For many of us now, putting on a podcast at a certain time of day is intuitive, akin to a ritual almost. Whilst it was first conceptualised back in the early 2000s with the iPod, its progressive inception into mainstream media forms has since escalated—especially over the past three years. Of which the pandemic might have something to do with the sudden boom in the medium. After all, one too many of us must have had copious hours to spare wasting away in our bedrooms. As such, the podcast’s easy and digestible form swiftly assumed sound reasoning as to why they became so wholly addictive to leave on in the background. It was a doorway into some of the less discussed topics that plagued and ventured into reality as well: from untapped tales of music producers to comical monologues of the mundane and the gripping nature of true crime series. The latter of which, has gained an insurmountable number of fans, even garnering entire television series dedicated to the genre (i.e Only Murders In The Building).
But when you think twice about it, there is an almost bewildering and imaginative quality that draws you into a true crime podcast; its gruelling mystery plots, masterfully devised setups and investigative intrigue are all characteristics that are actually shared with the realm of fiction. Perhaps then you might look to the podcast’s lesser known cousin: audio dramas, or what we’re coining the pod-book. Think: a fully serialised drama, with all the character dialogue, sound effects and music—but no visuals.
Perhaps here, its predecessor, radio dramas, might serve up as an ample enough explanation for what it really is. During the Golden Age of radio from the 1930s through the 1940s, the concept of a radio drama took off phenomenally for its ability to offer narrativised, scripted entertainment that could range from thrillers and science fiction to comedies. This was before the age of television, after all. And whilst its popularity undoubtedly tapered off with the introduction of television, the format has since seen a revival—much akin to the resurgence of the convenient audio format overall.
Indeed, some might be of the opinion that it would be difficult to return to a world of solely audio, especially after we’ve been so exposed to the grandeur of the silver screen. But on the flip side, it is the magical way that an audio drama, much like a paperback read, can transport you to the wonders of your own imagination. The pod-book, as we like to call it then, gives you the upgraded experience of listening to an audio book you love, providing you with well-scripted dialogue and enough atmospheric sound cues and effects to have you enter the fictional setting offered in the story—all at your own volition.
The other notable difference then, lies in its originality. If groups of threes are coming together to chit-chat over a microphone for some sweet podcast content, entire blockbuster-scale budgets are being channelled into creating some of these audio drama series, and it’s a whole new world of stellar scriptwriting. Just earlier this year, The Joe Rogan Experience, which had been reigning king in podcast world, lost its top spot on Spotify to Batman Unburied, a DC audio adaptation. And it’s far from alone, as more fans of the format begin to uncover its appeal. Amidst other superhero-led spin-offs, is an entire slew of audio dramas with myriad genres—from slice-of-life comedies to charming historical fiction and intelligent sci-fi picks. Read on to discover your next favourite thing to plug-in to, from Vogue Singapore’s pod-book curation below.
1 / 5
The world as you know it, has come to an end, with Hannahpocalypse. Taking on a dark comedy approach to the post-apocalyptic genre, Hannah is our pod-book protagonist and well, zombie, who also happens to be the last (un)living girl that ‘survives’ the zombie apocalypse. Fast to admit that she’ll be breaking the fourth wall all through the series, the script gives a fresh, self-aware perspective—from the supposed monster herself.
Listen to Hannahpocalypse here.
2 / 5
For all those comic book lovers out there, Batman Unburied is surely one not to be missed. Claiming top spot on Spotify’s podcast charts earlier this year, this spectacular pod-book has all the makings of the perfect audio drama—from its dark and gritty set-up imbued via the sounds of Gotham in the background to the star-studded cast of Black Panther‘s Winston Duke, Hasan Minhaj and Gina Rodriguez playing its titular characters. Here, the Batman of Batman Unburied is not coming to the rescue—for Bruce Wayne has no recollection of being the Caped Crusader at all. Instead, his investigative skills are put the test, as he tracks down the The Harvester, a serial killer who looms over the fate of Gotham City.
Listen to Batman Unburied here.
3 / 5
What Can I Get Started For You?
If it’s always been about the sitcoms for you, What Can I Get Started For You? might be your closest bet yet. Carried through by means of a dependable, witty script, the mini series enacts some tongue-in-cheek comedy through its episodes, with a plot that surrounds four New York baristas who deal with the everyday happenings of their coffee shop. Kate, Miranda, Charlie and Tarleton are the four fun characters at the centre of our pod-book, always managing to squeeze in a life musing or two amidst the light pace of its 15-20 minute episodes.
Listen to What Can I Get Started For You? here.
4 / 5
Alice Isn't Dead
A thrilling combination of mystery, hair-raising horror and gritty realism: Alice Isn’t Dead is one of the much-lauded fictional podcasts that situates itself somewhere in between the notable audiobook and the fully-formed pod-book version we’re circulating around. The production follows a truck driver who searches high and wide across the terrains of America—for her wife, Alice, whomst had been long presumed dead. In between ghost-like articles and clues, she encounters strange serial murders, abandoned places she thought she’d never find herself in and a the unwelcome scent of a conspiracy brewing in the background.
Listen to Alice Isn’t Dead here.
5 / 5
Seen and Not Heard
Bet Kline is thrown into a world where everything is suddenly muffled, as she loses her sense of hearing overnight. With her life upended, she now tries to navigate the honest realities that individuals living with a disability often have to face in their everyday. Whilst Seen and Not Heard dials in on an occasional dose of humour here and there, it’s a bold yet sincere pod-book that rises to the occasion of showcasing the brutalities of a world that doesn’t often accustom to the cracks in our community.
Listen to Seen and Not Heard here.