Hey Pod lovers. If you’re joining us for the first time, welcome! The Mastercast is a podcast recommendation show that consists of seven non-spoiler, binge-worthy reviews of the best podcasts in a short-and-sweet two- to three-minute summary of everything you could want to know, from the number of hosts to on average how long you can expect each episode to be. For more details and more reviews, I highly recommend checking out the first five episodes of “Mastercast.” Let’s get started.
“A Piece of Work”
Abbi Jacobson knocks it out of the park with this approachable podcast, “A Piece of Work” done for WNYC Studios in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art. Fans of “Broad City” might recognize Jacobson as one of the show’s main characters, whose wit and charm carry over into real life. She’s an art major, but it’s clear her talented voice was made for radio.
One of the best parts about the show is that it is always so refreshing to hear someone speak about something they clearly adore. For most of us, art can seem intimidating, but this funny, down-to-earth pod says art is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you dislike art or work full time in an art museum, Jacobson makes informative and comprehensive cases for all sorts. Her passion for creating a podcast about art that educates while it captivates in a way that isn’t pretentious is the sort of attitude the subject needs.
The show gives an inside look into MoMA with the help of some of Jacobson’s friends. She brings them along to gauge their reactions to some of the works she discusses. It’s so interesting to hear the different impressions and perspectives. Guests include Hannibal Buress, RuPaul and Questlove to name a few. Everything they have to say is useful and adds to the presentation, unlike what I’ve seen in other shows.
I’ll admit I was skeptical about how hearing people talk about art would be with just the audio, but this 10-part series is out to prove anyone with the same doubts wrong. While it’s completely possible to enjoy the show without viewing the art, a quick Google search gives you so much more to appreciate. For an easy way to make sure you’re looking at the right piece, I recommend checking out the show’s website.
Apple Podcasts has 4.8 out of 5 stars, 1.4 thousand ratings and 278 written reviews. Episodes are about 20 minutes long, commercials are average for the length and music was minimal. You can listen to the episodes out of order with slight nods to guests from older episodes being the only building information.
OwlTail can’t generate the most popular episodes for this short series, but my favorites were “Samantha Irby Gets High on Light” and “How Questlove Learned to Love Silence.”
No trigger warnings for this one. I’m sure it’s obvious by the length of the review that I loved this show. It is definitely in the running for my podcasts of the year. I would give it 10/5 stars if I could.
Similar Pods: “The Art History Babes,” “ArtCurious Podcast,” “The Week in Art,” (bonus YouTube recommendation) “The Art Assignment”
“Newton’s Law” is a brand-new eight-part series from iHeartpodcasts and is a perfect blend of history, true crime and action. It follows the lesser-known occupation of famous British scientist Isaac Newton (yes, that Isaac Newton), as lawman and Warden of the Mint.
While the position doesn’t exist anymore, this podcast makes it feel more real than ever as it brings to life late 17th century culture and customs. For example, did you know that coffee shops were the social media of the day? Lords (ladies were rarely permitted) would print pamphlets to distribute there as well as gather to talk politics or gossip.
It might seem like this time is a world away from us today, but the story told by this show is one we are all familiar with: the law vs. the criminal. Newton takes the job thinking it will be cake and give him plenty of time for his other interests.
However, he has his work cut out for him tackling the rampant counterfeiting trend happening and more when he meets William Chaloner, a legend among the underbelly of the country. The two led a relationship filled with cunning back and forth that leads to you wanting to know when will Newton get his man.
Apple Podcasts has 4.7 stars and 109 ratings. Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is both host and researcher for the show, a dual role she pulls off seamlessly. Episodes are on average about 42 minutes long, and make sure to listen to the series in order.
The script is narrative with some voiceovers by Newton in character. Music is a fitting alternative groove by Elise McCoy, which I really liked.
Similar Pods: “Blood on the Tracks: The John Lennon Story,” “American History Tellers,” “Finding Fred”
“BBC Earth Podcast”
The “BBC Earth Podcast” is nature like only BBC Earth can do it. Who doesn’t love to kick back with tea and Planet Earth? Well, now you can experience that same feeling of amazement on the go with some of the best storytelling and audio production out there.
Started in 2018 and just finishing up its fourth season, it presents close-up encounters and surprising insights into not only nature but the science and human condition surrounding it. Meticulous attention is given to the immersive soundscape, with every volume and direction of sound added to put the listener inside the narrative.
Apple Podcasts has 4.8 out of 5 stars, 209 ratings and 20 written reviews. Solo host Emily Knight guides the show through a set of related stories each week on Mondays with topics ranging from the bottoms of oceans to the peaks of the highest mountains in the world. The show currently has 37 episodes, all about 30 minutes in length.
My favorite episodes have been “Can anything last forever?” and “Finding what doesn’t want to be found.” OwlTail’s most popular episodes are “The planet where it rains diamonds” and “Looking Up.”
No word on when the next season can be expected, but with no final goodbye it seems that another is coming. The music is so great I’m going to refer to it as a score, and commercials are average in quantity. Perfect for sleep or work. I can’t recommend it enough.
Similar Pods: “Discovery,” “Overheard,” “The Life Scientific”
“The Miami Chronicles: Booby Trap”
I found “The Miami Chronicles: Booby Trap” from the Apostrophe Podcast Company with Acast really fascinating before I knew why. Now I realize it’s because the main narrator, Michael Fragomeni, starts it out by making it sound like he’s your college roommate recounting his wild childhood, then he goes on to sound like it should be a movie, only to end by proving why it’s in the true crime category. No wonder he wrote a book. It could have been a movie.
Not only is he a great storyteller but how the content was edited to unravel itself was masterful. They’ve made it the first season of a podcast called “The Miami Chronicles.” All aspects of the crime are covered including backstory, complete timeline and possibilities of what the details and motives could have been.
You find out information in the order Mike does but in a satisfying eight episodes instead of the 30 years it was for him. All episodes were needed and are essential to the story. Could it have been fewer episodes? Honestly, I don’t think so. Sure, they might have been able to cram all the information into fewer episodes, but that wouldn’t have done Richard Brush or this fascinating coming-of-age story justice.
I didn’t mind the episode previews with the show, which is a first for me. These actually sparked curiosity instead of giving away major spoilers. Big warning here: The music intro is a bit long in the first episode, but skip through it and it’s worth it! I think the reason this podcast wasn’t more popular was that some weren’t willing to skip through it. In Ep 4 commercials start, and Ep 7 has sudden sound effects that help with parts of the story you didn’t see before. I did not want this slow-burn sprawling podcast to end.
Similar Pods: “Against The Odds,” “Toxic: The Britney Spears Story,” “Smoke Screen: I Am Rama”
“Russian for Cats”
“Russian for Cats” is my favorite podcast I’ve found in a while! It tells the story of a Russian Blue cat named Nadia (played by Olga Kochetkova) who has escaped from a torturous lab where agonizing experiments have given her the ability to talk. Shortly after her breakout, she meets Brian (played by Kyle Teichmann) the human, who has his own troubles and becomes Nadia’s refuge.
Everything about this podcast is great. From the plot to voice actors and, above all, its subtle way of teaching you Russian. It’s so easy to miss because you’re so captivated with the story, but while Nadia slips in some Russian and teaches Brian, she’s actually teaching you too.
Each episode is followed up with a recap of the vocabulary learned with a native expert, and I swear I’m a few episodes away from dreaming in Russian. The narrator, Alexander Doddy, and creator, Pam Cameron, have some amazing company such as Elena Vakhtina and Heather Henning as well as some off-script help from consultant Jeff Callahan.
So far the show has 18 episodes, all about 17 minutes long and irresistible to binge. The podcast started up in 2019 and released the series finale in November. Music is very on-theme and only present at the beginning of the show. Quite a few bad words, so watch out for small ears while listening.
A slight trigger for injury to animals.
Similar Pods: “The Two Princes,” “Grand Casino,” “King Falls AM,” “The Amelia Project”
The historical podcast “Order 9066” from APM Reports and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is about an important part of American history that is rarely talked about in our schools. In February of 1942 president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, removing some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and sending them to “relocation” camps.
Facilities and conditions in the camps were inhumane and overcrowded, meals were made up of meager rations and there was no plumbing or cooking equipment of any kind. This podcast looks at the three years the camps were open and the lasting effects on those who lived through them.
I’ve read and knew a little bit about Order 9066, but hearing the voices and first-hand accounts from people who lived through it has such a huge impact. Narrators Sab Shimono and Pat Suzuki were both incarcerated at the Amache camp in Colorado and curate the accounts of racism as well as how those affected adaptable remarkably.
The show has 4.8 average stars, 636 ratings and 81 written reviews. The powerful history is told on a very personal level throughout the podcast and on the website, which is full of resources like links to the contributing museums, digital collections from those museums, definitions and encyclopedias, and pictures and descriptions of objects that belonged to the prisoners.
Eight episodes make up the series with five bonus episodes. All are about 22 minutes long and each episode tells a different part of life in the camps. This is a must-listen for everyone interested in history and constitutional rights. The enduring rippling destruction that immigrant incarceration had and still has on the lives of actual American citizens means our current political climate could really benefit from reexamining this atrocity.
Trigger warnings include racism, violence and inhumane treatment and conditions.
Similar Pods: “Melting the ICE,” “Indefensible,” “The Promise”
“My Gothic Dissertation”
This educational podcast by University of Iowa Ph.D. Anna M. Williams is an audio form of William’s dissertation about the problems with how graduate school works and how similar it is to a gothic novel.
When I started the podcast I thought it was going to be a really long essay about gothic novels, and I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it through, but man is this podcast full of surprises.
Solo host William covers all sorts of points such as how many graduate students actually make it through the program, abuse of systems and people and a bit of psychology, all the while relating it to the suspenseful atmosphere, mysterious traditions and obsolete hierarchy of gothic works such as Anne Radcliffe and Mary Shelly.
The seven-episode series has 5 out of 5 stars on Apple Podcasts and aired its last episode just this past August. The script is done well, with several guests giving incredible insight. Music is very creepy, fitting and, well, gothic.
The host seems to have a voice made for radio and only subtle triggers for harassment.
Similar Pods: “Poetry Unbound,” “The History of Literature,” “How to Proceed”
That’s all for this week, but remember if you want to see any of the podcasts I’ve mentioned on the show be sure to check out the show notes. Please tell us if you have music you would like played on the show or would like to submit a podcast to be recommended. You can find my sources in the show notes here as well. Remember to share the show with the pod lovers in your life and tune in next Sunday.
This week’s music came from Syncopika and Universal Production Music. If you would like your music to be a featured on the show, send us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for listening!