Some time ago I posted a list of the high-quality podcasts I enjoyed on my frequent commutes around the Bay Area. I then followed it up with a specific review of a psychological radio drama called the Bright Sessions. In the past year I’ve discovered many new and interesting podcasts and wanted to refresh my list of recommendations. The older lists are absolutely still valid, so this post will just focus on new entries to my music player.
- Ambient Music: Concelcast
- I’ve long been a fan of Conelrad’s ephemeral, evocative tracks, and have been very pleased with his transition to making podcasts. Twice a month he releases a full studio album’s worth of long-form ambient music, released for free. Definitely worth a listen if you’re interested in music inspired by post-WWII existentialism or just need something to have on in the background while you concentrate.
- Education: History is Sexy
- With the tagline of history is sexy, and complicated, professional historian Dr. Emma Southon and professional writer Janina Matthewson take an unfiltered look at some of history’s biggest questions. “When in Rome what did the Romans do?” is a personal favorite, as is “what are anti-popes?” among many, many others. Designed for listeners without an academic history background, their irreverent take on how the world got to be where it is always brings a smile to my face.
- The Sciences: Ologies
- Professional science communicator Alie Ward sits down and interviews people who have a sincere passion for their studies. From volcanoes to scorpions, crow funeral rituals to the science of aging, victimology to snow hydrology, every episode inspires and then fulfills a burning desire to know more that I never knew I had. Often explicit, Alie’s straight-forward dive into what makes these often overlooked fields tick has a fantastic, personal feel, like two friends sitting on the couch talking about a favorite hobby. And at the end of each episode, Alie tells you a secret.
- Word Usage: The Allusionist
- Focusing on the origins, historical context, and continuing evolution of language and its usage, Helen Zaltzman takes her love of etymology (and hatred of puns) and presents themed episodes which explore topics of personal names, trust, subculture lingo, why so many words in English are spelled (and said) the way they are, and so much more. I love her presentation style and the manner in which she engages with her guests.
- Horror Storytelling: The White Vault
- A collection of recordings compiled and organized after a failed repair mission to a remote Iceland research station, a multi-national cast really excels at bringing this story of isolation and danger to life. I can’t say much without giving away the plot, but an expedition to fix an automated corporate facility quickly gives way to a vast exploration of just what lies under the ice in the farthest reaches of our planet. If you enjoy movies such as the Thing or the horror of Stephen King, this one is definitely for you. Seriously, the pair behind this (and several other) series are true masters of storytelling and world-building.
- Medical History: This Podcast will Kill You
- Developed and hosted by two doctors both named Erin, their interest in epidemiology and disease ecology is positively infectious (I think they would appreciate very intentional the pun). Each episode focuses on a particular disease, worm, or other deadly condition, exploring not only the history of its impact in the world but also some of the finer points of how exactly these little buggers try to kill us. They also provide a themed “Quarantini” drink recipe which fits the topic of each show. I also find it very refreshing that the hosts provide a list of all of their sources so those interested in learning more have great starting points to do so.
Over the past year or so I’ve really dialed back the amount of media I consume, particularly when it comes to social networks, so I thoroughly enjoy podcasts that both entertain and educate. I hope these recommendations are of interest to you, and I’m very interested in what narrative or educational podcasts you would like to share!