The Best Of The Listener (So Far)
Caroline Crampton is a writer and podcaster. She is the UK correspondent for Hot Pod, the author of The Listener newsletter and the producer of vintage whodunnit podcast Shedunnit. Check out what shows she chose and what episode you should start with.
Every day, I recommend three podcasts for my readers at The Listener. As a result, I listen to an awful lot of shows. These are the best, most surprising and most unusual ones that I’ve found so far. Pocket Casts users can use this link to receive it for two months for free.
Tiny dispatches from a strange place. This is where podcaster David Weinberg puts beautiful and unusual pieces of audio that he comes across, from random cassettes picked up at a flea market to a recording of his brother-in-law testing the pitch of household objects.
Start with: Unchained Melody, a gorgeous yet melancholy extract from a long-ago singing lesson.
There’s a lot of brilliant audio in the world that I’m cut off from because I only speak one language — English. This podcast collates the best documentaries from all over the world and republishes them with subtitles, so the linguistically challenged can appreciate them.
Start with: ROW-cub, a miniature record of a break up.
This is a show about videogame music, which gathers musical moments into episodes according to whimsical and surprising themes, such as “train music” and “ice palaces”. Host Drew Mackie keeps his informative narration minimal, so you can really glory in the music.
Start with: Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Pixels, because pipe organ music is incredible.
Who Exploded Vivien Stone?
A horror-comedy fiction podcast with a cinematic twist. There are eight episodes, full of rapid-fire, pun-strewn dialogue and wacky sound effects. It’s set in Britain in the 1970s, and has a darkly humorous sensibility — after all, the titular character has blown up, apparently.
Start with: Rosemary’s Toddler, the first episode.
The Irish Passport
This is a hybrid documentary and conversation podcast about Irish history and culture. There are very topical episodes — about Brexit and the recent UK election, for instance — but some of the best ones are more timeless reflections of life in the Irish global diaspora.
Start with: Collusion, the first of a two-part look at the history of violence on the Irish border.
Two professional magicians demystify their industry, as well as tackling some of its structural problems with sexism and discrimination. There’s a good balance of magic-based chat alongside more industry-focused conversation, and the hosts are always engaging.
Start with: Jade on both the Lovely and the Hard things, a good gateway episode with a returning guest.
Cosy conversation from a London-based literary quarterly. The monthly episodes are always a delight when they pop into my feed, with the hosts pulling out a different aspect of writing or reading to explore with appropriate guests.
Start with: Orkney’s Prospero, about the poet George Mackay Brown.
Museums in Strange Places
In each episode of this first person podcast, host Hannah Hethmon spends time in a different museum and unpacks the issues that it reveals (or that are omitted by the displays). It’s a great way of virtually visiting other places and learning more about them.
Start with: Slavery in Maryland, about a museum trying to grapple with a place’s uncomfortable past.
An Australian interview show dedicated to profiling people with unusual living situations. And it’s not just your classic ‘we’re digital nomads who live in a van!’ stuff that is ubiquitous now; this show has featured someone who lives underground, someone who lives in a treehouse, and plenty more besides.
Start with: Jane Lives In A 14-Person Share House, which is a great example of the show’s relaxed vibe.
This podcast is excellent at giving the business and economics dimension to topical stories. It does it in a succinct and detailed way yet managed to avoid being overly technical or jargon-heavy. A great way of staying informed.
Start with: Superyachts, The Key to the Global Economy for some jaw dropping rich-people stats.