Bubble
For: Fans of science fiction comedy (think ‘Portlandia’ meets ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’)

One of the smartest and funniest scripted shows to have come out this year, ‘Bubble’ is instantly endearing because it feels like all of it could be happening to you, except maybe the alien-fighting part. ‘Bubble’ takes place right now, but someplace else. Specifically, in the Portland-ish hipster town of Fairhaven, a literal Bubble that is, for the most part, sealed off and protected from the otherworldly beasts that live in the surrounding Brush. The eight-episode season one follows a small band of monster killers, led by the Brush-born Morgan (Becker), as they struggle to make ends meet and find love in a nightmarish version of the gig economy. Part allegory, part commentary, part butt-kicking, this smart, sci-fi-infused comedy ticks lots of pop-culture boxes.

Wolverine: The Long Night
For: Comicbook geeks

Marvel’s first venture into audio storytelling blew open wide the barriers of what a good fiction podcast can do. The 10-part series is an exercise in meticulous world-building and achingly beautiful and detailed audio production. With ‘Wolverine: The Long Night’, listeners got a chance to get inside the much-loved, adamantium-clawed mutant’s head in a way that hasn’t been done before and they largely pull it off because of lead star Richard Armitage’s superior voice acting skills. Armitage’s Logan is everything you’ve known him to be and more: vicious loner meets overzealous protector meets vulnerable man.

If you are a fan of the comics, you have no excuse to not have tuned in to this beauty.

The Habitat
For: Science lovers

Gimlet Media has another zinger on their hands with the brand new ‘The Habitat’, a super addictive serialised documentary: the true story of a fake planet. On a remote mountain in Hawaii, scientists have a fake planet Mars. Six volunteers are secluded in an imitation Mars habitat where they will work as imitation astronauts for one very real year. The goal: to help Nasa understand what life might be like on the red planet — and plan for the day when the dress rehearsals are over, and we blast off for real. Host Lynn Levy has been chronicling this experiment from the moment the crew set foot in their habitat, communicating with them through audio diaries that detail their discoveries, their frustrations and their evolving and devolving relationships with each other.

The Teacher’s Pet
For: True-crime junkies

In May 2018, true-crime podcast ‘The Teacher’s Pet’ took Australia by storm, before taking over the rest of the world. The whopping 16-episode saga explores the disappearance and suspected murder of Lyn Dawson in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, in 1982. The suspect? Dawson’s ex-husband Chris, who told police that Lyn may have run off with a cult. Around the same time she went missing, a teenage student of Chris’, with whom he was having an affair, moved into his house and they tied the knot. Host Hedley Thomas’ meticulous reporting uncovered critical evidence that was not previously explored by police. Thomas wrote and recorded an average of more than 15,000 words each week as new informants came forward. The case has recently managed to find new breakthrough thanks in large part to the podcast.

The Horror of Dolores Roach
For: Lovers of the macabre

‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’, starring Daphne Rubin-Vega and Bobby Cannavale in lead voice roles, dropped just in time for Halloween and is perfect for those who like to be spooked for thrills. After 16 years in prison, the indomitable Dolores Roach (Rubin-Vega) returns to a New York City neighbourhood that has changed drastically in her absence. Her boyfriend missing, her family long gone, Dolores is recognised only by an old stoner friend, Luis (Cannavale), who gives Dolores room and board and lets her give massages for cash in the basement apartment under his dilapidated empanada shop. When the promise of her newfound stability is quickly threatened, Dolores is driven to extremes to survive. Now in hiding, Dolores recounts her grotesque tale of Eat or Be Eaten. With an exceptional cast and a gory story that will not only leave you horrified but just a little heartbroken for its main characters, ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ is the kind of realist story about love, race, gentrification and identity that these divisive times demand.

Slow Burn season two
For: A dash of politics

The political podcast, which in season one took a deep dive into the Watergate scandal that rocked the US and President Richard Nixon’s administration in 1972, returned for round two this year to take a look at another scandal — the Clinton-Lewinsky saga. The Slate podcast written and narrated by Leon Neyfakh builds up over an eight-episode arc that unravels the affair that almost ended a presidency through in-depth interviews with those who were close to the event as well as those who reported on it at the time.

The Daily
For: News dissectors

Need help distilling the important news of the day into a neatly packaged 20-minute segment? Whether its the Yemen crisis or Facebook’s unending trysts with cybersecurity, climate change or the #MeToo movement, host Michael Barbaro of the New York Times and his many guests read between the lines of daily newsprint and make sure the biggest stories of the world are brought to you by some of the best journalists in the world. If you’re not hooked already, go into 2019 a little bit more informed by tuning right in.

30 For 30: Bikram Yoga
For: #MeToo chronicles

The #MeToo and Times’s Up movements have caught up with almost every industry so far: films, politics, education, IT, media... the list goes on. The world of yoga has not been spared, either. Chronicling the troubling rise and fall of Bikram Chaudhary, the enigmatic founder of Bikram yoga, is ESPN’s 30 by 30 podcast. Hosted and produced by Julia Lowrie Henderson, who is herself a Bikram yoga practitioner and has managed one of their yoga studios for several years, the riveting five-part series is a departure for the documentary-style podcast that previously only did single-episode arcs.

Early in the episode, author Benjamin Lorr is heard saying: “He’s created a yoga that has healed and helped tens of thousands of people at minimum and that has hurt and destroyed thousands of lives. And there’s no arguing with either sides of those coins.”

And it’s exactly that alarming dichotomy that Henderson explores as she dives into Chaudhary’s story, tracing the yogi from his childhood in Calcutta through to his unmatched success in the US and finally his fall from grace as sexual abuse allegations began to pour out against the man.

Articles of Interest
For: Design lovers

Trust the folks at ‘99% Invisible’ to tell stories from where no one’s looking. ‘Articles of Interest’, a new six-part series from the long-running podcast, is a show about the clothes we were. Created by Avery Trufelman, ‘Articles of Interest’ covers a broad range of concepts including the rise of casual wear, the environmental impact of the textile industry, and why womenswear doesn’t have pockets. Together, the episodes link thematically, each one to the next, like a daisy chain, claim ‘99%’. “Think of it as a podcast concept album… on clothes,” reads their website.

Cocaine & Rhinestones
For: Music obsessives

Few could predict that a show about 20th-century country music would dominate podcast charts for the year. Tyler Mahan Coe’s obsessive research digs deep to uncover an entire genre’s sanitised past to bring us stories like we’ve never heard before. On the podcast website, Coe makes an impassioned reference to why he started the podcast and this alone should have you plugging in. An excerpt: “Imagine if an entire genre of music was allowed to go out of print when we made the transition from vinyl to CD. That’s what I saw happening with the lore of country music. Most of what I’m talking about on ‘Cocaine & Rhinestones’ has been written down in books but nobody’s reading those books. Many of them have never even been converted to digital format. This history wasn’t being passed on to a new generation. It was going extinct.”

Coe’s natural storytelling skills and feverish diligence makes sure this series makes for a cracker of a listen.