When I saw Brittani’s Eight Podcasts That Aren’t This American Life, I was jumping up and down in my chair in excitement, forever altering the butt groove I’ve been cultivating in the seat all these years. But it was totes worth it — losing the butt groove — as I’m quite the podcast fanatic and gobble up every piece of praise for these auditory artworks. So if Ms. Brittani doesn’t mind me hitching a ride on her coattails, I would delight in sharing some of my own podcast recommendations. And I hope that if you find one you fancy, you’ll consider making a modest donation to that show, as literally a couple bucks a month will cover your bandwidth footprint. They all get by on a little help from their friends, just like Autostraddle.
Anything economicsy is automatically assumed to be economicky, I know. But there was a long time after the ’08 crash where I would curl up in the fetal position about things other than the closet, and those things were of course the job market. Then one day This American Life did a jaw-plummetingly good episode called “When Patents Attack!” with a group of ragtag moneysexuals from a place called Planet Money. They breezily and easily bust down the dismal science to its most digestible and memorable parts, allowing me a kind of footing in our ever changing dollah dollah bills universe that feels like a warm blanket on a cold Autumn night. There’s a celestial body looking out for you up there, and it’s called Planet Money.
Frequency: Two a week.
“Who Killed Lard?”
“Can Lincoln Be Cool Again?”
“Lighthouses, Autopsies and the Federal Budget”
“Can We Create Banks We Love?”
“What Do Private Equity Firms Actually Do?”
I could try and sell you on what amounts to several dozen free mini autobio audio books, but instead I’ll let an excerpt from veteran Hollywood actor (Glee, Memento) and show star Stephen Tobolowsky do the convincing for me.
I was lucky in that I was never completely swallowed up in [cocaine] as so many others have been. I never spent more than $800 a week, and that was a lot back then but it was a lot less than what some of my other drug friends spent. Friends who lost their homes, relationships, even went into debt to maintain their new identity as quote casual drug user who thought it would be cool to die young, end quote. I’m not being dramatic, that was the boast. To die young and leave a beautiful corpse. Foolishness. People who came up with that one either didn’t know corpses, or didn’t know beauty.
Draw a bath and enjoy these adult bed time stories of love, loss and life’s mysteries.
“The Man in the Closet”
If This American Life has a sexy, chain smoking cousin who sits on the hood of its ’68 Mustang, staring at the moon and wondering what it’s all for, that cousin is Love and Radio, produced by Nick van der Kolk. A show that sometimes has a host, sometimes doesn’t, that sometimes tells the truth and sometimes only seems to, L+R shrugs off labels the way your cat does the hats you try to put on it. Ten minutes overhearing conversations in a restroom? Sure. A balloon-porn star? Fair game. An interview with a man named Jay Thunderbolt who runs a strip club out of his living room? That and more lies locked away in this thoughtful, manic, honest gem of a show. P.S. The music, God, the music.
“The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt”
“How I Found Out My Relationship Had No Future, Part 1”
WXPN’s World Cafe Next
Hosted by soft spoken super geek David Dye, World Cafe Next is a weekly double barrel shot of studio tracks from someone, usually amazing, who you’ve never heard of. I can give no better recommendation than to say that, like Pandora.com, if it weren’t for this my life would be less than it is. Do be sure to give Dye and WXPN’s other show, World Cafe Words & Music, a listen if you like interviews and supple live recordings.
“Said The Whale”
Relationship advice columnist Dan “It Gets Better” Savage can seem so caustic and divisive at times it’s hard to remember he’s actually a very affirming and nurturing advice doler outer. Or at least when he feels like it, though since starting IGB he’s definitely ramped up his educating and ramped down his shock jocking. He’s one of the most articulate authorities on the value of open relationships, rationally unpacking his points rather than beating us boring monogamous people over the head with a big elitism stick.
All of that loveliness, and he also has the occasional gorgeous monologue. I can’t find the source among his many hundreds of episodes, but he essentially asked what defines a successful relationship for most people? It’s being together until you’re both old and die, and that’s a fairy tale we’re made to feel guilty for not fulfilling. So, he said, why not redefine a “successful relationship” as people who are happy together and then split up after X amount of time on good, mutual terms? He wanted to make the phenomenon of the successful relationship more common, seeming to say that just because you didn’t get married after two years doesn’t mean those two years weren’t the best two years.
Frequency: Weekly on Tuesdays.
Recs: The last 100 or so. Episode 292 has a great rundown on finding good, safe sex toys, 296 is a live one featuring comedy band Garfunkel & Oates, and 276 is co-hosted with none other than Ira Glass.
I hosted a film review podcast for about two years that got up to about ten or so thousand downloads an episode and netted me an unforgettable two weeks covering South by Southwest where I would run into, and God help me chat up, Adrien Brody outside a men’s restroom. When the door on my time at MovieChatter closed, a window opened overlooking a meadow called The Film Talk. Tightly edited, razor sharp insightful, funny and classy and, the most important thing to a critical work, has clearly explained and explored opinions. Hosts Jett Loe and Gareth Higgins have a rare energy and an enthralling vocabulary, Jett noting a film’s poor design as “bad film grammar” and Gareth saying that Prometheus doesn’t have big ideas, it has “pretend epic shades.” For film buffs and film babies alike seeking a smart cinema show, The Film Talk abides.
“Hugo, The Muppets”
“The Hunger Games Revisited, A Separation, The Raid, Mirror Mirror”
This American Life‘s lab coat wearing co-worker co-toiling in the Knowledge Mines won the MacArthur Genius Grant for a reason, but maybe you already knew that? With stories of science and mathematics’ intersection with the human experience, hosts Jad and Robert fill full that hole in your heart that forms when you leave academia for the last time. They make the hard science’s unflinching logicmindedness accessible by always keeping one foot planted in the “I Just Don’t Know Why This Happened But My Gosh Isn’t The Universe A Grand And Beautiful Place” camp that was colonized by Galileo, Isaac Newton and Carl Sagan. If podcasts formed a university, Radiolab could make a strong case for being Dean on the effort it puts into sound design and editing alone, so just imagine what else this show is capable of.
Frequency: Every two weeks.
“The Turing Problem” (If you listen to nothing else I say in this article, please, please listen to “The Turing Problem.”)
If there is a podcast that I would eat and make one with me if I but could, it’s Matt Darey’s Nocturnal. It could buy a nice vacancy on a rib bone across the street from my heart. My heart and it’d sip Long Island Ice Teas in rocking chairs and watch the world go by and miss nothing. This was my first podcast, a Saturday afternoon feature on DI.fm’s excellent Trance station. (I will allow this pause for Trancesexual jokes.) Every week Mr. DJ Matt Darey releases an episode of Nocturnal, which is one hour of the latest soothe-tronic meditative rave music from multiple renowned artists for free. I’m going to repeat that: an hour of free music, every week, that you can keep forever, going on seven years now. In addition, another free one hour, single artist mix composed just for that episode is made available for streaming.
I haven’t the faintest idea what his business model is, but it seems to work because his concerts are apparently huge and awesome. If you can hear me out there, Matt Darey, your show is so good, and so just plain nice of you to do how you do, that going to a concert of yours is an easy add to my bucket list.
Also if you, the reader, are into faster beats you should check out his other free show Nocturnal Sunshine, and if you do like any of the music you hear (you will) please support the artists.
Recs: “Episode 354” is a good place to start. Also, every 50 episodes he releases a double length Best Of, so those are worth a listen.
Hosted by Women
The Social Hour with Amber MacArthur and Sarah Lane (social media news and views)
Third Gender Radio with Bailey Jay (transfolk interview show)
This Week in Law with Denise Howell (latest law developments in the tech sector)
Top Score with Emily Reese (video game composer talk show)
My To Listen List
99% Invisible with Roman Mars (puts a spotlight to stories in design and architecture)
NPR’s It’s All Politics with Ron Elving and Ken Rudin (high energy discussion of the current political landscape)
NPR’s Foreign Dispatch with Kevin Beesley (top stories in international news)
Intelligence Squared (U.S) with John Donvan (Oxford-style debate show on everything under the sun)
Nerdist Writer’s Panel with Ben Blacker (TV screenwriters talk about the business)