This Week in Podcasts a weekly roundup of mini-reviews of all of the podcasts I’ve listened to in a week. If you see any podcasts that you feel are missing from my list, there’s a good chance I haven’t listened to the show yet! Feel free to give me recommendations–as well as any feedback or discussion!–in the comments below, in my asks on tumblr, or on twitter.
The Hilarious World of Depression
“PLACEBO: Therapeutic Ukuleles, Therapeutic Penguins, Therapeutic Yarn”
Each episode of The Hilarious World of Depression seems to have at least one moment that I relate to on an almost uncanny level. I wonder just how many of us who have mental illnesses like depression have played Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” on a ukulele because the contrast between the timbre and lyrics is a little hilarious and a huge relief. This episode was part anecdote, part resource; while the stories were the core of the episode, the meat actually seemed to be the discussion of several tactics others use to combat their depression. I’d highly recommend listening to this episode if you have mental illnesses and have tried all of the conventional hobbies said to help ease depressive states.
“S01 Episode 5: The Skill of our Hands (feat. Steven Burst & Skyler White)”
Oh, Point Mystic, even with your strange and confusing upload schedule, you’re still everything I wish the PNW Stories shows could be. I’ve written about Point Mystic before, but I’m happy to hear that the quality has yet to diminish. This episode opens up a new story in the show about a secret society and a fantasy writer–two stories that are very cliched in the genre, but the show manages to make them feel new and interesting. If you haven’t listened to Point Mystic yet, now is a perfect time to get caught up. There are still only a few episodes, and the first arc is definitely worth a listen while you catch up in time for this new arc.
The Once and Future Nerd
“A Cruel and Sullied World, Pt. 4”
A very exciting announcement that The Once and Future Nerd will be doing Q&As at the end of their episodes, a la “The The Adventure Zone Zone.” To ask the cast a question, you can contact them by using #asktoafn on Twitter or Facebook, by going to their Tumblr, etc. This episode added some dimension to the Arlene/Gwen relationship, giving it some genuine conflict present in most early relationships. We also had an incredibly funny return of the awful Renault, a character who is so satisfyingly hate-able, and some suspenseful plot progression. The production quality in the show also keeps getting better–this episode had so many different layers of audio editing without feeling over-produced. As always, The Once and Future Nerd delivers on so many levels, and the combination of writing, acting, and impressive production this week made it a standout in the season so far.
Hello from the Magic Tavern
“Season 2, Ep 6 – Mouse”
This was a perfectly fine, enjoyable episode of Hello from the Magic Tavern. The guest, a talking mouse with the strength of a human, was fun and new. The ongoing joke this week was weaving tongue twisters and vocal warmups into the dialogue, which was pretty solid. Nothing too exciting in this episode, but it was certainly a step in the right direction after a dull entrance to season 2.
My Brother, My Brother and Me
“MBMBaM 352: Three Deep in the Window”
I can’t tell if it feels more ridiculous to put this show on the weekly roundup or leave it off; I usually leave off consistently big-ticket, quality shows like This American Life or All Songs Considered, but MBMBaM is, obviously, a very different breed of show. I think instead of writing a “review,” I’ll just pick the moment that made me almost break a rib trying not to laugh out loud at my desk while listening. This week’s moment was Griffin discussing being “three-deep in the window” during a long flight, thus the title of the episode, as it absolutely should have been.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking
“Mini-Season Ep 6: 19 Hours Ago”
When the guest of this episode said that her husband passed away 19 hours prior to recording the interview, I’m fairly certain my soul slipped right out of my body and floated away. I started listening to Terrible, Thanks for Asking after The Hilarious World of Depression promoted it as a #TryPod episode, but my heart might not be cut out for this content when I’m not feeling emotionally masochistic after all.
The Penumbra Podcast
“2.03: Second Citadel – The Cave of Discord”
The non-Juno episodes of The Penumbra Podcast are always a toss-up in terms of quality, and unfortunately, this episode was distractingly amateur. The actors’ accents kept slipping, though the rest of their acting was fine. The guitar instrumentals were tonally dissonant. The sound mixing was shockingly bad for how much this show has increased in quality lately: the reverb for the moments inside the cave didn’t sound anything like a cave at all, certain tracks seemed to drop the reverb altogether, and the entire piece sounded cobbled together. I hate writing such negative reviews for the smaller shows, but this episode is exactly why I couldn’t stand The Penumbra when I first heard it.
Beautiful Stories from Anonymous Strangers
“58. Vinyl Market Researcher”
I think Joe Biden’s Baby might have just been dethroned. This episode of Beautiful Anonymous features a caller who wants to quit his job and take over a record store. Over the course of the call, Gethard not only seems to convince him to do it, but also promises a live show in the store when it’s up and running. Hearing the reverence the caller has for vinyl was this lovely mix of nostalgia and enthusiasm that any listener can relate to, regardless of their interest in vinyl; I don’t have any records, but this episode still struck a chord with me. This wasn’t one of the more intense episodes, but I find the sweet episodes just as important as the controversial ones.
“Episode 105: Priesthood One”
Well, after another week of stilted acting, cliched writing, and baffling production, I’ll consider this strike one of three for Rabbits. Two more bad weeks and I’ll unsubscribe. There’s no point in continually reviewing when all I can say is overwhelmingly negative.
Note to Self
“AI Learns from Us. So It Learns Bias.”
This episode of Note to Self discussed how algorithms, which are not even in a “baby stage” of learning, are capable of making mistakes. Specifically, this episode discusses the time Google identified a photo of several black people as gorillas. This episode left me ambivalent. There were a lot of apologies made for the software which, no, is not a person. The episode seemed more bias than the usual Note to Self; more discussions could have been made on whether or not algorithms like these, proto-baby as they are, should even be released.
“Funky Hand Jive”
Radiolab brings another one-off story this week. Robert Krulwich teams up with Neil deGrasse Tyson and a team of microbiologists to see how one person’s bacteria is transferred. The story was fine, but it wasn’t anything that gripped me. Likely, had it been in the context of a traditional Radiolab show: an episode with many stories, all tied by a theme–it would have felt more interesting, even if not the standout story. The longer Radiolab stays from its initial structure, the less relevant it becomes.
The Bright Sessions
“Patient #14-A-8 (Rose)”
This episode of The Bright Sessions introduced a new character, a “dream-walker,” and continued development between Joan, Mark, and Damian. Most of my complaints about this episode are small. The introduction was clunky, with the recording starting at the end of a session. We’ve heard this mechanic before, but it’s one of the reasons I use this show as an example of Misusing the Medium. The acting and writing for Rose were nothing that impressed me, but we spent very little time with the character. What did impress me was, as always, the writing and acting for Joan, with Mark and Damian as close seconds. I’ve sang praises for Julia Morizawa enough that I’m sure they sound tired, but she never ceases to be impressive. Hearing her be frank and sarcastic with Damian was such a delightfully sharp contrast with her usual professional decorum. Mark has developed enough that Andrew Nowak has a wider range to work in, and his performance is natural and wholly believable. Charlie Ian plays Damien here as the classic rogue archetype we’ve come to know him as, but there are subtleties in his performance that still betray Damian’s development and internal conflict even without the aid of the writing.
The Adventure Zone
“Ep. 61. The Stolen Century – Chapter Two”
If you follow me on twitter or especially on Tumblr, you likely know that The Adventure Zone has quickly become my new favorite podcast. This episode has the characters visit a planet of mushrooms and the robot world from, apparently, the Adventure Zone Knights bonus episodes. As with the last Stolen Century episode, the pacing here is strange. The moments that are rushed by necessity actually drag on instead of feeling too hurried; the best things about The Adventure Zone are always the character interactions, which are skipped over here. When the episode dips into character moments, though, it hits the same level of storytelling as some of the bests from the show so far. Merle’s congregation in the mushroom world is especially touching, but unsurprisingly, Lup steals the show with her emotional pact with the crew and disagreements with Taako.
Friday and Saturday, 4/28/17 – 4/29/17
I was a little surprised that nothing of note came out this weekend. This means that next week is likely to be a bit heavier for podcasts.
If you’re interested in more podcast reviews, I’d highly recommend checking out Seedpod! Seedpod is short-form podcast reviews, and they’ve begun posting some of my reviews edited down for length. There are plenty of other reviewers, so you’ll get a nice diversity of opinions!