Highly bingeable podcasts
Dig deep into these delicious audio œuvres.
For this round of podcast recommendations, here are some of my recent obsessions. Over the past few months, these are the podcasts I devoured in their entirety from the first episode. They are all very satisfying for the completionist — none have more than a couple dozen episodes. Get ready to binge: just in time for summer road trips.
This audio memoir from CBC producer Michelle Parise on life after divorce. Though the subject is well-trodden territory, she hits the right tone here. She doesn’t shy away from details that reveal herself as imperfect and self-destructive. The two seasons of Alone are heavy on emotional rollercoasters and light on clichés.
It’s World Cup time! If your first thought is, Who cares?! a) you’re not alone and b) you’ll still love this podcast. This is a great example of a short-run topical podcast. Whether you’re a confirmed fan, a casual observer, or none of the above, you’ll binge these untold stories of the beautiful game in Gimlet’s polished narrative reporting style. As someone who has heard of Diego Maradona, but knew nothing about him, this podcast was a cure to my World Cup #fomo.
This art history podcast treats one work at a time in very bingeable 20-minute episodes. As a casual art history dabbler, I enjoyed episodes featuring artists or works I was familiar with, as well as ones for which I had no context. The host Tamar Avishai is likeable and unpretentious. She takes on everything from Van Gogh to Yoko Ono to Dogs Playing Poker. All episodes start with her wandering around the Museum of Fine Arts Boston asking museum goers, “So what do you think of this?” They welcome you in as curious but unspecialised audience surrogates. For me, The Lonely Palette fills the gap left by the short-run podcast A Piece of Work. And it’s part of the Boston-based Hub & Spoke podcast collective, definitely one to keep an eye on. Another good one from them is Ministry of Ideas.
Centring on the killing of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, this story covers a ten-year investigation in ten episodes. I knew embarrassingly little about Bhutto and her assassination, but the host — BBC journalist Owen Bennett-Jones — doesn’t expect you to. He takes you through his relationship with Bhutto and everyone around her. It’s true crime, it’s international intrigue, it’s family drama, and it’ll make you sound really smart at parties.
This podcast is a deep dive into the era of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. This subject got maybe a page or two in my high school history textbook. Order 9066 is several hours of first-hand accounts of the legislation, the round-ups, and life within the camps. Of the 120,000 people imprisoned, about two-thirds were U.S. citizens. This is another podcast that helps me grapple with living in the chaos of 2018. I recommended Slow Burn in a previous post for the same reasons. The Daily’s 27 June 2018 episode “Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban” serves as a good companion listen, a solemn reminder that history can repeat itself.
Six people living in isolation for a year in a Martian landscape on a Hawaiian mountain, a real NASA mission, recorded for your aural enjoyment. This podcast was much hyped, but it is worth a listen. It’s like The Real World but for space camp nerds. And the editing is as impressive as reality TV — with only seven episodes for 365 days on “Mars”.
I was so excited when the second season of this show came out a couple weeks ago. The first season was only seven episodes and since I’ve been impatiently awaiting a new batch. With NPR’s carefully constructed reporting, Rough Translation looks at international stories to give a new perspective on issues in the US. Two particularly fascinating episodes: “American Surrogate” (about an American woman carrying a Chinese couple’s child) and “Brazil In Black And White” (a look at how race — and diversity quotas — are constructed in Brazil).
This is a funny, sweet, sometimes painful but always insightful audio diary of a mom and her transgender daughter. It’s a lovely family narrative and grounds and personalises a highly politicised topic. There was a big break between seasons one and two but they’re updating again and I’m so glad they are!
This isn’t your typical true crime podcast. In the Dark begins as an investigation of one crime as a jumping off point to examine much larger systemic injustices. The first season looks at the 1989 disappearance of 11-year old Jacob Wetterling in Minnesota. It spins out to the fraught nature of sex offenders registries and the evidence that a shocking majority of crimes in the US go completely unsolved. The second season of In the Dark came out this year and it is quite good, but I didn’t find it as “bingeable” as season one.
This is a bonus recommendation for French speakers, or rather French listeners. Entre has very short episodes (around seven minutes) and consists of an 11-year old girl talking about her life: friends, crushes, religion, parents. It’s intriguing and transporting. You’ll love it for the same reasons you loved Pixar’s “Inside Out” — it’s an honest depiction of the space between childhood and adolescence. This is the first production of podcasting studio Louie Media, and I’m so excited to hear what they’ll come up with next.
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