What to See, Listen to and Read in the Summer of 2015
● By Sharon Penny
Aja is Steely Dan’s most commercial album and there are probably die-hard Steely Dan fans incensed that I’m calling this out (pro tip: Steely Dan fans rival Deadheads for sheer levels of nerdy-ness)…but I’m not a diehard Steely Dan fan, I just really, really, really love the song “Deacon Blue,” and “Peg” sounds exactly like summer, and this album is some glorious jazz-rock. That’s all the reason you need.
Beat the Champ—The Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ is the Mountain Goats’ first album since 2012’s Transcendental Youth, and they come out swinging. Literally. No, not musically—swinging punches and jumping off the top rope. Beat the Champ is an elegiac and beautifully crafted ode to songwriter John Darnielle’s childhood escape of pro wrestling. And trust me: Wrestling and folk-rock have never sounded better together.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Best-selling author Octavia Butler uses the conventions of time travel to explore the brutal realities of antebellum slavery. Set in 1976, Dana is inexplicably snatched from her California home and dropped into 19th century Maryland. Drawn back through time repeatedly to Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, and to the slave quarters where she experiences degradations firsthand, each trip grows longer and more perilous—both for her life in the past, and her life in the future.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Nobel laureate author Toni Morrison returns with her eleventh novel, a spare and moving book reminiscent of earlier works like The Bluest Eye. A dark-skinned child nicknamed Bride is shunned by her light-skinned mother, and carries the heaviness of that rejection into her adult life. Her world unravels when she is rejected by her boyfriend and confronted with a woman who haunted her past.
Till the Clouds Roll By
Judy Garland, Lena Horn, Frank Sinatra, Dina Shore, Kathryn Grayson, June Allyson, Van Johnson…you’re already saying to yourself, “Wait, why haven’t I seen this?” Hardcore musical/Garland fans already know and love this fun biography of one of Broadway’s greatest songwriters Jerome Kern. It’s literally packed wall to wall with songs and stars, and our gal Judy’s at her radiant best.
The Last Five Years
Fans of the TV series Smash and Broadway lovers will understand why it is taking all my willpower not to write Jeremy Jordan’s name in all caps and smiley face hearts-for-eyes emojis. He’s gorgeous, he sings like a dream, and he’s in this wonderful little musical with the equally gorgeous Anna Kendrick. C’mon, we all love her too, right? Did I mention Jeremy Jordan?