Best podcasts of the week: Is Bruce Springsteen an unlikely queer icon? Two fans makes the case

<span>A 1978 photo of Bruce Springsteen.</span><span>Photograph: Frank Stefanko/AP</span>
A 1978 photo of Bruce Springsteen.Photograph: Frank Stefanko/AP

Picks of the week

Audible, episodes weekly

Slow Burn, Think Twice, Fiasco – Leon Neyfakh has a clutch of quality podcasts in his back catalogue. Now his attention is on vaping, which he’s desperately trying to give up (he even gets caught at it by co-host Arielle Pardes). They tell the story of the quest for a cigarette that doesn’t kill you. What’s so thought-provoking is how the UK touts vaping as a tool to give up smoking, while the US tries to eradicate the habit with flavour bans. Hannah Verdier

A Better Paradise
Widely available, episodes weekly
This atmospheric near-future podcast from the writers of Grand Theft Auto assembles a high-quality cast. Andrew Lincoln is Dr Mark Tyburn, who sets out to invent an addictive game before halting the project – but will it finally see the light of day when it is discovered years later? HV

Because the Boss Belongs to Us
Widely available, episodes weekly
Bruce Springsteen may not be the first name you come up with when asked about queer pop idols, but hosts Jesse Lawson and Holly Casio are “two queer nerds” who are obsessed with the Boss and want you to get to know him as “the queer icon we know that he is”. They set to work in this fun but very well-justified pod. Hollie Richardson

Pull the Thread: The Wild Life
Widely available, episodes weekly
This intriguing series from Drake’s production company follows investigative journalist Runako Celina and a spy known as “Wolf” on a sting operation against one of Africa’s biggest wildlife-trafficking syndicates. It’s an immersive journey that takes you from environmental conferences at the Shard in London to eavesdropping on Ugandan phone calls where criminals are entrapped into ivory deals. Alexi Duggins

Widely available, episodes weekly
A new series from the creator of the outrageous confession-based X account. It ranges from an episode that ranks the 10 best secrets of the week to an extended interview with Philippa Perry about why people are falling over themselves to anonymously share their awful secrets. Given how much fun it is, it’s worth seeing where it goes next. AD

There’s a podcast for that

This week, Rachel Aroesti chooses five of the best podcasts on Britain, from Armando Iannucci’s irreverent take on Westminster to Afua Hirsch’s look at the complex legacy of the British empire

London is obviously an international city, but there are moments in this grimly fascinating podcast from Tortoise Media’s Paul Caruana Galizia that will make you wonder exactly which country exerts the most influence over our capital. The show’s first series focused on the Russian money that has flooded into London via the purchasing power of uber-rich oligarchs, who have invested in property and, in the case of the Lebedevs, multiple newspapers. Series two, meanwhile, switched focus to Iran and the government-ordered “hit squads” who have repeatedly attempted to assassinate London-based critics of the regime on British soil.

We Need to Talk About the British Empire
Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book Brit(ish) – both a deeply personal memoir and an insightful analysis of British history – is required reading for anyone wanting to better understand the history and politics of Blackness in this country. In this podcast series, the author broadens her scope even further, using guests’ personal stories to shed light on the legacy of colonialism from multiple angles. Anita Rani offers insight into partition; the late Benjamin Zephaniah discusses Windrush; Diana Rigg speaks about growing up in the final days of the British Raj; and musician Emma-Lee Moss (previously Emmy the Great) recalls her childhood in UK-ruled Hong Kong.

Westminster Reimagined
One of our foremost satirists, Armando Iannucci has spent his career sending up this country’s follies and foibles from governmental clusterfuckery on The Thick of It to the banality of mid-tier broadcasters via Alan Partridge. For this podcast series from the New Statesman, he joins the magazine’s Britain editor, Anoosh Chakelian (who also hosts the publication’s flagship pod), for a slightly less irreverent take on beleaguered old Blighty’s most pressing political problems. Topics range from Britain’s “ramshackle” constitution and the old boys’ club energy of party politics to the shortcomings of lobby journalism and the souring of our supposedly special relationship with the US.

Northern News
Edinburgh-nominated standups Ian Smith and Amy Gledhill are northerners who have moved to that there London, but they still crave dispatches from their home towns – Gledhill hails from Hull, Smith from nearby Goole. In Northern News, the pair combine freewheeling chat with readings from regional newspapers, homing in on the oddest, silliest, most bathos-riddled stories they can find (the opening of a “Haçienda-style” nightclub in a Bury furniture shop, outrage over an underdressed Christmas tree supplied by Goole council). They also welcome a great run of guest comedians, who share the quirks of their home turf: Paddy Young sheds light on Scarborough’s skipping day, while Lucy Beaumont explains the Hessle feast.

The Rise and Fall of Britpop
The story of Britpop isn’t just Oasis and Blur’s tabloid-shifting rivalry – it’s a tale that tells us a great deal about the heritage and history of British pop culture from the 1960s to the present day. As co-hosts of Radio 1’s hip Evening Session at the point of the scene’s inception 30 years ago, Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley are exceptionally well-placed to spin this particular yarn. With help from guests including Stuart Maconie and Alex James, the duo take a trip down memory lane to trace Britpop’s trajectory from an unloved alternative to trendy US grunge to a cultural force that overhauled our national identity.

Why not try …

  • Alexander Skarsgård looks at startups taking an innovative approach to environmental and social issues in new pod How We Fix This.

  • From remote work to immigration, the Atlantic’s Good On Paper asks the big questions behind inescapable topics.

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