Is podcasting the ultimate virus-proof entertainment? While a handful of narrative series have had to call a halt to production during lockdown, scores more have found ways to continue their output, with hosts and contributors fashioning soundproofed studios out of wardrobes and mountains of bedding. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, audio storytelling has become a crucial balm in a time of crisis, lifting us out of our surroundings and soundtracking our new routines. Below is a selection of new and new-ish podcast series, several created specifically to help listeners through self-isolation.

Gangster Capitalism (C13 Originals)

GREELEY, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 12: People attend the “Rod of Iron Freedom Festival” on October 12, 2019 in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The two-day event, which is organized by Kahr Arms/Tommy Gun Warehouse and Rod of Iron Ministries, has billed itself as a “second amendment rally and celebration of freedom, faith and family.” Numerous speakers, vendors and displays celebrated guns and gun culture in America.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The second season of the superior US investigative series, hosted by Andrew Jenks, focuses on the National Rifle Association where a war has broken out over accusations of financial misconduct that goes right to the top. As with the first series, which examined the US college admissions scandal, this is an electrifying story deftly told.

Homeschool History (BBC Sounds)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 09: Phoenix Crawford does school work on a laptop while being home-schooled by his mum Donna Eddy on April 09, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Massage therapist and acupuncturist Donna Eddy is able to continue running her business from home as a clinical practitioner after the Federal and State governments implemented tough restrictions and the closure of non-essential business due to COVID-19. While Donna has always maintained a strict cleaning regimen in her work space, it has now increased in response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with table linen changed, surfaces such as door handles wiped down and floors mopped between each patient who must wash or sanitize hands on arrival. A single mother to 8-year-old Phoenix, Donna Eddy is also juggling home schooling while running her business.  Phoenix, who is in Year Two at primary school, now has a routine where he can complete school work while his mother treats patients throughout the day, however Donna says it is still a struggle to balance her work and making sure she is available to help her son when he needs help with his online work. The Australian government introduced tough restrictions in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, closing non-essential businesses and imposing limits of peoples movement, gatherings and social distancing measures. Public gatherings are now limited to two people, while Australians must stay stay home unless absolutely necessary. New South Wales and Victoria have also enacted additional lockdown measures to allow police the power to fine people who breach the two-person outdoor gathering limit or leave their homes without a reasonable excuse. Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have all closed their borders to non-essential travellers and international arrivals into Australia are being sent to mandatory quarantine in hotels for 14 days. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

From the team behind the excellent You’re Dead To Me, this new BBC podcast sees the writer and historian Greg Jenner hosting bite-sized lessons for self-isolating children aged seven and upwards. The opening episode is an engaging race through the Restoration that put Charles II back on the British throne. Other subjects include the space race, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Dickens and Pocahontas.

The Sound of the Hound (EMI Archive Trust)

Rex Palmer (left) and Fred Gaisberg (1873 - 1951) rehearse for their upcoming appearance on A. W. Hanson's production, 'The BBC Presents the ABC', 28th May 1937. Palmer, once known as 'Uncle Rex', was the first director of the BBC's London Station, and Gaisberg was the first recording engineer for The Gramophone Company, the parent company of HMV. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

An illuminating new series on the history of recorded music in which the writer James Hall and music industry executive Dave Holley tell the stories of the pioneers who captured sound and turned it into an industry. It begins with Fred Gaisberg arriving in London from Washington in 1898 and opening Britain’s first recording studio before embarking on an expedition in search of new music.

Even the Rich (Wondery)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend 2020 Roc Nation THE BRUNCH on January 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

Ever wondered what the super-rich get up to behind closed doors? If so, the “rich adjacent” comedians Aricia Skidmore-Williams and Brooke Siffrin — who first met in Los Angeles, valet parking celebrity-owned cars — are here to dish the dirt. Podcasting’s answer to Succession, Even The Rich basks in the stories of powerful dynasties including the Murdochs, the Carter-Knowles and the British royal family.

The Other Latif (WNYC)

Latif Nasser 
			credit - Matthew Septimus

This richly detailed mini-series from Radiolab finds producer Latif Nasser chasing down his Moroccan namesake, Abdul Latif Nasser, to Guantánamo Bay where he has been detained since 2002 for alleged terror offences. What follows is an extraordinary tale that upends our preconceptions as it reveals how Nasser came to be imprisoned without trial.

Fiasco (Luminary)

Former NSC staffer Lieut. Col. Oliver North swearing in, testifying during Iran-contra hrgs.  (Photo by Terry Ashe/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The latest political thriller from Leon Neyfakh (formerly of Slate’s Slow Burn) focuses on the Iran-Contra affair, when the Reagan administration was found to have secretly sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages, and siphoned the proceeds to the Nicaraguan Contras. As we’ve come to expect from a Neyfakh production, the series is forensic, atmospheric and effortlessly builds tension.

Locked Together (Audible)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 07:  Dawn French (L) and Jennifer Saunders attend the Glamour Women Of The Year Awards in Berkeley Square Gardens on June 7, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

This hastily thrown-together series in which British comedy duos talk nonsense over Zoom during lockdown has proved unexpectedly funny and charming. Among the contributors are French and Saunders daydreaming about going to the hairdresser; Simon Pegg and Nick Frost talking about films; and Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, of Catastrophe fame, acerbically reflecting on parenting during a pandemic.

Hope High (BBC Sounds)

HY0AA0 View from Castle Hil Huddersfield market town metropolitan borough  Kirklees,  West Yorkshire, England. UK.

The BBC 5 Live journalist Annabel Deas spent a year with a group of schoolchildren and their families in Huddersfield, an area where knife crime figures have skyrocketed. The resulting podcast delves into the stories behind the statistics, providing a moving portrait of children whose lives have been shaped by violence and gang warfare.

Field Recordings

CB6T6K Katydid

Bringing the outdoors indoors, the British producer Eleanor McDowall has invited friends and fellow audio creators to submit al fresco recordings from across the world. The result is an ever-growing and immensely soothing archive of sound which includes a call to prayer in Bangladesh; twilight in Australia’s Corhanwarrabul Wetlands; katydids in North Carolina; and the chatter of teenagers in St John’s Park, Brooklyn.

My Mother’s Murder (Tortoise)

MALTA - MARCH 11:  A collect photograph from 1989 of Peter and Daphne Caruana Galizia with their sons (L-R) Matthew, Andrew and Paul on March 11, 2018 in Valletta, Malta. This series of collects forms part of an investigation by the Guardian newspaper into the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was a Maltese journalist and anti-corruption blogger and was killed by a car bomb on October 16, 2017. (Photo supplied by Getty Images for the Daphne Project)

A powerful and disturbing series from the slow news organisation Tortoise, about the 2017 assassination of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, once described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” for her fearless exposure of corruption. It is written and presented by Galizia’s son, Paul, who returned to Malta last year to investigate.

Get alerts on Arts when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article