Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Alexi Duggins, Hannah Verdier and Lauren O'Neill

Best podcasts of the week: After heartbreak, Susan Wokoma starts over in Seoul

Susan Wokoma, star of Koreaboo.
Susan Wokoma, star of Koreaboo. Photograph: -

Picks of the week

Shaun Keaveny’s Daily Grind
Widely available, episodes daily from Monday
Fans of Keaveny’s now defunct 6 Music breakfast show will have a good idea of what to expect from his new daily podcast. It’s a delightfully rambling affair, featuring him accosting members of the public for chats on a towpath, segments recorded in a pub and celebrity chats that focus on the least starry topics possible – in episode one, it’s Joe Lycett on buses. “I’m an acquired taste … give it another 38 goes,” says Keaveny. You really should. Alexi Duggins

MrBallen’s Medical Mysteries
Widely available, episodes weekly
If you’re in the mood to hear chilling stories about what happens when your body lets you down, MrBallen has the goods. The cult “flannel-wearing backwards-hat-donning storyteller” covers hallucinations, being locked in a coma-like state and unidentified objects in your stomach – and as outlandish as his medical mysteries sound, he insists they’re true. HV

Ariyon Bakare, star of The Salvation.
Ariyon Bakare, star of The Salvation. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Observer

Widely available, episodes weekly
When Shayla (Susan Wokoma) loses the dream job she’s about to start and discovers her boyfriend is living a double life, she decides to seek a fresh start in Seoul. As luck would have it, she bumps into a boyband star and finds herself delivering snacks on a K-pop show to pay the rent in this gorgeously escapist podcast. HV

The Salvation
Audible, episodes weekly
Ariyon Bakare (above) stars as David Miller, a veteran living with PTSD who discovers his flashbacks are actually portals to time travel. It’s rich in radio drama-style shootout sound effects, but Bakare’s believability elevates the thriller and gives it depth. There’s a history-changing mission to complete, but how will Miller get his head round it? HV

Widely available, episodes weekly
Survival expert Donny Dust has the sort of voice that would calm you down if you were stuck in a tense situation, and he has plenty of stories about rescues to tell. From a father and son trapped in frozen Arctic waters to the commuters in the Paddington train crash, Dust celebrates everyday heroes. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Sylvester James, subject of Sound Barrier.
Sylvester James, subject of Sound Barrier. Photograph: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

This week, Lauren O’Neill chooses five of the best podcasts on untold life stories, from the rise of Robin Williams to the legacy of Sylvester

Sound Barrier: Sylvester
The singer Sylvester is best known for the 1978 disco anthem “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, and while that track alone is a phenomenal legacy, Sylvester’s impact goes much deeper than many are aware. Spotify’s Sound Barrier: Sylvester podcast, hosted by New York University’s Jason King, explores Sylvester’s importance both during his heyday – as an influential post-disco artist, and a queer person in the public eye, who often performed in drag – and in the present, decades after his death in 1988. King’s analysis is paired with new and historic interviews with the likes of Patti LaBelle, Big Freedia and Billy Porter – not to mention Sylvester himself – to do justice to a musical giant and an icon of queer culture.

Unobscured: Grigori Rasputin
The conceit of historical podcast Unobscured, hosted by Aaron Mahnke, is that the past is full of stories we think we know, but which actually we don’t necessarily have quite right – indeed, the first three seasons of the show cover myth-surrounded figures and events like the Salem Witch Trials and Jack the Ripper. The fourth, however, concerns the life story of one Grigori Rasputin, the most feared and mysterious figure of the late Russian Empire. Told entertainingly through Mahnke’s engaging narrative style – it’s almost like listening to a fictional audiobook – this is an unexpectedly gripping listen.

Knowing: Robin Williams
It’s rare that a public figure inspires such across-the-board adoration as the late, great Robin Williams. Williams was beloved to many as one of the finest comic actors of his generation, though little was known about his personal struggles before his death in 2014, following a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Knowing: Robin Williams sees Kirsty Westgard and New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff (also the author of the biography Robin) explore the comedian’s life over the course of eight episodes, via archive clips, unheard interviews with the man himself and conversations with those who knew and loved him.

Bad Gays
If longform isn’t quite your style, the format of a podcast like Bad Gays might be more what you’re after. Having now also spawned a book, each episode takes a different culturally prominent “bad gay” (Ronnie Kray, J. Edgar Hoover and Alexander the Great are all represented) and explores their biography through the lens of sexuality. Hosted by writers Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller, Bad Gays is an intelligent but novel look at some of history’s most fascinating figures, and, over time, doubles as an exploration of how perceptions of homosexuality have developed and changed as the centuries have rolled on.

You Must Remember This: Charles Manson’s Hollywood
Host Karina Longworth is essentially podcasting royalty, because her show, which explores the seedy corners and roaring excesses of Hollywood over the decades, is so reliably good. While her seasons on the erotic thrillers of the 1980s and the “dead blondes” of the Golden Age make for great listening, however, it’s the run titled Charles Manson’s Hollywood which remains the peak of the show’s brilliance. While, of course, Manson remains deeply infamous, Longworth’s diligent research and enthralling storytelling shows us how little we really knew about this notorious figure and his ties to the world’s most glamorous town.

Why not try …

  • The mindfulness maven du jour has been outed as a fraud, and Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg are here to navigate what’s real from what’s a real waste of time in How to Be Fine.

  • Where business wars meets pop culture. Beef tells the stories of legends in their fields trying to stomp out their competition only to find their enemies become the driving force behind their success.

  • The home for all your pop culture cravings, from social media trends, reality TV, and celebrity culture and TikTok drama, nothing is off limits in Pop Off.

If you want to read the complete version of the newsletter please subscribe to receive Hear Here in your inbox every Thursday

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.