(Not) London calling
May 19, 2016 3:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for interesting and fun podcasts and other stuff to listen to during my boring ~30 minute each way daily commute in the car. I'd like recommendations specifically from outside the UK, but in English. Preferences and likes/dislikes inside!

I have good knowledge of UK radio and the programmes and podcasts and things that are available, but I know next to nothing about what's beyond our borders. I generally listen to the BBC World Service in the car, but it's getting a little samey and it's a bit news-heavy and I'd really love to listen to stuff from new people and voices I've never heard before who are outside the (tiny) UK radio industry for a change.

One of the stations around here broadcasts Democracy Now from the US every day (although on a weedy little signal that I can't get on my whole commute) but I find it a little too heavy and political and depressing - I'm looking for things that are a bit more entertaining and light-hearted. I don't especially have any connection with this area and don't want to hear about it all day so I avoid local radio - I want stuff that is of another place, if that makes sense. and if I never have to hear that phone-in feature where they read out the locations of attractive women again I'll be happy - "there's a fit trophy wife in a black Range Rover at junction 27!"

Subjects I'm interested in hearing more about (although this list isn't exhaustive) are LGBT-related subjects, feminism, technology (especially Linux and open-source), science, the environment and sustainable development, urban planning and city life around the world and just generally interesting and cool stuff! I know it's a bit of a mixed bag - but hopefully gives a bit of a view of the kind of thing I'm interested in rather than being an exclusive list. Also, I don't know if this will be a thing at all, but I also really love hearing stories of people's day-to-day life in different parts of the world and cultures that are different from my own. I love radio that transports you to a different place and time and makes you think and wonder.

Things I'm not especially interested in are films/TV/general pop culture and showbiz, US politics/elections, sportsball. The MeFi podcast is a bit too long and rambling to keep track of with such a short commute - and it often doesn't fit on a CD! (My car's a bit low-tech and doesn't have an MP3 player socket, so I literally burn podcasts to CD and put them in the CD player.)

Thank you so much in advance - it's not often I ask a question about radio rather than answer one. Save me from terrible Yorkshire radio once and for all! :)
posted by winterhill to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Just throwing a couple out there:


Death, Sex & Money
posted by LoveHam at 4:10 AM on May 19, 2016

Lore podcast and the Myths and Legends podcast are both interesting and about 30 minutes or so an episode.
posted by Captain_Science at 4:36 AM on May 19, 2016

Have you explored the NPR website? There's a ton of stuff and you can set up and edit your own playlists to suit (though I haven't tried the download thing). It has story length, so you could even set up 30 min lists. I like Fresh Air and All Things Considered for mostly lighter news with lots of shorter stories.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:36 AM on May 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Stuff You Should Know!
posted by cooker girl at 4:39 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/ is always a wonderful story about some small thing.

Even if you don't have kids, Slate's Mom and Dad are Fighting http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/mom_and_dad_are_fighting.html is a wonderful and entertaining take on childrearing in the US.
posted by eglenner at 4:57 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're finding the World Service a bit same-y it might still be worth selectively downloading from their documentary series, which is available as a podcast. I, too, tend to skip the stuff that's too 'newsy' (or depressing) but with 500+ episodes there is definitely enough stuff in there that meshes with your interests.
posted by AFII at 5:07 AM on May 19, 2016

The Memory Palace is splendid. Be warned of potential for crying.
posted by odinsdream at 5:38 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like Invisabilia, Inquiring Minds, Story Corps, Green Radio, Homesteading and Permaculture by Paul Wheaton, and Sustainable World Radio.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:35 AM on May 19, 2016

If you were a West Wing fan then West Wing Weekly will be seriously up your street. So much trivia and general geekiness.
posted by Augenblick at 6:36 AM on May 19, 2016

Do you specifically want nonfiction, or is fiction/storytelling OK?

(I always recommend the same few podcasts in podcast threads but they're all fictional)
posted by Itaxpica at 6:40 AM on May 19, 2016

Ockham's Razor from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a mixed bag with a thoroughgoing contrarian streak that ticks a number of your boxes: technology, science, the environment, sustainable development, and urban planning.
posted by BrashTech at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2016

Under the Influence, CBC, Canada. Interesting voice and speech style and he weaves through stories of decisions/actions made in marketing that impact our day to day lives, with a touch of cynicism.
posted by what's her name at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

The World.

I listen to it occasionally and always enjoy.
posted by mareli at 7:29 AM on May 19, 2016

Since you mentioned feminism and LGBT issues, I'd recommend Throwing Shade, which covers current events related to both those topics. As a bonus, it is frequently hilarious.
posted by jaksemas at 9:31 AM on May 19, 2016

The CBC's Under the Influence, examining advertising campaigns and how they interact with culture is ceaselessly entertaining and offers a respite from the sometimes oppressive This American Life-cadences favored by so much of public radio.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:37 AM on May 19, 2016

The archive of Studs Terkel's work is taking shape here. If you're not familiar with Studs, he's a legend, probably the finest oral historian of the radio era, an intensely humane and intelligent man who was as interested in the lives of ordinary working people as in politicians or artists. Although, damn, I am not sure you can download them yet, they may just be streaming.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:49 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why nobody has posted a rec for 99% Invisible yet.

It's US-based (made in lovely downtown Oakland, California); is not particularly driven by politics or current events; and is focused on Design. Design of cities, and signs, and costumes, and buildings, and airplanes, and life.

Among the episodes I've heard are episodes about the design of sports team mascots; restoring a Scottish castle; how the autopilot in an airplane works; why some guy went to great lengths to replace a highway sign on I-5 in LA; how food photography works and how they get it to look so awesome.

It's a really great, interesting podcast.
posted by suelac at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Totally 99% Invisible is excellent.
posted by odinsdream at 1:24 PM on May 19, 2016

Thank you all so much for your recommendations! I listened to a couple of episodes of 99% Invisible this morning and they were fascinating. It's amazing how much quicker a commute goes when you're listening to something genuinely interesting rather than just whatever junk happens to be going out on the local FM. I'll be checking out some of the others over the next few days. :) Thank you again!
posted by winterhill at 12:01 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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