BEST RADIO STATION - 2005
It should be admitted up front that KFAI's reluctance to program contemporary popular music during daytime weekday hours--and its parallel commitment to news programming--left a gap on the FM dial through which the Current (89.3 FM) has driven a semitruck. But would MPR's new alt-flagship be considered as adventurous were KFAI to switch its a.m. and p.m. schedules--tossing exotic hardcore punk (Radio Riot, Mondays at midnight), dub reggae (The Echo Chamber, Tuesday nights at 2:00 a.m.), and '70s TV theme songs (The Strawberry Pop Show, Thursday nights at 2:00 a.m.) into prime time? As is, KFAI is a tonic at night and on weekends, and a reality check on weekdays at noon (Amy Goodman's indispensable, nationally syndicated political talk show Democracy Now! opens lunch hour to firsthand investigative reporting from around the world). The buffer of roots music in the mornings and afternoons is occasionally as contemporary as it gets, if you consider yourself a citizen of the world--bring on the African hip hop! The nightly jazz shows, meanwhile, are the only place to truly hear the spectrum of America's art form, while the Khmer and Hmong programs leading in are the only place to hear that music at all. (You knew there were Southeast Asian garage bands, right?) Listen to KFAI as fallback, or schedule your life around it, but ignore it at your peril--that's the world on there.