The 27 best podcasts of 2018

The (still great) classics

These classic 'casts might not be new this year, but they're still going strong with regular episodes topping up their bulging back catalogues... 

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. 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

Guardian Football Weekly

Now that the football season is close to getting 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-focused 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 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 lighthearted way to keep up to date with the past seven days’ of sporting happenings.

Listen to Fighting Talk

Freakonomics

The podcast of the radio show of the bestselling book, Freakonomics digs into the world from an economist’s point of view.

What do we mean by that? Well, we mean that it examines and analyses interesting subjects by applying economic theory to them – and often comes close to explaining them in ways that may not have occurred to you. Religion, child-rearing, diet, tipping, foibles of human behaviour – when put through Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s witty, entertaining prism, these subjects become all the more enthralling.

Listen to Freakonomics

Stuff You Should Know

Did you know that the Male Pillow Octopus will sometimes break off one of his arms and use it as a sword to defend himself against bigger fishes? Have you ever wondered about the chemical properties in Play-Doh?

We didn’t, until we started listening to Stuff You Should Know, a twice-weekly podcast by American bloggers Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, who like to talk about absolutely everything under the sun. Affiliated with website Howstuffworks.com, this podcast is wonderfully easy listening, and packed full of information you’d never learn otherwise. There are 600+ SYSK podcasts to get stuck into.

Listen to Stuff You Should Know

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