on KCRW is a godsend, and the time slot, while not as choice as later in the evening on Saturday (as it was in its final slot on the late, lamented Indie 103.1 FM), is a perfect way to begin a Saturday night. Rollins at his best and most stream-of-consciousness recalls the storied work of Dewey Phillips in Memphis, whose wild ramblings and enthusiasms helped define rock & roll. Rollins moves from Kraftwerk to Arthur Russell to Sun Ra to Sleep to the Melvins to the Clash. (obligatory disclosure: I guest-hosted Rollins' show in the spring). He doesn't care how it's going to "play" on radio, whether it'll make people change stations -- though he hopes that it doesn't, of course. He trusts his gut. His gut is right. Plus, he's frickin' hilarious.

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  • Timothy Norris
  • Jason Bentley
Morning Becomes Eclectic featuring Jason Bentley

At the other end of the spectrum on KCRW is Jason Bentley, who, as the new host of the legendary, influential Morning Becomes Eclectic, is getting into a groove a little under a year in. Bentley's understated where Rollins is overstated; his musical choices are for the sunshiny LA mornings, when a half hour on the freeway can easily become an hour-and-a-half. You need music that's not going to piss you off, basically, and Bentley's choices won't piss you off -- unless you just don't like his vibe. His musical palate runs along the lines of his predecessors Nic Harcourt and Chris Douridas; all like good melody and a nice rhythm, and offer an NPR-friendly mix of surprises.

And then there's the 11 a.m. hour, when Bentley and producer Ariana Morgenstern open the studio for guest performances. This morning Malian guitar and singing duo Amadou & Miriam performed five glorious songs and spoke (in French, with a translator) with Bentley about their life's work. It was a fascinating conversation. Yesterday the Crystal Method played. Last week Sondre Lerche performed, as did Neil Finn. Tomorrow the Postmarks play. The hits just keep on coming.

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  • Carlos Nino
Spaceways Radio on KPFK

Carlos Nino knows about free jazz, and rhythm, and heart and soul, be it in the dub, jazz, funk, avant, electronic, soul or groove category. The producer's most visible vehicle is Build an Ark, the free jazz orchestra he guides, but it's through his sounds on Spaceways that we see where he's coming from, which is a very deep and thrilling place. We've heard two hour sets that never once lulled, filled with Lucky Dragons, Gal Costa, Jackson 5 and Can -- stuff that sounds amazing on a moon-drenched Friday night.

(Note: we'd link to an archive, but for some reason the archived mp3 of last week's show at KPFK's site is some talk show that doesn't sound like Carlos.)

Megan, by Megan

We can't not give a shout-out to our favorite way to ring in a week: Megan's show on KXLU. Every Monday morning she bangs out a weird mix of old and new punk, electronic, noise and whatnot. She totally pushes local LA artists, has a keen sense of the potentially great, and, well, makes it not unpleasant being stuck in traffic on the 10. She played this one song this past Monday, we have no idea what it was, but it was the greatest thing we've heard in a long time. It was a wailing woman and electro punk freakout, and it was like hearing radio for the first time. Megan! Update your playlist! What was that song?!

KCRW at night

Let's also acknowledge the consistently funky and deep KCRW evenings, helmed by Garth Trinidad from 8-10 and Raul Campos from 10 to midnight. The week of Michael Jackson's death, those two played some of the best radio we at West Coast Sound have ever heard; it deserves to be archived in the Smithsonian, because it captured not only the depth of MJ's music, but also the really personal way in which Jackson the musician (as opposed to Jackson the celebrity) touched music headz. You heard tributes all over the place, but to hear them talk about him really changed the way we listen to Jackson. It's that depth that Trinidad and Campos trade in.

So ... what specialty shows have we missed -- besides most of them?

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