Album: The Underside of Power
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Walk Like a Panther,” “Cry of the Martyrs,” “The Underside of Power,” “Death March,” and “Cleveland”
This may be the most important album of 2017, and one that will certainly be on my year end best of ’17 list. The politically-charged lyrics of the Atlanta-based band offer hope in times of chaos and despair. Algiers sound is remarkable as it is indescribable, kind of a mix of gospel, with psychedelic soul (such as late-60s Temptations or Funkadelic at their most political), and punk rock all echoed in a wall of sound. This is definitely an album you should put on your list to check out.
Title: Rogue One
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd., Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
This Star Wars spinoff tells the story of the events that happened immediately before the original 1977 Star Wars film, showing a ragtag band of Rebels stealing the plans for the Death Star. While the main Star Wars saga details the experiences of generals, princesses, and Jedi knights, this movie offer more of a “working class” perspective of the Star Wars universe. The film is full of references and special treats for fans of Star Wars and they could be accused of overdoing it, but ultimately I don’t think it detracts from Rogue One as a standalone film. Like the best Star Wars films, the focus is on quickly developing and making the audience care about this group of characters. Standout characters include Alan Tudyk as the sarcastic droid K-2SO and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior-monk with a strong faith in the Force. At the head of the Rogue One team is Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso who doesn’t shout commands or make wisecracks, but leads with a quiet confidence. I appreciate Jones’ performance not only as representation for women as leaders but also for introverts. It’s unfortunate that this group will only appear in this one movie as I’d love to see more of them. Nevertheless, I found this an interesting expansion of the Star Wars universe, both beautifully-filmed and character driven.
Author: George Saunders
Title: Lincoln in the Bardo
Narrator: Cast of Thousands
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2017)
This is a curious, experimental novel that is built upon the true story of President Abraham Lincoln making several visits to a crypt to hold the body of his recently deceased son Willie. The “bardo” is a Tibetan Buddhist concept that of an intermediate state where a person doesn’t know if they’r alive or dead. The author gives voice to dozens of deceased people who comment Lincoln & Willie but also tell their own stories and interact with one another. A third element to this novel are sections which are merely collages of writing, newspapers clippings, and historical works about Lincoln and his times. The novel is an oddly abstract attempt at understanding grief and coming terms to death, both on Lincoln’s personal level and the large scale trauma of the Civil War. The audiobook is particularly interesting since each character is read by a different actor, several of them quite famous, lending it the quality of an audio play.
Recommended books: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust and Severance: Stories by Robert Olen Butler