In the Arts and Living section, we spend every week upholding, analyzing and exalting the arts and culture on the campus, in the valley and world around us. But, it’s also worth taking a moment, or two, to look within the section for the arts and culture we ourselves consume. This week: podcasts.
As the summer season of binging and intern-commute listening comes to an end, there’s still room for podcast consumption. It just might take some revived inspiration, so consider this list of my favorites as a push back into podcast bliss.
**Still Processing **
Back this fall with a new season, “Still Processing” is some of The New York Times’ finest work. The paper’s venerated critic-at-large Wesley Morris and staff writer Jenna Wortham, who focuses on issues relating to gender and sexuality, cohost the show.
It’s a brilliant meditation on the world and cultural forces shaping it. Wortham and Morris bring their deeply informed expertise and rich range of interests and life expriences — both are queer, black writers.
They take the pieces of culture we consume, from Kanye and Jordan Peele to the fandom surrounding the presidential elections and blow them up to analyze and ultimately understand how these influence the ways we live, act and interact.
Listening to “Still Processing” is always the highlight of my day, and I often find myself waiting for the episodes’ Thursdays releases. Wortham and Morris are the cool, older, New York friends that I wish I had, and I suggest you should too.
The Cut on Tuesdays
In a similar vein, New York Magazine’s The Cut puts out a weekly quick, clear meditation on the cultural forces that push our lives.
The show has touched subjects from how we discuss money — interviewing Stacey Abrams and Abigail Disney — to how close female friends navigate gender transition.
The show, and its amiable host Molly Fischer, does what The Cut does best: takes fascinating, absurd and intriguing slices of life and dissects them, holding them up for questioning and appreciation in our modern lifestyles.
**It’s Been a Minute **
Sam Sanders is an absolute treat. In his show, “It’s Been a Minute,” he bridges the gap between strict news coverage and light cultural commentary.
Sanders hosts each episode alongside two guests, who are usually local reporters following a beat that’s at the forefront of the news.
It’s a refreshingly light conversation with serious, sound analysis from those closest to the matter. Sanders has a unique ability to dance between subjects that make us laugh and those that make us wring our hands with worry.
Every week, the show ends with voice clips sent in by listeners describing the best part of their weeks, something I’m no stranger to shedding a small tear at.
**Post Reports **
Consider it the counterpart/ cousin of the The New York Times' beloved “The Daily” (which, of course, I do listen to on the daily, but it’s too much of a given to include here). The show takes the day’s top stories, and digs into them, breathing life and voices into the day’s headlines. It’s released at the end of the day, bookending the deluge of morning news podcasts quite nicely.
The Drop Out
For devoted fan of "S-Town" and "Serial," ABC News' series on the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes comes close to quenching the same thirst for uncovering mystery and truths in murky realities. It’s surprisingly gripping for a story that does not center on murder, as true crime podcasts are wont to do. But it's absurd and surreal in every other way.
And, the story is still unfolding on a national scale with major players whose names ripple through U.S. politics. The story is one that's fascinating across mediums — John Carreyrou's book on the subject, “Bad Blood” hit The New York Times best sellers' list — but listening to the story come alive fleshes out a new dimension of the tale in ways words on a page cannot.
**You Must Remember This **
“You Must Remember This” made its ways into my ears this summer because of its thorough analysis of the Manson murders. Inspired by Quentin Tarantino's most recent film (which reimagines the famous murders), I listened to the show for the entire season it dedicates to the historical conditions and characters that created the Manson cult and murders. Listening to the show made me appreciate hidden nods to the rich Hollywood history embedded in the film, which I otherwise would have missed upon first watching.
As a whole, the show explores the mysterious histories of early Hollywood.
Another strong series from New York Magazine, “Good One” cross-examines comedians and their jokes. Host Jesse David Fox expertly interviews some of the industry's biggest names. He takes a single bit, scene or punch line and closely goes through the joke's evolution with the comedian; it's an interview technique that is surprisingly revealing and paints a full and unique picture of the people behind our favorite punchlines.
While some shows demand that I consume every drop, “Good One” lends itself to dabbling, with episodes that stand alone well.
Unlike those above, “Unladylike” is untethered from any major news outlet; it's produced by Stitcher and the Unladylike team itself. This gives the show the freedom to meander, swear and discuss issues that do not fall into the ever-spinning news cycle.
Hosts Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin are fierce feminists and self-described research addicts, who take their show through the meandering halls of feminism. They give history lessons of unnoticed or underappreciated female heros; they pose questions on seldom-explored female issue and seek their answers from experts; and they host interviews of burgeoning feminist advocates.
It's a good listen for a long car ride and for freeing your thoughts into the obscure corners of female empowerment.
**Up First **
Speaking of morning news podcasts “Up First” ranks among my personal favorites. Pithy and just personable enough, NPR’s best reporters runs through the news in true NPR style. The show is succinct and thorough and defends NPR's place as the master of the airwaves.
I'm admittedly new to the game on listening to “More Perfect,” but as a podcast about the Supreme Court decisions and workings, it makes the list in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's upcoming visit to campus. Prepare for her talk by listening to the episode “Sex Appeal” which is the story of Ginsburg's work arguing against sex discrimination in front of the Supreme Court.
I’d be remiss without mentioning the work of Amherst's own Ilan Stavans. Cards on the table, I spent a semester working on Stavans' show “In Contrast” which focuses on in-depth conversations with intellectual leaders.
It's a delightful opportunity to hear artists, writers, thinkers and all kinds of creative individuals reflect on the broad questions of the day, in conversation with another thoughtful mind. Produced in partnership with NEPR, “In Contrast” has a local flavor and insight into valley issues while still touching global concerns.