Podcast Craze for Lazy Days (and Long Drives, too)

White headphones on top of computer tablet. (iStock)

Even if the Bay Area escapes the obliterating heat and humidity of the American South (at least for now), we still have the God-given right to laze away our summer days. And when the combination of afternoon sun and an ice-cold beer has succeeded in transporting you to a vegetative state, or when the idea of talking to another human being sounds like too much work, a slam-dunk of a podcast could be just the company you’re looking for.

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Podcasts are popping up faster than cocktail bars in Oakland these days, and while the Bay Area is home to some of the cream of the crop, like Snap Judgment, Kitchen Sisters and 99% Invisible, the list below shines a light on some off-the-beaten path podcasts from across the country. Equally suited for long car rides to who-knows-where, or in the shade of your favorite tree, there’s something here for everyone; to make you laugh, make you cry and make you think.

song exploder

Song Exploder

Featured episode: Spoon

Our favorite songs rarely arrive in finished form. In this short-form podcast, musician and host Hrishikesh Hirway interviews his favorite indie-rock bands and breaks down the stories behind their songs, from the original demos to the final cut. .

Another Round

Another Round

Featured episode: Young East African Girl

On this new podcast presented by Buzzfeed, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton get drunk, laugh a lot, and discuss everything from pop culture to “squirrels to racism to sexism to male strippers to literally everything,” as their website advertises. In keeping with the hosts’ self-professed ADD, the show bounces quickly from segment to segment, and flies right by.

true story

True Story

Featured episode: Second Virginity.

Totally un-PC, these Bay Area-based recordings of anonymous, amateur storytellers, performing to live audiences, are a great remedy for the never-ending boredom of roads like I-5. Probably best avoided if you’ve got kids in the car.

Denzel

Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period

Featured episode: He Got Game (with Omar Dorsey).

This hilarious podcast, which celebrates all things Denzel Washington, also takes frequent pit stop in general pop culture territory. The collaboration of two comedians and old friends, W. Kamau Bell (of CNN’s upcoming United Shades of America) and Kevin Avery (Last Week with John Oliver), the podcast captures two cut-rate comedians improvising on the spot, without ever making you feel like you’re on the wrong side of an inside joke.

popculturehour

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Featured episode: Guardians of the Galaxy.

The weekly roundtable discussion, curated by NPR’s Linda Holmes, is a breezy, light-hearted examination of the best, and worst, of current pop culture. Guests and panelists, including NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and NPR Books’ Petra Mayer, offer whimsical analysis of the books, movies and music of the day.

WTF_with_Marc_Maron

WTF with Marc Maron

Featured episode: Father John Misty.

Marc Maron throws a wide net; his extended chats with the likes of Robin Williams, Thom Yorke and hundreds of others extend far beyond their occupations and talents, often delving into highly personal material worthy of the show’s name. Maron’s willingness to talk about his own messed-up life, and his ability to put guests at ease, set him apart from legions of other interviewers eager to get the deeper story.

israelstory

Israel Story

Featured episode: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Israel’s answer to This American Life avoids Israeli politics in favor of stories of everyday Israeli Jews and Arabs. Hosted by three close friends (and total nerds), the stories are alternately sweet and devastating, but always serve as a great reminder that Israel isn’t just a land of political turmoil, but a place where people live wacky wonderful lives.

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