“Thanks for the dance / It was hell, it was swell / It was fun.” So ends the title track on Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album. A reflection on a past romantic relationship, it is also a reflection on a life that was at times grim but still capable of seeing the hope and beauty that existed—and still exists, somehow, amidst it all. Thanks for the Dance is the epilogue to Cohen’s last musical chapter, 2016’s You Want It Darker. Produced by his son Adam in collaboration with artists such as Beck and Leslie Feist, the songs (poems, really) on this short, final album are beautiful, dark, witty, thoughtful, and—yes, in moments—off-putting (case in point: the line “I had a pussy in the kitchen”). In essence, these songs embody both Cohen the man and Cohen the poet, with all his flaws and in all his glory. He’s the legend who inspired countless artists and the mere mortal who was wise enough to know that, even at the end of a long, rich life, he doesn’t have all the answers (“Listen to the hummingbird / Whose wings you cannot see / Listen to the hummingbird / Don’t listen to me”). —Mary Beth Campbell


On this EP, Lucy Dacus tracks a year in America as a hopeful realist. 2019 is a mixture of original songs and covers, each song aligning with an American holiday. Dacus opens with “Fool’s Gold,” singing “He’ll blame the alcohol / And you’ll blame the full moon / She’ll blame the fall of man / And I’ll blame the evening news,” capturing the EP’s ubiquitous sadness and stubborn optimism. The original songs—“Fool’s Gold,” “My Mother & I,” and “Forever Half Mast”— work to depict love and frustration in the same breath, grasping at a more nuanced understanding of home and family. The covers are original in choice and performance and manage to avoid sentimentality. “La Vie En Rose” is romantic and fluttering, while “In The Air Tonight” is hollowed and haunting. Dacus lumps Bruce Springsteen’s birthday into her timeline of holidays, and releases an angry cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” with the statement, “I don’t like Christmas.” On 2019, Dacus redefines American celebration for herself in this weary love letter to her deeply flawed country. —Marisa Clogher


On her sophomore album, MAGDALENE, FKA twigs builds a biblical, alien universe that tracks both the progress of a breakup and the isolation of fame. It’s an album that—even without its accompanying music videos—feels especially physical and cinematic, unable to be contained by the music alone. In “home with you” she deepens and stretches her voice, using synths and piano to build the landscape of her album as both classical and modern, while also establishing the thematic beginnings of a failing relationship, singing “I didn’t know that you were lonely / If you’d have just told me I’d be home with you.” The album’s one feature comes from Future on “holy terrain,’’ the album’s most radio-friendly song, while the rest feels pointedly exclusive to twigs’ artistic imagination. “fallen alien” is the album’s breaking point, where the anger spills over into splintering instrumentals, where the aggression is visceral. This anger immediately bleeds into the album’s most lyrically devastating song, “mirrored heart,” where twigs sings “Did you truly see me? / No, not this time / Were you ever sure? / No, no, no not with me.” MAGDALENE revels in the beauty of our most inevitable sadness. —Marisa Clogher


All true hip-hop fans will love this one last collaboration with DJ Premier and Guru. It would be a shame for a legend like Guru, who left us too young, to have his final works be marred by controversy and conspiracy with another producer. DJ Premier would not let his man Guru go down like that, so over the course of about seven years, he pieced together one last album. The artists that collaborated on this album include J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, Royce Da 5’9”, Jeru the Damaja, M.O.P., Neyo, and Nitty Scott. The lyricism here is phenomenal and I suggest listening while reading along: it’s like taking a crash course on East Coast rap. Guru schools you with his poetry and Preemo has his own lessons on the decks. Samples from Gang Starr’s past as well as other esteemed albums are cut in by the master and will have you investigating the sources to improve your personal hip-hop library. But that is exactly what this album is all about: putting in the work to educate, to advance, to transfer knowledge. These are lyrics and beats with footnotes, heavily annotated—not just decorated. One of the Best Yet  is an album with history and culture and relevance. Pay your respects and recognize. —Edward Pellegrini


Myths 004, the inevitable collaboration between indie stalwarts Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, was born out of the mysterious sands of Marfa, Texas in 2018. The seven-song EP weaves a surreal tapestry of experimental storytelling and instrumentation, covering everything from discordant soundtrack music (“Companions In Misfortune”) to early punk parody (the witty, Nico-inspired “What Is She Wearing,” on which Le Bon laments, “I could get myself a croissant from the bakery / And everybody is looking at me as if I have committed a crime”). “Canto!,” the rockabilly-inspired opener, finds Cox singing from the perspective of an aging, hapless motorcycle dude. “Secretary” is a delicate and melancholic song in which Le Bon sings the role of a bored office worker, ending with a beautiful daydream narrated by Cox: “Mascara brushed across the planes / All of the phone calls you made disconnected and without the search there would be no I.” Is it self-indulgent at times? Well, yes. Myths 004 inhabits a very singular world. This does not diminish the album’s artistry or humor, however, or the fact that it continues to intrigue long after the final verse. —Mary Beth Campbell


I Made A Madman Out of Me and You Laughed, the second EP from local indie/electronic pop darlings People Museum, finds the band delving deeper into their unique, lush sound—a sound that could only come from New Orleans. Electronic beats are paired with bold brass notes, a combination that works better in execution than the imagination. Producer/trombonist Jeremy Phipps has managed to find a balance between the electronic and the analog on this album, creating a musical world in which the pairing of trombone and synthesizers seems natural. Composer/singer Claire Givens’ mesmerizing, strong vocals soar over the music. On the dark and sexy “Focus,” Givens’ vocals match the intensity of Phipps’ trombone playing, her voice an instrument in and of itself. The five songs on this EP are all distinct, yet remain connected by a dark and moody atmosphere rife with longing. (Check out their EP release at Saturn Bar on December 6.) —Mary Beth Campbell


Donovan Wolfington’s passing devastated many last year. While some continue to mourn the local group’s death, members have each continued moving forward with their own musical endeavors, such as Pope, New Holland, and Matt Surfin’ & Friends. Founding singer and guitarist Neil Berthier, now a resident of Chicago, is adding to that legacy with his new project Phony. Berthier remains a deeply personal songwriter, exploring his thoughts over sometimes angsty emo bangers. “Most Comfortable Bed” explores the ups and downs of solitary living in the absence of a partner. Berthier doesn’t stray too far from his signature sound, but it’s doubtful anyone will complain about that. “Restaurant” sounds so close to his former band’s sonic palette that I had to review my albums to make sure he didn’t rework an old song. Songs You’ll Never Sing lacks the musical tug of war that came from D-Wolf’s contrasting songwriters. In this respect, it is somewhat akin to the group’s final album Waves, which only featured Berthier-led tunes. Donovan Wolfington may be dead, but its legacy lives on. —William Archambeault


Quintron has wowed New Orleans with sweaty, high energy dance music for two and a half decades, but don’t expect that on his latest effort Erotomania. Instead, the organist and inventor celebrates his love for exotica, diving deep into the beautiful but long-forgotten style of smooth cocktail lounge music. Quintron’s eccentric shouting craze is absent from this EP. Instead, humid keyboard leads dance across his luscious soundscapes. This six-song EP, subtitled Quintron at the Chamberlin, showcases him working his magic on the 1950s tape-based keyboard, a predecessor to the Mellotron. On “Dixie Disaster,” Q pushes the vintage equipment’s limits by expertly manipulating its pre-recorded accompaniments from the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. The orchestra wobbles up and down in pitch, starting and stopping suddenly at the organist’s command for a thrilling ride. It is doubtful that his tribute to exotica will reach the same heights of popularity as his regular material, but Erotomania is an intimate gaze into Quintron’s curious mind. —William Archambeault


Thanks, Sorry! is undeniably Jeff Rosenstock’s victory lap. The punk songwriter has come a long way from being that guy who used to be in Bomb the Music Industry! In the seven years since BTMI!’s final New Orleans show at the Big Top, Rosenstock has diligently built a strong solo career. His 2018 album POST- garnered widespread praise. Thanks, Sorry!, a 29-song live album recorded over four nights at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, captures the infectious energy of Rosenstock’s shows, blemishes and all. It is brimming with the type of vibrancy that is impossible to capture in stiff studio environments, giving these songs new life and an extra sense of charisma. The selections cover every corner of Rosenstock’s solo output, ranging from early tunes like “The Internet is Everywhere” to his 2018 theme song for Cartoon Network series Craig of the Creek. Witty stage banter and spontaneous choices, such as an impromptu cover of MU330’s “KKK Highway,” make for an experience that will keep both longtime fans and newcomers on their toes. —William Archambeault


When recently asked to describe Sudan Archives’ sound, my initial response was “Andrew Bird meets Solange.” While not untrue, that description does not even begin to do justice to the beauty and power of Athena. On this debut full-length album, singer-violinist Brittney Parks (the creative force behind Sudan Archives) melds hip-hop beats, North African fiddle music, and experimental looping to create a rich sound that is at once familiar and unique. Parks co-produced the album, maintaining her original sound and vision even with the influence of more seasoned collaborators. Like the goddess who inspired both the album art and title, the songs of Athena evoke a strength and wisdom rooted in the world that Parks inhabits. This is asserted from the start with “Did You Know,” a song that Parks first wrote at the age of 16: “I realize I lost my mind / When I wasalittle girl / I thoughtI could rule the world… And the end of the day I’mma get my way.” Athena is an album that deserves to be thought about and savored, and Parks is an artist who deserves respect and attention from both peers and audiences alike. —Mary Beth Campbell


In 2011 to 2012, Miles Lagoze was a Marine combat videographer in Afghanistan. This 70-minute feature, which is now free to watch on Kanopy with your library card, is edited from footage taken outside his official work for the Department of Defense. Lagoze’s film doesn’t play like a straight doc—no interviews, graphics, text, narration—or even a vérité-style affair where those elements are missing, but the footage is still assembled along a recognizable arc. There are images and cuts that are surprising or canny or artful, but never informative in the expected way. The lack of context seems to be part of the point; these are home movies of war. The film is often a stream of casually brutal images: The wrong buildings are blown up by airstrikes; Marines smoke hash from a Pringles can or get pinned down and killed in firefights. Like all home movies, these scenes’ full significance might be reserved for Lagoze and the people he filmed during his tour. There’s an intimacy with the camera, though, an unfeigned closeness that dispels the need for introductions. At the very least, it’s a reminder that after 19 years, we’re still fighting in Afghanistan, and scenes like these are still playing out, somewhere we can’t usually see them. —Jon Kieran


Somewhere in mid-century America, Andy (Tye Sheridan), who sharpens skates and runs the zamboni in his dad’s rink, is left without much of a life when his pa drops dead on the ice. He meets psychiatrist Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), and soon the two hit the road, Andy serving as Wally’s secretary as he tours the Pacific Northwest, performing and extolling the virtues of the frontal lobotomy. If this description makes The Mountain sound quirky, off-kilter, or in any way fun, please know that it is not. The basic setup of a curdled man of enlightenment acting as a mentor for his unmoored assistant rings heavy bells to the tune of The Master (2012). But where P.T. Anderson’s vision of postwar America is lyrical and sweeping, Rick Alverson (The Comedy, Entertainment) chooses a style that’s austere and disciplined to the extreme. So if you’re not down for a psychically piercing trek through desolate institutions and pastel nowhere motels circa 1950-something, you’ve been warned. Still, this is absolutely one of the best-looking movies of the year, and the way Goldblum hollows out his famously ultra-dry persona is memorably disturbing. —Jon Kieran


Like grief, the first stage of a horror movie is denial. “This can’t be happening,” says the hero as Jason Voorhees crashes through the bedroom window. Adapted from a New Orleans-set novel, Wounds never exits this opening phase. To be fair, there’s a lot for Will (Armie Hammer), the college-dropout bartender at the film’s center, to deny—his infidelity, his functional alcoholism, the decaying bond with his girlfriend. When he picks up a cell phone abandoned in his bar by a coven of Tulane kids, he’s plunged into a demoniac soul-sickness. The ensuing film circles around some credibly revolting imagery, while remaining light on actual scares. Hammer, sporting a Morgus t-shirt, makes a weird fit for the role of boozy burnout; a bit like Jon Hamm trying to play The Dude. Dakota Johnson and Zazie Beetz (last seen playing a literal nobody in Joker) are no better used. Luckily for everyone, the lead cast is cushioned by a game gang of local faces. Wounds’ setup promises urban-legendary horror, but it never deepens. Much time is spent heaping on psychological subtext; and although there’s plenty to be said about the soul-rot of secrets (or about how serving in New Orleans can suck you into a hellscape of dependencies), a trashier approach might have said it more vividly. —Jon Kieran


Is an explanation of Hiroko Oyamada’s The Factory feasible in such a small space? There’s a city-sized factory in an unnamed city in Japan—or maybe the unnamed factory is a city? Regardless, the purpose it serves is arcane. For the aims of the story, it’s a modular stage for an absurdist workplace novel that succinctly conveys the meaninglessness of menial labor. Kafkaesque, yes, but also anti-capitalist. In the Japanese author’s English-language debut (translated by David Boyd), Oyamada satirizes productivity and routine, taking a familiar form of alienation generated by futility and stretching it. There’s a group of workers who spend the day proofreading nonsense. Another squad of employees’ sole task is to shred papers. One man wanders the grounds classifying moss, while another dwells in the forest in the hopes of pantsing an unsuspecting victim. Mysterious birds exist on the margins and a unique species of lizards live amongst the washing machines. Years pass, patterns repeat. A river connects to an ocean, but it’s speculative. And there’s a giant bridge, but whether it’s possible to actually cross it is open to interpretation. It’s a slim book with alternating narrators and an irregular timeline punctuated by understated and unexpected moments. —Andru Okun


Working from the notion that “writing and reading is an act of public communication that is also private and intimate,” author and literary critic Jess Row surveys late-20th century American literature in order to point out and pick apart white subjectivity. In doing so he finds a pattern of erasure and avoidance, identifying one of white writing’s primary influences as “the pressure to perform while minimizing the risk of shame.” As a white male writer, Row is unflinchingly honest in assessing his own history and position, giving the essays a personal dimension that feels indispensable to the analysis. Row also looks at film and music and their relations to expressions of whiteness, reflecting on the proto-goth underpinnings of Harold and Maude and the early emo sentiment of bands like Rites of Spring. Examining performance artist Bas Jan Alder’s 1975 performance In Search of the Miraculous—in which the white artist set out to cross the Atlantic ocean in a thirteen-foot sailboat and was forever lost at sea—Row considers the question of whether to write at all. It’s a question, in his estimation, that white writers should consider. “To produce art—even explicitly antiracist art—,” Row writes, “under conditions that reward white subjectivity, center it, and render it harmless and neutral, is arguably a way of collaborating with and sustaining those conditions.” White Flights is an unwavering interrogation of American whiteness, a challenging critique that moves past inefficacious guilt and toward a reparative literary form. —Andru Okun


For the fans of idiosyncratic meta-fiction steeped in film references (Michael Haneke, anyone?), this book is for you. From the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Birdman, The Crossed-Out Notebook (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) is an unusual rumination on the writing life. “Writing is not a profession,” the protagonist jots in Nicolás Giacobone’s debut novel, “it’s the best way to waste a life.” Told from the perspective of an Argentine screenwriter (Giacobone was born in Buenos Aires) held hostage by a megalomaniacal director demanding a script capable of changing the course of world cinema history, it’s a peculiar narrative. Giacone is generous with his use of repetition, a literary device that can be read as either boring or absorbing. In this case, it’s perhaps intended to be a bit of both. Given that the narrator spends years trapped in a basement with little more than a collection of stories by Jorge Luis Borges (who he dislikes) and a wi-fi disabled laptop stocked exclusively with The Beatles (who he adores), The Crossed-Out Notebook makes its own kind of odd sense. As for suspense, at points the plot twists and turns in ways reminiscent of a conventional novel, although it certainly wouldn’t be fair to categorize this book as such. —Andru Okun


A troubled former ‘90s riot grrrl joins a secret order of woman scientists who travel through time fighting misogyny. If that sounds amazing, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Newitz’s latest science-fiction novel, which takes place in a world in which regulated time travel through mysterious, ancient portals is commonplace. Newitz’s heroine and her colleagues fight against a shadowy cabal of men—including followers of notorious 1800s censor Anthony Comstock and 21st century incels—to prevent them from turning the future into a Handmaid’s Tale-style dystopia. The novel, perhaps refreshingly, focuses less on the mechanics and paradoxes of time travel and more on the interminable nature of political structure and how small victories and defeats can add up to make a big difference. There’s also much more detail about the time traveler and her relationship with her friends and colleagues than about the angry men they struggle against, so there’s little new exploration of what exactly makes misogynists tick, but that may also come as a relief amid the seemingly endless recent parade of newspaper profiles of real-life ultraconservatives. —Steven Melendez

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