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The best new podcasts of 2018

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Luckily for commuters, the rampaging wave of podcasts has not ebbed in 2018, with a host of newbies to keep your ears intrigued this year.

From tracking the elusive Bigfoot and surviving a year in fake Mars, to investigating ISIS and solving a 37-year-old murder case, these podcasts will leave quite the impression during your next morning trip to work or lengthy road trip.

Here’s 12 of our favourite new podcasts, released fresh in 2018 and sitting on top of our listening list. To be sure, the shortlist for this was lengthy — there were a lot of quality newcomers. What was your favorite this year?

Many a mystery has been solved thanks to podcasting, but what about one of the biggest question marks of all time? We’re talking about Bigfoot. Hosted by veteran public radio editor and producer Laura Krantz, Foxtopus Ink’s latest podcast Wild Thing delves into the elusive mythical being. Thousands of people think they’ve seen it, many have specifically gone looking for it, but what actually is it?

From the Wondery team who brought you Dirty John, Dr. Death is the almost unbelievable tale of crooked neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Duntsch. Hosted by Laura Beil, this rather disturbing podcast describes in often alarming detail the string of shoddy — and in some cases fatal — operations done by Duntsch, and the failings of the medical system that allowed him to continue working. You’ll think twice about getting surgery after this, unfortunately.

Produced by the New York Times, Caliphate follows three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Rukmini Callimachi as she reports on the Islamic State with the help of her producer Andy Mills. In 10 episodes, Callimachi delves deep into ISIS, from recruitment to training, the fall of Mosul, and a stunning episode following a young Yazidi girl who returns to her family after years in ISIS captivity. It’s often graphic and disturbing, and Callimachi’s reporting really clues you into the realities of being on the terrorism beat.

I smashed Bubble while healing from a concussion (go sports!) and this eight-episode narrative sci-fi comedy podcast proved quite the hilarious medicine for a fuzzy brain. Set in the Portland-like town of Fairhaven, Bubble follows the exploits of the residents of a literal bubble, sealed off from its surrounding monster-filled Brush environment. Or is it sealed off? Narrated by Tavi Gevinson, Bubble stars Parks and Recreation‘s Alison Becker, comedian (and cast highlight) Eliza Skinner, and podcaster Mike Mitchell, also seen in Netflix’s Love, among countless cameos. 

Whatever your politics, there’s no denying the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was a landmark moment, and one podcast unpacks it all. Making Obama, from the WBEZ Chicago creators of Making Oprah, crafts a highly detailed portrait of the former president, including his formative years in Chicago as a community organiser, his U.S. Senate run, and his big-time decision to run for president. If you really want to hit the Obama tale from all angles, pair the podcast with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir Belonging — the audiobook is read by the author, of course.

Here’s a hypothetical: What if Alexa was an actual person, sitting in a call centre, ready for your questions? Gimlet Media’s Sandra will make you rethink digital smart assistants, and your warped relationship to them. Starring Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat, Kristen Wiig, Ethan Hawke, and The Sinner‘s Christopher Abbott, this fiction thriller is a strong choice for a long road trip. If you liked the muted thriller pace and big name cast of Homecoming, give Sandra a whirl. 

Produced by The Australian newspaper and publisher, The Teacher’s Pet investigates in thorough detail the unsolved murder of Lynette Dawson, who disappeared from her home in 1982. Journalist Hedley Thomas unpacks this complicated true crime tale, set in the Northern Beaches outside Sydney, Australia. It can get a little unedited in parts, and a tad repetitive, but the Walkley Award-winning podcast saw an incredible ending this year with the arrest of 70-year-old Chris Dawson, who was charged with his wife’s murder almost 37 years later on Dec. 6, 2018.

Do you do a lot of walking? Why not pair your wander with a little immersive fiction. Created by Naomi Alderman, author of bestselling speculative sci-fi novel The Power, The Walk is a thriller fiction podcast meant to be listened to while walking, rolling, or however you get from A to B. Given the codename Walker, you’re drawn into a high-stakes walk across Scotland, beginning with a terrorist attack amid a train station in the first episode. If you’ve ever pretended you were a spy in a public place on your own time (don’t look at me like that), this podcast will put an actual earpiece guide into your fantasies. 

What will daily life be like on Mars? How will we set up a colony? What kind of people are needed to get things going? Journalist Lynn Levy finds out in The Habitat, Gimlet Media’s podcast series that tracks six volunteers who spend a year in an imitation Mars habitat on a mountain in Hawaii. The goal for the experiment was to help NASA understand what daily life on Mars will look like, but Levy was savvy enough to send audio recording devices in with the crew — so we can take a peek at it, too.

This year, former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to a maximum of 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting girls and young women he treated. But how did he get away with it for two decades? And how did he finally get put away? More than 150 women, including Olympic champion Aly Raisman, testified against Nassar in one of the largest serial sexual abuse cases in U.S. history. NPR’s Believed unpacks every last detail of the case, and the group of courageous women at its core. It is not easy listening.

18 years ago, the world was convinced some kind of ‘millennium bug’ was about to send every computer on the globe into chaos at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000. It was the end of the world as we knew it. But the predicted disaster never happened. Finding Richard Simmons creator Dan Taberski has a new season of his Headlong documentary podcast, Surviving Y2K, which tracks the global panic right up until New Year’s Eve 1999, and across into 2000, when the apocalypse was upon us — and then it wasn’t.

Feeling a bit lost in the headlines? Not sure what the hell just happened? Launched in May and hosted by Sean Rameswaram, Vox’s daily explainer podcast takes a deeper dive into the biggest news of the day, from Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, to Elon Musk’s shenanigans with the Department of Justice. Each episode sits at around 20 minutes, so they’re easily digestible explainers that fit in a quick commute. If you’re keen for more podcasts that help you make sense of the news, check out our dedicated round-up.

Want more podcasts?

These storytelling podcasts guarantee to tell you a fantastic tale, these news podcasts will help you when you’re trying to keep up, these fictional podcasts are perfect for conspiracy theorists, and these comedy podcasts are great when you want a good hearty laugh. 

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