From Julia Davies dark comedy Dear Joan to track by track teardown Dissect, Marc Maron to Meat and beyond, here are this years finest audio offerings

2 Dope Queens
Comedy panel hit

Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williamss podcast is a perfect storm of comedy and representation, with the two US comedians hanging out with their mostly female, often non-white and LGBT guests to chat race, gender, sex, and other less serious topics. Recorded in front of a live audience, Dope Queens isnt a low-key affair, and all the better for it. Interview-based offshoot Sooo Many White Guys – produced by Broad Citys Ilana Glazer – is equally engaging. HJD
If you like this try Another Round, Late Night Whenever

The Adam Buxton Podcast
Freewheeling interviews

Buxtons open-ended ramble chats are a delight, with Bob Mortimer, Aisling Bea and even Wes Anderson among those bouncing off his observational genius. There are moments when it gets hysterical, and one of the finest involves Louis Theroux breaking out a falsetto version of Yes Sir, I Can Boogie that goes on just long enough to make it eye-wateringly funny. HV
If you like this try Richard Herrings Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

All Killa No Filla
Sideways serial killer pod

Rachel
Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean.

If true crime is the food of podcasts, comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean are your mild-mannered chefs cracking jokes as they work. They claim theyre not mocking serial killers; theyre simply obsessed with them. Discussing how Ted Bundy only needs one name like Britney or Madonna suggests otherwise, and the pairs understated humour means they just about get away with the grim jokes. HV
If you like this try
A Very Fatal Murder

Athletico Mince
Surreal, sport-themed ruminations

If youre more concerned with the state of Steve McClarens hair than Soccer AM, this is the football podcast for you. Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson are the anti-Carragher and Neville, bringing surreal fun to the sport. You might find Harry Kane fighting over celery or Peter Beardsley feeling sorry for himself, but youll rarely hear the final score. HV
If you like this tryThe Football Ramble

Atlanta Monster
Complex true crime

Payne Lindsey had a huge hit with Up and Vanished, his podcasting debut, in which he examined the disappearance of a former beauty queen. Lindsey struck journalistic gold when his DIY sleuthing turfed-up two fresh arrests. For the follow-up, he explores a spate of 28 murders of black children in Atlanta. This time, race and City Hall politics loom far larger than a simple whodunnit. GH
If you like this try Dirty John, West Cork

Brian Gittins and Friends
Erratic conversations with comics

David Earl, the genius behind anti-comic Brian Gittins, has long been a pioneer of leftfield audio shows. Comparatively, this is more slick, bringing in guests to interact with him and his friend David Edwards and robot Charles. The fictional setting changes each episode, from the Haienda in the 90s to a hot-air balloon, inviting the best/most game members of the modern alternative comedy scene Jamie and Natasia Demetriou, Lolly Adefope, Diane Morgan, Kim Noble and Tim Key to play. HG
If you like this try Comedy Bang! Bang!

Caliphate
Terrorist doc

Caliphate
Caliphate Podcast.

Or: Cribs Isis Edition, in which the New York Timess terrorism correspondent, Rukmini Callimachi, reports back on her time spent rifling through abandoned Islamic State barracks, leafing through their HR records and diaries to piece together the human face within the inky darkness. Having raised the bar with The Daily, NYT is keen to show us just how cinematic their sound design can get with this Hans Zimmer-level dazzler. GH
If you like this try
Slow Burn

Capital
Brexit-style satire

This semi-improvised narrative podcast is about the panic and bureaucracy in the UK after a vote to make execution legal has been made. In a Thick of It-style story thats got more than a touch of Brexit chaos to it, Harry Enfield plays an inept capital punishment minister, and theres a cameo from newsreader Jon Snow. However, its Fresh Meats Charlotte Ritchie and Liam Williams (of BBC3s Pls Like) who steal the show as warring, ineffectual civil servants. HJD
If you like this try This Sounds Serious

Cocaine & Rhinestones
Country tales

Tyler
Tyler Mahan Coe.

Tyler Mahan Coes history of country music lives up to its glamorously scandalous title, bringing out the backstories of both high-profile figures and lesser-known names. From the reason why Loretta Lynns songs were banned and Wynonna Judds life story to a three-parter based around those involved in the record Harper Valley PTA, each episode has more sagas than a country song, making it a gripping listen. HV
If you like this try
Disgraceland

The Comedians Comedian
Comics get in-depth

Stuart Goldsmiths interview podcast sees top billing comedians give insights into how they bring out the laughs, whether its Katherine Ryan demonstrating her benevolent roast or Shappi Khorsandi pinpointing her need to perform with a rant about her childhood. HV
If you like this try The Two Shot Podcast

Dear Joan and Jericha
Fictional agony aunts

Julia Davis and Vicky Pepperdines podcast is offensiveness disguised as polite conversation. Playing a pair of seemingly respectable agony aunts, their audiences questions solicit filthy answers, dressed up as the kind of advice that comes from women in buttoned-up cardigans. From a lustful description of a stepson to a screeching tirade against geriatric mothers, its perfectly delivered gold thats hilarious all the way through. HV
If you like this try Why Is Your Bottom So Dirty?

Dissect
Musical academia

Host Cole Cuchna recorded his track-by-track albums teardown by night, in his garage, while holding down a full-time job. Its a feeling that still bleeds into his third season, on Frank Oceans Blonde: an uber-nerd, juiced on passion, blasting out genius-level Rap Genius footnotes. GH
If you like this try In Sight Out

Do the Right Thing
Riotous quiz

Award-winning moral panel show that asks the question: what would you do in a catastrophe? Led by Danielle Ward and a revolving cast including Sara Pascoe and Nish Kumar, the debate ranges from the righteous to the ridiculous. HG
If you like this try Throwing Shade

Elis James and John Robins podcast
Pub chat in podcast form

Theres more to Radio X than Blossoms. This podcast follows a mighty lineage of comic-led shows from the station (Adam and Joe, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Russell Brand) but James and Robins give the setup a tenderness and emotionally unstable slant. Regular features like Humble Brag of the Week sit sweetly next to Robinss sweaty-palmed obsession with Queen/Zappa. HG
If you like this try Elis James Feast of Football

Gossip
Sex and the City for audio

Allison Raskin has cooked up a smart soap opera of a podcast centred on all the juicy (scripted) gossip that goes down in a coffee shop. Along with standard news about whose husbands cheating this week, theres a hint of something more sinister going on in the US suburb of Golden Acres. Funny, quick-witted and perfect for a commute. HV
If you like this try Homecoming

The Guilty Feminist
Instersectional panel show

Deborah
Deborah Frances White.

It can be pretty difficult to know what constitutes being an upstanding feminist these days, a fact that led Deborah Frances-White to create this much-loved podcast. Covering themes from menstruation and exercise to ethical clothing, she and her guests explore the contradictions and limitations of modern feminism in a way that never feels overly heavy. Plus, theres a diverse pool of guests; recent interviewees have included FGM activist Leyla Hussein and actor Gemma Arterton. HJD
If you like this try
Scummy Mummies, Unladylike

Hannibal Buress Handsome Rambler
Leftfield interviews

While its interview format appears traditional upfront, the chats are freestyle, and often scored with whirring synths and drums. His encounter with musician Lizzo brings the improv chaos of The Eric Andre Show to audio, while snagging time with the likes of Tiffany Haddish, Run the Jewels and Chris Rock is impressive, especially since Buress is often very high. HG
If you like this try New Years Eve With Neil Hamburger

Hey, Cool Job!
Occupational inspiration

With portfolio careers and freelancing ever more du jour, this podcast from US writer Mary HK Choi feels highly relevant. She interviews everyone from a music A&R to a porn star to a paparazzo about the hard graft thats got them to where they are. HJD
If you like this try How I Built This, Wanna Be

Hit Parade
Examining pop

Chart analyst and critic Chris Molanphys super in-depth, meticulously researched podcast is perfect for the sorts of pop addicts who are always ahead of the charts. From B-sides that deserved better and the mid-80s obsession with the charity single to Madonnas pivot to electronica, nothing is too big a topic for the host to break down. HJD
If you like this try On Shuffle

Alexa
Alexa Chung with Mike Skinner and Murkage Dave.

In the Third Person Podcast
Laidback celebrity interviews

Dry your eyes: there isnt a new Streets album, but there is a Mike Skinner podcast. He and TONGA collaborator Murkage Dave are the hosts of this interview show, which, to date, has featured Liam Gallagher (who memorably describes fellow parents at the school gates as nosy cunts), Alexa Chung, XL boss Richard Russell and SB.TV founder Jamal Edwards. HJD
If you like this try Distraction Pieces Podcast with Scroobius Pip

Longform
Journalism unpacked

As any hack who has ever muttered: Oh just give me the dictaphone, Ill do it, slightly out of earshot of a tedious starlet will already know if you want great quotes, interview journalists. In between the endless stream of New Yorker staff writers we hear from all-time greats such as Gay Talese and Michael Lewis. GH
If you like this try Thirty Seconds Or Less

Love Island: The Morning After
Post-show analysis

You know your podcast has hit the big time when its not sponsored by Squarespace. This one has Kelloggs Corn Flakes as its benefactor. Corn Flakes, of course, were originally designed to dampen the sex drive, but dont tell Arielle Free and Kem Cetinay, who chew through the previous evenings fumblings on the ITV2 monolith. GH
If you like this try Buffering the Vampire Slayer

Love + Radio
Strange stories

The stories at the heart of this intimate, moving podcast are what will keep you coming back for more, from heartbreak to revenge to near-death traumas. Nothing is too niche, either: a recent episode focused on a Texas violin teacher who believed hed cracked a classical music mystery, while season five highlight A Girl of Ivory is about a man married to two plastic dolls. HJD
If you like this try Swipe Left Swipe Left!

Lovett Or Leave It
Political panel

Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett is a fast-talking bomb of smart one-liners hes the kind of man who would stalk the corridors of The West Wing or Veep, correcting everyone along the way. His podcast, from the same stable as quick-witted Pod Save America, offers razor-sharp opinions on Trumps North Korea summit, Facebooks influence on politics and Bill Cosby. HV
If you like this try Slates Trumpcast

Meat
Body positive introspection

Meat
Meat podcast.

Jonathan Zenti isnt the most prolific podcaster and he admits that nothing will top his first episode, Hosts Fat, in which he talks about how he feels about being overweight. Hes right: its one of the most incredible podcasts youll hear; full of honesty, raw emotion and an insight into why society has such a problem with people who take up more space in the world. HV
If you like this try
The Heart

My Dad Wrote a Porno
Risque book club

My Dad Wrote a Porno sounds bizarre on paper, but not as bizarre as the Belinda Blinked series a set of stilted, cringe-inducing sex books written by host Jamie Mortons dad. Mortons reactions as well as those of co-hosts Alice Levine and James Cooper are what makes the show, though. And with their current tour taking them to huge venues around the world, you imagine there are probably plenty more Belinda-themed tomes still to come. HJD
If you like this try The Worst Idea of All Time, No Such Thing As a Fish

The Nod
Exploring the US black experience

Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings venture down various race-related paths, be it the Wayans brothers flick White Chicks or the 1974 Zaire football teams World Cup adventure, in a garrulous way that appeals equally to everyone. Case in point: I Want That Purple Stuff, in which the duo delve not into Alice Walker, but how grape-flavoured soft drinks became a staple of African-American culture. GH
If you like this try Cosby Unravelled

On Shuffle
Musical talking points

Good music podcasts are hard to come by, not least because you cant really play music on a podcast for reasons of copyright (boo). Despite this, On Shuffle from US sport and culture site The Ringer does a great job at summing up the biggest debates of the minute, from the death of divisive rapper XXXTentacion to whether Kanye West is actually cancelled. HJD
If you like this try Hit Parade

Queery with Cameron Esposito
Queer Eye for the podcast

Cameron
Cameron Esposito.

At a time when queer culture is more mainstream than ever but often commodified and contorted, its heartening to hear US standup Esposito make genuine connections with well-known names across the gender and sexuality spectrum, with a smattering of laughs thrown in for good measure. This warm podcast often feels like earwigging on a conversation between two mates, with recent guests including Search Partys Alia Shawkat, Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay and Drag Race contestant-turned-comedian Trixie Mattel. HJD
If you like this try
Nancy, RuPaul: Whats the Tee?, Las Culturistas

The Recappables
TV-flavoured conversation

Where once we would have had proper companions to watch TV with, nowadays its an altogether more solitary pastime, and one many of us squidge to fit into commutes or even gym sessions. However, chats about telly havent disappeared; rather, they now unfold on social media, in comments sections or on a podcast like this, which boasts strands covering Westworld, Billions and Atlanta. Theres also The Rewatchables, its sister show, which is all about the joy of rewatching your favourite films, from Miami Vice to The Big Lebowski via David Finchers The Social Network, a film thats both compelling and now increasingly anachronistic. HJD
If you like this try The Wire Stripped, How Did This Get Made?

The Reductress Minute
Bite-sized feminist satire

Joke womens site The Reductress has long been the place to go for hilariously on-the-nose comic news (among its recent hits are Eating Dinner in Bed Transformed Into Self-Care by String Lights and Are You Ovulating or Did You Just Look at a Picture of The Rock Holding His New Baby?). After putting faux-advice podcast Mouth Time on ice last year, theyve launched The Reductress Minute, a recap of the sites best stories of the week, plus some all-time classics. HJD
If you like this try Guys We Fucked, Call Your Girlfriend

Rule of Three
A comedy fan forum

Created by Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley the writers behind Philomena Cunk and Ladybird Books for Grown-ups this celebratory new podcast asks comics to talk about the comedy they love in order to learn something about the maths of making people laugh. Particular highlights include Rufus Jones on Robert De Niros Midnight Run, John Finnemore praising the dark delights of Chris Morriss news satire On the Hour and Danielle Ward dissecting Bottom (not like that). HG
If you like this try Sitcom Geeks, Museum of Comedy

Savage Lovecast
Audio agony aunt

Dan Savage gives the best love and lust advice around in his distinctly NSFW podcast. Nothing is left uncovered, so if you need to know how to explain your kinky preferences on a dating profile or when to ask if your new partner is trans, Savage is your guide. And yes, the dilemmas he solves are real. HV
If you like this try Dear Sugars

Short Cuts
Short documentaries

The Radio 4 show offers brief encounters, true stories, radio adventures and found sound and each one is a self-contained gem. Josie Long presents the long-running series packed with observations on themes from sibling rivalry to mortality, and just about everything else in between, so you never know what youre going to get. HV
If you like this try The Truth

Song Exploder
Sleeve notes

Each Song Exploder might be only be around 20 minutes long, but in that time host Hrishikesh Hirway persuades musicians to take the deepest dive into pop songs in a way that makes you crave a listen by the end. If you havent already been hooked, start with St Vincents New York, Lordes Sober and Solanges Cranes in the Sky. HV
If you like this try New York Timess Popcast

Still Processing
Identity politics and pop culture

Still
Still Processing. Photograph: Ryan Pfluger/The New York Times

The New York Times Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham are two writers of colour who arent afraid to get real about race and identity. They present this sharp pop-culture pod, where you can expect to hear about everything from bad women on screen to Roseannes Ambien-fuelled Twitter meltdown, the rise of queer pop and what whiteness means on screen in 2018. HJD
If you like this try
Keep It

Susan Calmans Mrs Brightside
Comedians on mental health

The Scottish standup invites other funny people to discuss their mental health and help remove the stigma that persists. Although subtitled A Cheerful Look at Depression, Calmans guests have varied challenges; in the opening episode of eight, she sits down with Edinburgh-nominated comic Jordan Brookes, who has pure O, a type of OCD that focuses around inner compulsions rather than outward rituals. Kind, raw, pertinent and funny, this is everything a mental health podcast should be. HJD
If you like this try Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Switched on Pop
The maths of music

A fascinating deep-dive into how vast teams of talented people channel their knowledge of melody, diminished chords and syncopated snares into making truly terrible slush pop. Or, if you prefer, a subtle reminder not to dismiss a Despacito or a Twenty One Pilots out of hand. GH
If you like this try Henry Rollins Henry and Heidi Show

Table Manners
Food with famous people

What could be just another pop star reminiscing about Live Lounges and the album campaign lull has turned into its own enlightening entity. This podcast finds musician Jessie Ware sitting in her kitchen with her rambunctious mum, who makes dinner for a new guest each week, from Ed Sheeran to London mayor Sadiq Khan, the latter of whom broke his Ramadan fast to talk about standing for re-election, nightlife in London, crime and chips. HG
If you like this try Homo Sapiens

Unpopped
Zeitgeist musing

The BBCs pop culture offering gets a millennial spin with this factual-but-fun podcast hosted by journalist Hayley Campbell. Zoning in on the biggest pop culture trends and moments of recent history, from One Direction to Drag Race and, er, Come Dine With Me, she and her contributors offer detailed overviews that never feel overly weighty. HJD
If you like this try The High Low

The Watch
Pop culture explained

The Ringer the website thats the new home to cult sports writer Bill Simmons bottles his brand of lightly worn- heavy IQ commentary in the same way his old stomping ground Grantland did. Here you can find The Watch, where writers Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan take the weeks biggest watch/read/listen questions apart, from the Fox-Comcast merger and Black Mirror to Donald Glovers This Is America video. GH
If you like this try Slates Culture Gabfest, The Nerdist

Where Should We Begin
Couples therapy

In each 40-45-minute episode, two romantically entwined, often anguished people sit with Esther Perel, Belgian psychotherapist and emotional mastermind, who works through their insecurities. From low libidos to overcoming infidelity, role play and all manners of childhood traumas that might lead to a skewiff love life, the podcast is an essential for nosy or curious types. Season three is set to branch out into family and platonic relationships. HG
If you like this try Death, Sex & Money

Why Is This Happening? With Chris Hayes
The news, explained

Slates grumble-heavy Trumpcast made heavy weather in 2016. In 2018 the genre it spawned has morphed into a kind of horrified Aaarghcast. With a title that recalls Jeff Goldblum turning into The Fly, Chris Hayes explores a question bigger than just the meaning of Trump: just why the entire mass of society, democracy and media seems to be warping and folding beneath us. GH
If you like this try Chapo Trap House

WTF With Marc Maron
Intimate interviews

Prolific podcaster Maron pulls in big names, from Barack Obama downwards. His angry preambles are dynamite and he even makes the adverts sound furious. Start with the Jennifer Lawrence episode, in which she out-talks him and is rip-roaring company rather than line-toeing Hollywood ingenue. HV
If you like this try The Joe Rogan Experience

You Must Remember This
Hollywood history

This cinematic exploration is hosted by Karina Longworth, a narrator whose voice drips with old-school glamour and powder-room gossip. Marilyn Monroe gets the three-episode treatment and Joan Crawford enjoys six degrees, while theres a whole string devoted to Charles Manson, with plenty of fresh material. HV
If you like this try Hollywood and Crime

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