I’ve been meaning to write about podcasts for a while now, stirred on by two of my favourite podcasts of the last 12 months, Serial and Startup. Serial was the first podcast I’ve listened to that’s truly as compelling as anything TV or movies have to offer. Startup is the most beautifully honest, raw and interesting narrative I’ve ever heard about starting a business – part entrepreneur-guide, part catharsis for anyone who’s ever run their own gig.
And don’t get me wrong – Serial, Startup, Radiolab and This American Life are demonstrations of some of the finest audio broadcasting I’ve ever heard – but I’ve been trying to dig a little deeper for shows that can make a loyal listener out of me. I’ve listed some of the “Next Generation” podcasts I’ve fallen in love with below, in no particular order. But I’m dying for more – I’d love to hear what you’re listening to that’s not so NPR-centric. Any suggestions? Here’re mine:
BBC Radio 3’s The Verb – One of the most consistently interesting podcasts on literature, poetry, theatre and the written word. I’ve never listened to an episode that I didn’t follow up on afterward and I’ve discovered amazing work by Helen Mort, Zaffar Kunial and surprisingly Suzanne Vega from listening to this show.
Meet the Composer – OK, possibly a bit of cheat as I heard about this show via Radiolab. But Nadia Sirota’s discussions with modern composers is not just for classical music officiandos – I don’t know the first thing about music history or much about music theory. But like the best podcasts, these are human stories about musicians exploring sound and the world around them in amazing ways. And that’s always compelling.
The Tobolowsky Files – I don’t have words to describe the monologues of actor Stephen Tobolowsky. Suffice to say it only took one show to be hooked on his irreverent stories about life, acting, history and generally being alive in a crazy world. And at it’s best, it makes me feel less alone in the world.
Sound Opinions – I love the sideways slant of this podcast. Sure, Jim and Greg review the “newest” releases for the Pitchfork crowd, but it’s the meat of their podcasts that are fascinating and informative. I mean, an entire podcast devoted to Run The Jewels? Yes please. Titles like “20 Years of Bloodshot Records”, deep dives into albums like “James Brown Live at the Apollo” and “80s New Wave” are fascinating retrospectives or blood-pumping introductions to “new music”, depending on your perspective. And none of it is taken too seriously.
The Bugle – John Oliver & Andy Saltzman deliver penis-shaped piles of bullshit while skewering Vladimir Putin and ridiculous ideas that claim to be political policy from around the globe. If you’re looking to be kept informed about current affairs, look elsewhere. Have an interest in Crimea’s fleet of computer controlled dolphins? Look no further.