TV | You think that your dance card of politically oriented comedy shows is full with The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and the like? You need to make space for FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE. The Daily Show veteran manages to go places her many male peers don't or won't in her weekly half-hour (Mondays at 10:30 pm, TBS), bringing a much-needed dose of humanity to go along with the harder-edged humor she aims at deserving blowhards. From eulogizing the GOP while also skewering Bernie Sanders' vow to "end institutional racism," it's equal-opportunity hilarity, and her interviews with everyone from cuddly Syrian refugees to ignorant anti-abortion zealots are always on point.
ALBUM | Considering the sonic consistency M. Ward brings to his solo albums, his reverbed vocals and guitar wizardry applied to folk tunes is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. I've been firmly in the "love it" camp for years, and his latest, MORE RAIN, will keep me there. He expands his sonic palette a bit, filling the songs with lots of doo-wop backup vocals and lush harmonies delivered by guests like Neko Case, the Secret Sisters and k.d. lang. There are more upbeat tunes than typical from the Portland singer-songwriter, and that's a good thing, especially when he nods to T. Rex on "Time Won't Wait" or gallops through "Girl From Conejo Valley."
BOOK | Like most music lovers I know, debating the merits of songs, albums and bands is a cherished pastime. THE RAP YEAR BOOK: THE MOST IMPORTANT RAP SONG FROM EVERY YEAR SINCE 1979, DISCUSSED, DEBATED, AND DECONSTRUCTED is a joyous literary version of the internal debate author Shea Serrano had as he mulled the best hip-hop songs of the past few decades. Using that conceit as a jumping-off point to the genre's history and the culture of the time for each respective song, Serrano ends up creating a highly entertaining, genuinely educational read, even including dissenting opinions from other writers, as well as killer illustrations from Arturo Torres. ♦