I’ve been thinking a lot about a piece from Nicholas Quah in Vulture this fall about how podcasting had failed to produce a zeitgeisty, water-cooler show since the heights of “Serial,” when it seemed everyone — your co-workers, your friends, strangers on the subway — had a theory on the murder of Hae Min Lee. Podcasting has soared since then in volume, if not popularity. There’s always a new show to recap the latest TV series or a reality TV star with a modest Instagram following who just bought a mic. The top podcasts on Apple’s charts are almost always the same few with massive followings. There are also the solid everyday listens — “The Daily,” “Today Explained” and “Up First,” among others — that consistently repopulate one’s feed, maybe pushing down the more niche series and experimental listens that might have taken hold a decade ago.
That’s not to say no one’s trying anything new or unearthing a story that hasn’t yet been told. It just might be harder to find it.
Anecdotally, it seems like the best way to discover a new show is by word of mouth — I’ve had several people recommend the delightful “Normal Gossip,” which appears on the list below, IRL. Others I downloaded just because the premise seemed interesting.
Not every show on this list was started this year — there are some established podcasts still doing great work that deserved nods — while others are some of our favorite new offerings. Some of the shows below regularly update, while others are self-contained seasons. All in all, they’re the best things the HuffPost staff has listened to in 2022. We hope you’ll find a new favorite among them. — Jillian Capewell
Race To 35
I have laughed, cried and furiously taken notes throughout my time listening to Monica Padman and Liz Plank’s new podcast, “Race to 35.” The two chronicle their egg-freezing and retrieval journey on the pod, which is devoted to insightful conversations about womanhood, fertility, parenthood and Monica’s reluctance to do TikToks.
I’ve loved how both serious and silly this podcast is, as the two give themselves permission to ask guests entry-level questions (that we all want to know the answer to), admit when they’re scared about certain parts of the process, talk through their unease and discomfort and joy around possibly becoming a parent, and really pioneer a new conversation around egg freezing. The two have had such amazing guests — Emily Oster, Chelsea Handler and Christina Perri among them — and have covered topics like what it’s like to go through miscarriage after miscarriage, why some people want to be childless and how to best educate yourself on the misinformation that comes along with women and medicine (can we get more funding, PLEASE?!).
Full disclosure, I’m not actually thinking about freezing my eggs, but I’m a devoted ArmCherry and just wanted to see what this podcast “was all about.” I’m so glad I listened — and you will be too. — Carly Ledbetter
The ethics of gossip and the often sexist judgments toward gossiping are frequently a topic of conversation amongst my friends, so it makes sense that we have latched onto Defector Media’s “Normal Gossip.” Hosted by Kelsey McKinney, a self-proclaimed insufferable gossip, each episode features a different guest who shares their relationship to gossip and then listens to McKinney read them a juicy, anonymized story submitted by a listener. While the podcast was only released this year, there are already three seasons’ worth of messy stories, ranging from friend trips gone wrong to neighborhood scandals; my personal favorite is Season 2, Episode 6: Podcast Famous, which tells the tale of a friend group’s intense obsession with a podcast that crosses boundaries in completely unexpected ways.
“Normal Gossip” elicits the feeling of doing recon in a bar bathroom with friends, or receiving a text that says, “Can I say something mean?” — it’s thrilling, it’s hilarious and it’s reclaiming the joy of being nosy. — Alexandra Niforos
Despite reports that I was a “Baby Beluga” diehard in toddlerhood, I hadn’t thought much about legendary children’s singer-songwriter Raffi since then — until I stumbled upon this podcast. Host Chris Garcia, a comedian and new father who becomes curious about the guy behind “Bananaphone,” tracks the musician’s beginnings, his enduring legacy and his advocacy for children, interspersing interviews with Raffi himself alongside his collaborators and children’s experts.
Raffi, who started out in Toronto’s folk scene, stood firm against big brands and studios that wanted to capitalize on his popularity, maintaining that he didn’t want to subject his young fans to an increasingly commercialized world. It’s a fascinating, nostalgic and cozy look at the originator of so many childhood favorites. — Jillian Capewell
Being a national news reporter can sometimes feel like being a hazmat diver: It’s a paycheck, but you end up covered in muck. Politicians, PR masters, corporate communications departments, mainstream media networks — everyone has their “spin” on current events, and powerful interests are often successful in shaping headlines and influencing the popular understanding of “the news.”
That’s where “Citations Needed,” a podcast about “the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit,” comes in. Hosts Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson are experts at unpacking the news behind the headlines, picking apart phony studies, and showing how the historical inertia behind nebulous concepts like “national security” or being “tough on crime” is often used to prop up, well, bullshit. Shirazi and Johnson have a great rapport and often include well-informed guests. Worth a listen if you’re trying to decontaminate your news diet. — Matt Shuham
Cocktails And Takeaways
“Cocktails and Takeaways” is one of the freshest and most conversational podcasts I listened to this year. Hosted by the ever lovable and charismatic Madame Joyce, the podcast is like pulling up on one of your homegirls with a bottle of wine and shooting the shit about any- and everything. Amid a podcast universe where toxic masculinity and trifling relationship advice can feel as all-consuming as ever, Madame Joyce brings easy conversation with numerous guests who talk about everything from their unpopular opinions to risqué but relatable sexual exploits to celeb gossip.
Nothing is left uncovered on the series, and the podcast team can effortlessly hop from episode to episode talking about the housing crisis in the U.K. and mental health awareness or BBLs and the latest drama on “Love Island.” Best of all, Madame Joyce has an infectious laugh that will leave you smiling all the way to the very last second of the episode. — Erin E. Evans
When people think of the word “cheerleader,” I’d wager a decent amount of them envision the star-spangled, high-kicking Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. I’m pretty sure I knew what a DCC was as a kid, even before I learned the Cowboys were a football team. But there’s a lot more behind the pompoms and hip swivels — Cowboys cheerleaders are expected to be sexy but wholesome, athletic but lithe, and they’re told they’re living the dream while barely making rent.
On “America’s Girls,” host Sarah Hepola explores the DCC’s history and legacy, examining the contradictions inherent in the organization while still celebrating it and honoring the women who contributed to the squad. Hepola speaks to former cheerleaders, including the first woman to ever don the iconic uniform, the dressmaker who put it together and the onetime English teacher who started the squad itself. This illuminating show, peppered with charming interviews, is one worth cheering for. — Capewell
“Rockonteurs,” hosted by rock musicians Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) and Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd, Madonna), looks at musicians, producers and other figures behind some of the biggest bands, songs and concerts of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Highlights of the show’s 2022 season include the episodes with Noddy Holder of Slade; rock-journalist-turned-publicist Barbara Charone; and music producer Ken Scott, who worked with the Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie and more. Kemp and Pratt are also part of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, which recreates the early Pink Floyd sound, and they’ve had Mason on the show twice. — Ed Mazza
Talking Derry Girls
Like many Americans, I discovered the show “Derry Girls” on Netflix and immediately fell in love with the characters, as well as the backdrop for their hilarious antics ― the city of Derry, Northern Ireland. Sadly, the third and final season of the show wasn’t available to U.S. viewers until October of this year, but as I awaited its release, I was fortunate to have the ladies of the “Talking Derry Girls” podcast to keep me company.
The podcast is both an excellent companion to the show and a delightful standalone listen. Hosted by three ladies who group up in the titular town, “Talking Derry Girls” offers hilarious and heartwarming commentary about the series, interviews with cast members and actual Derry locals, a solid dose of culture and history, and plenty of “craic.” Over the course of my listening, I’ve laughed, cried and learned a lot of Irish slang that I hope I can use during a future visit someday. — Caroline Bologna
Fruit Love Letters
“Fruit Love Letters” is true to its name, in that the episodes are quite literally odes to fruits that many of our supply chain-normalized palates might see as common or underappreciated. Host Jessamine Starr, a chef based in Atlanta, dives deep into the sometimes improbable histories of certain fruits with farmers, scientists, chefs and enthusiasts to reciprocate in kind the love fruits give to us regularly. Through her expansive research into different cultural uses and place-based origin stories, you’ll never take for granted an avocado, apple or fig again. — Jared Greenhouse
Welcome To Provincetown
Listening to this podcast felt like tagging along on a life-changing summer vacation — one spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a once-sleepy beach town on the Cape that’s now known as a haven for artists and LGBTQ folks. Host Mitra Kaboli spends a season documenting P-town and its residents, from queer youth on their own for the first time to old-timers to performers hustling nonstop while business is good.
By checking in regularly with a rotating cast of characters, Kaboli showcases the town’s bass-thumping, party-centric side — she calls it at one point “the horniest place I’ve ever been” — as well as the less-fun reality of a town where housing, especially affordable housing, is scant, limiting who can actually come and live out their best P-town summer. It’s a loving travelogue and a testament to the importance of accessible queer spaces. — Capewell
We Were Three
Much like grief, the pandemic is not a tidy thing with concrete edges and ends. From a bird’s-eye view, so much is back to normal: The airports are full again, the trains stuffed with commuters, weddings and birthdays going on as planned. But up close, so many are still dealing with COVID-19 and its aftershocks, the loss of more than 1 million American lives and a populace that is quick to forget.
That is the best case I can make for why “We Were Three” feels like an essential part of our collective processing. The three-part podcast centers on Rachel McKibbens and her relationship with her father and brother, who both died from COVID. Their story moves between recent history — 2020, when paranoia and misinformation were peaking — and earlier in their lives. “We Were Three” is a searching, heart-wrenching look at loss, family, abuse and the possibilities that the pandemic cut short. — Capewell
Angie Martinez IRL
We’ve gotten to know radio personality Angie Martinez over the years as “the voice of New York” on Hot 97 and Power 105.1, interviewing some of the world’s biggest celebrities and artists. This year, she finally launched her own podcast, “Angie Martinez IRL,” where she talks to celebrities about their lives, their fears, their desires and their superpowers.
The series kicked off with a deeply introspective conversation with actor Lauren London, who lost her partner Nipsey Hussle in 2019. London talks matter-of-factly about her grieving process in a way that is relatable to anyone who’s been “on the front row of a funeral,” she says. That episode in particular has stuck with me since the podcast’s premiere in July.
In other episodes, Martinez effortlessly gets celebs — including Mary J. Blige, Derek Jeter and Usher — to be their most vulnerable selves. And in some episodes, like the one with Kelly Rowland, Martinez herself opens up to audiences like never before, sharing the story of when she found out that her estranged father was in fact still alive. It is a heartfelt and often fun listen that will have you thinking about your own life in brand-new ways. — Evans
Sometimes all I want a podcast to do is to take over my internal monologue so I can give my own thoughts a rest. Emma Chamberlain’s “Anything Goes” is perfect for that — the YouTuber with an excellent eye for interior design and a knack for making small talk at the Met Gala covers all kinds of topics, from failure to sex to living in Los Angeles, in a chill, stream-of-consciousness format. One of my favorite recent topics was “Is anyone actually cool?”
I prefer it to the typical format of celebrity-led podcasts with a rotation of famous guests. There’s no preamble or mutual gushing, just Chamberlain’s reflections and beyond-her-years insights put center stage. I really could have used this podcast in my 20s, but I still have plenty to learn, and the clear-eyed, gentle journeys through Chamberlain’s mind are ideal for a quiet moment of self-care. — Capewell
Chicago comedians Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes have spent five years and more than 700 episodes peeling back the curtain of the conspiracy platform Infowars. The two hosts have sacrificed their own sanity to bring listeners an in-depth look at the circus run by Alex Jones, the host of “Infowars” who was recently ordered to pay more than $1 billion to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims for lies he spread about them on his show. Informative, enraging and always funny, “Knowledge Fight” has been cited by numerous publications over the years, and it’s required listening for anyone interested in how purveyors of disinformation make their money off lies. — Sebastian Murdock
Twenty Thousand Hertz
A podcast focused on sound might sound like an obvious concept — of course, a medium you primarily listen to would be well-suited for that. But “Twenty Thousand Hertz,” which has been doing excellent, niche deep dives on the sounds of daily life since 2016, is anything but obvious. This year, host Dallas Thomas explored the iconic gibberish language of “The Sims,” Windows log-on jingles, the TikTok voice-to-text lady and 900 numbers of the ’80s and ’90s, to name just a few. Learning more about each sound adds a richness to the quotidian, the realization that there’s so much more behind the things we hear all the time. If you haven’t given this show a try yet, you should. — Capewell
This Is Dating
Even the most diehard reality dating show devotee (me) can admit the genre is lacking in some serious ways. There’s the glaring lack of diversity (race, sexuality, body size — you name it). The overly produced drama. The well-worn tropes. Sometimes you just want the fun of listening about someone else’s dating life without all the baggage — which is where “This Is Dating” comes in.
Four singles have their first dates recorded on video chat — with producers listening in and throwing them conversation starters and questions aimed to get past typical small talk along the way. Behavioral scientist and dating coach Logan Ury is also on hand to work through dating hangups and provide insights for anyone who’s swiping endlessly into the void. It’s a pinch of voyeurism, a dash of self-help and, if nothing else, welcome commiseration for anyone still looking for the one. — Capewell