In Review

Podcasts of the week: ‘invisible flatmates’ in isolated times

Featuring Jools and Jim’s Joyride, Literary Friction, and Sideways

Podcast addiction has become a thing, said Dolly Alderton in The Sunday Times. One friend realised she was in trouble after she spent 20 minutes choosing the perfect podcast to listen to while taking out the recycling. But in these isolated times I’d rather risk “audio dependence” than brave the silence. For me, some podcasts have become like “invisible flatmates”. For instance, The Receipts, hosted by Audrey Indome, Tolani Shoneye and Milena Sanchez, offers “unfiltered girl talk that imitates the best kind of night in with friends”. Literary Friction is an intelligent but “easy-to-listen-to” books podcast hosted by literary agent Carrie Plitt and the writer Octavia Bright. Then there is the brilliant Soul Music on BBC Sounds, about people for whom particular songs (the likes of Lean on Me, God Only Knows and Strange Fruit) hold great personal significance. “Warning – you’ll cry.” 

Everyone needs some “escapist joy” in lockdown, said Hannah Verdier in The Guardian – and that’s exactly what Jools Holland and Jim Moir deliver with Jools and Jim’s Joyride. This charming new series is a “laid-back” chat-and-interview affair, loosely themed around journeys, in which Jane Horrocks reveals her “slow and angry” driving style and Bob Mortimer riffs on taking naps in car parks. Tonally, it is a “beautifully judged” attempt to elevate conversation to “quasi-artistic perfection”, said James Marriott in The Times. Moir (aka Vic Reeves) tells of his attempt to rescue Jarvis Cocker from Michael Jackson’s handlers after the famous mooning incident at the Brit Awards. Chris Difford of Squeeze chats about the first time a limo took him to the BBC. At every turn, the two hosts “steer a careful course between banality and sickly luvvy-ness”. It’s “great stuff”. 

Another highly promising new series, said Marriott, is Sideways from Matthew Syed. “The smart-thinking podcast – the kind that aims to cleverly rearrange its listeners’ understanding of the world in the space of an hour – is one of the medium’s most attempted genres”, and “one of the hardest to get right”. It’s all too easy to lose people with a big idea that doesn’t quite dazzle, or annoy them with one that over-reaches into the realms of “mad speculation”. Syed’s show will draw on maths, history, psychology, theology and more – and in the opening episode it gets it just right, with an excavation of the origins and concept of Stockholm Syndrome. It’s an “engrossing” listen, agreed Hannah J. Davies in The Guardian. And the “immersive” sound design from Benbrick, who masterminded the audio of George The Poet’s hit show, Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, is a wonderful bonus that brings the whole thing together.

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