Grizzly Bear (Photo: Tom Hines)

The album to listen to

Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins

Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear’s fifth record and first in five years, sounds completely at ease with itself. The first few tracks teem with pastoral beauty; check the swooning, 70mm composition of ‘Three Rings’ or the early-morning birdsong guitars of ‘Four Cypresses.’ This has been a natural growth: The almost geological scale of 2006’s Yellow House gave way on 2009’s Veckatimest to lush, organic pastures, less focused on cathartic climaxes than ecosystems of detail, and it’s a development that continues here into a gleaming sonic opulence. Midway through, ‘Losing All Sense’ clicks into one of the band’s wrangly, interlocking grooves, but augments it with enormous starbursts of guitar. On ‘Aquarian,’ on the spidering ‘Glass Hillside,’ on closer ‘Sky Took Hold,’ the group repeatedly pulls out these reverb-drenched analog explosions of sound, offering a welcome reminder that few bands in contemporary music are as focused on the noble, yet oft-devalued task of sounding good as Grizzly Bear.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The video game to play

Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania isn’t your typical nostalgia trip. Yes, it borrows the look, feel, music, and even specific levels from Sonic The Hedgehog’s Genesis-era glory days, but there’s more to it than the cynical recycling of fondly remembered bits. Mania’s development team—an assemblage of developers from outside Sega who cut their teeth on Sonic fan games and remakes—seems to understand the appeal of Sonic’s 16-bit outings more than the in-house developers who’ve been shepherding the series for the last 23 years. They’ve whisked those games into the modern era with an injection of contemporary design and an overwhelming passion for the radical, ’90s-as-hell aesthetic of Sonic’s golden age. This is Sonic The Hedgehog as you remember it, rather than Sonic The Hedgehog as it actually was, and it’s so much better for it.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The movie to watch

Logan Lucky

“All of this adds up to great entertainment that runs perhaps slightly longer than necessary; it’s closer to the two-hour Ocean’s pictures than the fleetness of [Steven] Soderbergh’s more experimental genre riffs. Yet the movie is also more than a Big Gulp-sized cup of late-summer lemonade. Its sense of economic anxiety has more in common with Magic Mike and The Girlfriend Experience, two sharp stories about selling sex during a recession. Logan Lucky’s timing and less provocative subject matter could have easily turned it into a condescending paean to white, rural anger in the Trump era. But while Soderbergh’s touch has often been described as chilly—all of that careful color-coding and trim, precise camera movement—he shows real warmth toward his characters here.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The show to watch

The Defenders

“The first half of The Defenders is a potent mix of humor, dread, and ass-kicking. Even with Iron Fist tagging along as the annoying younger brother—who could buy and sell you and the building you live in a thousand times over—the Defenders shine as a team and as individuals (well, most of them). Rather than hit pause on their larger arcs, the series explores different parts of Jessica Jones’ recovery and Daredevil’s penitence, while fleshing out the stories of Luke Cage’s reentry and Iron Fist’s search for vengeance. Those elements are used to both forge and undermine their partnership. Everyone here is a loner, either by preference or circumstance, but they’ll grudgingly work together to protect New York City, which offers something compelling enough to each character that it’s treated as a living organism itself.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The book to read

Bruce Handy, Wild Things: The Joy Of Reading Children’s Literature As An Adult

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“That you don’t have to be a child to be a lover and reader of children’s literature is the conceit of Bruce Handy’s Wild Things, a terrific rumpus of a journey into the world of illustrated and young reader classics that Maurice Sendak grumpily termed ‘Kiddiebookland,’ and Dr. Seuss teasingly called ‘brat books.’ Part historical survey, part collective biography, and part memoir about reading these books as a child and rereading them as a parent, Handy canvasses the past century of American and British kid books to suggest that ‘children’s literature is every bit as rich and rewarding in its concerns, as honest and stylish in execution, as the best adult literature—and also as complicated, stubborn, contradictory, and mysterious.’ The key word here is mystery, the underlying theme that unites the titles in Handy’s handpicked oeuvre (most everyone will have a bone to pick with the author’s omissions—Where’s Steig? No Dahl, no deal!). From Goodnight Moon to Beverly Cleary’s Klickitat Street series to Little House On The Prairie, children’s literature is at its best when it seeks to help children—and grownups, arguably—make sense of the often nonsensical adult world that surrounds them.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to

Blank Check, “Inception

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“Maybe it’s the Christopher Nolan filmography, or perhaps it’s the fact that Griffin Newman is finally done filming The Tick and the Two Friends are back together again—whatever the case, Blank Check has really been hitting its stride in The Pod Knight Casts miniseries. In one of their most ambitious and entertaining episodes yet, they tackle Inception, a film that should be well-worn territory by now, particularly exhausted by takes from a couple of nerdy white guys. But against all odds, this episode feels fresh. Due in no small part to the shifting of the episode’s structure as they ‘go deeper’ and create podcasts within podcasts, this episode is some of the most dumb fun the show has had while still staying true to its thesis. Whether it’s examining the way the movie is a metaphor for filmmaking or meticulously going through the members of Leo’s Pussy Posse, there’s a specific verve and excitement in the way they cover this installment in the series. Even David Sims surrenders to the ‘podcast within a podcast’ gimmick. And when Sims gets loose, it’s bound to be an especially good time.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.