How great are Podcasts? Like little bite-sized books for your ears, they take up no weight in your bag, can be played at whim and (in most cases) are free. As well as being ideal for the daily commute, they’re practically custom-made for long trips and lazy days spent in hammocks by tropical beaches. But where to start? With more than 250,000 podcasts and 8 million episodes, a first-timer can easily become overwhelmed. In an act of goodwill and podcast promotion, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites to help make the process easy.
This American Life is one of the original podcasts. We also happen to think it’s one of the best. Acting as a commentary of modern life and all the things that make us human, each episode pulls together stories on a different theme. These themes range from the topical (e.g. episode 592 which pulls together first-person accounts from refugee camps across Greece, from the experience of living with hundreds of others in the cramped quarters of a gas station to a story of finding love in unlikely places) to the evergreen (e.g. episode 605 which focuses on kid logic – stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments but coming to hilariously inaccurate conclusions). With a backlog of over 600 episodes, the good news is if you like it as much as us, you have your listening pleasure sorted until at least 2020.
It’s a brave man indeed who will read a dirty book written by their own father. It’s an even braver one who decides to broadcast the process to an international audience. Meet Jamie Morton, aforementioned courageous human and creator of one of the best comedy podcasts to ever grace the airwaves. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably wondering why we’re labelling a podcast about porn as a comedy. To the utter joy of listeners everywhere, it turns out Jamie’s dad has surprisingly little knowledge about all things sexual, basing much of his writing on descriptions which are wildly inaccurate, like vaginal lids (fellas, these do not exist), and hilariously un-sexy. Breasts like pomegranates anyone? None of this is lost on Jamie and his two sidekicks, James and Alice, as they read a new chapter each week and dissect it with witty interpretations and side-splitting banter. This is one podcast guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.
This little podcast made history back in 2014, debuting at number one on iTunes and quickly becoming the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads. Almost three years on, it’s now been downloaded more than 100 million times. So yes, it’s excellent. In a nutshell, it’s investigative journalism at its most engaging, with each series poking and prodding away at a different case. Season one follows the investigation into the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the crime despite one mistrial, a continued plea of innocence and some questionable evidence. If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to binge the whole series in one as the voice of Serial, Sarah Koenig, uncovers new evidence, witnesses, twists and turns, all the while going back and forth in her assessment of Adnan’s guilt. A second season of Serial was released in 2015, applying the same investigative approach to a different story – that of an American soldier serving in Afghanistan who was held by the Taliban for five years and upon release, charged with desertion. Season three is set to come out later this year and will focus on a different story all together. Our earphones are at the ready.
Australian made and unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, this podcast presents everything from a Portaloo Symphony - the noises of a bank of portaloos layered over Tchaikovsky’s 1812 - to The Cat Piano, a fictional musical instrument from a bygone era. While this creative gem was discontinued earlier this year, the good news is there’s a huge backlog of episodes available for your listening pleasure. Despite their strange premises, we find them kind of soothing and we think you will too.
Have you ever wondered whether you can outrun a fart? Why cornflakes were invented? Or why women’s and men’s shirts button up on different sides? If you answered yes to any of these questions, We Fact Up is the podcast for you. Entertaining, educational and exceptionally good dinner party fodder, these short, sharp episodes answer a different question each week, throwing in some solid banter along the way. The best part, for those with curious minds, is you can submit a question and – if all goes well – it will be the subject of a future episode.
If we could turn back time, we’d replace our uncharismatic and slightly bookish high-school history teacher with Dan Carlin’s authoritative voice and incredible ability to pull together seemingly random events in human history and present them in coherent and relevant themes. Despite their ambitious length (one lasts six hours), episodes are highly engaging, factual and philosophical, giving you plenty of food for thought and a bunch of fun facts to casually drop into your next debate. #educated