“S-Town” Review: Premier Podcasting

On Tuesday, March 28 the team from “This American Life” and “Serial” released their new podcast, S-Town.

This piece was an experiment, as the team usually follows a week-by-week platform. S-Town was released all at once, encouraging eager listeners to ‘binge-listen’, or listen to every episode back-to-back.

S-Town is presented in a narrative style, comedic and tragic, much like a Shakespearian novel.

The story follows reporter Brian Reed on a trip down to Woodstock, Alabama to investigate a possible murder and police corruption. The story quickly becomes about the man who tipped off Reed on the story, John B. Macklemore.

The email sent by Macklemore opens with the tagline “John B. Macklemore lives in Shit-town (S-town), Alabama.” Macklemore lists grievances he has with the town, a possible murder, sexual misconduct by police, and corruption.

Reed visits Macklemore and quickly realizes he is like no one else. Macklemore is an eccentric, intelligent, and unique man. He is constantly cursing or complaining about something.

S-Town is a story full of different narratives and storylines all in one. The theme in Reed’s investigation is the difference between the progressive, big city and the south and small-town America.

The story deals with racism, homosexuality in the south and the homophobia therein, and mental illness and suicide.

Among Macklemore’s grievances in his ‘S-town’ include the backwardness of the south, his irritation with the lack of education while there are churches on every corner, and especially with a widespread disbelief in climate change.

Macklemore certainly stands out in his town because of his intelligence and love of science, specifically chemistry and horticulture. He is looked at as a weird but kind and emotional person, and a genius.

Macklemore is a Horologist, someone that studies and works on old clocks. He made a fortune and is known as the town humane society and philanthropist. As a man with paranoid delusions, depression, and anxiety, Macklemore hides his money in the form of gold and other means.

The story becomes a treasure hunt for Reed who seeks to find the truth and answers. It is a beautiful story with twists and turns at every corner which keeps listeners on the edge of their seats.

Even before S-Town dropped it had reached number one on the Podcast rankings. It has quickly gained the respect of podcast fanatics and Serial fans. Serial has not released season 3 after a year and anxious fans jumped at the opportunity to hear the fantastic journalism and storytelling of the team. Each chapter opens with narration from Sarah Koenig, host of Serial, which excited many fans.

Serial, which made podcasting the choice media outlet of true crime fanatics and those looking for a great story, has led to many following in their footsteps. However, even the best have not reached the popularity of Serial, which has received over 100 million downloads.

The Serial phenomenon also led to social activism and online discussion among fans, inspired to be investigators, like Sarah Koenig.

What S-Town did differently is widen the concerns and issues to podcast fans. Many are unaware of the plight of those seeking to escape their small town, education and drug issues, the poverty, racism and violence which exists much in the background. S-Town took 3 years to produce, more than the first two seasons of Serial combined.

Anyone who is interested in novel-like storytelling, journalism, culture, and social issues would enjoy this podcast. Like Serial, even casual podcast listeners, or those who have never listened to podcasts will be unable to put it down. The roughly 8 hours of S-Town goes by in a flash and makes fans even more excited to see what the team has in store next. S-Town will not disappoint.

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