With ‘must-listen’ podcasts churning out rapid new content every week, completism is not an option. Here’s how to skip to the best bits
Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder has dissected more than 200 hits, from Deftones to Dua Lipa, with the help of the musicians who made them. One of the most beautiful moments comes when Hirway isolates the vocals from Solange’s Cranes in the Sky, making it even more irresistible. Solange gives an insight into the song’s creation, from its beginnings in Idaho to recording the vocals in a cockroach-infested house in Jamaica, before sharing her mum’s rule of having a “pity party” when you’re struggling.
In a podcasting world obsessed with true crime, this gem is refreshing for the simple fact that it is not all about the blood and gore. Sure, there are murders and blackmailers, but the show’s very best episode centres on a much more quirky offence, by looking at the case of a venus flytrap crime ring. Thousands of the plants have disappeared from gardens, swamps and nurseries in North Carolina. Why are they so poachable? In this fascinating yarn, mysterious figures say it’s down to their “healing powers”.
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Charles Manson’s Hollywood, pt 3: The Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson and Manson the Songwriter
Karina Longworth’s long-running podcast explores the darker side of the silver screen. In this episode from the series Charles Manson’s Hollywood, we hear the absorbing story of how the counterculture’s biggest villain struck up a friendship with Dennis Wilson after an encounter with two members of the Manson “family” in the summer of 1968. As Manson turned spiritual guru in order to chase his rock star dreams, Wilson found himself trapped in his orbit.
Audrey, Tolly T and Milena are the kind of hilarious friends you could listen to chatting all day, but they’re at their best with a guest in the mix. Take their interview with “adult content creator and escort” Brandy, who they grill on the experience of dancing in a club. “Is it like the Hustlers movie?”; “Do you feel sexy when you’re there?”; “Is the audition process like X Factor?” they ask. And Brandy definitely delivers.
Cariad Lloyd’s podcast offers a 50-50 tears-to-laughs ratio, discussing the reality of death and the unexpected feelings that come with it. Monty Don’s episode is a real thing of beauty, with him not only talking about the loss of his father but of his beloved dog Nigel, too. There are giggles when he talks about the “both freaky and genuinely funny” process of freezing and burying Nigel. However, the depth of Don’s feelings become clear when he reveals that he needed to grieve for his pet and Gardeners’ World co-star in private for five days before telling the world.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Theroux’s falsetto version of Baccara’s Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, you’re in for a treat. Adam Buxton’s “ramblechats” with celebrities are a masterclass in softly-softly interviewing, most notably when Theroux has the tables turned on him. Louis lets Buxton into the secrets of how he gets the most out of his documentary subjects, and why authenticity is so important. But mainly it’s just about the singing.
Kaitlin Prest’s mini-series on consent is raw and enlightening, with contributions from a man who makes the same moves over and over again despite hearing “No” (“I just went for it because I was stupid and young”), to the individuals who talk about pushing women to the point where they stop resisting. Prest’s debate about the issue of consent with her dad is striking, but what really stops you in your tracks is her recording of an intimate encounter with a male friend, who ignores her clear request: “Don’t”.
Every episode of Julia Davis and Vicky Pepperdine’s filthy agony aunt podcast is sheer genius, and to really understand what makes these two goddesses of psycho-genital counselling tick, start here . The pair are unleashed from lockdown and belch away as they sip their champers, with Joan suffering from lack of sleep after a hard night wearing a head torch that illuminates Pierre’s penis problems. And that’s before they get around to offering their counsel to a listener who has had her shower interrupted by a Doberman, triggering a vividly vile dose of advice from the duo.