Quite a bit of new music has come out lately, relieving me from a summer slump, music-wise. Alt-J released their second album, which instantly became my life soundtrack. The band, out of Leeds, gets pretty heavy rotation on Alt Nation (is it the name?) even though they're a little on the weird side for that fairly poppy station. If you find yourself muttering about "kids these days" or thinking music was much better when you were in high school, give them a listen. The first time you'll just tip your head on the side and go "huh?" but do it twice again and, if you're like me, something might click. (If you're Suze, don't watch the video.)
Irish troubadour Andrew Hozier-Byrne, who just goes by the name Hozier, finally released his first full-length album. His music has been coming out in dribs and drabs, though EPs and singles, but now we have the whole shebang. I was eagerly awaiting this since his song "Take Me to Church" worked its way under my skin. The verdict? It's flippin' fantastic. Not what I expected, but absolutely amazing nonetheless. If you remember the 1991 movie "The Commitments," about an Irish band, you'll recognize some of the flavor of the music in Hozier's. Does all Irish music have a Motown sound? Odd, but I'm not complaining. Click here to watch "Take Me to Church," but be warned, the video and the message of the song are much darker and more political than a casual listen indicates. It seems like a sexy little song to have in the background while you offer your loved one a nice massage. You won't want to do that after you learn why he wrote the song. (And that's also why I kinda love the guy. Nothing to do with his tousled good looks, nope, no sirree.)
Here's some genuinely sweet fare from Hozier:
And some plain ol' rock-n-roll (reminiscent of Hootie & The Blowfish). Listen for the lyrics.
A friend and I went to see Gone Girl, which was exciting simply because I almost never go see movies with girlfriends. I almost never go to the movie theater period. Look at the shiny lights! Look at the big screen! Oh brave new world, that has such people in it! Well. Gone Girl is full of characters so dark and crazy that even Prospero would probably run screeching, but I loved it. The movie, that is. The book was masterful but left me curled up whimpering on the floor of my closet (figuratively). Maybe because I already knew what was coming I was less horrified by things as they unfolded in the movie, and the acting was superb. Rosamond Pike as Amy is magnetic, you can hardly take your eyes off her. Ben Affleck's performance is easier to dismiss at first but upon reflection I appreciate how hard his role as Nick was to pull off, what a line he had to walk, and how much he had to communicate with body language and subtle facial expressions. The two "straight men," the twin sister and the lawyer, were both brilliantly performed by their respective actors and help the audience find an entry point into the Land of Crazy that is the story. Go watch it if you like Hitchcockian psychological thrillers. (And speaking of Hitchcock, keep your eyes peeled for the many homages.)
I've been listening to a ton of podcasts lately, while hiking, cleaning, and driving. (My little iPod plugs directly into my car's sound system, which is handy and safer than earbuds.) A few new discoveries have me riveted, most of them coming from Slate Magazine. The Double X podcast is a roundtable discussion among women writers for Slate and other magazines. This week's discussion was of Hanna Rosin's cover piece for The Atlantic on why teens sext. Rosin herself is there for the discussion; she was also on Fresh Air recently, talking about the same thing. I highly recommend both discussions if you have teens or pre-teens.
Slate's podcasts are more casual than NPR's, it's more like being at a really cool cocktail party with your smartest, funniest friends. I still like my NPR podcasts but Slate is offering me something a little deepier, a little riskier. The same Slate discussion with Rosin also gets into why male feminists (at least, guys who lead with "Hi, I'm a feminist") can sometimes seem a little sketchy, and why Gone Girl may or may not be anti-feminist. While the podcast definitely should appeal to women of my age/demographic, it's also something dudes may want to listen to, if they are interested in women and women's issues. Slate's Political Gabfest and Culture Gabfest are also riveting, smart, and funny discussions of the Topic of the Day, whatever it may be. Slate's Audio Book Club has long been a favorite way for me to find new books and enjoy a deeper look into novels I've already read. (They do a few nonfiction books, as well.)
Finally, I've started reading a much-anticipated book that got its hooks into me instantly: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. You may know him from Cloud Atlas, which I read and mostly loved, though a few of his experiments didn't work as well for me as others. The Bone Clocks is much easier to get into; the first two sections, at least, are told by highly engaging narrators. The plot and style feel like a mashup of Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman, which is a pretty awesome mashup. It is a very, very English book, and I wonder if it will do as well with American audiences, who might feel a little lost in the specific cultural references and lingo. I've spent enough time in the UK, and have enough British friends, that I'm gleaning more out of the story than I might have. Anyway, I can't wait to get back to it!
Happy weekend, everyone!