I don’t listen to music as much as I used to. I think that’s a sad thing, considering music used to be a huge part of my identity. Like every other teenager, I covered my ears with headphones the majority of the time. I spent copious hours searching for new music, adding it to playlists, downloading albums, and organizing an extensive iTunes library that is, largely, obsolete now in the age of streaming. I hit 25 or 26 and all of that largely went out the window. I blame podcasts.
If you think about it, podcasts are both natural and utterly absurd. Think about it. 20 years ago, how you would react if a friend gave you a tape and said, “Here. This is a recording of me and a friend talking. I hope you enjoy it.” But, then again, we know that people would huddle around storytellers in front of campfires or AM radios. It’s natural and unnatural to want to be comforted by stories, voices, others.
These days, I listen to podcasts more than I watch TV. I could tell you that I enjoy the story telling medium, but I think I would be lying. I mean, I love the medium. But I think it is what the medium does that’s more important. Podcasts fill gaps in the day and make work entertaining. It’s easier to do laundry when you have an episode in your ear. It makes cleaning, sweeping, and cleaning the toilet a little more tolerable.
I won’t lie and say that I don’t like the comfort of having headphones on in public spaces. It makes my commute more manageable. And, I’ll be honest, it is a way to hide social anxiety when walking around Boston. When I first moved to the city, I wanted to explore and gain ground in an urban environment. Coming from rural, no-where Pennsylvania, Boston was a big shock to me. I needed to confront that challenge. Headphones, sunglasses, and a little gumption helped me to make the city feel more like home.
But why not music? You can hide yourself in headphones with a good playlist. You can absorb into an album while checking off chores. I wish I had a solid idea here. I don’t. In the end, I feel like podcasts (at least the podcasts I listen to) help me to keep my brain sharp. I like to learn and true crime, historical, and interviewing pods help me to feel sharp and to absorb more information than reading books. I read a lot, but I have a job and a partner and a social life that’s also important to me. Maybe I’m just a try-hard over achiever who is afraid to let his mind wander into the expanse of music. Maybe that’s why I’m a shitty guitar player.
Anyway, here’s a list of my recommended podcasts. They’re all good and worth the time. They also differ a bit. Some are more comedy, some are more serious.
- WTF with Marc Maron
- I’m way too invested in this pod. It’s the first I ever listened to and it’s been the one I have never stopped loving. Maron feels familiar after 4 years of continuous listening. I’m invested in him, his sobriety, his success, and his guests. Good if you like learning other people’s stories.
- Last Podcast on the Left
- A good friend introduced me to this pod outside of a Comic Con and now I think that was a fitting way to find LPOTL. True crime, crude humor, and good research. LPOTL is a gem because it has some amazing information and still manages to be laugh out loud funny. If you are coming to this pod now, I highly recommend pairing your listening with their reading. You can find the compendium of their research materials here.
- Pod Save America
- I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t actually enjoy Pod Save America very much. I’m not a big fan of the hosts, but I am very partial to the information. I’m not here to put up the political wall, but if you choose to be blind to the encroaching fascism of the republican party then I don’t really want your readership. Pod Save is necessary. Their analysis of news and current events is valuable and important.
- Revisionist History
- Malcolm Gladwell’s voice is soothing, but that’s not why he is on the list. I love when we have the ability to change or twist a “well-known” narrative. Gladwell tends to have bias in his work on the show, but I love that he provides differing perspectives. It’s cool to rethink something that you thought you knew and to find new angles of perception.
- NoSleep Podcast
- Serial Season 1 (still a revolution in the form)
- Shit Town
That’s in no way the total list. You can see for the screenshot that I am listening to a lot more shows. Search and seek, man. Find some good listening and remember that these things can help fill space….