These Are the Podcasts our Editors Can’t Stop Raving About
There’s something special about looking back at a year gone by and recollecting all the events that took place over the last 12 months, from the cities you visited and the goals you accomplished to the items you bought and podcasts you listened to.
Wait, you don’t reflect on your podcast activity of the past year before heading into the unknown of the new year ahead? Well, call us crazy, but if you aren’t assessing your favorite podcasts of the year, you should definitely start, if only to revisit a few favorite episodes.
Listening to podcasts is one of our favorite pastimes, keeping us entertained on subway commutes and motivated during morning runs. Thanks to the seemingly endless stream of options, there is practically a show out there to fit every mood or activity. On the downside, having so many options can be incredibly intimidating and makes it all the more difficult to decipher what’s worth listening to.
So how does one go about finding the can’t-miss podcasts you somehow did manage to miss? Well, that’s where we come in. You can think of us as your podcast sieve, sifting out the bad and bringing you the good, whether they’re new or just new to you.
As we reflect on our podcast-listening history of 2018, we’ve made note of our favorites to ensure you tune into nothing but the best.
Grab your headphones and prepare to look forward to that commute come 2019.
Anna Chan, Managing Editor: This addictive podcast dives into the day-to-day lives of inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison. It’s co-hosted by Nigel Poor, who is a visual artist and volunteer at San Quentin, and inmate Earlonne Woods, who was sentenced in 1999 to 31 years to life for attempted robbery, and recently had his sentence commuted by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Each episode of the podcast, which is produced behind the walls of the prison, is no-holds barred, exploring the details of everything from getting a new cellie (aka cellmate), the less-than-appetizing meals, lockdowns, being gay, the dangers of choosing the wrong group on Day 1, and much more, all told by the inmates themselves. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s hopeful, and it’s a must-listen for anyone who enjoyed dramas such as HBO’s “Oz” — but this is the real deal.
Pod Save America
Barret Wertz, Editor: I love this because they cut right to the chase — no bulls—t (their word, not mine). A group of former Obama staffers came together in January 2017 to combat the lies and chaos coming out of the Trump White House. They have since become liberal stars in their own right with a second podcast dedicated to foreign policy, Pod Save the World, as well as other podcasts and a series of specials on HBO.
Joel Balsam, Freelance Contributor: Podcasting house Gimlet’s second podcast is marketed as “a podcast about the internet,” but the show’s topics only brush the world wide web. Episodes have included traveling to India to find the person behind a spam phone call, searching for the hackers who stole a woman’s “OG” Snapchat account, and my personal favorite, going on an exhaustive journey to find a boy in a photo that went viral on internet chat rooms. You won’t want to stop listening to lovable hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt every step of the way.
Mackenzie Shand, Editor: I was initially drawn to Armchair Expert for the simple fact that it was hosted by one of the lead cast members of “Parenthood” (a show I was a fan of). Prior to listening, I really didn’t know much about Dax Shepard, apart from the fact that he’s married to actress Kristen Bell.
It wasn’t long before I forgot about the “Parenthood” element and became hooked on this podcast. From sharing his past struggles with addiction to what it takes to maintain a healthy marriage, Dax is incredibly open and honest throughout his conversations and it sets right the tone for his guests to feel comfortable and open up themselves.
No matter the guest, be it psychologist Wendy Mogel, or actor Seth Rogen, the show is always entertaining, often inspiring, and never boring.
Barret Wertz, Editor: The subject of this podcast is design, but not always in a way that seems obvious. Episode titles such as “The First Straw,” “Airships and the Future That Never Was,” and “Interrobang” end up being way more fascinating than you might think. One of my favorite episodes was ages ago when the velvety-voiced Roman Mars told us about the design to keep people moving along in “Unpleasant Design & Hostile Urban Architecture.”
Scene on Radio
Joel Balsam, Freelance Contributor: In the latest 12-part season, “This American Life” contributor John Biewen and co-host Celeste Headlee of NPR valiantly attempt to tackle an issue guaranteed to be close to the heart of most of our readers: men. The show takes a magnifying glass to the ways masculinity — and toxic masculinity — got to this point in a way that few articles or shows have managed to do. In the previous season, Biewen tackled another extremely tough subject, whiteness, with the helpful voice of Chenjerai Kumanyika, who acts as a much-needed check and balance.
Barret Wertz, Editor: I love true crime. There, I said it. Give me a true crime podcast and I am a happy man. This one narrowly won out over my list of favorites because it’s just the facts. Don’t get me wrong, I like opinions and humor in just about anything I listen to, but this mystery host has an Australian accent that just makes everything sound more interesting.