Best of 2016: Chart-topping new podcasts
If TV is having its second golden age, podcasts are right behind it.
More and more people are tuning into bingeable true crime series and fictional dramas and keeping up to speed with currents events through news podcasts and radio shows. Entertainers, writers, critics, politicians and news organizations are all getting in on the hefty podcast pie.
There is, quite literally, something for everyone to listen to.
Fantastic new listens are popping up weekly, so choosing the best new ones of the year was tough. My "to-listen" list is filled and I struggle to find time to cram in all the amazing episodes I have saved.
The six that I picked as the best new listens of the year are the ones I kept coming back to.
2 Dope Queens
Two woke queens of comedy: 2 Dope Queens
I've laughed so hard listening to Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson tears sprang from my eyes. Though I can confidently say this was my favorite podcast of the year, it's hard to pick the best part. The breathy way they pronounce "white" (emphasis on the H). The relatable abbreviations — YQY (Yas queen yas), totes appresh. The insanely talented lineup of guests and comics on their show every week — Ilana Glazer, Hannibal Buress, Naomi Ekperigin, Nadya Tolokno of Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot. The two comedians and besties Williams and Robinson also rip through pop culture with hilarious segments on channeling your inner white lady, debating if Lenny Kravitz is hot, tinder etiquette and being black at a Billy Joel concert.
If there is something great to be said about 2016, these two making a podcast is it.
Night Vale Presents
Chilly storytelling at its finest: Alice Isn't Dead
Nightvale Presents gave listeners three new fictional podcasts to plug into this year following the huge success of its Welcome to Night Vale radio show. Following a truck driver's travels around the country in search of her wife, Alice Isn't Dead is both beautiful and unsettling. Part one of the podcast follows the unnamed narrator through strange towns and creepy pit stops as she chronicles what she sees and hears through the truck's radio. The attention to detail is stunning, from the rumbling sounds of a semi-truck and the crackling of the radio to the sharp edge in Jasika Nicole's voice that she lends to the narrator. The series is unlike anything you've ever heard, yet distinctive to the Nightvale brand.
Best new investigative podcast: In the Dark
When APM first launched In the Dark, which chronicles the kidnapping of Minnesota child Jacob Wetterling, they probably didn't realize how much of an impact it would have. It was also a stunning coincidence the case was finally solved during its run after 27 years. In the Dark is a collection of brilliant reporting from APM's Madeleine Baran, who presents the botched investigation without ever losing sight of what the case was really all about — finding Jacob.
Scary stories to keep you up at night: Darkest Night
Another podcast with a star-studded cast of voices. Actor Lee Pace provides narration for the series from AMC's horror streaming service Shudder and The Paragon Collective, along with the voices of Denis O'Hare, Missi Pyle, RuPaul and more. Darkest Night is a binaurally recorded audio drama dripping with tension and psychological thrills. Its stories center around the fictional Roth Lobdow Center for Advanced Research, where two scientists are working on the top secret Project Cyclops. Through the project, the two are able to relive a person's last memories before death, which leads to startling and terrifying results.
Political without politics: Presidential
I'm probably one of the few people who didn't obsessively watch the news and scour sites for up-to-date coverage of this year's election. Working in a newsroom, much of the news just came to me. But the Washington Post's Presidential podcast (along with Election College) gave me just enough election insight.
Instead of rounding out the news weekly, Presidential looked back (and forward) on the legacies of past presidents and what it mean to be, well, presidential. Each week the podcast gave air time to the personal and professional lives of the presidents, how they got elected, their scandals and their successes. And on Nov. 9, Presidential released a special episode covering President-elect Donald Trump.
The Post's Lillian Cunningham's soothing voice covered how each president redefined the position of commander-in-chief and how by studying each of these men we can better understand what it means to hold the highest office in the country.
The podcast I wish I was a part of: EW's Binge
Pop culture nowadays is all about obsession and bingeing. Fans gobble up every scrap of information and entertainment they can on their beloved fandom. Entertainment Weekly gets it, and their new Binge podcast feeds that obsession. The first season of Binge takes a deep dive into the Harry Potter fandom. Hosts C. Molly Smith and Marc Snetiker are two Potterheads who love nothing more than to relive the best parts of the films and books while chatting with the movie stars and those who brought the wizarding world to life. The podcast is just delightful, and provides a break from the gritty true crime listens we always plug into. There's also nothing better than listening to someone gush about something they truly love.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.