Mental health memoirs, cultural critiques and fictional feminist dramas – here are nine podcasts we’re loving right now
- TextThomas Curry
While aural storytelling is a tradition as old as time, podcasting has breathed new life into the spoken word. Here we shortlist our favourites for spring, from memoirs about mental health, to documentary anthologies, cultural critiques to fictional feminist dramas about art and attraction.
This memoir on mental health is bracingly honest and beautifully sound-designed. With intimacy, candour and care, it examines the realities of depression and what it can be like to live with suicidal thoughts. Beginning with a catalogue of host Honor Eastly’s teenage experiences with anxiety and depression, No Feeling Is Final expands outwards to expose the failings of Australia’s healthcare system, before zooming in once again to explore why ‘just asking for help’ isn’t quite as simple as it seems. If you’re a fan of The Heart and their No mini-series, this too will make you think deeply and differently about an important topic.
An intimate, feminist exploration into the forces of history, society and identity that shape women’s health, each episode of Bodies looks to answer the question, “What’s wrong with me?” As the medical mysteries unfold, new questions begin to emerge – why have a litany of male doctors told their female patient that some level of pain during penetrative sex is normal? Why is it more common for black women to experience severe pain during their menstrual cycle? What prejudices are preventing a stripper from being diagnosed with ADD? Bodies answers all these and more with clarity and compassion.
3. The Stoop
Through smart and incisive stories told from across the black diaspora, The Stoop explores personal histories and shared experiences that aren’t often acknowledged in the mainstream. Whether it’s an introduction to Gullah Geechee, a language with mixed African roots spoken by a few hundred thousand East Coast Americans, to the silent, ‘I see you’ acknowledgement of the nod, hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba probe what it means to be black and how we talk about blackness.
If what we wear and how we wear it communicates subtle, small truths about who we are, then Articles Of Interest interrogates what it is our clothing is trying to say. A spin-off from beloved design podcast 99% Invisible, host Avery Trufelman weaves together strands which explore identity, capitalism, gender politics and punk among others to trace the stories of the clothes we take for granted.
5. Short Cuts
Hosted by Josie Long, Short Cuts brings together a mix of personal storytelling, true stories, radio adventures and found sound. It’s a clever, touching and at times, funny, collection of audio vignettes that are loosely grouped by themes like ‘longing’, ‘beginnings’ and ‘the other side’. Each episode is an anthology of stories that remind us that there’s greatness in the small events that make up our shared human experience.
6. The Shadows
Building on the success of her Peabody-nominated and Prix Italia-winning The Heart, Kaitlin Prest has produced an exceptional fictional story that straddles documentary, memoir and abstract confessional in her tale of a young artist struggling to make great work and find great love. Probing the anatomy of a relationship – a crush, a choice, a resentment and an ending – The Shadows considers what happens when one is faced with an impossible choice and a decision that can’t be unmade.
Co-hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham of The New York Times, Still Processing bravely probes the pleasures and pathologies of America in 2019. Looked at through a cultural lens, the show digs through art, movies, music, TV and internet trolls to ask ‘Can we cancel Michael Jackson?’ ‘Why can’t we look away from Jussie Smollett?’ and ‘How does Green Book’s Oscar win give proof, if proof were needed, that history continues to repeat itself?’
If you were moved by Desiree Akhavan’s exceptional The Miseducation Of Cameron Post or Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, be sure to download UnErased. Co-created by Boy Erased’s David Joseph Craig, and produced by the two-time Peabody Award-winning team behind Radiolab (check out Debatable and Birth Story for more excellent queer storytelling from the show), UnErased tells some of the stories of the more than 700,000 people in America who have been subjected to conversion therapy.
Pitch tells intimate stories that get to the heart of why we listen to music, how we experience it, and what we’re actually hearing when we hit play. The show brings together an elegant mix of micro-documentaries that look at how ISIS use music to recruit, how a soca song from a beloved Calypso singer in her seventies brought about Carnival’s #MeToo moment and what happens when politicians co-opt tracks that challenge their policies.