After resolving to discover some top podcasts to charm our ears in 2016, we asked our contributors to big up the ones they thought were smashing. Here’s the second batch of their recommendations. Prepare to subscribe.
Gabby Hutchinson Crouch on Welcome to Night Vale
Now in its fourth year, Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly fictional local community radio broadcast, from a strange US desert town where time doesn’t work properly. A Glow Cloud rains dead animals on people while it’s not running the PTA; angels don’t exist, but still help old ladies change lightbulbs.
The surreal events are narrated to us as developing news reports by the radio host Cecil – earnest, deadpan and desperately enamoured with Carlos, a beautiful travelling scientist whose arrival in Night Vale to study the town marks the show’s first episode.
The podcast is funny, weird and thoughtful, with storylines that hold up mirrors to subjects such as racism, ableism, corruption, war and political protest. It is also a love story – several love stories, in fact. Also there’s an adorable floating cat living in the radio station men’s toilets and a literal five-headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels.
The podcast has grown massively in popularity since its quiet 2012 launch, with the team taking several live shows on sell-out international tours, and publishing a tie-in novel last year. It has also grown in cast size as long-term characters are given voices, and now boasts Mara Wilson, Wil Wheaton and Retta among its guest stars.
If you start listening now, I would advise to do so from the start, as the show weaves longer running storylines right from the off, and it’s good to hear the characters develop and grow. Even our narrator Cecil grows over time, and regularly becomes the protagonist of a story, as his oversharing draws us into his life, his loves and the occasionally shocking mysteries surrounding him.
So why not give it a listen? Why wouldn’t you? Are you some kind of jerk, like Steve Carlsberg? Don’t be like Steve Carlsberg. Steve Carlsberg is the WORST.
Cal Wilson on The Moth
There’s nothing like a good story, and that’s what makes The Moth my favourite podcast of all time (and I mean ALL of time; I’m calling it early). It’s just true stories told live, by the people they happened to, and it’s riveting.
The power of The Moth lies in the honesty and vulnerability of each storyteller. Some stories are genuinely hilarious, others utterly gut-wrenching. From tales of tiny playground triumphs, to performing the first ever hand transplant, to dealing with the loss of a child, each story wants to make you lean in closer, to hear more.
I also adore Mystery Show. (Note: You may have noticed Cal has recommended two podcasts, which isn’t technically allowed, but they’re both smashing, so who cares about the rules? Not us.) Mystery Show and its host are funny and delightful, and good for your soul. The premise is simple: each episode Starlee Kine unravels a mystery that can’t be solved by Googling. She doesn’t tackle famous cold cases, or big crimes: these are quirkier, more personal puzzles.
One of my favourites is about a guy who wants to find the original owner of an old belt buckle he’s had since he was a kid. Another episode attempts to answer the question: “How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?” I’d never realised I cared about the answer, but by the end of the podcast I was desperate to know.
Starlee’s talent is to make you feel invested in everyone’s story. On the way to finding answers, she explores a multitude of tangents, but each digression is really just a beautiful excuse to make a connection with someone. It’s proper lovely.
Camilla King on The Adam Buxton Podcast
A 90s favourite, Adam Buxton is probably best known for The Adam & Joe Show which he produced with friend (and now big Hollywood film director type) Joe Cornish. Their partnership continued on the airwaves thanks to XFM and BBC Radio 6 Music, but you may not know that since last September, Adam Buxton has been posting his own podcasts for free on Soundcloud.
The shows are brilliantly funny and rambling, sometimes featuring interviews with his mates (Louis Theroux, Joe Cornish, Jon Ronson, Caitlin Moran, for starters), sometimes with musicians he admires, and there’s one that’s simply a diary charting the course of a particularly nasty cold virus (Dr Buckles’ Cold Safari).
Adam Buxton is weird and lovely and the podcasts include gems such as “I’m out walking my dog, Rosie. She’s black. Well, she identifies as black.” Your ears will thank you for this.
Sooz Kempner on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes
The You Made It Weird podcast is hosted by US comic Pete Holmes and every week his long-form interviews (which can last anything from 90 minutes to more than three hours) keep me entertained.
The main reason is that Pete Holmes as host is completely delightful. Open, frank, hilarious and self-effacing, he always gets the best from interviewees that have included Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and even Brits such as Daniel Sloss. Sometimes he does live versions of the podcast in front of an audience and these are full of silly funnies. I’ve regularly done a spit-take with my mid-afternoon cup of tea at work while listening to Pete and chums.
Dotty Winters on Undisclosed
Millions of people got swept up in the podcast phenomenon which was Serial S1 – the true tale of a murdered woman, criminal case and potential miscarriage of justice.
It was storytelling at its best. The secret to fantastic storytelling is in the editing; choosing the most compelling possible nuggets from all of the available information and storylines.
Swilling around on the cutting room floor in all the discarded info there was another, quite different story and Undisclosed has presented it. Headed up by the formidably awesome Rabia Chaudry (well known to Serial fans as the person who got the whole ball rolling) and ably assisted by two other legal eagles, this podcast isn’t about the story.
Undisclosed walks us through the legal process, the ins and outs of due process, missed leads and analysis of evidence. It’s compelling and terrifying listening. If you aren’t familiar with the Hae Min Lee murder which has been the focus so far, now is a great time to start listening as the team are just about to start exploring a completely new case.
Catch up on our first crop of contributors’ favourite podcasts here.1871 Views
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