Tune In: Podcasts
Written by Leah Voskuil, Lifestyle Editorial Assistant
Illustrated by Bozh
There comes a point where you have exhausted every playlist in your repertoire and do not have it in you to go on the hunt for a new favorite tune. Instead of sitting in silence, I recommend a new love.
There is no bass drop, but you do not miss it one bit. Over time, you find yourself switching between learning about a murder case from the 1800s, the origins of Instagram and everything in-between. You are also all but guaranteed to be the MVP of your trivia team.
Podcasts: welcome to the new radio.
Whether the goal is to enhance your mundane bus route, make you feel a bit less lonely or learn about something you have literally never pondered before, podcasts are for everyone.
In 2013, there were almost 92,000 podcasts in the world discussing nearly every topic imaginable. Fast-forward three years, and over one-third of Americans have started listening.
Podcatchers, also known as the Spotify and Pandoras of podcasts, are abundant (and often free) regardless of your operating system. For Apple users, explore Overcast, Castro, iCatcher and Apple’s Podcasts app. For the rest of the world, check out Pocket Casts, Podcast Republic, Player FM, Podcast Addict, Stitcher Radio and Google Play Music. Ultimately, you should be trying to find an app that is easy to operate and organize to your liking. Note that there is much less animosity between artists and stations in the podcast world than there is in the music industry. You will not be missing out on exclusive content depending on which provider you choose. Here is to hoping that Drake does not start a podcast.
In regard to a show’s organization, there is no standard layout. Some shows discuss a continuous topic, like Serial which essentially treats each season as a book and every episode as a chapter. Other shows, like This American Life, provide a new story with each episode. This open format keeps life exciting.
Once you settle on a mode to receive your podcasts– as an Apple user I prefer the simplicity of the Podcasts app that came downloaded with the phone– how do you cut through the noise and get straight to your new favorite program? As with most platforms, there are “Best Of” charts alongside browsing abilities within each app, as well as the good ol’ search button. Or, if you dare, take a friend’s request.
Below are a few of my favorite podcasts organized by genre. Some are old, some are new, but none disappoint.
- Fresh Air
This podcast is a product of NPR that stems off of WHYY magazine, an award-winning contemporary arts weekday publication. Learn about the art you might be missing, and hear in-depth interviews with some of your favorite influencers.
- Still Processing
Hosted by New York Times’ Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham, Still Processing is a podcast regarding all things culture. From black masculinity in film to nudity to Adele, hear Wesley and Jenna tackle the subjects we know so well with a keen eye and a fresh take.
Recommended episode: Moonlight
- WTF with Marc Maron
Known comedian Marc Maron interviews celebrities, politicians, innovators and etcetera out of the comfort of his garage. The discussions are insightful, vast and seriously worth a listen.
Recommended episode: Barack Obama
- Serial (season one)
If your friends have not already talked your ear off about Serial’s first season and the case of Adnan, I am here to do so. If you find crime shows even borderline interesting and are fascinated with investigative journalism (especially when it is done right and produces tangible change), listen to This American Life’s most popular series from 2016, Serial. Live Serial. Love Serial. Disregard the second season, and prepare for an upcoming third.
- In the Dark
In the Dark looks into the unsolved abduction case of a Minnesota boy almost 30 years ago. Much like your favorite crime shows, dive deep into the (mis)handling of the case through law enforcement and turn yourself into a detective.
- This American Life
This podcast is perfect if you have a sociological itch to scratch. Each episode covers a new topic and intertwines three stories with a common thread. For example, there was just an episode about feeling lost at a party and the different interpretations of that feeling– your political party, your friend’s party, etcetera. These stories come from all across the world (regardless of the title) and remind you that even though there are experts and novices in every field, we are all human.
- TED Radio Hour
Speaking of experts, TED Radio Hour takes the same basic premise of their TED stage and adopts the presentations for radio. The interviews are in greater depth and arguably more engaging than the video format.
- How I Built This
How I Built This is all about “innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.” Now, This seems vague, but you definitely know these people, or at least use their inventions. For example, the creators of Zumba, Warby Parker and Instagram are all featured, to name a few. Learn how their ideas came to them, what odd obstacles got in their way and how they continue to not only persevere, but to thrive.
Recommended episode(s): Vice, Instagram, Spanx
- Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
If you are looking to learn something strange with a heavy dose of wit on the side, take a listen to Tell Me Something I Don’t Know where host and journalist Stephen Dubner seemingly does not stay on topic for long but always manages to give you at least four pieces of knowledge that will come in handy for bar trivia.
- Stuff Your Mom Never Told You
Out of the How Stuff Works department, Stuff Your Mom Never Told You should actually be renamed to Stuff Women Have Done And Continue To Do But You Have Never Been Taught Because of the Patriarchy. Gal pal hosts Cristen and Caroline cover everything from your most pressing questions about IUDs, why “boy geniuses” is a thing people say but “girl geniuses” is not and the dangers of empowertising (that is, using feminism to sell products to women and whether advertisers’ intentions matter). This series may have just ended, but the episodes are timeless.
Recommended episode: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Quite simply, this podcast has average, everyday people read their diaries verbatim from childhood. It is painfully funny to listen to, in part because you remember the horrors of your own diary.
- The Run-Up
This podcast comes out of The New York Times and is hosted by Michael Barbaro, a veteran political reporter. With experts each week– not including the handful of episodes right after the election in which Barbaro hosted dialogues that brought two friends together who supported opposing candidates to talk about this national divide. With each episode you learn about the current political goings-on, as told by someone who has seen it all, and the impact of each decision. Now more than ever, subscribe to The Run-Up.
- The Daily
With the same host and format as The Run-Up, The Daily is, as the name suggests, a daily podcast discussing the ever-changing political environment where we currently find ourselves. If you need more than a weekly political fix and want to hear what The New York Times is buzzing about without purchasing a paper every morning, this podcast is for you.
- Pod Save America
Following suit, Pod Save America is brought to you by the boys who ran Keepin’ it 1600. Essentially, here is a no-fuss and hilarious group of highly knowledgeable individuals dissecting what the heck is going on in the United States. This program is only a few episodes old, but it is already a hit.
- More Perfect
If you, like so many others, barely know what the Supreme Court does other than wear fancy robes and refuse to use technology, listen to More Perfect. This show is organized around the groundbreaking decisions and individuals who made them since the Supreme Court’s creation. It is a strenuous job that most of us will never experience, but we will always be affected. Also, it is just so dang fascinating.
From NPR, Invisibilia is all about the underlying forces that maneuver and manipulate human behavior; things like assumptions, beliefs and cultural norms. This podcast is unique in the way it intertwines scientific inquiry with raw human emotion.
- Hidden Brain
Hidden Brain operates under a similar organization of Invisibilia in the way it “helps curious people understand the world.” The difference here is that Hidden Brain is less scientific and more ethnographic in its quest to break down things like why people say “literally” so much and why creating a mess is ultimately helpful.
- Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People
This podcast is exactly as the name suggests. For one hour an anonymous person talks about whatever they want. The show is hosted by comedian Chris Gethard, though most stories are far from funny. People across the globe call in and share secrets, talk about the universe, or sometimes talk about more mundane things like what they ate for breakfast. The only rule of this podcast is that Chris cannot be the first one to hang up.
- Savage Lovecast
A sex and love columnist named Dan Savage hosts this call-in podcast where he offers straight-forward, blunt advice about the widest array of questions you could possibly imagine. This is by far the most popular podcast in the niche.
- Modern Love: The Podcast
Here is where a Modern Love essay is read by some of your most beloved famous people (Judd Apatow, anyone?) followed by conversations with the individual(s) who wrote the essay. It is whimsical, emotional and will make you want to go sit on a park bench waiting for your soulmate.
- The Heart
Here is the podcast to listen to if you firmly believe that intimacy is messy, confusing and untamable. The Heart puts it best when they say that the show is about the “triumphs and the terrors of intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love, and the wild diversity of the human heart.”
There you have it, my argument to take a break from whatever Shawn Mendes song is stuck in your head and dive head first (or, rather, ears first) into the world of podcasts. Not only will you find yourself completely enthralled in a topic you have most likely never thought about before, but who knows, you might win trivia this week.