Podcasts of the Year – Staff Round Up

We spent a lot of time this year listening to podcasts. Some are so good; we just have to share them! Here are some of the podcasts we have been listening to here at HeadStuff and The Podcast Studios.

Alan Bennett (CEO) is listening to…

Second Captains

I have been a big fan of Second Captains for years, and the fact that I still am, and listen to most of their episodes every week (they do 6 episodes a week), says a lot about their ability to remain relevant, entertaining and informative. After any big sporting event or just after a normal weekend’s Premier League action, the very first reactions I want are Eoin’s, Ken’s and Ciaran’s. The show often goes further than sport into diplomatic issues such as Peng Shuai’s recent silence by the Chinese Government, though of course that is sport related (she’s a tennis player). Ken’s Politics Podcast, which goes out on the normal podcast feed, tackles all sorts of social and political issues not related to sport. To be honest I could listen to Ken Early talk about anything. He’s very cogent. 

They do one free episode every Monday for people who are not members, but there are five extra episodes for members of the “World Service” which is €5 per month plus VAT. It’s well worth it!

Paddy O’Leary (Operations Manager) is listening to…

Passenger List

Breaking News… this show is great. I completely missed the Passenger List fanfare when it was first released in 2019. Thankfully our Head of Podcasts, Conor Reid, brought it to my attention as Season Two kicked off in May 2021. I had two seasons to binge this year which was very convenient seeing as I was gasping for more once Season One ended – I feel for those poor souls who had to wait the eighteen months between seasons.


Passenger List is a mystery thriller audio drama about a missing plane and a college student, Kaitlin Le (Star Wars’ Kelly Marie Tran), who is searching for the truth as her own twin brother is one of the 256 passengers on board Atlantic Flight 702 when it just disappeared.

Hackers, terrorists, right-wing media, government cover-ups, journalist suppression, and enough conspiracy theories to make Alex Jones blush. These things are all just obstacles in Kaitlin’s journey for truth in this incredibly bingeable series. 

A special mention needs to be given to the audio production on the opening news montages of each episode; brilliant creativity and each montage sets you up for the episode you’re about to dive into. 

Matt Mahon (Digital Director) is listening to…

Behind The Bastards

Not a new show but definitely one of my favourite finds of 2021. Hosted by Robert Evans (who has more podcasts than you can shake a podcast stick at), the show deep dives into a theme, person, or group of people who are… not good. The spectrum of topics is amazing from Nazis (obvious bastards) to groups who have been trying to construct lawless offshore communities – mainly to avoid paying tax, but also to do terrible things polite society has made illegal…

Evans’ background as a lapsed libertarian drug enthusiast and current investigative reporter at Bellingcat offers a really good analytical perspective. He has strong opinions on the scum of the earth, and why they do what they do. With a rotating slew of co-host comedian friends, they dissect the person or group and usually find a nugget or two that will blow your mind. A good place to start is with one classic like ‘How Nestle Starved a Bunch of Babies,’ or, for something a little more current, they look at Cryptocurrency and the many ways it and the people associated with it are awful.

Conor Reid (Head of Podcasts) is listening to…

Mission to Zyxx

This year saw the return of Season 5 of Mission to Zyxx, and the announcement that it would be the final season! For the uninitiated, the show is an improvised scifi comedy audiodrama about an intrepid crew of galactic ambassadors as they fumble their way through a variety of space missions. For several years now, that little notification on my podcast player announcing the arrival of a new Zyxx episode has been one of the absolute highlights of my day. The show is brilliantly acted and improvised, on the part of both the regular crew and the many high-profile guest comedians, and the close focus on world building truly brings the show to life. The podcast also features some of the most breathtakingly good sound design you’ll hear on any podcast, anywhere.

Season 5 has continued to innovate, and the entirely sung episode 7 was a particular highlight (and the later bonus episode with a breakdown of how it was all recorded). It’ll be such a shame to see the show finish up next year but I’ll definitely be going back and listening all over again. It’s that good.

The Sporkful

I don’t listen to a huge number of food podcasts and had never listened to Dan Pashman’s long-running show, The Sporkful, before this year. But when a friend told me about a miniseries called “Mission ImPASTAble”, I was immediately hooked. The miniseries charts Pashman’s quest to invent, and ultimately sell, a brand new pasta shape. Unlike a typical interview episode, this documentary-style miniseries blend’s Pashman’s infectious enthusiasm with the draw of a “live” show of this type (similar to the early seasons of StartUpZigZag or a number of similar podcasts). Without giving too much away, to say his pasta was a success would be a massive understatement, and several follow-up episodes aired later in the year. A definite 2021 standout. 

Julie Hassett (Editor and Producer) is listening to…

The Friendship Onion

When the first episode of The Friendship Onion released earlier this year, I had a feeling I would love it. So much so that I already wrote a full review on it when the show was still fresh and new, with scarcely more than a handful of episodes under its belt. Now, the show has reached over 30 episodes and I can confidently call it my favourite podcast of the year by far. Hosted by Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings fame, the two look back at their time on set and interview some familiar faces like Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, and behind-the-scenes gems like Sir Richard Taylor (the mastermind responsible for the Weta Workshop). They talk about anything and everything, from their favourite music to the many uses of butter (it’s not just for spreading on toast, you know!)

The two best friends create a hilarious duo, whether they are quizzing fans on their Lord of the Rings knowledge, bickering over something said in a text message, or eating the world, The Friendship Onion is a must for any fan of Lord of the Rings, or for anyone with a funny bone.

Sam McHugh (Intern) is listening to…

SoundWorks Collection

Are you the kind of person who likes to pause movies to say things like “did you know that the blaster sounds from Star Wars are actually a guy wire being hit?” Or, “Bruce Willis doesn’t re-records his own lines, he has a vocal double to do that for him.” Or, “guys, please pause the movie and be quiet while I listen to an entire podcast about how the sound for it was mixed.” If you are, then do I have a podcast for you! SoundWorks Collection is a podcast that delves into the behind-the-scenes magic of audio in film. The show sketches out the audio landscape which wraps the visuals of cinema with a member of the audio post-production crew. Or sometimes it might be the composer of your favourite flick being interviewed, detailing their unique approach to epic themes heard throughout.

This podcast has been growing since 2014, but there’s obviously no shortage of interviewees when it comes to modern cinema. The added benefit being that there’s no shortage on content, with so many films to explore. So, look it up, find a movie you love and discover a fresh perspective that will augment your next rewatch.  And when introducing your dearly held film to a captive friend, you can talk over it so much more with all the novel knowledge added to your collection of movie trivia.

Claudia Grandez (Marketing and Business Development) is listening to…

Female Criminals

As a big fan of crime stories, I accidentally came across this podcast on Spotify a couple of months ago and I couldn’t stop listening to it ever since. Female Criminals is a true-crime podcast where women are the protagonist of each story, but for a different reason than most podcasts of the same genre. They are no longer the victims – this time they are the criminals.

Each episode examines the motives, the psychology and the brutalities they dare to perform to fulfil their goals.
If you are a fan of crime shows, then immerse yourself in a world of seduction, manipulation, lies and of course deaths with Female Criminals. Travel around the world through your ears, and meet all these obsessive minds ready to do whatever it takes to get away with murder. This podcast has weekly episodes every Wednesday and is a Spotify original.

These are some of our best podcasts we have been listening to this year. What have been some of your stand-out shows in 2021?

Happy holidays from all of us here at HeadStuff and The Podcast Studios!

Find more podcast related content on the HeadStuff Podcast Section – News, Reviews, Interviews and How-To Guides for all you podcasters out there. 

If you’re interested in writing about podcasts for our website, get in touch at [email protected]!