These podcasts can entertain you through work or distract you from school.
As 2019 begins, my hunt for new and interesting podcasts continues. After listening to hundreds of hours worth, I’ve got a fair few favorites. I’ll spare you the usual highlights in favor of my favorite, less popular podcasts that need some love. Here there be fantasy, Sci-Fi, true crime, fake crime, news and the paranormal for you to explore in the new year.
“Mabel” — A haunted house. Fey. Overwrought characters and family drama, this podcast is bold and boldly authentic. A woman is nursing an old lady, but after her charge dies and she has left the house, things become odd. She cannot leave. She can only communicate with her patient’s granddaughter, who has been missing for years. The creators, Becca De La Rosa and Mabel Martin, have worked hard on the series. Transcripts are available on their website as well, which I’m a huge fan of. Heads up: there is a fair amount of volume change, from background music to screaming.
“The Penumbra Podcast” — I love Juno Steel more than Juno Steel loves himself, which is the standard episode format for the majority of “The Penumbra Podcast.” The podcast has three major plotlines: Juno Steel is a private investigator on Mars in a classic crime noir story; in the Second Citadel timeline, unlikely adventurers deal with fantasy beasts and romantic shenanigans; and there is the odd horror or one-shot episode of other “guests” at the fictional Penumbra Hotel, which (as best as I can tell) exists somewhere outside of time and space. It’s made by another small podcasting team, and transcripts are also available on the website.
“Bear Brook” — I am more than a one-trick pony sometimes, and yes, I am capable of listening to more than just fantasy podcasts. New Hampshire Public Radio produces this podcast about a solved murder case from the ‘80s that remains incomplete in several respects. Two barrels were found in the woods containing several bodies in a time before modern DNA testing could easily identify them. This show covers the investigation and its subsequent impact on how investigators go about solving cases where the victims are unidentified. It is true crime, so be aware that it might not be for you. Even if you do like this genre, it’s still heartbreaking at times.
“Bombarded” — Nevermind, I’m back on my fantasy bullshit. This one is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast. I know, there are so many of them out there. Some are even funny! You either know that very well already or this is shocking you. Either way, hear me out. This one is an all-bard cast whose players are all in a band together. They start out at level one and work their way up, and their real-life musical knowledge presents its own shenanigans and joys. If you like music or bards, give this a listen. If you hate DnD in general, this is probably not the podcast to win you over, as it’s more game-based than, say, “The Adventure Zone” (which you should totally listen to, but that’s stating the obvious here).
“The Magnus Archives” — Listen to the eldritch horrors you want to have in your life. Or something. “The Magnus Archives,” by the Rusty Quill, documents the tapes Head Archivist Jonathan Sims records, audio versions of old transcripts held by the Magnus Institute. The institute records and investigates paranormal happenings and unexplainable horrors. Some episodes are better than others, but you can’t expect all monsters to be badasses, I guess.
“Gal Pals Present: Overkill” — These ladies bury their gays, and then give them agency and adventure in the afterlife. It follows a murdered young lady and her adjustment to her death and her place among the ghosts that haunt the area that she dies in, as well as the hunt for her killer. It’s a comedy podcast with a wry sense of humor. It’s the perfect example of a show using a cliche (bury your gays) and making the premise empowering instead of depressing. It’s short, too — only six episodes long! — so you can binge it in a day or two. Gal Pals Present has a couple other podcasts as well, if you want more content after listening to “Overkill.”
“The Bright Sessions” — Consider: superheroes, but treated like people. The premise of “The Bright Sessions” is exactly that. Dr. Bright, a psychologist, records her sessions with atypicals, or people with powers that range from the expected (an empath who can pick up the moods of others, but struggles to distinguish his own emotions from others’) to the extreme (a time traveler who jumps back in time when she has a panic attack).
“Order 9066” — Order 9066 was the executive order signed by President Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbor that called for the incarceration of people of Japanese descent in parts of the United States. “Order 9066,” a podcast from APM Reports, plays accounts of the people who were in the camps, as well as their descendants and the racism that motivated the order. If you’re interested in World War II or history, the podcast is a story by survivors and approached with empathy and a journalistic dedication to context and details. If you’re interested in other in-depth glimpses into controversial moments in American history, APM Reports also has podcasts centering on the presidential campaign of 1968, criminal cases and more.
“Homecoming” — Maybe this is too mainstream, but it’s still well worth a listen. Oscar Isaac plays a soldier freshly returned from deployment and seeking help from the Homecoming Initiative, a program that provides help to soldiers through therapy, though it has secrets of its own. Psychologist Heidi Bergman now works at a diner and doesn’t remember her time working at the Homecoming Initiative. The plot is good, but the performances are what knock it out of the park. By far one of the best-delivered podcasts that I’ve heard in a long time.
“Post Reports” — Satisfy your curiosity and catch up on a bit of news by tuning into the “Post Reports” every now and then. It’s a daily podcast by the Washington Post that covers some of what they’re writing and major topics of the day. They’re pretty short, clocking in at just over 20 minutes each, so you can get a bit of knowledge in a bit of time without having to crack open a paper or facing WashPo’s dreaded paywall.
“Conversations with People Who Hate Me” — Dylan Marron does what we all wish we could do. He calls people who have left rude comments, usually on his YouTube videos, and asks them why they made those comments. Instead of getting angry, though, he listens. Sometimes, people have had a bad day. Other times they really do think that he’s done something wrong or disagree wholeheartedly. These are open conversations, and his ability to stay calm and emotionally present keeps the conversations on track. It’s a great exercise in empathy and reminding yourself that everyone has their own reasons for the way they act, even when they’ve done something they need to apologize for.