So I mentioned somewhere in Twitter that I was thinking about writing a list with the podcasts that I’d recommend people to listen to and why, but that I’d fear it wouldn’t make any sense.
I am not an expert in this topic, just a fan, and I haven’t listened to a lot of podcasts just the ones I’ve stumbled upon.
But here’s my less than comprehensive list of preferred podcasts and why/to whom I’d recommend them.
1. Welcome to Night Vale is a must for those who are into conspiracy theories, like long, drawn out stories, and are into things like magical realism.
The show is about a small desert community where there are shady (literally) entities in charge of the government, the phones at tapped, everyone is being observed by “the Sheriff’s Secret Police” and dragons are real. Everything in Night Vale is strange and mind blowing but Cecil Palmer, radio host, tells it all like it is no big deal and completely normal.
This is a relatively long show (we’re about to have episode 100) and the secrets of the town and its inhabitants are revealed little by little.
The show has a large fan base and very talented people working on it, so you’d definitely enjoy it.
Oh, and a definite plus to it is that the weather section of the radio show are in fact songs. So many beautiful and strange songs came into my life because of this show, trust me, you will love them.
2. Limetown is a show that those of you who like conspiracy theories, mystery and tales about people disappearing without a trace will definitely enjoy.
Limetown tells the story of a scientific community whose inhabitants all went missing one day all of a sudden. The story is told by a journalist who is documenting all her findings on a radio show.
This podcast is very similar in narrative style to a thriller. Lia Haddock, our intrepid journalist searches for clues, finds witnesses and people who can clarify what happened the night Limetown became a site of mystery and tragedy, and gets tangled in something that goes beyond what she had expected.
The show is amazing, well paced, and with interesting characters and narratives. Trust me when I tell you that it will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It only has seven episodes and there are no concrete plans of having a second season. Instead, the writers of the show have informed the fans that there is a prequel novel on the making and maybe even talks of a TV show.
3.- Alice Isn’t Dead from the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, who definitely know what they’re doing and how to hook you from the very beginning.
As you may have read before in my “On the Table” post I adore Alice Isn’t Dead. This show came to us in a moment in which the “queer women die in fiction” trope was killing us all. You cannot imagine how thrilled we were about this show where the main character, who I shall not name since you do not know her name till the end, is searching for her wife.
If you are a fan of the horror genre, suspense, women loving women, thrillers, love stories and intrigue, then you have hit the motherload with this.
The MC will walk you (or drive you) through her life and steps as she searches for her thought to be dead, but actually just missing wife, who is tangled up in something awful. The format of the show are radio broadcasts that Chipmunk -as the MC is affectionately called by Alice- does in the hopes that her wife is listening and hears her talk about them. These transmissions not only talk about the places she visits -in beautiful, poignant and very detailed descriptions of landscapes and the people she meets- but also offer insights into her life before all this.
You will get to feel so much about the narrator who is, by the way, a black woman suffering from anxiety and who tells us that being afraid is not bad, that anxiety is not the end of you, that you are more than you think.
I am in love with this show. It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me fall in love with a woman desperately looking for her home, and for the home that ran away. It has beautiful quotes that will haunt you for days, like:
“There is a fine line between disappearing from view and disappearing altogether. How far could I run? How much could I change before there was nothing left of me to hide? Before all that was left was the disguise?”
“It’s one of my favorite memories of you, actually. Us with almost nothing. And still we had everything.”
Believe me whatever it is you love, Alice Isn’t Dead has it in its 12 episode length.
4.- The Message.
Do you love aliens? Are you a believer that the government (whichever government) is hiding the truth from us and that aliens have made contact with earth?
Me too, buddy. Me too.
Which is why you will love The Message!
This particular podcast follows linguistics graduate Nicky Tomalin who has been granted the opportunity of a life time: To work with her all time heroes, and recognized authorities in the field of cryptology.
Nicky is allowed to tail a group of cryptologists who have been contacted by the US military to decode a message that had been received back in 1945 in station Hypo. The Message (or transmission 7-21-45) is believed to have extraterrestrial origins and several teams of people have tried to crack its code and content for the last decades without much luck. The team leaders have reservations about it because it is believed that the message is cursed and it kills all who listen to it.
The 12 episode show develops the story in a masterful way in which you get to follow a trail of crumbs that slowly but surely lead you toward the truth. The characters don’t shy away from dramatics and you will love every single one of them.
The ending is amazing and perfect for its genre.
Trust me, if you like alien conspiracy theories, you will love The Message.
6.- Within the Wires is another show by Night Vale Presents and one of my personal favorites. If you thought I was in love with Alice Isn’t Dead that’s because you have never heard me talk about Within the Wires.
Now, full disclosure. The first time I listened to Within the Wires was when Alice Isn’t Dead uploaded the first episode sampe of it on their podcast page. I listened to it thinking that “well, it’s from Night Vale Presents. It has to be like Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead.”
And for the briefest of moments I was so bewildered by this thing I was listening, so alien and different, that I didn’t like it. It took me a while to warm up to it. But to do that I had to let go of all other preconceptions I had of what a fiction podcast was like. And then, I fell head over heels.
Within the Wires is nothing like what you expect.
Within the Wires is an experience. It goes beyond anything you might think it is.
The story is framed in the format of Relaxation Cassettes that a patient in an undisclosed medical facility listens to. The tapes contain different visualization exercises and “relaxation prompts” that you, as the listened, are compelled to envision and maybe even follow. All throughout the tapes there are little details of narration, about the person walking you through the exercises and the patient listening to the tapes.
Trust me, the way in which the story is unveiled, comment by comment, through a cracking voice and pieces of puzzles that you have to pick up, is beautiful.
I’d say that Within the Wires is for those in love with language. If you’re a poet, a linguist, a literate, then you will adore this story because the use of language is masterful and passionate. It is incredible how the world is shaped, stories unveiled, and characters recreated by the combination of phrases and expressions, and of course Jeanine Mathewson’s beautiful voice. It is very hard to be able to get this effect, to make people care and fall in love with your characters when the style you are using is so experimental. But holy damn it works just fine in Within the Wires.
If you don’t finish episode 12 hopelessly heart broken and in love, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Other people who might enjoy this are: Artists (the descriptions of people and art are amazing), people into thrillers and scifi, and just anyone who is willing to give this format a chance.
7.- The Black Tapes is a podcast that took me a while to finish, not because it was boring or dense but because you need time to listen to it.
The Black Tapes demand a lot of your attention and time because you need to pay attention to it. There are so many details and hints in every episode that are of vital importance for the story as it develops.
This is, in my opinion, perfect for people who love the paranormal, the occult, mystery, horror, and chronicles. The Black Tapes in its two seasons offers all of these things in spades, trust me on that.
The show follows reporter Alex Reagan as she chronicles her search for truth regarding the occult and paranormal. What started as a simple report about people’s careers and life styles, takes a turn for the unexpected when Alex, Nic and their team stumble upon Dr. Richard Strand, a man who has dedicated his life to disproof any evidence of the paranormal.
The show is very long, but very interesting, and even if sometimes they talk about things that might go over your head (like musical and mathematical technical terms that I honestly have no idea about), everything ties up with everything in the end.
If you are inclined to believe in ghosts, demons, and the like, maybe Dr. Strand will annoy you from time to time. But hold on, and keep listening because it is worth it.
8.- The Bridge is a show I only started to listen to recently, one of those shows that are recommended to you because “you liked [this] and [that]” and I did enjoy it.
The Bridge has a bit of ingenuity in its execution and story telling. After listening to so many other elaborated and complicated shows, it was refreshing to stumble upon something that had such a warm tone to it, even when the story is anything but. The characters are well rounded and amazingly familiar, you cannot avoid forming an attachment to them.
I think this show will also appeal to people who like the supernatural. If you’re into Lovecraft and urban legends (fans of the Creepy Pasta, I’m looking at you) then you are in for a treat with this. It has all the elements that make all of those creepy stories on No Sleep and Sixpenceee so possible and believable.
Horror is best executed in the familiar.
The story follows a team of people working on a light house in the -get this- Transcontinental Brigde (after you hear the show you will never be able to read that in a voice that is not The Welcome Brigade), a link between America and Europe, who hide a secret within the watchtower’s walls.
The thing about this transcontinental bridge is that… it’s not a good idea, you know? No one really uses it anymore. So while Etta, our watchtower 10 radio host in charge of traffic updates, should be doing her job, most of the time she is actually relaying folk stories about the monsters and ghosts that can be encountered in the bridge.
Because when something used to be bustling with life but then suddenly doesn’t, the only thing inhabiting the place are ghosts.
Actually there’s an awesome quote from the first episode to illustrate that:
“The distinction between lived-in and deserted – where whispers on the wind can carry welcomes or warnings – seems to be a pretty common theme out here. When night sets in, you can’t tell if that ship on the horizon harbors a single living soul – or if the silver glint bouncing off of its sails is more than just moonlight.”
I love how when you read this, it reads like one of those other podcasts the ones that are telling you something. It’s a narration. But when the characters speak, when the actual story happens, it’s like something that would happen to you, in your life. There’s a juxtaposition between the elaborated style of a prepared narration and the way things actually happen when they advance the story: distorted, out of place and order, chaotic.
I love that, and I think that if you’re looking for something new in the genre, maybe you will love it too.
9.- Ars Paradoxica is the show I am listening to as of right now. I haven’t really finished it yet, but soon. I think this show would appeal to people who are interested in Science Fiction, time travel, paradoxes and conspiracies.
Ars Paradoxica narrates the misadventures of Sally Grissom, a scientist from 20[redacted] who accidentally traveled back in time to 1943 after a mishap with one of her experiments. After this little accident she is found by the US military who, upon discovering she had semi-successfully created a time machine, take her to a secluded scientist town where other professionals are working on secret projects to tilt the scales on their favor during the war.
While in the past, Sally will meet people, discover secrets and create paradoxes, all the while exploring human greed and the ripples every action causes.
The show is very well elaborated and executed, and all the characters are very real and appealing. Trust me, you won’t expect to hear a group of scientists involved in warfare to argue about who’s better The Flash or Superman, but you will. (I was assured that a lot of investigation went into the elaboration of that scene).
This show is funny, complex, frustrating and lovable.
10.- The Bright Sessions is my newest favorite show and the source of many of my tears and frustrations. Honestly, I love every single one of the characters in this and the story is so interesting and revealed so slow that you just can’t wait to hear the rest.
This show is currently still being updated, the latest episode came out last week, actually.
The story is presented through recordings of therapy sessions between Dr. Bright and several of her patients, all of which are considered “Atypicals” because they have supernatural abilities.
The characters (and my children, btw) are: Sam (a time traveling girl with anxiety), Chloe (a mind reader and artist), Caleb (an empath with a bleeding heart, and my main son), Damien (whose power allows him to make people want what he wants, and who likes to victimize himself) and some other characters that because of plot I shall not talk about.
At first I didn’t trust Dr. Bright all that much (because I don’t trust therapists in general, which means this is really well researched. Dr. Bright has all of those annoying traits therapists have when they’re trying to get you to open up without revealing things about themselves) but after a couple of episodes I actually warmed up to her. I guess that it’s the same thing that happened to certain characters. It didn’t seem like she cared much about them at the beginning.
It took me a while to see that she did care, and that she cared a lot about Caleb -my son- so I began to trust her.
Because of her background and story, Dr. Bright comes off as aloof and even cold but that’s because she has many things to hide, things that come out as the time goes by.
All the characters have very unique voices and story lines. This might be about the superpowers people have and how some people might try to use them, but their lives go beyond that. Everyone has their own problems and wishes.
Sam has a very relatable problem with anxiety and overthinking things.
Chloe gets overwhelmed in large groups, but wants to get better at managing her powers to help people.
Caleb is by far my favorite (I love everyone, but there’s just something about his story line and powers that makes me more protective of him) that has to constantly deal with the exacerbated feelings of everyone at school and struggles to differentiate his own feelings from others’.
At times the style changes if we’re listening to Dr. Bright’s clear and clinical recordings, or if it’s a voicemail, or maybe Caleb or Sam recording something of their own.
The show is never what you expect, but every story is so endearing, so carefully put together before it is presented to you. You can feel the love of everyone involved in the production which just makes you feel more and more like you have the privilege of listening to it.
I recommend this show to people who love superpowers, who like tales about superheroes in their every day lives, to people who just like stories. If you like comedy and drama, and slice of life, or to hear other people’s secrets, this is for you.
Oh, the show is also very diverse in representation and I love it 1000000000 times more for that.
And there you have it!
This is my short and messy list about all the podcasts that I love at the moment and why I would recommend them.
I didn’t screw up as much as I thought I would so I’m proud about that 😀
I hope you enjoyed it.
If anyone reading this has any suggestions or questions, please let me know.
Enjoy your weekend!