Words & Images: Fiona Christensen
As children, most of us grew up in front of the television blobbing out to the cartoons and reality shows that played out before us. Our parents would mutter something about becoming square-eyed and then go on about how back in their day they would gather round the radio and everyone would listen to LMR, Springbok Radio or some other frequency that would tell a story. Today however I feel we have circled back to that route with the boom in podcasts. Podcasts have been in popular circulation since around 2004 but now with the progression of smart phones, everyone has access to podcasts all the time. It’s like radio on steroids, where you can tap into free pre-recorded shows on anything you can dream about. If you want comedy, music, thrillers, drama or some life-advice, there will most definitely be a podcast in the language you desire about that topic. So for those of you who haven’t stepped into the wonderful world of podcasts, here is a list of some of our best rated shows to start you off.
If you don’t know about Serial then you have yet to live. Serial is a true life drama show with each episode around an hour long. In this hour, Sarah Koenig, an American journalist attempts to unravel the mystery about the murder of a girl in Baltimore. It sounds a little strange that a podcast about an unknown murder case in America would be taking the world by storm, but after episode 1 you will be dying to hear about Adnan Syed and his believed wrong-conviction. It is a gripping story told over the course of 12 episodes, each delving a little further into the case and unravelling mysteries surrounding the crime. It’s no surprise it’s the world’s most popular podcast.
This podcast is for the history buffs, or like me, just someone who wants to hear a good true story. Nate DiMeo produces a fantastic show about moments in history, not necessarily the definitive ones but rather some tales you didn’t know that come to life in this podcast. It’s a snippet into someone else’s life, moments both hilarious, heart-breaking and thrilling. This might become your favourite bedtime story.
If you like music, are interested in how music is made or are curious at what went into your favourite song or series theme tune, then you will like Song Exploder. Each show is about a certain song and how it came into the making. The song is broken down into its parts, analysed and then finally all thrown together at the end where you can appreciate the music as a whole. I personally have enjoyed these short shows and come to appreciate songs I have known from my favourite musicians even more. The beauty really is in the breakdown.
Josh Clarke & Chuck Bryant are the hosts of the show and in each episode release some wonderful information that everyone should know about. Like did you know that cleaning your ear with an ear bud actually makes it dirtier…You would if you listened to Stuff You Should Know. And alongside releasing this, they also tell you about the best stuff they have read each week which is great, I have found some wonderful articles and books through this. It’s just a great expansion on general knowledge and all pertinent knowledge in general.
“The things you whisper. The things you do in the dark… or light. The things you feel but don’t know how to name”. I personally really enjoyed this podcast which was a snippet into the love in other people’s lives. It covers things from relationships to sex, to the fleeting moments of love we have all experienced in our lives. The show is headed by Kaitlin Prest and she touches on things like masturbation, transgender beauty, and the relationship between love and marriage in a beautifully delicate way. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone who would love a little love each week.
I love design and the creative mind and this podcast is all about that. It looks largely at the design in our everyday lives that we all tend to miss, like the designs of appliances and architecture, things that if you weren’t looking for them or have a passion for would generally ignore. Roman Mars is the host and tells us wonderful things about the designs of mascots, IKEA, duplitecture and The Gruen Effect. Their soundtrack is also very well done and accompanies the stories wonderfully. I highly recommend this to anyone who wishes to have their eyes opened to all the design and art around them.
For anyone interested in Linguistics, and even those who aren’t, this podcast with Helen Zaltzman is a great accompaniment to your work. She looks at puns, mountweazels (and I’m not going to explain that term, you will have to listen to the episode for that), crosswords and election lexicons to name but a few. This etymologically based podcast works well with anyone studying the English language or has an interest in it. Each episode also comes with a new word of the episode, so not only is your knowledge on language expanding, so is your vocabulary.
I had this podcast saved in my list for a while and episodes kept downloading and I just kept forgetting to listen to them. Until one day I needed another podcast to listen to on a bus trip and realised I had all these saved episodes for Here Be Monsters. It was like coming home to a parcel on your bed. A delightfully unexpected surprise. This podcast explores the thoughts we have, like what are crickets singing, the operating systems of dictators and how to live and die until you’re 80. It’s slightly dark and broody and the narrator’s voice is smooth and rich like melted chocolate, and it’s theme tune is amazing. It is an all-round win, best for long drives or moments when you are lying in the dark unable to sleep.
This podcast is one for sound lovers. And I say this over music as it explores the sounds that make music. One of my favourite episodes was about a DJ that collects sounds of skateboarding from various parks around the States and then creates beats and melodies from these collections. Other episodes also looked at the effects of reading aloud, artworks that involve sounds, the sounds of parakeets in London and voice mail memories. Basically anything that makes sound, and interesting ones, is unpacked and explored in this fascinating podcast.
This is a feel good podcast that interviews people in each episode about a range of subjects from things they have seen, to things they have experienced, or as the description says – “from the seedy to the sublime”. The stories generated from the interview sound familiar, like your own life read out over radio and you instantly fall into an easy listening mind-set as you go through each podcast. They match The Heart in listen-ability and relate-ability but with different stories and interviews that made it unique. Ultimately they cater for their name; people who love listening about love, people who love the radio and people who listen to the radio and discover a love.
Scary stories and their history. It’s a beautiful combination, with the addition of a lovely narrator – Aaron Mahnke – who unravels and explores our nightmares and things we are scared to see under our beds. Most of us have a fascination with the darkness and its inhabitants and through this podcast, we learn why certain things became the horrors we know today and why they scare us so much. They’re bedtime stories for the brave.
Daren VonGirdner and William Haynes became my instant favourite people through their podcast. It was the only comedy listed podcast I actually enjoyed from start to finish, possibly because they sound like my friends cracking jokes with each other and just talking general rubbish over a beer. It’s casual comedy, not forced for the sake of recording podcasts but sounding like they were simply talking and someone happened to record their conversations. They are just generally funny guys with a catchy title and laidback, classic themed episodes. Download it. Do it for the boys.
*Disclaimer: You will perhaps note there are barely any comedies on this list. I personally struggle to listen to comedy in radio format and tried many podcasts but to no avail. None struck me as good or listenable over time and I didn’t want to put any on the list I wasn’t fully backing. Do your own exploring though and maybe you will stumble across something I missed. If so, please comment and let me know.