🚨 Breaking: 🍰Tink's 🍬Audio 🍩 Delicacies 🍭is 🧁 here 🍪!
the best podcasts of 2023 from people who love audio
I was introduced to the beautiful audio community by Bello Collective, and one of my favorite things about it was their round up of the best podcasts of the year. When Bello announced it was shutting its doors, I felt a collective cry coming from the audio industry. What would we do without their annual best-of list? Bello went to the people who work in audio and make the best things to give their own recommendations. These lists were always full of hidden gems, not the stuff that got the most marketing dollars or were from the biggest names or companies. It was just…literally the best. Last year Tink tried to honor what Bello accomplished by making our own list, and this year we’ve done the same. There are a lot of lists coming out right now, but I truly think this one is the one that has the unknown shows that deserved more attention, the ones who might have slipped through the cracks. The ones that stopped us—people who work in audio—in our tracks. I’m presenting a portion of that list, which has launched today.
Thanks to all who participated, thanks to all who made something great, thanks to everyone who made anything that didn’t make a list. I hope you find something that you’ve never heard of and will love. But first…
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Christine Laskowski is a Berlin-based award-winning video journalist, development producer, social media editor, and is currently the creator and host of the podcast, T&J. When she’s not working, which is most of the time, she enjoys listening to 80s Finnish rock while sipping on a Last Word, her favorite cocktail.
Describe T&J in ten words or less.
Campy, raunchy, end-of-empire (are hyphens cheating?), scheming, surprising, seductive, illuminating …
Who did you make the show for?
Myself, mostly. I’m a video journalist, but I’ve done print, broadcast news, documentary, longform explainers, TikTok … throughout my career I feel like I can count on one hand the people who believed I could do the damn thing beforehand, you know? T&J is the expression of something I knew I had in me and that I wanted to prove, especially to audio folks, as a video person, that I could do.
Why are you the perfect host for it?
Oof. And yes. I am. Which is why I bothered pouring so much of my labor into this at all. I think you need to believe that to take on anything creatively. Otherwise, you’re a shill. And I mean, in this economy, fine. But doubtful you’re making art. Which we need. Desperately.
Why do you think nobody knows about the Byzantium Empire? (Or was that just me?)
It’s not just you! Because Byzantium is confusing, or rather, complicated. It doesn’t fit neatly into this narrative we’re given about ancient Rome -> Middle Ages -> Renaissance. Because while digestible, that’s not how it went down. Rome didn’t fall; it faded. But first, it shifted east and became Christianized. And the period of Byzantine history I focus on, which I call the T&J Era (450 to 570 AD as I sing), is kinda tough to parse. It’s messy! But that’s what I adore about it. The historical record is limited, and, as I touch on, mainly gossip. At the same time, this gossip is really elucidating because that’s not what the historians (read: men) were jotting down (openly). Soooooo much of our orientation of history is focused on what those men cared about, i.e. dynastic succession and military battles, which I do not really give a shit about. I’ll touch on it, sure, but what were people eating, wearing? Who were the pop stars, the sports stars? What was cool? How did women figure? That’s what I’m interested in. And LOVE. I love love. I’m an insufferable romantic.
What’s your background in audio?
LOL. I’ve tried! Believe me, I’ve tried. I got a few generous breaks from an EP at WBUR in Boston’s ‘Only a Game’ and the early days of the Chemical Heritage Foundation podcast circa 2012. But this was pre-podcast boom. I’d just moved back to New York at 27 and couldn’t live on the serf “wages” of WNYC’s $20 per diem as an intern or whatever paltry amount it was back then to try and get my foot in the door. No one was considering me for audio jobs. I’d lived in China for a couple of years and worked as an Arts and Culture editor there, which is how I nabbed my first broadcasting gig at a SinoVision (a Chinese TV station) because I had decent Mandarin and a China background. That got me started in video, where I’ve been, more-or-less, ever since. But I’m also a musician and singer-songwriter, so that’s my true background in audio, I suppose.
Did any other podcasts (or movies, TV shows books plays songs poems) inspire you? The sound is unique.
I owe so much to Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This. She absolutely pioneered cultural analysis in podcasting, in my opinion. Like, I’m going to research this topic and guide you through it for an entire hour and keep you in my articulate grip badass-ery. Particularly her Charles Manson series early on. Incredible. Also, her roping in her friends for guest roles, that I totally stole. I’d also say Today, Explained, which is my friend Sean Rameswaram’s daily news show on Vox, which embraces music and sound design, but also really goes big and bold on catchy, mnemonic hooks. Beyond that, my happy place for art and the locus of my inspiration has always been women being weird: Tori Amos, Bjork, Alice Coltrane, Niki de Saint Phalle, Clarice Lispector, Frida Kahlo, Ursula K. Le Guin, Nina Simone, Hilma af Klint …
Why’d you choose this time in history?
I talk about this in the intro of Episode One ‘Bread and Circuses,’ but basically, I’d decided to move to Berlin in the summer of 2019. Six months later, the pandemic hit and I was stuck in an apartment, alone, in winter (which here is suuuuuper bleak), and just being a nerd, I got to thinking about the first pandemic. I decided to order some books to read up on it, and this podcast, T&J, is, well, the product of that inquiry.
Fill in the blank: If you like _____ you will also like T&J.
What’s the craziest thing you learned about T&J?
For me, it’s how fucking funny Theodora was. Comedy is a weapon and a shield and Theodora, like Madonna, Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, Cardi B, seduced people through her wit. What was insane to me, when finally reading the ‘Secret History’ was just how much her jokes land. Like, as a woman in the 21st century, I am DYING. Where it’s clear the historian of record was too threatened and get-off-my-lawn to understand it. But that’s hilarious, too.
If you were going to make another podcast, don’t worry about any of the logistics, or whether or not anyone would like it, your budget is $1M, what would it be?
I have ideas: Agents! Production companies! Directors! Call meeeeeeee!!!
Are there too many podcasts?
No. However, I think it’s terribly difficult, if not impossible, to get something made without a celebrity attached or that fits a predictive, long-term model. I spent months shopping this (a limited series as a video journo non-entity) around to podcast production companies before I finally decided to go it alone, which, given the time it’s taken me – fair – but there doesn’t seem to be an organization able to take risks on outside talent. And I say that not in a woe-is-me way, necessarily. Just that we’re really in a grim spot as far as risks and experimentation in the form.
What’s a podcast you love that everyone else already knows about?
In keeping with my obsession with the ‘Secret History,’ I love gossip podcasts: Normal Gossip, Deux U, and Beyond the Blinds. Ob-sessed.
What’s a podcast you love that not enough people know about?
A friend of mine I met in Berlin told me about a podcast called Children of Tendu, back when I was trying (and still failing!) to break into scripted television. It’s such an elitist and impregnable black box, grrrrr, but Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina are so generous with what they’ve learned. Even if you’re not trying to get into an LA writer’s room, they paint such an honest portrait of what it’s like to navigate that world. It’s incredibly moving. Moving and informative. A unique combo!
How much thought did you put into marketing the show?
None. But I was incredibly naive! 40 percent is making the thing as incredible as you possibly can and 60 percent should be reserved for marketing, which I did not do. That is, I did the former percent and not the latter percent. Or, rather, I’m teaching myself about it as I write this because it’s a completely different, hard-earned skill.
What did you learn about yourself making T&J?
I’m good at this!
Hot take: Make your weird shit as best you can. And be honest.
🎙️Read my latest Lifehacker piece about my 25 favorite new podcasts of 2023
🎙️Sign up for my next Podcast Marketing 101 Radio Bootcamp here—I promise you’ll come away with so, so, much, and have a lot of fun. It’s January 22, 2024.
🎙️My girl Arielle Nissenblatt has a new show, launching today! Arielle & Ned's Daily Tips That May or May Not Help You.
(Some of) The Best Podcasts of 2023
Here’s a taste of Tink’s 2023 Audio Delicacies.
🎙️Constellation Prize: This series totally took me by surprise. It's built around a premise that seemed untenable, but the result was transformative. It was an experiment that went right. The series is gorgeously sound-designed, please listen with headphones, to let it transport you to a place that made a bit of sense about COVID (and maybe also God). It's just not like anything else I've heard. - Samantha Hodder, Founder of Bingeworthy
Recommended episode: Nightwalking 1: A Call From Terry
🎙️Expectant: Expectant plays in the seductive space between fiction and reality, exploring the many complexities of starting and raising a family in the face of climate collapse. Episodes are both efficient and lush, textured and clear, sophisticated and accessible. It's hard to tell what's actual and what's fabricated, but nonetheless the story comes through loud and clear through elegant sound design, authentic perspectives and strong, natural writing. And let's hear it for the show artwork, which conveys the tone and experience of listening so beautifully, and stands out from the pod-crowd! I listened to this months ago and still think about it often. Like... very often! - Julie Shapiro
Recommended episode: The North
🎙️Hang Up: Unlike the primetime TV reality dating shows that dominate reality TV, podcast dating shows are only beginning to make their limo entrances in podlandia. Other reality dating podcasts like Queen of Hearts and Date My Abuelita use similar audio-only mechanics and host-led activities to pair up daters for an offline date. Hang Up's seasonal approach means the audience is building a relationship with the contestants as our lead, Maxine, is doing the same--and the payoff is that much more satisfying for us because of it. There are themed dates (including an early date where there are mystery boxes of props and activities), compatibility conversations that get a little spicy, and a family member gauntlet for the contestants to get through. And there's a twist! Not only does Maxine choose the final winner, the winner also has to choose whether they'll take home a cash prize or go on a vacation with Maxine. You'll have to listen to the whole season to hear who Maxine chooses, and if the contestant chooses her back! - Ma'ayan Plaut
Recommended episode: Speed Dial
🎙️It’s in the Book: A Queer Bible Podcast: This show is an absolute delight and, no matter your religious background or interests, I highly recommend listening. Harvard Divinity School alums and religious scholars J. Sylvan and David Waters recap stories from the Bible through a queer lens and discuss them with Sylvan's wife, Sue Buzzard. 'Holy Sex Work' is one of my favorite episodes released this past year. It highlights a bible tale from Genesis that was most definitely not taught in Sunday school, and offers the groups' own fresh take on the meaning behind the text. - Joshua Rae, Marketing Manager of Podcasts, American Public Media
Recommended episode: Holy Sex Work
🎙️Let’s Not Be Kidding: Maybe because I've been thinking a lot about loss, and memoir, and how we tell stories about ourselves and make others want to lean in, but Let's Not Be Kidding does such a wonderful job of mixing a sweetness of memory and experience with the hardship of dealing with a parent's aging... and I think the fact that you get to know Gavin's mom so well and come away with such an appreciation of her as a character and how she shaped her son that you feel his grappling more. This is an incredibly sweet show that's made beautifully and will feel like a gift to those who listen. - Mangesh Hattikudur, Kaleidoscope
Recommended episode: Another Day, Another Donna
🎙️I’m Not a Monster: Shamima Begum is famously known for leaving the UK at 15 years old to join ISIS and a BBC journalist tries to find out why. I was completely hooked on this podcast. I knew the headline versions of Shamima's story, her leaving to join ISIS and the controversy of her trying to return and the UK government rescinding her citizenship. The podcast is brilliantly told and you get a depth to Shamima that she's not been afforded by other media. I found the series both informative, and heartbreaking. Her story and her treatment to date still haunts me and I credit that to the phenomenal storytelling of this podcast. - Imriel Morgan, Founder & CEO Content is Queen
Recommended episode: Series 2: 1. It Felt Like a Dream
🎙️Well There’s Your Problem: WTYP operates on a simple premise: three hosts look at an engineering disaster, with special focus given to the true human cost of designing inhuman systems. The hosts may swear a blue streak on occasion and it may technically be comedic in scope, WTYP is a perfect example of a podcast to look to when considering ethics and keeping humanity in mind when discussing grim events. While there are more poignant and politically-charged episodes (such as their recent coverage of The Berlin Wall), the Schoharie limousine accident is an excellent hopping-on point for new listeners that'll ensure you never set foot in a stretch limo again. - Gavin Gaddis
Recommended episode: Episode 141: Schoharie Limousine Crash
🎙️All I Can Tell You Is…: Sienna is wondering if 22 is too young to settle down with her boyfriend or if she's one of the lucky ones that found their life partner early. To help put her question into perspective, she listens to the great loves and great losses of three elders: Margot, Olga, and George. This podcast is quiet and intimate and feels like an early morning conversation at the kitchen table with your Nana. It beautifully showcases why we will always need more narrative stories from seniors. - Nichole Hill
Recommended episode: It Hit Me Like a Crescendo
🎙️Mobituaries with Mo Rocca: Mobituaries feels like it was made for me. If you are a history / edutainment fiend, you will love this show. Did I recommend it last year? Probably. If not, I wish I had! This episode, the season four premier episode, is absolutely packed with entertainment and education the whole way through. Mo is obsessed with the concepts of celebrities dying on the same day – especially when one death seems to outshine the other. This episode tells the stories of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, who...died on the same day! There are a few more examples of celebs who died on the same day but I'll let you discover them — and the fascinating ways in which Mo ties their legacies together — for yourself! - Arielle Nissenblatt, Community Marketing Manager at Descript
Recommended episode: Died on the Same Day (with special guest Anderson Cooper)
🎙️Party Crews: The Untold Story: Party Crews: The Untold Story from host Janice Llamoca is a captivating memoir that delves into an LA party scene of the 2000s. Amidst pulsating rhythms that are sure to have you grooving, Llamoca’s narrative unfolds, gently shedding light on the tragic murder of a fellow party crew member, Emmery Muñoz. Be prepared, this series is bound to tug on some nostalgia heartstrings, with sound design and music that will chew you up and spit you out. - Adreanna Rodriguez, Freelance Journalist-Producer
Recommended episode: Ep. 1 Emmery
🎙️The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks: I watched my first Star Wars movie in my twenties, but I heard eye-rolling references to the Jar Jar Binks character from the prequels long before that. I never knew the full story of Jar Jar, the backlash towards him, or the real-world effects of that backlash — until listening to this podcast. Hosted by Dylan Marron (the voice of another fabulous show, Conversations With People Who Hate Me), The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks is a fascinating rewind to an early moment in internet fandom, and it thoughtfully unpacks what happens when fandom gets toxic. With Ahmed Best (the actor who played Jar Jar) at the center of the story, this podcast is a compelling listen for Star Wars fans and newbies alike. - Rebecca Seidel
Recommended episode: Episode 1: The Internet’s First Main Character?
🎙️You Didn’t See Nothin: You Didn't See Nothin tells an incredibly important and resonant story, but is also one of the most creative and beautifully-made podcasts I've ever heard. The genius of this podcast is that the entire production follows the instincts and sensibilities of its writer and host, Yohance Lacour, whose singular voice and experiences drive not only the narrative, but the aesthetic and actual sound of the series. There is nothing out there quite like this show; it's immersive, thoughtful, challenging, and deeply entertaining. If you haven't heard it yet - clear your schedule, download, and buckle up. - Rebecca Lavoie, Host of Crime Writers On... and Director of Podcasting at New Hampshire Public Radio
Recommended episode: Young Black Male
🎙️5-4: The Supreme Court decision to overturn affirmative action is just one of the unreal, nightmarish, dystopian decisions this year -- and this episode of 5-4 is just one of the instances that made me feel a little more sane again. With their sharp, acerbic, but always deeply humanistic tone, the hosts of 5-4 echo what so many of us were thinking, but with an added air of authority and understanding: "Wow, for real? What the hell? Hello? Come on." - Wil Williams, Tink Media and Hug House Productions
Recommended episode: Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard
🎙️I love you!
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