New Music Friday: Visions by Jose Gonzalez

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about going into today. Adia Victoria’s new album Southern Gothic came out today. The War on Drugs also dropped the single “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” featuring Lucius, which is a song I really like. However, I wrote about songs by both of those artists in recent weeks and didn’t really want to repeat so soon if I could find something else to write about. I did not realize that José González’s new album, Local Valley, came out today until I was listening to NPR’s New Music Friday podcast.

I had been enjoying the song “El Invento”, which was the first single off of the album, since it came out way back in February. I kind of lost track that there was still an album it was attached to that hadn’t been released yet. A lot of this album still has González’s signature rhythmic almost meditative guitar picking sound, but it also expands in new ways. It’s the first time he’s sung in his native language of Spanish on any of his music. Most of it’s English, but there are a couple of songs in Spanish. He also has a few songs where he gets a bit more expansive in his sound. I’m sticking with talking about one that still sounds very much like a José González song to me.

“Visions” is the song they highlighted on the podcast episode I was listening to. It wasn’t the kind of song I wanted to hear this morning, but it turns out it was the song I needed to hear. It’s been a bit of a difficult week in my brain with lots of feelings of loss and depression as so many people seem to have restarted living their lives as if there wasn’t still a pandemic raging, but I still feel stuck in isolation. It was one thing when none of the things I love were happening, but it’s another to know that they’re happening and I’m now just missing out on them. This song with it’s meditative tone and with sounds of birds chirping it in it was the perfect calm as I was on my walk just before sunrise with the ground still wet from rain and crickets loudly chirping around me.

The lyrics that reminded me everything is cyclical and life will continue to move forward in some way and that we are all connected on this world for good or ill. In a time where I feel increasingly angry at the people who don’t want to understand or care that their actions have consequences for other people and thus that connection feels poisoned, this song offered what I felt was a more hopeful interpretation of that connection.

TV Diary

Schmigadoon

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play a couple who are questioning their relationship when they wind up stuck in a town called Schmigadoon in which everyone acts as if they are in an old time musical with all the tropes and bursting into songs reminiscent of that era of musicals like Brigadoon, Oklahoma, the Music Man, etc. I thought it was quite enjoyable, but I can imagine it’s really only something that people who are already into musical theatre would like. I’m not sure that they’re going to do any more episodes, but they did leave the ending ambiguous enough that they could do something more if they want to. I would love to see them do another season and tackle the 80s/90s eras of musicals with stuff like Les Mis, Phantom, Cats, Miss Saigon, etc. as those are the musicals I came up with and that made me fall in love with musical theatre even though their synthy spectacle doesn’t do so much for me anymore. It’s certainly musical theatre of a time with many shows that people still find beloved.

Punky Brewster (The Reboot)

They did a reboot of Punky Brewster on Peacock. Punky is now a newly single mom recently divorced from Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s character. There was still a good kind of will they are or won’t they get back together kind of romance going on there. They have three kids of their own and then Punky winds up fostering another young girl who reminds her a lot of herself as a child. Cherry is still around as her best friend who is now running Fenster Hall, the group home that Punky cycles in and out of a few times during the original run. I really like this show, so I’m super bummed that they already canceled it after only one season. I thought it was better than the Full House reboot though it obviously was still living in the same lane as that show. It’s a bummer that there won’t be any more episodes, but I still think it’s worth a watch.

Punky Brewster (OG Version)

Peacock annoyingly doesn’t let you turn off autoplay, so that new episodes of something don’t immediately start when you finish the previous episode. Thus when I was done watching the Punky reboot it immediately started playing the first episode of the original run of the show. I kept watching because I was kind of curious what it was like after all this time. Punky Brewster was not actually a show I watched a lot of as a child. I saw an episode here or there and definitely knew about the show just as a pop culture reference, but I’m guessing I had not seen most of the episodes in the original show. It gets goofier as time goes on, especially in the fourth and final season, but the first couple seasons are actually really something. They tackle some really tough stuff and don’t shy away from the trauma that Punky would have felt being abandoned by her parents (something she’s still tackling in the reboot too). There are a lot of episodes with her worrying that Henry will abandon her too for various reasons as well as some episodes that tackle the issues of a much older man acting as a foster parent for young child that do lead her to be taken away from him for awhile. It’s some tough stuff, and I was surprised by how serious some of the storylines were in an 80s sit-com aimed at children.

Kevin Can F*** Himself

Annie Murphy stars as a put upon wife from a stereotypical sit-com like Everybody Loves Raymond. In the scenes where she’s with her husband Kevin the show is written and directed like one of those sit-coms with the same exact look and feel you get from those types of shows. However, in scenes where she is not with Kevin it is a much darker show in which she has realized how much she hates her life and her husband and starts to plot to kill him. Sometimes I think the premise is better in concept than it is in practice. I could do with less of the sit-com parts. I don’t think you need quite as much of them to get the point across as there actually are. Overall I like the show though and am looking forward to see where they take it in season 2.

This is Pop

This is Pop is a Netflix documentary show about music type things. It kind of weirdly starts out with an episode about Boys II Men, which was only weird because all the other episodes are a little bit more topical rather than about a specific group. It wasn’t bad I just thought it was odd that they led off with an episode that I felt fell outside of the mold of most of the other episodes. They also have ones on auto-tune, music festivals, Swedish pop and Max Martin, country pop music, Britpop, the Brill Building, and protest music. For a music lover like me it was quite an enjoyable little series and something you can certainly dip in and out of if you’re only interested in some of the topics.

Lupin

Everyone was raving about the French thriller Lupin earlier in the year. We just recently got around to watching it and I am quite enjoying it. We still have a couple episodes to go, so I’m not sure what happens all the way to where it leaves off after episode 10 yet. I am finding it a little bit harder to sympathize with Assane the more people he hurts along the way trying to avenge his father. It’s still a fun and engaging show though and I can see why everyone was so excited about it.

SurrealEstate

SurrealEstate is a Syfy show that is better than it has any right to be. Tim Rozon (who you may know as Mutt on Schitt’s Creek or Doc on Wynonna Earp) stars as the owner of a real estate agency that specializes in selling haunted houses by determining what is haunting them and getting rid of it. Sarah Levy (who you may know as Twyla from Schitt’s Creek) stars as a new realtor who just joined the agency after being kicked out of her old job after an affair with the boss went bad. She’s sort of the audience surrogate who doesn’t know anything about this world and has to have everything explained to her. She’s not necessarily a skeptic, but she has a lot to learn and doesn’t always agree with their playbook and often tries to do her own thing. I quite enjoy it. I think the season on Syfy is probably close to being over and since I don’t think most people reading this don’t have cable anyway just search it out whenever it eventually winds up on some streaming service.

Reservation Dogs

Reservation Dogs is Hulu show about a group of four teenage kids living on a reservation in Oklahoma who are trying to find ways to earn enough money to get out. It follows the misadventures they get up to in that quest as well as other issues they’re dealing with in their lives. We’re still only part way through the season, but I’m definitely enjoying it so far. It’s funny but also not dumbed down for a white audience. They don’t explain all the references for people who don’t know what they might be talking about because it’s not their lived experience. Even if you might not know the exact meaning there are enough context clues that you can at least pick up on that there are meanings to some things.

Rutherford Falls

It’s interesting that I can’t really think of a single tv show that is focused on Native Americans and even more actually stars Native American actors and yet this year has brought us two of them. Rutherford Falls is the more sitcommy of the two shows and also the one that is not as good. Mike Schur is one of the creators and his shows often take a season to really find themselves. This show on Peacock does feel like it has some good potential, but the first season most felt like it was figuring out exactly what it wanted to be.

White Lotus

People seemed to love the show White Lotus on HBO. I was not particularly one of them. It did have some moments, but overall I don’t enjoy watching horrible people be horrible. There really weren’t any redeeming characters on this show and even when there were small moments of comeuppance for some of them it didn’t feel great either and they will still able to use their wealth and privilege to go back about their lives even if all that wealth and privilege wasn’t really making them happy either. I never watched Enlightened, which is another HBO show by Mike White that people loved and this show is not making me inclined to do so.

New Music Friday: Introvert by Little Simz

I’m jumping out of my normal wheelhouse today to talk about the song “Introvert” by British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz. Her fourth studio album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was released today. Little Simz was not an artist I was familiar with before this morning when they talked about this album and played a snippet of this song on NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast. I was immediately taken by the sound. They used words like expansive and cinematic to describe the music on this album and I can’t think of anything better to describe it. I have only listened to this one song so far because I was without my phone this morning and was using an old phone without a SIM card that I had downloaded podcasts for my walk onto via wifi. So I couldn’t pop into Spotify to listen to more of her music. I am definitely interested in digging into it more though. This song is like listening to a movie with it’s huge orchestral sound behind it. I honestly can’t think that I’ve ever heard anything quite like it.