With the 2020 season in question and the world still in the midst of a pandemic, we’re continuing our series of recommendations of all sorts of things to do at home. Today, we make our second round of podcast recommendations. Obviously, these suggestions are for after you’ve already checked out the Amazin’ Avenue family of podcasts.
Code Switch (NPR): Given everything that’s going on in the country right now, this is probably the most important podcast you can subscribe to. Hosted entirely by journalists of color, this show tackles frank discussions about race in America. But not every episode is heavy. They delve into how race touches everything, from history to sports to pop culture. They even have a segment called “songs giving us life” where they shout out their favorite musicians and artists. The podcasting space is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly white and Code Switch is an antidote and essential listen.
Invisibilia (NPR): You’ve probably realized by now that I’m a nerd. I embrace that. And I listen to nerdy shows. Like Hidden Brain, Invisibilia is a show about the invisible (hence the name) forces that shape human behavior. But I would say it has more of a sociology bent than a neuroscience bent. But it is another podcast that fuses science with narrative storytelling. When it debuted in 2015, it was heralded as one of the hottest new podcasts that year and for good reason. Its seasons are short, usually only between 5-7 episodes each, making it an easy binge listen. It is co-hosted by Alix Spiegel (a founding producer of This American Life) and Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic.
Flash Forward: This fun little podcast is independent and entirely listener-supported. Hosted by Rose Eveleth—one of my favorite voices in podcasting right now—it is a show that imagines alternative futures. What would happen if someday we looked up at the sky and could no longer see any stars? What would life be like if you could put your head onto an entirely different body? What would happen if all the fears about Y2K had actually been realized? Part history, part sci-fi, part actual in-depth science journalism, this is a super accessible show for curious minds that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with of late.
Hidden Brain (NPR): This is a podcast that uses neuroscience and psychology to explore the unconscious phenomena that drive human behavior. It covers everything from how implicit bias drives many of the stories we’re seeing about police brutality in the news right now to why we lie to harnessing the power of human imagination. Plus host Shankar Vedantam has one of the most soothing radio voices I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. He makes learning about human cognition fun and relaxing.
The Story Collider: A podcast that recently marked its tenth anniversary, it is a celebration of the narrative power of stories. “True, personal stories about science” is their tagline, but not every storyteller they feature is a scientist. Some of them are patients living with devastating diseases telling us about journeys of fear and hope. As a person with a passion for science communication, I love this podcast because it puts a human face (or voice, in this case) behind the research, making it accessible and compelling to anyone, nerds and non-nerds alike. You’ll get a researcher telling us about his eureka moment or a grad student making herself vulnerable by telling us the story of why she quit her PhD. This is a podcast much more about people than it is about science.
WTF with Marc Maron: Although I’m the co-host of a podcast on this very site, I must admit that I rarely listen to podcasts. When I do, though, I always turn to Marc Maron’s show. He’s one of the best interviewers out there, and he’s had hundreds of guests from the entertainment world on his show over the years. I’m still locked into a legacy membership to the premium version of his show, which includes access to his past shows going back a long way. Many of my favorite artists have appeared on his show, and those conversations are must-listens for me. In writing this recommendation up, I’m already wishing that I listened more regularly than I do.
Rivals: We’re all sports fans here; we all appreciate the idea of rivalry. But even the Mets and Braves don’t have the intense rivalry of, say, Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, or Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks. Rivals, a podcast from music writers Steven Hyden and Jordan Runtaugh, digs deep into the highs and lows of inter-band dynamics, or using the press to one-up one another. Some of these stories are familiar, but all of them have untold depths and some truly weird aspects. Each episode flies by, leaving you wanting more.
It’s a Pixies Podcast: There is little I love more than a deep dive into the creative process. It’s a Pixies Podcast followed the legendary indie rock band the Pixies through the recording of their most recent album, 2019’s Beneath the Eyrie. Hear the band arrange songs in the studio, write last minute songs, struggle with their roles in the band after getting sober, and tell stories about their out of the band hobbies. But more than anything, hear a collection of songs come together and grow into the best Pixies album in 30 years.
California King: You Look Nice Today was a podcast built around the friendship of three early Twitter adopters. California King is the most recent iteration of the show. Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson, and Adam Lisagor basically play the improv game ‘let’s start a business’ in each episode, but the charm and warmth among the three make each episode an absolute joy. While it isn’t the most consistently released podcast, nor the most original, but it is a really fun and enjoyable time with three friends.