- by Nate Hennon
Most of the review based sites this time of year will be waxing poetic about the top album of 2018 (BTW - you can read my list right here). Well, instead of just talking about records I have already talked about, I wanted to talk about something near and dear to my heart, ridiculous podcasts.
Because I work-from-home and take care of two small humans, I don't have much opportunity to interact with adults in my daily life. To fill my day, I find comfort in people funnier, more charming and smarter than me talking about things I don't know about or have no real interest in. I found myself devouring this new content as quickly as possible.
5. The Doughboys
Even though "The Doughboys" podcast has been around for a few years, I only started listening to it this summer. The central premise of the show is to visit and review chain restaurants. But "The Doughboys" is much more than just eating and reviewing, it is a podcast centered around two friends who are slowly starting to hate the premise of their show. And each other. As each episode unfolds, you can hear Nick Wieger's frustration with his co-host Mike "Mitch" Mitchell evolve from simple annoyances to non-stop needling and borderline bullying. Furthermore, Mitch "pokes the bear" with his constant criticism of Weiger's robotic nature and East Coast references. Their relationship and dynamic makes the show super listenable week-to-week and indeed provides endless comfortable laughs during a commute or a long walk.
"Deconstructed" is a podcast focused on American politics and the climate it has created. I came across this podcast during the recent funeral processions of the late President George H.W. Bush. During the media blitz of his death, I was only hearing about him as a "great man." However, I remember him also having some darker moments that were being glossed over. Now I understand the desire to honor the dead, but I wanted more. Well, "Deconstructed" released an episode that tackled this topic head-on. I got what I wanted and then began to binge on the rest of their back-catalog within a week. Despite this being a recent addition to my podcast portfolio, I have found the content extremely engaging. If you want a journalist review of today's political ecosystem from a non-American perspective, then this is a podcast you should add to your weekly routine.
3. The Adventure Zone
From the hosts of "My Brother, My Brother and Me" comes a super nerdy idea, bi-weekly show about D&D and other games of this ilk. For an outsider, listening to a family play an RPG may not sound appealing. Well, you are wrong. Once you get past the nerdiness of the structure of four grown men talking in voices and rolling dice into microphones, at its core, you are listening to a fantasy based radio play unfold twice a month. As you listen through the two major story arcs, "Balance" and "Amnesty," you find yourself enthralled with their talented storytelling abilities and caring about their characters. Each episode is complex, yet rich in story, so repeat listens are a necessity. Also, this is a podcast that is largely unscripted. Yes, there is an outline of story beats, but the details and reactions to the scenarios are completely improvised. Which is quite impressive when you start to hit the emotional core towards the end of "Balance." If this type of things interests you then I recommend you listen to one campaign in its entirety. This way you can get a good grasp of the game mechanics and let the radio play begin to unfold episode to episode.
2. Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend
For as long as I can remember the only reason I tolerated Jay Leno was because of Conan O'Brien. I recall many a night where I would be finishing up homework or studying while using Jay Leno's Tonight Show as background, but once I heard Conan's theme song start my mundane activity would end. Well, this fandom has carried on over the years and through the several iterations of his show. But as my taste shifted, Conan's brand of comedy always seemed to hit me just right. And now, the year I began to branch out my podcast diet, Conan starts a podcast of his own. The premise is simple, Conan seeks out friendships from celebrities he admires or were guests on his show. Because Conan is such a great writer, it is difficult to tell if he is genuinely looking for a friend or having a more in-depth conversation with someone in his Rolodex. Either way, Conan has once again got my attention.
1. Cocaine & Rhinestones: The History of Country Music
I think "Cocaine & Rhinestones" is one of the best podcasts I have ever heard. Much like "The Adventure Zone" or "Deconstructed," the initial concept did not grab me right away, but after one episode I was a devotee. For those who think of country music as nothing more than rednecks singing about their trucks, beer or heartache, well... you're right. But "Cocaine & Rhinestones" centers more on country music's beginnings and its seedier underbelly. Rather than stories of artists reaching superstardom, each episode of "Cocaine & Rhinestones" tackles the consistent topic of "what happens when you give a poor redneck money, power, and fame." As you can predict, this involves a lot of trucks, beer, and heartache once you remove the glitz and glamour of the modern day country music sheen.