So anyone who loves podcasts knows that recently there was a big splash…
Serial is the first spin-off podcast from the storytelling geniuses at This American Life, and it is blowing minds. People are sitting in their cars for hours and staying up very late, paralyzed by how amazing this story is. It’s the (true) story of a high school murder told week to week that will have at least 12 episodes. As of now, the team, led by host Sarah Koenig with producers Julie Snyder and Dana Chivis, are still reporting it out.
Serial is in good company.
Whether you call it a renaissance or you’ve always been here for podcasts and audio, it is an incredible time to be listening. In the interest of helping you out in your journey to podcast heaven, here are the very best new podcasts (the criteria is fewer than 50 episodes) that you need to download. No excuses.
What it is: A show that is insightful and unafraid to ask ~awkward~ questions and get some honest answers.
You should listen if: You’ve always wanted to figure out how other people approach the things that give you anxiety and you like stories with high stakes.
Where to begin: Jane Fonda talks about why marriage was hard for her — or how a U.S. senator made it happen with host Anna Sale with her fiancé.
What it is: A podcast about crime that has all the elements of a good crime TV (mysteries! suspects! murder!) without the overly dramatic music.
You should listen if: You owned a magnifying glass in elementary school for sleuthing and/or you appreciate what criminals are going for without condoning actual illegal activity.
Where to begin: Four words: owl murder, pig lawyer (this is the brilliant first episode, and if it doesn’t get you hooked, nothing will) — or the story of a serial killer and the reporter who flirted with her.
You should listen if: You did not peak in high school, you might consider yourself a bad feminist, and you own a listening device. Seriously, this is a Big Important Podcast, and if you don’t like it, you should fear immolation in Beyoncé’s feminist fire.
4. The Gist
What it is: A daily news show that will tell you a lot of things you need to know (and a few things you don’t) in a funny, relatable way.
You should listen if: You want a skinny little catch-up of news that is just haywire enough for you to forget that it’s informing you.
Where to begin: Math vs. Ebola (because at the very least math doesn’t spread through the air) — or the episode when Slate’s Dear Prudence calls back one of the guys she advised.
What it is: A spin-off of the WNYC/PRI show Studio 360 With Kurt Andersen, hosted by Sean Rameswaram, who is basically at the center of a Venn diagram of public radio and the internet.
You should listen if: You like to think about artsy, culture-y, internet-y things.
6. Why Oh Why
What it is: A show that talks honestly and isn’t afraid to be ~awkward~ about dating under the influence of the internet.
You should listen if: You swipe left or right regularly and/or have no idea what that means. Also if you want to get inside the brain of a person who is dating.
What it is: Stories that seem like they’re too outlandish to be true told in voices that are so real, you don’t even doubt them.
You should listen if: You’ve ever listened to an old person tell you a story and loved it. Or really, if you’ve ever listened to any ~character~ tell you a story and loved it.
8. Start Up
What it is: A podcast about a guy starting a for-profit podcast company, hosted by Alex Blumberg, who is Ira Glass’ voice twin and an eminent producer in the radio world.
What it is: Funny people telling their most embarrassing stories so you can feel better about your life.
You should listen if: You’ve ever read the last page of a teen magazine to see what the horror stories were, or if you’ve ever expelled bodily fluids in public.
Where to begin: Chris Gethard lives the dream, if the dream was a nightmare involving poop — or a menstrual device gone horribly wrong in a yoga class.
10. Fugitive Waves
What it is: Overlooked corners and characters given a voice and heard with more humanity than you can even believe.
You should listen if: You’ve ever written a Craigslist “Missed Connection” in the hopes of finding love, or if you’ve ever wanted to feel deeply about a total stranger.
Bonus: Check out all of the shows on Radiotopia because they are all worth several hours of your life, forever (but they’re not all new).
What it is: A podcast that takes a look at the music and sounds that shape your life — from the ding of a text message to the dramatic pauses in your favorite pop songs.
You should listen if: You’ve ever felt completely immersed in a song and want to know why.
Where to begin: How a text message is related to the Beach Boys — or what it means when you discover your favorite band uses a computer to sound better.
12. Here Be Monsters
What it is: A show that isn’t afraid to pick up the rock and look underneath for stories about the unknown and the profound things you wonder about.
You should listen if: You are drawn magnetically to the deepest, darkest questions of your mind.
Where to begin: A story of crows mourning their dead that involves creepy face masks — or a story about drugs and transcendence in South America.
If you don’t know how to download a podcast, watch this tutorial from Ira Glass and the most charming lil’ old lady you’ll ever meet:
Studio 360 is a program from both PRI and WNYC. An earlier version of this post misstated that it was WNYC’s show.
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