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Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top Five

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: 2016 Top 5

In no particular order, here are my five favorite narrative podcasts of 2016. I listened to a lot this year, and there seemed to be too much to really judge, but these five stood out as gems in the podosphere.

Six Stories Told at Night
sixstories_album
K T Bryski and Blythe Haynes are a dynamic duo of podcast fiction. The writer/narrator pair have worked together on a variety of projects, from the audiobook Heartstealer to the Nightvale-esque Coxwood History Fun Cast. I think this is the apex of their collaboration. A six episode podcast about Canadian Folklore, “Six Stories” blurs the line between myth and reality, story and storyteller, and history and the present. It is an amazing work, commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council.

Gosh-Darn Fiasco
GDF Podcast
A live-roleplay podcast of Bully Pulpit’s Fiasco which started in 2015, this is a mix of roleplaying and improv that works just right for podcast. The episodes are a bit on the long side, with each running at least an hour and often running longer, but hosts Angela Webber and Richard Malena, as well as their recurring guests, are always surprising and hilarious. The playsets are well chosen, and lots of fun. Where else are you going to hear about secret muppets and Antarctic rock bands? No place, that’s where.

Alice Isn’t Dead
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From the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale,” Alice isn’t dead is a one-woman audio drama about the long, strange gaps of rural America, the things that inhabit them, and what, precisely, makes us human. The narrator’s search for her presumed-dead wife, and the strange and terrible things she finds along the way are the stuff of American nightmare, compelling and frightening.

The Hidden Almanac
hidden-almanac
A micro-cast written by author and illustrator Ursula Vernon and produced by her husband Kevin Sonney, The Hidden Almanac is a look into the hagiography and domestic garden life of a world not our own. But more precisely, it is the adventures of the long suffering Rev. Mord and his saintly and drunken companion, Pastor Drom. This year they braved the dangers of a library catacomb, fought off an inter-dimensional invasion, and covered a fraught local judiciary election between a revenant used car salesman and a charismatic chicken.  Five minutes a week shouldn’t be this effective, but it is.

The Voice of Free Planet X
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Jared Axelrod continued their run on this highly polished spec-fictional version of This American Life by visiting a city with amnesia, covering a funeral for a pulp heroine, and helping to preside over a rap battle for the fate of the Earth. Jared is an incandescent wit and talent, and I’m just glad they’re on our side.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Alice Isn’t Dead

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Alice Isn’t Dead
Joseph Fink/Jasika Nicole/Disparition
nightvalepresents.com
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America can be a weird, lonesome place.  This is something the creators of ‘Welcome to Night Vale,’ no strangers to weirdness themselves, learned firsthand while touring with a live version of the hit podcast.  Co-writer Joseph Fink was inspired to write a new show based in part on his experience of traveling across the country.  But like the original, ‘Alice Isn’t Dead,’ takes place in a world much stranger and scarier than our own.
While ‘Night Vale’ uses its off-kilter atmosphere for humor, Alice is a straight-up horror story, with a fair bit of mystery thrown in.  The podcast follows a truck driver, played by Jasika Nicole, as she travels the country in search of her missing wife.  Along the way, she tells her story into her CB radio as though it were a letter or a diary.  At first she just wants answers, but she quickly becomes embroiled in an inexplicable conspiracy, and attracts the attention of The Thistle Man, a supernatural impossible serial killer.  From there, things only get worse.
Produced by Disparition, each episode is a rich soundscape.  I expected the CB chirps and engine hum that provide the basic sound floor to take me out of the story, but they are expertly mixed, and rather than distract, they provide a sense of realism and tension to the performance.  Set on the lonely highways and the weird nowhere towns of the American imagination, “Alice Isn’t Dead” is a creepy mystery that proves that the Night Vale creative team have real chops behind their satire.  You can find the show in iTunes, or at nightvalepresents.com.

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