When I started podcasting in early 2005, I had no idea how the medium would evolve, but I knew that I loved listening to random strangers babble on about random stuff. Five years later, my tastes have changed, and so has the podcasting world. Now, mainstream “old” media has started to catch on, re-purposing content, while the less professional shows have fallen by the wayside. Still, some “amateur” shows have risen to the top of the food chain. It’s those shows — the re-purposed mainstream and the quality amatuer — that I still listen to, and I find that the best place to listen to them is in the car. So instead of just playing tunes for your entire road trip, try pumping a few of these podcasts into your brain bucket.
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich produce and host this show that airs on NPR‘s WNYC in New York. The show’s website says they’re “On a curiosity bender,” which I find a great way to be. These guys are curiosity ninjas. The chemistry between Jad, Robert, and their subjects is fantastic, and the show’s editing, done by Jad, is some of the best I’ve ever heard. Each episode, they pick a topic, then delve deep into the how, why, and who of it. From deception to musical earworms to musical language, these podcasts sneak up on the unknown and destroy it with a knowledge smackdown.
Americans live complex and varied lives. Sure, the rest of the world has a rich history and set of cultures too, but there’s just something about living life in America that is simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking. Ira Glass, host of This American Life, and his cast of producers examines what makes this country what it is. Like Radio Lab, there is a theme to each show, but the theme is usually broken down into 3 or 4 stories about real people in real, every day situations…situations that may not necessarily feel so “everyday.” Be careful with this podcast, because it can get pretty emotional and heavy at times. But man, it’s worth it to know that we’re not alone.
On the lighter side of things, The Nerdist is pretty much what it sounds like: Host Chris Hardwick and his merry band of comedic ne’er-do-wells (yep, I said “ne’er-do-wells”; deal with it) invite a guest on the show to nerd out about comedy, technology, movies, music, and whatever else nerds freak out about. You may know Hardwick from such pop-culture shenanigans as MTV’s Singled Out, G4’s Web Soup, and PBS’s Wired Science. The standup comedian and his friends crack me up everytime I listen to the show, which makes me come to the harsh realization that I am an über nerd. Awesome.
This is one of those original podcasts from the early days, started by an amateur producer who took everything to the next level. On each episode of Coverville, Brian Ibbott spins a cover of a previously recorded song by artists from around the world, provides info about the artist and their music, and talks about the original song. If you love piano versions of Sweet Child O’ Mine and techno versions of Cover Me (or even if you don’t think you do), this show is one fun listen, perfect for those long road trips because you can sing along to the new versions and feel like an idiot in the privacy of your own car.