Selected reviews of music, visual art, theater, dance, books, and film.
Music review: Tracey Thorn's Record
"For someone trying to write acutely about the complex ways people really think about one another, having Tracey Thorn as a mentor is some Yoda-level shit. It’s not just her supple contralto — like a hand running through dark, sparkling fur — that makes her irreplaceable; it’s also her wisdom about the subtle interconnection of who we are, who we want, and what we want from them."
FILM REVIEW: THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
"Steven's wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman, who intelligently fills Lanthimos's empty vessel with an inert scorn), habitually pretends to be under general anesthesia when she and Steven have sex, which is just the Lanthimostest."
Music review: Superchunk's superchunk (reissue)
"In 2017, Superchunk is inevitably an artifact, a voyager from another time. But the raw, frustrated energy of comfortable kids in uncomfortable skins, marooned after punk and before broadband, is undimmed."
Music review: Grizzly bear's painted ruins
"Can you feel it coming? Quickening on the horizon, a rustle of Uggs and shutter shades, skinny jeans and chunky highlights; a murmur of Friendster notifications in Netscape browsers and mainstremo bands on white iPods. Its name is aughties nostalgia, and it is almost upon us."
Music review: Phoenix's Ti Amo
"Without making a big thing of it, the French rock band Phoenix has resisted modern fame’s mania for disclosure, instead cultivating an affable inscrutability and consuming devotion to the studio album. They’ve been many things to many people: a rarified Franz Ferdinand, a smarter Strokes, Vampire Weekend with ennui, Spoon for Francophiles. Only slowly did it dawn on us that they’ve always just been Phoenix."
music review: Arve Henriksen's Towards Language
"Arve Henriksen makes jazz for people who like ambient music."
music review: jens lekman's life will see you now
"What is a Jens Lekman? It doesn’t come in any of the usual colors or shapes. It bristles with complicated angles and mechanisms. It’s hard to immediately say what it does, but it’s so appealingly packaged you want to buy it on sight."
Book review: John Darnielle's Universal Harvester
"Universal Harvester is one kind of book wearing several disguises. It's a mystery whose momentum doesn't obey the laws of narrative physics, ricocheting sideways into deepening shadow."
Art review: Southern Accent at the Nasher Museum
"As a lifelong resident of the South who often has cause to talk to people from elsewhere, I find that my accent is a recurring topic of conversation."
Music review: The Caretaker's Everywhere at the End of Time
"Why should we want to experience dementia by proxy, aesthetically, or think we even can?"
Film review: Love & Mercy
"The symbolism becomes garish. In one late scene, Wilson flounders in the deep end of the swimming pool while his bandmates crouch in the shallow end. This visual metaphor might have been more graceful if one of them didn't remark upon it."
Music review: modest mouse's This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about and the lonesome crowded west
"The urban paranoia of post-punk seeps into wide-open rural, looming industrial, and encroaching suburban vistas, all alike in their sinister, hypnotic repetition."
THEATER review: IVO VAN HOVE'S ANTIGONE
"Civil disobedience never goes out of style, and in our moment, gods and state seem to recede behind a passion play on the downfall of executive power, a spectacle we admire."
Art review: M.C. Escher at the North Carolina Museum of Art
"To many, calling Escher a serious artist is like calling Rube Goldberg a serious engineer. For twentieth-century gatekeepers, the Dutch draftsman and printmaker was too gimmicky and decorative, too zany and pictorial, with too many fiddly bits for not enough payoff."
MUSIC review: RICHARD BUCKNER'S SURROUNDED
"Buckner's voice is a long gnarled shape with a silky finish, like a sea-polished branch, and gives a roughshod impression that belies its smooth range and secure pitch. Its heaviness is most affecting when it floats vulnerably high to breathe out the merest hints of a narrative."
Dance Review: Compagnie Marie Chouinard
"For all of art's supposed real-world impact—its carriage of cultural lineage and its educational value—sometimes I think it exists simply to furnish my mind. And like any furniture, only a few pieces stick around through the movements of life."
Dance review: Culture Mill's what doesn't work
"Often I go to see dance to lose myself in a beautiful or terrifying (ideally, both) fantasy world where sets, costumes and music are at least as prominent as movement. The dancers can shrink to mere moving parts in an intricate mechanism. But I was excited to go to the Carrack the weekend before Christmas because I knew I was going to see something else entirely."
Film review: The Lobster
"Like the diabolical spawn of Franz Kafka and Michael Haneke, the Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos sets unfortunate humans loose in mazes of arbitrary, absurd authority and films them with an indifference that borders on cruelty."
MUSIC review: Shara Worden'S You Us We All
"You Us We All is earnestly emotional, ironically contemporary, romantically archaic, alternately grandiose and precious, insolently devotional—in all, a bit much, but an irresistible confection all the same."
Art review: SARAH ANNE JOHNSON'S WONDERLAND at cam raleigh
"'My frustration with photography is that it shows only the surface,' Sarah Anne Johnson is quoted as saying in the catalogue for Wonderland. Instead, she tells the truth with visual lies, polluting documentary with a filigree of fantasy and aggressive subjectivity."
MUSIC review: JENS LEKMAN'S AN ARGUMENT WITH MYSELF
"Of all the lovable things about Jens Lekman, my favorite is how he tosses banana peels on the paths of conventional taste. Seldom does such wonderful music sound so comically awful when you try to describe it to someone."
Art review: Miró: The Experience of Seeing at the nasher museum of art
"Miró's greatest legacy is in paintings and sculptures that are a joy to behold whether or not you know much about them. We now read about André Breton more than we read his actual works, but we still want to look at Miró."
Book review: The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
"The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis is done up in a radioactive-salmon color that belies the decisive eradication of flash in her unique blend of micro-fiction, prose poetry, philosophic inquiry, feminist critique and dark social comedy. The best literary precedent is Samuel Beckett, but this only gets you so far."
Music review: Jawbreaker's Unfun
"Jawbreaker straddled a pivotal moment when emo was a 'core': halfway between insult and genre, hardcore and pop, underground and mainstream."
Music review: Laurie Anderson's homeland
"'Another Day in America' is the album's huge, dark heart ... The oration is a vortex of visionary proclamations, pointed fables, downbeat jokes. It makes palpable not only all the pathos and superstition of the American psyche, but the weight of time passing away, another diminishing resource."
Music review: Richard Buckner's bloomed, The HILL, and Impasse
"We see windows and phones, highways and fields, charged with potency like crime scene photos. Mercurial, emotional abstractions stand in for stories, rendered with the telegraphic flicker of dreams, and flat, unmoored syntax in search of some missing referent."