This week’s roundup took into account the many emails I have received from readers of the Pod People in the last month. I wanted to give a special highlight to voices that are emerging, new and noteworthy people who are bringing diverse ideas to the world of sound and storytelling; people you have told me to listen to! Folks, I listen to all the podcast recs—the good, the bad, the ugly. I am the master filter. I cannot lie.
Just a reminder, about the column, cause we’re still super-duper new! I’m committed to:
— digging through the archives
— shining a light on marginalized and minority voices
— reviewing different podcasts each week
— listening to every podcast rec you send me (yep, I’m serious)
Please email thoughts, rambles, and wisdom to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter.
Hey Train Lovers,
Amtrak just won my heart for the billionth time with their adorable attempt at a podcast playlist to accompany your rides. But, their list is on the paltry side. They need your help. Do you produce a podcast that is particularly train-worthy? Think it should be on Amtrak’s lovely little list? If so, shoot me the deets and your justification, and I’ll add it to my compilation that I’m sending along to them. Let’s help the trains figure out what pods are appropriate for all travelers—from the “Quick Commuter” to the “(Anti-) Road Runner” to the “Long Distance Traveler.”
And now, for the four pods of the week. Check their archives out! Give them a special listen!
The Lonely Palette
I’m going to be real with you; fancy pants museums, especially those holding famous paintings and sculptures, sometimes scare the bejeesus out of me. And this, perhaps, is why it’s so surprising to me that I love listening to Tamar Avishai, the host of The Lonely Palette. Hearing her talk about the transformation of abstraction from being a “democratic rallying cry to a spiritual purification of the mind and soul” seemed magically clarifying. That is, I didn’t find myself blushing for lack of art terminology. I couldn’t tell you which century Piet Mondrian came out of if my life depended on it. But, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avishai’s tenth episode “Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1927)” made me somehow comforted by my ignorance, my lack of art terminology and know-how. This is a podcast that truly lives up to its motto: it does return art history to the masses, one painting at a time. Each and every Wednesday you can be transported to a different era, to a work you probably don’t know—be it Paul Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (1897-98) to Richard Serra’s “Torqued Ellipses” (1996).
Leave A Message After the Tone
I’m sorry. I know. No one wants to listen to another podcast on Trump (apologies to Slate,’s Trumpcast crew). But Leave A Message After the Tone has an episode on the U.S. president that will crack you up. In episode 2, “Trump l’oeuf,” listeners left voice messages in response to these tantalizing questions: what does Donald Trump eat? How does the man put together a hot dog? What does he do at dinner parties? You’ll have to tune in to get the full scoop, but responses are rivetingly hilarious and range from the short (“He eats shit”) to the simple (“He eats cream cheese”) to the complex (“One thing that really makes me sad is that I think he might really like shellfish, and I really like shellfish”). The most important food group—quinoa—gets a mention too. Is Trump our century’s Marie Antoinette? How will he change the food world, while he’s in office? Check out their archive of episodes and their swanky website.
Death: The Podcast
You wouldn’t expect a show called Death: The Podcast to be full of laughs and life, but it is. This might be the best export out of New Orleans, folks, and the team of producers know it. Their website leads with this gem of quote, “New Orleans has a unique relationship to death: we have a ridiculously high murder rate, we party at funerals, and we end up above ground.” The podcast has consistently tackled quirky topics that are far from the somber. Also, the show’s host, Arian Elfant, has a crazy cool background: she’s a clinical psychologist in private practice. Check out her January 30 episode for a special dive into the life and times of a Certified Life Celebrant.
The Sewers of Paris
Sure. Sure. Listen to the Sewers of Paris, cause the pod has a rad interview with Dan Savage. But, you could also improve your coolness by checking out the killer episode with Drew Gurza, “Where’s the Coming-Out Advice for Somebody in a Chair?” The Sewers of Paris is intimate; it’s a window into the world of gay men, the problems they face, the feelings they have, the world they inhabit. It should be on your docket, not because it’s Parisian (it’s not) but because it brings to the table gems and germs of ideas that might not be on your mind. Also, Matt Baume—the host—is a mad good interviewer. Enough said.
Raised on a strict diet of NPR and C-SPAN, Muira McCammon is a war crimes researcher by day and a podcast reviewer for Paste Magazine by night. She can be found on Twitter @muira_mccammon or walking about the woods of western Massachusetts. Her writing has previously appeared in Slate, Waypoint by VICE, Atlas Obscura, the Massachusetts Review, and other publications.