1. Maureen Corrigan reviews two graphic novels:

    A Bintel Brief and The Harlem Hellfighters are two New York Stories. That’s why I’m combining them in this review; not because — as some purists still think — they’re lesser works of literature because they’re graphic novels. If Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Bayeux Tapestry, and Art Spiegelman’s 1991 classic, Maus, haven’t yet persuaded the high art holdouts of the value of stories told in visual sequence, nothing I say now about these two books is likely to convince them. Which is a shame because A Bintel Brief by Liana Finck and The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and illustrated by Caanan White are two of the most powerful books I’ve read so far this year.

    Read/listen to the full review here.

  2. graphic novels

    review

    maureen corrigan

    bintel brief

    harlem hellfighters

  1. The Both is the name for the duo formed by the veteran singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. The Both is also the name of their debut album. The two began performing together in 2012, when Ted Leo was Mann’s opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. They liked the sound their voices made together, and started collaborating. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of The Both:




As separate acts, Ted Leo is generally considered a punk-influenced indie musician for the work he’s done with his band the Pharmacists, and Aimee Mann as a sensitive singer-songwriter ever since she left the pop star life with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. But of course both of these musicians are more than their genre categories. What their work as The Both suggests is that together they’ve found common ground in confidently precise, propulsive melodies and lyrics that twist with oblique cleverness.

“Milwaukee” is one of the first songs Mann and Leo collaborated on in gradually hatching this plan to perform and record together as The Both. They bring out the best in each other musically: Leo gives Mann zip and vigor; she gives him poetry and hard-headedness. Sometimes one of them takes the lead vocal, at other times they trade off lines and harmonize throughout. 

In interviews, Aimee Mann has said working with Ted Leo has made her feel as though she’s in a rock band for the first time, which must make her old bandmates in ‘Til Tuesday feel a tad dismayed. But if anything, The Both includes some of the most Aimee Mannish of Aimee Mann songs, the way her best singing captures an urgent longing and pessimism that is redeemed by a prickly self-awareness.

The Both works so well as an album because its songs cohere as the documentation of the ways a new creative partnership revitalizes the familiar habits, tics, tricks, and talents of the collaborators. It sets their individual talents in a new context that compels the listener to form a new appreciation for these musicians. They may begin the album singing about a gamble that didn’t pay off, but their own musical collusion really has. 

 

Photo cred Christian Lantry/Super Ego Records View in High-Res

    The Both is the name for the duo formed by the veteran singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. The Both is also the name of their debut album. The two began performing together in 2012, when Ted Leo was Mann’s opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. They liked the sound their voices made together, and started collaborating. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of The Both:

    As separate acts, Ted Leo is generally considered a punk-influenced indie musician for the work he’s done with his band the Pharmacists, and Aimee Mann as a sensitive singer-songwriter ever since she left the pop star life with the group ‘Til Tuesday in the 1980s. But of course both of these musicians are more than their genre categories. What their work as The Both suggests is that together they’ve found common ground in confidently precise, propulsive melodies and lyrics that twist with oblique cleverness.

    Milwaukee” is one of the first songs Mann and Leo collaborated on in gradually hatching this plan to perform and record together as The Both. They bring out the best in each other musically: Leo gives Mann zip and vigor; she gives him poetry and hard-headedness. Sometimes one of them takes the lead vocal, at other times they trade off lines and harmonize throughout. 

    In interviews, Aimee Mann has said working with Ted Leo has made her feel as though she’s in a rock band for the first time, which must make her old bandmates in ‘Til Tuesday feel a tad dismayed. But if anything, The Both includes some of the most Aimee Mannish of Aimee Mann songs, the way her best singing captures an urgent longing and pessimism that is redeemed by a prickly self-awareness.

    The Both works so well as an album because its songs cohere as the documentation of the ways a new creative partnership revitalizes the familiar habits, tics, tricks, and talents of the collaborators. It sets their individual talents in a new context that compels the listener to form a new appreciation for these musicians. They may begin the album singing about a gamble that didn’t pay off, but their own musical collusion really has.

     

    Photo cred Christian Lantry/Super Ego Records

  2. the both

    aimee mann

    ted leo

    review

    fresh air

    ken tucker

  1. Fresh Air critic at large John Powers reviews the new translation of Italian noir novel A Private Venus: 

Like all good noirs, A Private Venus centers on a disillusioned loner — in this case, Duca Lamberti, a loner with good reason to be disillusioned. Once a doctor, he was imprisoned for murder after compassionately helping a dying woman kill herself. Now free, but forbidden to practice medicine, Duca gets hired by a Milanese plastics mogul who, like most rich men in noir, is a respectable creep. The assignment is to straighten out the mogul’s 22-year-old son, Davide who has gone from being a normal, spoiled heir to a guilty, taciturn young alcoholic.
Duca knows something has driven Davide to such self-destructive straits — probably a woman. And so, he sets about looking into what changed him, enlisting help from a police superintendent who was friends with Duca’s cop father. The investigation takes him from chic nightclubs into the sinister underbelly of fashion-mad Milan where pretty young women exist to have their bodies stripped, sold and carved up by thugs. Along the way, Duca befriends a smart, attractive young woman, Livia, who has her own reasons for bringing the bad guys down. Suffice it to say that everything does not turn out perfectly.
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air critic at large John Powers reviews the new translation of Italian noir novel A Private Venus

    Like all good noirs, A Private Venus centers on a disillusioned loner — in this case, Duca Lamberti, a loner with good reason to be disillusioned. Once a doctor, he was imprisoned for murder after compassionately helping a dying woman kill herself. Now free, but forbidden to practice medicine, Duca gets hired by a Milanese plastics mogul who, like most rich men in noir, is a respectable creep. The assignment is to straighten out the mogul’s 22-year-old son, Davide who has gone from being a normal, spoiled heir to a guilty, taciturn young alcoholic.

    Duca knows something has driven Davide to such self-destructive straits — probably a woman. And so, he sets about looking into what changed him, enlisting help from a police superintendent who was friends with Duca’s cop father. The investigation takes him from chic nightclubs into the sinister underbelly of fashion-mad Milan where pretty young women exist to have their bodies stripped, sold and carved up by thugs. Along the way, Duca befriends a smart, attractive young woman, Livia, who has her own reasons for bringing the bad guys down. Suffice it to say that everything does not turn out perfectly.

  2. noir

    novel

    review

    italy

    literature

    john powers

  1. Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 



When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.
FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

Hear the full review HERE. 



 

image via FX  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series  Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says: 

    When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.

    But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.

    His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.

    FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.

    Hear the full review HERE.

     

    image via FX 

  2. fargo

    coen brothers

    tv

    review

    david bianculli

  1. This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.
Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.



Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC View in High-Res

    This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six: 

    Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away: 

    When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.

    Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.

    Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC

  2. mad men

    don draper

    matthew weiner

    1960s

    amc tv

    david bianculli

    review

    TV

  1. 
Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews Parenthood: 

It’s not too late to dive into Parenthood for these last two shows of the season — or, after a taste, to do your homework, and start at the beginning, watching them on DVD or streaming video. Just don’t let it escape your notice. Family dramas always have been one of television’s most difficult genres to do properly, without getting too sweet, too overwrought, or much too predictable. Parenthood, like Friday Night Lights, is as good as the family drama genre gets.


image via NBC
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air TV critic David Bianculli reviews Parenthood

    It’s not too late to dive into Parenthood for these last two shows of the season — or, after a taste, to do your homework, and start at the beginning, watching them on DVD or streaming video. Just don’t let it escape your notice. Family dramas always have been one of television’s most difficult genres to do properly, without getting too sweet, too overwrought, or much too predictable. Parenthood, like Friday Night Lights, is as good as the family drama genre gets.

    image via NBC

  2. parenthood

    friday night lights

    ray romano

    family drama

    david bianculli

    review

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Carlene Carter's new album Carter Girl, an album that offers “a fresh take on classic songs:”

 What Carlene Carter does on this album is significant. She doesn’t approach these old songs as sacred relics to be enshrined with pious respect. Rather, she treats them like living, vital pieces of art that can withstand being taken apart, thought about, and re-imagined. Take, for example, “Lonesome Valley.” It’s a song that was itself an interpretation of a public-domain composition when the Carter Family recorded it, and has subsequently been sung many different ways, by Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou, to name just a few. Carlene has taken back the song, added some of her own lyrics about deaths in her family, plays some wonderful piano, and sings harmony on the chorus with Vince Gill. In the process, she comes up with her own excellent piece of work.


photo by Sasha Haagensen /GettyImages View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Carlene Carter's new album Carter Girl, an album that offers “a fresh take on classic songs:”

     What Carlene Carter does on this album is significant. She doesn’t approach these old songs as sacred relics to be enshrined with pious respect. Rather, she treats them like living, vital pieces of art that can withstand being taken apart, thought about, and re-imagined. Take, for example, “Lonesome Valley.” It’s a song that was itself an interpretation of a public-domain composition when the Carter Family recorded it, and has subsequently been sung many different ways, by Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou, to name just a few. Carlene has taken back the song, added some of her own lyrics about deaths in her family, plays some wonderful piano, and sings harmony on the chorus with Vince Gill. In the process, she comes up with her own excellent piece of work.

    photo by Sasha Haagensen /GettyImages

  2. carlene carter

    june carter cash

    country music

    woody guthrie

    joan baez

    ken tucker

    review

  1. Posted on 1 April, 2014

    163 notes | Permalink

    Reblogged from airudite

    Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews the latest novel from Maggie Shipstead, Astonish Me. After reading her debut novel, Seating Arrangements, Corrigan likened the young author to “Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge:”

At the center of Shipstead’s tightly choreographed story of frustrated passion and ambition stands Joan Joyce, a dancer whose gifts and discipline are good enough to earn her a place in the corps, but not to propel her into the spotlight as a prima ballerina.
When the novel opens in 1977, Joan has discovered she’s pregnant and she’s decided to keep the baby and leave the ballet. It’s an unforgiving world. Shipstead’s narrator relays Joan’s thoughts about how little she’ll be missed once the other dancers, who keep tight surveillance on one another’s bodies, notice her pregnancy: “When she stops dancing, class will continue on without her, every day except Sunday, part of the earth’s rotation. … Her empty spot at the barre will heal over at once.”


photo via airudite:

torn ballerina [series] by Ana Luísa Pinto [Luminous Photography] on Flickr.
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews the latest novel from Maggie Shipstead, Astonish Me. After reading her debut novel, Seating Arrangements, Corrigan likened the young author to “Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge:”

    At the center of Shipstead’s tightly choreographed story of frustrated passion and ambition stands Joan Joyce, a dancer whose gifts and discipline are good enough to earn her a place in the corps, but not to propel her into the spotlight as a prima ballerina.

    When the novel opens in 1977, Joan has discovered she’s pregnant and she’s decided to keep the baby and leave the ballet. It’s an unforgiving world. Shipstead’s narrator relays Joan’s thoughts about how little she’ll be missed once the other dancers, who keep tight surveillance on one another’s bodies, notice her pregnancy: “When she stops dancing, class will continue on without her, every day except Sunday, part of the earth’s rotation. … Her empty spot at the barre will heal over at once.”

    photo via airudite:

    torn ballerina [series] by Ana Luísa Pinto [Luminous Photography] on Flickr.

    (Source: airudite)

  2. ballet

    dance

    novel

    review

    maureen corrigan

    maggie shipstead

  1.  David Edelstein reviews the big budget Bible epic, Noah: 

But a big part of the Noah story is spectacle, and this one is a feast of computer-generated imagery. None of the animals are real—which has won the appreciation of animal-rights activists. But none of them are particularly well characterized, either. I didn’t expect Dr. Doolittle amid the apocalypse, but would a few baahs and moos and a friendly giraffe have really killed the mood?
View in High-Res

     David Edelstein reviews the big budget Bible epic, Noah: 

    But a big part of the Noah story is spectacle, and this one is a feast of computer-generated imagery. None of the animals are real—which has won the appreciation of animal-rights activists. But none of them are particularly well characterized, either. I didn’t expect Dr. Doolittle amid the apocalypse, but would a few baahs and moos and a friendly giraffe have really killed the mood?

  2. noah

    movie

    david edelstein

    review

  1. Lars von Trier’s latest provocation is an episodic sexual epic called Nymphomaniac, which comes in two two-hour parts, or “volumes,” though it’s basically one movie sliced in half. The thinking must have been,  ”Who wants four hours of hardcore sex and philosophizing?,” and if you say, “Me, me!,” I suggest seeing both back to back: It’s an art-house orgy!
Should you see it at all? I recommend it guardedly. It’s dumb, but in a bold, ambitious way movies mostly aren’t these days, especially when there’s sex in the equation. And it’s funny, sometimes intentionally.
David Edelstein reviews Lars von Trier’s Nymph()maniac

photo by Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures View in High-Res

    Lars von Trier’s latest provocation is an episodic sexual epic called Nymphomaniac, which comes in two two-hour parts, or “volumes,” though it’s basically one movie sliced in half. The thinking must have been,  ”Who wants four hours of hardcore sex and philosophizing?,” and if you say, “Me, me!,” I suggest seeing both back to back: It’s an art-house orgy!

    Should you see it at all? I recommend it guardedly. It’s dumb, but in a bold, ambitious way movies mostly aren’t these days, especially when there’s sex in the equation. And it’s funny, sometimes intentionally.

    David Edelstein reviews Lars von Trier’s Nymph()maniac

    photo by Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures

  2. lars von trier

    nymphomaniac

    film

    review

    david edelstein

  1. Ken Tucker reviews Sara Evans' album Slow Me Down:

"Sara Evans is a singer with a big voice who knows what to do with it. Her phrasing is conversational; she rarely tries to goose the emotion in a song by stretching out syllables or leaping registers. Evans has never been a singer of hardcore country music — she likes pop, and she’s not afraid to apply her big vocal power to a big, cheesy power ballad. The difference between Evans and many singers who work in that particular territory is that her power ballads really pack a punch."

image via sony music nashville View in High-Res

    Ken Tucker reviews Sara Evans' album Slow Me Down:

    "Sara Evans is a singer with a big voice who knows what to do with it. Her phrasing is conversational; she rarely tries to goose the emotion in a song by stretching out syllables or leaping registers. Evans has never been a singer of hardcore country music — she likes pop, and she’s not afraid to apply her big vocal power to a big, cheesy power ballad. The difference between Evans and many singers who work in that particular territory is that her power ballads really pack a punch."

    image via sony music nashville

  2. sara evans

    Country Music

    review

    ken tucker

  1. Picture this. You’re a young girl, living in a remote town in Connecticut in 1825. You’ve taken refuge in a neighbor’s house and, as night falls, you peek out a widow to see your friends and family members assembling outdoors around two crude paintings: One is of a young white woman (you); the other painting is of a man, a Native American.

    As church bells begin to toll, some of the townspeople carry forward fake bodies meant to represent you and the man in the painting; someone else ignites a barrel of tar and the effigies begin burning — an image of looming eternal damnation. You get the message: Stick with your own kind or else.

    This fantastical tableau sounds like something out of an Early American version of The Hunger Games, but it really took place.

    — Maureen Corrigan reviews The Heathen School by historian John Demos, a narrative that “explore[s] how racial categories and attitudes have changed over time in America.”

  2. race

    racism

    history

    nonfiction

    john demos

    native americans

    maureen corrigan

    review

  1. David Bianculli of tvworthwatching reviews the new NBC show Crisis:


Crisis pleasantly surprised me. It’s about a busload of high school kids – children of the very powerful, including the President,  in Washington, D.C. – whose field trip to New York gets detoured by kidnappers, who grab the kids and use them as leverage to get their parents to do their bidding.


 I know, this sounds so much like Hostages, it could almost be a rerun – except, this time around, the characters are painted with more depth, drama and surprises are a lot more plentiful, and Crisis starts out almost like a season of 24  — except without the ticking clock, and without Jack Bauer.
View in High-Res

    David Bianculli of tvworthwatching reviews the new NBC show Crisis:

    Crisis pleasantly surprised me. It’s about a busload of high school kids – children of the very powerful, including the President,  in Washington, D.C. – whose field trip to New York gets detoured by kidnappers, who grab the kids and use them as leverage to get their parents to do their bidding.

     I know, this sounds so much like Hostages, it could almost be a rerun – except, this time around, the characters are painted with more depth, drama and surprises are a lot more plentiful, and Crisis starts out almost like a season of 24  — except without the ticking clock, and without Jack Bauer.

  2. crisis

    nbc

    tv

    review

    david bianculli

    tvworthwatching

  1. Starting in the late 1960s, jazz saxophonist Clifford Jordan produced a series of recordings mostly by other leaders, that were released on the musicians-owned Strata-East label. Those seven albums are now collected in a box set, The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions, on six CDs from Mosaic. The sound on these albums is just OK, but they all feature fiery playing, original material, and great and underappreciated players—especially rhythm players.

Kevin Whitehead reviews the box set The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions  

    Starting in the late 1960s, jazz saxophonist Clifford Jordan produced a series of recordings mostly by other leaders, that were released on the musicians-owned Strata-East label. Those seven albums are now collected in a box set, The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions, on six CDs from Mosaic. The sound on these albums is just OK, but they all feature fiery playing, original material, and great and underappreciated players—especially rhythm players.

    Kevin Whitehead reviews the box set The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions
     

  2. clifford jordan

    review

    jazz

    saxophone

    1960s

  1. 
Burn Your Fire For No Witness is Angel Olsen’s first album with a backing band, and she makes great use of it. Her singing contains a naturally mysterious quality, at once confiding and baffling, even unknowable. On a song such as “Forgiven/Forgotten,” Olsen has the drums and bass guitar hammer away at her dented vocal. This creates the sound of someone beating herself up for being so obsessed with being in love, knowing that that’s not enough, for her or for the object of her love.

Read all of Ken Tucker's review of Olsen's album

photo of Angel Olsen  (Autumn Northcraft) via wnyc View in High-Res

    Burn Your Fire For No Witness is Angel Olsen’s first album with a backing band, and she makes great use of it. Her singing contains a naturally mysterious quality, at once confiding and baffling, even unknowable. On a song such as “Forgiven/Forgotten,” Olsen has the drums and bass guitar hammer away at her dented vocal. This creates the sound of someone beating herself up for being so obsessed with being in love, knowing that that’s not enough, for her or for the object of her love.

    Read all of Ken Tucker's review of Olsen's album

    photo of Angel Olsen (Autumn Northcraft) via wnyc

  2. angel olsen

    review

    ken tucker

    music