Team picks

10 tips of the month July 2021

Jess Bauldry dives deeper into different elements of the Pegasus project and recommends  reports from  the  T oday in Focus podcast to help you break down the gist and understand the whole story.  Ascannio/Shutterstock

Jess Bauldry dives deeper into different elements of the Pegasus project and recommends  reports from  the T oday in Focus podcast to help you break down the gist and understand the whole story.  Ascannio/Shutterstock

The Delano team proposes a blend of top reads, essential videos, music albums and a podcast you shouldn’t miss out on. Here are Delano's 10 tips for the month of July.

Current reads

Everyone loves spiky Irish women, and Sinead O’Connor is perhaps the spikiest of them all. As her autobiography, Rememberings, reveals, her fierce independence was born of a disruptive childhood suffering, emotionally and (quite gruesomely) physically at the hands of her troubled mother. O’Connor’s detailing of her early years and her first forays into the music profession make for a stunning first third of the book. The centrepiece, though, deals with her ascent to superstardom on the back of hit single Nothing Compares 2 U, and equally rapid descent when she refuses to have the American national anthem played before shows on her US tour and, two years later, rips up a photo of Pope John Paul II live on TV. Her account of a visit to Prince’s house provides humour and horror in equal measure. A fascinating and provocative and inspiring memoir. DR

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings imagines a wife for the most famous carpenter of all, Jesus. But this isn’t an Illuminati conspiracy. Rather, Kidd delves into a world where women struggle to make their voices heard and live at the whim of powerful men. It is atmospheric and engrossing writing with lots of period detail although perhaps envisioning a proto-feminist past based too-heavily on today’s ideals. Still, it reminds us of how much--and how little--has changed. CS

Space opera fans won’t need convincing to try Shards of Earth (2021), the first book of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture trilogy, so to you I’ll just say: go read it. For those of us more ambivalent about the subgenre, Shards will initially be red-flag city: it has multiple alien civilizations, interstellar travel, cyborgs, gangsters, and parthenogenetically grown humans—and through everything, of course, is the constant threat of war. But for all that, it isn’t hokey or irredeemably camp. Actually, it’s amazing. The novel spins a considered and intelligent simulacrum of real life, from Trumpian political factions to evolved questions of identity to, most compellingly, a monstrous existential threat that (arguably) mirrors global warming. Horror is delivered via space-operettic plotted excitement and it left me pensive, dizzy, and hungry for Book Two. JP

Listen to this

Fans of funky rhythm sections will be pleased with Cory Wong’s fourth 2020 studio release The Striped Album (yes, that’s four albums in one year). In somewhat of a branding misnomer, it might appear that Cory Wong is the act and the act is Cory Wong; but while his guitar and songwriting fingerprints are dustable here as anywhere within his oeuvre, the sound is a bandwide phenomenon. For me, Striped lacks the mustard of earlier releases Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul (2019) and Elevator Music for an Elevated Mood (2020), but the funk is pretty well-spiced nevertheless: see “Livin’ It Up”, with its poppy, instant-nostalgia hook; “The Pinky Harp”, featuring soul-star David T. Walker; and “Click Bait”, which is kind of like if the city of New Orleans moved to LA and wrote a pop song. JP

As a huge fan of Australian national treasures The Go Betweens, it was inevitable I would be drawn to indie trio The Goon Sax, whose frontman Lou Forster, is the son of legendary Go Betweens co-founder Robert Forster. The two bands sound not dissimilar, but Lou and his cohorts, Riley Jones and James Harrison, create their own brand of catchy but often experimental indie guitar pop with sly lyrics that detail the whimsy and heartbreak of young romance. New release Mirror II is the band’s most mature and expansive album to date, which may be down to the growing confidence of Jones and Harrison as songwriters and the trio’s eagerness to explore new musical avenues, all more than ably aided by the production of John Parish. DR

I’ve long been a fan of the informative and gripping reports from The Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast. Last week, for five days each episode focused on a different element of the Pegasus Project, one of the most important pieces of journalism this year. In it, journalists uncovered the terrifying and unstoppable scale of Pegasus spyware technology made by Israeli NSO Group, which has nine firms located in Luxembourg. These episodes break down the story, demonstrating how the technology has been used by people in power to silence opposition. Importantly, the podcast shows how people are now fighting back. JB

Essential viewing

The proverbial trainwreck of a dumpster fire that is Devi Vishwakumar in Never Have I Ever returns for a second season. The teen is left to deal with the fall-out of two-timing her love interests Ben and Paxton while also struggling to contain the rage, jealousy, grief and a whole host of other emotions that wrack high-schoolers on a daily basis. Yes, she is the worst, but she’s also human and delivers some excellent comebacks and one-liners. CS

At a time when overconsumption is destroying the natural environment, Netflix documentary Chef’s Table serves a palatable wake-up call. Each episode is an intimate portrait of a chef, breaking down their art by probing their past. Many of them cook to recreate what they have lived before. It is storytelling at its finest, with each episode playing out like a feature film. What I enjoyed most is the slow pace and stunning cinematography, leaving the viewer space to reflect on what it is to do something with meaning. JB

We the people, the newly released Netflix series on 4 July, which was also co-produced by Higher Ground Productions, former US president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's production company, reawakens the political and civic consciousness of viewers. Although the series is especially made for kids, even adults can learn a thing or two about the United States as the songs touch on topics such as the first amendment, the bill of rights, immigration, the federal vs. the state government and many more. What’s more? It contains colourful and vibrant scenes, not to mention the powerful songs by A-list artists! You will be sure to recognise the voices of Janelle Monae, Adam Lambert, H.E.R., Andra Day, Bebe Rexha, KYLE, or Brandi Carlile. The series is made up of ten 4-5 minute videos spanning about 40 minutes in total, but revealing the behind-the-scenes work of executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama, Tonia Davis, Priya Swaminathan, Kenya Barris and Chris Ne.  AO

 Julia Ducournau’s feminist cannibal coming of age drama Grave (Raw in English) was one of my favourite films of 2016, and her follow-up is a shoe-in for my personal top 10 of 2021. Only her second feature, Titane was a surprise winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. Its body-horror, slasher violence and weird out premise shocked audiences on the Croisette, so it is not for the faint of heart. But dive into Ducournau’s world and you will be rewarded with a fascinating and genuinely human film, even if it does not match the stark intimacy of Grave. Ducournau is a genius when it comes to comic horror set-pieces and wince-inducing close-ups, and lead actor Agathe Rousselle is truly captivating as the messed up young woman with the titular Titanium plate in her head and a dangerous obsession with muscle cars. In the end, the film is about finding family. But the director makes sure the journey to that destination is one hell of a ride. DR