The 15 best podcasts of 2014

Education? Entertainment? Edutainment? We’ve got them all in our list of the finest podcasts to put in your ears

Turn on the radio these days and 99 percent of the time you might as well be shovelling horse manure into your lugholes – but thankfully technology means you don’t ever have to reach for that dial again. We’re talking about podcasts, of course: basically the best bits of radio cut out and presented to you in a form that you can listen to anywhere at any time. But with thousands of podcasts around, where do you get started? Right here, that’s where…

Radiolab

Science and philosophy are the chief concerns of this podcast and radio show from New York public station WNYC, but it’s certainly not dense or exclusive – the idea is to make topics within these areas accessible and approachable. There’s a lot of talking, obviously, but the tight editing style and use of experimental music keep things moving along swiftly and enhance the stories being told. If you like This American Life, you’ll find Radiolab sits very much in the same category. Thought-provoking and compelling.

Listen to Radiolab

Sodajerker

Scouse songwriting duo Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor make up Sodajerker, and when they’re not locked in the studio crafting music for movie scores and pop artists they’re making this fascinating podcast about the art of songwriting. Most episodes feature Sodajerker (the name refers to the person operating the soda fountain in a US drug store, apparently) in conversation with a noted musician, with recent instalments picking the note-filled brains of Loudon Wainwright III, Suzanne Vega, Squeeze’s Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, and Billy Bragg.

Listen to Sodajerker

More after the break...

Under the Radar

If you were wondering what had happened to 90s TV comedy stalwart Sean Hughes, wonder no longer: he’s now hosting this podcast, in which he’s in conversation with a different guest or guests from the world of entertainment and comedy every episode. Witty, sharp, intelligent and laid-back, Under the Radar is a pleasant, enlightening – and funny, of course – way to spend half an hour.

Listen to Under the Radar

Guardian Football Weekly

Now that the football season is once more underway, it’s the ideal time to start tuning into James Richardson and cohorts’ in-depth look into the week’s games and goings-on. A world away from the blustery, sweaty, laddish and loud-mouthed world of sports-focussed talk radio, the always-amusing Richardson and his highly knowledgable guests offer the sort of witty, erudite and analysis-based view of the beautiful game that’s seemingly impossible to find anywhere else.

Listen to Guardian Football Weekly

Fighting Talk

Sticking with sport, this is BBC Radio 5 Live’s weekly panel-show-cum-news-review, in which guests compete for points by dispensing well-informed nuggets of punditry. Ill-informed comments, meanwhile, see them penalised by having points knocked off. It’s might be weighted more towards being entertaining and amusing than being an all-knowing look at the world of professional sport, but it’s nevertheless a pain-free, lighthearted way to keep up to date with the past seven days’ of sporting happenings.

Listen to Fighting Talk

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