Silverman has always been self-aware, but in A Speck Of Dust, that self-awareness feels less prankish and more authentic. For her, this means making some digressions, and pointing out that she’s making digressions: “Put a pin in that,” she says repeatedly when pausing her material for a sidebar in what becomes a sort of low-key running gag. This hour-plus of material doesn’t have the effortless storytelling flow of truly breathtaking stand-up, but the self-commentary adds a compelling wrinkle to her style. In the past, she would hone one-liners out of sexism or racism, unafraid to make herself look terrible. Here, when she makes a joke about validating Jewish stereotypes, she pauses to admonish, then excuse herself: “Did it get a laugh? Yes? Okay.”
Later, she makes a great throwaway joke about her new dog and then doubles back to talk about the “coolness” of making a throwaway joke. She also pauses to identify a “release laugh” after a (supposedly true) story that sounds like it’s going to be harrowing and turns out to be merely hilariously gross, and stops to marvel at the empathy the audience just displayed by going quiet for the scary-sounding stuff.
There’s minimal spite in Amber Coffman’s City Of No Reply, and no dirty laundry is aired on the seaside breeze of tracks like “Dark Night” and “Nobody Knows.” Rather, the attention turns inward from the first line of the first song, “All To Myself”: “I can’t just sit around, feeling upset / Doting on my loneliness.” There’s ache in that swooning ballad, and in side-two standouts “If You Want My Heart” and “Brand New” as well. The latter steeps the album’s refrains of self-reliance in barroom smoke and IDM glitch, a slow jam about burning everything down and starting over that builds itself into rich vocal harmonies and one lingering sentiment: “Your memory can’t fade fast enough for what you did to me.” That’s as stinging as City Of No Reply gets.
Scott Westerfeld, Alex Puvilland, and Hilary Sycamore, Spill Zone
As the graphic novel market continues to grow, the medium is increasingly popular for established novelists who want to add a visual component to their stories. Writer Scott Westerfeld has already dabbled in comics with graphic novel spin-offs to his best-selling Uglies YA book series, but Spill Zone (First Second) is his first time creating a brand-new comic-book concept. And it’s a very good one. Westerfeld takes full advantage of the creative opportunities of the medium by building his story around a location where physics, geometry, and lighting are all warped, allowing artist Alex Puvilland and colorist Hilary Sycamore to freely experiment with visual elements.
People don’t know exactly what the Po’Town Spill was, but the catastrophic incident completely transformed the town of Poughkeepsie and affected everyone within the Spill Zone. Addison snuck off that night to drink with her friends, and she lost most of her family. Her parents worked in the hospital and died trying to save others, and while her sister, Lexa, survived, she hasn’t spoken a word since and psychically communicates with her creepy doll. Addison makes a living selling photographs of the Spill Zone through her shady art dealer, but each trip back into this psychedelic pastel nightmare could cost Addison her life… It’s a great beach read, and readers that want a striking sci-fi mystery should take a trip to the Spill Zone this summer.
Don’t let its marketing, centered around dubious Wii-like motion controls, fool you; Arms has the potential to be the next great Nintendo game. Developed by the same team as Mario Kart 8, it’s a vibrant take on one-on-one fighting games that pulls back the complexities the genre has developed over the years and focuses on the moment-to-moment mind-games at its heart. The colorful cast of cartoon characters pummel each other with their extendable, customizable arms, the unique properties of which open up all kinds of tactical possibilities during tense, methodical bouts.
The motion controls are far more precise than the kind the Wii is remembered by, but playing with a controller works even better. The game isn’t out until the June 16, but there will be several opportunities to give it a try this weekend during a free demo event called the Global Testpunch. Just download the demo to your Switch and get online at any of these times, all listed here under Central Daylight Time: Saturday June 3 at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m.; Sunday June 4 at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Look for our full review of Arms next week.
Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson, He’s Got Rhythm: The Life And Career Of Gene Kelly
That the most famous moments of [Gene] Kelly’s life, which get the most attention, don’t sync up with the most interesting ones is the key issue faced by Rhythm. This isn’t a fatal flaw, however, and for the most part the book is an engaging, thoughtful, and comprehensive look at the great hoofer, one that doubles as a kind of parallel history of modern dance, given how its subject absorbed so much of what came before him and then influenced everything that came after (in a sign of the attention paid to Kelly’s legacy, the final section covers “1972-present,” even though Kelly died in 1996).
It helps that Kelly as a subject is complex and important to cinematic history, and yet still fairly unknown from a biographical standpoint. Even fans who have Singin’ In The Rain committed to memory are less likely to know the specifics of Kelly’s upbringing or personal life, which gives He’s Got Rhythm a leg up over other recent entries in the genre.