2019 Year in Review: Favorite Podcasts


Happy Christmas! If you have some time off today or in the coming week, you might want to fill that time by listening to some podcasts!  To help you, here’s a list of my favorite podcasts episodes from 2019 ( you can also check the previous year’s list from 2018).

Before we get to the episodes, there are some podcast series I want to recognize as being the ones that I always want to listen to every episode, as inaugural inductees in my

Podcast Hall of Fame

  1. 99% Invisible
  2. Hit Parade
  3. The Memory Palace
  4. The Mortified Podcast
  5. Risk!
  6. The Thirty20Eight
  7. Throughline
  8. Twenty Thousand Hertz
  9. Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me

Short Series of Note

White Lies

A serialized documentary about the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and how no one was ever brought to justice for the crime.

1619 Project  

This podcast debuted in August to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what would become the United States.  The 1619 Project, created by the New York Times and hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, explores how

Dolly Parton’s America

This is a new podcast about possibly America’s most beloved living person, Dolly Parton, explores many aspect of her music and public persona.

You Must Remember This :: Disney’s Most Controversial Film

A history of Disney’s banned movie, Song of the South, from its origins, influences on culture, popular re-releases, and persistent presence to this day.

The Report

This 15-part podcast breaks down the Mueller Report for those of us who don’t have time to read the report and/or need an assist with the legalese.

Favorite Podcast Episodes

On the Media :: Africatown

Survivors of The Clotilde, the last ship to carry Africans kidnapped into slavery in the United States, created a community outside Mobile, Alabama after the Civil War (covered in the recently published Zora Neale Hurston book Barracoon). The community has been devastated by environmental racism but survivors still hope to preserve its history.

The Truth :: Meet Cute

A romantic comedy where one the members of the couple dies before the first date.  There’s a lot of clever twists in this story.

Decoder Ring :: Baby Shark

Everything you need to know, and then some, about this year’s viral sensation, “Baby Shark” (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo).

Code Switch :: When Disaster Strikes

Inequality rears its ugly head in America in many ways.  Code Switch explores how disaster aid is biased in favor of white, prosperous homeowners and against poorer, people of color who rent

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Booj

In a world where every movie trailer sounds exactly like every other movie trailer, how does one make their trailer stand out?  The story of The Booj and other elements common to the blockbuster movie trailer formula.  Confession:  I love the sound of The Booj, but can live without the cheezy song covers.

Hit Parade :: The Everybody Say YEAH! Edition

Hit Parade traces Stevie Wonder’s career from his first #1 single – ““Fingertips, Part 2” in 1963 – and his emergence as a song writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and recording artist into his imperial period of the 1970s.  Chris Molanphy’s description of “Little” Stevie Wonder improvising on the live performance recording of “Fingerpits” as a 12-year old doing everything he can to stay up later past bedtime, is absolutely perfect.

99% Invisible :: Play Mountain

Isamu Noguchi was a sculptor and designer with an interesting life story.  He designed an abstract playground structure for New York City but was rejected by Robert Moses, who became a lifelong enemy (and this makes me love Noguchi more).  During World War II, he volunteered for internment in order to design a humane camp for the Japanese-American internees, and then found himself both unable to influence the design and unable to leave.  Today, his legacy lives on in unique, abstract playgrounds.

Hit Parade :: The Invisible Miracle Sledgehammer Edition

If you turned on the radio in the mid-1980s, you were likely to hear music by members of Genesis (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Mike and the Mechanics) while the band Genesis continued to make hits.  Chris Molanphy explains this unusual situation in pop music history.

Code Switch :: The Original ‘Welfare Queen’

The story of a con artist, child abductor, and possible murderer whose crimes were used to justify to slash welfare safety nets by the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Decoder Ring :: Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War

My grandmother took my sister and I to a Chuck E. Cheese in the 80s when we were much too old for Chuck E. Cheese.  From this podcast I learned that the audioanimatronic shows were intended for adults and that they no longer exist at Chuck E. Cheese today.  And that’s just the beginning of a lot of strange stories.

Have You Heard? :: White Homebuyers, Black Neighborhoods and the Future of Urban Schools

Hit Parade :: The History of Show Tunes and the Pop Charts

A broad history of Broadway tunes and cast albums making it to the top of the charts, whether as original cast recordings, covers, or even samples.  I learned a lot, such as the fact that Natalie Wood did not sing her own songs in West Side Story, and that Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita were concept albums before they were staged as shows.

StoryCorps :: A Danger to My Country

Stories of the “Lavender Scare” in the 1950s federal government, and the gay man who had to enforce it.

Throughline :: Milliken v. Bradley

The effort to end school segregation by way of busing lead to this Supreme Court case decision that still affects our schools and communities to this day

Hub History :: Mayor Curley’s Plan to Ban the Klan 

Back in the 1920s, white supremacists hoped to expand their operations into Boston, but faced fierce opposition from Boston mayor James Michael Curley.  If only Boston’s mayor in 2019 was not a coward who appeases white supremacists.

The War on Cars :: Dying For Change

Bicycling activists stage more aggressive protests against politicians and the police as the deaths of cyclists increase in number.

This American Life :: We Come From Small Places

The immigrant experience explored through stories from the Labor Day Carnival and the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn.

the legacy of slavery, segregation, and inequality have shaped American history.

The War on Cars :: The Problem with Public Meetings

Are public meetings the most democratic and effective way of finding common ground on the use of shared urban spaces?  Probably not.  This episode breaks down the problems of public meetings through the lens of a town hall forum in Brooklyn.

 

The War on Cars :: The Automotive Police State

Cars are often equated with freedom, but in this podcast we learn the mass production of cars lead to a massive increase in policing and the erosion of 4th Amendment rights. This is a must-listen.

Best of the Left :: Why We Cannot Have Nice Things (How Racism Hurts Everyone, Including White People)

This collection of stories from progressive news outlets takes “a look at some of the ways that conservative policies, willed into existence almost exclusively by white people, measurably hurt people and shorten life expectancies, including those who most fervently support the self-destructive policies.”

This American Life :: The Out Crowd

Important journalism for anyone who wants to know the extent of the crimes against humanity being carried out in our names at the border.

Hit Parade :: Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition

Chris Molanphy expertly and entertainingly breaks down the trends in hit songs that charted in the 2010s.  The episode made me oddly nostalgic for the decade that hasn’t even ended yet.  Although, after having it broken down, I think I liked the hit music from the first half of the decade better than the second half.

Final tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances