Six hours on a train

Welcome to another Sunday playlist. By the time I get home tonight I will have spent about six hours on trains (I’m going to London to record a live episode of my podcast SRSLY at the WOW festival about feminism and celebrities and brands, subscribe if you want to hear it when it’s released later this week).

If you were to ask me this evening, I’m sure I would feel grumpy and grimy and not at all enthusiastic about all this travel, but at the start of a train journey I always feel this little knot of excitement in my stomach. It always feels like a moment of selfish time off from the rest of your life — I can work without being interrupted, or watch TV for no reason, or just stare out of the window without feeling guilty.

If I’m in the mood to listen to podcasts, I like to choose ones that chime with this feeling of potential and anticipation. These are three reliable ones that I always turn to.

Song Exploder

On each episode of this podcast, a different musician takes apart one of their own sings layer by later, and explains all the creative decisions that lead it to sound like it does. I love it — it’s one of my default listens that I never skip on, and it always gives me a little shot of inspiration, because if Carly Rae Jepsen has to bin her early drafts, then maybe it doesn’t matter that I sometimes have to do that too. I recommend that you start with this recent episode with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, just because the song that he’s dissecting (“I Miss Those Days”) gives me exactly that hopeful knot in the stomach feeling.

The Secret History of Hollywood

Sometimes, on a train journey, you just want to hit play on something really long and for it not to stop until you get there. The episodes of this incredibly detailed and well produced documentary series about cinema history often run to three or more hours, making them a bit like an incredibly textured audiobook, complete with dramatic readings, music and sound effects. I really like the “Bullets and Blood” series, and would recommend starting there.


Sadly, I think this podcast has ceased production, but you can still go back and enjoy the 17 episodes that do exist if you’re on a train and feeling a bit sleepy. It’s all about dreams, nightmares and what happens when we shut our eyes, and is produced in a very dreamy, comforting way. I particularly like this episode about narcolepsy, but they’re really all good.

If you’re enjoying being a subscriber, do me a favour and tell a friend who might like to become one too. This whole enterprise relies on your goodwill, for which I’m very grateful. Happy listening!