May’s Top 10 Podcast Episodes

I kept up pretty well this month in cataloguing all the best podcast episodes I listened to in May, finishing my list days before the end of the month. This was probably for the best, because podcast listening is taking a backseat for the Sunday Assembly conference this weekend.

This month was a mix of brand new podcasts (for just me, maybe) as well as great favorites making a return. Peruse them and see if any strike you as interesting! I’d love to hear what others listen to, as well.

Here’s the list:

Reasonably Sound 20 – The Drop

Technically this was “dropped” on the last day of April, but I enjoyed it after I wrote April’s list, so it gets to slip into this one. I’d only do this for really great episodes, which this one is! Mike Rugnetta introduces the audience to the world of raves and mosh pits and EDM and describes the structure of a classic song that has a purposeful Drop or two in it. He cites others in describing the phenomenon of experiencing the rise and fall of this type of music, and shares the surprising (to me) history of his time personally at parties like this. It’s another fascinating immersion into a corner of the world of sound.

On The Media – Bad Doug Rising

This episode was also released before May started, but I liked it a lot. Actually a spin-off show called “On House of Cards“, this episode reviews an episode in the middle of season 3. I loved this episode because it was a conversation with Michael Kelly, the actor who plays Doug Stamper. Stamper is Underwood’s most loyal follower and has one long arc of recovery through this entire season. Kelly offers some fantastic insights into the process of creating the show and his interpretation of certain moments, and the conversation goes beyond the single episode into the entire series. If you’re a House of Cards fan and want to know more, give this a shot.

Southern Surf Stompcast 9

I found out about this Southern surf rock music podcast from chatting up its host in a music shop while my sister practiced flute! We bonded over mutual love for The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and he told me about his own show! It has reinvigorated my love for the relaxing, fun sound of guitars on the beach with an hour of mostly-instrumental grooves. It was such a delight to come across this. Hit up Chad Shivers on Twitter if you’re so inclined!

99% Invisible – The Gruen Effect

I’ve known about this podcast for a long while, but I’m finally getting around to listening. What a treat that the first episode I listen to is about the design of malls and shop layouts (a classic example of hidden design, the theme of the show). An extra surprise was that one of the guests was from Georgia Tech and talked about Plaza Fiesta, a mall-turned-diverse-shopping-center. It was great to learn about the man behind this movement, including how much he hated cars?

Sawbones – Sweating Sickness

I started listening to this podcast in May, as well, after the suggestion from Chad of the Southern Surf Stompcast. It’s a series about disease and medicine told by a married couple: one who knows about the subject and one who jokes about it. The tone and fun of this episode is evident in just a few jokes, like the hosts’ rejection of the name “sweating sickness” because of how badly it describes the disease. They also go over the history of sweating sickness (largely an English plague) and even become impressed with its impact on history! This podcast seems to be another example of that perfect mix of fun and educational that I’m into these days.

Reply All #23 – Exit & Return, Part I

This two-part Reply All episode is a personal story about a Hasidic Jew in an enclosed community who becomes so interested in the outside world through the internet that he becomes ousted, losing his family and children. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, but never outright hostile towards the Hasidic community and their ways. It’s also noteworthy for portraying the story of a deconversion to atheism, which is a positive step to hear about.


Planet Money #625 – The Last Job

Planet Money spent a lot of this month focusing on technology, robotics, AI, and how all that will destroy our jobs. So many episodes were great that I had to go back and replace an episode on the (slightly) misunderstood Luddites in favor of this one. “The Last Job” is a departure from usual Planet Money reporting in that it’s a work of fiction, a kind of audio drama. It was a story pondering the fate of the last job for a human that was enthralling and poignant.

Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show #143 – The Mystery Show

Maybe I shouldn’t say anything about this episode? Nah. Rubin and two comedians/writers he’s friends with play a card game that faces off geeky, nerdy pop culture figures in battle. It’s similar to The Metagame, a game I helped Kickstart a while ago and finally obtained recently, in that the fun of the game is in being creative and imaginative with your strategies for defeating your opponent’s cards with what you laid down. I’m a fan of this genre of game, so this episode was a treat for me. Hopefully it is for you, as well!

Cracked Podcast #74 – The Horrible 90s Hit Song That Explains The Modern World

The title of this Cracked podcast episode doesn’t lend itself well to understanding what to expect, so allow me to try. Framing the conversation around Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, the hosts chat about how easy it is for some people to dismiss the past as not being our responsibility, all the while benefiting from what the past afforded them. They address many objections to progressive ideas based on the existence of systemic inequality, including some thoughtful consideration for people who might be privileged in some ways but still down on their luck and tired of hearing about it. It was a frank discussion about our culture’s mentality that I hope changes minds, or at least shifts them the tiniest amount.

Spawn On Me #63 – Blackademics

Spawn On Me is a dope show about gaming, often exploring diversity in industry, players, and games. Their conversations always go a little deeper than the surface, and they’ve become a regular listen for me!

This episode was amazing because it featured people teaching about gaming and additionally focusing on diversity therein. It was fascinating to hear from the professors’ positions how students respond to classes like this and how to win them over. “Blackademics” was nonstop full of new information about how the treatment of video gaming in educational and academic spaces is evolving over time. Highly recommended!

Honorable mentions:

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe 10-Hour Live Event

This marathon on May 2nd was in honor of the SGU’s tenth anniversary. I had it on for a good portion of the afternoon, loving the interviews and conversations through the day on a wide range of subjects related to skeptical activism. The live stream ended on a thoughtful note of the hosts being lifelong learners while still being teachers of a sort on the show. Even Rebecca showed up to chat!

Planet Money #624 – I, Waiter

Another “machines take over” Planet Money episode enters the world of the tablet waiter, with its benefits, downsides, and effects on the dining experience. This is a place I’m surprised technology has taken this long to insert itself into, and it seems to be with significant changes.

Spawn On Me #62 – Leigh Alexander Takes Us Offworld

Spawn On Me knocked it out of the park this month with another great episode with Leigh Alexander as a guest. I was a little surprised at myself that I had apparently never heard Alexander’s voice before, having apparently only ever read her words. The conversation spans her work and how she got to be writing for Offworld as well as why video game stories are often… just bad.

What did you listen to this month?

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