Episode 135: The Shins, Lovable Fools, and Boardwalk Empires

James Mercer (left) and The Shins /Columbia Records

This week: The Shins’ James Mercer blows the lid off a government cover-up… author Krys Lee’s inspired immigrant tales… An Oscar-nominated Undefeated team… Emily Post’s offspring get aggressive-aggressive… a tourist’s guide to a city you can’t visit… and Victorian puddings on the rise (plus a recipe). Plus: The weirdest bands of the year, a kiddie joke from Youth Lagoon, and a pop prescription from Dr. Dog.

Icebreaker: Trevor Powers

Trevor Powers, the musician also known as Youth Lagoon, tries not to tell us a bad joke…but we worm it out of him. Fresh off the success of his debut album, Trevor kicks off an international tour this month.

Small Talk: Aaron Britt

Aaron Britt, Deputy Design editor of Dwell Magazine, tells us there’s a new way to access the 21st century’s “forbidden city.”

A History Lesson With Booze: The Monopoly Passes Go and the “Boardwalk Fizz”

In 1904 Elizabeth Magie patented a board game called The Landlord’s Game, in the hope that it would teach people about the evils of landgrabbing. Learn about how her game eventually inspired Charles Darrow’s “Monopoly” (first marketed by Parker Bros this week in 1935), then sip this drink while building your real estate empire.

“The Boardwalk Fizz,” gamely invented by Demetri Karessis, bartender/mixologist at the venerable Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City, NJ.

Muddle in a shaker:

Shake together, dry, to get a good froth. Then add ice. Shake some more and add a splash of champagne for a bit of Park Place class. Strain into coupe or martini glass. Finish with a few dashes of bitters. And then get bitter when your friend doesn’t land on your property, snags free parking, and bankrupts you.

Guest List: Weird Bands

Andy Hermann, national music editor at Metromix.com, also co-writes the blog “Weirdest Band In The World,” in which he compiles dossiers on the many musical outfits going happily insane on the far fringes of rock. Just in time for this weekend’s Grammys, he lists three of the least normal acts of the year: Hank Williams III, iwrestledabearonce, and Japan’s Trippple Nippples.

Etiquette: The Posts

When the etiquette questions get really tough, and the thrash metal rockers and starship pilots just can’t can’t cut it, we turn to the experts. Daniel Post-Senning and Lizzie Post, descendants of Emily Post herself and part of the Emily Post Institute’s braintrust, fit the bill perfectly – and politely. This time, they grapple with stinky lunches, dinner blessings, and “genetiquette” bumper stickers.

Eavesdropping: Krys Lee

Writer Krys Lee just released her debut collection of short stories, “Drifting House,” to wide acclaim. In it, she sheds light on the unsettling elements of the Korean immigrant experience in America. Today we overhear Krys reading some dinner-party-worthy excerpts…

Chattering Class: Undefeated

It would’ve been easy to miss one of the decade’s most inspiring sports stories: A perpetually underfunded high school football team in hardscrabble North Memphis that, in 2010, wrapped up one of the most successful regular seasons in its 100+ year history. But filmmakers T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay were there to film it, and the result was a documentary (and soon to be Sean Combs-produced feature) called “Undefeated”. It’s up for an Oscar this month. Martin & Lindsay school Rico on how they managed to capture the story… or maybe it was the other way around.

Main Course: Pudding on the Rise

Eaters on both sides of the Atlantic are getting into comfort foods… and for Brits, one effect is an olde-tyme pudding boom. Upscale UK restaurants and supermarkets are carrying many varieties of the old-school English desserts, based on recipes from the Victorian era, or even earlier. The country’s National Trust even revived the classic Winifred pudd for sale at historic landmarks this winter. Rico chats with London-based food historian Caroline Yeldham about pudding history, and why a fool isn’t always something that has to be suffered.

Guest of Honor: The Shins’ James Mercer

If you were a college student in the late Nineties/early aughts chances are you made out with James Mercer…singing in the background. His band, The Shins, created a unique blend of smart, charming pop that lent itself to mix tapes, day trips and shared headphones. After a Grammy nomination in 2007, the band went on hiatus. Mercer got married, had two children and released an album with his other band Broken Bells. But now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Shins are back with a new single, simply called “Simple Song” off their March LP Port of Morrow. James tells Brendan about listlessness, cold war secrets and how the song he wrote that changed others people’s lives changed his.

One for the Road: Dr. Dog – “That Olde Black Hole”

Dr. Dog blends pop, psychedelia, and smart songwriting into a laid-back sound that owes a little something to Neil Young. But the Philly band is of the moment — they just released their fourth album Be the Void this week. Standout track “That Olde Black Hole” is a perfect way to take your party to another dimension.

SPECIAL: Winifred Pudding Recipe

Serves 6-8


  • 1 slice Allinson wholemeal batch bread, crusts removed
  • 5 tbsp whole milk
  • 85g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 85g (3oz) caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon flavouring or lemon oil
  • 250g (9oz) puff pastry, thawed if frozen
    • 1 tbsp caster sugar (to decorate)

Preheat the oven to 180*C

  1. Lightly butter and flour a 9in (20cm) shallow plate pie dish. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Chill until ready to use
  2. Whizz the bread in a food processor to fine crumbs and tip into a bowl. Gently warm the milk and pour over the breadcrumbs and allow to stand for 5 minutes until cooled slightly and the breadcrumbs have absorbed the milk
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until they are well incorporated.
  4. Beat the breadcrumbs mixture with a fork until it is smooth and then stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon oil and pour into the prepared pastry case.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until it has risen and is golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the caster sugar and bake it for a further 5 minutes – this will give the pudding a crunchy top. Serve warm with pouring cream.

To serve cold: Mix together 2 tbsp icing sugar and a little water or freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a smooth icing. Drizzle over the pudding and serve.

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Erik Satie – “Le Piccadilly – Marche” (Anne Queffelec, piano)

Count Basie – “House Rent Boogie”

Ben Sidran – “Monopoly”

Hank 3 – “Ray Lawrence, Jr.”

Hank 3’s 3 Bar Ranch – “Mitch Jordan – Branded”

iwrestledabearonce – “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon”

Trippple Nippples – “Drink the Haterade

RJD2 – “Laws of the Gods”

Debussy – “The Children’s Hour”

Daedelus – “Soulful Of Child”

James Brown – “The Sportin’ Life”

“Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy (remix)”

The Shins – “Simple Song”

The Shins – “September”

The Shins – “Australia”

Dr. Dog – “That Olde Black Hole”