Ed Harcourt has always been a solo artist, but tonight, he seems even more alone, maybe even lonely. Something about the look on his face betrays forlornness, as he and a backup musician take the stage in this velvety basement club. He carefully smiles, crouched behind a grand piano, his hair shielding his face from the cozy audience who are practically within arms reach. How ironic that it's St. Patrick 's Day, for this setting couldn't be further from the drunken cavorting that characterizes the holiday's revelry. Still, tonight's theme -- "the intimate Ed Harcourt" -- seems for all intents and purposes redundant. After all, Harcourt is a singer who could fill an arena and still evoke shivers from a listener in the very back row; he could play for a crowd of thousands and still make it seem like he's serenading only you. This ability stems from more than the romantic tales that he spins on Here Be Monsters and the forthcoming From Every Sphere, though they are certainly integral to the equation. But ultimately, it comes down to Harcourt's musicianship, the nugget of which is his gorgeous, gilded voice. That voice, overfull with indomitable passion and bewitching poignancy, is as artful as a painted masterpiece and as warm and powerful as a ray of light. Despite whatever pitfalls may or may not come during his live performance, his voice forms a sturdy, unflappable core. Despite this strength, Harcourt's tempered mood remains a bit of a surprise. He is anything if not a dramatic performer, his big personality coming out as loud and clear as his singing. But opening with "Here Be Monsters", a B-side off the album of the same title, Harcourt is markedly reserved. His piano playing is graceful and smooth, the room's acoustics and the simple instrumentation giving the song an unmistakable pureness. Warm applause and a brief introduction are the only barrier between it and "Bittersweetheart", a slow, open number from his new album. Harcourt rises and falls along with this one, gasping at notes and gulping them down, swallowing and breathing sound as if his belly were full of music. The number comes off effortlessly, but Harcourt himself is rather veiled. What does shine through, as the normally jovial Harcourt is pared away somewhat, is the naked expressiveness of his singing. Every song is even more emotionally immediate, as if the events which inspired them were transpiring before him and he is responding impromptu. "She Fell Into My Arms", a bouncy jewel from Here Be Monsters is loftier and more gravitational here, overwhelming both him and us. "Birds Fly Backwards", minus the production, sounds almost like a lullaby. Harcourt may be showing another side of himself tonight, but it's no less honest. The set is just about an hour long, but incredibly efficient -- he plays a good portion of his new album as well as old favorites like "Apple of My Eye" and "He's Building a Swamp". He also warms up as the show progresses, pausing to take a picture of the crowd and joking here and there with the audience. He also eventually explains what might be contributing to his muted demeanor -- he's sober. "For me, drunk is just a personality substitute," he admits. "I'm actually really boring." Boring isn't the right word though. It might be raw, or quixotic, or even shy, but it's impossible to imagine being bored by the sheer tenderness that Harcourt emits, intoxicating whether he is intoxicated or not. Ultimately, any intimacy staged by this particular show pales in comparison to what grows organically from Harcourt's simple being. This may be the closest any of us have been to Ed Harcourt, but it's certainly not the closest he's been to us.
Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.
"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979
Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.
That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.
"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.
The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.
In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.
If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.
Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.
Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.
Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.