8 Fascinating Podcasts You Need To Hear This Summer
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Collage by Danielle Moalem
You’ve heard about Peak TV, but we’re actually living through the age of Peak Podcast, too. The industry of audible programs has gone full supernova, with an overwhelming amount of listening-only shows available at any given time. And the best part about podcasts is that, unlike television shows or movies, you don’t need to be stationary to consume them. You can listen to podcasts during your daily commute, at the gym, doing the dishes, or while in bed trying to avoid your own pesky thoughts (in which case, try this podcast that's "better than Ambien"). And the number of new podcasts popping up on the reg is truly remarkable. In terms of programming, it’s the next great frontier. With that, here are some new—and newish—podcasts you should be paying attention to this summer.
Photo courtesy of NPR
This NPR juggernaut, a regular at the top of the iTunes charts, needs no introduction. But season three, which premiered at the beginning of this month, does. This season, Invisibilia is making its own “concept album about concepts.” That means that each episode is connected by a single thread, as hosts Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin (third co-host, Lulu Miller, is sitting this one out as she writes a book) explore the idea that what we think of as being the real world is actually not real at all.
Photo courtesy of NPR
The Sam Sanders Project
Yes, there are enough interview-style podcasts that choosing which ones to listen to can be a daunting task. Our advice is to pick one based on the host, rather than who they talk to. Often, a great interviewer is far more important than a great guest. If you caught Sanders as the co-host of the popular NPR Politics Podcast during the 2016 campaign, you’ll know that he has a comforting way about him that invites listeners in. That’s also usually the mark of a good host—someone who puts their guests at ease enough for them to really open up. This show debuts today, so it’s still unclear what shape it will take, but expect Sanders to have insightful and in-depth conversations with major figures in both politics and pop culture, which these days feels one and the same.
Photo courtesy of Ear Hustle
The title of this podcast is prison slang for eavesdropping, which should give you an idea of what this riveting new program is about. Two San Quentin State Prison inmates, Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, won a contest held by podcast network Radiotopia to create their own show, and this is what they came up with. It’s a jarringly intimate look at life behind bars told from the perspective of various San Quentin inmates as they deal with the hardships and mundanities of prison life. The first and only episode so far is called “Cellies,” an often funny, often difficult look at the importance of having the right cellmate. Don’t miss it.
Photo courtesy of The Ringer
You may have heard that Game of Thrones is returning for its seventh season next month. No two people are more excited about that than Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, editors at The Ringer who also happen to be its residents Game of Thrones experts. It’s possible that no two people on the planet—other than David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (and, you know, George R. R. Martin)—know more about the show (and the books that inspired it) than these two superfans. Known as the Mother of Dragons and the Maester respectively, Rubin and Concepcion are deep diving every single Thrones episode to date, leading up to the July 16 premiere.
Photo courtesy of Nancy/WNYC
Kathy Tu and Tobin Low met at a program for aspiring radio producers and quickly formed a bond. Recognized as talents in the field, they quickly landed their own show on WNYC, which is this personal and often emotional podcast about the LGBTQIA experience. The premiere focused on Tu's and Low’s own coming out stories and even featured their parents, and the most recent one revisited the Pulse nightclub shooting one year later and how Orlando, Florida, has remained changed forever. As difficult as the subject matter may sometimes be, Tu and Low often manage to find sources of inspiration in their subject matter.
Photo courtesy of Rookie
The Rookie Podcast
On the first episode of The Rookie Podcast, host Tavi Gevinson had her good friend Lorde on to discuss creativity, fame, and the New Zealand singer’s new album Melodrama. But the highlight came when Lorde shared a rare demo of the making of her hit single “Green Light,” a rare inside look at the mercurial singer’s creative process. It’s doubtful she would have shared that with anyone other than Gevinson, which is part of this podcast’s appeal. Gevinson exists in the same rarefied world of her guests (Alia Shawkat, George Saunders)—and is often already friends with them—and is thus able to coax revelations from them that any other interviewers might not. The podcast also brings to audible life favorite Rookie features like Ask a Grown Person and Life Skill, which featured NYLON contributor Anne T. Donahue talking about the beauty of saying no.
Photo courtesy of WHYY
The jury is currently deliberating on a verdict in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault, but whether or not he is found guilty or innocent in the court of law, Cosby’s fate in the court of public opinion is sealed. The legendary comedian and sitcom star’s reputation is tarnished, and no matter what happens, the accusations of sexual assault by dozens of women will be at the very top of his obituary. This tragic podcast chronicles how it all happened.
Photo courtesy of Spotify
Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
Spotify users might have already heard this gripping six-part biopic of one of the most influential figures in hip-hop over the last 20 years. This collaboration between Gimlet Media and Loudspeakers has been an exclusive on the streaming service for the last few weeks but will be dropping on all other podcast platforms any day now. Lighty, a Bronx, New York, native, managed names like LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, and many more, and while the podcast charts that improbable rise, it also explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding his 2012 death, which was ruled a suicide. The podcast, which is being touted as a miniseries, features talking-head interviews from many of the artists who worked closest with Lighty, as the show’s host, Reggie Ossé, who is also the host of the popular Combat Jack Show, tries to figure out why someone who seemingly had everything going for them would take their own life.