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: Listeners’ Favorite Coping Songs”
This was a sweet mini episode of The Hilarious World of Depression that featured quick stories from listeners about the songs they listen to when they’re in an especially difficult depressive episode. It featured a nice mix of music, as well as nice reasons why they were chosen–it was refreshing to not just hear lots of happy cheerful tunes. As always, The Hilarious World of Depression keeps its focus on sincerity.
The Far Meridian
“1.1 The Outside” and “1.2 Overpass”
The premier of The Far Meridian, from the ars PARADOXICA team, starts with some of the things that made the first show so wonderful: a quirky-but-earnest female lead, a good dose of humor, plenty of surprises, and gorgeous production. The show follows Peri, a rambly anxious young woman who wakes up in a different location each day. The premier has some stumbles, mostly in the way of overacting and forced exposition, but I have no double these issues will be ironed out in a few episodes’ time. For now, I’m going to take a hiatus on reviewing the show; I’ll be writing a First Impressions review when it hits about five episodes.
The Penumbra Podcast
“2.06: Second Citadel – Knight of the Crown, Lord of the Swamp (Part 1)”
I listened to about ten minutes of this podcast before skipping it. The Penumbra Podcast needs to embrace that it only works when it’s doing the Juno Steel stories. The Mary Anne and Chance stories are delightful, but too far and few between–really, they should be their own show. The Second Citadel stories have the worst acting and writing of the bunch, and the tie between them all, the actual Penumbra, is so tenuous that it just shouldn’t be the forced connection of all of these stories.
Note to Self
“Meet the Humans Who Protect Your Eyes”
This episode of Note to Self featured the employees who screen photos for content. These employees are often looking for something innocuous (“Make sure these pictures are all of feet”) but can often be almost traumatizing (“Make sure none of these pictures have child pornography in them”). The episode also discussed the image guidelines for sites like Facebook and how this process can’t be done by programs yet due to how much gray area there is. While this wasn’t the most riveting episode of Note to Self, it was a good reminder of the people who do such an important job for essentially no recognition and very little pay.
The “No” mini season of The Heart is coming to a close, with “Answers” as the penultimate episode. This episode gave the listener some desperately needed revolt. Host Kaitlyn Prest finally looks back on her experiences with rage, but conveys her desire to be liked, while interviewing a once-was friend about an unwanted sexual experience. The conversation with the friend is one of the most difficult pieces of audio I’ve ever listened to, but for good reason. I heard myself in so much of what Prest was saying, even when she infuriated me, and the candor about her own frustrations with herself were such a relief. Of all of the podcasts I have listened to that attempt to convey the feeling of being a woman, this episode, and the “No” mini season, have done it the best so far.
The Orbiting Human Circus (Of the Air)
“An Orbiting Human Circus Special: The 2nd Imaginary Symphony, Episode 3”
This was the first episode of The 2nd Imaginary Symphony that was difficult to listen to. The narration, which is usually warm and comforting, was often lost amidst the foley added to make it more immersive. The story was difficult to follow given how distracting the production was. Still, this episode had all the wonder and enchantment that has become hallmark in The Orbiting Human Circus–it just requires more dedicated attention, and maybe a few subsequent listens, to fully appreciate.
Millennial has joined the ranks of This American Life and Radiolab, but not in a good way. Like the other shows, it has ventured into borderline reporting. Not only is the discussion of being labeled as “unrehabilitable” in prison outside the thesis of the show, it’s not something I think I trust the host Megan Tan to report on. The arc about Cuba was lackluster enough, even when it was rooted in Tan’s life in keeping with what the show is. I can’t imagine this arc is going to impress me.
The Bright Sessions
“40 – Safe House Part II”
In the finale of The Bright Sessions‘s third season, we return to the atypicals and their “therapist” at the safehouse. The episode follows directly after the events of episode 39 and feature some of the best acting to date, specifically from Julia Morizawa. The further Morizawa is pushed, the more she stands out as one of the best voice talents in the industry, giving a performance worlds more believable and emotional than anyone from the star-studded Homecoming. The writing is equal parts suspenseful and character-based, specifically in terms of the Caleb and Adam storyline. It seems like the writing has officially settled into playing favorites with certain storylines, with Chloe and Frank taking the back seat. For now, though, this is fine: the plot lends itself to the other stories, and highlighting Chloe and Frank even while they’re not the main focus is a good way to maintain balance. The writing has always had a wonderful rhythm, but it seems solidified at this point. The pacing is often less forced or drawn out, and moving away from the “mutants at therapy” structure makes sense for the plot’s trajectory.
“Reality Part One” and “Reality Part Two”
One of my favorite things about Invisibilia was its capability to take seemingly disparate stories and weave them into one seamless narrative on a theme. This season has dropped that structure, instead giving genuinely disparate stories with direct ties to the theme as well as interviews with scientists discussing the theme. The content here is fine: reality is discussed as malleable in a very postmodern-meets-science lens. The discussions are interesting. The editing and production are fine. The problem is that the content is simply not enough to make Invisibilia exemplary; its structure is where it shone. Now, Invisibilia sounds like any other podcast–something dangerous in such a saturated medium.
Thursday and Friday, 6/8/17-6/9/17
Surprisingly, nothing of note this Thursday. Instead, I spent the day still sorting out my feelings on the latest debacle with The Adventure Zone.
In this incredibly emotional episode of Nancy, the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub was the focus, featuring interviews with people directly affected by the event. The episode was produced well and had heartbreaking interviews, but mostly, you should listen because it’s important.