Pop Picks


The Bug is Kevin Martin, the “only one ruling selector” according to UK reggae singer Tippa Irie on the fantastic and potent “London Zoo.” Those of us who've had their eyes on Martin for years knew this kind of career-defining album was festering somewhere within him. His vast, mostly abrasive past untethers like the bow firing a poison arrow aimed straight at the heart of musical convention and cultural complacency. — Timothy Gabriele


PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: Isaac Hayes's stellar career

He was Black Moses, creator of some stellar Hot Buttered Soul. He gave “Shaft” his Oscar winning authority, and broke down color barriers in the highly conservative — and Caucasian — film composer's club. He was a member of the famous Stax Records team, ushering in hits as writer, producer, arranger, and artist. He earned an Academy Award, three Grammys, and a well deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 2002). Isaac Hayes will always be remembered as the prophet of soul. — Bill Gibron



Wale: “The Mixtape About Nothing” (CD)

The latest release from DC lyrical prodigy Wale, is simultaneously beautifully crafted irony and the genuine mental struggles of a man who proves every theory Freud has ever penned. A record born of the racial controversy surrounding Michael Richards' comedy club meltdown and Wale's love of Richards' cash cow “Seinfeld,” “The Mixtape About Nothing” is a detailed, informed, and humanistic real-world discussion of US race relations, as well as Wale's inability to find a place in contemporary hip-hop. — Chris Gaerig

Johnny Flynn: “A Larum” (CD)

A “larum” is the Middle English term for a town's central warning bell, and so the album is even named after the town crier's tool for spreading his word. It will be interesting to see if Flynn maintains this consistent vision and style in his future work, or if “A Larum” will be a free-standing tribute to Americana's pastoral British roots, before Flynn launches off on another road. Either way, one hopes that this warm, loose album is just the start from this very promising musical journeyman. — Maura Walz



“Man on Wire” (dir. James Marsh) (Film)

“Once upon a time,” says Philippe Petit. “Now, that's how you start fairy tales and actually, my story is a fairy tale.” That story culminates in Petit's walking on a wire between the Twin Towers on 7 August, 1974. But, as recalled in James Marsh's “Man on Wire,” the lead-up to that spectacular event was both Petit's life story and a much broader context, both historical and immediate, a time recollected from so many angles that the reconstruction begins to feel like another sort of stunt. For Petit's story, full of intrigue and hope, is not only his. Because it concerns the Towers, the documentary also walks its own thin line, over tragedy and transgression, remembering and forgetting. — Cynthia Fuchs



“Dear American Airlines” by Jonathan Miles (Book)

With Dear American Airlines, author Jonnie Miles fires a cannon shot across the bow of the travel industry on behalf of frustrated, exhausted, haunted people everywhere… or at least that is the first impression. The book is written in the form of a consumer complaint letter, but it doesn't take long for the deficiencies of the airline to give way as an elegy emerges to a life slid asunder. Narrator Benny Ford tells the story with black humor, tinged with a gentle sadness and a hopelessness that caused this reader to wince. — Heather West