Whether you’re obsessed with true crime or can’t get enough of make-your-life-better self improvement chats, there’s a strong chance you jumped on the podcast train sometime in the last few years.

We’re all aware of some of the holy grail podcasts – erm, Serial, anyone? – but every year our trusty public radio stations and other podcastery places churn out some shit, and some absolute gold.

We’re here today to smile fondly over the excellent stuff that was produced in 2017. And there was a lot of it, so don’t rip our heads off if we missed *your* fave, OK? But absolutely DO tell us on Facebook about whatever it was, bc we’re always after new binges.

DIRTY JOHN

Hooooo boy. Who hasn’t binged Dirty John in 2017, I ask you. The podcast about a seemingly perfect husband with a really suss past (not to mention some very concerning issues) took the world by storm – it had everything, mystery, real-life interviews, and an insane twist. If you haven’t given it a shot, do it simply because everyone else has and you’ll be left out of any/all Christmas Day lunch convo’s.

TRACE

An Aussie podcast produced by ABC Radio, Trace chronicles the case of Maria James – a mother of two who was stabbed to death in the back of her Melbourne bookshop in 1980. Her killer was never found, but this podcast – and the expert level of investigative reporting – ended up raising some serious questions. It was a huge hit for 2017 and is one of the best true crime podcasts around in general.

WHERE SHOULD WE BEGIN?

You know what’s the dream for any nosy-parker? Listening in on an intensely private conversation. That’s exactly what you get to do with Where Should We Begin?, which let’s the listener into Belgian therapist Esther Perel‘s couple’s therapy sessions. Participants are, of course, anonymous – but listening to the painfully blunt and real problems laid bare makes for uncomfortable and enthralling listening.

SINCERELY, X

Continuing with the anonymous secrets, Sincerely X takes confessional and turns it into a podcast – these are real people with huge, potentially damaging secrets who talk anonymously about them. Think a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who suffers a mental breakdown, an ex-con talking prison life, and a doctor who committed a fatal mistake.

S-TOWN

Easily the most HYPED (if not necessarily the best) show of 2017, S-Town had Serial fans frothing at the mouth – we all anticipated a big, meaty whodunit, and what we got was… not that. Maybe it was our expectations that made it a bit of a let-down, because the podcast was actually expertly produced and told a pretty damn good yarn about a slightly odd guy from a small town. It’s absolutely worth a listen – just go in without expecting it to be true crime, k?

LADIES, WE NEED TO TALK

You know what was always going to be an excellent concept? A podcast for women, by women. That’s the premise of Ladies, We Need To Talk – and they have no issue diving into complex and controversial issues we often don’t discuss in depth with mates, like masturbation, our libidos, and body weight. It’s like listening to a bunch of pals actually opening up candidly about things you wish you talked about more often with your gals.

OPRAH’S SUPER SOUL CONVERSATIONS

YES YES IT’S OPRAH. I know. But trust me when I say this was a solid hit for 2017 in the podcast world. Less about Oprah (although come on, we all still love her right) and more about the guests she brought on board, like Sheryl Sandberg talking about grief and loss after the sudden death of her husband, to the QUEEN of self-help, Brene Brown. You’ll honestly be hooked.

HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

The ABC churned out the goods this year, and How Do You Sleep At Night? was one of ’em. Hosted by Hack’s Sarah McVeigh, it’s all about taking people with polarising hobbies, jobs and behaviours and interviewing them. Think big game hunters, stock market manipulators and a literal murderer. It all makes for fascinating listening, and more than once will you find yourself sympathising with people who you previously judged on a surface level.

BLACK HANDS

This NZ produced podcast centres on a grisly 1994 murder which saw five family members shot and killed in their home. The only survivor? David Bain, one of the sons. It’s a bizarre and mysterious crime case that’s spawned plenty of internet chat, and each episode reveals more background to the murders that makes you question your conviction over who committed them.

BANG ON

ABC, BACK AT IT AGAIN. This time with Bang On, which sees Myf Warhurst and Zan Rowe (aka your two fave ladies of radio) debate all the big stuff that’s happened in the world – and the world of music – that week. These two are actual mates, so the banter and back/forth feels genuine and easy, making for really enjoyable listening.

HOMECOMING

This is a bit of a cheat – Homecoming actually launched in November 2016, but we’re letting it slide on in because it’s so damn good. Even if you’re not usually a fan of fictional podcasts – this is an unravelling story, not real life – it’s worth a listen simply because the pace and reveals are expert level. It’s a big, hectic psychological thriller and mystery and will absolutely get you through a solid road trip this summer.

POD SAVE AMERICA

Nothing was bigger from a political perspective this year than Donald Trump going into office in January. Pod Save America took four former aides to President Obama, plus a bunch of politicians, activists, comedians and journos to discuss politics in the Trump age. It’s a great way to scrub up on what’s going on politically in the States, episodes come out every few days so the topics are very much on point with what’s happening in the news cycle.

MISSING RICHARD SIMMONS

Easily the most polarising, controversial podcast of 2017, Missing Richard Simmons isn’t necessarily one you need to listen to – it’s controversy is around whether hunting down someone who has most likely removed themselves from the public eye on purpose is ethical or not – but it’s definitely a podcast that made a splash this year. Simmons was one of the most famous fitness personalities in the world, but in 2014 just completely AWOLed. One of his ex class members goes on a hunt for him, and that’s the podcast. It would be remiss to not mention it, but honestly – you can probably skip this one.

EAR HUSTLE

Fascinated by prison? Aren’t we all. Ear Hustle delves into prison life, telling stories of living behind bars from people who are actually there. It’s a partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, who are currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, an artist.

CRIMETOWN

Remember The Jinx? The documentary about suspected murderer Robert Durst that left all of us shook? This podcast is from the creators of that doco, and each season investigates the culture of crime in a different American city. Less true crime, more organised crime, think mobsters and corruption over whodunits.

UP AND VANISHED

This is the 2017 podcast that literally helped solve a cold case. The investigative series looks at the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a high school teacher and former beauty queen from Georgia, USA. It was an 11 year cold case when Payne Lindsey started investigating, and within six months of the first episode going live, a tip was provided to police which led to an arrest and charge over the disappearance. Some of the promotion around the podcast – they do live tours and have merch – can feel a bit ick given it’s about a murder, but the actual content is excellent.

Image: Dirty John