Podcast picks of 2020

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Well what a year 2020 has been, for almost every human on the planet, but for podcasting too with big news after big news announcements, mainly all involving Spotify!

What else happened?

  • We’re now at almost one million active podcasts (on Apple Podcasts)
  • HUGE names have become podcasters this year like Michelle Obama and, just as the year is closing Harry & Megan announce they’re launching a podcast.
  • A Podcaster won I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! Well done Giovanna

So as we prepare to not only draw a line under 2020, but grab a big black permanent marker and aggressively scrub the whole the thing out, we thought we’d share our favourite podcasts of the year.

Starting of with two brilliantly put together music podcasts which seem to perfectly compliment each other…

Transmissions: The Definitive Story

It’s the story of Joy Division and New Order told in one story. Hosted by Maxine Peake, it features contributions from some of the biggest names in music, including Liam Gallagher, Johnny Marr, Karen O, and even Bono. It feels like the story of Joy Division’s been told in many ways of the years, most notably in the brilliant Anton Corbijn film, Control, and whilst it’s great to hear new interviews, it’s the fact that this podcast follows the story through the band’s transition into New Order that makes it such a great listen. Maybe it’s because the New Order years haven’t been as well documented, but when the podcast gets into the details of the likes of the making of Blue Monday, that’s when it really comes into it’s own…and there’s still new episodes to come! LISTEN

Ecstasy The Battle of Rave

A no-holds-barred history of the interwoven relationship between dance music and ecstasy, although it’s careful to approach drug culture with responsibility not glorification as you’d expect from the BBC. Brilliantly put together and has the rare treat of being laced with iconic tracks as somehow the BBC are able to navigate that music licensing minefield (much to the annoyance of most other podcast producers out there). There’s first hand accounts from the people who were there in the late 80s and early 90s, ravers, drug dealers, gangsters, DJs, police, that all help to viscerally bring to life the ‘second summer of love’. Whether you’re a fan of dance music culture or not, it’s a captivating listen. LISTEN

The Big Steal

Anything involving the murky world of soviet history and the secrets of the Russian state is going to have you hooked. The Big Steal is a big story that leaves you open-mouthed in astonishment on more than a few occasions. In the 9 part series, veteran journalist Gavin Esler reports on the lengths that Russian president Vladimir Putin went to acquire the huge oil company, Yukos, imprisoning the company’s owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (and Russia’s richest man at the time). Through the telling of the story the podcast explores the far reaching interests of the Russian state and the ramifications for the rest of the world. LISTEN

9 Days In July

The 9 days in the July that this podcast refers to are 19th – 24th July 1969, the 9 days of the Apollo 11 missions that put man on the moon. Each day gets it’s own 60 minute episode and rather than the same recordings you may have heard over and over again, this makers of this series managed to get their hands on hours of never before heard mission audio and diving into the stories of the families of the astronauts as well as the political intrigue of the space race. Hearing recordings made in space over 50 years ago will never fail to blow your mind! LISTEN

Grounded with Louis Theroux

This one is one of those projects where you feel somewhat thankful for the pandemic for allowing Louis some downtime to allow this to happen. Louis chats to some of the people he said he’s never had chance to interview but has always wanted to. There’s now two series of this podcast from BBC Radio 4 and particular highlights are the Boy George episode, at first the conversation is seemingly a little reserved but becomes a frank and candid in no time, Lenny Henry and once-rival journalist Jon Ronson. LISTEN

Branded podcasts

Bring Back Bronco

One of the best branded podcasts of the year we think goes to Bring Back Bronco from Ford Motors. As Ford relaunch their iconic SUV in the US, this podcast tells the story of one of the most beloved vehicles in American history. The brand was axed in 1996, many say in part due the infamous OJ Simpson car chase which put the Bronco on TV screens around the world. Ford dispute this but what’s great is that the subject isn’t brushed aside and even gets its own episode. A shining example of how a brand can tap into culture and create something that’s a joy to listen to. LISTEN

18Sixty are a podcast production company making truly unmissable podcasts for brands. Get in touch, we’re all ears!