Have you listened to any great podcasts lately? (That’s almost a rhetorical question — there are that many good ones out these days.) Last year we wrote about eight favorites, and since then we’ve discovered many more. Here are six compelling podcasts, and we’d love to hear your suggestions…
IF YOU Want something gripping
LISTEN TO Homecoming
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Homecoming is the first fiction podcast I’ve ever listened to. The psychological thriller — doled out in 25-minute episodes — is performed by a group of star-studded actors. Catherine Keener plays the lead role as an earnest caseworker at an experimental treatment facility, The Homecoming Initiative, which helps solders re-integrate after military service. David Schwimmer is her tough-headed boss, and the actor Oscar Isaac, who starred in the 2015 Star Wars film The Force Awakens, is the soldier trying to keep his demons in check. Sound awesome? It is. Each episode brings together brilliant character acting, meticulous sound effects and a musical score.
TRY THIS EPISODE The three-minute Homecoming Trailer (because, no spoilers)
IF YOU Like to eavesdrop
LISTEN TO Beautiful/Anonymous
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT The premise of this podcast is the reason it’s so compelling. An anonymous caller is recorded having an hour-long phone conversation with the host — actor and comedian Chris Gethard — who knows nothing in advance about who he’s talking to or what they want to talk about. The conversations feel like the blindest of all blind dates, and while they can sometimes be quotidian (like an amusing discourse on getting a passport renewed), they’re often profound (one caller talks about realizing she was married to a child molester). Every time I listen to an episode unspool, I feel filled with empathy for these strangers and closer to my fellow humans overall.
TRY THIS EPISODE Married to a Monster
IF YOU’RE Into true crime stories
LISTEN TO My Favorite Murder
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT One of the tag lines of My Favorite Murder is “check your anxiety at the door,” and while that’s not entirely possible when you’re talking about killers, the comedian hosts (and major true crime fans) Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark somehow make their show both lighthearted and dark. Here’s how it works: They discuss their own favorite murder tales and listen to hometown stories submitted by fans. Hilarious banter ensues. On first listen, the setup feels a little jarring — how on earth can they be so dishy about real cases? — but then they begin to feel like friends with whom you’d have this exact conversation while sitting around your living room.
TRY THIS EPISODE My Firstest Murder
IF YOU Need a hug
LISTEN TO Dear Sugar
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT At the top of every episode, listeners are reminded of this: “The universe has good news for the lost, lonely and heartsick.” Originating from Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond’s cult advice column on the site The Rumpus, the two are now together again in podcast form. They field questions from listeners, who are often at their most vulnerable, on topics like relationships and addiction; and then the duo provides warm advice. You’ll want to print out everything Cheryl Strayed says in her sweet, twangy voice as a motivational poster. For example: “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”
TRY THIS EPISODE When Your Loved Ones Just Don’t Get It
IF YOU’RE Uninhibited
LISTEN TO The Heart
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Do you, like me, usually listen to podcasts alone? Then try this one — it’s a very intimate experience. All about love and sex, The Heart has a way of turning what host Kaitlin Prest calls “deliciously smutty feminist audio pieces” into intimate stories that stay in your head for weeks. But: a quick listening tip. Almost any topic is fair game, from heartbreak to oral sex (with, omg, real audio!). It’s good to press play with your wits about you.
TRY THIS EPISODE The Smell
IF YOU Can only choose one
LISTEN TO Call Your Girlfriend
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Let me go out on a limb. I would argue that if you could only add one new podcast to your repertoire, this should be the one. The series has a bit of everything: girl talk, news, culture, food, humor, earnestness… BuzzFeed has called it a “Big Important Podcast,” and its huge cult following helped it reach #2 on iTunes last year. Hosted by digital strategist Aminatou Sow and her real-life bestie, journalist Ann Friedman, each episode is a wide-ranging conversation between the two smart women about the week’s zeitgeist, from Internet memes to the election. Every other episode is a Phone-a-Friend, featuring interviews with their awesome peers, like San Francisco illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham.
TRY THIS EPISODE Comfort Hoodie
What have you been loving lately? Please share below…
P.S. 8 more amazing podcasts.
(Photo of Elton John in 1974 by D. Morrison.)