The Bello Collective is a website and bi-weekly newsletter dedicated to discussing and dissecting the world of audio. It is edited by Ashley Lusk and Galen Beebe, and features reviews of new shows, a “Podcast 101” section dedicated to helping independent producers get started, and thoughtful criticism of the industry. Its pages are curated by a diverse team of writers, producers, and listeners, and cover a wide range of programs and genres.
The list below, curated by the Collective’s editors, emphasizes shows by independent producers, women, and people of color, many of which you may not have heard of before.
This 8-part series tells the story of race and power in Central Brooklyn’s schools, starting with the 1968 fight for control between the community and the teachers union and then moving into the (near) present to examine current struggles facing those same schools in 2019. Like the best historical works, it reminds us that history is not so distant, or so different—and I hope it will show how the future can be better.
Episode: Old School
If I could be raised by a podcast, I’d pick Rebel Eaters Club. This new show from Transmitter Media features intimate and fun conversations that work to undo diet culture and celebrate the pleasures of life—starting with food, and moving out from there.
Episode: All Food Is Good Food With Mia Feuer
Last year was the year of the biopod (like a biopic, but for sound), and as far as I’m concerned, Finding Fred was the best of the bunch. What makes this show striking is that it’s less about Mr. Rogers the man, and more about his influence. In each episode, host Carvell Wallace approaches one aspect of Mr. Rogers’s genius by way of one person whose life he touched.
Episode: Genius of Empathy
I would describe Welcome to L.A. as a series of eight site-specific audio essays that crack open the mythic city of Los Angeles to reveal a mobius strip of stories. But no matter how much happens in each episode, these pieces are driven more by the voice than by the plot.
Episode: The Grifter
I love a good podcast about sound, and Van Sounds certainly fits the bill. These pieces are the perfect mix of fascinating story and immersive sonic experience. Audio postcards, explorations of silence, Joe Exotic—Van Sounds has it all.
Episode: A Shout Across the Valley
This show comes to us from Kerning Cultures Network, the first venture-funded podcast company in the Middle East (founded in 2015). You’ll find all sorts of stories in the three-year archive, but I recommend starting with "Lebanon, USA", a delightful story about a Lebanese man who sets out to travel to all 47 towns named Lebanon in the United States.
Episode: Lebanon, USA
If you don’t know The Anthropocene Reviewed yet, I’m almost jealous of you getting to discover these essays from host John Green for the first time. It would be impossible to articulate the quiet magic you’re about to experience, so I’ll just say you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
Episode: Air Conditioning and Sycamore Trees
You could invest in a fancy meditation app, or you could just subscribe to Jon Mooellem’s Walking podcast, in which you hear the ambient sounds of Jon taking a walk.
Episode: Snow Falling on Seavers
I first heard Meat as an episode of Kaitlin Prest’s extraordinary podcast, The Heart, so I was prepared for it to feel uncomfortable—in a good way. I couldn’t have expected the audio to so completely upend me. Episodes come out infrequently, but they are always, always worth the wait.
Episode: Host’s Fat
At Bello, we love non-linear stories. The Blind Tourist is a “travel and curiosity show with chaotic energy,” produced for WFMU in New Jersey. The show is like the mixed media of sound, a frenetic quilt of an idea. This isn’t so much something you listen to as it is something that happens to you.
Episode: Kind, Calming, Nowhere Vibes
This podcast from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) covers some pretty intense territory about mental health and depression—but trust me, this is a journey worth taking. It’s easy to call this a memory, but that doesn’t do it justice—its unique sound design and pacing make this a compelling, not-to-be-missed series.
Episode: The Voice
National security is pretty high up there on the list of things that affect us all, but usually a podcast covering this issue would require a degree I don’t have. Laicie Heeley has made the topic so accessible, you won’t even realize you’re eating your vegetables until it’s over.
Episode: The Bear
After believing himself to be the only Latif Nasser in the world, a Radiolab reporter discovers he shares his name with another man—a man who happens to be a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. This story asks us, in a post 9/11 world, to examine what it means to be an American.
Episode: My Namesake
What I remember from my college philosophy class could best be summed up with some mumblings about Thich Nhat Hanh and washing dishes, but host Barry Lam isn’t going to shame me about that. Instead, Lam uses narrative journalism to ask questions about how our modern society views and practices philosophy.
Episode: The Forever War
If you think fiction podcasts only look like old-timey radio dramas, you would be wrong. James Kim’s Moonface is an electric look at the modern queer experience. Richly sound designed, and thoughtfully scripted, and more than a little bit sexy, this is an excellent gateway podcast for people who think audio fiction isn’t for them. Bonus: Check out Kim’s equally excellent non-fiction podcast, The Competition.
Here Be Monsters is sacred listening for me. I wait to listen to the show until I’m alone, and always with my headphones on. Hosts Bethany and Jeff, often whispering in our ears, tell us stories that force us all to confront our most intimate fears about the unknown. The show feels—is—deeply personal and sometimes delightfully, enticingly, weird.
Episode: Sweet Like Snap Peas