Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple - Feb. 26
“Mount Moriah” is the name of a road that separates, or joins, Chapel Hill and Durham. Mount Moriah is also a local band that released their self-titled debut back in 2011 and quickly garnered (very good) reviews calling their sound representative of the “New South.” Lately I’m convinced of this: All that separates also joins. Despite its nebulousness (and increasing pervasiveness), the “New South” couples the historical and contemporary, just as Mount Moriah’s music links classic Southern rock and 2000s-era indie folk and traditional lyrical structure with narratives exploring—and affirming—nontraditional sexuality. Everything on Mount Moriah demonstrates the band’s intentionality in carving out their own space. But with Miracle Temple, I predict they’ll not only carve but also stake it more confidently. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t given the album a fair listen already, thanks to an advance press copy via Merge Records, but I’ll restrict my tone here to (mostly) anticipatory glee. I cannot wait for you to hear what Merge’s website calls “bigger arrangements, louder guitars, bolder vocals and more soulful rhythms than their acclaimed self-titled debut.” I cannot wait for you to hear the smoldering slide guitar and slow, rolling builds that mirror the physical feel of a long drive through the North Carolina Piedmont; Heather McEntire’s unique ability to project, simultaneously, quiver and strength in her vocals, especially in the opening of “Union Street Bridge”; lines like “Get out of my heart/ step into the light.” On Friday, April 12, Mount Moriah is throwing a record release party at Cat’s Cradle, and I cannot wait to see you there.
Arcade Fire, Unnamed album
Arcade Fire’s last full-length album was one of the most widely acclaimed albums of the last five years. The Suburbs won a Grammy, the Polaris Music Prize, a BRIT and was at or very near the top of most “Best of 2010” lists. Saying they have a lot to live up to would be putting it mildly.
But there are plenty of reasons to anticipate a worthy follow-up from the Montreal septet. Most notably, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy is contributing to the album, although his role is currently unannounced. The as-yet unnamed album, released sometime in late 2013, will also feature contributions from Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy), co-writer of the string and orchestral arrangements on Arcade Fire’s previous work. These inputs, plus rumors of a dancier sound at their recent “secret concert” in Montreal, promise, if nothing else, an intriguing fourth studio album.
The Knife, Shaking the Habitual - Apr. 9
It’s been almost seven years since The Knife released Silent Shout. Since then the Swedish brother-sister duo have released solo records and collaborated with fellow European electronic musicians but they’ve released nothing comparable in caliber or scope to their 2006 classic. Shrouded by a sense of mystery abetted by both The Knife’s iconoclastic taste and their longstanding distrust of music media, this April’s full-length LP Shaking the Habitual conjures wild expectations on the part of both critics and fans (myself included). In all likelihood, with all of the hype, it’s bound to be at least somewhat underwhelming. But, years later, no other band has been able to match the dark and throbbing dance-world of “Like A Pen” and “We Share Our Mother’s Health,” and I’m giddy thinking about even poor replicas of their splendor.
56 Up, Dir. Michael Apted, The Up Series
Several summers ago, when I was not a girl/not yet a woman, I trudged every weekend to a large auditorium at Salem College while attending a summer enrichment program. There, I got my first taste of Godard, Kurosawa, Hitchcock and Apted. “Apted?” you’re probably wondering, “who is that and is his stuff packaged by the Criterion Collection?” It’s not—yet. But I’d happily call Michael Apted’s The Up Series—a series of films that has documented 14 British children in seven-year installments since 1964—cinematically groundbreaking, even, and especially, after several years’ steeping in those Criterion fellows. The series began when Apted, fresh out of college and working for a British TV program(me), gathered ten boys and four girls (he now regrets the gender imbalance) from varying socioeconomic backgrounds under the Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” What began as a documentary experiment slotted for one episode has now produced 56 Up, the latest installment that revisits 13 of the 14 who now—and sometimes in a far cry from their adolescent proclamations—drive cabs, front folk-rock bands, raise families, practice law and cry and laugh and experience life and death quite similarly to the rest of us. Apted revolutionized documentary work by creating a container for human life—life that, at 56, is still very much in progress. Progress and process are what this series honors, complicating that conglomerating phrase—“growing up”—until it embodies its appropriate nuance.
The Great Gatsby, Dir. Baz Luhrmann
It can be a dangerous game, remaking a novel as famous as The Great Gatsby. But writer/director Baz Luhrmann might be the right person for the job, having crafted an imaginative and colorful adaptation in his 1996 Romeo + Juliet, which, like Gatsby, starred Leonardo DiCaprio. One of Luhrmann’s strong suits is crafting over-wrought, gilded visions of the past that seem to lack dinge or ugliness (as evidenced in Moulin Rouge), so his West Egg should sparkle and the party scenes will be opulent.
The Great Gatsby features Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Jay Gatsby will be portrayed by DiCaprio, albeit a much paunchier Leo than Luhrmann’s Romeo. With his performance in Django Unchained still fresh in our memory and a Scorcese-helmed The Wolf of Wall Street around the corner, 2013 could turn out to be the Year of the Lion.
Arrested Development, Season 4
Like many fans of Arrested Development, I only started watching the show after it was already canceled by Fox in 2006. Unlike many fans, I wasn’t exactly hoping for a revival. Yes, Arrested Development quickly joined cult favorites like Firefly and Freaks and Geeks as another critical darling unappreciated by a mass audience. But there’s a reason these brilliant shows are so beloved in hindsight and eulogized so fervently: they were short-lived and perfect in their brevity, and that’s precisely why we like them. Throughout its three brief seasons, Arrested Development maintained the same quality of off-kilter gags and layered skits without compromising artistic integrity. AD was truly an original, one-of-a-kind sitcom, all while redefining what a “sitcom” could be. That’s why disrupting the canon makes me both excited and nervous. Premiering on Netflix on May 4th, the fourth season will consist of 14 episodes each revolving around a member of the Bluth family and their life since the tidy season three finale. In addition to the Bluths, fan favorites like Lucille 2, Carl Weathers and Ann Veal (her?) are expected to make cameos. There’s also talks of an Arrested Development movie, but mentioning that in print probably just set the project back another two years.
Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia, University of California Press
Philip Lamantia, though by trades involved with the Beat and French Surrealist movements, hasn’t become a household name in the manner many of his peers have. Maybe as a result, there’s been no published volume of his collected works, even now, seven years since his death. That’s a pity, especially given the kind of praise Lamantia has received from fellow, more-frequently recognized poets. (André Breton, one of the founding fathers of Surrealism, called Lamantia “a voice that rises once in a hundred years.”) Recently editors Andrew Joron, Garrett Caples and Nancy Joyce Peters have been putting together his collected poems, which is expected to be published within the year by the University of California Press. The collection will track Lamantia’s various styles from his early Miro- and Dali-inspired poems published as a wunderkind 16-year-old in New York City to his later mystical and erotic poems. Many of the forthcoming poems are either out-of-print or have never been published, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s introduction to the collection and the editors’ biography should lend some insight to Lamantia’s relationship to the San Francisco poetry scene (e.g. Lamantia was on the bill for the famous Six Gallery reading where Ginsberg first read “Howl” and went on the road with Kerouac). Long overdue, the book promises the proper recognition and historical documentation that Lamantia deserves.
Untitled, Divergent Series, Veronica Roth
I know everyone will be shocked to hear me say this, but the book I’m most excited to read this year happens to be Young Adult. Though I’m looking forward to reading some Fiction-with-a-capital-F—namely Amity Gaige’s Schroder and Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove—I definitely won’t be staying up until midnight on their release dates just to download them on my e-reader. I will be doing this, however, with the yet-to-be-named final installment of Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, which is expected to hit the shelves this fall. If you haven’t read Divergent or its sequel, Insurgent, now is the time: the series already seems to have garnered a devoted fan base, and with the film adaptation in the works for 2014, I’d be willing to bet that these books are the next Hunger Games. Like Collins’s bestselling series, Divergent is a dystopian fight-for-survival narrative featuring a strong female protagonist with a weird name. And the book’s mandatory romance has so far proven to be more readable than the painful Peeta-Katniss-Gale saga (there are no tracker jackers, at least). The thing I appreciate about the trilogy, though, is that Roth’s world is so seamless, so realistic despite its imagined elements. The plot, too, is intricate and detailed, keeping up the momentum through the second book when many similar series (read: Matched, Delirium) fail to do so. Regardless of your literary preferences, Roth’s latest is sure to be a page-turner.
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris - Apr. 23
I like to think of David Sedaris as the Little Miss Sunshine of the literary community: he is hilarious, endearing and beloved by his colleagues in the industry. By the same token, his collections of humorous essays also don’t receive the same artistic consideration as his more serious counterparts. Not that Sedaris would mind losing the Oscar for Best Picture to The Departed (or whatever the book world equivalent may be). In fact, he thrives on being the underdog, a role he will continue to inhabit despite his increased popularity. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris’s newest book, due out April 23, promises to be another collection full of bizarre anecdotes, each guided by his detached commentary and merciless wit. The book’s essays follow him around the world, from his quest to find a Valentine’s Day present in an English taxidermy shop to encountering a kookaburra in Australia. Sedaris’s observational humor is always disarming and straightforward, rendering a particular charm every bit as skillful as the literary greats. For proof, consider this line from “Laugh, Kookaburra,” a story from the upcoming collection: “When seen full on, the feathers atop his head looked like brush-cut hair, and that gave him a brutish, almost conservative look. If owls were the professors of the avian kingdom, then kookaburras, I thought, might well be the gym teachers.”