I recently had a jarring moment on a rainy Saturday morning: While preparing to trudge through the lousy weather for a facial appointment, I opened my phone to start up a podcast, and was not greeted by the effervescent voice of Jenny Slate but instead a blaring “NOPE!” notification that my phone was full.
My first thought was that I need to stop taking so many photos. Or get rid of some of the apps I never use. I’m sorry Airbnb app you’ve got to go—it’s you or the Citizen app and we all know I can’t live without my crime reports.
But the reality of the situation is that my podcast listening is out of control. I knew that I was listening to a lot of them, but it turns out my count easily exceeds 100. I have podcasts that I only listen to while I grocery shop or while I walk to the train. I listen to podcasts about true crime and world events and bad movies and comedians and good movies and science and Britney’s Instagram.
The silver lining: My excess is your gain! While I may be legally required to edit down the podcasts taking up precious real estate on my phone, I’ve got lots of recommendations for you! And since the next couple months are gloriously travel-friendly, I’ve put together a list of some of the best podcasts you’ve probably definitely never heard of, from brand-new series to hidden gems that have a hundred bingeable episodes.
The One That Only Comes Out Once a Year
Til Death Do Us Blart
This is an annual podcast, which makes following it super-manageable. The premise is also insane: four friends have agreed to watch the shockingly horrible Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 every year in November until they die. Don’t worry, there’s no need to have seen the movie to enjoy the show. I promise you’ll find yourself not only laughing out loud while you listen, but looking forward to this even-less-frequent-than-once-in-a-blue-moon treat.
The One for Your Next Road Trip
Heads Will Roll
This 10-part audio series was created by and stars Kate McKinnon. The best way I can describe this is “2019 Hocus Pocus” but with even more of your favorite actors—including Meryl Streep, Tim Gunn and Audra McDonald. In the words of Queen Mortuana of the Night Realm: “I’m a very good evil queen and good evil queens do not get overthrown by peasants.”
The One for Mental Health Awareness Month
Life After Suicide
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight this new podcast that has consistently moved me to tears from the first episode. Host Dr. Jennifer Ashton’s ex-husband committed suicide and she generously delves into the realities of “the club nobody wants to be in” and how the experience has changed her life. Her eye-opening conversations help break down the stigma around mental health.
The One That Will Give You a New Imaginary BFF
Cool Dead Women
This mother-daughter hosting duo tell the stories of many of culture’s most interesting and too-often-forgotten women. Erica Waters (the mom part of the equation) is a published author and literary magazine founder, so she’s got next-level writers like Jean Rhys covered. Blair Waters (her daughter) is a filmmaker and musician who loves to unpack the stories of artists like the 1950s-era singer-songwriter Connie Converse. Every episode will leave you feeling tender-hearted and extra curious about the world—which is pretty much the best way to feel, don’t you think?
The One That’s Quick and Concise If You’re Short on Time
When I think about cover songs the first thing that comes to mind is the many many beautiful covers of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. Maybe that’s because I’m a Dolly fan or maybe it’s because it’s secretly everyone’s go-to karaoke song? But either way there’s clearly got to be a story behind why bands pick to cover certain songs. Under Cover, from Spotify, is here to tell you what those stories are in right around 10 minutes.
The One About Food and Science
My entry point into food podcasts, which I love, was Grantland’s Food News wherein they mostly discussed food in pop culture and news (like the emergence and breakout chips of 2015: Rap Snacks) and then taste-tested listener-submitted snacks. It was strangely sweet and lovely, and after it ended, I had a potato-chip-sized whole in heart until I found Gastropod. This podcast focuses on the history behind some of your favorite foods, but, like, fun, exciting history. I highly recommend starting with their bagel episode, which explores the New Yorker breakfast staple’s family tree and how it may have (hold onto your butts) evolved from a harder, more pretzel-like German bread!
The One for Spot-On Book Recommendations
One Great Book
I love poking around people’s bookshelves to see what they’ve read. It’s like an exhibition of their most personal innerworkings. This podcast makes good on that appeal, with host Anne Bogel—who literally wrote the book on the delights of reading—taking one book from her shelf each week and explaining why it’s so special. If you’re looking for recommendations that get straight to the point, this is for you!
The One About the Youths
Mind in Pieces
Having recently turned 30, I’ve started to feel like a mix between Liz Lemon and Joey Tribbiani whenever I see or interact with anyone under 20. The youths! What is up with them?! When I stumbled upon Mind in Pieces, it opened my eyes to a refreshing side of teen culture, one that confronts social anxiety and mental-health taboos. Creator Casey Kamali is a high school senior interviewing other teens and she’s producing one of the most refreshingly honest podcasts out there.
Graphic by Madeline Montoya.