In a new series, our very own Project Manager/opinionated steward Dylan King shells out his recommendations: four that you are sure to love, and one you can dismiss immediately after reading his decisive take. This edition brings some excellent podcasts to satiate your ear holes.
Yay: Ear Hustle
From the very first preview of Ear Hustle, I was hooked. Not only was the premise completely unique— inmates broadcasting from a maximum security prison— but the hosts are adorably twee in their rapport for being hardened criminals.
After years of hard-hitting shows and movies like Oz and Con Air, I thought I knew what it was actually like to be sent up to Sing Sing to do your nickel, but this podcast has completely changed my sheltered preconception. The people highlighted in these stories are kind, funny, and more than anything they are human — a fact which is often obfuscated by the looming prison industrial complex.
While this is the newest podcast in the list, it’s definitely got the most potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
Yay: Song Exploder
Have you ever heard a music? Then put Song Exploder on your radar. Once you get past the somnambulance-inducing, mellifluous timbre of host Hrishikesh Hirway (who, after 109 episodes, I just now realized is not named “Richie K. Sherway”) you are treated to a rare glimpse into the musical processes of a vast array of talent.
Hrishikesh gets acts from Mitski and Ramin Djawdi, all the way to to Iggy Pop and U2 and make them all fascinating in their fifteen minutes. Even if you don’t like the end result, it’s a unique insight into the creative process as the artists describe their inspiration and a step-by-step instruction on how the parts become whole. And any podcast that can make Michelle Branch not only relevant in 2017, but also incredibly likable is good in my books!
Yay: 74 Seconds
74 Seconds is earnest, heartbreaking, inspiring, and having reached the verdict in the Philando Castile case, devastating. The truest example of how true-crime podcasts should be produced: impeccable research, flawless back-and-forth between the nothing-but-the-facts hosts, and the ability to weave a complete telling of a story without bias or prejudice. There is not a superfluous moment here; the equation relies simply on a presentation of the facts of the case, the backgrounds of those involved, and the historical and regional precedence that informs how we have arrived here.
Following this podcast as the trial and jury selection was on-going is like listening to an episode of Law and Order, but without the pretense of Ice-T’s complete lack of relevant training. And, as someone who has successfully evaded serving on a jury a half-dozen times, it may make you re-think your aversion to your civic duty.
Yay: In Your Dreams
An absurdist take on branded content, In Your Dreams is the funny and mildly subversive podcast brought to you by Casper Mattress. Maybe it’s my love for all things Casper Mattress Corporation, but Casper has managed to make what is essentially a 4+ hour commercial for Casper Mattresses into a fun journey with comedian Chris Gethard and his best-friend-cum-dream-analyst Gary Richardson. I sleep like the proverbial baby on my Casper Pillows, and while I generally cringe when someone wants to tell me about a dream they had, there is something captivating about hearing strangers confess theirs while a gaggle of comedians stumble their way toward finding deeper significance.
The conceit is simple, but the way this podcast plays out is as welcome as a deep nights sleep on my 100% Supima Cotton Casper Sheets.
Nay: Up and Vanished
I can think of no better example of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Up and Vanished is Paine Lindsay’s attempt to capitalize on what is otherwise and extensively entertaining true-crime genre of podcasting. Armed with his trusty Playskool tape recorder, Lindsay fumbles his way through painfully inept interviews and downright insulting “journalism,” bookended by a plethora of ads featuring his fashion-conscious wife who just doesn’t have time to cook. That a host would ever legitimately use their own grandmother as a source is embarrassing, particularly when that account is based purely on her friend Melba’s speculation and hearsay.
Up and Vanished has a deceptively engrossing premise, but you can skip right up to episode 14. Every recap re-tells you the entire story up to the point but without the unctuous and poorly placed advertisements, or Lindsay’s stream-of-consciousness reporting. Most importantly: **spoiler alert** despite trying really, really hard, Lindsay uncovers nothing but his own penchant for wild speculation as the actual murderer eventually confesses on their own, without ever blipping the radar of our intrepid host.
After torturing myself to untold hours of aural misery, the only good thing to come out of this now 49-episode strong series is Grandma’s Cowboy Cookie recipe—and even those were mediocre.