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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Podcasts: The week's essential top 10

Pop culture and real-life tales are included in this latest rundown of audio delights

Malcolm Gladwell doesn't accept anything at face value. Bryan Bedder / Getty
Malcolm Gladwell doesn't accept anything at face value. Bryan Bedder / Getty

THE HIGH LOW

Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes
Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes

Hosted by British writers Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes, this chatty, smart podcast is inspired by former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown’s 80s phrase “high-low journalism”, which means, as Alderton puts it, “an amalgamation of water-cooler gossip and hard-hitting cultural happenings”. Listen to these two friends talk every week, and you will hear about everything from the adolescent angst in Kanye West’s tweets to the best new documentaries to see, as well as the moral quandary of people passing judgment on Georgina Chapman in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

THE MONOCLE CULTURE SHOW

Robert Bound.
Robert Bound.

Robert Bound hosts this series, which touches on both pop culture and the fine arts. The latest episode explores the new exhibition at the Tate Modern in London that looks at 100 years of photography, while other recent discussions cover whether the TV show Arrested Development should continue and what country music staple Kacey Musgraves should do next.

UNSPOOLED

Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson.
Paul Scheer and Amy Nicholson.

This brand new podcast features film critic Amy Nicholson and comedian Paul Scheer (of bad-movie-shaming podcast How Did This Get Made? fame). The two celluloud buffs are gearing up to go through AFI’s top 100 movies of all time to discuss the stories behind the scenes, the iconic moments, and more. So far they’ve covered Ben Hur and Citizen Kane, discussing how the latter was almost never made, and speaking to cinematographer Steve Gainer about why the finished product still looks so great.

CULTURE GABFEST

Dana Stevens, Julia Turner and Stephen Metcalf
Dana Stevens, Julia Turner and Stephen Metcalf

This Slate podcast features critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner, who aren’t afraid to stick to a strong opinion and always seem to have their fingers on the pulse, week-in, week-out. They argue about everything from deleting Facebook to the merits of, and issues surrounding the late Tom Wolfe’s work.

KEEP IT

Learning to say no thanks.
Learning to say no thanks.

Hosted by cultural critic Ira Madison III, this podcast offers a smart take on the week’s pop culture happenings. As they noted in last week’s episode, “the royal wedding turns out to have been kind of fantastic, but calling it ‘woke’ is a bit much”. Recent episodes have covered everything from Melania Trump’s “grammatically heinous” Be Best campaign to Azealia Banks going after the currently untouchable Cardi B. The podcast’s name, Keep It, was a Twitter catchphrase that host Madison coined as a polite way to say no thanks to anything in the news that he didn’t like. He says one of his earliest uses of it was when NBC announced that it was poaching Megyn Kelly from Fox News.

INVISIBILIA

Science and stories together.
Science and stories together.

Hosted by Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin and now in its third season, this podcast merges scientific knowledge with great storytelling to explore the extraordinary nature of human behaviour. The third-ever episode – How to Become Batman – is one of the most memorable, charting the life of Daniel Kish, who is famous for being blind, but able to ride a bike. How? He uses echolocation, aka clicking, like a bat. His story teaches us how taking risks can truly pay off, saying he only learnt how to move around more freely thanks to his parents giving him the freedom to fail.

BEAUTIFUL ANONYMOUS

Chris Gethard gets chatty.
Chris Gethard gets chatty.

This fascinating podcast involves complete strangers having an hour-long conversation with comedian Chris Gethard every week, from two truckers out on the open road to an astrophysicist pondering the universe after dealing with a near-unimaginable tragedy. The discussions are completely anonymous – you never find out anyone’s name – and quite extraordinary in that you end up learning a lot about life, love, loss, money, faith and more from ordinary people (well, we use the word 'ordinary' very lightly).

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Listen to some podcasts from The National:

Beyond the Headlines podcast: Israel puts Iran's nuclear ambitions into question ahead of Trump's decision

Extra Time podcast: Chirag Suri and fellow expat cricketers 'proud to represent the UAE'

Business Extra podcast: InvestHK shines light on investment options in Hong Kong

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99% INVISIBLE

Architecture and design in the spotlight.
Architecture and design in the spotlight.

There are nearly 300 episodes of this in the ether already, all hosted by Roman Mars (the podcast has famously raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in Kickstarters thanks to its legion of passionate fans). The stories traverse the worlds of architecture and design, showcasing the intense thought that goes into “things we don’t think about”. Episode 228 is all about land reclamation, episode 288 looks at acts of guerilla public service and episode 173 explores the story behind the red ribbon for HIV-awareness and how it changed the way we talk about causes, as well as how it spawned awareness movements for everything from breast cancer to remembrance.

REVEAL

There was a line... they crossed it.
There was a line... they crossed it.

The Centre for Investigative Reporting was founded in California in 1977, and co-operates with news organisations across America and the world to produce documentation that holds those in power accountable. Subscribe to this podcast and you will learn about issues you didn’t even realise existed in today’s world. Some of the recent episodes cover the hidden problems of Silicon Valley, the ongoing issue of lead poisoning and the rise of the new German right.

REVISIONIST HISTORY

Malcolm Gladwell, pictured, takes a world event that appears to have been straightforward at the time, and then grabs on to the benefits of hindsight to show how it has been misunderstood. The Tipping Point author tackles everything from car recalls to McDonald’s fries. We love The Big Man Can’t Shoot, an episode that explores how shooting free throws in basketball is actually far more accurate when done underhand (it just looks far less cool). Meanwhile, A Good Walk Spoiled will be hard for golf fans to listen to, with Gladwell beginning the episode by saying, “I hate golf, and, hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll hate golf, too.”

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