2021 was a HUGE year for podcasting. Production houses, independent podcasters, and brands continue to release incredible audio content and we just get to sit back, relax, and enjoy it. On the tech and distribution side of podcasting and audio, it was a big year, too.
While here at SquadCast, we’re looking ahead towards 2022 and all the exciting content and innovation to come, we also wanted to take a moment to look back on the year that was. It’s so easy to listen to something, absolutely love it, and then a few months later, move onto another obsession. So in this blog post, we’re immortalizing our favorite podcast recommendations of the past year. BUT it’s not just us. We asked our SquadCast community to contribute their favorites as well.
We also put out an audio version of this blog post because…of course we did. You can listen to it here.
Without further ado, here are our favorite podcasts of 2021:
Sam Parr and Shaan Puri have created an engaging, enlightening, and inspirational podcast around the concept of starting and growing a business, whether offline or online looking at the current trends in the marketplace. You can’t go wrong with Sam and Shaan.
Randy Wilburn, host of I Am Northwest Arkansas
Being married to a songwriter, I am a sucker for songwriting podcasts. If you are into “how the sausage is made” type podcasts, and are a songwriting nerd, this is a new podcast with some amazing guests. The host has been a signed staff songwriter in Nashville, teaches at Berklee College of Music and also published a really good songwriting book.
Dino Cattaneo, host of Authentic Leadership for Everyday People
Scrolls and Leaves takes me back to the episodes that are not widely spoken of and ones that I learnt in school history lessons but does not get the recognition of the western world. It truly is history from the margins of the world. Gayathri and Mary Rose do a fantastic job in researching and providing factual arguments.
Arun Sridhar, host of SKRAPS Podcast
I’ve always had a secret obsession with the subject of cults (and “culty” behavior) so I was thrilled to find this podcast. I’ve learned a LOT from the hosts and their guests – and imagine my surprise after listening to their stories, I realized that a few years ago I (almost) joined a cult, myself!
Paige Friend, host of The Beach Speaks
My favorite podcast this year has been The Love Doctor with Dr. Leah Tidey. Full disclaimer, I’ve been on there and I will be again in the next season to come, but it’s been genuinely interesting and I appreciate how she makes sexual health research accessible for folks! She also brings on a wide-range of guests to talk about their respective knowledge. It’s also neat when she brings her husband Levi on to talk about their life, because they discuss incredibly vulnerable topics.
Chris Angel Murphy (they/them), host of Allyship is a Verb
I really enjoyed In the Red Clay. It was a very well-rounded bit of storytelling and helped to put Imperative Entertainment on my radar. The story itself is fascinating, but to be told from the point of view of the criminal’s son – as from a father-son relationship – really pulled in new perspectives for me.
Noah Labhart, host of Code Story, Co-founder & CTO of Veryable
Magician and YouTuber Brian Brushwood tells the story of the most audacious swindle the allies pulled on Germany to win WWII.
Deadair Dennis, host of So, What Do You Really Do?
My favorite podcast of this year and damn near the whole pandemic so far is Bad Queers. An unapologetically black and queer show hosted by HERs, Shana & Kris. Listening to the show feels like being a queer fly on the wall into conversations between two friends. Queer news/trends, important discussions around intersectionality and how to be an ally (and even a co-conspirator). I have loved every 91 episodes of it.
Leah Jackson (she/her), Founder & CEO Puka Puka Creative
I’m a big history podcast buff but there are a few things I like about this one. The host has a great voice that matches well with the content/stories being told. Overall, the host is a wonderful narrator/storyteller and he’s very thorough about getting both sides of events. He’s always open to feedback and encourages others to write in if he’s mistaken on something. He’s also transparent in letting the listener know what his sources are and what’s open to interpretation vs. what’s clear cut. Lastly, he’s very entertaining and doesn’t bore me like some other history podcasts.
This podcast also spurred a huge interest in me to study more about the wild west. After getting some solid book recommendations from the host, I really feel like I was deep diving on these topics and it made me feel great. I guess because I feel like my mental health also improves when I know that I’m truly learning something I’m interested in. You know that feeling when you have a good book and you just don’t wanna stop reading? Having that feeling combined with a podcast is incredible. And it’s an indie one and I love my indie podcasts.
Project Dave, host of Illuminating Mycelium Podcast
The Up2 podcast is hosted by Adam Kaufman and has an excellent focus on interviewing impressive guests that are “as humble as they are successful.” During the interview, they explore the guests’ challenges, fears, motivations, and what it takes to become a humble leader. On a personal note, Adam helped and encouraged me when I was just getting my show launched.
John Kundtz, host of The Disruptor Podcast
I tuned in to The Drop Out every week to hear a literal play-by-play of the Theranos trial. I was repeatedly struck by how the podcast consistently broke down not only what was happening in the trial, but what those events mean within the narrative of Theranos more broadly, what this all means legally, and who this all impacts. It never got sensational or fell into tabloid-like reporting, but instead was a very approachable, easy breakdown of a very messy story. I was also super impressed that they managed to switch hosts, and yet it didn’t lose anything in its consistency.
Jillian Janflone, co-host of Red, Blue, and Brady
The podcast I listen to the most consistently is Smartless. Highly recommend the comedic banter of Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman, and Will Arnett.
Michelle Simone Miller, host of Mentors on the Mic
I’m the host of my own podcast because of one guy. Chet Sears. A few years back, he walked into my office and said, “We’re doing a podcast.” And, we did. For the company we worked for. I’m still following his lead and learning from him. Now, he’s a co-host on Hardheaded. It’s my best podcast of 2021. Because of Chet Sears.
Greg Harrod, host of Connect Mobilize Deliver
I listened to lots of great podcasts this year but one stands out: Because of Anita. Her story moved me deeply in 1991 and, unfortunately, continues to have relevance. She’s the only celebrity to whom I’ve ever written a fan letter.
Liz Sumner, host of I Always Wanted To
Not breaking around new ground here because it’s won all kinds of awards, but my favorite podcast of the year is Pivot from Vox and NY Magazine. Kara Swisher is one of the greatest journalists of our time. Scott Galloway has incredible insight into the business world when he’s not playing his character of The Dog. I always look forward to their two episodes each week.
Chad Parizman, Principal & Founder, Ader Communications
This is a fantastic expose of the contributions of a little-known female scientist called Cindy Andersen, who discovered why debilitating diseases like cystic fibrosis happen. But the podcast goes into how her achievements in science are not recognised even by her own institution. Hidden gender bias or open discrimination? This one is science communicated through the prism of diversity and inclusion (or lack thereof).
Arun Sridhar, host of SKRAPS Podcast
I love to go deep on complex topics, like math in this case, very quickly and Lex Fridman always delivers.
I love quite a few independent podcasts but the episode of a podcast that most recently impacted me is this one from WTF with Marc Maron with guest Kliph Nesteroff. Generally, I love Maron’s in-depth interviews with people I haven’t heard of or thought I knew a lot about.
Rabiah Coon, host of More Than Work
Ghost of a Podcast is a weekly astrology and advice podcast, hosted by Jessica Lanyadoo. Lanyadoo is an astrologer, psychic medium, and animal communicator with more than 25 years of consulting experience. She offers guidance that’s practical, inspiring, and helps you help yourself.
Kim Reyes, SquadCast’s Marketing Manager
Thank you to everyone who contributed their recommendations to this blog post and to our episode of Between Two Mics. Here’s to another year of creating spectacular podcasts…and listening to them as well!
P.s. want to contribute to lists like these in the future? Join the SquadPod community. SquadPod Community Application
Arielle Nissenblatt is SquadCast’s Community Manager. She’s obsessed with all things podcast-related and is the founder of EarBuds Podcast Collective, a podcast recommendation engine. In her spare time, Arielle enjoys hosting zoom trivia for friends and strangers all over the world and rollerblading.