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The New Concept Album Is a Podcast

With his album ‘Peace of Mind,’ Bhi Bhiman is tapping a growing medium where listeners are primed for conversations beyond the music.
With his album ‘Peace of Mind,’ Bhi Bhiman is tapping a growing medium where listeners are primed for conversations beyond the music. Photo: Adriel Gonzalez

Folk-rock singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman will release his new album, “Peace of Mind,” in podcast format, with songs debuting in weekly episodes discussing themes like immigration, voter suppression and Russian election interference.

In each episode, Mr. Bhiman, 36 years old, talks with artists, journalists and policy makers, including author Dave Eggers and musicians Gaby Moreno and Josh Ritter. Podcasts will be available Fridays on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

Each of the nine songs will also be released on music-streaming services and in the iTunes download store as the episodes air, beginning Jan. 18. At the end of the season, the music will be released on vinyl.

The New Concept Album Is a Podcast

The novel approach comes amid uncertainty about the very concept of an album in the streaming era. The decline of CD sales and the rise of iTunes led to an unbundling of music sales, and now playlists are a more popular way to listen to music than albums.

Artists often now release songs one at a time to streaming platforms and work to promote them individually—and get them placed on those services’ popular playlists—instead of dropping an album all at once.

Mr. Bhiman’s music has always had a socially conscious bent. But with the more overtly political “Peace of Mind” podcast, he is tapping a small but growing medium where listeners are primed for deep dives and thoughtful conversation beyond the music.

By contrast, in contemporary pop music, he says, “I see a lot of escapist songs.”

Each song on the new album will explore a political theme. “Can’t Nobody Stop Us,” the second track, is about democracy in America. In the accompanying podcast segment, Mr. Bhiman talks about the judiciary with retired California Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell and about the press with journalist Neil Docherty, a producer for PBS’s “Frontline.”

“It’s a soundtrack to today’s America,” says Mr. Bhiman, who first got the idea after writing a song for Mr. Eggers’s “30 Days, 30 Songs” project, a collection of anti-Trump recordings released in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

That song, “With Love From Russia,” is included on “Peace of Mind.”

Musician Gaby Moreno, left, author Dave Eggers, center, and musician Josh Ritter will be among the featured guests appearing on Bhi Bhiman’s political concept album, ‘Peace of Mind,’ in podcast format.
Musician Gaby Moreno, left, author Dave Eggers, center, and musician Josh Ritter will be among the featured guests appearing on Bhi Bhiman’s political concept album, ‘Peace of Mind,’ in podcast format. Photo: Getty Images (3)

Mr. Bhiman wanted to be able to delve further into topics than a three-minute song allows.

“We didn’t see a space for this in the traditional music market where this would be seen and understood well,” he said. “With a podcast, I’m reaching the audience I wanted to reach directly.”

The Los Angeles-based singer rejects the term “protest album,” saying, “There’s a connotation to that.”

Most of his songs are narratives told through the lens of a single person to illustrate a larger point.

“It’s about creating a story that people will digest and maybe help them understand an issue,” he said, “instead of beating them over the head with it.”

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com

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