There's a funny joke doing the rounds right now about Amazon selling out of podcast mics.
Ok, so, it's not LOL funny, more of a short chuckle, particularly if you've noticed via your social media that having your own podcast right now is like making your own soda bread. You might be thinking now is the time to start listening to some of these podcasts but aren't sure where to start. [Obviously you're starting with Humanish, but like, after that.) A bit like endlessly scrolling through Netflix you might be unsure of where to leap in, especially with no visuals, few trailers, and even fewer star names to bring some familiarity. The quality and style varies massively and it can be a bit daunting. I'm going to recommend three different podcasts and they all had to meet three criteria:
Have a run time of under 60mins.
Sound good. By this I mean not recorded on a 1980's voice recorder in what sounds like a haunted cave.
They/you discover something new.
For each recommendation I'll give a brief summary, why it's a bloomin' treat for your ears, and a stand out episode you might want to start with.
Let's start with my current favourite:
From the moment the first episode aired (January 2015) I knew this was for me: it leaps into
huge questions about who we are as human beings with a quiet confidence and a reassuring hand held out to lead you along. The sound is GORGEOUS. If you listen to it on your headphones you will be rewarded by the layers of music and how it's knitted together with all the love and care of a Nan making her grandchild's first babygrow. The producers themselves describe the show as being about:
...the invisible forces that shape human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and thoughts. Invisibilia interweaves personal stories with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.
Most episodes are like an mystery adventure crossed with a detective show as they set out to explore and unwrap a story or an idea. They rarely start out by telling you a definitive view, but instead allow you to discover and enjoy the thrill of working out what it all means and what you think. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I finish pretty much every episode and immediately feel that I have to a) tell everyone to go and listen to it; and b) have some quiet time to really think about what I've just listened to and learnt. Hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin weave a spell that you willingly give yourself to.
The episode I'm going to pick as a starting point is Reality. To be fair, I could pick most of their episodes (like The New Norm is ideal one for right now) but this was one of those that I just kept going back to again and again and couldn't stop thinking about. For one, it starts in a classic Invisibilia way - it presents something small, simple, in this case a description of a drill at Umpire School. And then we're eased into the real issue...do we really see the world around us accurately? Sure. I see the world accurately, but what about other people? Who's right? And it has a bear. In fact it's all about the bear.
I hope you like it!
As an added bonus, each episode is presented with some beautiful art work like this:
Another one where you have years of past episodes to dive into, and what a massively varied back catalogue it is. Generally these are one off episodes but Reply All have delved into
making compelling mini series, such as one where a prisoner was protesting his innocence via an online blog and so the Reply All team investigated and discovered a complicated story. The main link through all the episodes is a connection to modern technology, and usually online tech. This has included chasing down international scammers as well as looking into issues with the social media we use. However, the tech is now more like a starting canvas onto which fascinating human stories are painted. The podcast is held together by the brotherly relationship between hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman and the way they bring their personalities to the stories without making it about them. They get REALLY into their stories - like a slightly surreal episode with an artist called Zardulu who claimed to have trained rats, similar to the New York Pizza Rat. This investigative nature is at the heart of the episode I've picked out. Have you ever heard a song you can't get out of your head? Have you been unable to remember what it's called? How about remembering the lyrics, the tune, but not the title or artist and then discover that no one else remembers the song, not even the internet? The Case of the Missing Hit has deserved all the accolades it has received and it will leave you with a big ol' grin on your face. And humming a new ear worm.
THE STUBBORN LIGHT OF THINGS
What? You're recommending a podcast with only a few episodes?
Yes. Yes I am. Why? Because it's been a while since a podcast - especially a new one - has completely transported me and made me forget where I was for a while. It's narrated with a
conversational and quite intimate style by novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison as she goes outside to lead you into the natural world. For one, hearing a podcast recorded outside is transformative; it's more immediate, more alive, and tugs at your imagination to picture the scene. And then something delightful happens - you fall into a discovery that you weren't expecting. You have to start with the first episode, Endurance. I like nature, I like country walks I like growing some veg. My knowledge of animals and plants is VERY limited but that doesn't matter as essentially this is what happens when you listen to this episode is you get hypnotised:
Have you heard a bird before? Cool, now let me get you to empathise with that bird in a dark but beautiful way, you ok with that? Sweet. Now have some extra knowledge from an expert, and then a poem before you wake back up in your world.
My advice is to get a nice cuppa and plonk yourself down and have a treat with this for 25 minutes. You won't regret it.