For a blog written by people between the ages of twenty-three and thirty circa 2017, it’s been a while since we’ve talked about podcasts. Our very own Geneva Langeland trailblazed the tradition of regularly supplying us with her top picks in her fantastic “Next Episode” posts, which I heartily recommend. It is her mantle that I now gladly assume.
The Finer Things: Art, Music, and Cultural Phenomena
- Revisionist Histories
Imagine if Malcolm Gladwell invited you into his mind palace for an organized tour of his pet peeves and hobbies, loosely organized around the theme of exploring all things “overlooked or misunderstood.” That’s about the right picture of this podcast—and it’s just marvelous. The two seasons encompass pressing questions behind many facets of life from the tax injustices lurking behind golf course maintenance to questions of where genius comes from to the history of french fries. I’ve never been a big re-listener of podcasts, but I make an exception for this one. In particular, Gladwell is very good at talking about visual topics through an auditory medium. For a profound example see Season 2, Episode 4, “The Foot Soldier of Birmingham”—you will never look at public statutes the same way.
Average length: 35 minutes
- Song Exploder This podcast elegantly “explodes” songs through interviews with musician across all genres. The artists and composers break their song into its composite parts, letting listeners tag along in their creative process. Each episode ends with the song played in its entirety. The podcast concept is beautiful in its simplicity and provides excellent way to find new artists and get to know some old favorites a bit better. Average Length: 10-30 minutes
POLITICS! It’s most people’s least favorite topic these days, but here are three podcasts that tackle the issues in oddly comforting ways.
- More Perfect At long last, More Perfect returned this month with a second season of stories about anything and everything connected to the Supreme Court. I’ve heard some of best explanations of complex social issues on this show (check out “The Gun Show” for a compelling break down of the history of gun rights or “Cruel and Unusual” for a new take on capital punishment). And in the great tradition of This American Life or RadioLab (More Perfect’s sister podcast), this show captures complexities through the pathos of personal, human stories. Average Length: 40 minutes
- What Trump Can Teach Us About Con-Law
In this little gem, a podcaster and a professor of constitutional law team up to give listeners mini lessons about the ramifications of Trump’s actions from a constitutional perspective. I know, sounds depressing, but the podcast is highly educational, somewhat entertaining, and always pertinent.
Average Length: 15 minutes
- The West Wing Weekly Maybe this podcast belongs under “Worldly Pleasures,” but I suspect many fans return to the walk-and-talking world of Leo, C.J. Sam, Josh, and Donna and the rest of gang with a renewed desire to remember what a happier government looks like (even if it is only TV). Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina (one of the actors on the show) go through each episode of Aaron Sorkin’s award winning television series The West Wing, often with the help of special guests including actors, writers (yes, even Mr. Sorkin himself makes an appearance!), producers, or technicians from show, and (here’s the educational part) real politicians, activists, or experts who deal with different issues brought up in certain episodes. This podcast will make you love The West Wing even more than you already do. BARTLET FOR PRESIDENT FOREVER! Average length: 60 minutes
- Pop Culture Happy Hour
I kissed most pop culture good-bye when I started grad school, but this NPR classic keeps me apprised of new music, TV shows, movies, and books. Linda Holmes leads a friendly roundtable of critics who discuss what’s making them happy in pop culture. It’s a really a good way to figure out what you actually want to fork over $15 for to see in a theater and what can wait for Netflix someday.
Average Length: 30 minutes
- The Bugle
In this “audio newspaper for a visual age,” British “satirist for hire,” Andy Zaltzman, takes jabs and throws zingers about news from across the globe. With a coterie of different guests, Zaltzman runs through commentary on both news and history through tirades of Shakespearean proportion in their wit, speed, and, ahem, not-so-pristine humor. But he’s devilishly clever and the podcast is great romp across the pond, and then all over world. (Fun fact: John Oliver co-hosted the podcast once upon a time).
Average Length: 40 minutes
- Car Talk Throwback! How can we forget Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers laughing uncontrollably at each other’s jokes as they counsel callers with a myriad of car woes? Remember their weekly “puzzlers”? Or they way the guys make their callers repeat weird car noises? You can relive all these memories, because the old Car Talk have been collected on a podcast. Don’t worry, the joy in these conversations has grown even more infectious with age. Average Length: 50 minutes
After a trial-by-fire year as public school substitute teacher and fly-by-night freelancer, Julia will shed the tribulations of the work-world to embark on a MA in art history and museum studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. If you are in town, she’ll gladly take you to a local museum. She enjoys walks, leopard print, and good conversation.