Sunday, November 15, 2009

Radio: KXT 91.7

I've been analyzing the playlists at KXT after their first work week and I see a disturbing trend. (And it's not that I have too much time on my hands.)

But first, I want to talk about the timing of their launch. Is it a coincidence that they waited until after the KERA Fall pledge drive was complete? I can imagine some potential Public Radio donors would say, "Wait a minute, if the parent company of KERA can afford to set up a sister station during an economic downturn, do they really need my $60 in exchange for a Diane Rehm Tongue Depressor?" Man, you really miss Al Brumley at a time like this.

Back to KXT. (Not KTX, or KXTX, and it's at 91.7, not 97.1 - and that's from one of their own DJs. This station is a nightmare for DFW dyslexics.)

KXT describes itself as "an incredible selection of acoustic, alt-country, indie rock, alternative and world music, hand-picked just for you - the real music fan." That sounds great - right up my alley. So I set my alarm for 6:59am on 11/9 to hear the station premiere with...Santana's "She's Not There". That song (as fine as it is) does not fit into any of KXT's self-proclaimed categories. After all the time they had to prepare, that was the best they could come up with?

Robert Wilonsky at Unfair Park was being polite when he called it "probably a little too classic-rock for a new-station kick-off". Pete Freedman at the same blog expressed his incredulity: "Explain that to me. Please." But hey, Steve Blow liked it, so I guess that's okay.

Later that first morning, KXT played Queen's "Somebody To Love" (this after Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix had already been played). Why is this station playing "Classic Rock" when we already have radio stations that play that stuff?

I saw a comment praising KXT for playing the Stranglers' "Golden Brown", and yes, it was good to hear it. But it made me realise that "Golden Brown" is my generation's version of Classic Rock. It's hypocritical to praise KXT for playing "Making Plans For Nigel" and then slam them for playing Paul McCartney and Wings. If you want Classic Indie, go to WOXY Vintage. (Thanks, Robb.)

The real problem is that KXT plays the same songs over and over again. ("Golden Brown" was played four times this week.)

There may be "joy in repetition" but there's no joy when you hear the same songs twice a day. There were 49 songs played twice in one day, and 4 songs played three times!

The most-played song was "Little Lovin'" by Illinois artist Lissie. It was played twice on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and THREE TIMES on Wednesday and Friday. It's a catchy song, but it's no H1N1.

KXT loves Devendra Banhart. They played his "Baby" twice a day, every day. And they acknowledged he has released at least one other song. "Foolin'" was played twice.

The following songs also got got two plays per day, every day:

These are inoffensive songs (apart from the insipid Matisyahu song - it reminds of some fake reggae song that might have come out of Luxembourg in the '90s). Ingrid Michaelson with the horrible, "Grey's Anatomy"-ready "Maybe" just missed out on going 10-for-10.

KXT has a nasty habit of reducing everyone to "One Hit Wonders". I count 41 artists who were played three or more times, but had the SAME SONG played every single time. This includes artists with long careers and many albums to choose from: Bryan Ferry, Grant-Lee Phillips, Pearl Jam, Ray Davies, Rhett Miller, Rosanne Cash, Yo La Tengo.

Overall, KXT played about 647 tracks from Monday to Friday: 334 artists and 373 unique songs.

By the way, I didn't count the times that KXT played unscheduled excerpts from John Cage's "4' 33"".

As for the DJs, Gini Mascorro still seems a little nervous. And do I detect a little wheeziness in her voice? As an asthmatic, that makes me uncomfortable. I really hope she loses the habit of saying we just heard a "little bit of" some artist. This is technically untrue (unless she has been hitting the Def Leppard drummer's arm off the microphone). Joe Kozera seems altogether more at ease.

So what have we learned? I think Shell put it best: "The occasional classic rock song won't kill them. Having a rotation will ruin both them and the songs they overplay." KXT is definitely a good thing (especially for the exposure to local bands), but needs a LOT more variety to keep me listening.

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