Scribbling down some highlights of my pop culture diet for the week of 5/2-5/8/21.
Music: I spent a couple of days prepping for Friday’s FM to MTV podcast recording by listening to the Wham! catalog for the first time. I’d lived through the hits, of course, but I’d never gotten around to the complete Fantastic, Make It Big, or Music from the Edge of Heaven, and it was an illuminating experience. I’ve never been a huge Wham! or George Michael fan, but I still found it interesting to hear the foreshadowing of George’s more serious later recordings in the Fantastic track “Nothing Looks the Same in the Light,” and to appreciate for the first time the supremely Motown-indebted ingredients of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Also, “Freedom” still rules.
Elsewhere on the discovery front, I spent a couple of days exploring the discography of Brazilian singer/songwriter Ed Motta, who’s the nephew of another Brazilian recording artist, Tim Maia. I came by Motta by way of Maia, and Maia by way of Cassiano, the Brazilian funk/soul pioneer who passed away on May 7. I intend to listen to more of both of those artists soon, but I had a lot of fun digging into Motta’s work last week, primarily his 1990 debut and his 2013 release AOR.
Motta’s debut, Um Contrato com Deus, is a fascinating mirror of late ’80s/early ’90s R&B trends, sprinkled with more traditional sounds. AOR is what its name suggests: Think of nuevo-retro revivalists like Young Gun Silver Fox, only filtered through a Latin American perspective (and sung in Brazilian Portuguese). Trust me, you don’t need to understand a word of it in order to find it utterly delightful.
Another happy discovery this week: Look Closer, the new album from John Mailander’s Forecast. Mailander is a member of Bruce Hornsby’s current band, and I’d never heard (or even been aware of) his solo stuff, but if you’re in the mood for gently beautiful, largely instrumental folk, get this into your ears.
Television: I’ve been enjoying Rutherford Falls, the new Peacock original starring Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding. It’s so high-concept that it would take a whole post to really explain the outline of the show, but suffice it to say it’s about a pair of best friends (Helms and Schemieding) who find their relationship tested by a turn of events that digs up long-simmering tensions over the history of their town. Without skimping on sitcom-style laughs, it’s a series that has some very thoughtful things to say about representation, appropriation, and America in general; if you have access to Peacock, I highly recommend checking it out.
Movies: I’m continuing my series of Some Guy Cinema screenings. This week’s viewings included Black Sunday, starring Robert Shaw as a Mossad agent hellbent on preventing terrorists from murdering the entire crowd at Super Bowl X; Freebie and the Bean, starring Alan Arkin and James Caan as two of the worst cops in the history of the world; and Rancho Deluxe, starring Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston as a couple of layabout cattle rustlers in Montana. Expect to see posts on all three of them later on in the Some Guy Cinema series.
Books: I spent the week loving The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore. I met Libby via Twitter during the series of #UnimaginableTweets I posted about Kenny Loggins’ dreadful and disgusting memoir The Unimaginable Life, and didn’t even realize she’d published a novel until I was just about done tweeting Loggins passages. She was such delightful social media company that I figured I owed it to myself to check out her book, and I was right: The Big Rewind is a sharp, tangy blend of murder mystery and rock ‘n’ roll love letter that should serve as instant literary catnip to anybody who’s ever made a mixtape. Read it!