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Ear worms for The Interpreter’s 2021 favourites

Podcasts-a-plenty for the end of year break, a new beat for world politics.

Mohammad Metri/Unsplash
Mohammad Metri/Unsplash
Published 21 Dec 2021   Follow @SamRoggeveen

Our end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs for 2021. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. –Eds

Nobody ever accused me of being an early adopter of new tech. At least a decade after most of my peers, 2021 was the year I really embraced the podcast. Not coincidentally, this was also the year our family got a puppy, and my walks around the neighbourhood are often enlivened by these shows, some weighty and others which might offer entertainment over the coming holidays:

  • Lowy Institute podcasts: we have three titles – The Director’s Chair, Lowy Institute Conversations and Rules-Based Audio – plus recordings of our live events, and they are all excellent. Go explore.
  • Australia in the World: My old boss Allan Gyngell and his sidekick Darren Lim have found a groove. The guest episodes are good, but the real enjoyment and learning comes from listening to the two hosts debate breaking issues in Australian foreign policy.
  • Conversations with Tyler: America’s most interesting public intellectual, Tyler Cowen, asks penetrating and unpredictable questions of his guests. Highlight for me this year was the episode with philosopher Amia Srinivasan, which turns into an argument in the best possible way.

Some weighty and others which might offer entertainment.

  • The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan: the quality is uneven because Sullivan is too panicked about Wokeism, as evidenced by his rants at Peter Beinart. But Sullivan’s conversation with Brexit architect and erstwhile Boris Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings is revelatory. So is the episode with Donald Trump biographer Michael Wolff.
  • Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend: legendary American comedian and late-night host Conan O’Brien’s tendency to constantly steer conversation towards himself is grating, but boy, what a razor-sharp comic improviser.
  • Strong Songs: A recent discovery, and one that has lifted my appreciation of pop music. Host Kirk Hamilton’s dissections of popular songs often go way over my head, but there’s so much in these podcasts even for non-musicians. I always regarded Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as a novelty song roughly on a par with “Monster Mash”; now I know better.

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