Pop Picks


A prime example of a band being uniquely and vitally British is London's The Chap. They approach the pop song like insane chemists, mixing acids and bases, oxides and carbon dioxides, until the result finally blows up in their faces, their desired result. After two strong full-lengths, including 2005's excellent “Ham,” they have come up with “Mega Breakfast,” their best yet and one of the most distinctive pop albums of the year. — Erik Gundel


PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: The cast and crew of “Heroes”

“Heroes” creator Tim Kring said that he would like to screen the third season premiere at the upcoming Comic-Con, but he wasn't sure they'd be able to finish filming, editing and adding the special effects in time. Well, Kring and his cast and team managed to do it, and gave the 6,500 lucky attendees of the “Heroes” panel a treat, a full two months in advance of the network premiere. Kring brought his entire cast to the panel — with 13 people in the main ensemble, that was quite a feat. — Chris Conaton



Randy Newman: “Harps and Angels” (CD)

Randy Newman is possibly the only artist in American pop who can offer the most touching, gushing scores for films like “A Bug's Life” and “Monsters, Inc.,” which burst through the screen with the sweetest sentiments, and then deliver what could very well be the most controversial album created by a white man in 2008. But that's why he's among the best of his generation. So what if we had to wait ten years for ten new songs? “Harps and Angels” belongs up there with “12 Songs” and “Sail Away” as one of Newman's greatest works. — Ron Hart



“John Adams” (HBO Miniseries) (DVD)

“John Adams'” protagonist is an inestimably flawed and imperfectly human character who, upon close examination, seems made all the stronger by his flaws; the perfect role for Paul Giamatti. Though later stretches of the show don't cover Abigail's very public and quite fiery feminist persona and anti-slavery views, they at least stand as the rare work of historical fiction that doesn't condescend to its women with the faint praise of equal treatment. Linney's bright, passionate Abigail is every bit the intellectual and wit that Giamatti's more dour Adams is, frequently mocking the great man for his preening self-regard and earning his near-fanatical devotion in response. — Chris Barsanti



“Devil's Cape” by Rob Rogers

The burgeoning sub-genre of the superhero novel now has its best entry, and one that will set the standard for years to come. Rogers creates a vivid and vibrant world from whole cloth which seems like it truly can exist right outside your window. Readers will be on the edge of their seat, turning pages furiously in anticipation of what will happen. “Devil's Cape” deserves a place next to Tom Clancy and Stephen King as a sterling example of the best of genre fiction. A great book for the superhero-charged summer season. — William Gatevackes



“Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution” (Nintendo DS)

The Nintendo DS is a fabulous little device you can carry anywhere and play in front of the TV during those lengthy commercials between segments of “Lost.” But the titles available have generally skewed to the kiddie side of the fence. Finally there is a turned-based historical strategy game of sufficient complexity to eat up entire weekends, engrossed with the two little screens and stylus. Play as Napoleon or Bismarck, Gandhi or Genghis Khan and many more. A truly great addition to the DS library that is hopefully a harbinger of even better things to come. — Sarah Zupko