2017 Podcast Shoutouts

This year, we heard some pretty great shows and these are the ones that stood out for us. These podcasts made us laugh, cry, and feel things — so much so that we want to shout about them from the rooftops — and we’ve picked out the episodes that were a highlight for us.

Act 1 of 3–36 Questions (Two-Up)

This tiny game-changer of a podcast is only three episodes long but the songs will catch in your head intractably. 36 Questions is a Broadway-musical-made-audio. Listening to it is like a cross between immersing yourself in a cast album and listening to a very well-made audio drama. The songs are clever and moving and unencumbered by the need to actually stage the action. Because of this, the creators had a lot of fun — with settings that fall apart around the characters while they scream-fight out their songs and a duck that follows them around. Somehow you always know where Henry is, just by the quacks and clever sound design. Start at Part 1. (Jess O’Callaghan, Program Manager)

Episode 8: Left Behind — Ear Hustle (Radiotopia)

Ear Hustle is stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it. The producers are Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area artist. This podcast moves well beyond the stereotypes of “life behind bars” and finds gentle and funny stories that strike the humanity in us all. It’s hard to pick a favourite because the entire series knocked my socks off, but Curtis Robert’s story in Episode 8 — Left Behind was particularly tender and brought about one of my favourite things — a little tear on my walk to work. (Kate Montague, Director)

1: The Seekers — Heaven’s Gate (Pineapple Street Media)

Hosted by Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment, Heaven’s Gate is the latest podcast from the folks behind Missing Richard Simmons, Women of the Hour and With Her. This series is about the Heaven’s Gate cult that started out in the 1970s and came to a terrible end in 1997 when 39 people took their own lives in an apparent mass suicide. Though you essentially know what’s going to happen in this one, it’s worth the ride. Washington weaves in his own cultish and religious experiences from his childhood, and raises some interesting questions about what drives people to extreme beliefs. It’s a fascinating story matched with an awesome soundtrack with 80s synth and sci-fi vibes. You need to start with Episode 1 — The Seekers. (Kate)

#15 Dina — Heavyweight (Gimlet Media)

I’m a big fan of a podcast that makes you cry in public, and Jonathan Goldstein’s final episode of Heavyweight delivers. It’s the perfect end to a standout season. Goldstein’s mother Dina — a regular guest on his late podcast Wiretap — makes her glorious return, and she’s wonderful. This episode inspires all the empathy and understanding you need for dysfunctional family dynamics that will get you through the Christmas break. (Kate)

Rosalie, Marcia and Jedda — It’s Not a Race (ABC RN)

The first episode of one of the best Australian podcasts of the year, ‘Rosalie, Marcia and Jedda’ asks: “What was it like to be the first Indigenous star of a feature film?” Until the film Jedda was made in 1955, Indigenous characters in Australian feature films had been played by white actors. But it’s not a simple story of progress on the screen. Beverley Wang talks to “Jedda” herself, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, who had never seen a film before white film makers turned up and decided she would star in one. (Jess Bineth, Festival Manager)

We Are Just Living on a Daily Basis — The Messenger (The Wheeler Centre)

When Manus Island detention centre was open and run by Australian immigration, The Messenger was essential listening — carefully crafted stories about the life of Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee from Sudan detained on the island after trying to get to Australia by boat. But when the centre closed at the end of October, the feed became urgent, with shorter dispatches from a place where communication is limited, scrutiny is difficult, and staying alive and safe is imperative. In this episode, co-host Michael Green arrives on Manus but he can’t see Aziz in person because of the situation, so their heart-wrenching voice memo exchange continues. (Jess B)

A 700-foot Mountain of Whipped Cream — The Organist (KCRW)

This episode is probably like, 99% ad, which would sound like the most sucky thing as a listener, but radio advertising legend Clive Desmond (Pod Planet) talks about the history of radio advertising and weaves it with his own personal history — from childhood to burgeoning career — in such a way that the result is a sparkling audio excursion celebrating and bringing to life old radio gems and long-lost jingles. (Andy Huang, Communications Manager)

Episode 3: Big Sexy Love (with Roxane Gay) — Pretty For An Aboriginal (Buzzfeed Australia)

Hosts Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell are so charismatic and funny that I could listen to them interview a shoe and still be charmed. In this episode, their guest is equally charismatic and funny. Nakkiah and Miranda chat to Roxanne Gay about sex and love and weight. They also talk sexism and racism in both Australia and the United States. (Jess Oc)

#52: Horrible Anonymous — Why Oh Why (Panoply)

This continues WOW’s episodes on stories about ghosting they were doing in the lead up to Halloween. The episode promised one of the most ~chilling~ ghosting stories you’ll hear, and it stays true to its word. Borrowing from the premise of Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People (aka Beautiful / Anonymous), host Andrea Silenzi talks to a random caller for an hour. Sure enough, the story starts off like a rom-com but heads to the point of nope. Boy meets girl, they YOLO some, date goes awry but it’s still cute (maybe, kind of?) and then gets worse. Although the situation played out sounds ridiculous and unbelievable, I could still relate and was left rattled by the reality of it. (Andy)

Also, honourable mentions and high-fives to:

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