Podcasts For The Thoughtful Listener


Podcasts are available on popular streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple, which surpassed 550 billion episode downloads last March. Recent data as of June 2018 revealed that approximately 550,000 shows are currently available to stream on Apple alone. The average podcast listener will tune in to seven shows a week, making the podcasting realm as competitive as the music and film industries. Subjects range from pop culture, to crime, to philosophy and much more. And there’s no saying who will succeed as a podcaster- some of the most listened to shows are hosted by doctors, actors, and the guy next door. With so many options and a podcast for virtually any subject, the hardest part of listening is choosing what show is worth playing. Here are some podcasts that are worth a listen. 


For the Reader: The Moth Radio Hour: This Peabody Award-winning show presented by PRX began in 1997 and features live performances of people telling their most compelling true stories. Stories are usually 10 to 15 minutes, and episodes are about an hour long with three or four stories pertaining to a theme. Recent episodes include “Adventures in Food”, “Something Borrowed, Something New,” and “Squeaky Wheels”.  


For the Woke Woman: Still Processing: Two staff writers for The New York Times Magazine, Wesley Morris (who is also NYT critic-at-large) and Jenna Wortham take on weekly cultural topics and discuss their impact on modern life. Episodes unpack heavy subject matter such as blaxploitation and queer identity with special care paid to both sides of any given topic. Wesley and Jenna are articulate and compatible as they agree on most subjects, but respond with respect and curiosity when they differ. Episodes are generally 45 minutes, making for a quick and digestible briefing on the week’s most pressing topic. 


For the Comic: WTF with Marc Maron:  Comedian Marc Maron interviews celebrities at any given stage of their career, whether they are on the rise or have taken decades away from the public eye. Maron has become famous for his ability to elicit responses from guests that are exceedingly honest, probably because of his candidness regarding his own life. Maron releases two episodes a week, approximately an hour and a half long each. Iconic figures from President Obama, Robin Williams, and Lorne Michaels have all visited Marc’s garage to sit down and discuss their formative childhoods, the road to fame, and what lies ahead. 


For the Culture Vulture: The Read: The Read’s hosts Kid Fury and Crissle, two New Yorkers in their 30s, produce a weekly show that lasts over two hours as the two best friends discuss mental health, their favorite TV shows and video games, and spill the tea on weekly pop culture topics. Each episode begins with Black Excellence, a segment in which the hosts shout out a recent news story of exceptional talent or charity. The second half of the episode, “Ask The Read”, features letters from listeners asking for advice. Kid Fury and Crissle’s unapologetic honesty is sometimes brutal, often funny, and always mindful. Beyond all of the laughter, the hosts advocate the importance of mental health awareness and share their own journeys in therapy. 


For the Busy Bee: The Daily: In an endless sea of news stories, The Daily is the easiest way to stay abreast of the goings on in the world. Each episode, released daily, is about twenty minutes long, perfect for your commute to work, or when you are just getting ready to leave the house in the morning. The podcast is produced by The New York Times and is refreshingly unbiased, so you can be sure you are getting the facts of both sides of any given story.  


For the Hip-Hop Head: Dissect: Hip-hop is currently the major music genre and will undoubtedly define generations. Spotify’s own Dissect podcast analyzes the best albums by the pioneers of the genre. Each season focuses on one album, and dedicates one episode to each song. Episodes are an impressive forty minutes on average for a three minute song. The lyrics and production are truly dissected to give the listener a comprehensive understanding of the entire album’s composition. Albums reviewed so far include To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, and Blonde by Frank Ocean. Season four will highlight Lauryn Hill’s anomalous first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. 


For the Curious Cat: Stuff You Should Know: This podcast covers every topic you never knew you were curious about. Episodes are typically forty-five minutes long. Featured subjects range from foot-binding, to aphrodisiacs, to Frida Kahlo. The hosts, Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark, break down the information so you can process it and store it for future trivia night fodder.