Pod People 05.21.18

Retropod: The rise of smart speakers has seen the new wave of daily podcasts like The Daily and Up First, downloaded and ready to play each morning while you rub sleep out of your eyes. Retropod from the Washington Post takes the daily format and combines it with another popular subject – stories from history. The end result is a look back at the stories, places, and characters that you may have forgotten or never known about. In the past week, this has included abolitionist John Brown, Area 51, and a series on the British Royal Family in the lead up to the latest royal wedding. The folks at WaPo have been smart in putting this show together – host Mike Rosenwald is engaging and portrays emotion as a storyteller, and the addition of music and sound effects added a nice polish to something that could have easily been a cold read. To be honest, I can’t imagine starting my day with Retropod, but I can definitely see me hitting play on my evening commute or binging a bunch of eps on a lazy Sunday.

On Shuffle E01: Is Post Malone a man who makes lazy boring music in a genre he doesn’t care about? Or is he a man who can ride catchy melodies to chart success? That’s the debate put forward from Micah Peters and Donnie Kwak in On Shuffle, a new music podcast from the Ringer Podcast Network. Post-Post, Micah has a brief chat with Gizmodo’s David Turner regarding the controversy behind Spotify’s recent editorial policy changes and the artists who have had their music removed. One thing I always wonder when listening to podcasts is “Who is this show for?” and I don’t have an answer for On Shuffle. Detailed longform music journalism can be found throughout the web, and with an episode that only runs 24 minutes the discussion runs a tad too surface level right now. And if you’re looking for explainers on music, I can think of five other places I’d look first before seeking out a podcast. Maybe this will find it’s footing in the future, but right now On Shuffle is a skip.

Personal Best E07: I’ve became rather addicted to a YouTube channel of this self-proclaimed “high performance specialist” where this guy throws personal motivation platitudes at people who pay him large sums of money. Dude is such a fraud, and it has made me question the vast selection of podcasts in the self-help space – do they exist to help or to profit? Thankfully, CBC Original Podcast Personal Best avoids the worst of the genre by using the most basic of filmmaking techniques – show, don’t tell. Episode 7 of the show concerns Yaw, a long time fan of Jackie Chan who craves the ability to do a backflip, but lacks the self confidence that comes with growing old. So hosts Rob Norman (The Backline) and Andrew Norton construct somewhat silly scenarios ala ABC show What Should You Do? to get Yaw that confidence – from opening a pickle jar and assisting an elderly women with her computer to hiring the largest street legal fog machine (no spoilers on why street legal fog machine is needed – it’s worth listening to find out). Personal Best is a goofy little show that tells charming stories of people who need a leg up, somehow being highly convoluted and incredibly honest simultaneously. Best of all, it teaches that self-improvement doesn’t need to be yelled from outside influencers – it can come from within.

Earbuds and Earworms E85: The elevators in my life play no music – the one at work has a video screen that shows news updates, while the one at my house frequently gets slower once the thermometer reaches above 90 (thankfully, have never been stuck in there). But the world of music and elevators is quite vast, and the people behind Earbuds and Earworms are here to explore it. Hosts Amy Sheppard and Mitchell Manley take us through a collection of music themed around the moving metal tube, from vaporwave music that sounds more fitting inside an elevator, to The Carpenters and that feeling that the person who got on at the fifteenth floor doesn’t understand what personal space means. Earbuds and Earworms is an old-school podcast in the best way – hosts Amy and Mitchell clearly enjoy each others company, riffing and joking with one another – this is definitely a hang-out pod. But hidden away is a music discovery podcast, introducing the listener to new acts they haven’t heard, or re-framing musicians in ways never thought about. It’s light, it’s fun, and at worst will fill the empty void between the ground floor and the penthouse.

In Brief: Scott declares the term “conversational narcissism” on another great ep of R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me?. The Dollop covers media flip-floppers and the things left out of musical Hamilton. Comedy Bang Bang‘s Thursday bonus with the boys of Hollywood Handbook saw a lot of water-related podcasts pitched for Stitcher Premium. And Critical explores the world of smells with Alex Karpovsky and debut a new segment where the hosts ask questions that suspiciously sound like security questions for online banking accounts.

Pod News: The folks behind Crimetown debut new show The RFK Tapes June 5. Huffduffer allows you to create custom podcast feeds of MP3s you find on the web. Season 3 of hip-hop podcast Dissect will have bonus eps released on Spotify. Griefcast takes home Podcast of the Year at the British Podcast Awards. With so much good stuff on TV, do narrative podcasts have a chance?

Next Week: I’m out of state, so it will be an all-singing, all-dancing review of shows related to The Simpsons. Please tip me off on any of the more obscure Simpsons related shows in the comments.

The Final Question: What app do you use to listen to your podcasts? When I started listening to podcasts, apps weren’t a thing and some shows were only distributed on BitTorrent! These days I use Pocket Casts. How do you do?