Roman Mars: “This is just joyful. Somebody recorded the audience on the opening weekend of Avengers: End Game, then synced it to the actual movie. Watch the part when Captain America picks up the hammer. People just go berserk! I don’t know why it works. I watch it again and again. It captures the joy of gathering together in a movie theatre, it makes your heart swell.”
Think back to the last time the internet brought you joy. We want to put more of those moments at your fingertips—whether it’s a favorite podcast episode, heartwarming personal essay, or reliably fantastic recipe. So we’re introducing a series of Joy Lists from writers, artists, and people we admire.
Every week, fans around the world rush to stream the latest episode of Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible, the podcast about the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. But when it comes to Mars’ own listening habits—or media diet in general—latest isn’t always best.
When we asked Mars, who recently published The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, to share a collection of some of his go-to podcasts, movies, and songs, there was a common theme: Repetition. He explains:
“My favorite things, especially when it comes to music, are the ones I don’t really grab onto the first time I encounter them. But then, I slowly begin to like them. They create some kind of itch in my brain. Anything I love instantly, I get bored of. But when it’s a mix of challenge and comfort, I will keep coming back to it.”
Read on for what made his repeat-worthy list.
RM: “This is one of my favorite bands doing a cover of a Pretenders song. I mentioned before that I’m always looking for that mix of challenge and comfort—Chad Clark of Beauty Pill, he’s figured out the right dial of both. The first time I heard it I thought ‘this is too much, I can’t take it.’ Then I settled into it. Was able to really hear the groove, the maelstrom of sound. Five months later I’m like ‘Oh, this is the best.’”
RM: “I’m a bad sleeper. So I like to watch YouTube videos of calm and competent things to calm me down. The Alexander Technique is obscure to me, but I’ve watched a lot of videos about it, and this one is the most calming—I’ve watched it hundreds of times. I’m into voices, the tone of voices, how they sound inside your head. And the woman in this video, she has a great voice. If you look at the comments section, there are people going apesh*t over how calming her voice is. A whole tribe of people like me.”
RM: “I work a lot, and have a hard time being idle—I mean, look, I need that Alexander Technique video to calm my brain to sleep. But crossword puzzles fool my brain into thinking it’s working. It shuts out the chattering part of my brain. It’s the perfect avocation because it feels like a vocation.”
RM: “I watch a lot of Westerns, I like the pace and tone. And after watching the first scene of ‘First Cow,’ which really sets that pace, I was like ‘Oh, I’m in.’ It’s about friendship, but without being treacly or maudlin. I watched it twice in a short amount of time.” Kelly Reichardt once again trains her perceptive and patient eye on the Pacific Northwest, this time evoking an authentically hardscrabble early nineteenth century way of life.
RM: “Each episode of this podcast has two friends talking to a guest about a director’s entire filmography, specifically directors who were given a blank check to create whatever movie they want. The hosts are clearly friends, clearly really smart and kind. The show has been my comfort listen lately, it’s probably the podcast I’ve spent the most hours listening to in the past year. If you’re going to listen for the first time, pick a movie you like, and witness how much you’ll learn about a film you thought you knew. Then try one about a movie you’ve never heard of, and see how much you enjoy that, too.”
RM: “OK Ikumi was kind enough to allow us to use their music for some 99 Percent Invisible episodes — it’s got that tink-tink-plunk-plunk sound that I like to talk over. Now that we have an in-house composer, we use different music, but I still listen to their one album on cassette tape, luckily I have a cassette tape player in my car. I can listen to this over and over and over — it’s got enough of a background vibe that I’m able to think thoughts.”
Roman Mars is creator and host of 99% Invisible, the wildly popular podcast exploring architecture and design, for which he produced the most successful crowdfunding campaigns for a podcast in Kickstarter history. Fast Company named Mars one of the 100 Most Creative People in 2013 and he was a TED main stage speaker in 2015. His first book, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, came out in October 2020.