The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Dishes, going for a jog, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s officially impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.
Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your two into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about the death of a punk musician, the life of a classical musician, why life isn’t fair, and why prison sentences aren’t fair, either.
True crime podcast
Why should I listen? Perhaps you’ll find inspiration in exploring the mysteries in your own life.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? So far there are four episodes, each around a half an hour.
Describe it in one word: Raw(k).
Do you remember what the love of your life was wearing when you met? Will you still remember 40 years later? Billy Balls’s girlfriend Rebecca does. She and the musician were together five years before he was shot and killed in 1982. Over 35 years later, it’s clear Rebecca is still deeply mourning the loss.
The Ballad of Billy Balls is from Crimetown Presents, which also created The RFK Tapes podcast. Ballad feels different than the earlier, conspiracy-theory mystery show. Host iO Tillett Wright is sometimes content to let Rebecca monologue, reminiscing about New York City in the 1970s in her colorful, f-bomb-strewn prose. Ostensibly the podcast is about finding Billy’s cowboy-hat-wearing killer, but, as we learn in episode two, it’s also about something much more personal.
Why should I listen? It’s an exploration of a part of the gun control debate that’s often missed.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? There will be six episodes. The first is just under half an hour.
Describe it in one word: Sensitive.
In the second season of Charged, Slate reporter Emily Bazelon brings listeners stories from gun court. The court was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed solution to gun violence in the city. As Bazelon found out over two-and-a-half years covering Brooklyn’s gun court, the system disproportionately affects young men of color.
In the first episode, Bazelon talks to Tarari, a 24-year-old who loves music and performing. Feeling threatened by classmates and later some men who knew his sister, Tarari got a gun. Then he was arrested. Exactly what would happen to Tarari, and others like him, was up to the prosecutor. Around the time of Tarari’s arrest, Eric Gonzalez became Brooklyn’s district attorney, the first Latino to hold the position and a man with his own experiences of gun violence.
Why should I listen? Think of it as Behind the Music: Classical Edition, which is amazing.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? The first episode is just under 42 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Scherzando.
“How do you make the leap from prodigy to serious musician? Can you? And what’s the cost?” wonders host Jade Simmons, a classical concert pianist. The first episode focuses on Clara Schumann, a German composer and musician who became a sensation at a time when critics hailed her as pretty good, for a girl. She and her husband, Robert, another world-renowned composer, had a complicated relationship, chronicled in their shared journal (truly the 19th century equivalent of couples with joint Facebook pages). Simmons relates the story with witty asides and helps interpret for lay listeners why Clara’s music mattered.
Why should I listen? Because maybe the next time the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Consumer Product Safety Commission make the news, you’ll want to listen.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? The seven-episode series run between 40 and 49 minutes each.
Describe it in one word: Mediated.
There are no referees in the game of life. It sounds like a No Fear shirt, but it could also be the tagline for Michael Lewis’s new podcast.
The author of Moneyball and The Big Short asks what happens when there’s no one to complain to when life isn’t fair. Take student loans. If you have a servicer like Navient, they’ll try to keep your phone call to under seven minutes. That’s barely enough time to verify your identity, let alone explain the difference between deferment and forbearance. If that sounds familiar, you may have seen an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj about the issue. Hopefully, you haven’t lived through it.
- The best podcasts of 2020
- The best video game podcasts
- The 50 best movies on Netflix right now
- The 50 best movies on Hulu right now
- The best Studio Ghibli movies on HBO Max