Time Travel Around the World Without Leaving Your Couch

Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images; Inset: Courtesy Radiooooo

Just pick a decade and a country and let yourself get carried away by the music of that place and time.

We may, by all accounts, be currently mired in the era of the podcast, when a steady stream of disembodied voices flood our devices with news, cultural analysis, carefully curated niche interests, philosophical advice, and all manners of humorous diversions, a healthy mix of which promise to keep you sane, well-informed, and the best guest at a cocktail party to idly chat to. But sometimes, in my experience,  you actually don’t want to listen to other people talking. Sometimes only music will do. And say you’re housebound, eagerly awaiting your next big adventure? As it turns out, with a little imagination, music is actually unrivaled in the transportation department. 

But what if you’re bored silly of your iTunes library? What if the endless loop of the same top 40 hits on Spotify or Sirius or terrestrial radio stations offer no real respite? What if you’re not sure what you want to hear, only that you want it to be good, and different, and please, dear Lord, let it be upbeat? This was the situation I found myself in until coming across the by no means new but new-to-me Radiooooo, a website and app launched in 2016 by Benjamin Moureau, an artist and DJ, and Raphaël Hamburger, a music producer, who describe their passion project as being born from “music lovers who decided to share their record collections and the fruit of many years of research, for all to enjoy.” Thanks to their curated community of audio-obsessed collaborators, Radiooooo offers a (free!) ticket to surf the world’s best music—and musical eras—without getting up from your chair. Or, you know, having to do any research.

Courtesy Radiooooo

Here’s how it works: open the app, survey the hand-drawn world map, select a country, decade, and whether you’re looking for something that could be defined as “fast”, “slow”, or “weird”, close your eyes, and let an expertly curated playlist of crowdsourced songs from that time and place drown out your doldrums. (“Taxi mode” allows you to direct your own trip, an act that the New Yorker likened to being “a time-traveling d.j. in pursuit of the universe’s vibe.”) There are options “for dancing”, for “chilling”, for “bugging out”, and for true music nerds alike. “By using Radiooooo,” the site explains, “you are encouraging a world that understands and appreciates each other better” through music. Click on a half-submerged cartoon steamship in the mid-Atlantic for the Titanic’s “original soundtrack” to hear what was popular at the time of that ill-fated voyage; click on the Indian Ocean and get a playlist called “No More Plastic”—the first song I heard when I clicked was Django Reinhardt’s “Beyond the Sea (La Mer),” always a welcome addition to the auditory ambiance. If you register for a free account, you can save the songs you like and gain access to “Islands mode”, which offers thematic playlists: for kids; for romantic moments; for “Le Club;” for guilty pleasures; for an EDM-fueled road trip; for aperitivo hour; for broken hearts. 

Overwhelmed by options? Unsure where to start—or just not feeling up for steering? Hit shuffle mode for “curator’s choice” and let someone else take the wheel: it’s like having a personal DJ with better taste than any of your actual friends. In other words, untold pleasures await. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be cruising around 1980s Brazil.