ARTIST OF THE WEEK
They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants created a kids' album about science. Could there be a better pairing of band and topic? The excitement and enthusiasm of the band is palpable on Here Comes Science — they're having a blast. This is the kind of record parents won't get sick of their kids playing over and over. It's also a joy for anyone who loves well-written power pop with a side of nerdiness.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
David Bazan on 'Curse Your Branches'
Struggles with faith are well documented in a brutally honest manner on David Bazan's Curse Your Branches. His journey from Christian to skeptic clearly wasn't easy, but in documenting the process in unflinching detail, he has managed to perform that rare form of alchemy in which only the great artists are well versed: he has transformed the ugly into something truly beautiful.
'Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 2: The Siege of Spinner Cay' (PC, WiiWare)
It's a testament to the writing that the first and second games can feel so distinct, yet flow so perfectly into each other. All the major plot points from the first are advanced here — the human LeChuck, the voodoo pox, the crazy French scientist — and all are seamlessly interwoven with this episode's stand-alone adventure. Especially clever is how certain solutions to puzzles in the first serve as clues for puzzles in the second. By the end, there's a sense of closure and overall progress. This is episodic gaming as it should be.LISTEN
jj — 'jj n° 2' (CD)
Enter Swedish Balearic pop, an aerated, lighter-calorie incarnation of European euphony. It's beachy, but cool and stately too — like a place you might visit to watch the waves and contemplate your life. jj is the baby, easily the cutest and most elemental of the clan. Babies have no worries, aside from, you know, getting basic needs met; they don't have to know about algebra or natural disasters or the stock market. And jj n° 2 is so carefree that listening to it is practically like entering a regressive state.
'Disney Nature Earth' (Blu-ray, DVD)
This is more than four years in the filming with literally hundreds of cameramen and videographers roaming every continent on the planet. As the extent to which some shots were achieved — swimming in whale-filled waters, circling packs of caribou in a two-person hot air balloon — is explained and illustrated, we recognize the magnitude of such an endeavor. Earth offers a sensational summary of our interstellar home. As entertaining as it is alarming, this defining documentary will have you wondering about the fate of this complex third rock from the sun.
'A Gate at the Stairs' by Lorrie Moore
Moore's reputation is for mastery of the short story. Fans of Birds of America might have yearned for another collection of stories, but this book, almost 10 years in the making, should establish her as a master of the novel as well. Her talent for seeing humor in — and as a palliative for — the experiencing of death and suffering, and the limpid, bittersweet tang of her prose, are unique in modern letters. Her "voice" is entirely her own, American and contemporary.