Yeah, you know ’em and you love ’em: podcasts. You rely on them to enliven a dull day, or fill up the dead space (special hint: sometimes just letting the silence hang is nice). The best podcasts? Depends what mood you’re in, whether you’re stuck in line at the DMV or pumping iron or just walking across town. For whatever mode, here are some of the best podcasts the Web has to offer. Let the streaming begin…
Produced by WYNC. Their own description: “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” For instance, the story of punk rock’s arrival in Cuba or a group of paranormal investigators.
This American Life
Hosted by Ira Glass, each week’s show revolves around an open-ended theme, like changing your mind, or people in serious trouble. Some of the best programming on the radio – or, actually, your smartphone. Episodes like Call for Help and The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind.
From Noam Chomsky: “Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny have created an important political radio show that balances humor and unreported news. At a time when media conglomerates dominate the airwaves, independent media like Citizen Radio is vital to national discourse.”
The Moth: True Stories Told Live
I think of The Moth as the gladiatorial games of storytelling: anyone can step onstage and, if their storytelling is good enough, compelling enough to top the entire crew of contenders, they earn bardic glory.
The wildly popular podcast that helped define the genre. NPR reporter Sarah Koenig sifts through the details of a murder case, weighing psychological nuance against inconclusive evidence. Unlike some podcasts, you need to listen from the first episode to catch the full storyline.
Fresh Air with Terry Gross
I adore Terry Gross – she’s my all-time favorite interviewer. Remarkable width of erudition, and warm and funny as well. And willing to confront her guests when the need arises.
WTF with Marc Maron
The standup comic found his true calling with the podcast genre, interview other comics and other interesting wits. The shown is known for its edgy but intimate conversations. Maron likes to be know as “Iggy Pop Woody Allen.” Particularly noteworthy is his conversation with Louis CK, in which they talk about their friendship with one another.
Based on the 2005 bestseller and hosted by the book’s co-author, Stephen J. Dubner, it takes a quirky-smart dive into an unpredictable array of topics, from What You Don’t Know about Online Dating to What’s the Best Exercise?
Love and Radio
The show has garnered a fair amount of buzz, including a plug from Ira Glass. And it’s Glassian in its eclecticism: a conversation about catcalling, a portrait of a humiliatrix, a voyeur, an illusionist (though the topics aren’t, contrary to the show’s title, about neccesarily about love)
Offbeat, thoroughly unconventional takes on history, form the Russian Revolution to American Indians. Host Dan Carlin combines storytelling with freeform conjecture, or what he calls “thinking outside Pandora’s Box.”
Hosted by Kurt Anderson, the eclectic Studio 360 covers off-beat creativity, pop culture, and the arts. Includes podcast series like American Icons (episodes include Autobiography of Malcom X, Leaves of Grass) to Aha Moments (How Finding Nemo Changed My Life, Love and Rockets).