As more and more podcasts are popping up every day, Getintothis’ Kris Roberts is here to trim the fat and offer the top 10 podcasts everyone should be listening to right now.
As someone who spends a total of 8 hours a week sat on a bus travelling to and from uni, you can imagine I have a lot of down time to fill.
I probably should be using this two hour round trip productively to do things like, you know, my set readings, or maybe prepping for my day ahead, but there’s something else that’s grabbed my attention and become something of a ritual… catching up on a week’s worth of podcasts.
Rather unexpectedly, podcasts have pretty much taken the spot once occupied by music, if there’s anything I can’t abide its sitting on a bus for an hour with nothing to listen to, and of course for many, music is the go-to.
Podcasts have had somewhat of a bad rap up until recently, with many people assuming they’re boring, but they now go far beyond listening to a 35-year-old man have a conversation with himself about why Oasis are the greatest band of all time.
In fact, there is now a podcast out there to meet every possible interest.
Ever wondered about the process of writing Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way as told by Lindsey Buckingham,the very person who wrote it? Hrishikesh Hirway’s podcast Song Exploder has an episode for that.
Or maybe you’re just a curious person who loves to take every possible opportunity to learn about the world, Jonathan Van Ness’ Getting Curious may be the best for you.
A little tip if you don’t know where to start is to just search for a topic. I know that on Apple Podcasts instead of just searching for a podcast series to listen to, you can decide on a topic or person that interests you, search for that term and it will bring up all of the podcast episodes that feature what you searched – I may be guilty of recently binging every podcast episode Phoebe Waller-Bridge has ever featured on.
So, here’s a top 10 list of podcasts to meet every need and pique every interest:
10. Dissect – Spotify
Dissect is a recent favourite of mine, I haven’t been listening to this one for very long but I’m so glad that I found it.
Dissect, named the Best Podcast of 2018 by The New York Times, is similar to Song Exploder, but much more detailed and without the artist’s input.
Each season pays close attention to one album, currently on season 5 and examining Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN. Host Cole Cuchna takes a forensic look at each song on the album over the course of multiple episodes, considering the music, the lyrics, the production, and the meaning and perception of the songs.
While its worth a listen for anyone into their music, you will particularly enjoy it if you’re into rap and R&B, past seasons have seen Cuchna dive into Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album To Pimp a Butterfly, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, and Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy.
This is one you can really get caught up in and finish a season within a day and not even realise it, and with 5 seasons and counting of content, there’s no time to waste.
9. Switched On Pop – Vox
Another one for the music buffs, or more specifically, the pop music buffs. This podcast makes the bold but not necessarily incorrect claim that pop music is the superior artform.
Musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on the biggest pop hits of our time and figure out how they work, exactly what makes them so catchy and why they penetrate our culture so heavily.
Together they have created a podcast that analyses an area of our culture that rarely gets any critical, serious reflection, and of course the chemistry between the two and the special guests they host every week make it a very entertaining listen, that is both insightful and easy listening.
This is another one with a hefty back catalogue, so you won’t have any issues filling those boring commutes with this one.
8. Still Processing – The New York Times
Still Processing covers all things popular culture, courtesy of The New York Times culture writers Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. Devouring all things TV, film, art, literature, and music, these two discuss the very cultural experiences that move them.
Their film review for Jordan Peele’s Us is a particularly fantastic listen, dissecting the film from the perspective of African American writers living in America, while providing context for the film that you wouldn’t have from just watching it. It will completely change the way you think about it.
Wesley and Jenna are not ones to shy away from a tough topic, either, taking on Michael Jackson and R. Kelly amongst other things, they’ve created a truly interesting podcast and I for one look forward to their input week after week.
7. Food 4 Thot – iHeartRadio
Food 4 Thot is a little bit difficult to pin down, I’d describe it as a podcast for queer people by queer people, dissecting the varying cultural experiences that intersect queerness.
Hosted by 4 queer writers from vastly different cultural backgrounds, every week they dive into a new topic and have open, honest, and sometimes difficult conversations all about their life experience, their romantic relationships, and their careers.
The charm and the wit are perfectly baked into this podcast, and while some of the topics can make you shed a tear, overall this is an incredibly uplifting and empowering show filled with real life experience and lessons learnt.
This one’s definitely an 18+ podcast and not for the prudish type but is absolutely worth a listen if you want to belly laugh and ugly cry all in the same episode.
6. Mob Queens – Stitcher Podcasts
Another personal favourite, Mob Queens is a combination of All Killa No Filla and The C-Word, telling the story of one of the most influential but certainly most forgotten gang member of the 1930’s New York mob scene, Anna Genovese.
Married to the mob boss at the time, Vito Genovese, Anna spent her marriage with Vito pulling the strings from behind the scenes, and when he was on the run she took it upon herself to take over the New York queer nightlife scene, at a time when these kinds of venues were absolutely illegal.
Anna Genovese has been wiped from history since her passing, with very little information on her at all, up until now.
Hosts Jessica Bendinger and Michael Seligman have used every possible resource to their disposal to uncover the truth of this complex character, and what they uncover on the way has to be heard to be believed.
Managing to track down long lost relatives of the Genovese family, Jessica and Michael manage to get first-person accounts of what these enigmatic characters were like on a personal level, and in the process uncover some truths about their own personal lives.
5. All Killa No Filla – Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rachel Fairburn
I couldn’t possibly write a top 10 without including some true crime, after all, it is one of the most popular podcast categories today.
All Killa No Filla is the ultimate true crime podcast, perfect for anyone who loves to learn about some of the most troubled serial killers of the past. Hosted by best friends and comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean, they use this podcast to explore their greatest shared passion… serial killers.
It isn’t as heavy as it sounds though, while the stories are absolutely horrendous Kiri and Rachel still somehow find a way to have a right laugh while they dive into the dark history of some of the world’s most famous criminals.
The three-part Aileen Wuornos is a must listen, there’s information in there that you’re not going to find in a Netflix documentary, they’re nothing if not thorough.
4. Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness – Earwolf
One of the best things about human beings is that we are naturally curious, some more than others, but we thrive on learning and feeding our curiosity. Jonathan Van Ness of Netflix’s Queer Eye is one of these people that is particularly curious about absolutely everything, and this natural curiosity combined with his ADHD and sunny disposition make for an insanely entertaining podcast.
Each week Van Ness invites an expert on to his show to explain something that he’s always been curious about.
Whether that is Geoengineering and its potential to save the world with Dr. Shuchi Talati, to how do you win the Great British Bake Off anyway? With season 5 winner Nancy Birtwhistle, you really never know what you’re going to get from one week to the next.
The first 100 or so episodes are now archived and can only be accessed via Stitcher Premium, but the podcast itself is still free and there’s a healthy number of episodes to listen to back on.
3. The Guilty Feminist – Deborah Frances-White
Feminism is something I hold close to my heart, but it has become something of a buzz word as of late. Don’t be deterred, though, this is not a podcast of angry feminists preaching to their listeners.
Instead, this is a podcast that explores feminism and the hypocrisies and insecurities that undermine it, all told in the format of stand-up comedy.
Hosted by Deborah Frances-White, The Guilty Feminist invites a number of guests to their recorded live show every week, including big names like Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Sarah Millican. Deborah, along with her guests, take turns to perform a stand-up comedy set based on the theme for the week, whether that be pregnancy or failure.
To set the tone and really get things going, each episode opens with a confession disguised as a joke, one by one they take turns with their “I’m a feminist, but…”, before confessing to something they had done that week that undermines their feminist stance.
This highlights perfectly that while feminism is crucial, it is something that has to be worked on, being a feminist doesn’t erase that society has conditioned us against this idea.
Another one with a huge back catalogue, there’s plenty to catch up on and trust me, you’ll laugh more than you think you will.
2. The C-Word – Luminary
What originally started out as a Luminary exclusive, The C-Word is the first podcast that I’ve ever signed up to a paid subscription just to listen to, it’s that good.
No fear though, some episodes have since moved on to Apple Podcasts under Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham.
Hosted by Lena Dunham and her friend and historian of bad behaviour Alissa Bennett, The C-Word looks at women throughout history that society has deemed to be ‘crazy’ from the perspective of a woman society loves to call crazy.
Ranging from the dissection of Mariah Carey’s 2001 very public breakdown, to the frankly bizarre story of Tania Head, a woman who pretended to be a 9/11 survivor, this podcast offers a critical eye and empathy to those women throughout history that have been written off as simply too crazy to understand.
Season two has just started, so now is the perfect time to jump in and catch up on a century worth of misunderstood women.
1. Song Exploder – Hrishikesh Hirway
I’ve already touched on this one briefly, but I couldn’t write a top 10 without one of my personal favourites, and the first podcast I ever subscribed to.
Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder invites a different musician on every week to dive into one of their most famous songs. So far, the podcast has hosted artists from Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in which they talk in depth about his career, his Grammy wins and take a deep dive into Holyfields, to Slipknot where they dissect Unsainted from their most recent album We Are Not Your Kind.
This one is a must listen for any music buff, it’s one thing to listen to people try to figure out the history of a song, the intended meaning and how it came to be, but to hear it from some of the biggest artists in the industry about their own music is a different experience entirely.
With 173 episodes and counting, there’s enough here to satisfy all your music needs for months, and they’re almost guaranteed to have an episode featuring your favourite artist.