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 articles here.
All About Alba Salix
What is Alba Salix?
Alba Salix is a comedy audio fiction about the eponymous Alba Salix, the royal physician to the King and Queen of a fantastical land. With her assistants Holly, a fairy who’s indebted herself to Alba, and Magnus, a teenage wannabe-surgeon who has done the exact opposite, Alba has to diagnose her patients and give them treatment, even when they insist they know better than her or have a desperate need to stir up some hijinks. Each episode is about half an hour, and the first episode of the second season was released today, November 2nd, 2018.
Okay, but what is it really?
Like any good fantastical comedy, Alba Salix is ostensibly about mishaps in a mythical realm, but it’s really about issues today. Alba Salix deals with themes of sexism and racism: Alba, as a healer who is a woman, and Holly, a fairy, both face fairly rampant discrimination from both clients and Magnus, initially.
Alba Salix also has a sharp focus on power structures and what makes them almost inherently corrupt. It’s typical for fantasy to tackle a hunger for power, a dive too deep in ambition–but Alba Salix handles these all with real life (but not too on-the-nose) parallels. Its spinoff series, The Axe & Crown, for instance, is a specific inquiry into gentrification and its effects on a community–all told while remaining hilarious.
What makes it different from other podcasts?
First, Alba Salix is genuinely hilarious. Like Wooden Overcoats, it feels like a sitcom done right. Each episode has one contained storyline, with an overall arc for each major character. It’s not that the stakes are low, but instead that Alba Salix is a truly fun, engaging, insightful listen without leaving the listener feeling stressed or anxious. It’s an audio fiction that feels both like ear candy and ear protein: it’s a beautifully-edited and designed series with solid acting and hilarious writing that feels like a lovely escape, but it also touches on enough social commentary to provide more than just fluff. It’s filled with rich character you can root for, even when you hate them, and its world–while ridiculous–is so well-established you’ll want to steep in it for as long as possible.
And you can, because the world of Alba Salix is not just Alba Salix. It’s also the aforementioned The Axe & Crown and the Dungeon World actual play podcast The End of Time and Other Bothers, both of which take place in the Alba Salix universe. You don’t have to listen to all three to understand what’s happening in them, but you’ll want to.
When does it start to “get good?”
Alba Salix is solid right from the first episode. With six-episode seasons, there’s no time wasted in episodes that are anything less than fantastic.
Why should I be listening?
You should be listening to Alba Salix because it’s the perfect mix of hilarious fun and a biting social edge. It’s the type of sitcom we need right now: one that feels good, that feels like an escape, but also understands the reality of the world. It pokes fun at them without being dismissive of their effects. It builds characters that are deeply sympathetic, who you want to see grow, who you can see yourself in. Alba Salix feels good to listen to, in every regard.
Listen Alba Salix if you like:
- The witty, goofy writing and characters of the sillier moments in Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Dragon Prince, Voltron: Legendary Defender
- Comedies that take fairytale settings and turn them on their head, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Wicked, Ella Enchanted, and yes, Shrek
- Workplace comedies like The Office or 30 Rock
- Sharp medical comedies like Scrubs or M*A*S*H
- The best eras of Futurama (Alba Salix is not unlike what Disenchantment could, should be)
You can find more information about Alba Salix, including episode transcripts, on their website. You can support Alba Salix, The Ace & Crown, and The End of Time and Other Bothers on creators Eli McIlveen and Sean Howards’ Patreon.