Illustration by Angus Marian
There is a brave, bold new world out there in the land of podcasts. Th is ‘new’ media format had its moment in the cultural zeitgeist when, in 2014, NPR’s true-crime show Serial became a hit phenomenon, popularizing the form and bringing in mass audiences in unprecedented waves. What’s unique about podcasts as a medium is that it seems to sit comfortably between the analogue and the digital, tweaking a traditional format – the radio – with that of online distribution and subscription channels. The mutability of the form allows for a proliferation of podcasts to flourish, ranging from well established media outlets (such as NPR, ABC, BBC, etc.,), to independent and grassroots podcasts that cater to a more local and niche audience.
So, as a self proclaimed podcast ‘connoisseur’, to guide you, I’ve curated a completely arbitrary list of some of my favourite podcasts (in no particular order):
1. THE NEW YORKER RADIO HOUR
Hosted by: David Remnick
Why Should I Listen? If you’re already familiar with the tone and style of the New Yorker’s print and online publication, their podcast definitely won’t disappoint. Each episode goes for – you’ve guessed it – an hour, and covers about three to four stories, ranging from news stories, politics, art, and pop-culture, and interviews with the likes of: Donald Trump’s ghost-writer; Paul Simon, Lena Dunham, George Saunders.
Where to start: Episode 44: Russia Then and Now; Episode 39: The Gawker Sex-Tape Blow Up
2. LA REVIEW OF BOOKS RADIO HOUR
Hosted by: Tom Lutz, Laurie Weiner, and Seth Greenland
Why Should I Listen? An offshoot of the online literary publication, The Los Angeles Review of Books, the LARB podcast is a more irreverent and playful beast than its online, (and rather high-brow) predecessor. LA based authors, artists, filmmakers, and critics are regular guests on the show.
Where to start: 15 July: Bullsh*t; 5 August: Ghettocide
3. THE RE-READERS
Hosted by: Sam Twyford-Moore, Dion Kagan, Steph Van Schilt
Why Should I Listen? For some local voices, hit up The ReReaders, a literary and cultural podcast based – right here! – in Melbourne. Each episode looks at three ‘topical’ stories in the world of arts, writing, and culture, and the re-readers trio are often joined by a host of notable Melbourne writers and cultural critics.
Where to start: August 19: MIFF Special; June 1: Scorsese
Exhibition and Arts Funding Cuts
4. BBC IN OUR TIME
Hosted by: Melvyn Bragg
Why Should I Listen? A clever show about clever things, BBC Radio’s In Our Time is a discussion series committed to exploring the ‘history of ideas’. Each week Melvyn invites three of the leading academics on a subject to discuss and debate, and topics fall under the categorizes of Philosophy, Culture, Religion, Science, and History. Learning is fun!
Where to start: Plato’s Symposium; Einstein’s Relativity; The Invention of Photography
Hosted by: Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, Evan Ratliff
Why Should I Listen? A podcast about ‘the stories behind the stories’, Longform is a series that mediates on the craft of longform journalism and non-fiction writing. Each episode centres around a conversation with a particular writer about their process and how they approach their subject matter.
Where to start: #97: Ta-Nehisi Coates; #144: Cheryl Strayed
6. MONACLE 24: THE URBANIST
Hosted by: Andrew Tuck
Why Should I Listen? A show about ‘what makes cities work – or fail’, The Urbanist examines cities around the world, how they are designed, how people live in them, and what the future of the metropolis will look like. If Urbanism isn’t your thing, Monacle 24 have other shows including: Culture, The Foreign Desk, The Cinema Show, The Globalist, and many more.
Where to start: Episode 253: Why so Moody?; Episode 239:
Mapping the City
Podcasts are a flexible and fluid medium, and they’re constantly evolving. I’m sure there are many, many great podcasts that I’ve failed or forgotten to mention—and that’s okay! Go forth and find them, or just go and listen to Serial again! Season three is coming out in 2017, and I, for one, cannot wait. In any
case, happy listening, and enjoy.
Honourable Mentions include:
• The Writer’s Voice: New Fiction from The New Yorker
• The Partially Examined Life
• The Poetry Magazine Podcast
• The New York Public Library Podcast
• Slate Political Garbfest