The top 5 storytelling podcasts of 2016
Within the vast universe of podcasting, it is necessary, urgent, to make a curatorship. We have to go beyond the iTunes “top ten” lists so we won’t settle for mere recordings of FM radio programs or shows about entrepreneurism.
Given my purpose of focusing attention towards the type of podcasts/radio that I make, I decided to only recommend storytelling podcasts. Programs in which fiction and non-fiction stories are told. Exciting stories that range from the crudely complex to the beautifully simple. The range is wide as it is the enjoyment.
So, instead of recommending each podcast on rather broad terms, I have opted to recommend single episodes because characters, stories and ways of telling stories within a podcast may vary from one episode to the other.
This five episodes have all the qualities that I look for in the kind of radio that I want to keep on doing: impecable sound design, scoring that provides layers of immersion to the story and scripts so well written and narrated that the average listener may believe that someone is just speaking to a microphone (if only they knew…)
I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did. Originally I was going to make a list of 10 or more podcasts but I think that, when one is presented with too many jam brands, he ends up opting for none. (This is no weasel talk, check this): https://hbr.org/2006/06/more-isnt-always-better
If your craving for podcasts is just starting, you can follow Podcastitis, the place where my sonic discoveries go to linger. Plus, it is the place where I repost pictures of stock mics doing nothing.
I wish that your 2017 is way better than this shitty 2016. I hope that your alliances to make a better world strengthen up, that your emotional bonds with people will continue to be based upon trust and transparency and that you try to go well beyond your echo chamber.
We need a lot of collectivity. We need to listen to each other.
1. Love and radio — An old lion or a lover’s lute
Producers: Nick Van Der Kolk, Ana Adlerstein
Brace yourself to feel a wide array of disgust and to question if you really can feel empathy towards a person in a choppy sea of gray tonalities. In fact, this first statement applies for each and every episode of Love and radio, my favorite podcast so far this year.
In this 2014 episode but relaunched in 2016 as an extended version, a middle age man catcalled Ana, the girl who works a few blocks from him. Ana’s response was what gave way to what I’m writing right now: She came back, recorder in hand, and started a conversation with Jerome. By now, she had already put a human face on a otherwise monster hidden in anonimity.
Caught in between the amazement, disgust and curiosity, Ana listens to Jerome’s reasons to catcall women, the type of women he likes and “the woman” that may as well make him settling down. But not only that: Jerome trusts Ana with his “statistics”. The number of girls that end up in bed with him after being catcalled. Spoiler-ish: a ridiculously high percentage.
In the extended version, Ana returns with Jerome to talk after the episode has been aired. By then, Jerome not only has listened to the show, but also listens and reacts to the comments made by the public that Ana reads aloud to him.
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Or listen here:
2.Life after (Serie)
Produce: Theater Company /Panoply
Ross Barnes, a low range FBI employee, widowed after his wife lost her life after a car accident. She was a user of Voice Tree, a voice-based social network where many of her posts remained online only to be played over and over again by Ross, as if through his ears the rest of its senses would arise, making his wife come back to life. In a way, of course.
So, Anything “good” within this grieving and nostalgic circle, right? Not when Ross listens to something totally new. Familiar, but new.
Worthy of analysis: this is a Panoply and GE Podcast Theater production. Yes, General Electric financed a storytelling project without inserting a single ad or anything resembling product placement. Or maybe I have not been paying attention to the details…
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3. Why oh Why — Can meddling help a first date?
Producer: Andrea Silenzi
The soft voice of Andrea Silenzi makes an stark contrast with her witty yet empathic observations about the world of online dating. In Why Oh Why, we witness in first person the hopes, fears and honest mistakes that we all, in the search of a couple, make. Even Andrea documents in several episodes what being single means to her after being so close to being with a couple for life.
In the episode “Can meddling help a first date?”, Andrea plays Cupid but takes a few licenses.
After than Kate y David, guests that appeared on episode 1 of WOW decide to go out on a date, Andrea proposes to record their date at the bar where they agree to meet up. She sets a couple of microphones on the table they’re seating on and then she goes on watching them from the bar, where she also records her observations about what’s happening.
There is definitely a gossipy element in knowing how Kate and David’s date unravels, because We as reality show consumers grew up watching formulas where “boy needs to overcome obstacle in order to get the girl” leave nothing to imagination.
That gossipy haze fades out with audio because, ironically, the characters are perceived much more exposed —at the same time that their identities remain somehow protected—, and it is here where our empathy towards them chips in.
But we where talking about how meddling on a first date helps, right? I rather not reveal what it is exactly that Andrea does to help in said date. What I do guarantee is that, for a moment, We will think we are David and his kinda off-putting enthusiasm for discussing tv shows with Kate; We will also be the other couple that Andrea approaches for comments on what they are watching (let’s not forget that, at a bar, there’s a man and a woman talking to each other, microphones and drinks in hand); and for a moment we will be Andrea because, Who hasn’t toyed with the idea of pulling some strings here and there to make a friend finally get over his ex?
You can listen to this episode here:
In her website you can choose from many options to subscribe to her podcast:
Normally, spooky stories take place indoors. And if they occur outdoors, it will most likely be in a pine forest. However, in The Phantom Border Patrol Agent, the second story packaged in Snap Judgment’s “Pitch black” episode, terror happens in the wilderness of Otay Mountain, right on the border between San Diego and Tijuana.
Rocky Eldermore worked there as a border patrol agent during the 90’s and it was there where he met agent Santiago, who died one night after falling off a cliff. Witnesses saw from afar how his light tumbled down the rocks.
However, after agent Santiago’s death, speculation about what happend to him kept layering up to the extent that even captured immigrants would claim to have seen him at the top of the mountain.
You can listen to it here:
And subscribe here:
5. The heart — Silent evidence (four part series)
Producen: Tennessee Watson, Kaitlin Prest
The lack of justice regarding child sexual abuse makes that the victims be the ones that take matters onto their own hands. First, in understanding what the hell happened —or what had to have happened—, and then move to more complex and zigzagging stages of questioning the adults that, in a way, were not there, or that were oblivious to the situation.
This is what journalist Tennessee Watson did after been sexually abused by her gimnastics coach. She was seven years old and this adult man fondled her vulva (me being a spanish speaker, I had trouble translating “fondled” as the words that may “mean” the same lack straight forwardness: Did he caress her vulva? Did he finger her? no word is sufficiently exact when it comes to sexual abuse… and that’s why details matter, Remember that scene from the movie Spotlight?)
In four episodes, We follow a distressing path on which the journalist goes back to the place where it all started in order to search for all the answers that invariably lead to more questions as Tennessee finally confronts her agressor. To this point we aren’t even halfway of the story.