Best Podcasts of 2023


I won’t lie, 2023 was hard. But something that got me through, something that always seems to get me through, was podcasts.
As an introverted, homebody with social anxiety, podcasts are both my therapy and escapism. I originally posted these recommendations on my Instagram feed but I thought they deserved a spot here too, for all my fellow podcast junkies.

JUST THE GIST

Podcast recommendation. Just the Gist.

Best escapism podcast of all time. It threw me for a loop when Rosie and Jacob announced that they were ‘breaking up the band’, so to speak. Honestly, it affected me more than that time when I was 10 years old and my parents pulled me aside to tell me they were getting a divorce. Though, for context, even as a 10 year old I could see my parents’ divorce coming from a mile away and I remember my reaction to the news as being something along the lines of, ‘yeah, that makes sense, it’s probably for the best’. If you’ve never listened to it before, If you’re a ‘Just the Gist’ virgin, I hate you. I want to live in your mind for a day so I can listen to the whole thing over fresh.

It would be impossible to pick a favourite episode, but one that had my jaw on the floor, and my stomach in knots for a solid hour and fourteen minutes, was, ‘The pilot who was sucked out of a plane mid-flight’. The title pretty much says it all, but just wait until the end! Plot. Twist.

Another one that had me on the edge of my seat was, ‘The 1981 Trashman Yacht Sinking’. Admittedly, I had to pause this one several times, as I felt I was very much on the verge of a panic attack and needed to do some deep breathing exercises.

But if you, like me, are of an overly sensitive disposition and want to ease into it with something lighthearted, I wholeheartedly recommend the classic episode, ‘Stuart Semple Vs Anish Kapoor’. As a daughter of an artist and former art school student myself, I found this episode to be a hilarious and an apt window into the ridiculousness that is ‘the artworld’.
Best escapism podcast of all time. It threw me for a loop when Rosie and Jacob announced that they were ‘breaking up the band’, so to speak. Honestly, it affected me more than that time when I was 10 years old and my parents pulled me aside to tell me they were getting a divorce. Though, for context, even as a 10 year old I could see my parents’ divorce coming from a mile away and I remember my reaction to the news as being something along the lines of, ‘yeah, that makes sense, it’s probably for the best’. If you’ve never listened to it before, If you’re a ‘Just the Gist’ virgin, I hate you. I want to live in your mind for a day so I can listen to the whole thing over fresh.

It would be impossible to pick a favourite episode, but one that had my jaw on the floor, and my stomach in knots for a solid hour and fourteen minutes, was, ‘The pilot who was sucked out of a plane mid-flight’. The title pretty much says it all, but just wait until the end! Plot. Twist.

Another one that had me on the edge of my seat was, ‘The 1981 Trashman Yacht Sinking’. Admittedly, I had to pause this one several times, as I felt I was very much on the verge of a panic attack and needed to do some deep breathing exercises.

But if you, like me, are of an overly sensitive disposition and want to ease into it with something lighthearted, I wholeheartedly recommend the classic episode, ‘Stuart Semple Vs Anish Kapoor’. As a daughter of an artist and former art school student myself, I found this episode to be a hilarious and an apt window into the ridiculousness that is ‘the artworld’.

Listen here

WHO IS DANIEL JOHNS?

Podcast recommendation. Who is Daniel Johns?

When ‘Just the Gist’ shattered my heart, I went on a hunt to find a replacement, something to fill that gaping podcast-shaped hole. I can’t remember who recommended it to me, but I do remember thinking, ‘Well, I don’t know. Who the hell is Daniel Johns?’ My first instinct was true crime podcast. You know, like ‘Who is Daniel Johns? Where did the money go? And where is the body of Mary Lee-Anee?’—that sort of thing. A quick google search jogged my faltering ‘Geriatric Millennial’ brain. I have to say, I was hesitant at first, having next to no knowledge of the ‘enigmatic Silverchair frontman’ aside from some vague recollections from my Saturday morning ritual of watching ‘Rage’ in my PJ’s as a teen. I also generally have no interest in celebrities. But I gave it a shot and was instantly hooked. If I was feeling a bit down when I started listening to it by the end I was a mess. And that’s by no means an indictment of the quality of the show. It just hit really close to home. And not just because I can really relate to being an impossibly pretty, charismatic, talented super star. But rather because I had also grown up in a small working-class Australian town (not too far from Newcastle, in fact). I was bullied relentlessly for being shy and ‘different’. I then also developed a spectacularly destructive anxiety and eating disorder. In fact, I spent the night of my year twelve formal being admitted to a major Sydney hospital and getting a tube shoved down my throat in a last attempt to save my life. Needless to say, it brought back some fun memories. But aside from that, it was a fascinating look at mental health, Aussie culture, and the price of fame. If you, like me, have a vast catalogue of unprocessed traumatic, high school memories, go easy. But either way, this is definitely worth a listen. I’m certainly not sorry I gave it a go.

Listen here (only on Spotify)

TERRIBLE, THANKS FOR ASKING

Podcast recommendation. Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

Terrible, thanks for asking: If ‘Just the Gist’ is my escapism podcast, this is my therapy podcast. Nora McInerny has an eloquence and a way with words that makes me green with envy. Her ability to sum things up so simply, hilariously and succinctly makes me I feel like shouting ‘Yes! Those are words for that thingy I’ve been think/feeling in my brain about’. At it’s heart it’s a podcast about how sometimes shitty, horrible things happen and it’s OK to not be OK about them. When life gives you lemons, sometimes you just gotta eat them dam lemons. Not everyone has the sugar to make Lemonade, Karren. This podcast is the antithesis of toxic positivity. It’s remedial negativity(?). An episode that is close to my heart is the one on ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). But there are so many brilliant episodes about normal people going through difficult shit that just gives you a whole new perspective on, and appreciation for what other people are going through.

I recommend listening to ’Soooo OCD’ because I know I’ve certainly been guilty of flippantly saying those words in the past. This episode is an insight into the brain of three women who actually have OCD. And, spoiler alert, it’s a lot. With titles like ‘What to say about suicide?’ and ‘Incompatible with Life’ you’d be forgiven for thinking this podcast is a massive downer. But it’s not. Nora has a knack for tackling the darkest subject matter and somehow making it funny and relatable while still treating it with gravity and respect.

Listen here

HEAVYWEIGHT

Podcast recommendation. Heavyweight.

Storytelling at its finest. The premise of this show is simple yet ingenious. Jonathan Goldstien acts as an intermediary helping people resolve issues from their past. Want to confront your high school tormentor? Just ask Jonathan. Found an abandoned suitcase full of love letters and want to return them? Give Jonathan a call. Lent Moby a CD twenty years ago and now want it back? Jonathan’s your man.

The way Johnathan narrates these episodes is nothing short of brilliant. His disarming Canadian accent, coupled with his dry, self-deprecating humour alone are a recipe for success. Apart from the classic episode about attempting to reclaim a CD from Moby (#2 Gregor), some of my favourites are:

#16 Rob – What happens if you distinctly remember breaking your arm as child but your entire family has no memory of it? Did it ever even happen?

#19 Joey – (my favourite) A profoundly relatable episode in which a young man’s social awkwardness creates a misunderstanding, one that Jonathan helps him confront.

#22 Marchel – Where Jonathan tries to track down the one person who ruined the almost-perfect, filmic masterpiece, ‘Russian Ark’ by looking directly at the camera.

Most episodes leave you with a cathartic sense of resolution and order. A few leave you with a feeling of disquietude. But every single episode also leaves you with the lingering, unanswered question: Who is that woman, Jackie Cohen, that Jonathan phones at the beginning of every episode? And is her laughter an authentic expression of amusement or is it rather an unconscious reflex caused by deep-seated irritation?

Listen here

HIDDEN BRAIN

Podcast recommendation. Hidden Brain.

Possibly the first thing I listened to that made me fall in love with podcasts. I think I started listening to this one way back in 2015 or 2016. Over the years Shankar Vedantam’s voice has become like the comforting voice of an old, familiar friend. Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit panicky, I’ll put on the latest episode to help ease me back into the world of calm logic and rationality.

Hidden brain is the perfect podcast for anyone who has ever wondered why we think and behave in the way that we do. There are roughly 480 hour long episodes, so there is a lot to keep you going. And most episodes will prompt you to look at things from an entirely different perspective. That’s what I love about it. A few of my favourites are:

One Head, Two Brains – a fascinating episode about the left brain / right brain relationship.

Escaping Perfectionism – For all my fellow perfectionists out there. I’m still working on escaping my own perfectionism (but still not quite perfectly enough).

This Is Your Brain On Ads – an episode that is both illuminating and terrifying in equal measures.

Listen here

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