Summer escapism, as close as a headset

These shows offer emotional escape with explorations of mysterious cultural moments, soothing soundscapes and stories about petty interpersonal drama. (Photos: NYTimes)
Whatever fantasies you have of a blissfully relaxed summer, the reality often fails to measure up. Many workers cannot (or will not) take enough time off; parents need to find ways to keep their children occupied once school’s out, and summer travel sometimes comes with enough stressors to cancel out any chill factor. But even if you find yourself in less-than-zen circumstances, you can still choose to slow down and give yourself a mental break this summer.اضافة اعلان

These six podcasts all offer that emotional escape through very different types of audio content, including soothing natural soundscapes, detailed explainers of mysterious cultural moments, and strangely compelling stories about petty interpersonal drama.

‘Desert Island Discs’
This long-running British radio staple has escapism in its DNA. Originally conceived during World War II as part of a BBC push to produce morale-boosting programming, the show remains a balm in troubled times 80 years later. The central concept has never changed. Celebrity guests (or castaways, in “Desert Island Discs” parlance) each share the eight pieces of music that they’d choose to bring with them if stranded on an island.

This seemingly simple dinner-party question invariably leads to rich, revealing interviews, as the guests reflect on their lives through the lens of their musical choices, with gentle prompting from the show’s host (currently Kirsty Young). Guests run the gamut from actors to writers to politicians; and while recent interviewees have included Steven Spielberg, Cate Blanchett, and John Legend, it is also well worth delving into the extensive archive of back episodes to hear interviews with the likes of Maya Angelou, Princess Margaret and Desmond Tutu. 
Starter episode: “Adele”

‘Petty Crimes’
Becoming overly invested in other people’s low-stakes yet intricate interpersonal drama is a surefire way to forget your own troubles, and this delightful series exists for that sole purpose. The name is a deliberate misnomer; there are no actual crimes on “Petty Crimes,” just the kinds of trivial mini-battles that inevitably arise when strangers coexist. The hosts — Ceara O’Sullivan, a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and Griff Stark-Ennis, an actor — take turns telling each other a petty crime story, and then deliver a verdict on who was in the wrong.

Highlights from the first year of episodes include a custody battle over a houseplant named Cassie and a passive-aggressive windshield note at a Barry’s Bootcamp parking lot. Each episode ends with a rapid-fire round in which the hosts debate whether hypothetical etiquette scenarios (such as not tipping for a cold brew coffee, or riding shotgun in an Uber, or starting to eat before everybody is served at a restaurant), are “criminal or minimal.” It’s all much more compelling than the subject matter has any right to be. 
Starter episode: “Signed, Karma”

‘Dear Headspace’
In a saturated marketplace of meditation apps, Headspace is a long-running mainstay. For the last few years, the company has been releasing podcasts to supplement its popular library of audio meditations, and this Q&A show is one of the latest offerings. Hosted by Robin Hopkins, an actress and writer, “Dear Headspace” centers on listener-submitted questions about mental health, relationships, life transitions, and more. In each episode, Hopkins answers questions alongside a rotating cast of Headspace meditation teachers, whose voices will be familiar to users of the app. The emphasis on mindful self-awareness, and specifically how our thought patterns can influence our perceptions and behavior, sets this apart from other advice column style shows. 
Starter episode: “How to Live in the Present, with Kessonga”

‘Decoder Ring’
A grab bag of deep dives into quirky cultural questions, “Decoder Ring” is educational easy listening. Hosted by Slate’s Willa Paskin, the show delivers thoughtful, thoroughly researched investigations into mysteries that you may have idly wondered about before, like: “Why is there so much parking in America, and yet I can never find a spot?” Or, “How did clowns get so creepy?”

While the series has no overarching theme, many of the most memorable episodes focus on the back stories behind internet phenomena — some relatively well known, such as the viral optical illusion of #TheDress, and some more niche.
Starter episode: “The Sideways Effect”

‘Slow Radio’
If you are feeling burned out and overstimulated, even the most lighthearted spoken word content can feel oppressive. This BBC radio program is tailor-made for those moments — immersive soundscapes from around the world, interspersed with snippets of gentle narration. “Slow Radio” transports the listener to places as varied as the Brazilian rainforest, an Arctic glacier, and the rugged coast of a British island where marine life thrives in the absence of human residents.

Some episodes play like an immersive nature documentary, notably the Christmas Eve edition that followed a reindeer mother’s journey across the Nordic wilderness with her young. Others encourage you to find calm by focusing on specific sounds in a setting such as downtown Nashville. It is impossible not to feel more centered after finishing an episode.
Starter episode: “The Glacier in Retreat”

‘Why Won’t You Date Me? With Nicole Byer’Modern dating is often a hellscape, survivable only with resilience, self-compassion and a sympathetic single friend. In this entertaining and cathartic show from Team Coco, comedian Nicole Byer offers all of the above, reflecting on her own long-term singledom with a mix of self-deprecating humor and irrepressible optimism.

 Over almost six years of episodes, Byer has welcomed guests including fellow comedians (like Conan O’Brien), lifelong friends and even the odd former flame, who help chronicle her romantic travails and connect them to a bigger picture of why modern dating is so broken. Whether you are single, coupled, or otherwise, this podcast is consistently hilarious and validating, and follows through on its promise that “nothing is off limits.” 
Starter episode: “Main Character Energy (w/ Willow Pill)”

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