My taste in podcasts tends to be thing-I-can-listen-to-at-the-same-time-every-week and more people-talking-about-something than people-talking-about-nothing. I find it almost impossible to focus on fiction or drama unless it is in a very short form and I don’t listen to true crime because it makes me sad. If you can cope with a list of podcasts defined by those parameters, here you go, here it is, my list of podcasts that I enjoyed listening to the most* last year.
The New Statesman Podcast. A healthy retreat from the back-and-forth bickering of British politics hosted by two of the smartest political commentators around. Helen Lewis and Stephen Bush are brilliant at seeing through spin and dissecting how things might actually play out in Westminster.
The Empire Film Podcast. A really nice blend of the silly and the sensible. Brilliant interviews, brilliant hosts, and an ability to recognise that blockbuster movies are capable of being great movies.
The Second Captains Podcast. Easily the best weekly round-up of football stuff, being both smarter and funnier than anything else around. The little musical interludes (Ken Early discussing linen backed by Outkast, Craig David accompanying Mick McCarthy, the magical ‘wifi wankers’ one) are probably the best thing on any podcast.
Soundtracking with Edith Bowman. This podcast may be the smartest way of using those fifteen minute press tour interviews that directors give when promoting a new film. Not only does talking about soundtracks allow the final product to be lengthened (and heightened) by playing the music discussed, but by presenting the director with a different set of questions than the ones they have already answered fifteen times that day (and in particular them being asked by a presenter who is extremely knowledgeable in the subject and who always does her research) you almost guarantee a good interview. I often save these ones up for DIY projects, to which they provide a perfect accompaniment.
Changing Politics. Presented in two halves, the first a (very funny) round-up of the week’s news, the second a (very much less funny) look at one particular issue (Food banks, Homelessness, Trans Rights) and what (usually quite small) changes we can make in our actions to help other people.
BackStory. Four U.S. historians (Joanne Freeman, Nathan Connolly, Brian Balogh and Ed Ayers) look at a different topic each week via American History. The episode from September, Close Encounters: UFOs in American History, which looks at the cultural phenomenon and how it has influenced America, is well worth a listen.
Game of Our Lives. There were some really good interviews on this football podcast last year, especially in the, Playing the Game, Wearing Hijab with Shireen Ahmed, and Cinema of The Pitch with Werner Herzog, but every episode is worth a listen.
The Irish Times World View. There is a lot to be said for getting your Brexit update from Ireland, not least of which the more sober analysis of being one step removed from the process (if not the outcomes) brings. Being a ‘world view’ other, less ridiculous, news stories are covered as well.
*I have, for the sake of discretion or decency or something, not included podcasts made, or hosted by friends, but if you like books, I do recommend End of All Things, and Paperchain Podcast, and if you like music, check out Picky Bastards.