In the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters style purge town that was 2016, it felt tricky sometimes to find the time and mental wherewithal to unwind. The good news is that podcasters stepped it up a notch to help us glide through the year with one of the best servings of audio we’ve ever had.
As such, the podcast episodes we’ve chosen as our 12 best of the year typify and champion what art has always done, providing provocation and questioning, entertainment and distraction. Ranging from comedy to investigative journalism, here’s the start of Podblasts’ countdown toward Podcast Episode of The Year 2016.
Episode 38: The Mountain
Considering the year we’ve all just lived through, you’d expect scary stories to be the last thing we’d want. Despite this, author Aaron Mahnke’s Lore remained fresh and addictive throughout 2016.
Always paired with beautifully fitting music, Lore was consistently good over the past 12 months, but we’re recommending July’s “The Mountain” as our favourite.
11. 99% Invisible
In 2016 99% Invisible proved yet again that amazing storytelling can come from the most unexpected places. The show has always found a way to make what in the grand scheme of things is nothing more than a footnote into a spectacle, and “H-Day” is no different.
“H-Day” tells the story of September 3rd, 1967 in Sweden. A day that probably means little to you, but saw one of the biggest infrastructure overhauls in history.
Roman Mars guides us through the day that an entire country switched from driving on the left hand side of the road to the right. Joined by the people who watched it happen, “H-Day” is 99% Invisible at its best.
10. Cool Games Inc.
Episode 2: Cook for Cube
It’s hard to believe Cool Games Inc. only came out in 2016, but it means we get to feature one of the early classic episodes of the video game design podcast in our best of the year list.
We’d recommend going into “Cook for Cube” completely blind, but if you need tempting even more here’s an animated snippet from Polygon’s YouTube channel.
9. Hello From The Magic Tavern
87 Missing Fathers Live
Live shows are often tricky to pull off right in podcasting, but Hello From The Magic Tavern have found the formula for success- despite only launching about a year and ten months ago.
Arnie Niekamp‘s improvisational fantasy podcast shines in live environments. The shattering of the middle-earth style illusion for physical live guests only somehow makes the show even funnier for the rest of us.
With a hilariously unexpected cameo from Lore‘s Aaron Mahnke, “Missing Fathers” is Hello From The Magic Tavern‘s highlight this year.
8. Making Oprah
Ep 3: YOU GET A CAR!
WBEZ’s Making Oprah miniseries was one of the highlights of last autumn, charting the story of Oprah Winfrey’s rise to TV stardom.
If the title of this episode doesn’t give it away, “YOU GET A CAR!” investigates the scale and spectacle of Oprah’s show in the final few seasons, including that famous car giveaway.
Disco Demolition Night
After a pretty decent 2015, Gimlet really knocked it out of the park this year with existing podcasts joining great new ones like Undone. Pat Walters unravels the threads behind big news stories of the past, and shows how they were just the start of a larger picture.
Listen to Undone in any order, but the premiere is definitely our favourite. “Disco Demolition Night” tells the story of one summer evening in the late 70s when 50,000 people tried to kill disco.
This story about music, race and prejudice is a prime example of why Undone is the first of three entries for Gimlet in our countdown of 2016’s best podcast episodes.