Events

The Flaming Lips: 26 July 2010 - New York

Delivered with the alacrity one has come to expect from the Flaming Lips, Monday night's Central Park Summerstage show was a perfect balance of grandiosity, sincerity and weirdness.

The Flaming Lips have so thoroughly and regularly injected a sense of theatre and spectacle into their live shows that, like any other performers, they risk succumbing to routine. Monday night’s show (enthusiastically, and perhaps accurately, described by lead singer, Wayne Coyne, as the “best night of the summer”) was never pedestrian and always energetic and playful. Flanked onstage throughout the night by two groups of dancing and adoring fans, it led off with Mr. Coyne’s iconic hamster ball crowd surf and included a black bear shoulder ride, a massive gong, and a nearly constant precipitation of confetti.

Not without their serious moments, though, the Lips honored our armed service members with a stoic rendition of “Taps”, a concert finale Coyne had planned to perform for the duration of the Iraq War. Its longevity has nudged “Taps” up their setlist, and, instead, they unleashed “The W.A.N.D.”, a fittingly revolutionary anthem flaunting a gritty lead guitar lick, under even more confetti. Instead of continuing to hype the crowd for a seemingly predictable, and self-aggrandizing, encore, they simply ended with their bittersweet symphony—and by executive order since 2009, Oklahoma’s official rock song—“Do You Realize”. It was all very epic, sincere and inherently weird, delivered with the alacrity one has come to expect from the Lips.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

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Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

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9

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

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