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5 podcasts that find depth and wit in 30 minutes or less

Welcome to Night Vale

There are plenty of random holidays out there, like Doughnut Day (June 5, so you'll have to wait for 2016), Boss's Day (October 16, so you have plenty of time to grab some halfhearted card), and Groundhog Day (February 2, so you can hunker down through the winter until some twitchy rodent tells you otherwise).

When #PodcastDay trended on September 30, though, it took many by surprise. But there is, apparently, a whole day officially dedicated to podcasts. If you'd still like to celebrate Podcast Day at the last minute, here are five great podcasts you can finish in 30 minutes or less.

1) Song Exploder (15 minutes or less)

Despite its bombastic title, Song Exploder is a focused and thoughtful podcast that invites musicians on to dissect their songs and explain their influences. The discussions are insightful and sometimes even surprising. Since the show debuted in 2014, host Hrishikesh Hirway has talked to acts like Spoon, Best Coast, Ghostface Killah, the Postal Service, Garbage, and even Bob's Burgers creator Loren Bouchard.

2) Welcome to Night Vale (26 to 30 minutes)

The fictional newscast Welcome to Night Vale took listeners by surprise when it debuted in 2012, thanks to its canny ability to go from innocuous to spine-chilling in a matter of seconds. Night Vale's community announcements present as traditional radio dramas, but through a creepy, paranormal lens. Even a sleepy suburb can contain truly bizarre, and sometimes even frightening, truths. Episodes are short, but the show only needs a few minutes to suck you into its disorienting parallel world.

3) The Memory Palace (8 to 20 minutes)

memory palace

The Memory Palace

With The Memory Palace, Nate DiMeo tells some of history's most notable, or most bizarre, forgotten stories. There's almost no rhyme or reason to which stories DiMeo highlights, but they are always specific, surprising, and compelling. Recent stories have gone into the histories of NASA's first African-American astronaut candidate and an overlooked "pirate queen." Memory Palace episodes also rarely run longer than 10 minutes, so if you get stuck in traffic, you could even knock out a few of these in a row.

4) Limetown (25 minutes)

There have only been two episodes of Limetown, but it has already gained a rabid and rapidly growing fan base. The fictional series is unraveling the mysterious disappearance of more than 300 people at an even more mysterious research facility. As I wrote earlier this week, Limetown makes the savvy choice to take the unsettling supernatural elements of Welcome to Night Vale, funnel it through a news format à la Serial or This American Life, and divide it by science fiction like Lost. It's a smart combination that makes the 25 minutes fly by.

5) 99% Invisible (20 to 30 minutes)

99% Invisible.

Roman Mars's podcast 99% Invisible is a fascinating exploration of the power of design and those elements of our world that most of us take for granted, or have simply forgotten. The podcast delves into both the modern world — like the latest episode, which shed light on the auctioning off of lost mail — and stories from the past, like a recent episode that went into the history and efficiency of putting lost children's pictures on milk cartons. At the end of each episode's 20 to 30 minutes, you'll come out feeling more informed than you thought possible — or at the very least, like you have a fascinating anecdote to replace your well-worn college exploits at your next party.

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