By Berit Baugher for Fathom | It took the Serial phenomenon to unite Team Fathom on the awesomeness that is the podcast. Without naming names, there were a few skeptics in the bunch to balance out those of us who'd been touting their love of the medium for years. But we're all on the same page now: These tiny, portable files make for perfect travel companions. They don't take up space and provide hours of entertainment on the go. Here's what we're listening to this spring. Some new. Some old. All worth a download.
1. Song Exploder
In each 12-20 minute episode, a musician breaks down one of his/her songs. After listening to the science behind the song, you hear it in its entirety with fresh ears.
Start here: House of Cards Main Title Theme
2. Dear Sugar Radio
The advice columnist who calls you "sweet pea" and urges you to fight your insatiable jealousy, find redemption, and "write like a motherfucker" is actually two people, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed, and now a radio podcast. The pair delve deeply, empathetically, and beautifully into questions of nurture, acceptance, loss, infidelity, and love — and help you decide when to hold the reigns or let them go so you can ride out your wildest journey.
Start here: Meet the Sugars
3. Martini Shot
The weekly four-minute KCRW podcast created by producer, screenwriter, author (and Fathom contributor) Rob Long breaks down the ins, out, and insanities of Hollywood. Long is a hilarious guide who pulls no punches in his insightful assessment of the place, the industry, and the myth that is Tinseltown.
Start here: Botoxing History
If you're experiencing Serial withdrawal, Criminal will help tide you over until season two. The year-old podcast tackles fascinating stories of those who've done wrong and been wronged in single episodes ranging from 11-24 minutes.
Start here: He's Neutral
The Southern Foodways Alliance's 20-30 minute podcast tells the stories of the people behind the changing culture and food of the American South. Whether you're a native Southerner exploring the way that culture and food meet or just a Yankee looking to live vicariously through Derby Pie and oysters, Gravy will have you hooked.
Start here: The Pie Formerly Known as Derby
6. Meet the Composer
The radio show focuses on understanding the creative process behind the world's most impressive musical minds. Expert commentary is paired with sound design and interviews for an immersive hour of humor, charm, and curiosity.
Start here: Failure is An Option
7. Planet Money
Economics isn't all numbers. Every 10-20 minute episode explores the stories surrounding how and why our system works the way it does. I'm not a financial person, but connecting the economy to voices and stories makes it easy to follow along.
Start Here: The People Inside Your Machine
If you're into reality television, this is a more tasteful way to get your fix: Eavesdrop on the inner workings of a New York City media startup. It's entertaining, and you'll learn useful lessons like how not to pitch a Silicon Valley billionaire and what to do when your team is totally burnt out.
Start here: Is Podcasting the Future of the Past?
9. Decode DC
Need someone to explain the ins and outs of whatever's happening in the capital right now? Decode DC delivers the inside scoop on whatever's big in politics right now, from the Ukraine, to free college, to Obamacare, in quick (15-30 minutes) and painless doses.
Start here: Race, Police, and Chokeholds