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Arts & Culture, Reviews

Pandemic pop-ups: five podcasts produced during the global pandemic

Entertainment abound in the new quarantine-inspired soundscapes

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, podcasting has managed to provide a sort of creative emulation of social experience. The disruptive, isolating public health crisis has been the source of inspiration for many artists, musicians and authors. In particular, podcasters have been able to exceptionally produce projects that either directly respond to, or offer escape from, the current moment. Here are five podcasts that are bound to be a post-Quiet Period obsession. 

Our Plague Year

Hosted and produced by the twice-monthly podcast Welcome to Night Vale co-creator Joseph Fink, Our Plague Year documents and explores various experiences of lockdown since it first began in March. It is “an experiment in public anxiety,” according to the podcast’s website. Fink monologues about the way his life is changing through carefully written expositions. Though the podcast occasionally features a guest, Fink is usually contemplating current affairs alone, accompanied by comforting yet haunting music. His musings feel like a surreal nonfiction novel read aloud, a personal journal of experience that juxtaposes directly with our own.

Our Plague Year was released March 13 and can be found here.

Home Cooking

Renowned chef and food writer Samin Nosrat and experienced podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway collaborate on this podcast aimed to make the most of their pandemic pantry. They ask listeners to send in any cooking stories, questions or anxieties they have, and try to resolve it as best as possible. Though it was originally intended to have a short run as a mini-series, Home Cooking is now on its third season, with Nosrat and Hirway still dishing out episodes and recipes that each revolve around a singular key ingredient. From cans of beans to crates of turnips, this duo can help transform a hopeless pantry into a bountiful dinner. With lively and encouraging co-hosts to help, what better time is there to improve your cooking skills than during self-isolation?

Home Cooking was released March 27 and can be found here.

The Scaredy Cats Horror Show

Described in the podcast’s introduction as an exploration of whether “it’s possible to become a person who enjoys fear,” this podcast is a chronicle of PJ Vogt’s journey to get over his fear of horror movies with the help of his friend, Alex Goldman, a horror enthusiast. Both Vogt and Goldman are co-hosts of Reply All, a comedy and journalism podcast about the internet. While Reply All has had its own quarantine-inspired episode, The Scaredy Cats Horror Show is Vogt and Goldman’s own project, born out of the boredom of lockdown in New York City. With guest stars like actor Jason Mantzoukas and author Carmen Maria Machado, the podcast is a five-episode miniseries that reviews and reflects upon classic horror movies like The Exorcist as well as more recent films like Midsommar

The Scaredy Cats Horror Show was released April 30 and can be found here.

Murder on the Towpath

Journalist Soledad O’Brien vividly retells a murder investigation from 1964 that remains unsolved to this day. The podcast revolves around Mary Pinchot Meyer, a white socialite that was rumored to be one of JFK’s mistresses, and Dovey Johnson Roundtree, a black civil rights lawyer that defends Raymond Crump Jr., the black man falsely charged with the crime. O’Brien takes us deep into the details of the investigation and particulars of the court proceedings, delving into the lives of Meyer and Roundtree leading up to the moment their paths crossed as well. A timely podcast that explores the ways race, class and justice intersect, Murder on the Towpath is a miniseries that keeps listeners engaged until the very end. 

Murder on the Towpath was released May 25 and is available exclusively on Luminary.

The Michelle Obama Podcast

“Each episode really felt like a true reflection of the kind of discussions I’ve always had with the special people in my life,” Michelle Obama wrote in a Facebook post about the first season of her podcast. Intended as a way of evaluating “the relationships in our lives that make us who we are,” the former First Lady sits down to have informal discussions with the people closest to her. Obama hosts while her guests, ranging from her husband to her mother, sit down and tell personal stories as part of a larger meditation on current events and past experiences. The first season has now wrapped up, and is filled with sage advice and warm laughter that leaves listeners feeling comforted and inspired for whatever this year brings next.

The Michelle Obama Podcast was released July 29 and can be found here.

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