Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
John Darnielle (Photo: C. Brandon/Redferns via Getty Images)
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

A Taste Of The Past
Paris: History Of A Food Lover’s Paradise


When travel and food writer David Downie strolls through the markets in London, there’s something about the industrial way that food is presented—think piles of meat at a butcher—that makes him pine for the artful displays showcased by street vendors in his native Paris. With Heritage Radio Network host and culinary anthropologist Linda Pelaccio, Downie discusses the outsize influence France’s history played in intellectualizing and making elegant many of today’s food customs, including the advancement from tavern and inn-style dining to the cultural adoption of more bourgeois à la carte-style restaurants. Full of informative tangents, Pelaccio’s soft-spoken show luxuriates in the sort of arcane but endlessly fascinating gastronomical bits of historical trivia that don’t have a lot of space in today’s food media landscape. Episodes like this one that spotlight the contributions of a specific region are particularly enlightening. [Dan Jakes]

Heaven’s Gate

Cults, the new podcast from Parcast, plays like an essentials CD, highlighting all the hits. Beginning with a two-episode look at The Manson Family, this week hosts Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson (who also co-host Parcast’s Serial Killers) are back discussing Heaven’s Gate. Cult leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles believed that their bodies were hosts for extraterrestrial angels, and that one day they would ascend on a UFO to a “kingdom level above human.” This fascinating nonsense eventually led to a mass suicide, with 39 people hoping to board a UFO that was said to be trailing Comet Hale-Bopp. Polcyn and Richardson do a good job offering explanations of what some might consider inexplicable: They trace Applewhite’s nomadic Christian background and Nettles’ New Age spiritualism, offering insight into the trajectory that took them from a couple with some crazy beliefs to a couple of cult leaders capable of influencing dozens to sacrifice themselves to a higher power. [Becca James]

The Worst-Case Scenario After The Equifax Hack


So you think you’re one of the 143 million Americans that just got Equi-fucked, and now you want to know how bad it could be. The anxiety-boosting answer is: We don’t know. The stolen identities have yet to show up on the dark web, which sometimes happens when thieves want to turn a quick profit. But theft of the type of personal data held by Equifax carries the potential to be life-altering. Interviews with past victims of Social Security number compromises reveal the magnitude of the disruptions. One woman witnessed her thief get convicted and sentenced in her name and now must carry around a legal document stating she’s not the guilty party. One man’s brother stole his birth certificate and Social Security card out of their grandmother’s Bible. He estimates it’s taken around 10,000 phone calls to undo the damage. An identity protection expert recommends consumers review copies of their credit history from all three major agencies, available for free once every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com. Equifax is also offering consumers a free year-long credit monitoring service called TrustedID Premier, but individuals need to enroll by November 21. [Zach Brooke]

Ghosted Stories
A Game Of Telephone


Chelsea White (MTV’s Girl Code producer) and Erin Leafe present their podcast, Ghosted Stories, as service journalism of sorts, inviting guests to “share ‘scary’ dating stories to help make dating less frightening for everyone” and offering specific dating advice for listeners who write in. This week, comedian Liz Magee joins in to help a listener with marriage woes as the group riffs hard on the idea of the “good old days” when a woman stayed married because, you know, she had to. The trio then delves into the definition of the new dating trend “stashing.” Much like ghosting, stashing involves treating someone you’re sleeping with poorly. In this case, you stash the person away from your friends and family. The show hits a real high note though when Magee recounts dating a man without a cell phone, which becomes the start of an endearing and evolving long-term relationship, flowing from humorous memories to a deeper discussion about the benefits of open relationships. With its air of honesty and ease, Ghosted Stories is a lot like sitting in a room with good friends. You leave knowing you’re not alone. [Becca James]

I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats
“The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton”


Simply put, this is a podcast in which a couple of Mountain Goats superfans will sit down with singer-songwriter John Darnielle and discuss, in depth, one of his songs and the artistic process. Since it’s very likely that a great many people stopped reading after that sentence and grabbed their phone to hit “subscribe,” anyone still here probably needs some convincing. If you’re not familiar with Darnielle or his band, you should know that he is an extremely prolific and idiosyncratic musician with both a passion and talent for plumbing the depths of the human condition. And not just in his songs. He’s also a remarkably candid interview. In case more persuasion is necessary, it’s hosted by Welcome To Night Vale co-creator Joseph Fink, with whom the singer shares a certain dark comedic aesthetic. Author John Green (The Fault In Our Stars) joins the two (recording beside stacks of old masters in the singer’s basement) to parse “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” off the 2002 DIY classic All Hail West Texas—and its oddly life-affirming Satanic coda. Laura Jane Grace provides an original cover of the song, as will musicians for each new episode. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Oliver Sipple


The trajectory of Radiolab is a lesson in the need for format fluidity in podcasts. Any endeavor predicated on telling stories from just one vantage—say, science—is bound to hit a wall after a time. It would be a mistake for so many talented creators to get stuck in the doldrums for the sake of an initial vision. Luckily the show has displayed a willingness to tack in other directions, and this week’s episode gives listeners a moving look into a somewhat forgotten piece of personal tragedy from American history. The tale of Oliver Sipple illuminates the tenuous nature of personal privacy when the media intervenes. Sipple, a gay man living in San Francisco in the ’70s, foiled an attempt on the life of President Gerald Ford. Sipple was not, however, out to his family, and his own personal sexuality became a national flashpoint when it was reported. There are so many facets of this episode that feel emblematic of the medium’s core strengths. It is an intriguing, emotionally affecting, and expertly produced piece of narrative journalism, featuring some stellar voice acting as well. [Benjamin Cannon]

The Baby-Sitters Club Club
Claudia and Crazy Peaches


To start, hosts Tanner Greenring and Jack Shepherd discuss naming their respective recently passed kidney stones and expected babies. Then, diving into the matter at hand, the hosts discuss book #78 in The Baby-Sitters Club series, Claudia And Crazy Peaches. Tanner provides a comprehensive synopsis of the story centering on BSC member Claudia Kishi and her crazy (and pregnant) Aunt Peaches. Jack adds commentary of his own, comedically dramatic and musically underscored. The two adult male hosts bring a lot of humor to their commentary on a book series originally aimed at young girls, definitely criticizing its ghost writers for the melodramatic choice to depict the loss of crazy Aunt Peaches’ baby—a choice that they feel original series author Ann M. Martin wouldn’t make. And loyal listeners and newcomers alike will be drawn to comedic insights on the BSC’s most tearful moments. [Jose Nateras]

The Podcast For Laundry
Mike Abrusci


Much like the successful comedy podcasts that came before it—Hollywood Handbook comes to mind—The Podcast For Laundry thrives on the specificity of its tone, and the growing realization of Brett Davis’ persona. The show is not as simple as the title might suggest, because with every new episode it fills out its universe in a way that can’t be reproduced. In the latest episode, Davis is joined by comedian Mike Abrusci, and the two enjoy watching clips from a CBS Sunday Morning segment about washing-machine fanatics. The whole thing is hysterically bleak, and every enthusiastic exclamation by Davis is complemented by Abrusci’s self-aware attempts at getting on board. Davis then brilliantly unveils some dark laundry-adjacent secrets from his past, like the first time he masturbated, and his traumatic viewing of the Stuart Little scene in which Stuart almost drowns in the washing machine. Every tragic detail of his sad life is made even more hilarious by Abrusci’s unrelenting agreeability. Now in only its 11th episode, The Podcast For Laundry is becoming one of the most original comedy podcasts in recent memory, and who knows where it will go next. [Rebecca Bulnes]

There Goes The Neighborhood
All These People Moving In, New Buildings, New Apartments 


Last year, There Goes The Neighborhood debuted as an eight-part series exploring the multilayered effects of gentrification in Brooklyn. The A.V. Club praised host Kai Wright for confronting the role of systematic racism in the displacement of working-class families. Back and tackling Los Angeles, which is currently the least affordable city in the nation, new host Saul Gonzalez asks: Who is L.A. for? The quick answer is “real estate developers.” As a city that has no natural advantages—no timber, no coal, no iron, no natural harbor, and basically no water for eight months a year—historian Wade Graham explains that L.A.’s success comes from attracting people and getting them to buy land based on the idea that they’re chasing a dream. The problem is, the demand is high and the supply is low. “From 2010 to 2015, L.A. added more than 230,000 people, but only 40,000 new homes,” says Gonzalez. Further complicating the issue, real estate developers are demolishing already available housing, replacing it with more costly apartments, marketed as luxury housing. Hear from a diverse group of people affected in this meticulously reported podcast. [Becca James]

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