Producers' Picks: Best Audio of 2015

Dec 31, 2015

The turn of the new year is a time to reflect on personal milestones and to celebrate achievements in books, movies, TV, music, and journalism. In short, it's a time for best of lists...and Word of Mouth is offering its own picks of the most notable podcast episodes we heard in 2015.

Listen to the full show. 

Best Of 2015

1. To get us started is Megan Tan (who is not only producer of Word of Mouth and NHPR's new podcast, Outside/In, but creator and host of Millennial, a podcast recently named #14 in the Atlantic magazine's top 50 podcasts worth listening to).

Her pick is Another Round’s “Episode 19: Was That A Microaggression or Just Tuesday?” In this episode, NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with hosts Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu.   

2. Host Virginia Prescott chose WTF With Marc Maron’s “Episode 604 – Terry Gross”  Recorded in front of a live audience in New York City, it's a rare chance to hear the master interviewer on the other side of the questions. 

3. Producer Taylor Quimby with one of our perennial favorites 99% Invisible. In this episode, "War and Pizza" this "tiny radio about design" tackles food designed for the military. 

4. Producer Maureen McMurray’s first pick is the “Yes Yes No” segment from Reply Alls episode “#20 I Want To Break Free” in which hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman explore Chuck Grassley’s bizarre Twitter antics. 

5. Maureen’s second pick is You Made It’s Weirds host Pete Holmes speaking with late night host Jimmy Kimmel in episode "270: Jimmy Kimmel"

Now, onto everyone's honorable mention picks...

Megan's Picks

Another Round, "Pick a Slay" 

She Does Podcast, "Kiran Gandhi"

The Truth, "Santa for President"

Reply All, "Love Lies"

Credit Topher McCulloch via Flickr CC

Radiolab, "Rhino Hunter"

The Longest Shortest Time, "The Accidental Gay Parents"

Taylor's Picks

Song Exploder, "Game of Thrones," "Joey Bada$$," & "Wilco"

Imaginary Worlds, "Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice" & "Heroines"

99% Invisible"Show of Force," & "Perfect Security"

Reply All, "The Writing on the Wall" & "The Takeover"

The Nerdist, "John Cleese"

Logan's Pick

ESPN, "Believe in Featherbowling"   

"Sometimes my ears get hot from having my headphones on too long, so as a brief intermission from all this listening, here is a reading suggestion. More often than I care to admit, I will come to an ideas meeting with a pitch that is impossible to do within the format of our show; I know as I’m pitching the idea that it won’t work, but somehow I still need to see the pitch through.

I’ve come to call these types of pitches “Featherbowling Pitches” because of an amazing story I read this summer that would have been a very complicated and very long interview. It involves a sport you've never heard of, a heartbreaking story of cancer, and--of course--an art heist.

Now when I launch into an absurd pitch that is not a good fit for the show, my kind colleagues will politely say: 'Logan, this is a Featherbowling pitch.' Sometimes I even admit to it before they can." 

Molly's Picks

Invisiblia, "How to Become Batman" 

Millennial, "Nothing to Lose" 

I started working with Megan before Millennial finished its first season, so knowing where she ended up was like getting to see behind the scenes. Luckily, I love spoilers. The whole season is great, and this flashback episode stands out - as a reminder that everyone gets in their own way sometimes but we can also rise out of the ashes of our own fears and indecision, like 20-something phoenixes. 

*Seconded* Imaginary Worlds, "Heroines" 

Maureen's Picks

Radio Ambulante/Radiolab, "Los Frikis"

You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes, "Weird Al Yankovic"

Hidden Brain, "Lonely Hearts"

ReplyAll,  "Exit & Return, Part I and II"

StartUp, "Burnout"

Credit Topher McCulloch via Flickr CC

WTF With Marc Maron, "Paul Thomas Anderson"

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast, "March 30, 2015"

The Dana Gould Hour, "Hot Buttered Shame!"

Millennial, "Men, Moms, & Money"

Virginia's Picks

Mystery Show, "Case #3 Belt Buckle"

"The mystery at hand focuses on a hand-made, personalized Belt Buckle that a young boy found on the street decades ago. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that listening to Starlee Kine trace a random object to its source is wildly entertaining, but is pulled off in such a non-self-aggrandizing way. It’s more than just the mystery at hand, but the power of things and the nature of discovery that hooks me in."

Credit Topher McCulloch via Flickr CC

Criminal, "695BGK"

"In a year when questions of how local police treat African-American suspects, Criminal recounts a stop by police in Bellaire, an affluent Houston neighborhood. The title is the license plate number that is incorrectly typed into a computer and the reason police thought the SUV they stopped to be stolen, leading to an altercation in which a police Sergeant shot minor league baseball player, Robbie Tolan.

Unlike other tragedies this year, Tolan survived to press charges in a case that went all the way to supreme court. It’s brilliantly retold in taped depositions of police and interviews with Robbie and with his parents, who watched and became involved in the decisive moment. A rare first-person glimpse of justice derailed by racism, one of the great moral questions facing America today." 

This American Life, "The Problem We All Live With"

"I was dumbstruck by this 2-part series exposing the history of segregation in America’s schools. Reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at the Missouri school district near Ferguson where Michael Brown attended high school. There is an unbelievable piece of tape from a meeting where parents at a predominantly white school bitterly resist taking in several minority students from a failing school. They talk of the students as vectors for gangs and drugs, basically infecting their children. While those fears are specific to contemporary America, their hostility recalls the 'Deep South' before integration."

You Must Remember This, "Charles Manson's Hollywood #11: Death Valley '69" 

"Dennis Hopper, Antonioni, drugs, Sharon Tate & Roman Polanski…the general weirdness of Hollywood and counter-culture at the time made Charles Manson and his gang appear relatively run-of-the mill. A fascinating chapter in a grimly American saga."