The nominations for this year’s British Podcast Awards – the podcast equivalent of the BRITs or the BAFTAs – are out. A lot of the big names are in there, but, as much as anything, it’s an ideal chance to press play on a few shows you’ve never heard of and discover something new. Seeking a quick in? Their podcast Shortlist – of course they have a podcast – gives you a speedy taste of each category.
In the meantime, here are five podcasts I’ve been listening to and five you – NME’s readers – are recommending. This week your choices are all music-related. That wasn’t planned, it just turned out that way. Happy listening!
What Greg’s been listening to
Wind of Change
The low-down: ‘Wind of Change’ by German rock band The Scorpions is one of the biggest songs of all time – the single has sold more copies than anything by The Beatles – but host of this podcast, Patrick Radden Keefe, has heard it wasn’t written by them at all. Through a well-placed intelligence source he’s come across a theory that the 1990 release was a piece of soft cultural propaganda secretly written by the CIA to soundtrack the crumbling Soviet Union. Yes, really. Sounds implausible, right? Maybe not. So begins an investigation into the veracity of the rumour which sees Keefe question ex-agents, music journalists and, ultimately, the band themselves. It’s the podcast everyone is talking about – for good reason.
Where to hear it: Spotify
Start with this:
The low-down: In recent times a number of podcasts have shed light on the experiences of those inside prison – not least Ear Hustle. Prison Bag flips that. It’s not really about the inmates at all. Rather, it’s about those left behind – the families. Presented by Josie Bevan, whose husband was sent to jail for nine years in 2016, this project is all about the emotional strains of trying to continue with a conventional life, the stigma surrounding the topic and the bonds, cultures and codes that form between those navigating the experience. For those struggling on the outside there’s little support, except for each other. Beautifully scripted and crafted, it’s the kind of show that’ll shift listener perspectives from the perpetrators and onto people’s extraordinary abilities to somehow cope.
Where to hear it: All podcast platforms – and the Prison Bag website
Start with this: https://prisonbag.com/podcast
Jacob Hawley’s Job Centre
The low-down: Jacob Hawley is a comedian and investigative journalist – in the past that’s seen him delve into the world of drugs and ask important questions about welfare, dependency and legalisation. Now, like so many others working in arts and entertainment, his job (stand-up) has dried up. So he’s speaking to people about their work – those key-workers (doctors, nurses, bus drivers, sewage workers, supermarket staff) who’ve carried the weight of the pandemic more than anyone else. Plus the painful fact that this medical crisis has ignited an economic one – where many jobs won’t ever be the same, or exist at all. The reality is bleak – and getting bleaker – but Job Centre certainly isn’t all doom and gloom.
Where to hear it: BBC Sounds
Start with this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08czvlz
The low-down: What could be a passing comment from one person could be a life-long obsession for the recipient. That’s what happened with actor and comedian Connor Ratliff when, two decades ago, Tom Hanks rejected his audition for HBO mini-series Band of Brothers saying he had “dead eyes”. Though he’s gone on to star in Orange is the New Black and The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, he’s never stopped thinking about that moment. That’s the launch point for a podcast that’s essentially a career retrospective – he’s joined by guests such as Jon Hamm and Aimee Mann along the way. The showbiz mystery is a smart hook to get people in – and once you’re there, Ratliff is such a huge character you’ll not want to leave.
Where to hear it: Apple Podcasts
Start with this: https://podcasts.apple.com/ie/podcast/dead-eyes/id1494539046
101 Part Time Jobs
The low-down: The pandemic has plunged people into financial uncertainty (see Job Centre, above) – including musicians, many of whom sadly can’t pay the wi-fi bill off playing Instagram Live gigs from their kitchen. Truth is: music, for many people, was a precarious business to be in before coronavirus turned up. 101 Part Time Jobs is a podcast about the jobs musicians do on the side or did in the past – those shifts that provide petrol money for the van or supplementary side hustles to fund studio time. Recent guests include members of Squid, The Magic Gang and The Beths.
Where to hear it: Acast
Start with this: https://play.acast.com/s/101-part-time-jobs
What you’ve been listening to
Recommended by: @Oneabee on Twitter
The low-down: Missing live music? Sorry, this one will only make you feel more desperate for sticky floors and sweaty mosh pits. A podcast about artists who put on a great live show – and their top gigs.
Where to hear it: Podbean – and other major podcast apps
Britpop Banter Podcast
Recommended by: S.merkle, @merkle_s on Twitter
The low-down: Hosted by Kevin and Leslie the current series is looking at some of the most notable post-Britpop releases, revisiting albums from everyone from The Music to Starsailor. A nostalgia feast.
s.merkle tweets: “Reminds me why talking about music with my friends is just as important as listening to the music itself.”
Where to hear it: Simplecast
Start with this: https://bb.simplecast.com/
Recommended by: Ron Ben-Tovim, @RonBenTovim on Twitter
Ron says: “It’s more on the philosophical / theoretical side of things, including this interview with Ian MacKaye.”
Where to hear it: Spotify
Start with this
The Vinyl Cut Pod
Recommended by: M_pettinger, @m_pettinger on Twitter
The low-down: Yorkshire’s never stopped being a hotbed for emerging talent – Kris Mac is making sure unsigned and emerging artists from the region are still being championed.
M_pettinger says: “Promoting new music, new bands and up and coming talent, plus giving a voice to bands that ‘the mainstream’ influencers have missed.”
Where to hear it: Apple Podcasts
Start with this: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-vinyl-cut/id1511968768
Before The Chorus
Recommended by: Jack Rea, @Jackrea212 on Twitter
The low-down: Presented by Sofia Loporcaro this show seeks to get into the lives and experiences of artists – the stuff that comes before they’ve put pen to paper on a new song.
Jack writes: “Before the Chorus podcast is great. Listened to some really entertaining interviews with Gengahr and Mystery Jets so far.”
Where to hear it: Apple Podcasts – and other podcast apps
Start with this: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/before-the-chorus/id1496677537