The best new podcasts of 2018

From political intrigue and true crime to an immersive thriller with the listener as the star

cat listening to music
(Image credit: Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty)

Podcasts are rivalling TV shows and movies as the main subject of water-cooler conversations these days - and their popularity continues to rise.

According to research by podcasting platform Acast, almost a quarter of British adults have listened to a podcast in the last month, with many younger fans tuning in on a weekly basis.

So if you’re done with S-Town and all caught up with My Dad Wrote a Porno, what should be next on your listening list?

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Here are our picks for the hottest new podcasts of 2018:

West Cork

If atmospheric true crime is your jam, make room in your listening schedule for West Cork.

The podcast, available to Audible subscribers, explores the unsolved 1996 murder of French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who was beaten to death outside her holiday home in the titular region of southwest Ireland.

Documentary maker Jennifer Forde and journalist Sam Bungey piece together the events of that day, along with the twists and turns of the ensuring investigation, which put a tiny Irish village at the heart of an international legal dispute.

Vulture calls the resulting documentary series a “meticulous and thoughtful” examination not only of the case, but also of the gruesome crime’s effect on the isolated rural community in which it took place.

Slow Burn

Slow Burn sees Slate journalist Leon Neyfakh revealing a whole new side to the Watergate scandal. The podcast began airing in late 2017, but - fittingly, given its title - the eight-part series only began to claim much-deserved attention in the new year.

The show takes it for granted that most people who choose to listen to a podcast about Watergate are already aware of the basic facts of the tale.

Instead of raking over those familiar milestones in the investigation, Slow Burn goes for the unexpected angles, picking incredible stories from the sidelines of the scandal that you almost certainly won’t know.

The Horne Section

Stand-up and comedy writer Alex Horne is a familiar face to many TV fans as co-host of Taskmaster, the Dave comedy challenge game show based on one of his Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows, as well as appearing on the likes of 8 Out of 10 Cats and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Horne also has his own podcast, The Horne Section, which began life on Radio 4 before launching as a podcast in January. A one-of-a-kind combination of comedy and music, the show features Horne and his five-man backing band swapping surreal badinage and comic ditties, along with guests including Richard Osman, Tim Key and Susie Dent.

It’s fun, it’s freewheeling and it will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.

The Boring Talks

If you’ve ever given up midway through a TED Talk from sheer exhaustion, The Boring Talks might be more your speed.

As its title suggests, this BBC radio podcast features experts in some of the world’s most uninspiring topics answering exquisitely mundane questions about our existence.

How do book pricing algorithms work? Why are wooden pallets so underappreciated? Is basalt the most boring rock in the world? You’ll have to listen to find out - although ideally at bedtime, rather than while at the wheel or operating heavy machinery.

There’s a tongue-in-cheek vibe to proceedings, but “The Boring Talks aren’t exercises in postmodern irony”, says the Financial Times. “The passion here is entirely genuine.”

The Walk

Part radio play, part choose your own adventure, part covert exercise motivation, The Walk is like nothing else you’ll hear this year.

Written by The Power author Naomi Alderman, the first-person thriller starts in an Inverness cafe, where you, the listener, receive a mysterious package and instructions to get it to Edinburgh. One exploding train and a case of mistaken identity later, you are on the run.

It’s an ambitious premise, and immersing yourself in the adventure requires a generous suspension of disbelief.

Although the format may not be for everyone, The Walk come with a health benefit: listeners are encouraged to - as the title suggests - walk while listening to the podcast, with each episode lasting long enough for to cover a couple of miles.

And don’t forget to tune into The Week Unwrapped, available on iTunes, SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcasts.


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