Life & Culture

The Best Podcasts to Listen to This Summer

From a fictional ecological thriller to your latest true crime obsession, here are six podcasts we’re listening to right now

While oral storytelling is a tradition as old as time, podcasting has breathed new life into the spoken word. Here, we shortlist our favourites for summer, from manmade planets and futuristic wastelands, to neurological investigations and subverted expectations. 

Forest 404

Where a lot of audio fiction can be wooden, simplistic and painfully expository, Forest 404 is rich, nuanced and impeccably sound-designed. Blending an unrivaled archive of natural sounds with an original score by Bonobo, this ecological thriller mixes story, documentary and soundscape to probe questions about what impact man’s relentless innovation might have on the natural world. It’s clever, detailed and refreshingly modern.

Uncover: The Village

For eight years, Toronto’s Gay Village worried a serial killer was operating in its midst. Men had been disappearing from the neighbourhood, but police insisted there was no evidence of foul play. It wasn’t until January 2018 that police finally arrested Bruce McArthur for the murders of eight men, re-opening more than two dozen forgotten cold cases in the process. This is an engaging listen which pushes past the usual tropes of true crime to explore the ways in which minority communities can so often be failed by those sworn to protect them.

Love + Radio

It’s almost impossible to talk about specific Love + Radio episodes without accidentally revealing the hidden feints, twists and turns which shape each story. Each tale is masterfully crafted to reveal tantalising details which playfully subvert the expected narrative. A podcasting institution, the show’s latest season has been tucked behind a paywall on podcasting app Luminary, but the topics covered and subjects featured are just as revelatory and remarkable as ever.

Have You Heard George’s Podcast?

As podcasts become more ubiquitous, it’s rare to find a show as unique and captivating as Have You Heard George’s Podcast? Blending spoken word, music, news archive, poetry, interviews, fact and fiction, George the Poet’s multi-award-winning series is unlike anything we’ve heard before. Probing topics as varied as what it means to listen, segregation in the UK, structural racism and the Grenfell fire, Have You Heard George’s Podcast? uses masterful storytelling to examine uncomfortable truths about inner-city London life.

The Habitat

While far from new, The Habitat is brief, whimsical and delightfully escapist which makes it the perfect pairing for hot and hazy days spent lounging by the sea. Following six volunteers who’ve secluded themselves from the world in an attempt to help NASA better understand what it might be like to live on Mars, the show mimics the experience of its subjects. It’s an exercise in otherness, a binge-able, touching and funny miniseries; self-contained and perfectly formed. Crafted from hours of audio diaries from the crew, this documentary tells the remarkable true story of a fake planet.

The Beautiful Brain

Thoughtfully produced and masterfully scored, The Beautiful Brain isn’t an easy listen. A four-part investigative documentary from audio auteur Hana Walker-Brown, the series looks at the devastating – and largely unreported – effects of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Beginning with the story of FA Cup winner Jeff Astle, the podcast expands outwards looking at the widows, daughters and families who are left fighting for justice in the face of staunch opposition from powerful sporting bodies. As the series progresses Walker-Brown’s investigation leads her from Britain’s football pitches to support groups for victims of domestic violence and beyond, sparking a vital discussion about accountability and the urgent need for further scientific studies into CTE.