Culture

Aural Pleasure: Best Podcasts Of 2019

From deep political dives to Dolly Parton - BURO. has got your Christmas listening covered

Emma Firth | 19.12.2019

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Five years. That’s how long it’s been since true crime series, Serial, spearheaded a(nother) podcast revolution. Oh yes, it’s been a thing since the 1980s, though it was called "audio blogging” in those days of yore. Today, navigating the podcast eco-system is no easy feat, with over 700,000 on Apple. Where do you even start? Thankfully, we've picked the very best audio odysseys that dropped this year; from brilliantly bizarre scammer stories to comforting words to soothe your frazzled brain. Can’t bear to hear yet another festive playlist? No matter. Consider this your alternative Christmas listening.

How Do You Cope?...with Elis and John

In Brief: Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” It also should be the tagline for BBC Sounds new podcast, where a range of guests share the challenges and hurdles they've faced in their life - from bereavement, anxiety to alcoholism. Whilst asking the question... How Do You Cope? For the launch episode, presenters Elis James and John Robins invited author, comedian and former doctor Adam Kay to talk them through his coping techniques from his time as an NHS junior doctor. A comforting listen that will make you feel less alone.

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BROKEN: Jeffrey Epstein

In Brief: Produced by Oscar-winning filmmaker Adam McKay and hosted by New Yorker reporter and author Ariel Levy, Broken builds up a detailed picture of Jeffrey Epstein, featuring contributions from the investigative reporter Julie K. Brown. This is not the first podcast to be made about Epstein, but it’s certainly one of the most detailed accounts of a case that is still unfolding. Posing questions from how the financier and convicted sex offender became confidant of many of America’s most powerful politicians right down to the broken systems that enabled his crimes. As Levy says, Epstein was “obviously a twisted guy, but also a reflection of the worst of who we are.”

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Dolly Parton's America

In Brief: The one that’s monopolised pub chat of late. “In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton — but why?” Is the podcast intro. A nine-episode, deeply personal journey into the Dollyverse, by way of music and interviews with the icon herself. Highlights include her speaking out - or rather not - on her views on politics to her theme park in Tennessee. Obsessed.

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The Dropout

In Brief: Love a scandal brimming with lies and deception? This one’s for you. Hosted by Rebecca Jarvis, The Dropout investigates the meteoric rise and inevitable fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos (the now defunct tech company she founded). For those unfamiliar with the case, a refresher: Holmes was once touted heralded as "the next Steve Jobs” and the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire according to Forbes in 2015- now she is facing 20 years in prison for fraud charges. The six-part series features interviews with former employees and investors, and for the first-time, archive audio of Holmes herself. Addictive listening.

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The Paris Review

In Brief: Listening to the Paris Review is like getting into a warm bubble bath: total bliss. You can’t help but leave all your anxieties from the day behind, as writers, actors, and musicians bring seven decades of the literary magazine to life. The second series, which came out in October, is packed full of wordy magic, with a recording of Toni Morrison being interviewed on the art of fiction to Molly Ringwald’s heart-breaking reading of Mary Terrier’s story “Guests.”

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Hear To Slay

In Brief: A weekly podcast hosted by acclaimed writers and feminist icons Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom, Hear to Slay is described as “the black feminist podcast of your dreams with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love and more.” Joined by a stellar guest-list from actress Gabrielle Union and American Horror Story star Sarah Paulson to A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay. Touching on everything from the 2020 election to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Bringing Up Us

In Brief: Actress Matilda Rosenblatt fell pregnant at 21, and became a single mother soon after her son, Rudy, was born. Inspired by her own non-traditional nosedive into being a parent, Bringing Up Us explores “all the bold and beautiful ways that people's journeys evolve as they raise their families,” with intimate interviews with the likes of Jessie Cave, Emma Freud and more. By delving into other people’s narratives - from sex-sex parenting to journeys with miscarriage and IVF – this series highlights how there really is no set path.

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The Missing Cryptoqueen

In Brief: Another one to curb your unsolved mystery cravings. This compelling podcast follows the case of Dr Ruja Ignatova - aka the glamorous (she had a penchant for wearing ballgowns and bright red lipstick) ’cryptoqueen’ - who promised investors the world with her new cryptocurrency OneCoin that would rival Bitcoin. She persuaded them to invest major $$$ ($4 billion to be precise). Then…she vanished. Two years after she disappeared, this series sees tech expert Jamie Bartlett hunt the globe in search of Dr Ruja. Thrilling.

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The Sunday Salon with Alice-Azania Jarvis

In Brief: An audio fix for literary lovers who want to delve beyond the pages. Each week, journalist, Alice-Azania Jarvis, features an inspiring female author talking about their work, career, how they write, what they read and more. Previous guests have included actor and activist Rose McGowan and award-winning novelist Jessie Burton to The Matchmaker novelist and magazine editor Catriona Innes. The perfect remedy for those who suffer from post-book blues.

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Slow Burn

In Brief: In its first two seasons, Slow Burn looked back at two of the biggest stories of the late 20th century: the Watergate scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. If you’re into your music history, the third season of Slow Burn is a must-listen, tackling the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

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Love Stories

In Brief: For those who find other people’s love stories endlessly fascinating (so, most of us, then) – this podcast is an audio treat. Returning for a second series, author and journalist Dolly Alderton talks to guests from Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan and bestselling author Matt Haig to Lily Allen about their most defining relationships. To quote Mr Shakespeare, “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

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13 Minutes To The Moon

In Brief: If sci-fi is your go-to genre on Netflix, get 13 Minutes To The Moon on your radar. An incredible account of the people who made Apollo 11 happen and prevented it from going badly wrong. Featuring in-depth interviews with Apollo astronauts and theme music by composer extraordinaire Hans Zimmer. A cinematic experience, without having to leave your bedroom.

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Football, Feminism & Everything in Between

In Brief: A father and daughter podcast offering a different view. The hosts: Grace Campbell, comedian and co-founder of the activist collective, The Pink Protest. And that guy from politics, Alastair Campbell. Like most families, they disagree a lot (Example A: Grace’s debut comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival was called ‘Why I’m Never Going into Politics.’) Together, they invite guests to talk about their respective obsessions: feminism (Grace) and football (Alastair). And everything in between. Previous guests have included Labour MP Jess Philips, Scarlett and Richard Curtis and two-time Olympic Gold Medal Winner Dame Kelly Holmes.

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Man in the Window

In Brief: The one for True Crime pod junkies. Man in the Window follows the grim story of California's most deadly serial killers - the “Golden State Killer”. An investigate series from Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Paige St. John, who unearths never before revealed details about the case, including interviews with survivors and investigators. Chilling.

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Sex Power Money with Sara Pascoe

In Brief: Does what it says on the tin - Sara Pascoe interviews people about their experiences with sex, power and money. Talking points over the series include everything from porn and sex work to using the word ‘feminist’ on a date.

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