If you were to ask Kris what something is that is very “me” he would likely say that I am always looking to try something new. Not in the sense of being fickle or taking on too much, but that if someone talks about a book that sounds good I’ll put it on my list. Same with podcasts, tv shows…
So I decided to compile a few posts compiling the best things I read, listened to, played, watched, whatevered in 2016. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have your own “to check out” lists open to add a few and if you do, please let me know in the comments.
I love podcasts. I’d say half of the miles I walk a week are to podcasts (the others are to music). 2016 was a particularly good year for podcasts, too, across a wide variety of topics. I lean toward radio drama and true crime. Here are my favorites of those I listen to…
- My Favorite Murder: Twice a week Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, two women you will want to be your best friends, chill at Georgia’s apartment with their sound guy, Steven, and talk murrrrrrrrrrrrder. Well, eventually. Thursday episodes are the traditional, long ones… anywhere from an hour and ten to an hour and a half. The first 20-35 minutes they just kind of ramble about everything and anything. Then they can’t remember whose turn it is to go first. Each woman shares a tale of murder. Then Karen says, “Stay Sexy,” Georgia adds, “And don’t. get.murdered.” She then asks her cat, “Elvis, do you want a cookie?” he croaks exactly like my very old cat, Spike, and they say, “byeeeeeee”. It is brilliant. It is empowering. On Mondays they share emails from readers who dare to share their real life hometown murder stories. Stories can’t just be links, they have to be written in the first person, concise, and not contain too much ass kissing. It’s important to note that true crime is not for everyone and if you are particularly squeamish this may not be the podcast for you. Also, if you have kids and cannot handle things happening to kids (it’s cool, I’m certainly not judging considering how I react to anything happening to dogs), check with a friend before listening to an episode because there are quite a few that involve kids. Personally, one of my favorites involved a kid who WAS a murderer. The podcast has a rabid following who can be found hanging out on the secret Facebook group — an excellent, well-moderated community of really cool people.
- Wait, Wait — Don’t Kill Me!: This is a multi-episode span of the newer podcast “Secrets, Crimes, & Audiotape”. This gem will have five parts but as of this writing only two are out. It is the first serialized Broadway musical podcast. And it is a satire of Serial (Season 1) that tells the story of Adnan through the lens of, “What if Sarah Koenig killed Hae*?” The music is completely addictive (I cannot cannot cannot singing the soundtrack). It is really good. It is really funny. And it is different from anything out there.
- Strange Matters — When I first started listening to this a few months ago I hated it. HATED. Now it has risen to the top of my list. Probably because of the absolute charm. It’s three guys from the south — sometimes all, sometimes two, sometimes one — who talk about my favorite thing: weird shit. Conspiracy theories, ghosts, UFOs… they sit around and talk about it. It is completely raw and there is something cool about that. Like you want to sit in their mom’s basement, drink bad beer (you, not me… I’m drinking the good stuff) and just talk about all things strange and bust on each other. Their grammar is HORRIFIC… they try to be proper and formal but screw everything up. But that’s kind of endearing. They also don’t care about having fun. Like they will crack a joke between them that clearly no one listening will get (except for their friends and girlfriends and family) but there are no apologies… it’s super authentic. Recently they asked listeners to write in with the answers to a series of questions about strategies for the zombie apocalypse and then did an episode where they read people’s answers and discussed their chances of survival. I’m happy to report that Kris, the dogs, and I are all set.
- Homecoming — This new podcast that is a superb radio drama. David Schwimmer is in it and a woman who sounds a LOT like the woman in The 40 Year Old Virgin (have I ever mentioned on this blog that I am terrible at pop culture? I’m terrible at popular culture). It’s a speculative fiction gem that is dropping hints about where it’s going and I’ll let you find out for yourselves.
- The Bright Sessions — More speculative fiction, more radio drama. Dr. Bright is a psychologist who works with a very specific clientele. Patients who have special abilities. One is an empath, one is a time traveler, one can hear what people think. It is so well done, and so realistic that it really nails the speculative part of speculative fiction.
- Astonishing Legends Somerton Man Episodes — Astonishing Legends is great in its own right but their coverage of The Somerton Man, one of my all time fav mysteries, is the best I’ve ever heard. The Somerton Man is an old mystery out of Australia that is also often called Taman Shud or Tamam Shud. It involves a man found dead on a beach. The tags from his clothes are missing and in the fob pocket of his pants is a rolled up piece of paper, cut from a rare edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The paper contains the final two words of the text: Tamam Shud. This means “it is finished” in Persian. That’s just the start of one of the most compelling mysteries of our time and the Astonishing Legends guys go deeper in the rabbit hole than anyone ever has.
- Missing Maura Murray — I’ve been obsessed with the Maura Murray case for years and in 2016 I continued listening to this excellent podcast by filmmakers Lance and Tim. In 2004 Maura Murray, a nursing student at UMASS Amherst crashed her car on Route 112 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She was seen by a man who offered to help her but told him she’d be fine and had called AAA. No trace of Maura was ever found. This case is complex and interesting and a favorite of websleuths everywhere. This podcast and James Renner’s blog about the case are my fav places to get my Maura Murray fix.
- Alice Isn’t Dead — I can’t wait for season two of this doozy from the creators of Welcome to Nightvale. Nightvale lost me but Alice Isn’t Dead is a piece of absurdist brilliance that I imagine is what a Jonathan Lethem/Tom Robbins collab would produce. Well written, beautifully produced, and really weird. Alice disappeared so her wife has gotten a job as a long distance trucker and is following her. There’s the Thistle Man and some other characters along the way that will chill you to the bone but no matter how scary it gets you’ll keep listening.
- Someone Knows Something — This true crime podcast investigates one missing person’s case (Canada) each season and explores the oft-overlooked emotional side of these cases. The second season just started but you can binge the first wherever you get your podcasts!
- Casefile — I listen to a LOT of podcasts. This is partially because may of the ones I listen to are made up of standalone topics so I can skip the things I’m not into (bigfoot, Atlantis). When I walk (I walk about 4 miles a day) I like to pop one on. I listened to a lot of this one in 2016 because it has standalone episodes and many are cases I’d never heard of. Probably because the host is Australian. Fun note: one of his sponsors is Carnivore Box but every time he says it I swear it sounds like “cannibal box”. Which makes me do a double take each time.
*If this doesn’t make sense stop reading this and go binge Season 1 of Serial before I slap you.