By numerous accounts, we are either in or approaching the “second golden age of audio.” Whether it be the runaway success of Serial, the emergence of on-demand audio from legacy public radio stations, or the founding of for-profit digital audio companies like Gimlet and Panoply, in the relatively short timespan of a decade or so, podcasts have successfully merged the intimacy of radio with the imperative to optimize every feature of contemporary life.

Many of us at New City Commons take full advantage of this new golden age of audio. Therefore, just as we collected our “Best of 2015” list at the end of last year, this week we bring you a mid-summer list of podcasts we love. You’ll notice we have quite a range of interests, and we hope you find something new to enjoy.


From Clay Cooke, Research Fellow

I spend most of my time and energy thinking about big cultural questions. Particularly pressing these days are questions like: What should we do about aggravated race relations in the United States? How is social media forming our character? How should we characterize the costs and benefits of late capitalism?

While I wouldn’t have it any other way, my immersion in such questions often leaves me blind to the everyday—to the wonder and beauty of how ordinary things work in the world. So to try and cultivate a better vision of everyday wonder and beauty, I’ve started listening to the Stuff You Should Know podcast. Most of the podcasts are quite fascinating: “How Landfills Work” and “How Poison Ivy Works” are two of my favorites. Did you know, for instance, that 85% of people are allergic to urushiol—the allergen found in poison ivy? And if you touch something one year after its contact with urushiol, you can still contract poison ivy? Whether or not this information is, in fact, “stuff you should know,” I can attest that it is opening my eyes to a bigger world—to a world that is much richer and more intricate than my own experience of it.


From Justin Straight, Director of Products

I spend a lot of time listening to interviews and content on startups and tech culture. Two podcasts have stuck with me recently and come to mind as particularly interesting for our audience. The first is Episode 12 from Seth Godin’s Startup School. The topic is “The Dip,” and it helps point out the importance of perseverance for organizational leaders of all counts. The second is an intriguing interview on Blockchain technology and the logic of Bitcoin with Andreas Antonpoulous for IDEO Futures, a startup incubator run by global design firm IDEO.


From Asa Eslocker, Director of Project Development for Thriving Cities

As a former journalist with a sustained interest in storytelling, the podcasts I’m most drawn to draw me in to the unique features of particular places. Two recent pieces on that theme come to mind. First, with the RNC in Cleveland this week, this 8-minute PBS NewsHour piece looks at the importance of public space for city vitality and urban development with a new central downtown park in Cleveland called Public Square. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson calls the new square “essential” in the city’s effort to “reinvent and redefine Cleveland.”

Second: Probably my favorite podcast is On The Media from WNYC, a weekly examination of how the media shapes our culture and worldview. This 50-min podcast dives deep into the politics, recession, scandals, and stories from Brazil in the run-up to the Olympics—a great listen for any Olympic enthusiast. 


From Philip Lorish, Director of Research

Recently, the second season of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast has been a real favorite, and the episode on “The Problem with the Solution” is a standout. The theme is our near-obsession with problem-solving, and the limits of this obsession come out in Lulu Miller’s reporting from Geel, Belgium—a town with a long history of private citizens welcoming people with mental illness into their homes.

I also really enjoy Embedded, a new investigative podcast from NPR that follows up on national news stories in the print media. The very first episode follows up on a story about an HIV crisis in the small town of Austin, Indiana. That crisis is a direct result of widespread use of the opioid Opana, and its users’ propensity to share needles. In traveling to Austin and chronicling the daily lives of users, host Kelly McEvers provides an up-close and personal look at the opioid crisis in small-town America.

Finally, we must include a brief interview with Garnette Cadogan that expands on his important piece “Walking While Black,” included in last week’s Culture Briefing.