Muse Recommends: The Best Podcasts Around

Updated: Dec 11, 2019


So… You’ve all no doubt heard about the Muse podcast: little 30-minute slices of life at Hurtwood, Museday publicity events, storytelling, conversations in the cupboard, Sam’s morning commute waffles… It’s as delightfully odd as it sounds, but did you know that Podcasting is a journalistic force to be reckoned with? And an outlet for some of the best documentaries in recent times? And a place to go for comedy, conversation, news?


Through this relatively new format – which gained ground in this country about 12 years ago, and in the States about 15 years ago – I’ve listened to 60-minute surrealist monologues set to jazz, long-form true-life murder investigations to rival anything on Netflix (other streaming services are available!), interviews with world leaders, lectures that actually made sense of the politics leading up to the First World War, and heart-warming conversations between friends that ignited my hope in humanity … And the most extraordinary thing about this dazzling selection of content?


It’s absolutely free. You don’t even need a £10 a month Netflix sub, or a TV licence.


And you’ve probably already got a podcast app on your smartphone (those smart folks at Apple have inventively called theirs ‘Podcasts’.)


If this has peaked your interest then READ ON for Muse’s Top Podcast Tips…


4 of the Best


This American Life



This is the granddaddy of all podcasts, an eclectic mix of personal stories and investigative journalism, covering everything from politics to philosophy to biographies of unusual people. In the words of the host Ira Glass, each week has a theme, and they bring you a selection of stories on that theme. Personal favourites – a day in the life of a car salesman; stories of people choosing to do things wrong; and ghost stories! The gold standard of podcasting.


Radio Lab

This podcast brings you an equally varied mix of personal stories and thorough journalism, but this time all in the service of science and big ideas. The intensely likeable Jad and Robert chat affably albeit naively about a specialist topic, before bringing in the experts. Personal faves: anything on CRISPR gene editing technology – utterly fascinating and completely terrifying in equal measure.


Serial


If you like true crime – like most people on Planet Earth right now – then you HAVE GOT to listen to series 1 of ‘Serial’. As well as being a masterclass of investigative journalism, this is one of the most compelling ‘whodunit’ stories of modern times, all told with a sharp focus on a very personable, seemingly ordinary man, who happens to be currently serving a life sentence for a murder he swears he did not commit. You’ll have listened to the whole thing by the time the sun comes up. You have been warned.


S Town

John B McLemore is one of the most extraordinary people you will ever meet. He’s a horologist, a philosopher, a political activist, and never anything less than a compelling presence. This is the story of the town where he lives, and his place within it. But it is also a story of intolerance and compassion, of bigotry and real human tragedy, so sweeping in scope that it takes on an almost literary grandeur. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. John B McLemore. What a guy.


And the best of the rest:


Invisibila

Amazing stories about the things in life that we don’t normal see, aren’t aware of, or didn’t know existed.


The Allusionist

If you’re into words, how they’re used, and the power they hold, then you’ll love The Allusionist – both intelligent and highly entertaining.


The Adam Buxton Podcast

A long-standing member of the Brit comedy scene, Adam Buxton’s charming interviews of writers, musicians and comedians are always enjoyable – and frequently hilarious.


The Missing Crypto Queen

A BBC production telling the extraordinary story of a cryptocurrency scam that spread across the world, and attempts to find Dr Ruja Ignatova, the woman who started it all, and then completely disappeared.


Dolly Parton’s America

A look into the life and influence of one of America’s most well-known and prolific musicians. If you’re not a fan already, you will be by the end of this story.


Fortunately with Fi and Jane

Two bastions of the BBC, presenters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, take time out of there busy schedule to sit in the canteen and chat with passers by. Funny, intelligent and heartening conversations. Like listening to a chat between your two favourite Aunties.


The Moth

Excellent and often very moving storytelling from around the world, their story slams often come to London.


Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Any podcast that offers 6 hours of detailed history lessons on a single topic should be lavished with praise. While Dan does sometimes get a bit too excited about military matters, anyone who can explain the causes of World War I in a way that makes sense, and is energising, is worthy of close attention.