The best podcasts of 2020
The Atlantic’s first narrative podcast investigated the consequences of Hurricane Katrina, balancing the big picture with personal stories of loss. It showed how the impact of the natural disaster was aggravated by misinformation and the American government’s policy failures, including devastating delays in getting food, water and sanitation to evacuees in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Centre. Hosted ably by Vann R. Newkirk II, a staff writer, “Floodlines” benefited from wonderful production, brilliant music and shorter episodes than many long-form series. The timing of its release was unfortunate—the show launched in the second week of March—and this thoughtful look at disaster response deserves a wider audience.
“The Other Latif”
“The Other Latif” is the first serialised story from “Radiolab”, a critically acclaimed science podcast. The show followed Latif Nasser, a long-standing member of the “Radiolab” team, as he researched Abdul Latif Nasser, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who shares his name. As well as asking whether the detained Mr Nasser is guilty of the crimes of which he is accused, the podcast examined the changing legal and security landscape in America in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. “The Other Latif” was among a string of recent podcasts about the early 2000s—covering topics that millennial audiences grew up hearing about, if not necessarily knowing about—but it brought its inquiry into the present. A government review recommended Mr Nasser’s release from Guantanamo in 2016, yet he remains there still.
Hosted by Samin Nosrat (pictured), the author of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, a bestselling cookbook, and Hrishikesh Hirway, creator of “Song Exploder”, a hit podcast, “Home Cooking” helped locked-down listeners with their kitchen dilemmas. It was an entertaining aid to people forced to cook more (often from a bizarre stockpile of ingredients) and even to chefs sick of their own food. Ms Nosrat and Mr Hirway were charming, funny and knowledgeable on everything from intensive baking projects to fast dinners and dietary requirements.
In its fifth season “Heavyweight”—which explores and seeks to alleviate emotional trauma—continued to provide moments of heartbreak and epiphany. In one recent episode, a woman looked for the man who cared for her uncle until his death from AIDS 25 years ago. In another, two siblings ask why they were split up as children in their parents’ divorce. As ever, not all the episodes were tragic: one investigated how the podcast’s very own sound engineer became the voice of a derided McDonald’s commercial. This year “Heavyweight” also created a series of “check-ins” wherein the team of producers discussed their time in lockdown. Rather than being dour or self-indulgent, these bittersweet vignettes captured moments of family, friendship, communities and cities at a unique time in history.
“The Anthropocene Reviewed”
As part of the deceptively banal—and deliberately absurd—premise of “The Anthropocene Reviewed”, John Green rates items on a five-star scale. The reviews are of any “facet of the human-centred planet”: in 2020 this included “humanity’s temporal range”, “the non-denial denial” and, of course, “plague” (each item received five, two and one star, respectively). The episodes go beyond traditional reviews to become loose monologues: an episode on the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Jerzy Dudek, a goalkeeper who played for Liverpool between 2001 and 2007, was an unlikely reflection on communities and the necessity of hope. With only Mr Green’s voice, the simplistic format could have become repetitive, but the minimalistic score and meditative writing were captivating and often tear-jerking.
“Appearances” told the semi-autobiographical story of one woman’s desire to be a mother. The fiction podcast was created by Sharon Mashihi, a film-maker and podcaster who, like the protagonist Melanie, is an Iranian-American woman in her mid-30s who grew up in Great Neck, New York. In the episode “Prologue”, Ms Mashihi told listeners that “I am not somebody who could ever, ever be a novelist, because every other sentence, I would be wanting to tell the reader on a scale of one to ten how true the sentence is that they just read.” (“Appearances”, on this scale, would be about a 6.5.) But though the listener is left wondering whether certain events really did happen, the show itself felt real and intimate. Ms Mashihi voiced not just Melanie but her family, too.
Listen to The Economist’s podcasts at economist.com/podcasts
Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/prospero/2020/12/16/the-best-podcasts-of-2020
Selected by fonecable.com
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