Turn on the radio these days and most of the time you might as well be piping 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. As it's still early days in 2018, we've picked out our favourite new(ish) pods and bundled them together with some of the long-running must-listens. They might just make the commute your favourite part of the day...
Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast
Best for: Cinephiles
One weekly James Richardson-featuring podcast not enough for you? We have good news: the man himself also sits in the hosting chair for movie mag Little White Lies’ (the one with the really pretty covers) Truth & Movies.
It’s a straightforward premise: Richardson and a couple of the magazine’s reviewers sit in a room and discuss the latest releases, and there’s always plenty of lively debate. You’re bound to find yourself passionately disagreeing with some of their opinions, but that's half the fun of pop culture. Just try not to shout at your phone in the middle of Tesco.
Try this episode: Episode 35 - Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Mountains May Depart/Brick
The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie’s Botanarium
Best for: Production values
The name Jermaine Clement, of Flight of the Conchords fame, might be the thing that draws your attention to this, but it’s the awesome sound design that justifies its US$4.99 per month Howl subscription. The surreal seafaring story is marvellously brought to life by location-recorded effects, music by the artist Lawrence Arabia and memorable voices and accents.
It’s best listened to with headphones, to catch all the action happening ‘off-stage’. What you might not hear, however, is the sound of your own laughter. The writing is slick, the plot and characters superbly silly, but somehow Uncle Bertie’s Botanarium fails to be as listenable and endlessly quotable as, say, The Mighty Boosh. Or, indeed, Conchords.
Try this episode: Episode 1: Cheese Dreams in Gravy Isles
Shut Up & Sit Down
Best for: Board game buzz
If you think a podcast about board games sounds like the perfect sleep aid for a long-haul flight, ‘SU&SD’ will change your mind. Its three mega-informed hosts discuss the design and mechanics of board games with such frenetic enthusiasm that you can’t help but go and pre-order their latest role-playing recommendation.
They have a background in video games too, so expect some fascinating chat about the frequent crossover between the two (and the people who make them). But this is ultimately about the tactile, social joy of the tabletop game and why it’s good to occasionally switch off your PS4 to revel in a game of Dead of Winter.
Try this episode: Podcast #35: Rebellion in an Airport
THE TOTALLY FOOTBALL SHOW
Best for: Footie nuts
The most scandalous news of 2017? Not Bake Off going to Channel 4, but James Richardson walking out on The Guardian Football Weekly to set up The Totally Football Show. With a familiar bi-weekly round-up schtick and similarly turncoat contributors like James Horncastle, Michael Cox and Rafa Honigstein, this is a great pod for getting your fix of Premier League, Champions League and continental football analysis. Jimbo might have jumped ship, but The Totally Football Show is very much more of the same minus Barry and Sid. Yep, that means a cavalcade of side-splitting puns too.
Try this episode: Irish hangovers, Chinese takeovers, and the king of crumbles
No Such Thing As A Fish
Best for: Trivia pursuers
Looking for some emergency trivia bombs to fill your next awkward silence? This weekly, 40-minute show from the Q.I’s research team is here to arm you up. The four hosts take it in turns to reveal their favourite fact from the past week, with each one prodded and probed until it flowers into a ‘quite interesting’ conversation.
The effect is similar to clicking on ‘random’ on Wikipedia – think subjects like ferret copulation and postbox design – so it’s a bit like listening to a vodka-fuelled edition of ‘In Our Time’. But the next time your dinner party chat turns to aircraft carriers, you’ll be ready to chime in with a mesmerising fact about how they work.
Try this episode: Episode 72: No Such Thing As A Bacon Telescope
ON THE CONTINENT
Best for: Coffee-sipping football hipsters
If you’re a fan of both podcasts and football, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve come across The Football Ramble. The bulk of podcasts dedicated to the (sometimes) beautiful game are manned by journalists or ex-pros, but the four ramblers, while clearly erudite on all things ball and goal, come across more like a group of mates in the pub - and that’s why it’s so popular. The Premier League's ridiculous side is the Ramble's bread and butter.
Spinoff On The Continent is a bit different, in that it does feature journalists (James Horncastle and Andy Brassell), and it focuses entirely on football not played in England. If you want keep bang up to with goings-on in Spain (U Ok Real Madrid?), France (referees kicking players), Germany and Italy, this the podcast to listen to.
Try this episode: Episode 22 - The Teriminator
Alice Isn’t Dead
Best for: Creeping yourself out
You want weird? You’ve got weird! This is the story of one woman driving a truck across the United States in search of a wife she previously thought dead. On the way she encounters some sort of deadly man/creature who seems intent on stopping her and apparently has the police on his side.
The whole story is narrated by the woman via the truck’s CB radio, which enhances the already eerie, other-worldly nature of the events described. Probably one to listen to during the commute rather than in bed - assuming you want to avoid the chills.
Try this episode: 1: Omelet
Best for: Peckerheads
Being a wrestling fan is like being a Freemason. You don’t talk about it with other people for fear of them looking at you funny. This means podcasts are the perfect way to share your fandom with like-minded weirdos, and Peter Rosenberg’s Cheap Heat is one of the best around. Blending an unending affection for the WWE while embracing its innate silliness, this show continually serves up top guests such as Bret Hart, Finn Balor and Alexa Bliss. Despite Rosenberg’s status as a WWE contributor, his analysis of the latest feuds, storylines and associated madness is always spot on.
Try this episode: 20 Years of Hell
Best for: Next level gamers
Taking its cue from Desert Island Discs, Final Games puts games industry veterans in a similarly uninhabited but somehow electrically-powered place and asks them to explain which eight games they’d choose to take with them.
Ex-Rockstar employee Liam Edwards hosts from the floor of his Japanese apartment, talking to journalists and developers across the world about the games that have defined them, influenced them or got them into the games industry in the first place. Key episodes include Bastion designer Greg Kasavin discussing why DOTA 2 is the perfect video game and journalist Rich Stanton talking about cult classic God Hand while explaining why a major outlet’s 2/10 review was way off the mark.
Try this episode: Episode 16: Greg Kasavin (Bastion / Transistor)
The Adam Buxton Podcast
Best for: Making you smile
There are two types of people in the world: those who know and love Adam Buxton and those who lead sad, unfulfilled lives. Once one half of The Adam and Joe Show on telly, Adam’s finally launched his own podcast in which he meets up and chats with a pretty diverse bunch of people, from Louis Theroux to Kathy Burke to Jonny Greenwood.
He’s not a ‘proper’ interviewer, but there’s a charm and openness to everything Adam does that makes him great to spend time with. In fact, the intros and outros, recorded while he’s out walking his dog, Rosie, are probably the best bits.
Try this episode: EP. 11 - Joe Cornish