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The best podcasts of 2019, chosen by Robin Ince

Robin Ince loves podcasts so much he has three of his own, but with so many around it’s difficult to choose

Recent statistics suggest you are never further than three feet from someone recording their own podcast.The podcast is the Marxist dream of the tools for creating the radio shows being handed to the proletariat. The podcast has an artistic freedom where the creator is dictator of their world. There is no long wait for commissioning editors to approve our reject your ideas, no heads of department to interfere or enhance, it’s all up to you and your recording device. Making podcasts is easy, finding listeners may be harder. I have three podcasts myself – The Infinite Monkey Cage, Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles and Vitriola, a particularly lo-fi meander through music with my angry friend, Michael Legge. One of the problems of finding listeners is people are so busy making their own podcasts they have no time to listen to anybody else’s. Solipsism awaits for us all. Egos run wild. I turned off three podcasts in a row, all by artists I liked, because the self-promotion took up so much of the first 15 minutes that I resigned under the deluge of ME-ness. I am a stand-up comedian, so I am aware that I am a pot in this kettle scenario.

Griefcast
I have written about Cariad Lloyd’s award-winning podcast before, but it is worth shouting about. In the UK, we are still wobbling on our stabilisers when it comes to talking about death. Lloyd directs the conversation so kindly and her guests are revealing and honest in their discussions about their bereavements. Sometimes, the conversations we need in real life begin with the spur of a podcast. Sometimes it is the replacement for the conversation we can’t yet have.

Couch Wisdom
I am new to this podcast, a weekly highlight from Red Bull’s music academy lectures archive. I began with Can’s Damo Suzuki, a fascinating and self-effacing interview with a musician who is a true artist. It is an inspiration for anyone aiming to create. Next up, Philip Glass.

The Comedian’s Comedian
As a stand-up obsessive who has somehow also made it their adult career, Stuart Goldsmith’s weekly in-depth interviews with comedians continue to fascinate me. Mixing personal and professional anecdotes and diversions, it frequently explodes the cliches of the misery-guts TV documentary.

Do the Right Thing
Probably too entertaining to ever be a TV panel show, this panel podcast has host Danielle Ward and regulars Michael Legge and Margaret Cabourn-Smith plus guests acting as your giddy Platos through ethical dilemmas.

Radiolab
I came to this eclectic mix of docs for the science content on Einstein, mathematics and neuroscience. I stayed even longer for the nine-part series about Dolly Parton’s America. Episode one looks at the revelatory moment when Dolly becomes an icon for a writer whose revelation came from a tweet saying, “That majestic bitch just started playing a goddamn PAN FLUTE.”

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The Folklore Podcast
Sometimes, in the midst of evidence-based science tours about the structure of the universe and the objects within, I relax my rigour and listen to Mark Norman’s interviews with experts on cryptozoology, the darker history of lullabies and Gef, the talking mongoose of the Isle of Man, who is more famous in his time than any dog that has jumped hoops or performed the salsa on Britain’s Got Talent.

It would seem remiss not to mention Richard Herring, recently crowned by a weekly political journal as the king of podcasts. It began with The Collings and Herrin Podcast in 2008 and now, through manipulation of the curvature of space, Richard Herring manages to create more hours of podcasts than an average day contains. He is up to frame 99 of the podcast where he plays snooker with himself, an absurd idea with surprising longevity, while RHLSTP has reached episode 236 (guest Grayson Perry) – both at the time of writing.

As a book obsessive, I must include John Mitchinson and Andy Miller’s Backlisted. Each week, a single book is the tree on which conversation is hung. Most recently it was Patricia Highsmith’s Edith’s Diary. It was chosen by Deborah Orr, but she died before that episode could be recorded, so the conversation is in her memory.

What a preposterous idea to boil down the thousands of podcast possibilities to so few, but I tried. I might even create a podcast about the existential anxiety caused by trying to choose podcasts.

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