You Should Be Listening To is a series where I talk up one of my favorite podcasts and explain why you should be listening, too. Each post gives an explanation of the show using the same five questions, including how best to listen and comparisons to other pieces of media. You can find all of my You Should Be Listening To posts here.
All About Spirits
What is Spirits?
Spirits is a conversational nonfiction podcast in which two women discuss mythology, folklore, and urban legends while drinking. Each episode discusses a different story, figure, creature, etc. Sometimes, there are special episode in which listeners’ hometown urban legends are read. Often, guests who specialize in the episode’s focus will be featured.
Okay, but what is it really?
Spirits is about the stories we tell ourselves throughout history and why–about what makes certain arcs or tropes pervasive, about what those stories say about what we believe, and about how those stories are still relevant today. It’s a podcast about looking at stories through a queer, feminist, intersectional lens–while still not devaluing the stories or where they came from. It’s also a podcast about two friends learning from each other and making new connections, all while being silly, engaging, and accessible.
What makes it different from other podcasts?
Like most conversational podcasts, the key to Spirits is largely its hosts. Julia Schifini (of Tides, What’s the Frequency, etc.) and Amanda McLoughlin (of Join the Party) are lifelong friends, and their dynamic comes through brilliantly without ever alienating the audience. The two have this genuine, sweet, comfortable dynamic that make it feel less like you’re peering into a friendship and more that you’re a part of it. Of course, the hosts aren’t just there to supply the comfort; they’re also there to supply the knowledge. Julia plays the role of the expert, explaining the subject in as much detail as she can manage. Amanda, meanwhile, plays the role of the novice, taking the information in and commenting on it. While a good deal of commentary on media in podcasting falls into the “this is garbage” or “this is perfect” territory, Julia and Amanda navigate the subjects with nuance and a great deal of analysis. It’s a podcast that you’ll walk away from feeling like you learned something, but also like you just got back from hanging out with friends.
When does it start to “get good?”
Spirits isn’t a serialized audio drama, so you can jump in at any point. Fan favorite episodes are their “Your Urban Legends” series in which the hosts read and comment on listener-submitted urban legends from their own lives. I love this episode on the Yuki-Onna, the spirit of a woman who froze to death; this episode on angels; and this game show episode with Eric Silver on Join the Party. While Spirits isn’t overall an audio drama, it did have special scripted audio drama episodes for its second anniversary that I really love.
Why should I be listening?
First and foremost: Spirits is a phenomenal podcast. It’s the perfect combination of interesting, strange, funny, engaging, and educational. It balances its comedy with its actual information, always feeling natural and casual and never forced or monotonous. It’s exactly what I want from a nonfiction podcast: it exists for clear purposes, and while the hosts are funny, it’s obviously not an attempt to just be funny people who have a podcast. It’s insightful, but it’s also just an incredibly fun listen.
Listen Spirits if you like:
- Mythology-meet-modernity stories like American Gods or the Percy Jackson series
- Gothic stories like “A Rose for Emily” or the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books
- Pun-filled boozy media like Mamrie Hart’s “You Deserve a Drink” series on or Hannah Hart’s “My Drunk Kitchen” series
- Learning about different stories and cultures from the perspective of people who aren’t just racist and heteronormative
- Funny conversational podcasts like Oh No Ross and Carrie and My Brother, My Brother and Me