I need something to listen to
June 10, 2012 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Yet another "Here are my tastes in podcasts, how do I find these?" question! Are there more podcasts along the lines of Sound Opinions?

I've tried out many podcasts but I haven't been able to get into many. The ones that I've tried out sound to me bunch of dudes sitting around chit-chatting and making me feel like I'm eavesdropping on their private, boring conversation.

Here's what I like about Sound Opinions:
1. tightly focused show structure and conversations (I guess because it's an actual radio show and not a bunch of dudes in someone's basement)

2. I'm less interested in opinions, more interested in the deeper evidence so I can learn something. When they make assertions about "This song was influential" or "This person was a genius", they play lots and lots of clips to back up and illustrate those assertions. That means a lot to me. Opinions about who was influential or a genius are a dime a dozen.

3. I'm not interested in fiction or storytelling especially slow-moving, contemplative meandering. The Moth podcast traumatized me with an unexpectedly scary and sad story after a bunch of terminally boring stuff. That's not for me. Also not interested in This American Life.

Other genres are fine, just please no nothing that consists of a bunch of well-payed comedians patting themselves on the back for dedicating their lives to such a demanding profession (poor them).

This is different from other podcast request questions because I don't want just "All the awesome podcasts"; I want the tightly-focused, evidence and reality based, and quickly moving podcasts. Thanks!
posted by bleep to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Radiolab seems like a good bet. Great for getting past the surface of topics (in this case, science-y stuff) in a polished way that leverages the ability of high-profile public radio reporters to access top experts in any given field. In that vein, also 99% Invisible. Takes topics we take for granted and investigates them closely, again hooking up with credible experts to give information and context.

Planet Money (public radio again) does a good job of this with economics and consumer finance. You have questions about Spain's banking crisis and the European Central Bank? Planet Money can answer them. They can also explain why dollar bills are (counterintuitively) more economical than dollar coins.

I also like The Accidental Creative - this may not be something you're interested in, but as an "accidental creative" myself, I find the conversations the host has (typically with people who are flogging a book about being creative) to be focused and meaningful. The podcast is described as helping creatives be prolific and healthy.
posted by jeoc at 7:47 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

A lot of folks don't like the tightly-edited sound of WNYC's RadioLab, but I do. They do a fine job of tying together a multi-act show on a theme and bring in good tight interviews and exposition.

Their topics are less culture and arts, more science and economics. But the shows seem shorter than they are, while TAL is notorious for dragging out the hour.

Re: #3: Holy shit, don't they? The Moth seriously needs to increase the severity of their [TRIGGER] warnings.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:49 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't listened to Sound Opinions ever, so I'm not sure of the exact flavor you're looking for, but Radiolab is a wide favorite. It's not super structured in the "this is how the podcast goes every single time, we have this segment and this one and then this one", but it divides into topics/chapters consistently. I guess what I'm getting at is it's never hard for me to find a point where I can pause if I need to and not feel confused when I return. Production value is high. I've definitely learned interesting things from Radiolab, but it might occasionally veer into the "too meandering"/"conversation-y" territory for you. They just had a great episode on colors, the ones on time and sleep are also good. Give a few episodes a try.

Stuff You Should Know is something you've likely already stumbled upon as well since its consistently in the most popular list.... I can see their banter being annoying to you but there are also many sister podcasts that might be in a field of your specific interests with less-banter-y hosts. SYSK covers a verrry broad range of things. I'd say they have some pretty consistent structure as well.
posted by jorlyfish at 7:49 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh, and +1 to 99% Invisible. I tend to listen to a whole backlog of podcasts at once and this is one I've been needing to catch up on. Only listened to a few but it's very good.

On The Media is another public radio show (WYNC maybe? don't hold me to that) that covers weekly news stories. Good production value, don't know if it's too opinion-based for your needs though.
posted by jorlyfish at 7:53 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in history, check out The History of Rome (link goes to the first episode)

EconTalk has some good interviews between economists, although it sometimes veers close to libertarian territory.

Some of Slate's podcasts are pretty good. Others are insufferable.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:37 PM on June 10, 2012

Soundcheck from WNYC might be right up your alley.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:10 PM on June 10, 2012

You might enjoy some of Radio National's podcasts. I'd suggest starting with Life Matters or All In the Mind and browsing other shows by interest area.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:43 PM on June 10, 2012

BBC 4's In Our Time is probably right up your alley. Melvyn Bragg runs a tight ship, and I always learn a lot.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 9:44 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really recommend Thinking Allowed from the BBC Radio 4. For better or worse, it's not as deep as "In Our Time" and doesn't require as much concentration. Sociologists join the slightly stuffy-seeming but actually sweet and convivial Laurie Taylor for brisk discussions (two topics per 30-minute episode) about their frequently fascinating investigations into a variety of obscure worlds - plus excerpts from Taylor's apparently inexhaustible supply of odd anecdotes. I downloaded the whole archive from iTunes (a fraction of what's available on the BBC website, though), ignored it for years, then listened to one episode and couldn't stop.

You could just start with whatever episode title interests you, but I have personally liked the recent segments Drugs trial calamity, What the poor leave behind (mp3), War, politics and superheroes, Parenting by mobile phone and Russian kids in custody.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:16 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops, that should be Parenting by mobile phone.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:18 AM on June 11, 2012

I loved the BBC podcast A History of the World in 100 Objects - it's 100 podcasts that will take you a while to get through (which I'm thinking is a good thing) and it's definitely tight and packed. I don't think it matters if you're into history or not, this is just a fascinating bunch of (true) stories from history. And hearing how much history could be related to one object has made museums a far richer experience for me.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 6:48 AM on June 11, 2012

I also recommend 99% Invisible. I just started listening to it and it's fantastic.

For any sports fan (may not apply to you), I highly recommend Slate's Hang Up and Listen. Most U.S.-based sports podcasts that I've tried barely move beyond the sports talk radio format of yelling and arguing over meaningless parts of a sports game, but the three hosts on HUAL do a fantastic job of not only covering the basics (who, what, when, where), but also critiquing and analyzing the formation of current sports narratives in journalism.

It's also a podcast where you can find out more about the sport of cup-stacking (ff to 52:50).
posted by RabbleRabble at 7:18 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another NPR podcast recommendation (to go along with radiolab, and planet money which are both also great) is On the Media -- a weekly media criticism show. Think DailyShow but weekly and more serious.
posted by garlic at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also dealing in music (but apparently not active at this time): Soundcheck.
posted by koucha at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2012

Try "Against The Stream", a Buddhism podcast . . . Nicely commonsense and spiritual
posted by hick57 at 6:30 PM on June 11, 2012

These sound like great suggestions. I'm going to start working through all of them. Thank you!
posted by bleep at 6:58 PM on June 11, 2012

If you're looking for evidence and reality-based podcasts, you might want to check out Radio Ecoshock. Alex Smith spends a lot of time interviewing actual scientists, activists, and all-around knowledgable people - and letting them talk. A good many of the shows are also recordings from conferences, again letting smart people speak for themselves.

99% Invisible is also pretty amazing, as is In Our Time.
posted by jhandey at 6:16 AM on June 12, 2012

Just wanted to clarify that when I say "evidence and reality based" I don't mean necessarily Very Serious Topics Like Science; I just mean that the speakers don't just blab on about who they think is the greatest over and over again, they blab on and then back up their assertions with evidence/clips so I can learn why they think __ is the greatest.
posted by bleep at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2012

The in-depth cinephilia of Filmspotting fits the bill. They've just celebrated their 400th episode so they must be doing something right.
posted by whuppy at 12:45 PM on June 14, 2012

If you do like economics then in addition to Planet Money, I would also recommend the Freakonomics podcast.

I like SYSK, but they can sometimes be a bit rambly and get off-topic and out of their knowledge base. The Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast is tighter and doesn't tend to make up answers to stuff they don't know without researching it.

If you like history, then another one you might enjoy is the History Extra podcast from BBC History magazine. It's typically conversations with authors of articles in the magazine and so tends to be focused and backed up with interesting research. The interviews are quite long - typically two to a 50-60 minute podcast.

For a science podcast put together by actual scientists try The Naked Scientists. Not too chatty, lots of features and interviews with other scientists interspersed with news briefs, listener questions and kitchen science experiments to try at home. There are some science journalists I really like and others that I feel simplify too much and/or write/podcast about things that they don't fully understand themselves. If you feel the same, you might enjoy this. They have an array of related podcasts including archaeology, engineering, oceans, astronomy, etc.

Last but definitely not least, I enthusiastically endorse the recommendation of both In Our Time and Thinking Allowed.
posted by clerestory at 12:22 AM on June 16, 2012

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