Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of Radiolab
Photo: Bryan Bedder (Getty Images for The Webby Awards)
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

Dear Young Rocker

A furious and unflinching open letter to her teen self, Dear Young Rocker is Chelsea Ursin’s ode to her weirdo, ugly-duckling, gender-expansive inner child. This podcast exploring the relationship between gender, rage, and the power of music is like an unearthed time capsule containing a forgotten strain of teendom. This first chapter begins at the birthplace of Chelsea’s ennui: middle school in the early 2000s, when she is obsessed with The Smashing Pumpkins’ original lead bassist, D’arcy Wretzky. Every outfit description, from JNCOs to tie-dye pajama pants, is pure nostalgia. Ursin’s anecdotes are painfully relatable, teasing out thoughts and experiences that might have been informed by anxiety and anger, emotions that often go ignored in young women. This podcast is a mixtape with all the right tracks. [Morgan McNaught]

Every Little Thing
Drugs On Screen: A Prop Master Tells All

What are actors really doing when they’re shown smoking on screen? How about snorting powder? Or shooting up with a needle? This week’s episode of Every Little Thing enlists the expertise of Hollywood prop master Lynda Reiss to tell us what the hell is actually being smoked, snorted, and stabbed in front of the camera. The drug question was posed by a listener named Emily, who goes back and forth with host Flora Lichtman to (unfairly!) bash Marriage Story and hear the movie-magic insight Lichtman gains from Reiss. Reiss’ entire career is to create detailed props (labeled medicine bottles, legal paperwork covered in fictional names) for both onscreen aesthetics and actor visual cues; the more intricate the props, the more they can imbue the film with a realistic “life layer.” Reiss also confirms: Matthew McConaughey was a pro at snorting for the camera on True Detective. [Kevin Cortez]

Hit The Bricks
When Are You Gonna Come Down?

A century after the events of L. Frank Baum’s stories, teenage Jessi moves to Dorothy Gale’s town, where Jesse’s aunt resides after their life in the city implodes—but soon, Jessi and her adaptable cousin Wallace are picked up by a storm and thrown into Oz. Hit The Bricks is focused on creating an original, heartfelt experience that speaks to the sense of wonder in Baum’s original narrative. Creator PJ Scott-Blankenship is an expert in everything Oz, and that passion shines through in the script, in their voice-acting as Wallace, and in the sound and music cues. Jessi and Wallace’s journey is backed by all-original music by Kathryn Hoss that convey Jessi’s anxiety and Wallace’s awe, and connects the sensations of childhood nostalgia with the more restless desires of adulthood. And sound designer Chad Ellis creates a soundscape so realistic you could touch Oz’s emerald glass buildings. [Elena Fernández Collins]

Past Gas
VW Beetle Pt. I - An Evil Origin Story

Toward the end of this episode, one host reflects that none of the people they’ve covered so far were decent humans. To date, this acclaimed car podcast telling the biggest, baddest, weirdest stories in automotive history has exposed Henry Ford; his grandson, Henry II; Enzo Ferrari; and Evel Knievel as rather appalling figures when their cursory bios are fleshed out. But, hey, at least they’re not Hitler, who turns out to be one of the main drivers behind the creation of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle. A bit of a gearhead, Hitler set benchmarks for some of the car’s specifications himself; a case is made that many of the Beetle’s features were cribbed from a design by Josef Ganz, who was not given any credit. Fortunately, the story of the Beetle does not end here, and future episodes will chronicle lighter moments in the car’s history. [Zach Brooke]

Queery With Cameron Esposito
Vicky Vox

As soon as Vicky Vox introduces herself, host Cameron Esposito notes the two of them have very different energies on the mic. Esposito has a more reserved vocal quality while Vox is loud and energetic, something she attributes to her large frame. As ever, Esposito manages to explore deep personal subject matter, while facilitating a fun conversation about their youthful explorations of gender identity and sexuality. For Vox, the classic Swayze movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar was a definite influence; despite the film’s conflation of gender identity and drag performance, it certainly broke a lot of boundaries in 1995. Vox is candid about her experiences as a young person, the hours of prep time involved in drag performances, and what “feeling beautiful” means for someone whose visual presentation is a part of their art. [Jose Nateras]

The Bobbys

Radiolab bids goodbye to longtime co-host Robert Krulwich in a tender and upbeat farewell episode. Befitting the man whose ideas so shaped the program (co-host Jad Abumrad credits Krulwich with inspiring the best-loved section of Radiolab’s most popular episode), the format of Krulwich’s send-off takes a page from one of his own notebooks. For 45 years, Krulwich has logged the results to a fantasy award show called The Bobbys, which celebrates the works that have most moved him. Abumrad flips the script and presents Krulwich with his own set of awards for his offbeat contributions to public radio. The chemistry between the two hosts is as strong as ever, and even though they revisit an endless argument one last time—Krulwich wants to do an episode devoted to snail sex—the two colleagues still have the capacity to surprise one another. Little is said about the future, and there’s no excessive lingering over what is ending with Krulwich’s departure. After 15 years together, some stories must remain unspoken. [Zach Brooke]

Stephen Fry’s 7 Deadly Sins

In the fourth episode of his follow-up series to 2018’s Great Leap Years, English writer and comedian Stephen Fry finally gets to the cardinal sin everyone has been waiting for: lust. While each of the deadly sins is certainly interesting in its own way, and Fry has a unique way of framing them in his wry, well-researched audio essays, there’s undeniably something extra enticing about lust, and Fry knows it. Over the course of this 40-minute episode, he clearly relishes taking an unflinching, wholly NSFW look at the taboos, fetishes, and animalistic urges that have pervaded human existence. He traces how the Western understanding of sexual morality has evolved over the centuries and ponders where it might end up in an age of mind-probing artificial intelligence. But beyond getting a schoolboy giggle out of stringing together an endless series of graphic expletives, Fry seems genuinely interested in examining why there is so much embarrassment and shame surrounding the mere mention of lustful desires. It is, after all, a major component of an act essential to the continuation of the human race. [Dan Neilan]

The Black Guy Who Tips
Trying To Help

Rod and Karen Morrow, North Carolina–based podcasters and beloved husband-wife team, returned to their daily The Black Guy Who Tips podcast last week after taking a week off, and they immediately hit the ground running. The welcome-back ep’s first hour alone—in which the Morrows discuss how the urge to cancel and shame celebs on social media has turned most of us into narcissistic, hypocritical dipshits—is so riveting it should be taught in schools. With over 2,000 episodes and counting, it’s clear this couple has found a formula that works for them. That’s not always an easy thing to do. For example, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Michael Bennett and his wife, philanthropist Pele Bennett, recently debuted their own podcast, Mouthpeace, and while they spend most of the episode reminiscing about their early courtship and how they’ve evolved as spouses and parents, they’re still a bit stiff and awkward on the mic. Perhaps they should listen to The Black Guy Who Tips and get tips from these podcasting OGs. [Craig D. Lindsey]

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