The video for new collaboration between Sharon van Etten and Angel Olsen in ‘Like I Used To’ pays homage to Abba.
Photo: YouTube Screengrab
The team’s picks this month include travel for history and food, shows with Nordic charm or darker historical dramas, an Abba homage and more.
Journalist Barbara Demick in Eat the Buddha chronicles the history of Tibet from past to present through the eyes of Ngaba, a town in Sichuan province that until today is rocked by anti-Chinese protests. Admirably readable, the book is educational without being academic and includes testimonials from generations of witnesses of oppression, all the while placing events in the wider context of China’s treatment of ethnic minorities from the era of Mao until the present. CS
I’ve been hooked on Faremagazine almost since it first launched. This food-based travel magazine takes readers to one world city in each issue--from the barbecue restaurants in the heart of Seoul, South Korea, to Pisco Sour making in Lima, Peru. It’s also a feast for the eyes: illustrated maps, snippets of poetry and comics keep the publication fresh, and the issues have served as a nice escape as I’m still awaiting overdue travel... NG
I recently discovered the app, iNaturalist, which brings together biodiversity experts and amateurs. If you spend your time outdoors and come across a plant or insect you can't identify, you can upload a photo/description through the app, and crowdsourcing will help you determine what it is. There's also a map feature, so you can check out what sort of species are in your area. NG
Listen to this
We’re not even in June, but it will take some sort of miracle to knock the epic collaboration between Sharon van Etten and Angel Olsen, 'Like I Used To', off the top of my favourite song of the year list. Melancholic, perhaps, but this celebration of the good times captures the zeitgeist, and its majestic arrangement bears repeated listening. And the homage to Abba in the video just adds to the song’s power. DR
It is now 30 years since Teenage Fanclub emerged on the scene and were hailed by Kurt Cobain as the best band in the world. The band’s latest album, Endless Arcade, is the first recorded without Gerard Love, one of their three songwriters, but still retains the group’s knack for creating beautifully melodic, wistfully breezy songs written by Raymond McGinley and Norman Blake. DR
More gorgeously crafted melancholia interspersed with rip-em-up southern barroom sing-a-longs comes from The Pink Stones. The band from Athens, Georgia, have released their debut album Introducing…The Pink Stones. Anyone who loves pedal steel (and if you don’t, get outta here) will fall in love with this slice lushly arranged Americana that is reminiscent of Gram Parsons and particularly his The Flying Burrito Brothers phase. DR
Hulu comedy Dollface has landed on Disney+, starring Kat Dennings as Jules who is dumped by her boyfriend of five years in the opening minutes of the show. Jules discovers that the other relationships in her life have expired from neglect. She must now re-enter the world of women and female friendships. The show takes on stereotypes and the Instagram aesthetic of millennial womanhood with zingy one-liners and a zany imaginary element. Entertaining if superficial. CS
After a year-long distraction TV binge, Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad, on Amazon Prime, was a refreshing discovery. A 10-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s book of the same name, the historical drama follows Cora, a young black woman fleeing slavery in the south of the US in the 1800s. There is an intense beauty in Jenkins’ fantastical depiction of the relationships and tragedy, with a pacing and emotional arc normally found in stage drama. As one might expect of a slave drama, there is also violence, but if anything, the most searing violence occurs through what is not shown. The dramatic flourish of the metaphorical underground railroad depicted as a tunnel was a masterstroke for detaching viewers from everything they already know about this chapter in US history and reminding them of the fragility and courage required to make this uncertain odyssey. JB
I recently enjoyed the Icelandic police thriller The Valhalla Murders on Netflix. It has moody Nordic charm, some plot twists that you see coming and some that you don’t. Plus the series highlights Iceland’s geographic isolation. AG
Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple delves into the world of Khayal, a form of Indian classical music. It follows protagonist Sharad as he dedicates his life to achieving greatness in his art, following in the footsteps of his father, who performed with middling success. The film’s slow pace reflects the ascetic life of its subject to whom Tamhane perhaps maintains too great a distance throughout. It is hard to glimpse what drives Sharad, but it is still a thoughtful portrait of the artist as a struggling young man. CS