Feeling Overwhelmed By Election Day? Escape Into Your Earbuds With These 5 Podcasts

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Harold Sims infuses his African-inspired cuisine with cannabis

There are days when we could use an escape hatch from daily life. I’ve had a lot of those days this year. You’re limping through the same rotten 2020 as me, so maybe you can relate.

I love podcasts, and they come in handy at times like these. When I need a few minutes away, I pop in my earbuds, walk to the park and find some lengthy stories and interviews to savor. It always helps my mood.

Today is Election Day. But maybe you’ve already voted, or you just need to step away before you check your phone obsessively for early results tonight. If that sounds like you, I’m here to help.

See, I like podcasts so much I help make them here at Colorado Public Radio. So if you crave some election-free listening today, try these five picks made right here in Colorado. (Full disclosure: I helped create a lot of these episodes. But we worked really hard on them, so I hope you’ll give them a shot.)

Happy listening! And I promise you, politics and election suspense will absolutely be waiting for you whenever you finish checking out these episodes.

On Something: Cannabis on the Menu

CPR’s show about cannabis legalization had a great second season, including an interview with weed hero Willie Nelson and a powerful episode about how racist policies tied to the War on Drugs affect Black communities.

But right now, I recommend something lighter: A surprisingly moving story about Harold Sims, a Denver chef who used cannabis as an ingredient in his cooking, and introduced African cuisine to a huge audience in the process. Spend a half-hour with Sims and you’ll feel like you made a new friend.

Listen to that episode here.

Back from Broken: David Mellor

2020’s bizarro baseball season came to an end last week, so check out this story as an encore. David Mellor was a promising high school pitcher whose major league aspirations ended with a shocking car accident.

The injuries left Mellor suffering through years of post-traumatic stress disorder. The story of how he got help, and even found a career with a major league ball team, feels surprising and triumphant.

Listen here.

The Great Composers: 100 Years of Leonard Bernstein

Want to explore a bit of U.S. history that has nothing to do with elections? Try CPR Classical’s look at one of America’s most prominent composers. It looks at the brilliance of “West Side Story” but also delves into revealing, lesser-known moments in Bernstein’s music. There’s his “Age of Anxiety” symphony, which contemplates the fear of the atomic era, and his wild, provocative “Mass,” which shocked listeners when it debuted at the height of the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, Bernstein became one of the world’s most famous conductors and introduced a generation of young TV viewers to classical music. This is a history lesson, but it almost feels more like a musical superhero story.

Listen here.

At A Distance: Mindfulness Can Help Right Now

When the coronavirus pandemic peaked in Colorado this spring, CPR News launched this podcast about living well through stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines.

Hosts May Ortega and Sam Brasch moved on to other projects when the Covid-19 case numbers declined in late May. But this episode about using mindfulness exercises to cope with a difficult year still feels powerful and reassuring, especially as coronavirus statistics creep up again.

Listen here.

Indie 102.3 Sessions: At Home With Anjimile

Speaking of Covid-19: The pandemic created new challenges for the team behind this podcast, but it didn’t derail it. When in-studio sessions at Colorado Public Radio went on hiatus in March, the show soldiered on with a series of intimate, remote performances.

This recent session with Boston artist Anjimile won me over. The rawness of Anjimile’s solo performance feels like a marriage of Elliott Smith’s most confessional moments and Nina Simone’s resonant singing.

Listen here.