Thursday, April 09, 2009

What are the best podcasts?

We've moved beyond the eclectic here. What are simply the best podcasts?

There are SO many of them. I have a few that I really like, and have assembled a top ten list:

1. In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg
This has to be the best podcast of all time. It's been going on for seven years. Every week an eminent, scholarly gentleman has a morning chat with a different triumvirate of brilliant men and women about "never knowingly relevant" subjects such as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Eliot's Wasteland, and the Pre-Cambrian Explosion. It is definitely anglo-centric, but Melvyn is sharp and witty, and tackles the more scientific and mathematical subjects pretty amazingly for a layman [which is good for the laypeople (like me) whom are listening.]

2. WFMU's aired podcasts
WFMU podcasts are in a class of their own (and thus occupy two places on this top ten list). Because I'm in Korea, I can't listen to my favorite shows live, such as The Best Show with Tom Scharpling and The Dusty Show with Clay Pigeon. The Best Show has a new podcast called the Best Show Gems which looks really promising. (It takes the funny bits from the shows' huge archive; it's a three hour program, so it's definitely an investment of your time. But worth it if you can spare it.) My other favorites include DJ/Rupture's eclectic mixes, Radio Freetown. Lest we not mention plagiartist People Like Us's numerous contributions to WFMU that are usually available in podcast form.

3. Philosophy and Ethics Bites
This is a British series that focuses on a huge array of philosophical subjects, interviewing various philosophers who are so smart it makes your brain hurt. It's good stuff; and you will probably have to listen to several of them repeatedly, as I have had to. Cause they are dense, cause they are brilliant. Speaking of which:

4. Density of Sound - Netlabelism! I found this podcast absolutely randomly. He plays all music that is legally podcastable, which is nice. And he has very good taste. [Full disclosure: he has played some of my tunes.] He tends towards electronic, electronic dub, dubstep and otherwise dubby types music--but mainly because there is just so much good stuff being made in those genres. He plays noise and melodies without discrimination, just with good taste. His shows are always an eclectic brew in the John Peel vein. I have found lots of great stuff through him. (All legal; all free!)

5. Vital Weekly
This is a quote "so-called pod cast" unquote that I haven't listened to very often, but it is definitely Vital. I don't listen often because it doesn't download automatically and it doesn't offer the pure listening pleasure that Density of Sound offers. It does, however, do humanity the service of sifting through piles of CDRs and independent releases to find things that are interesting. Vitally, it offers extensive reviews of the music--so this is a quote "so-called pod cast" unquote that you don't even have to listen to! Vital!

6. Broken Beat Radio
This great podcast has an (YES GLARGH!) eclectic (GREERSH!) brew of succulent, jerky yet smooth beats with an rnb tang. It works, and is perfect instant gratification. Sometimes it is jazzy, sometimes it is hip-hoppy, but it is almost always really good stuff. This is stuff I wouldn't normally listen to, but Argo and his crew's taste is impeccable. If I were ever to have a party where ladies whom wished for sophisticated beats to fashionably gyrate their sinuous forms about my property, with Dewar's and roaches in hand, this would be the first thing I'd head to get things bumping. Food for dreams...

7. Radio Lab
Leslie turned me on to this one. It really annoys me like with its preciousness, a la This American Life, but I have really learned a lot from it. It is still annoying, and I think the producers are smug. It's supposed to be science that is made palatable with interesting music and quirky personality. The science is already palatable, and they have incredible access to an amazing array of researchers and personalities like Oliver Sacks. I don't think the music is that interesting; mainly because it is all IDM-sounding cliche sounds. But it is very well produced. And there's so many smart people involved in it that it can't be ignored.

8. WFMU Podcasts, unaired.
Some podcasts on the WFMU website are purely podcasts, never aired. Some favorites include Cake and Polka Parade, and stuff that People Like Us and Ergo Phizmiz do.

9. The Journal with Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers is one of the heroes of our time. I watch the show on my computer now. But last year when I didn't have a computer at home I'd download the podcast at work and listen to it while eating dinner on Monday nights.

10. Your podcast. It's pretty much my favorite. The most eclectic of the bunch.

Honor mentionables: The History of Rome. The Jesse Thorne empire, namely the Coyle and Sharpe Episodes (the inspiration for my werewolf phase).



Anonymous said...

I've been sick in bed and listening to Melvyn all weekend. It's almost as refreshing as a neti. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

check out this one:

awesome philosophy/humanities podcast!

Anonymous said...

The Melvins played in Boston last week..

must be another Melvin!!