The 20 best new podcasts of 2019

Shining a light on the top shows to launch this year

It’s been a huge year for podcasts – you may have noticed, everyone’s getting in on the act from The Obamas to Ron Burgundy. Some of the most established names have returned with new series’ – from Have You Heard George’s Podcast? to My Dad Wrote A Porno, Dear Joan and Jericha to The Adam Buxton Podcast.

Those were a handful of the returning big hitters, if you like. But 2019 has been notable for the sheer number of brilliant new launches. New podcasts about everything: tech money scams, BMX-riding grannies, Charles Manson’s toe nails, the football world cup and Dolly Parton. Whether you’re into comedy, music, true crime, mystery, current affairs, travel, media, scandal, sport or history, the past 12 months had something to offer.

Since July 2019, we’ve been trying to navigate the colossal amount of podcasts out there and find the best ones with NME’s fortnightly column Podcasts For The People. It’s a recommender, one with tips from us and you (NME’s readers). If you have downtime during the holidays, check it out, you might discover something new.

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In the meantime, of the brand new podcasts that arrived this year, we recommend you start with these. Enjoy listening.

Oasis pose in 1994
Oasis in 1994 (Michel Linssen/Redferns)

20. The Last Bohemians

Many of the best podcasts represent the voices not being heard elsewhere. This interview podcast puts the spotlight on female pioneers in arts and culture – those trailblazing individuals who were often beating the drum for their beliefs long before the mainstream caught up. Bonnie Greer, Molly Parkin and Cosey Fanni Tutti were some of the guests, and their conversations are feisty, heartfelt and bursting with wisdom.

Where to find it: Audioboom, Spotify and other podcast apps
Start with this episode:

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19. Hunting Warhead

Important to say: some people may find the content of Hunting Warhead disturbing. This collaboration between Canadian broadcaster CBC and Norwegian newspaper VG delves into the sinister world of child abuse communities on the dark web. Reporters were looking into a local story in Scandinavia when unexpectedly their investigations tapped into an international undercover plot to capture the perpetrators. The subject matter is heavy, but also highlights the important work of those trying to stop this kind of criminality – that’s especially brought to light by the voices of the innocent families it impacts.

Where to find it: Spotify, CBC website and major podcast places
Start with this episode:

18. Sex Power Money

The companion podcast to Sara Pascoe’s best selling book of the same name seeks to destigmatise conversations around sex work, stripping and porn. It works because the comedian doesn’t pretend to be an expert as she speaks to sex workers, law makers and activists. It’s an education, as well as (often) a laugh. Above all it demonstrates how when people don’t talk openly about a sometimes controversial subject no-one learns. You can’t help but have your mind expanded by the conversation with Niki and Laura from the English Collective of Prostitutes.

Where to find it: Audioboom

Start with this episode:

17. You’re Dead To Me

What’s the thing you remember about learning history at school? That in the most part it was boring, right? A bunch of places, dates and names in some kind of order that rarely stuck much later than lunchtime. Enter: You’re Dead To Me a podcast about history that sneakily embeds those nuggets of information by being pretty funny. Each episode focuses on a different historical figure, era or people (examples: Joan of Arc, The Aztecs, Lord Byron). Resident history boff Greg Jenner is joined by an array of keen-to-learn (sometimes clueless) comics.

Where to find it: BBC Sounds

16. Passenger List

A fictional mystery thriller inspired, in part, by the true story of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014. Passenger List is about a transatlantic plane that went missing with more than 250 people on board, now presumed dead. Lead character Kaitlin Le’s twin brother was on the aircraft but she’s not convinced by the official reasons being put forward by the authorities to explain its fate. Via her own vigilante investigations she begins to shed light on some alternative theories about how and why it may have vanished.

Where to find it: Apple Podcasts and other major apps

Start with this episode:

15. The Jump

Being the iconic frontwoman with Garbage is just one of Shirley Manson’s talents – she can now add podcaster to that list. While there are plenty of musician-talks-to-musician podcasts out there – George Ezra And Friends, Jessie Ware’s Table Manners – Manson’s matter of fact approach is refreshing. She’s a natural broadcaster, which is why she coaxes so much great conversation out of her impressive roster of guests who in this first series, which included Karen O, Big Boi, Courtney Love, Perfume Genius and Neko Case. Hopefully there will be more.

Where to find it: Spotify, Apple and other podcast places

Start with this episode:

14. The Mysterious Mr Epstein

The Jeffrey Epstein saga – one of the biggest stories of the year – has provided a succession of disturbing revelations. The wrongdoing is far-reaching, and complicated. If you’ve only caught fragments of what’s happened, The Mysterious Mr Epstein provides a comprehensive backgrounder. It explains how the American financier and convicted sex offender twisted his position of influence and consistently evaded the authorities. Not an easy listen, but an important one explaining a scandal that’s far from concluded.

Where to find it: The Wondery website, Spotify and more

Start with this episode:

Pixies’ Joey Santiago and Black Francis

13. It’s A Pixies Podcast

This was immediately appealing for a couple of reasons. 1) Pixies are notoriously guarded, so a podcast offering pretty much unrestricted access was an unlikely surprise 2) This kind of music podcast has been rarely, if at all, explored before. It joins Black Francis and the band in the studio in Upstate New York as they made their latest LP ‘Beneath The Eyrie’. And it’s packed with day-to-day insight – ideas blossoming into songs, candid conversations between members and new material (each episode would conclude with a fresh track). Essential for Pixies fans, but also maybe a blueprint for other artists wanting to capture that creative magic.

Where to find it: All major podcast apps

Start with this episode:

12. Unheard: The Fred And Rose West Tapes

Some abominable crimes took place at 25 Cromwell Street. The abuse and murders committed by Fred and Rose West are some of the most sinister in modern British history. Howard Sounes was a tabloid newspaper reporter investigating the crimes in the ‘90s. In this series he revisits the period via a collection of recovered tapes and his own memories. At the time – more than two decades ago now – it was a media frenzy. Sounes takes the time to piece together a holistic picture around what happened, and make an attempt at trying to understand where the motivation came from which led to the atrocities.

Where to find it: Apple Podcasts, Player FM and other podcast platforms

Start with this episode:

11. Stay Free: The Story of The Clash

More than four decades since their inception, the music and the message of The Clash continues to endure – it feels particularly resonate in this moment of political and social unrest. Public Enemy’s Chuck D is at the helm for this podcast released back in the spring. The show doesn’t just retrace the journey of one of Britain’s most influential bands but also gets under the nails of how Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were battling for progress on social inequality, injustice and climate change. Sound familiar?

Where to find it: Spotify

Start with this episode:

10. Intrigue, Tunnel 29

The division of Berlin post-WW2 generated many extraordinary human stories. Perhaps none more so than that of Joachim Rudolph, who along with a small group of collaborators, dug a hole underneath the wall in order to help reunite friends and families from the West and East halves of the city. Not only was this physical task perilous, but it also had to take place under the noses of the notoriously barbarous Stasi security forces. That a American TV crew got involved mid-way through is yet another unlikely twist in this most remarkable piece of history.

Where to find it: BBC Sounds and other major podcast apps

Start with this episode:

9. Pleasure Studies

A podcast by Feist not about Feist. The Canadian artist produces and poetically introduces each of the 8 episodes in this deeply emotional series. The premise and storytelling is wonderfully simple. Individuals – grouped together under one common theme or subject – speak openly about their experiences. Take for example the Young Up: Aspirational Bragging Rights – where three inspirational older women discuss how age is a number not an obstacle when it comes to becoming a BMX champion or going on tour with a grindcore metal band.

Where to find it: Acast, Spotify and more

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8. Murderabilia

You know how some things are so fascinating you can’t look away? Yeah, that’s Murderabilia, a podcast about a fascinating/dark marketplace for grim collectibles that you didn’t know existed, let alone found compelling, until you start listening. These morbid artefacts – lockets of hair from serial killers that kind of thing – are being bought and sold all the time, often just on shady Facebook groups. Poppy Damon and Alice Fiennes meet some of the buyers and sellers to explore the trend, all while returning to the fundamental question of – why?!

Where to find it: Audible

Start with this episode.

7. Giant

Football podcasts are among the most popular out there – from passionate fancasts to celebrity punditry. Giant takes a different tact: think of it more like the audio sibling of Asif Kapida’s sporting documentaries about Diego Maradona or Ayrton Senna. Each of the six episodes are delicately put together. In particular, The Magnificent 7, which speaks to a notable player from each of the tournaments leading up to 2019’s record breaking Women’s World Cup, does an excellent job of charting the development of the sport. A beautiful podcast about the beautiful game.

Where to find it: Spotify

Start with this episode:

6. The Next Episode

The Next Episode is unlike anything else on this list – that’s because they give themselves the freedom to sound different from one instalment to the next. A podcast chameleon. The only real remit seems to be to make topical podcasts that are relevant to a young audience. That means the themes, presenters and format frequently change. However, the gold standard level of their journalism stays constant, whether they’re looking into abusive behaviour in the music industry or asking whether fashion is accessible for everyone?

Where to find it: BBC Sounds

Start with this episode:

5. The Sun King

The influence of media mogul Rupert Murdoch is well-known, and arguably right now after five decades (with Fox News and Trump in the White House) it’s at its peak. David Dimbleby – his first major project post-Question Time – narrates this podcast about how the Australian newspaper man came to be one of the most influential people in the world. The short answer is a controversial mix of ruthlessness, decisiveness and skin so thick you couldn’t drill through it.

Where to find it: Audible

Start with this episode.

Notorious BIG vs Tupac Shakur
Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur

4. Slow Burn: Tupac and Biggie

Technically Slow Burn isn’t a new show, they’ve previously delivered authoritative programmes revisiting historic moments like the Watergate Scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. But thematically this is a departure for them, delving deep into the stories of two of rap’s most notable figures – Tupac and Biggie. But wider context is where this show excels – the role those musicians played in the enduring frictions between west coast versus east coast hip hop, the relationship between black communities and the police and why so many questions still surround the murders of two icons.

Where to find it: Apple Podcasts and other major podcast apps

Start with this episode:

3. Dolly Parton’s America

Welcome to “The Dollyverse”. This show launched in the autumn has been a huge success for good reason. So much has changed in America since the ‘60s – culture, music, attitudes. There’s also a lot of division. Yet one person to this day can still bring even the most opposed people together – Dolly Parton. And this is where DPA is so smart. Dolly’s career – easy to forget how many incredible songs she’s written – has somehow tracked, captured and, in some cases, led these significant progressions in society. It’s not just the definitive story of Dolly, but in some senses, a nation, too.

Where to find it: Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other places

Start with this episode:

2. Listen Up – The Oasis Podcast

‘Definitely Maybe’ remains one of the benchmark debut albums, and this podcast launched to salute its 25th birthday. The four-part series rewinds the clock to summer 1994, setting the scene for the moment the Gallagher brothers went stratospheric. In it musicians like Peter Hook and Lars Ulrich recall how Oasis’ attitude caught their eye. You also get Alistair Campbell (Tony Blair’s spokesperson at the time) remembering how Noel and Liam quickly became figures of significant cultural influence. In short, Listen Up captures and bottles the excitement (and chaos) of one of the most impactful arrivals in British music.

Where to find it: Apple Podcasts and other major apps

Start with this episode:

1. The Missing Cryptoqueen

This is a podcast about a real-life missing person and the extraordinary sequence of events that preempted her disappearance. Dr Ruja Ignatova is the founder of OneCoin – a “cryptocurrency” launched a couple of years ago that rapidly achieved viral success. Company evangelists called it the “Bitcoin Killer”, and promised it would change banking forever. But ultimately it duped investors into parting with their savings, thinking they were early adopters in the Next Big Thing. Hundreds of millions of pounds from all over the world were sunk into the scheme, and then Ignatova disappeared. Host Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt attempt to track her down, and uncover the truth in this gripping mystery.

Where to find it: BBC Sounds and more

Start with this episode:

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