From a compelling look at white parents and American schooling to stories about Los Angeles, a selection of podcasts to see you through summer
If Constellation Prize – see below– paints loving audio portraits of peculiar individuals, Welcome To LA does much the same for the City of Angels. Host David Weinberg’s scripting has a poetic, almost pastoral quality to it. Stories of Tinseltown, and the eccentric characters who inhabit it, tell a dreamy, affectionate tale of a city carved out of the desert. A particular highlight this season is ‘Friday Night: The Kingdom Of Time’ – a fond remembrance of what LA’s vibrant Friday nights used to feel like.
Constellation Prize is an incredible hidden gem of a series. It’s an intimate, stirring and thoughtful audio tonic which spotlights the remarkable lives of ordinary people. Created by This American Life and Radiolab contributor Bianca Giaever, the series explores the loneliness, loves and spiritual dilemmas of – among others – a school crossing guard, a documentary filmmaker and an artist who likes belts.
An expansion of the themes explored in her Third Coast award-winning documentary Man Choubam, Sharon Mashihi’s Appearances is a one-woman production about connection, love and inner strength. Melanie Barzadeh, a creative first-generation woman in her thirties, desires nothing more fervently than to be a mother – but she doesn’t quite know how to find the right partner or navigate a non-traditional journey to motherhood without alienating her family. Appearances is an audio mind trip into Melanie’s fantasies and nightmares – as you’d expect from a Mermaid Palace show, it’s raw, compassionate and distinctive.
What an astonishing, insightful and grippingly excruciating show this is. Hosted by This American Life alum Chana Joffe-Walt and produced by the team behind Serial and S-Town, Nice White Parents investigates the impact of one of the most powerful forces in American schooling: white parents. It’s an exceptional study of the ways in which well-meaning but deeply, deeply misguided families attempt to reshape public schools to fit their vision for what progressive schooling should look like. In the process they warp curriculums and divert funding in ways which prioritise their needs. Joffe-Walt’s storytelling is second-to-none.
A surprising and sonically rich series, Pin Drop sees host Saleem Reshamwala rove around the globe in search of the ideas that have shaped a particular spot on the map. We weave through the streets of Bangkok with a motorcycle midwife; time travel with dinosaurs behind a hardware store in New Jersey and meet a luchador in Mexico City who protects pedestrians from speeding cars. At a time when we’re mostly still stuck indoors, these charming audio stories allow your ears to wander and your imagination to expand.
Hosted by Reply All creators, Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, The Scaredy Cats Horror Show sees Alex (a horror-film aficionado) attempt to inoculate PJ (like me – a self-avowed scaredy-cat) against his (perfectly legitimate) film-induced fears. Winding its way through classics and cult favourites including The Exorcist, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Hereditary and others, it’s a simple idea, exceptionally executed with thoroughly entertaining guests.
Anthems: Pride is a collection of manifestos, speeches, stories, poems and rallying cries which contemplate queerness in all its forms. This is a profound and poignant series which brings together a collection of diverse voices to examine themes of community and unity. Contributors include singer-songwriter and YouTuber dodie, the BBC’s first LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte, columnist Raven Smith, multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Grace Savage, British-Iraqi drag performer Amrou Al-Kadhi, and director of Black Pride Lady Phyll among others.