I know. Things are weird right now. It’s also easy to feel like the kinds of pop culture we talk about on this blog is insignificant compared to the health of you and everyone you know. That said, because much of the world is self-quarantining right now, we’re all binging on a lot more pop culture than usual. So I figured I’d start doing these check-in’s each week or so talking about the various movies and music and whatnot that has been getting me through being trapped in my apartment. Of course, hopefully this period won’t last too long. But things don’t necessarily seem that way right now, so I anticipate this will be a recurring feature in the coming weeks. And who knows, maybe Sean and John will join in?
I think for now I’ll keep it to five things I’ve been into this week, but don’t hold me to that format. To quote The Dark Knight‘s tagline, welcome to a world without rules.
It can’t all be doom and gloom right now, so why not indulge some pick-me-up music? This bumpin’ debut album from Neneh Cherry is an album I bought from Repo Records in Philadelphia about a week before all this shuttering of non-essential businesses starting happening, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. The album’s biggest asset is undeniably the extremely dance-able lead-off track “Buffalo Stance”, which was weirdly a no. 3 hit in the US despite the fact that I don’t feel like I’ve heard it nearly as much as we all should all the time. The rest of the album is similarly a mix of hip-hop and dance music that feels incredibly late ’80s, and yet something about Cherry’s veracity on the microphone and musical eclecticism still makes the album an infectious joy.
I’ll probably be talking a bit more broadly about Hulu’s TV adaptation of High Fidelity whenever we put out the latest episode of The Pick, but I just wanted to focus on my favorite episode of the show I’ve watched so far. “Uptown” takes one of the plotlines from the book High Fidelity that was never used in the movie, where Rob (Zoe Kravitz) ventures from Brooklyn to Uptown Manhattan to look at a world-class record collection that’s been put up for sale by an eccentric artist played by Parker Posey. Once Rob learns a bit more about the collection, there’s a big moral dilemma she faces, while she and her sort-of boyfriend, Clyde (Jake Lacy), go undercover to find out more about the collection’s actual owner. It’s just a really fun, somewhat silly episode that digs into the ridiculous ethical codes that people of certain nerdy subcultures have put in place for each other.
I guess I’ve just been in a dancier mood lately (despite having no reason to dance), which would explain why I’ve fallen even harder for Heavy Light than U.S. Girls’ 2018 release (which I liked quite a bit!). You still have the dance-pop-meets-art-rock vibe of this previous album, while things are just a little bit… “smoother” I think would be the word for it? The album has a noticeably chill vibe, and yet still has a kind of groove to it and a pulsing heartbeat that keeps it from feeling anything but docile. When you add in the album’s interview-y interludes and the crucial way in which Meg Remy uses her backing vocalists, it makes for a very communal-feeling album, which ain’t a bad vibe to be putting out there right now. Ain’t. Bad. At. All.
I bought the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News during one of Criterion’s flash sales ages ago, and finally got around to popping it in and revisiting this masterful dramedy. It’s really hard not to see this as anything other than a culmination of both Brooks’ TV and film work. I mean, it’s a movie about television, and one filled with his kinds of signature characters — working people who are rife with comedic possibilities but also contain a pricklier inner life than their constant quips would indicate. Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks and William “Mr. ’80s” Hurt form a love triangle for the ages, and one that doesn’t feature the kinds of pandering predictability that gluts most romantic comedies. In fact, this might’ve been a perfect romantic comedy if it wasn’t for Bill Conti’s treacly score.
One big element of the escalation of COVID-19 in the U.S. is that the first major outbreak was in Sean, John and I’s hometown of Kirkland, WA, while the Seattle area, in general, has been hit harder than the rest of the country. This has made me feel even more helpless about this whole thing, considering I moved from Seattle across the country a few months ago and all my friends and family are there. So one thing I made a point of doing last weekend was throwing money at various Seattle music institutions I care about, since both Seattle and the music industry are going to take a particularly big hit from this crisis. I donated to KEXP and The Stranger and made some (online) purchases from Easy Street Records and Silver Platters. I’ve even been watching some of the nightly concerts from Seattle’s indie golden boy, Ben Gibbard, in the hopes of feeling just a little bit closer to home while feeling very away.