ALBUM | In an era of postmodern musings and existential dread, Washington, D.C.'s Priests and their first full-length album, NOTHING FEELS NATURAL, seems as timely and necessary as ever. The album plays as an expansion of their punk sensibilities with the inclusion of ambient and jazz-inspired soundscaping. Priests graduate to a new level of self-actualization as they find authenticity in performative strokes rather than the stripped-down punk bravado they often leaned on in the past. Impassioned shouts brought on by neoliberal anxiety and malaise are still found in frenetic pace songs like "Appropriate," "Pink White House" and "Puff." The band's more cerebral trepidations, though, are better served in the album's quieter, syncopated moments.
BOOK | Throughout his hallowed career as a short fiction author, George Saunders has found a way to combine humanity's empathy with a wit and humor that also acknowledges its absurdity. His first novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, tries to capture these two qualities in a retelling of Abraham Lincoln's visits to the crypt of his deceased 11-year-old son. Saunders couples historical fiction with Tibetan Buddhism's "limbo" called the Bardo, along with scenes of a grieving Lincoln and ghosts of the ongoing Civil War. These ghouls hold court over the human condition and grief in what often reads as monologues of a manic. For his first venture into the world of novel-length fiction, Saunders is able to uncover life's tragic truths in both the macro and micro of society.
TV | Pete Holmes' CRASHING (Sundays at 7:30 pm, HBO) is as honest as a stand-up's TV show about real-life comedy can get. Inspired by his tumultuous and abrupt divorce, Peter (played by Holmes) is a struggling open mic-er who finds himself no longer grounded in a relationship and with nothing else but his comedy. The show is full of notable comedian cameos, and the first episode centers on the career and life advice of habitual screw-up Artie Lange. Crashing works as a love letter to the misery of bombing, and the weary art of just trying to make it as a professional funny person. It deftly hits on all the cavernous lows that inspire some of the greatest storytellers in comedy, and the system that molds them. ♦