The Listener: Foot, Sound, Street, Pits, Girl

Big Foot

Episode: “Taboo" | Podcast: Wild Thing | 31m39s

Investigative series about the search for bigfoot, which one early review described as “Serial for Sasquatches”. This episode comes towards the end of the run, and is focused on the people who have taken big personal risks to research this subject in depth. Scientists have ruined professional reputations to take the hunt for bigfoot seriously — the host here attends a major and exclusive symposium to meet some of them. It’s a fascinating and very well made look at why this topic is taboo for many people. I also highly recommend listening from the start of the series (31m39s)

Swinging Sound

Episode: “Irving Berlin” | Podcast: The Jewish Lives Podcast | 25m12s

Profile of the songwriter Irving Berlin, with a focus on his Jewish heritage. Known today as the godfather of the American popular song, Berlin wasn’t just an influential piece of music history but a hitmaker in his own time. This episode is peppered with extracts from songs he wrote that were recorded to great success by artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday, making it a very pleasant listen. According to the biographer interviewed here, Berlin was “thrilled” to be an American, but also always felt himself to be a Jew first and foremost (25m12s)

Street Life

Episode: “More Issues Than Vogue” | Podcast: Tara and George | 27m41s

Beginning of a six part series about a pair of rough sleepers in London. The journalist Audrey Gillan lives near to Tara and George’s regular haunts in Spitalfields in the east of the city, and over several years she taped their conversations. The pair has a complicated, meandering relationship — they’re hard to pin down, because of the way their memories come in and out of focus as they try to access them. There has been violence in their past, but also great love and affection. They’re part of a UK-wide increase in homelessness, but they’re also their own people. This series is beautifully made and very moving (27m41s)

The Pits

Episode: “Felix Trench - World's Worst Day” | Podcast: Worst Foot Forward | 60m44s

Comedy podcast about human failure. Each of the three people in this episode choose a moment in history that is redolent of defeat and frustration, and then the group riffs on it together. It’s all very loose and relaxed, but works well because of the performers’ high energy and facility with words (fans of puns and wordplay in general will find plenty to enjoy here). I actually like the brief insights offered into the hosts’ lives beyond the podcast the most — their anecdotes about grim stand up gigs and terrible fringe performances are very funny (60m44s)

Musical Girl

Episode: “Episode 1" | Podcast: A Bird In Flight | 53m54s

Beginning of a four part biography of and tribute to the musician Stevie Nicks. It’s recorded in the style of what feels to me like a drivetime radio show, with complete songs played and narrated biographical segments delivered in between. This episode covers Nicks’s early life, her initial recording work with her then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, and how she came to join Fleetwood Mac. The majority of what you hear here is music — the commentary is relaxed but succinct. A great way of listening through an artist’s work for fans and newcomers alike (53m54s)

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