All your friends are doing it. You hear them saying how they’ve turned off the TV and tuned in to podcasts — a brave new world full of any kind of content you can image: history, comedy, fiction, music, politics. Instead of watching, they are now listening — and loving it. You’ve also heard your friends mention the strange and enticing show titles, but what were they? Here is our list of some top podcasts you can start bingeing right now, including a few for the kids.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
This one definitely wouldn’t work on TV; it’s a podcast about sound itself. We move through a world of sound and vision paying a lot of attention to the visuals, but not the sounds. Host Dallas Taylor looks at and explains why things sound the way they do. Ever wonder who wrote the wacky music for Seinfeld? On a recent episode, you’ll meet the composer whose “organic” approach made TV history.
This podcast is fascinating for musicians. Host Hrishikesh Hirway talks to the artists that make your favorite music using isolated tracks to get at the story behind the song. Want to know how Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham wrote the hit “Go Your Own Way”? This podcast will answer that question, and explain how Buckingham’s relationship with Stevie Nicks factored in.
This one got its start in the Bay Area at San Francisco’s KALW. Host Roman Mars, a founding member of the podcast collective, Radiotopia, focuses on the “unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” On a recent episode Mars explains Vantablack — one of the darkest substances known, it absorbs up to 99.965 percent of visible light.
After spending some time volunteering at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, artist Nigel Poor decided to team up with inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams to make a podcast about life behind bars. Radiotopia sponsored the production — the first podcast created entirely inside a prison and it became a phenomenon. In 2018, Earlonne Woods’ sentence was commuted by California Governor Jerry Brown, his work on the podcast was cited as one reason for the commutation. The podcast is now on its fifth season.
For the Kids
This award-winning podcast from American Public Media features a different kid co-host every week who teams up with host Molly Bloom to answer questions about the world. The mission is to satisfy kids’ natural curiosity by finding answers in history and science. But watch out, you might find yourself getting drawn into the conversation as well.
This one started in a Harlem school auditorium where a group of friends put on a tongue-in-cheek sketch show based on stories written by kids. That grew into a radio show, a hit podcast, a book series and even a touring act. This entertaining mix of stories and songs for families might even include some guest voices like Claire Danes and John Oliver.
Daniel Jewett has been a Bay Area journalist for more than two decades, getting his start as editor of his hometown newspaper, the Foster City Progress. Jewett went on to serve as Associate Editor for Oakland and Alameda magazines before crossing the bridge to serve as Marin Magazine and Spaces’ Managing Editor. Jewett still calls Oakland home, where he writes and plays music with his wife in My Little Hum and hangs out with his chickens, bees and cats, Holly and Maple.