By Maura Judkis, Washington Whispers
If there were a radio station that played only the favorite music of our nation's politicians and news anchors, chances are it would be called "Smooth FM—Light Adult Contemporary." And chances are no one under 50 would listen. But if Sen. Russ Feingold and NBC anchor Brian Williams controlled the airwaves, they'd opt for a hip college radio station with plenty of undiscovered bands and cool-'til-it-gets-too-popular indie rock.
Turns out, Feingold and Williams are music geeks, but not just for any kind of music. They both like the hip indie alt-folk rock and pop bands favored by 20-somethings in Brooklyn loft apartments, and they both want to share their musical taste with viewers via special webcasts that they've dubbed, respectively, FeinTunes and BriTunes. Their musical picks have won them praise from Rolling Stone and the popular music site Pitchfork.
Feingold limits his monthly FeinTunes pick to one band. So far, he's recommended the Wisconsin indie band (and, therefore, a constituent) Bon Iver and alt-folk mainstay Wilco. Williams, however, has compiled entire playlists that indie rock blogs salivate over, name-dropping up-and-coming bands like Deer Tick, Republic Tigers, and White Lies, along with better-known alternative bands like Camera Obscura and Interpol. But which of these newly minted musical tastemakers has more cred? Whispers had Washington Post music critic David Malitz evaluate their selections.
"It seems that Brian Williams is devoting much more time to it—he seems more into being the indie rock cool dude," said Malitz. "Feingold, he's only done a couple videos with one band in each, whereas Brian Williams seems to be reeling off as many bands as possible. Feingold seems more like he's just discovering this, while Brian Williams wants to show people that he knows what he's talking about."
Most hipster cred:
"Brian Williams," declared Malitz. "Feingold's picks so far were Bon Iver and Wilco, very middle-of-the-road stuff. Brian Williams, the band he interviewed—Deer Tick—I thought that was an interesting first choice. In his song picks, he's got Camera Obscura, which is kind of hip indie pop these days."
"Feingold asks people for music suggestions. His is more of sort of a give and take, but with Williams it's more of a 'Here's what I'm listening to, isn't that cool?' " Malitz said. "I could see one of Feingold's constituents who really likes him, since [he suggests] one band, like Wilco, they might actually go listen to it. But Williams just barrages you with stuff."
Wannabe rock star:
"Well, neither of them are anything close to a rock star," said Malitz. But he concedes: "Feingold, in one of his segments, said he had 25 Bob Dylan CDs in his car, and that warmed me to him because it's always good to have some Bob Dylan. But he's more of a thinker and not as much of a spotlight guy as Williams. To be a rock star, you have to enjoy the spotlight, so that's why I'd say Williams."
Winner: Williams, but barely.
Most likely to pick something uncool:
"Feingold is playing it safe with middle-of-the-road stuff," said Malitz. "I can't see him picking something bad, but he might pick something bland. There's a chance that Williams would pick something terrible, which would actually be kind of cool—I would want to see him pick something completely bizarre and noisy and unlistenable. I don't really think that will happen. Right now, it's still a lot of the same stuff that every other blog is talking about."
Best concert buddy:
"I would like to go to a concert with both of them, I'm fans of both," Malitz said diplomatically. When forced to pick, though, he went with Williams. "He seems like he'd be a fun dude to hang out with. I'd want to take him to something under the radar—I might take him to see Jay Reatard and see if he can get down with something that's a little more noisy, away from the streamline stuff. That would be a good test, I think."
Overall winner: Williams.
"He likes being part of pop culture," said Malitz. "I'm not going to watch the Nightly News, but I'll watch BriTunes."
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