Pop Picks

Pop Picks – Jan. 15, 2018

Posted on January 15, 2018

 

January 15, 2018

 

What I’m listening to:

Drive-By Truckers. Chris Stapleton has me on an unusual (for me) country theme and I discovered these guys to my great delight. They’ve been around, with some 11 albums, but the newest one is fascinating. It’s a deep dive into Southern alienation and the white working-class world often associated with our current president. I admire the willingness to lay bare, in kick ass rock songs, the complexities and pain at work among people we too quickly place into overly simple categories. These guys are brave, bold, and thoughtful as hell, while producing songs I didn’t expect to like, but that I keep playing. And they are coming to NH.

What I’m reading:

A textual analog to Drive-By Truckers by Chris Stapleton in many ways is Tony Horowitz’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning Confederates in the Attic. Ostensibly about the Civil War and the South’s ongoing attachment to it, it is prescient and speaks eloquently to the times in which we live (where every southern state but Virginia voted for President Trump). Often hilarious, it too surfaces complexities and nuance that escape a more recent, and widely acclaimed, book like Hillbilly Elegy. As a Civil War fan, it was also astonishing in many instances, especially when it blows apart long-held “truths” about the war, such as the degree to which Sherman burned down the south (he did not). Like D-B Truckers, Horowitz loves the South and the people he encounters, even as he grapples with its myths of victimhood and exceptionalism (and racism, which may be no more than the racism in the north, but of a different kind). Everyone should read this book and I’m embarrassed I’m so late to it.

What I’m watching:

David Letterman has a new Netflix show called “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” and we watched the first episode, in which Letterman interviewed Barack Obama. It was extraordinary (if you don’t have Netflix, get it just to watch this show); not only because we were reminded of Obama’s smarts, grace, and humanity (and humor), but because we saw a side of Letterman we didn’t know existed. His personal reflections on Selma were raw and powerful, almost painful. He will do five more episodes with “extraordinary individuals” and if they are anything like the first, this might be the very best work of his career and one of the best things on television.

 

Archive

December 22, 2017

What I’m reading:

Just finished Sunjeev Sahota’s Year of the Runaways, a painful inside look at the plight of illegal Indian immigrant workers in Britain. It was shortlisted for 2015 Man Booker Prize and its transporting, often to a dark and painful universe, and it is impossible not to think about the American version of this story and the terrible way we treat the undocumented in our own country, especially now.

What I’m watching:

Season II of The Crown is even better than Season I. Elizabeth’s character is becoming more three-dimensional, the modern world is catching up with tradition-bound Britain, and Cold War politics offer more context and tension than we saw in Season I. Claire Foy, in her last season, is just terrific – one arched eye brow can send a message.

What I’m listening to:

A lot of Christmas music, but needing a break from the schmaltz, I’ve discovered Over the Rhine and their Christmas album, Snow Angels. God, these guys are good.

 

November 14, 2017

What I’m watching:

Guiltily, I watch the Patriots play every weekend, often building my schedule and plans around seeing the game. Why the guilt? I don’t know how morally defensible is football anymore, as we now know the severe damage it does to the players. We can’t pretend it’s all okay anymore. Is this our version of late decadent Rome, watching mostly young Black men take a terrible toll on each other for our mere entertainment?

What I’m reading:

Recently finished J.G. Ballard’s 2000 novel Super-Cannes, a powerful depiction of a corporate-tech ex-pat community taken over by a kind of psychopathology, in which all social norms and responsibilities are surrendered to residents of the new world community. Kept thinking about Silicon Valley when reading it. Pretty dark, dystopian view of the modern world and centered around a mass killing, troublingly prescient.

What I’m listening to:

Was never really a Lorde fan, only knowing her catchy (and smarter than you might first guess) pop hit “Royals” from her debut album. But her new album, Melodrama, is terrific and it doesn’t feel quite right to call this “pop.” There is something way more substantial going on with Lorde and I can see why many critics put this album at the top of their Best in 2017 list. Count me in as a huge fan.

 

November 3, 2017

What I’m reading:

Just finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, her breathtakingly good second novel. How is someone so young so wise? Her writing is near perfection and I read the book in two days, setting my alarm for 4:30AM so I could finish it before work.

What I’m watching:

We just binge watched season two of Stranger Things and it was worth it just to watch Millie Bobbie Brown, the transcendent young actor who plays Eleven. The series is a delightful mash up of every great eighties horror genre you can imagine and while pretty dark, an absolute joy to watch.

What I’m listening to:

I’m not a lover of country music (to say the least), but I love Chris Stapleton. His “The Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning” is heartbreakingly good and reminds me of the old school country that played in my house as a kid. He has a new album and I can’t wait, but his From A Room: Volume 1 is on repeat for now.

 

September 26, 2017

What I’m reading:

Just finished George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo. It took me a while to accept its cadence and sheer weirdness, but loved it in the end. A painful meditation on loss and grief, and a genuinely beautiful exploration of the intersection of life and death, the difficulty of letting go of what was, good and bad, and what never came to be.

What I’m watching:

HBO’s The Deuce. Times Square and the beginning of the porn industry in the 1970s, the setting made me wonder if this was really something I’d want to see. But David Simon is the writer and I’d read a menu if he wrote it. It does not disappoint so far and there is nothing prurient about it.

What I’m listening to:

The National’s new album Sleep Well Beast. I love this band. The opening piano notes of the first song, “Nobody Else Will Be There,” seize me & I’m reminded that no one else in music today matches their arrangement & musicianship. I’m adding “Born to Beg,” “Slow Show,” “I Need My Girl,” and “Runaway” to my list of favorite love songs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.