Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Podmass is back this week with hauntings, history, and sexual innuendo

Screenshot: “Genie In A Bottle”/YouTube
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.

Atlanta Monster


“Boogeyman” is a fitting title for the first episode of this new investigative true crime podcast, which aims to dig into, and hopefully cull new revelations from, the spate of child murders that ravaged Atlanta from 1979 to 1981. Not only is there the literal boogeyman—the killer(s) responsible for these brutal killings—but also the figurative ones: the specters of racism, classism, and injustice that hovered around the city during this period. That context is essential to telling the story of these murders and their ripple effect throughout the community, and Atlanta Monster makes that clear by devoting a good chunk of its premiere to the way these racial tensions fed into the resulting panic and paranoia. The series is documentarian Payne Lindsey’s follow-up to Up And Vanished, a podcast that in some ways contributed to the new revelations that surfaced in its central case, the decade-old murder of a former beauty queen in small-town Georgia. Whether or not Lindsey is able to shine new light on this case remains to be seen, but Atlanta Monster certainly sounds great. Lindsey’s pacing, production, and sound design make for a consistently engaging listen, and his ability to summarize and highlight the relevant takeaways from interviews makes him a worthy guide through a case that contains multitudes. [Randall Colburn]

A Waste Of Time With ItsTheReal
Remembering Combat Jack

Just before the end of 2017, the podcasting world lost a true giant with the death of Reggie Ossé, a.k.a. Combat Jack. As cofounder of the Loud Speakers Network, Ossé was instrumental in diversifying the largely alabaster podcast space. Shows like The Read, Tax Season, Brilliant Idiots, and his own Combat Jack Show brought many listeners to the medium for the very first time. Sadder still, 2017 was something of Ossé’s zenith, as Loud Speakers connected with Gimlet Media to co-produce the critically beloved hip-hop documentary podcast Mogul: The Life And Death Of Chris Lighty, which Ossé hosted. On this episode of the ever-entertaining Loud Speakers show A Waste Of Time, brothers Eric and Jeff Rosenthal—the clown princes of hip-hop—revisit their wide-ranging 2015 interview with Ossé. Their chat serves as a perfect memorial for the outsize personality of Combat Jack, running through his life with humor and verve. The tales display Ossé’s particular mix of charm and determination that made him so engaging as an interviewer, whether he’s recounting doing business with Puff Daddy in a bathhouse or explaining how taking mescaline at a club might have gotten him into Georgetown Law. [Ben Cannon]

The Night Shift: Parts 1 and 2


“Belief and fear have one thing in common: They are contagious.” So says Haunted host Danny Robins near the end of “The Night Shift,” delivering a statement that caps not only the episode but also the podcast as a whole. That’s because this Panoply series is here both to spook listeners and balance the tales with science and logic. This isn’t to fully explain away the scare, mind you—Robins and the producers clearly want to believe—but to present a multitude of explanations (one of them being that, yes, ghosts are real and want to hurt you). Take the nurse at the center of “The Night Shift”: Bridget is steadfast and clear-headed when recounting the poltergeist-like apparition she encountered at London’s Middlesex hospital and feels that her own disregard for her patient inspired the anger of the ghost. Robins is eager to explore that wrinkle of the story with his parapsychologist colleague. Yet, despite the behavioral science and debunking attempts, Haunted remains an eerie listen, with intricate and atmospheric sound design. Middlesex is gone now, and housing is being built where it once stood. “I pity anyone that lives there,” says one local woman, “because I cannot begin to imagine the ghosts that will be in that place.” [Randall Colburn]

Hidden Brain
Buying Attention


NPR’s Hidden Brain bills itself as a show that “helps curious people understand the world—and themselves” through science and storytelling, as host Shankar Vedantam showcases the unconscious patterns, biases, and triggers that influence one’s daily life. In this installment, listeners can relate to the now common phenomenon of opening a computer to complete a simple task, only to end up lost online for hours. This is not happenstance. Instead, it’s the result of media companies using strategies to hijack consumers’ attention and sell it to advertisers. It works because of an inherent lack of self-control in people that skilled merchants gladly take advantage of. A prime example of this is reality television, which guest and Columbia Law professor Tim Wu discusses by examining MTV’s The Real World. The show was among the first of its kind and was profitable because of its low production cost and ability to attract viewers through a relatable and “real” cast. Vedantam and Wu go on to discuss other such examples and the results they produced, especially in the age of the internet. [Becca James]

Secret Order Of The Double Sunrise


Omnibus is a new trivia podcast from famous Jeopardy! smart guy Ken Jennings and musician John Roderick. Each show draws from Jennings’ well-documented encyclopedic memory and is packaged like an audio time capsule preserving humanity’s quirkier stories for whatever future intelligence stumbles upon them after our inevitable apocalypse. This particular episode starts by describing the fall of Singapore in World War II—the largest surrender of British-led soldiers ever—which resulted in Australia being cut off from the rest of the Allies network. Needing to re-establish a link, Australian airline Qantas was enlisted to set an overnight route to Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) using stripped-down seaplanes. They were made to look like commercial civilian planes, though in reality they could only hold three passengers and 150 pounds of mail. The rest of the freight was taken up by enormous fuel stocks needed to power the 33-hour flight, still the longest in commercial aviation history. Because the slow-moving aircrafts spent the night flying over Japanese-controlled territory, those aboard would witness the sun rise twice while in flight. [Zach Brooke]

Song Exploder
R.E.M. - Try Not To Breathe


Way back in 1992, long before alternative was retro and R.E.M. was considered “classic rock,” the band released its eighth studio album, Automatic For The People. The album featured the hit singles “Drive,” “Man On The Moon,” and “Everybody Hurts.” This week on Song Exploder, singer Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills break down album track “Try Not To Breathe.” Mills reveals that the genesis of the song was guitarist Peter Buck’s “desire to experiment with other stringed instruments,” particularly the dulcimer. The band was into the Southern gothic quality of the instrument’s sound. Layering instrument upon instrument, the band combined surf rock and Morricone-inspired Western leads to create a musical base upon which Stipe developed a melody. The episode marks a terrifically laser-focused look at what could be considered an overlooked track, overshadowed by a massive hit record. There’s even a nod to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in there. [Mike Vanderbilt]

That Awful Sound
Ego Goo (Christina Aguilera - Genie In A Bottle)


It’s been 19 years since the world met Christina Aguilera via her breakout hit “Genie In A Bottle,” which is one year more than the performer’s age when she released the track. And though it remains standard karaoke fare for guest host Shaina, who views it as a great vehicle for “sensual finger-pointing,” the ditty hasn’t aged well in the opinion of Alexander Edward, who calls the whole song “a little gross.” The ensuing discussion reveals that explanations for some parts of the Aguilera mythos are murky (Is Xtina just an easier way to text “Christina” on a first-generation cellphone?), but this song is cut-and-dried: Christina wants to fuck. Maybe that’s why the song turns an expression used to describe irreversible chaos into a not-so-subtle implication of arousal or why the lyrics repeat the word “come” 19 times? (They counted.) The orange pants featured in the music video, however, are anyone’s guess. [Zach Brooke]

Thirst Aid Kit
Zaddy, Zaddy, Zaddy


Although Thirst Aid Kit is only a few months old, fans of Another Round will instantly recognize the seasoned humor of hosts Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins, who have guested on Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton’s popular podcast throughout its tenure. Both shows come from BuzzFeed, and Thirst Aid Kit carries on the tradition of centering female voices as Adewunmi and Perkins “explore the public ways women express their desire, particularly in this moment when we are all asking more pointed questions about Hollywood, representation, and opportunity.” This week @vinabean and Clayton join the thirst scholars as they discuss “seasoned baes”—or “zaddies”—and the collective thirst is applied to everyone from Laurence Fishburne to Bruce Willis. The wonderfully shameless and sex-positive approach to lust exhibited showcases the hosts’ abilities to take both an artistic and thirsty look into the world of sexual desire, and the results are empowering. [Becca James]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter