HITTING THE HIGH NOTES
I knew the Bee Gees were more than a disco-fied punch line before watching the new HBO documentary about the Aussie stars, but The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart effectively makes the case the Gibb brothers deserve a lot more love. Instead of an utter hagiography, it delivers a concise band history, from Beatles-esque power-poppers to disco kingpins to elder statesman. It's not a warts-and-all doc — there's nary a mention of their disastrous Sgt. Pepper's movie — but it doesn't shy away from rivalries among the brothers, or the overindulgence that killed their youngest brother, Andy. Be forewarned: Viewing will plant their otherworldly harmonies in your head for days afterward. (DAN NAILEN)
THE FIG TREE
In The Bell Jar, Slyvia Plath writes of a person who ponders all the many lives they could live, each represented by a different fig in a fig tree. Eventually, they starve rather than making a choice of which path to take. In The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Nora finds herself between life and death, similarly experimenting with the many different lives she could have lived. A glaciologist, a rock star, an Olympic swimmer, a nobody. The more she dreams of the lives that could have been, the more evident it becomes that all we ever have are the choices that lie ahead. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)
HANKS, BUT NO HANKS
On the audio series Dead Eyes, actor/comedian Connor Ratliff performs exhaustive forensic analysis on a crucial moment from his career: After being cast in the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg miniseries Band of Brothers, he was fired unceremoniously because Hanks thought Ratliff had — well, it's right there in the podcast title. Although Ratliff sets out to clear up the circumstances behind his sacking, the Hanks angle is sort of a MacGuffin, because the true purpose of the show is to reflect on the rejection and humiliation that goes into being a working actor, and all of his guests (including A-listers Jon Hamm and Seth Rogen) have audition horror stories. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
GIRL MEETS ALIEN
As a regular watcher of YouTube critic Lindsay Ellis' essays, I was eager to settle in with her debut novel, Axiom's End. The book follows Cora, estranged daughter of a Julian Assange-esque whistleblower, as the world experiences first contact with an alien species. While the government scrambles to keep it secret, Cora finds herself center stage as one of the ETs, a leader she calls Ampersand, picks her as his sole interpreter. Cora and Ampersand's relationship deepens as they grapple to understand each other and the worlds each calls home. Axiom's End is less an intergalactic romance than a thoughtful examination of the communication barriers that may arise when humans actually do make first contact. (CHEY SCOTT)
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST
There's noteworthy new music arriving in stores and online this week. To wit:
MATTHEW SWEET, Catspaw. If anyone can use power-pop to cut through the darkness, it's this guy.
ACCEPT, Too Mean To Die. German old-school metal — perhaps the perfect soundtrack for these gloomy times?
BLOODY HAMMERS, Songs of Unspeakable Terror. Wait, no, these cartoonish goth-rockers are the perfect soundtrack of a discontented winter. (DAN NAILEN)