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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Alexi Duggins, Hannah Verdier, Hollie Richardson and Ammar Kalia

Best podcasts of the week: Trans moshpits, non-binary emo and the power of music for queer lives

Sounds Gay explores the impact of music on the LGBTQ+ community.
Sounds Gay explores the impact of music on the LGBTQ+ community. Photograph: Gianni Muratore/Alamy

Picks of the week

Dinner’s on Me with Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Widely available, episodes weekly
In this lofi podcast, the Modern Family star uses his contacts to bag freebie meals in New York and LA for a new guest each week. From trying kiwi croissants with his excitable co-star Julie Bowen (“That’s crack!” she exclaims in pleasure) to sampling green chutney pizza with Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams, Ferguson is an amiable, cheery conversationalist – even if it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is all a massive blag. Alexi Duggins

Intersections: Detroit
Widely available, episodes weekly

This thoughtful series curated by poet Jessica Care Moore is a five-year-long portrait of a city using interviews with more than 100 residents. As you’d expect from a place with a rich musical heritage, it features a hypnotic soundtrack from Detroit artists and original music by Brian Eno. A colourful journey from voice to voice. AD

Lana Condor, star of sci-fi show Hidden Signal: Evergreen.
Lana Condor, star of sci-fi show Hidden Signal: Evergreen. Photograph: Erik Voake/NETFLIX

Sounds Gay
Widely available, episodes weekly

Sarah Esocoff promises to take listeners to a “trans moshpit and a heated rap battle” in her beautiful and surprising podcast about queer people whose lives have been transformed by music. First up is an exploration of the contemporary Christian scene and how it billed itself as rebellious counterculture in the face of the gay, lesbian and feminist 1990s. Hannah Verdier

We Can Be Weirdos
Widely available, episodes weekly

No Such Thing As a Fish alumnus Dan Schreiber celebrates brilliant people’s “weird” beliefs, ideas and theories in this new series. He asks each guest questions from a “little bit of batshit” list to learn their quirks – starting with neurosurgeon Harith Akram, who found the cure for chronic pain and has a great story about a man who couldn’t stop making puns during brain surgery. Hollie Richardson

Hidden Signal: Evergreen
Widely available, episodes weekly

Alan Cumming is the world’s richest man and Lana Condor (pictured above) is the assistant who becomes trapped in his underground biosphere in this sci-fi thriller. With her are the seven smartest minds in the world, who all believe an asteroid has hit Earth. Cumming is a delight as the evil mastermind pulling the strings. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Jane Austen.
Jane Austen. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

This week, Ammar Kalia chooses five of the best niche podcasts, from a deep dive into the written works of Jane Austen to a podcast about the humble pen itself

Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet
There is no better way to plumb the depths of obscurity than to go searching for negative reviews of strange products and places online. This long-running podcast from siblings Alex and Christine Schiefer pays hilarious tribute to the niche world of one-star reviews, providing dramatic readings of everything from screeds against suburban branches of Hooters restaurants in the US to dud strands of weed, caves, matchmaking services, and wedding chapels. It is as much an exploration into the psyche of the people who feel compelled to leave reviews as it is an unearthing of the unusual places and things they experience.

Centuries of Sound
Since sound recording began in the 19th century, sonic traces of our history have ranged from changing styles of music to recorded speeches, radio broadcasts and the simple bustle of background noise. British sound artist James Errington has been compiling this audio archive since starting his podcast in 2017, making immersive sound mixes of music, chatter and atmosphere for each year from the 1850s onwards. While discursive interludes provide context for the mixes, the audio itself is an engrossing guide, placing listeners directly back in the time of the music and sound’s making.

The Pen Addict
We might spend most of our lives glued to screens and tapping at keyboards, but there is still a satisfying pleasure in putting pen to paper and scratching away. At least, that’s the premise for this stationery-themed podcast, hosted by aficionados Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley. The pair guide listeners through the latest developments in fountain pen technology, paper stock and ballpoint design in each episode. While it might sound yawn-inducing, the show’s attention to detail is strangely fascinating; from the rarefied world of collectors to what your handwriting says about you, there’s more to our writing implements than meets the eye.

The Thing About Austen
A historical podcast with an ingenious route into its 18th- and 19th-century periods of study, this series from literary academics Zan Cammack and Diane Neu examines the world that surrounded the novels written by Jane Austen (pictured above). Much more than just an exploration of genteel society and marriage comedies, Cammack and Neu’s wide-ranging and gleefully nerdy discussions drill down into the smallest details from Austen’s popular texts, from Sense and Sensibility’s toothpick cases to Northanger Abbey’s muslin. By raking through Austen’s objects, Cammack and Neu discover the writer’s ingenuity and what her characters’ possessions ultimately reveal about their time and place.

The Somm TV Podcast
There are barrel-loads of wine podcasts, from the sommelier-led I’ll Drink to That! to celebrity interview series A Glass With … and the novice-friendly Wine for Normal People. Wine-themed streaming service Somm TV’s podcast is the best option for an all-round series on the drink, though, featuring deep dives into geographical varieties and best buys for experienced quaffers, as well as introductions on tasting notes and detours into the history of wine: from the first wines of Armenia to the favourite tipples of US presidents. Start with their Top Wines of 2022 episode to pick a quality tipple for your next gathering.

Why not try …

  • The history of women’s underwear is laid bare in Hello Girls.

  • The death of a gay police officer during the Troubles sends ripples through Northern Ireland’s LGBT community in Blood on The Dance Floor.

  • The horrors of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster are retold in a seven-part BBC drama, Fukushima, narrated by Romola Garai.

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