New Music Friday: I Need the Night by London Grammar

London Grammar is an indie pop band originally from Nottingham, England composed of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major. I really liked their first album and then kind of lost track of them. If you watched tv in the mid-2010s you for sure have heard some of their music because back in those days when it was still super popular to have scads of music to set the mood all over every tv drama their songs were used a lot. I feel like music is not used nearly as much in tv these days and I miss it. I used to find a lot of new music that way. I even have a Spotify playlist of songs from TV that I haven’t added to in ages.

Anyway, I digress. London Grammar released their third album, California Soil today. In addition to their traditionally very somber sounding songs this album expands on that some what and has a lot more electro pop influence. Sonically they sort of live in the same space as Florencee + the Machine. This album apparently contains a lot about Hannah Reid’s experience in the music industry and all the sexism and misogyny that she faced which almost made her quit the band and leave music altogether. It’s also about fighting back against that. I think “I Need the Night” is one of the best examples of that on the album.

TV Diary

Ted Lasso

I don’t think anyone at this point needs me to tell them that they need to watch Ted Lasso, but if you are one of the last people on earth to still have not watched Ted Lasso and haven’t had a million other people to tell you to watch Ted Lasso let me be the one to tell you to watch Ted Lasso. It’s an AppleTV+ show. If you don’t currently have a subscription it’s worth paying for one month to watch it and then canceling because at this point there isn’t much else of interest there, at least to me. I got it free for a year with my new phone. Anyway Ted Lasso is about a super optimistic and happy American football coach who is hired to coach an English soccer team by the former club owner’s ex-wife who is trying to drive it into the ground to spite him. Ted knows next to nothing about soccer, but he does know about people and he’s determined to turn the team around even if that doesn’t mean breaking their losing streak. It’s a wonderful feel good show and everyone who has been telling you to watch it is completely right.

It’s a Sin

It’s a Sin is a five part limited series created by Russell T. Davies on HBOMax about the early days of the AIDS crisis in England. It follows a group of roommates and friends whose lives are touched by AIDS. Although there is obviously a lot of really sad stuff and horrible stuff that happens in a story surrounding that crisis the show is not a complete downer. There is also a lot of joy in watching the friends together and getting to see some of them living their lives in a way they never thought they would be able to.

Last Chance U: Basketball

I very much enjoyed the original version of the Last Chance U series, which focused on junior college football. They have now ended that series and have revived it focusing on junior college basketball. This season focuses on the East LA Huskies. It’s just as good as the football version. This season had the added suspense of wondering whether COVID was going to cut their season short or whether they would be able to finish it out. I won’t spoil it for you.

Country Comfort

This show stars Katherine McPhee has a down on her luck country singer who was just dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of their band. Her car breaks down in front of Eddie Cibrian’s house where he is raising his five kids alone after the death of his wife. She is mistaken for the new nanny and eventually decides to keep the job while trying to make it as a country singer. This commonly used tv trope of mistaken identity drives me crazy because like where is the actual nanny? This show is pretty terrible and yet I watched the entire thing. The writing is about on par with Full House, but it’s even worse because everyone is talking in these horribly fake country accents. I’m sure it would be enjoyable family viewing for people with late elementary age kids. I watched all of Fuller House and all of this, so don’t get me wrong I’m not above it, but objectively it is not good. I would still watch another season of it.

Painting with John

Painting with John is an HBOMax series that stars John Lurie as he paints water color pictures and tells stories from his life. It got a lot of critical acclaim, but I didn’t get super into it. My favorite part of the whole thing was just listening to the sounds of the night time wildlife on the tropical island where he lives in the background as he painted in some scenes. I found that kind of relaxing, but otherwise I didn’t much care.

Firefly Lane

I should have listened to every single critic that told me not to watch this show. Everyone warned me, but I didn’t listen. Don’t make my mistake. This show is terrible full stop, but the episodes are written in such a way that the last little bit of each one makes you think you need to keep watching to find out what happens. Don’t fall for it. There is nothing good about this show. It bounces back and forth in time throughout decades in the lives of best friends Kate and Tully from when they meet as teenagers to the present. The stuff that takes place in the 2009ish time frame was the most interesting to me and is really the storyline that kept me watching. I hated every time it bounced back to the teenage timeline which I found to be the least interesting and I also mostly hated the part in the 80s as well. The wigs and glasses in all those scenes were the worst and super distracting. Not to mention that the show bounced around so much during every episode it was impossible to get into anything because as soon as you started to get into what was happening you zoomed to a different part of the story. Then to rub salt in the wound after I wasted 10 hours of my life on this show it didn’t even reveal the mystery that teased throughout the whole series. I was so mad. Actually I’m still mad even thinking about it. Since it’s based on a book I looked up what happened in the book, which is what I should have just done after watching the first episode anyway instead of suffering through 9 more hours only to still not even be told what happened. Knowing what the big reveal is makes the whole thing seem like even more of a waste of my time even if they had decided not to drag it out into a second season that I certainly will not be watching.

New Music Friday: Beautiful Scars by Merry Clayton

Merry Clayton was a famous back-up singer in the 60s and 70s, but never managed to break into a solo career of her own. She is probably best known for her back-up vocals on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. After she was prominently featured in the documentary about back-up singers, Twenty Feet From Stardom, in 2013 she was planning to leverage that attention into a solo album. Then tragedy struck and she was in a terrible car accident that resulted in both her legs being amputated.

She says that when she woke up after the accident and they told her that her legs were gone the first thing she asked as if she still had her voice and then started singing. She didn’t actually think she would ever record an album after that, but with some encouragement she finally did and her album of gospel songs Beautiful Scars was released today. The title track was written by Diane Warren and seems to really fit Merry Clayton’s story.

Go take a listen and while you’re at it watch Twenty Feet From Stardom, which is wonderful. It doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere for free, but it’s totally worth the rental price. If your public library subscribes to Kanopy it also appears to be available there, so you can watch it for free through your library.

New Music Friday: BANG! by AJR

The song “BANG!” is actually not new by any stretch of the imagination. The single came out over a year ago, but the album that it’s featured on was only released last week so I’m counting it. Plus it’s new to me. I heard the song for the first time this week on an episode of the Switched on Pop podcast. It’s a fun song and I’ve been enjoying listening to it all week, so I’m going to go with it. I don’t really have much to say about the song itself. Though fun trivia fact that I learned from the podcast the voice that’s saying “Here we go” during the song is actually done by the guy that does the “Beware the closing doors” recording for the NYC Subway. As soon as they said that I was like oh my gosh it is!

New Music Friday: Far Out by Ben Howard

Ben Howard is a British indie folk, experimental rock artist. He’s also a lefty guitarist, which I only mention because you don’t see too many left handed guitar players. Because left handed guitars are harder to come by and generally more expensive a lot of left handed people just teach themselves to play right handed. So the first time I actually saw video of him playing it struck me.

Anyway, he released a new album, Collections from the Whiteout, today. It was produced by Aaron Dessner of the National. It leans more into the experimental rock than the indie folk rock he was made famous for with some of his earlier albums. As such I don’t love the album as a whole, but I do like the song “Far Out” which does remind me of some of his previous songs that I really like.

New Music Friday: Out of the Badlands by Delta Rae

I’ve written about Delta Rae’s music in this blog before including their previous album, The Light. Today they released the follow-up to that album, The Dark. The two albums were part of a Kickstarter campaign they ran a few years ago after leaving the The Big Machine record label and deciding to head out on their own after feeling like the label never knew how to promote their music that doesn’t slot neatly into a category and definitely doesn’t fit into any current commercial genres that are going to get them radio play. They blew their goal so far out of the water that they kept adding on bonus things. I’m still very much looking forward to the eventual Christmas album.

The band is composed of six people including the Hölljes siblings Ian, Eric, and Brittany along with Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee, and Grant Emerson. They have a sort of gospel, country, Americana sound that is very heavy in wonderful harmonies that I love. Although they switch up who is singing lead I have gravitated more towards the songs fronted by the women in the past, so I tend to think of them as a female fronted band, but today I’m pulling out one of the songs with a male lead. I like the whole album, but “Out of the Badlands” is the song that really stuck out to me the first listen through so that’s what I’m sharing.

New Music Friday: Valerie June and Japanese Breakfast

I’ve got another twofer for you this week. The new Lake Street Dive album is out today too, so had I not already used a single from it in New Music Friday previously you’d probably be getting three songs.

Fallin’ by Valerie June

I honestly don’t know how to describe Valerie June’s music to people. Wikipedia lists it as a mix of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian, bluegrass, and dream pop which seems about right. I feel like her new album that came out today, The Moon and the Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, despite the name, is actually a little more accessible to the average listener than some of her previous work. It definitely took me awhile to get into her because it is some complicated listening and she doesn’t have a straightforward voice. Having seen her in concert and heard her talk about her life and her work I definitely feel like she is living on a different astral plane than me and that certainly comes across in parts of this album as well, but I think there’s some songs here that might be enjoyable for the more casual listener along with some of the sounds that I more associate with her.

Be Sweet by Japanese Breakfast

I also could not resist sharing the new song “Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast from her forthcoming new album Jubilee. I don’t have much to say about it. I’m just really digging the 80s synth vibes of it and wanted to share it. So here you go.

New Music Friday: Cub Pilot by Fruit Bats

“Cub Pilot” is a song off the new album Fruit Bats’ album The Pet Parade, which came out today. Fruit Bats is the long-time indie folk band fronted by Eric D. Johnson with a rotating cast of members filling out the rest of the band. While most of this album was apparently written before the pandemic, it was recorded by each individual band member alone in their respective space. It’s a gorgeous album that somehow seems to speak to these times even though it wasn’t specifically written for them. “Cub Pilot” is musically my favorite song off the album, so it’s the one I’m sharing here. I do encourage you to listen to the whole thing though.

New Music Friday: Simultaneously by Ani DiFranco

Let’s take a trip back to the mid- to late 90s where if you like me were a college student trying to present an air of pretentious coolness like some sort of proto-hipster, which I totally was, it was required that you listen to Ani DiFranco. Did I succeed in my attempts to be the kind of college student so often featured in books and movies who is cool because they’re into all the indie bands and movies? Decidedly not. At any rate I can’t say I was an Ani DiFranco superfan, but I can tell you that I once went to a club meeting on campus where we must have been asked to share our favorite band or something during introductions because I distinctly remember like half the people naming Ani DiFranco and deciding I better get into some Ani DiFranco.

I have not in the years since I left college paid much attention to what Ani DiFranco has been doing. I have sometimes heard whatever favorite songs I had on various mixes or playlists, but I definitely haven’t kept up with any of her new stuff. I have been hearing her new song “Simultaneously” playing on WXPN the last few weeks and I am very much digging it. I love it’s jazzy coffee house vibe and what more do you want from Ani DiFranco?

TV Diary

Years and Years

Years and Years is a 6 episode show on HBOMax created by Russell T. Davies. It takes place in the near future in Britain. It starts in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency and moves through the next decade, but in this reality he did win a second term so the starting point is actually 2024 not 2020. Even still we watched this show with only a few days left in Trump’s term and it was kind of surreal. The show centers around the lives of the members of one family as the world and more specifically Britain moves into a sort of surreal future filled with horrors and more authoritarian, populist leaders who gain their power by taking advantage of the terrible things that happen like a nuclear crisis, financial crisis, refugee crisis, climate crisis and technology further integrating itself into our lives. Even though it sounds like it would be an unpleasant watch I really liked it a lot. Despite a sprawling cast of characters who you only get to know in 6 episodes, I felt a connection to them and cared about what was happening to the family. They were all mostly a little one note, but their relationships to each other were well written and I thought they served the story really well. I loved the show up until about the last 20 minutes. I really did not care for how they chose to end the show, but I still think the rest of it is worth watching.

All Creatures Great and Small

I had heard of the previous versions of All Creatures Great and Small in the original books by James Herriot and the earlier adaptation of them into a tv show, but I have never watched or read them. As this show started airing I kept seeing all the tv critics I follow talking about how pleasant it was to watch and what a balm it was in these terrible times. They were not wrong. You get to watch vets treating animals in the beautiful English countryside. The stakes are very low. It is just a nice little show to give your tired mind some rest.

My Life is Murder

My Life is Murder is an Australian procedural detective show starring Lucy Lawless. I’m not generally one for procedurals because I like to have character development in my shows and some sort of overarching storyline. This show is almost purely episodic with Lucy Lawless playing, Alexa, a former police detective who quit the force after her fellow police detective husband was killed. (I do not understand why in 2020 anyone would name their character Alexa. I even looked up what the Amazon Echo is called in Australia in case it was something other than Alexa. It is not.) In true procedural fashion we only get the tiniest bit of information about the characters beyond the crime they’re solving in that particular episode. A former colleague continues to bring her cases on the side that the police department is having no luck solving, so she helps solve them along with a tech investigator who still works in the department. Even though I normally don’t care much for procedurals I found this to be a pleasant diversion that again just gave my brain a break. The show is available on AcornTV, but if you have on interest in subscribing to AcornTV I will tell you a secret that you probably do not know. You can probably get it through your public library. A lot of public libraries subscribe to service called Hoopla that provides access to e-books, audiobooks, tv shows, movies, and music. The tv selection is not great, but they do have some of the British and Australian shows you can only get through AcornTV. My Life is Murder is one of the shows that is available.

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries is another Australian tv show that we watched through Hoopla at the public library. Many people were obsessed with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which was a great show. This is a sequel featuring Peregrine Fisher, Phyrne’s niece. It takes place in the 1970s, so there’s now a lot of great 70s fashion instead of the fantastic 1920s fashion of the original show. It’s not as good as the original show in my opinion, but good enough that if you liked Miss Fisher’s you’ll probably like Ms. Fisher’s too.

Miranda/Call Me Cat

Miranda is a British show about a socially awkward woman in her 30s who quits her job and opens a joke shop whose mother is horrified that she is still single. Call Me Cat is the American remake that just started airing this season starring Mayim Bialik as a socially awkward woman in her 30s who quits her job and opens a cat cafe and whose mother is horrified that she is still single. Miranda is available on Hulu and we have been watching it simultaneously with Call Me Cat. There have been a few storylines that have been exactly the same, but mostly Call Me Cat is a less good take off of the original. Being a British show there are only 3 seasons and 15 episodes of Miranda. I’ll be sad when we’re done with those because I really like it and find it to be far superior to Call Me Cat in pretty much every way. In particular I think her mother is much better written than the version of her mother played by Swoosie Kurtz in Call Me Cat. I do think Call Me Cat is getting slightly better. I thought it was objectively terrible in the beginning, but for some reason kept watching it. I still don’t think it’s good, but at least maybe not as bad. I apparently am going to keep watching it no matter what. But really if you want to do yourself a favor just watch Miranda and skip Call Me Cat.

Mr. Mayor

Mr. Mayor is the new show created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock starring Ted Danson as a somewhat clueless rich businessman who becomes mayor of Los Angeles. It also stars Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan. It’s fine. I laugh occasionally. It’s not great. Some of it is a little tone deaf and cringey. If it were another time and there was more new tv than there is thanks to COVID I probably would not still be watching it.

Industry

Industry is an HBOMax show set in the financial world in 1980s Britain. I only made it a few episodes in before I quit. I did not care about these characters or their partying or their corruption and their financial deals. I did not care for it all.