The podcasting ecosystem is rich, varied and complex, and that’s obviously a brilliant thing in itself—especially if you’re in the market for a new mattress or need an all-in-one solution for creating a beautiful website—but it can also be a bit overwhelming. There are only so many hours in the day. Pick the wrong podcast and you could ruin your whole commute.
You need a David Attenborough to point the way through the undergrowth and stop you wasting time wandering down dead ends. So to that end, here’s our running list of the best new ones that come out this year, as well as pointing up new highlights from long-running favorites.
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The Adam Buxton Podcast
Filed Under:Deceptively deep waffle
Yes, it's one of the biggest podcasts around, but as Dr. Buckles' pod celebrates its 100th episode now's as good a time as any to celebrate it. The mixture of daft whimsy, very good jingles, regular digressions about David Bowie and updates from Buxton's dog Rosie, The Hairy Bullet, makes for an amiable listen, but Buxton's an underrated interviewer who gets a genuinely enlightening and unusual chat out of his guests. The centenary episode features Buxton's Louis Theroux and former comedy partner Joe Cornish, who've all known each other since school immediately revert to extremely entertaining mid-teen silliness, but after that dig back into the archives for more—Kathy Burke, Bob Mortimer, Greta Gerwig, Sir Michael Palin and Steve Coogan are among many highlights.
Filed Under:Field recordings, in the most literal sense
Life moves pretty fast, as Illinois' most famous malingerer once said, but unless you're one of those psychopaths who listens to them one-and-a-half-times speed, podcasts are a way of slowing down. Radio 3's Slow Radio really leans into that: its patiently paced 15-minute segments are varied—sometimes it'll be an interview surrounded by a lush natural soundscape, as in this recent exploration of the eeriness of the English countryside, and sometimes orchestral works are woven around the sound of the dawn chorus in the Ein Bokek canyon in Israel—but it's all tied together with an unhurried sense of calm.
This pod from the Tour de France winner and five-time Olympic gold medallist gives insider tips on the latest news from the cycling world, how elite cyclists think, how the sport and its business works, and, most deliciously, where the enmity lies between the top riders. A case in point is this week's episode, in which former Team Sky director Sean Yates digs out four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome for the time when he says he "went back on his word" to attack Wiggins himself—his team leader—during the 2012 Tour de France. Even more incredibly, Wiggins admits he was ready to back his bags and go home if Froome kept it up.
Filed Under:Experiencing classic sports moments as they happened
The BBC's vast archive of everything that's happened in the last 80 years or so is rife for rummaging through—see alsoGreg James' Rewinder podcast, which knits together tidbits from the past which have unexpected resonance again today—but so far its coverage of sporting moments from the past has been relatively under-excavated. Replay is exactly that: just the BBC's coverage of sporting events of the past, with no talking heads or over-explanation from the present. The stories we tell about sport tend to flatten out all the strange little moments and slow-building tension that makes sport so engrossing and rich, but hearing the stories as they were told when they happened puts all of that back in. Try the second half of England v Holland at Euro '96, then hit the interview with Sir Stanley Matthews, and go from there.
Filed Under:The side-project you didn't realize you needed
A podcast from the crew of Brentford's premier garage and drum and bass pirate station makes absolute sense. MC Grindah, DJ Beats, DJ Steves and Chabuddy G fromPeople Just Do Nothingchat to each other about relationships, fashion, technology and the supernatural while handing out life advice, and there are phone-ins and drop-ins from some of the other characters orbiting the station.
One of the tranche of quasi-show-and-tell podcasts which use a conversational gimmick to get a slightly more unusual chat with guests (see also: Table Manners, Power of Three, Off Menu, These Three), Elizabeth Day's British Podcast Award-nominated How To Fail focuses on one time a guest fell on their arse, and what it taught them about their work and their life. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the first guest on the pod back in July last year, returns in the latest episode to chat about how everything's gone mad for her lately, and feeling that she's failed in keeping up with her family, speaking up for herself and sorting out her bathroom. In the process, she spills some fascinating tidbits about howFleabagcame together and ideas that never made it to the screen.
Officially sanctioned podcasts don't tend to be enormously fun, and pump the brand so hard they end up being glossy and overblown. That's not the case here, though. Five stories from Wimbledon are retold with access and insight from those who witnessed them and players affected by them today, from the famous to the forgotten. Andy Murray's 2016 men's singles win is retold in the context of the Brexit vote and his own route to the top from childhood, but most episodes reach further back into history. There's the synchronicity of Germans Boris Becker and Stefi Graf's 1989 wins coming as the Berlin Wall began to crumble, and a tribute to the triumph of Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win the title in 1957, who's remembered by her doubles partner Angela Buxton and five-time women's singles winner Venus Williams.
Filed Under:Storytelling with unexpected diversions
The Thread connects dots around, through and between major and minor events in American history, starting with the murder of John Lennon in 1980 and then exploring the roots of the #MeToo movement, the idea of non-violent resistance and the insanity plea in legal cases. The fifth series starts with an iconic moment in women's football—Brandi Chastain whirling her shirt over her head after scoring the penalty that won the USA the 1999 World Cup—and uses it to explore the deeper story of how the team got there from taking on Italy wearing hand-me-down strips in 1985.
Last year, six luminaries from different design disciplines talked about their craft and careers at Sir John Soane's Museum in Holborn and now they've been packaged up as pods. The caliber of guests is extremely high. They include internationally renowned stage designer Es Devlin—who's put together live shows for Beyoncé, Kanye, Adele, U2 and more and is a firm believer in the power of deliberately misreading emails—as well as art director and graphic designer Peter Saville, responsible for Factory Records' artwork and one of the most criminally underrated England shirts of recent times; and Sir David Adjaye OBE, architect and lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who gets into how the design of a building defines how you interact with it.
The first episode ofSky News' new deep-reporting pod hasn't dropped yet, but it's one you want to subscribe to ahead of time. 'The Hunt for the Brink's-Mat Gold' will tell the story of the 1983 heist in which a gang stole £26 million-worth of gold from a depot near Heathrow airport, how it reshaped the criminal underworld in Britain and what happened to Scotland Yard detective Ian Brown when he was tasked with getting that gold back.
Filed Under:Your classic 'attack of the suburban oddball' story
This new one from Bloomberg and Wondery, the makers of Dirty John and Dr. Death, is a return to the same well as those hits, and focuses on a therapist called Ike. Ike counted celebrities and the great and good of Manhattan's social scene among his clients and hosted lavish parties at his mad holiday home in the Hamptons. But when Ike's neighbor, the veteran journalist Joe Nocera, started to pick away at his story, it started to unravel to reveal a story about trust, power, and control.
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Filed Under:IfPumping Ironhad been about scoffing scotch bonnets
Eating extremely hot things has an enduring appeal for a certain type of man. It's a challenge which has taken the place of your old world tests of masculinity—things which use the ability to endure pain as an arbiter of manhood—and repositioned them as something you can do in the pub with some mates over some wasabi peanuts. It Burns explores the scandal-hit world of competitive chili-eating and the race to breed the world's hottest chili, taking in accusations of doping and theft, and asks what drives so many people to warp nature in this way and to hurt themselves in the pursuit of glory.
Filed Under:Expert analysis on the summer's biggest footballing event
The Women's World Cup is well underway, and if you feel a mixture of anxiety and shame every time it comes up in conversation because you're so woefully underprepared for the ensuing chat about it, this is the place to educate yourself. Hayley McQueen, Kait Borsay and Lynsey Hooper will be doing daily editions of their pod throughout the tournament until 7 July, and their back catalog of long-form interviews with the likes of England boss Phil Neville, Manchester United manager Casey Stoney and commentator Martin Tyler is well worth digging through.
This one's been running since the start of the year, but with the Tory leadership contest threatening to hit room temperature now these 20-minute hits of political exposition and explanation will come in very handy. It's not all about Britain either: lately, there have been deeper dives into stories like the re-election of Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, why so many people are dying on Everest, and Italy's battles with the EU over balancing its budgets.
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13 Minutes to the Moon
Filed Under:Apollo 11, AKA The Greatest Story Ever Podcasted
It's the 50th anniversary of the moon landings this July, and to celebrate the BBC has put together a mammoth retelling of the most profound and moving thing that humanity's ever achieved. It'd be pretty easy to knock together a passable cut-and-shut talking-heads-and-archive show about the Apollo program, but this one goes way beyond. Ex-NASA man Kevin Fong presents new interviews with key players including Michael Collins, who piloted the command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went down to the lunar surface (and he was actually second in command, by the way, outranking Aldrin), Charlie Duke, who communicated with Armstrong and Aldrin from Mission Control, and other NASA staff like pioneering programmer Margaret Hamilton and engineer Poppy Northcutt, whose stories deserve to be heard. Plus! The theme music's an original piece from Hans Zimmer. Top-end stuff. A bit likeFirst Man, 13 Minutes to the Moon makes an incredible but familiar story feel fresh, and full of jeopardy and the unknown.
Filed Under:English football's exiled king-across-the water lets loose
This podcast sadly isn't a true-crime series in which Wazza launches a one-man crusade to re-examine a cold case in rural Arkansas and find out what really happened that night. Rooney's late-career rumspringa over in Washington has brought out a different side of him: he's happy, he's the main man for DC United, and he's finally relaxed enough in interviews to hand out some spicy, spicy takes on the state of football at large. In the first of his interviews with Roger Bennett from American soccer podcast Men In Blazers, he laid into Manchester United's players for downing tools at the end of the season and "finding someone to hide behind" on social media. He might yet turn into a swashbuckling pundit.
Filed Under:A TV companion that's actually worth listening to
If you've not been watching HBO and Sky's miniseries about the cataclysmic 1986 nuclear reactor explosion, you're a fool to yourself. The slow-creeping horror, the overwhelming bleakness, the desperate fight to stop humanity destroying itself: it's incredibly good. It's alsoas true as possible to the reality of what happened at Chernobylboth during and after the disaster, and drew on first-hand accounts of survivors and witnesses. What's interesting about this podcast is that it feels less like a tossed-off tie-in and more like an act of transparency: series creator and writer Craig Mazin flags where the truth's been bent or elided for dramatic convenience, as well as talking through all the incredible true stuff about Chernobyl and life in the Soviet Union that didn't make it into the show. GivenChernobylis about what happens when comfortable lies block the difficult truth, it makes a lot of sense.
Filed Under:Masters of terror vivisect their craft
That's a slightly misleading title—this isn't a chronological run through the history of horror cinema from the earliest days of moving pictures to now. Instead, the director ofHostelchats to big, big names in film—the first three episodes are front-loaded with Stephen King, Edgar Wright, and Quentin Tarantino—about their memories of and relationship with horror cinema over rambling, broadly unedited conversations. Wright's great on how horror and comedy co-mingle and amplify each other, Tarantino gets in-depth about his self-taught style and Stephen King dissects exactly what it is that makes audiences freak out and why.
Filed Under:Knockabout chat straight from the pavilion bar
Radio 1's Greg James, cricket journalist and former Maccabees guitarist Felix White and England cricketing legend Jimmy Anderson sound like the original odd throuple, but it works. Greg's notionally in charge, Jimmy's a bit mardy and has a lot of insight into the highest levels of the game, and wide-eyed Felix brings his guitar along for a strum in the background. As the name suggests (a tailender is a player who's rubbish at batting and so goes last), it's not a for-the-heads hour of cricket nerdishness—it's always accessible and funny even if you've only a passing knowledge of the game, and while it's been running for long enough to have a litany of recurring jokes, now's the time to get caught up before the Cricket World Cup.