Podstars: the podcasts you should be listening to

Podcasts have become the aural equivalent of Netflix or Stan – streaming services that help us get a fix of our favourite programs on a schedule that suits us. And, just like these services, there’s such an array of programs on offer, it’s almost impossible to know what to listen to (although the following could be a good place for you to start, or continue on, your podcast journey).

The big hitters this year have been true crime podcasts, following in the bloodied footsteps of Serial.

S-Town, from the same producers, has been almost as popular, despite being quite a different beast. Starting with a crime, it becomes a Twin Peaks-style portrait of a strange, cruel town.

Meanwhile Trace and Phoebe’s Fall have put an Australian spin on the genre, but the most exciting crime title right now is Dirty John. Produced by a team from the Los Angeles Times and starting with a romance that’s too good to be true, it’s like a film noir for the ears.

Strange-but-true stories account for another big chunk of the podcast canon. Missing Richard Simmons caused a big stir earlier in the year, examining (in a slightly creepy way) the apparent disappearance of the cult-favourite fitness expert.

 

The team behind There's No Such Thing As a Fish podcast. Photo: supplied

The team behind There’s No Such Thing As a Fish podcast. Photo: supplied

 

Taking a different bent, Jon Ronson’s The Butterfly Effect examines the consequences that flow when a Brussels teenager decides to make porn available online for free. Closer to home, Spun offers surprising-if-relatable tales told by folk taking to the stage for the first time.

Confessionals, particularly of the romantic variety, provide another rich vein. Psychologist Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? allows us to sit on the counselling couch with 10 couples wrestling with topics such as infidelity, infertility, children and secrets.

Why Oh Why takes a more personal approach as host Andrea Silenzi consults experts and strangers on how love, sex and technology collide.

Less focused on the heart and loins, Sincerely, X has been described as an “anonymous TED Talk”, in which identities are concealed to allow people to share their experiences frankly.

If it’s illumination you’re after, there’s no shortage of podcasts ready to broaden your mind. The long-running BBC show More or Less might sound dull as dishwater, but its analysis of statistics is lively and world-changing, revealing how science is abused by journos, advertisers and governments alike.

Hosted by the researchers (or “elves”) from TV series QI, No Such Thing As A Fish (so popular that an Australian live tour has been announced) makes great sport out of disproving widespread beliefs.

Likewise, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History offers a surprisingly engaging and emotional tour of all the wrong ideas we learned (or didn’t) at school.

Just like Netflix, podcasts are also good fodder if you want to switch off the brain for some pure entertainment. British comedy series My Dad Wrote A Porno is always good for a laugh (or salacious snigger), thriller Homecoming (starring David Schwimmer) is absolutely gripping, and 36 Questions is a three-part musical about a married couple attempting to bring – and sing – their marriage back from the brink.

 

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