The Top Weirdest Podcasts
Well, really more like superlatives
Hello! Happy end-of-year, friends.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the support and love that you’ve given Articles Of Interest. I’m sort of blown away.
Articles of Interest was named one of the best podcasts of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The LA Review of Books, The Atlantic, Blackbird Spyplane and, most of all, my fellow picky colleagues in the podcast industry. Also, Powerhouse books did a new reprint of Take Ivy and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Thank you so much. I’m not a big show (lol I am a girl alone in her closet) and so this kind of recognition … I mean, it’s sort of existentially affirming. I really finally went my own direction and made this weird over-complicated thing and you brilliant people liked it?! I’m floored. Thank you.
So as the year winds down, I find myself getting into a reflective mood, and thinking about all the weird podcasts that inspired me. I have all these ideas about what I think works and what I think I like. But 2022 was a year where all my rules were broken, in the best way. A number of shows challenged what I like and why. None of these should work. They all did.
Here were my rules and the podcasts that broke them in 2022
The Rule: Branded Podcasts Suck
The Breaker: Tagline, from Muse by Clio
The Clio Awards are for advertising campaigns. And this podcast is from their content division. But I kid you not- this shit is SO well done and fascinating, it’s like Song Exploder but for ads. One of my favorite old school episodes of 99% Invisible was this one by Starlee Kine about where the GEICO caveman ads came from (it’s actually really surprising and profound)- and this podcast is like all different versions of that story. I loved learning about ads that I didn’t know were ads (like the Dumb Ways To Die video and Ted Lasso!) but my favorite is the incredible story of the the Dos Equis campaign “The Most Interesting Man In The World.” (Hat tip to Gimlet editor Brendan Klinkenberg for this recommendation)
The Rule: You Can’t do an Action Sequence in Audio
The Breaker: The System, from the BBC
Aunty Beeb has done it again. This is wild- The System had actual like fight scenes and chase sequences and I cannot believe they worked. I’ve never heard of anything like this. This really felt like having a great TV show that I couldn’t wait to get back to. It was probably the most engrossed I’ve been in an action plot since Homecoming. (Hat tip to NYT reporter Reggie Ugwu for this recommendation)
The Rule: No Singing, Please
The Breaker: Newts! from PRX
I am not into musicals. Especially not in podcasts. I don’t want to hear someone talk and then break out into song. I don’t think I would have even tried Newts! if I wasn’t predisposed to like it- because it’s made by the brilliant Ian Coss, who did engineering and some sound design on Articles of Interest. But like, this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard. It’s a faithful adaption of Karel Čapek’s 1936 sci fi novel War With The Newts, but reimagined with surf rock interludes. It fuckin works. And I still have some of the songs stuck in my head they are so dang catchy… with softens the blow of the devastating ending.
The Rule: No Wall-to- wall Scoring
The Breaker: Millennial History
I have a lot of ideas about how sound design should be used. I get really antsy about fade outs (hate em!) and get so fussy about how much space to put in between songs. My idea has always been that music shouldn’t set a mood or tell you how to feel- but it should be used strategically as chapter separations. To start and stop when new ideas and concepts start and stop. Does that makes sense? This podcast, which I discovered at the Amsterdam Podcast Festival, breaks all my rules. It’s wall to wall music. So much music. And the music is integral to the production- the creators of millennial history have gathered music from the countries where the stories take place, and woven them into the plot. I find myself loving the music as much as I love the enriching interviews. The three part series Children Of The Decree, about orphanages in Romania, still haunts me. (There’s this damning insight about American optimism has has actually changed a lot of how I think)
The Rule: The podcast has to be in English for me to understand it
The Breaker: Imaginary Advice, The True Crime of Your Frozen Death
I don’t speak any language other than English. Ok I knew German once but I forgot it. And I cannot believe that The True Crime Of Your Frozen Death is entirely in Italian. And you can get it. You definitely have to work at it a little bit, but it’s sort of beautiful to try to grasp it. It really reminds me of the days when I would read a book in German and be like “I am pretty sure this is what is happening, is this what’s happening?” And then it was soooo gratifying to be right. I assure you, when you listen to this, you will probably be right. No one but THE Ross Sutherland could pull this off, and I am perpetually amazed by him.
The Rule: Mainstream podcasts are all hosted by celebrities and about cults and they’re so stupid
The Breaker: Twin Flames
I should hate everything about this show. This is like- everything I try to go against in podcasting. And Twin Flames so fucking good. I gobbled it up. Usually these sorts of shows sort of give up the ghost right away by starting with the most bombastic parts, but this one does such a good job of teasing you along and making you really care about the characters. And Stephanie Beatriz proves that sometimes a celebrity can come in and read their host lines off a piece of paper …and actually do a really good job.
Here, I put these into a spotify playlist for you
And! If you’d like to learn more about podcasting- and maybe about how to make a podcast yourself, I’m actually teaching a class about how to make and produce and sell your shows at Union Docs in Ridgewood- and there are still some spaces left!
I’ve lined up some of THE best teachers in the game and I’m so excited for it. Let me know if I’ll see you there?
Stay tuned- I promise I’ll get back to talking about fashion and not just podcasts.
Here’s to the new year, and new rules being broken in surprising ways.
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American Ivy is a real triumph. Who knew the history of Ivy style could be so compelling? Avery did!!! A big thanks to you and your team. The shows were well structured and edited - and best of all - great story telling. Besides Ivy, I feel I have a great understanding of the evolution of American style. Well done!
Avery, I came upon American Ivy after hearing you interviewed on NPR. Kudos for a compelling series on Ivy style, and finding a way to contextualize it into a history lesson that transcends clothes. I always professed to being anti-prep — certainly in high school and college — but over the years adopted chinos and polo shirts and other elements (but never, ever boat shoes, which I consider to be a key preppy signifier).
You're narration is terrific, professional but friendly. My wife and I inhaled the entire series during a car ride to Georgia and back. Thanks for making the long drives far more bearable.