Saturday, January 31, 2015

Turn on, tune in, drop out: The best podcasts


As somebody who spends a large portion of their time grazing on podcasts (and passing recommendations on to friends; both those who ask, and those that do not) it seemed right to compile my go-to listens into one succinct list. The nature of the world of podcasting means that word-of-mouth is still the best way of knowing what to listen to. I don't know why, but the programmers don't seem to have found a functional way of helping us to find podcasts unless we actually know what we're looking for. In a way, it's refreshing that there isn't a clever algorithm for just pigeonholing the wealth of podcasts into categories. Categories are rubbish, and rarely do the content justice, especially when they're titled  'Humour', 'Women's Interests', 'Current Affairs'. What are these things, and how do I get them all into one podcast? I just want tick boxes with options like 'Stress Relief' 'Good with Wine' 'No Annoying Voices' 'Life-Affirmingly Funny' and the ability to click as many as I want.

If you're somebody who doesn't listen to podcasts but wants to start, and you have a smartphone, you're best to begin by downloading Apple's handy purple-badged Podcasts app. That way you can download all of your podcasts straight to your phone, and happily bypass iTunes, which to me feels increasingly outdated.

This year I'm trying to branch out, and listen to more non-US podcasts. I'm also trolling my favourite internet people until they start their own. Of course, this list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start, and I like that many of these podcasts sit in my subscriptions list thanks to the recommendations from you lot. Without further ado;

Cool women talking together

Nerdette A downside to some of the North American podcasts I listen to is the presence of those overly American inflections. The 'oh my gods' and the 'ughs'. I have a high threshold for this vocabulary after spending a term studying in Massaschusetts with the yoga-panted choruses of oh my god, wait what? reverberating across the dining halls on a daily basis. It does mean, however, that lots of my English friends won't tolerate the podcasts I recommend them. Nerdette is a good antidote; less hyperbole, more straight-talking. The premise is simple: we have all something we nerd out about. I especially like that recommended books, TV shows and apps are prescribed to listeners as homework.

Politini Covering the intersection of politics, current affairs and pop culture, presented by Washington-based power couple Daniele and Aisha.

Call Your Girlfriend If Politini's Daniele and Aisha are a power couple in the romantic sense, then Animatou Sow and Ann Friedman of CYG claim the platonic power couple badge of honour. Airtime is dedicated to Kanye West, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Menstruation News, internet news and their feminist motivational concept 'Shine Theory.' If TED Talks were less white, and more female, with knowing eyerolls and real talk, they would be like Call Your Girlfriend. In moments of strife I often find myself wondering What Would Aminatou Do?

The Broad Experience 10/10 for the title alone, Ashley Milne-Tyte covers the experiences of women in the workplace. From the issue of working for free, to the hell of networking, and getting what you want, balancing expectations, and emotions in the office. Incredibly useful whether you're in the first years of your career (like me), or later down the line and navigating issues of authority, progession, motherhood/non-motherhood.

Pilots Oh internet, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There's being able to order carbon monoxide alarms at 2am when you're sitting in your knickers, eating toast, convinced that you're being slowly poisoning. There are the Twitter parody accounts that make the world go round. And best of all, there's the blossoming of internet friendships. Think Miranda July and Sheila Heti or the wonderfully unlikely Twitter best friends Sarah Millican and Kim Cattrell, who are always gushy with each other. Even better when new online friendships end up producing an Actual Thing, like the Pilots podcast from transatlantic panpals Elizabeth Sankles and Anne T. Donahue. The pair chat shit over Skype and dissect the pilot episodes of their favourite television programmes, starting with Friends and Sex and The City.

Talking it out

Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
A new addition to my podcast subscriptions, I'm holding out to see if I have the patience for Alec Baldwin. I started with the Julianne Moore episode and found myself thinking let her talk! everytime he spoke over her. (Who speaks over Julianne Moore? Nobody. Only idiotic on-screen husbands.) I'm yet to find out whether Baldwin will tip into interruptive mansplaining territory, but with guests like Thom Yorke and Kristen Wiig, I'm happy to keep listening.

Savage Lovecast On-point, inclusive sex and relationship advice from Dan Savage that makes me want to re-train as a Sex Education teacher. Dan Savage is everything that Alec Baldwin is not, and thank god. 

Design Matters Debbie Millman talks with designers and creatives about making things, modern matters and daily routines.


Death, Sex and Money. Anna Sale's podcast loosely covers everybody's (apparently) three favourite subjects. Start with the Ellen Burstyn episode for fascinating insights into her life, and an important reminder of the fact that married women comparably had no fucking rights in the 1970s.

New Yorker Fiction. Writers reading short stories by their favourite authors. I like to slip my headphones on and listen to NYF while I take a walk around the city in the evening after a stressful day at work. An especially good podcast for nighttime walking when there's a chill in the air and your senses are heightened.

The Moth Radio Hour Named with a view to recreating the feeling of balmy summer nights in Georgia, and the tradition of storytelling on moth-covered porches, this is a constant reliable audio companion. I've guffawed publicly on trains to hilarious childhood anecdotes, and been hit over the head and forced to take a seat by arresting personal tales.

Jarvis Cocker's Wireless Nights. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I like Jarvis Cocker's overly sultry radio voice, and always enjoy BBC Radio 4's Wireless Nights, which takes a cue from the sort of radio we've come to expect from the likes of This American Life.


Helena said...

Thank you for this Stevie! I listen to some of these and am familiar with others, but have never heard of a couple. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in. I fill my hour-long walking and bus commute with podcasts, which feels a lot more beneficial than listening to the same album on repeat every day (!), having been too lazy to put much music on my phone.

Camille said...

Thank you for this, Stevie. I've been wanting to discover new podcasts but didn't know where to start. I mean, it's gotten to the point where I have difficulty finding TAL episodes I haven't listened to, which is a shame when there's a world of interesting podcasts out there.

Anonymous said...

I too am a big lover of podcasts, and found and fell in love with Call Yr Girlfriend through this blog (thanks!).

As much as I love it the constant reference to their anti-Europe stance seems to be more and more prominent. Listening through their (Aminatou & Ann) archive at work today and I noticed they seem to mention it in most episodes - so much so that I actually picked up on it.

In no way am I stating that everyone who loves America is bad, my point is just that it it gets tiresome to hear how they negatively view Europe and apparently how 'backwards and narrow' it is. Sad to hear on a much loved podcast.

paper lantern said...

Brilliant Stevie! As always. Love your recommendations and the easy-flow format they come in! ^_^ xx