The 18 best new podcasts of 2022, so far

The 18 best new podcasts of 2022, so far

So far, the podcasting craze from the past few years is proving stronger than ever in 2022.

Based on popularity trends observed in 2021, consumer data company Statista even predicts that the industry will see tens of millions more podcast listeners in the years to come, forecasting approximately 160 million by 2023. But with so many new releases clamoring to meet that growing demand, you’ll also need some guidance on which new audio journeys are worth your time.

Sure, we might’ve officially lost one longtime favorite podcast this year, with the remaining co-hosts of Reply All finally calling it quits back in May. But we also gained quite a lot of amazing newcomers.

While true crime once again dominates the digital airwaves, we’ve curated a diverse selection of new podcasts across all genres for you to check out. Please note: only brand spanking new podcasts or new seasons and limited series’ released after December 2021 were considered eligible for our list. From Serial Productions’ investigative journalism with a personal touch, or hard-hitting and vital reporting on the January 6 insurrection, to an audio virtual dating show from PRX, and even a fictional story about real-world superhero vigilantes — you’ll find yourself binging these exceptional shows back-to-back if you’re not careful.

Ghost Church

You may remember comedian/podcaster Jamie Loftus from any one of her previously critically acclaimed one-off shows, like 2019’s My Year in Mensa, 2020’s Lolita Podcast (which we loved), and 2021’s Aack Cast. But the most recent, Ghost Church, is one of her weirdest, wildest, and most welcoming oddity deep dives yet.

This time, Loftus travels around America to chronicle the century-old religion called spiritualism, talking to modern-day believers of this Christian offshoot born out of old-timey seances put on by a pair of young twins who pretended to commune with the dead. Ghost Church displays just how much Loftus’s unique podcasting craft has matured, with not only better storytelling and production, but also a deeper journalistic approach. While just as delightfully voice-y as previous podcasts, Loftus leaves a lot more room for the listener to draw their own conclusions. In contrast to My Year in Mensa, it’s very much not about infiltrating and poking fun at a group of people. Like all of Loftus’ oeuvre, Ghost Church instead explodes a very niche topic into a world of broader themes, tackling everything from grief, to religion, science, and existentialism.

1. Kuper Island

At the time of this article’s publication, only half of this eight-part CBC series detailing the genocidal horrors suffered by the children forced to attend Canada’s Catholic-run Kuper Island Indian Residential School has been released. But we’re already prepared to call it one of the most vital listens of 2020. As the first episode’s title states, this Vancouver institution tore first nation children from their families and communities, and threw them into a school they called Alcatraz. Only ceasing operations in 1975, it inflicted unimaginable torture on the indigenous students, many of whom died by suicide, or died trying to escape, or of starvation, disease, and mistreatment. The survivors interviewed describe enduring a constant onslaught of physical and emotional abuse, including sexual assault.

Though the podcast focuses on the stories of four students, one of whom did not survive the atrocities, host Duncan McCue also exposes the ripple effect this haunting trauma has had on every generation of first nation peoples since. Bringing not only hard-hitting reporting, McCue also delivers powerful personal storytelling through his own connection to the school as the son of a man who survived it.

This is far from an easy listen, but it also captures so much more than the pain and suffering that imperialist empires across the Americas inflicted upon this land’s native peoples. There is also an abundance of collective communal resilience too, and an unbreakable spirit, seen in the way the story’s subjects learn to find some semblance of peace by giving voice to — rather than burying — these irredeemable atrocities.

2. This is Dating

The pandemic sent many people’s dating lives into freefall. But PRX’s delightful, socially-distanced blind dating podcast This is Dating is here to catch that death spiral and send you back out there with hope in your heart. Hosts (match-makers?) Hiwote Getaneh and Jesse Baker gently guide romance seekers, often starting with a relationship coach before sending them on a series of recorded first dates. While the couples do their thing, the co-hosts help steer the conversations when needed. Part elevated Netflix reality dating show, part Esther Perrel therapy session, This is Dating is not only riveting entertainment for all, but a genuinely heartening reflection of the modern dating scene, with lots of vulnerable moments and valuable lessons for us all.

3. Harsh Reality

You may have missed the 2004 reality TV show There’s Something About Miriam — but you cannot miss this Wondery series’ deep dive on its impact. The premise of the show was simple and cruel: Six cis male contestants competed for the affections of the gorgeous Miriam Rivera without knowing she was trans, until the producers revealed the information for maximum dramatic effect. An onslaught of abuse toward Miriam followed from the public, media, show contestants, and callous reality TV producers. Just about everyone lost all human dignity in the process, except that is for the ever-glamorous Miriam, who took it all in stride while never losing sight of her dream to become a star.

As the star of the first dating reality TV show centered on a trans woman, Miriam represented a lot of different thing to a lot of different folks. For mainstream heteronormative society, she was their earliest (if not first) intimate exposure to a trans person. In the trans community, she was a double-edged sword of long overdue representation steeped in a world of transphobia. But what podcast host Trace Lysette so artfully does in this series is focus on Miriam not only as a star or pioneering TV personality, but as a human being. Filled with gut-wrenching and sobering confrontations with transmisogyny as much as joyous celebrations of her glamorousness, Harsh Reality is a touching portrait of a woman subjected to some of the worst that exploitative 2000s TV had to offer. [From our Best Podcasts to Binge roundup]

4. Cover Story, Season 1: Power Trip

Season 1 of New York magazine’s investigative podcast series (hosted by journalist iO Tillett Wright) is quite the trip — literally. Tackling the explosive mainstream attention that psychedelic therapy has been receiving over the past several years, the show’s rigorous reporting brings some much-needed skepticism to the topic. The first half of the season dives into the wild west of the movement’s early days as an underground, worldwide operation. You hear the shocking stories of multiple psychedelic therapy advocates-turned-survivors (including co-host Lily Kay Ross), whose hopeful belief in a possible cure for PTSD left them vulnerable to emotional and sexual abuse from leaders. While the first half is chilling enough, the second posits that a dangerously unquestioning push for these experimental psychological treatments to be integrated into legitimate institutions as quickly as possible threatens to subject even more to similar traumas.

5. Sympathy Pains

You probably recognize host and science journalist Laura Beil from her other hit podcast, Dr. Death, in which she tackles cases that straddle the intersection between medicine and true crime. Her new six-part series Sympathy Pains tells the equally riveting, jaw-dropping, and twisted tale of a scammer who abuses not only the medical system but the goodwill of vulnerable folks who believe her convoluted lies. For decades, Sarah Delashmit went to incredible lengths to infiltrate tight-knit support systems across a multitude of chronic illness and disability communities. From faking multiple terminal cancers, disabilities like muscular dystrophy, as well as a multitude of miscarriages, infant deaths, and much more — Delashmit’s con robbed her victims of something far more personal than money. By preying on the best intentions of people who were already suffering, she robbed many of their trust in humanity and (in some cases) most treasured relationships. While stories of Munchausen’s syndrome aren’t new, you’ve probably never heard one quite as elaborate and far-reaching as this one.

6. Trojan Horse Affair

Continuing Serial Productions’ reputation for exposing the universal poignance behind a seemingly self-contained true story, The Trojan Horse Affair investigates a local school board scandal that became an international news story. In Birmingham, England in 2013, an anonymous letter was delivered to a city counselor that claimed to contain documents detailing an elaborate Islamic extremist plot to infiltrate British school systems. The whole town was shocked by the allegations the letter levied against previously beloved administrators and community leaders who had helped a number of Muslim-majority schools begin to excel. Following the ouster of those accused administrators after the ensuing moral panic, media frenzy, and counterterrorism investigation, something didn’t sit right with Birmingham local and aspiring journalist Hamza Syed.

Now, with S-Town‘s Brian Reed at his side, Syed dives back in to search for the answer to a nagging mystery no one ever bothered solving back in 2013: Who sent the Trojan Horse letter? The revealing eight-parter is a journey of inconvenient truths, shocking twists, and brave commitment to grappling with all the messy, multi-pronged realities of living with Islamophobia, xenophobia, and the pressure to assimilate.

7. Will Be Wild

The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, left many asking the same question: How could this happen? This eight-parter by Pineapple Studios and Wondery does an excellent and deeply compelling job of answering that exact question. Hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz bring a sense of humanity to their coverage of the folks who were closest to the historic attack. Interviews range from the concerned family members who warned the FBI about the potential violence they were hearing about, to the government officials who listened and tried to sound alarms about the domestic terror threat to even some Trump supporters who attended the rally. If you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to this once-in-a-lifetime news story, Will Be Wild will reveal just how much we still need to learn about what happened that day — and what it means for the future of American democracy. [From our Best Podcasts to Binge roundup]

8. Normal Gossip

Admit it: We all live for the drama, at least a little. Luckily, this public service of a podcast is here to serve us all the drama that doesn’t have anything to do with us. On each episode of Normal Gossip, host Kelsey McKinney is joined by a roster of hilarious guests, including ICYMI‘s Rachel Hampton and the Scam Goddess herself Laci Mosley. Both take generous sips of the spilled tea from a listener-submitted (anonymized) piece of gossip from the lives of total strangers. Check your guilt at the door, because this pure podcasting pleasure can even educate listeners on the historic importance of gossip as a whisper network — while also saying «fuck it» and just having some harmless, petty fun.

9. Sorry About The Kid

When a police car accidentally hit and killed Alex McKinnon’s kid brother three decades ago, he was too young to process the trauma of losing his favorite person. So the young grieving boy resorted to burying those painful memories instead, not realizing that by doing so he also inadvertently started burying all the good memories of his brother too. As an adult — and with the help of therapy — McKinnon now seeks to regain a sense of the brother he fears forgetting more of with every passing year. In this gut-wrenching four-parter, he interviews everyone from his therapist to his parents and friends to finally face the grief he’s outrun since childhood.

10. Wild Things

Back in 2003, the story of German-born magician Roy (from the iconic Siegfried & Roy duo) getting fatally attacked by one of his own tigers during a live Las Vegas performance took over the news cycle. But decades later, when journalist Steven Leckart did an investigative piece into all the unanswered questions left in the wake of the infamous incident, he discovered just how much we weren’t told about what happened that night. This riveting eight-part exposé tries to find the truth hidden behind all the illusions, taking listeners through shocking discoveries revealed through interviews with close collaborates, case investigators, and even witnesses to that awful night in question.

11. Sweet Bobby

For years, radio presenter Kirat thought she was part of a tragically beautiful love story for the ages. Sure, her long-distance relationship with a good-looking doctor named Bobby had its ups and downs — namely, the litany of medical emergencies and illnesses that kept them physically separated. But nothing prepared her (and now her listeners) for the unbelievable truth behind the web of lies that was the most important romantic relationship of her life. We won’t say much else to avoid the risk of spoiling. But trust us: You’ll want to stick around for the end of this catfishing story to end all catfishing stories. Like Sympathy Pains, Sweet Bobby is part of a refreshing new true crime podcast trend that examines cons that feel criminal, but that the law unfortunately cannot help make right. There’s no easy path to justice, other than perhaps to shed light on the irreparable damage the perpetrators have caused.

12. It’s Lit

Let’s be honest: Literature — from book clubs to publishing — tends to gatekeep far too many people of color from nurturing their love of reading. But those who’ve been kept out are now finding more and more ways to break through the walls of white literary snobbery. The It’s Lit! podcast (hosted by Princess Weekes, an assistant editor at The Mary Sue) is the podcast spin-off of the popular PBS YouTube series by the same name. Covering a broad scope of genres, it offers refreshingly invigorating takes and far more relatable perspectives to literary discourse. The guests (who include Ibi Ziboi and Mikki Kendall) and conversations cover much of what traditional literary circles too often leave out (like whether «the classics fail us» or why diverse young adult fiction is so important), creating a bookish space that’s as inviting as it is enthralling. [From our Best Podcasts for Writers roundup]

13. Conviction: Season 3, The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan

Gimlet’s Conviction has never shied away from tough cases that reveal much larger, uglier realities about our society and culture. But Season 3 feels particularly poignant, personal, and unflinching, as investigative reporter Habiba Nosheen seeks to solve a cold case where a young Jordanian-Canadian woman went missing in 2006 under suspicious circumstances. The journalist finds herself enlisted by none other than the grown-up daughter who was left behind by the sudden disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan, and both appear equally determined to uncover the truth of this vanished but not forgotten mother.

14. The Super Hero Complex

With the fiction podcast Super Hero Complex, the recent golden age of realist superhero satires comes to audio storytelling. While far more PG than either Deadpool or Prime Video’s The Boys, all deconstruct the modern superhero craze in similar ways.

In the world of The Super Hero Complex (produced by Novel), superpowers may not be real, but the phenomenon of masked vigilantes who take on crime is growing in popularity anyway. Journalist David Weinberg examines what this trend says about us as Americans by profiling the most famous self-declared heroes of all: Seatle’s Phoenix Jones. Some say he’s the only real-life superhero the world’s ever known, while others like the police (and even members of his own team) point to drug charges that reveal a larger fraud behind his persona. With some of the best, most organic performances in fictional podcasting to date, The Super Hero Complex is well worth a listen even for folks who don’t usually go for this genre.

15. Chameleon Season 3: Wild Boys

Like a lot of the best true crime podcasts, Wild Boys welcomes listeners to join the host on a journey to unpack the truth behind a real-life story that they’re personally connected to. That’s the case for comedian and journalist Sam Mullins, who returns to his small hometown in Canada to understand the bizarre and curious incident that rocked residents back in 2003. When two extremely emaciated young brothers appeared in town out of nowhere, they told the well-intentioned locals who took them in that they’d been kicked out of their very reclusive family’s home located deep in the woods. But as time went on, and officials began to question this shocking tale in which parents kept their kids in complete isolation from modern society, a far sadder secret is revealed through their lies.

16. Truthers: Tiffany Dover Is Dead

NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny has been on the frontlines of the viral misinformation and disinformation campaigns surrounding QAnon for years now. In this five-part series with an intentionally provocative title, Zadrozny uses those skills to tackle one specific monstrosity from the swamp of internet falsehoods, by disproving a favorite conspiracy theory of vaccine «truthers.» Tiffany Dover was just a regular nurse from Tennessee back in December 2020, when she became one of the first healthcare workers to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine on live TV. But after Dover briefly fainted (only to then explain to those viewers moments later that it was a harmless byproduct of an unrelated medical condition), she stopped being a person and instead became a chess piece in QAnoners’ unwinnable conspiratorial game. [From our Best Tech Podcasts roundup]

17. Broken Doors

Since the murder of Breonna Taylor (and the 2020 social justice uprisings her death helped spark), researchers and advocates for police reform have pointed to the enormous issue of no-knock warrants. In an award-winning database visualization series compiling the appalling statistics behind police shootings in America since 2015, the Washington Post found another chilling development in this trend: Increasingly, police are relying on these no-knock warrants to execute violent searches on private citizens’ homes with little need for probable cause. As was the case with Taylor, these human rights violations can end fatally. Other victims accuse corrupt departments of using these searches for pure monetary profit. In this jaw-dropping six-part investigative series, reporters Jenn Abelson and Nicole Dungca shine a light on what this egregious abuse of power looks like through interviews with victims, their families, and whistleblowers from within the American justice system.

18. Violating Community Guidelines with Brittany Broski and Sarah Schauer

Podcasts from influencers are like the brightest stars in the sky: They tend to burn out the fastest. But unlike other influencer duos’ experiments with podcasting, like H3H3’S Ethan Klein and Trisha Paytas’ doomed Frenemies, this one is co-hosted by online celebrities with a much more stable bond. Brittany Broski (who many remember from the viral Kombucha TikTok) and Sarah Schauer describe themselves as «internet-hardened succubabes,» and bring their front seats to the chaotic mess of the online world to their new podcast. Violating Community Guidelines covers everything from thirst traps to AI influencers with a personable casualness rather than expertise. The vibes are spot on, though be warned that this is more of deviating two-hour-long hangout sesh rather than a highly edited production. [From our Best Tech Podcasts roundup]

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