Podcasts have come a long way, haven’t they? I admittedly feel like I got into them late, but they’ve become a weekly friend for me now for drives and when I’m just in need for background noise for whatever reason. The sheer amount of content that now exists insures you’d never end up without something to listen to if you want it.
My tastes have shifted a lot since the airwaves – or internet tubes? – have started to get clogged with Stuff to listen to. I started simply with the two Cracked podcasts, both of which are essentially comedy ones. Then I realized true crime and urban legend related podcasts exists and I added a few more on (Sword and Scale, if you’d like to know, is my favorite of those). And then?
Then I learned about Welcome to Night Vale.
This article isn’t really going to be about WTNV, though. I love WTNV, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like every praise about WTNV has been sung before. Still, I would be remiss not to mention it, as it catapulted me into the world of story podcasts. I don’t know if a lot of these podcasts are a direct result of the runaway success of WTNV, but man it seems like they’re popping up all over, much to my joy. Some are pretty new in the grand schemeof things, but already have me as hooked as I am on some of the TV shows I watch.
It’s honestly a little fascinating these are entertaining me so much, though it’s human nature to enjoy orally told stories, isn’t it? I mean, how different am I with my iPhone than people who used to listen to radio dramas? To people who used to tell stories around the fire? Perhaps it’s the imagination needed to really enjoy these things, where something like television just hands you the visuals. Whatever it is, there’s something special about this medium, and I wanted to celebrate and hopefully suggest to some of you something (or more than one something!) new to listen to. The list is in no particular order, they all have a special place in my heart. They also are the ones I listen to almost immediately when they get updated and then get really sad when I have to wait for a new one. Oh, and if you happen to like Night Vale? All of these probably would be right up your alley. My tastes run along the strange and unusual and fantastical lines. I also am focusing entirely on longform fictional podcasts, where it’s telling a story instead of separate stories each episode (though maybe I’ll make a list of THAT one day too – we’ll see!) With that said, on to the suggestions.
1. The Bright Sessions – A podcast performed to resemble psychiatry sessions lead by the main character Dr. Bright, a woman who specifically treats people with…extra ordinary abilities. Each episode follows a single patient’s session – as of writing this, there are currently four patients in total. Through these sessions you learn about the struggles these people have with these powers they have, a thing I was pleasantly surprised to listen to. With so much focus on how awesome it is to have abilities in a world mostly without them in general superhero media, it’s a unique take on well-trodden ground and it’s what I think drew me the most to it. What also is impressive is how this podcast weaves what are currently very separate people into a much larger narrative by connecting them all to Dr. Bright. After all, why did this woman sign up to specifically treat people like this? Why does she even believe people like this exist? Is there a larger aim to her focus? Is she part of something bigger? You’ll have to listen to find out. On a side note, I always love when there’s some great representation going on, and this podcast already can claim to have it as well as a really solid voice cast. I’m surprised it took me this long to find this thing.
2. TANIS – Where is Tanis? What is Tanis? These questions spin around this podcast, and they’re complicated ones to be sure. Following Nic Silver’s search for information, it’s hAard not to immediately get sucked into this strange mystery As Nic explains in the first episode, it all starts with a short story that soon catapults him into places unimaginable, with twists and turns that might give you whiplash at points. It’s beautifully unfolding, with some episodes legitimately putting me on the edge of my seat and wanting to wail when there isn’t more episodes after. It’s soon apparent that the search might not be a good idea after all, and the feeling of dread starts to really kick up as the episodes continue on and Nic goes deeper and deeper into places he probably shouldn’t go to. The podcast boasts an excellent, compelling story along with some really solid voice work.
The Black Tapes – Do you like The X-Files? I ask this of anyone I suggest this to, and if their answer is yes, I shove this podcast at them. Journalist Alex Reagan is the host of this show, and she soon sets her sights on the mysterious Dr. Richard Strand and his institute to disprove the paranormal. Strand and Alex are an absolutely perfect match to follow, and the push and pull between them as they start to delve into his Black Tapes – mysteries he has yet to solve. Unsurprising to absolutely no one, most of these mysteries are creepy as hell, and the longer the show goes on, the more you find yourself wondering about the safety of the characters involved. It is especially strong in its second season, where shit has really hit the fan, truths are starting to come out, and things are starting to fit together in a puzzle piece you weren’t quite expecting. If anything, this show has one hell of a duo for it’s main characters, and honestly I’d suggest it on their interactions alone. That the story it’s telling makes it hard not to go ‘one more episode and then I’ll stop’, I’d say this is a real winner of a podcast.
Limetown – Ten years ago, an entire town’s population completely disappeared without a trace. This mystery is central in the Limetown podcast, which has recently been revealed to have a season 2 in what this listener hopes will be the near future. Unlike TANIS, which is also centralized around a mystery about a town, this podcast cleverly decided to present it’s story in the format popularized by Serial, a well-known true crime podcast. Each episode feels like you’re actually following along on someone’s search to reveal the mystery of what happened and it does this kind of storytelling very well. I almost fear saying too much and revealing something you really should listen to, so if you like paranormal stuff and you like Serial, you’re probably going to really love this thing.
And that’s it for the moment! I’m sure there’s plenty more I haven’t come across – feel free to make your own recommendations if I’ve glaringly omitted something (you know, so I can add it to my list of stuff to listen to).