Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
By the name alone, you might assume Sleep With Me to be a very different sort of podcast than it actually is. But don’t worry: Not only is it not a podcast for aspiring pickup artists, it’s about sleeping in the literal sense. Specifically, it’s a podcast designed to start off mildly interesting, then leisurely meander off into incoherence with a long, boring story in order to lull you to sleep. I’m one of those people whose mind starts racing the second my head hits the pillow, and so I’ve tried a lot of things—music with familiar lyrics, music with no lyrics, white noise, visualization exercises, sitcom reruns playing softly in the background, Xanax—to slow my torrent of free-floating anxiety to a trickle so I can fall asleep. And so far, Andrew Ackerman’s podcast is among the best methods I’ve found. His voice is droning, his tangents rambling, and the stories he tells aren’t much more interesting than the Patreon updates that open the show. It works so well that I have yet to make it to the end of an episode, which, for once, is a compliment. [Katie Rife]
Listening to the seven-part podcast The Polybius Conspiracy, I was fired up to recommend it. It recounts the story of a mysterious video game prototype that showed up at a Portland arcade in 1981, and supposedly had crazy effects on those who played it—headaches, sickness, lost time, etc. One particularly unlucky gamer, Bobby, has a especially harrowing memory of the game—which may or may not have ever existed—in which he was paralyzed, kidnapped, and left in the woods 60 miles from home. Through interviews with a tangled web of people, including Bobby himself, the podcast spins an almost unbelievable story that leaves you wondering whether Bobby was simply an attention-seeking wacko or, perhaps, a victim of a very strange, credulity-straining conspiracy theory. Through interviews with gamers, acquaintances of Bobby’s, and even the long-lost person who supposedly helped Bobby find his way home from his harrowing ordeal, it recounts an incredibly fascinating, previously untold story about a corner of our culture that might otherwise have gone unexplored. There’s kidnapping, addiction, teenage prostitution, internet gossip, mental health issues, and… it’s basically all bullshit. It turns out that The Polybius Conspiracy spun its own tale based on a semi-popular urban legend (it’s even referenced on The Simpsons), but dove feet-first into the world of fiction, without ever letting on to listeners. I was pretty deeply invested in the crazy story, but I would have been listening with completely different, more critical ears had I known it was all simply made up. Kudos to the creators, I guess, for making such a believable simulation, both of conspiracy theories and the world of podcast documentaries. But I call bullshit on theirs—and Radiotopia’s—decision to deliberately deceive. Did they have a strong enough story without the big fake-out? I’ll never know, but maybe you’ll give it a shot with open eyes. [Josh Modell]
I get that, on the surface, this is an insane thing to purchase, let alone be excited enough about to recommend to other people to purchase. But, listen: Things is technically Things 3, coming five years after the best-in-class to-do list Things 2, which has developed a cult following over the years. I had been a Things 2 advocate for years, funneling literally everything I do onto the app, including long-term aspirations and regular stuff around the house and daily duties at my job, and thought I’d be fine just sticking with it rather than making the jump to the new edition, which came out late last year. Eventually, in a moment of supreme clarity, I did, and reader, it is glorious. I could list the things Things does—elegantly corralling all my commitments and half-baked thoughts into a reassuring and cleanly designed interface—or the things Things 3 does that Things 2 didn’t, including an earth-shattering ability to schedule things for the evening instead of daytime. These are all extremely boring, so I will not. But to other Things fans out there, let me say that the Things 3 hype is extremely real, and to anyone who has remained blissfully unaware of the existence of this phenomenon, you no longer have an excuse. It is the best to-do list ever conceived. [Clayton Purdom]