Man, where does the time go? As we get older, time goes by more quickly, and having a two-year-old at home only accelerates that process. I want to crank out more work, but my lovely daughter takes up most of my time. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Even if it means I am not caught up on Atlanta.
So, without further adieu, here are five shows/albums that I cared for in the first half of the year and one that I didn’t.
*Editor’s Note: Better Call Saul will be reviewed with its own entry after the series finale
Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
How many bands can arguably claim the best work of their career happened 10 albums in? For every Beggar’s Banquet (The Rolling Stones) success, there seems to be a Self Portrait (Bob Dylan) and Lucky Town (Bruce Springsteen) to negatively tip the scales. However it seems apparent that with the release of Lucifer on the Sofa, Spoon has found their Beggar’s Banquet. LOTS, with its jangly riffs and big chorused tracks, recaptures the early 2000s energy of a young and hungry Spoon without sounding like rehashed versions of Kill The Moonlight or Girls Can Tell and firmly crowns Spoon as indie rock royalty.
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Being a white, suburban middle-aged man who grew up in a rural area, I always appreciated Kendrick Lamar and his music, however, I felt like an outsider looking in. Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Lamar’s newest release, changes that narrative as the album is themed with issues everyone can relate to, including relationship drama (We Cry Together), the struggles encountered by queer family members (Auntie Diaries), and most especially mental health issues (United in Grief). Sure, the beats, funk, jazz, hip hop and rap are all still represented but this time these elements showcase the thought process of a global super star bearing his soul while trying to find his place in a post-pandemic world. This album isn’t just a musical masterpiece, but a transcendent work of art that takes a perfect polaroid of the time in which it was released.
Cafune – Running
Okay, I’m busted. This LP dates all the way back to July of 2021 but is new to me. Consisting of Sedona Schat and Noah Yoo, Cafune are veterans of the New York City music scene and Running is their full length debut. When listening to Running, I found my head space blank and was able to soak in and vibe to a release that isn’t quite 100% rock or shoe gaze or pop or indie, but rather a combination of all, which makes sense because this small label triumph can simultaneously transfer the listener to a beach just as easily as a dirty basement dance floor at a house party. Look no further for your summer jam.
Thankfully, after four seasons, Ozark has limped across the finish line and mercifully met its maker, which often happens to series when there are no more characters left to senselessly murder. Arriving in the Ozarks, by way of Chicago, and with deep pockets, business connections, and political assets, the Byrde family was always a metaphor for big business and in modern America (both nonfictional and fictional), it was only a matter of time before the big box store Byrdes eliminated the mom-and-pop (Langmore and Snell) competitors.
Ozark, for all of the acclaim, has always been guilty of gratuitously killing characters and no murder is more egregious than the murder of FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harmon) is season 2. Petty was the perfect foil for the Brydes and with better foresight, the showrunners could have seen loose cannon Petty framed/busted for drug use, fired from the F.B.I, and exiled from the Ozarks, only to return is season four in the same role as private investigator Mel Sattam (Adam Rothenberg). Petty, like Sattam, would have been hyper focused on Ben’s disappearance while struggling to maintain sobriety and harboring a grudge against the Bryde’s.
In the final moments of the series Jonah points Buddy’s shotgun at Sattam – the the same shotgun that he put on Petty in season one – and pulls the trigger. Which is fine, it just should have been Petty on the receiving end, as this would have created an perfect character arc for all involved.
What a waste.
It’s writer/actor/producer/director Bill Hader’s world and we are all just living in it. Barry , the tale of an Army veteran with PTSD-turned assassin-turned actor reaches new heights in season three as Hader replaces a high body count with dream-like destinations (beaches/deserts/ranches), double crosses, egomania, and an emotionally-stripped-to-the-studs lead.
Season three also focuses on the romantic relationship between NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and Cristobal (Michael Irby), Fuches’ (Stephen Root) obsession with Barry, Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) embrace of stardom, as well as the ever evolving relationship between Gene (Henry Winkler) and Barry. However, the main focus during season three is Barry’s struggle with mental health. This development allows Hader to showcase his acting chops as his character looks for meaning, love, and acceptance while coming to terms with his misdeeds. These are powerful, nuanced, and topical themes and as a result, Hader should be in high demand when award season rolls around.
Frankly, if it weren’t for Better Call Saul, Barry would be the best show of the 2022.
Winning Time: The Rise of The Laker’s Dynasty
Admittedly, I am an NBA junkie who grew up in the 1980s, so Winning Time, the exaggerated biographical story of the Showtime Lakers is a right up my alley-oop. If you are not an NBA fan, or even a sports fan, it should still be right up yours too.
Focusing on NBA Hall of Famer Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson (Quincy Isaiah), coach Pat Riley (Adrien Brody), and Laker’s owner Dr. Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly), Winning Time takes A LOT of liberties with plot and time lines, but considering how well it is done, those details don’t matter.
Newcomer Isaiah not only looks like Magic, but has the mega-watt smile and charisma to match and in his turn as Pat Riley, Brody rekindles the spark that made him an indie movie darling almost two decades ago. However as team owner/sports visionary/philanderer extraordinaire, Jerry Buss , John C. Reilly steals the showtime and turns in the best work of his career. Reilly and a charming flair to Buss, a hustler with a heart of gold, and the audience can’t help but root for his character to succeed.
This series has a little bit of everything 1980s Los Angeles (Iman, The Playboy Mansion, Jack Nicholson, Richard Pryor) and as a result, Los Angeles itself becomes a character, which is always an effective tool in well told stories (Heat, Magnolia, L.A. Confidential, Boogie Nights). I, for one, can’t wait for season two and after watching, you will feel the same.