What I'm Listening To: Summer 2018

With the rise of the Age of Netflix, the conversation that used to be about what movies we’ve seen lately slowly morphed into what TV shows we’re bingeing. And now in 2018, the reigning smalltalk champion has become, “What podcasts are you following?” Summer road trips are in high gear now, so the recommendations have been coming fast and furious.

Here’s my list — just a sampling of the shows I’ve loved listening to in the past week:

Everything Is Alive. I hardly want to give any context for this somewhat-scripted, somewhat-improv show from the ingenious mind of Ian Chillag. In fact, the premise undersells the whole experience, which turns out to be delightful and touching in the most surprising ways. Just go for it.

The Intersection. David Boyer examines the changing face of San Francisco by zeroing in on one intersection, four corners, and the countless stories that emerge. Season 2 looks at the changing landscape at Shoreline & Space Park, just a few minutes away from Google HQ. It’s fascinating.

Duolingo Spanish Podcast. This is an odd one, but I loved what I heard of this show so far. Duolingo delivers fascinating human stories read aloud, alternating between a English narrator and a Spanish first-person account (spoken in a slower, enunciating cadence). La Maleta Azul (The Blue Suitcase) episode was heart-breaking.

ZigZag. Full disclosure, I’ve been working with Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant, helping them get their media company, Stable Genius, off the ground. Regardless, this podcast is a great listen, charting the frustrations and rewards of leaving a public radio and going it alone. I’m fascinated by this trend of creators leaving corporate media, owning their IP, and charting a new course for the content business.

RuPaul’s What’s the Tee with Michelle Visage. The cocktail of laughter and wisdom that RuPaul mixes up on his podcast is tart and potent. Fascinating guests (especially the lesser-well-known interviewees like Frances Davis, Suzanne de Passe and Siedah Garrett) and a casual, discursive pace always reveal a couple surprises and usually, one to grow on.

The A24 Podcast. Again, another brand that I’ve worked with, but the beauty of this podcast is how simple and straightforward it is. Two artists in conversation — no formatting, no scaffolding, and no ads. As with everything A24 does, they allow the unfiltered voices of unique artists to take center stage. Listen to the John Early and Toni Collette episode and go from there.

Inside Trader Joe’s. This one is only for the devoted TJ’s admirers, but it delivers some fascinating factoids and a peek into the process of how the cult-following supermarket does its thing.

Lovett or Leave It / Pod Save America: I’m addicted, and my week isn’t complete unless Jon Lovett has made me laugh at the outrage swirling around us every day.