Reviews

AIMING FOR ENRIKE
MUSIC FOR WORKING OUT
(PEKULA)

Aiming for Enrike makes a hell of a lot of noise for just two people. The Norwegian guitar and drum duo push their loop-based mathematic mania deeper into dance floor-oriented bangers on Music for Working Out. Guitarist Simen Følstad Nilsen’s frantic pedalboard workout is akin to a competitive Dance Dance Revolution player jumping around at a dizzying pace. On tracks like “Hard Dance Brainia,” he loops and layers catchy bite-sized melodies that crawl deep into listeners’ skulls. Pulsating dance tunes like “Don’t Hassle the Hoff” showcase the band’s gradual evolution towards a more mature sound. This release feels far less jarring than their 2017 album Las Napalmas, which was both explosive and heady. While they have refined their craft more, the intense number “Ponzu Saiko”—defined by crunchy guitars, a pounding beat, and all around chaos—shows that Aiming for Enrike hasn’t mellowed just yet. This album came out the same day that news organizations announced Rush drummer Neil Peart’s passing. While it is a strange coincidence, Music for Working Out proves that young musicians will keep Peart’s passion for heady yet accessible music alive for years to come. —William Archambeault

ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO
TWO
(NOTON)

Multi-genre master Ryuichi Sakamoto and laptop wizard Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) have forged a beautiful partnership over the last two decades. From 2002 to 2011, they released five studio albums together, fusing Noto’s buzzing soundscapes with Sakamoto’s haunting, minimalist wanderings. In 2015, they collaborated on the gorgeous, glacial score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant. Two, their third live album, was recorded in 2018 at the Sydney Opera House. It comprises seven previously recorded songs and seven tracks of new, improvised music. Reviews of the show describe Sakamoto circling his open-top concert grand, plucking strings and striking chords. His dynamic presence is audible on the record, piano notes popping forcefully from behind Noto’s glitchy walls of sound. The album drags at times in its slower, more ambient passages, but never for long. And these moments are fully forgotten when the record hits full stride. The album’s midpoint, “Morning + Iano,” combining two tracks from the duo’s second collab, Insen, perfectly meshes Noto’s off-kilter syncopation with Sakamoto’s minor chord changes. And “Monomom,” a fully improvised track later in the album, is a slow-burning tearjerker that finds both artists at their best. The album ends with “The Revenant Theme,” tying off this celebration of two legends working in tandem. —Raphael Helfand

BEACH SLANG
THE DEADBEAT BANG OF HEARTBREAK CITY
(BRIDGE 9)

A frequent criticism of Beach Slang’s music is that they do not produce anything original. This is a fair point, and important to keep in mind when listening to their newest album, The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City. Their latest release is a love letter to ‘80s rock, heavily indebted to bands such as The Replacements (they even recruited Tommy Stinson of The ‘Mats as their bassist). True, there is nothing on this album that has not been done before, from the lyrics to the guitar solos. But as an homage to ‘80s rock, it is spot-on and even, dare I say, fun. On the rollicking “Tommy In The 80s” (which is a tribute to power-pop legend Tommy Keene) the band evokes both The Replacements and Cheap Trick, including Alex James’ vocals (which are reminiscent of Paul Westerberg) and the inclusion of horns and power-pop chords. “Kicking Over Bottles” and “Nobody Say Nothing” are both ‘Mats songs that never were, while “Stiff” evokes macho spandex arena rock. It would be easy to dismiss this album, but it is earnest and honest in its nostalgia and reverence for the era. —Mary Beth Campbell

CRAZY DOBERMAN
---/HAUNTED, NON/HAUNTED
(TORN LIGHT)

Is this slab of wax haunted or not? On —/haunted, non/haunted, prolific free-jazz/noise outfit Crazy Doberman conjures eerie sounds that are guaranteed to lure out any ghosts hiding near your turntable. This pseudo-local release features the Lafayette, Indiana group in collaboration with local noisemakers Coco Cruse, Sebastian Figueroa, and Steve Kenny. With their forces joined, the collective embarks on a truly experimental journey. The resulting sounds combine the astral elevations of spiritual jazz with harsh, ominous noise. Sporadic drums, dissonant horns, and high-pitched electronics clash on nine minute closer “No Body.” Trampoline Team guitarist Michael He-Man recorded this instrumental release at his home studio last February, creating a lasting document of this momentary summit. —William Archambeault

DELORES GALORE
NEW GROWTH
(SELF-RELEASED)

Gabrielle Washington is best known in the New Orleans music world for co-fronting popular psycho-pop outfit Sexy Dex and the Fresh. Her vocal harmonies play an essential role in fleshing out the band’s soul-inspired, washed out jams. On New Growth, Washington’s solo debut as Delores Galore, she pushes her voice and musical sensibility in a different direction. Though it shares some of the same touchstones as SDTF, Delores Galore is an entirely original project. Merging influences from synth-pop, disco, ‘90s house, and neo-soul, Washington weaves a tonal tapestry. Her vocals affected but raw, she sings over pulsing grooves that range from John Maus to Moodyman to New Order, maintaining a unifying persona throughout. The lyrical content on the EP rarely feels as inspired as the music, but the harmonies are absorbing enough to stand on their own. Penultimate track “Corpse Inside” is the record’s highlight, combining dreamy guitar licks with whirling synths and explosive drums, a perfect palette for Washington’s elliptical voice. New Growth closes on a hopeful note with the triumphant “Circles 4 U,”  a satisfying end to an excellent first outing. —Raphael Helfand

DHIDALAH
THRESHOLD 発‮:]‬
(GURUGURU BRAIN)

Dhidalah specializes in extended instrumental explorations of the furthest reaches of space rock. Threshold is only four songs long, but make no mistake: This is a full-course meal, not a snack. Three of the songs drift past nine minutes in length. Expressive guitar leads soar over repetitive grooves on tracks like opener “Neuer Typ.” This Japanese power trio is heavy at times, but only rarely enters the territory of guitarist Ikuma Kawabe’s alma mater Church of Misery. Both groups worship at the church of riff, but Dhidalah opts for Krautrock-inspired hypnotism where Church of Misery seems to be attempting a reincarnation of Black Sabbath. This EP came out on fellow Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo’s record label, Guruguru Brain, which focuses on introducing Asian artists to larger global audiences. Kikagaku Moyo’s recent ascension to cult status in America shows that Japanese bands are slowly chipping away at the barriers that have traditionally kept them from having successful careers in the West. On this record, Dhidalah’s fiery instrumentals show that riffage is a universal language. —William Archambeault

DUSTER
S/T
(MUDDGUTS)

Duster’s third full-length is a much anticipated return after nearly two decades of silence. Their latest album offers new listeners and die-hards more of their iconic droney and emotive indie-rock, summarized by some as slowcore in the ‘90s and 2000s. While Duster didn’t have the same cultural impact as some of their contemporaries on Up Records like Built to Spill or Modest Mouse, their sold-out reunion shows and highly-priced original vinyl pressings show they’ve built a large and loyal cult following. The new album shows that the band’s sound isn’t characterized by a trending genre; it’s just what comes when Clay Parton, Canaan Dove Amber, and Jason Albertin get into a room with a couple of condenser microphones and old instruments. Not much about Duster has changed. The songs meld together in a slow, bleak, depressing mirage of wavering guitars, sustained fuzzy synthesizers, clumsy drums, and vague, often inaudible lyrics. Duster does what they do best: playing with space and minimal compositions. The songs themselves are more like melodic vignettes that feel like memories or tonal daydreams. The band may not return to Earth for long but they deserve the hype of any other ‘90s-nostalgia-seeking rock fan. —Robert Landry

FEA
NO NOVELTIES
(BLACKHEART)

San Antonio-based punk band Fea is not here to take shit. Their music, message, and existence as a band is not a marvel, and they do not wish to be known by the infantilizing label “girl band.” No Novelties, their sophomore album, is a gritty and powerful collection of songs. Rooted in Latinx, punk, and riot grrrl ethos, it is a reminder that punk rock is not the sole property of angry white men. Fea is proudly political and musically innovative; the songs are punk at their core with elements of ska, surf, and Chicanx rock skillfully woven in. “Ya Se,” sung entirely in Spanish, is a classic punk anthem, railing against the wage gap and other inequities. “Let Me Down” laments our society’s self-absorption: “Insecurities disguised as confidence and egotism / Are we really that desensitized? / It’s been normalized.” This is a band that deserves and demands to be taken seriously, a point driven home on closing track “Girl Band”: “Well never mind the work we’ve put in / Please tell me how to fit your mold.” (Fea will be playing Poor Boys on March 2nd) —Mary Beth Campbell

KHUSHI
STRANGE SEASONS
(WARNER)

The first striking thing about Strange Seasons, the debut full-length solo album from Khushi (neé Kalim Patel), is that he has created his own fully-realized musical world. Over the past decade, Patel has gained recognition in his native UK both as Khushi and as a member of Strong Asian Mothers, and is a Grammy-nominated producer for his work on James Blake’s Assume Form (Blake returned the favor on Strange Seasons—despite similarities, Patel’s songs are very much his own). The emotion on Strange Seasons ebbs and flows, creating a moody and thoughtful atmosphere that is at times layered (“In Love With It All”) and at other times more spare (“Children”). Throughout all the songs is a thread that may resonate with us all—the truths that we keep hidden within ourselves, as on “This Is”: “There are / Things in me now that I / Can’t get out… But in Time theymayshow what I / Couldnot have known“, and the struggle to let them into the light (“From Me”:  “Let these strange seasons bleed from me / …Find the freedom that fell from me”). —Mary Beth Campbell

MAC MILLER
CIRCLES
(WARNER)

It is natural to look upon a piece of posthumously-released music from the vantage point of  “what we know now,” and Mac Miller’s most recent release, Circles, provides the world a look into the mind of the talented recording artist just before his death. The first song on the album begins with, “Well, this is what it looks like right before you fall…” setting the tone for more and more depressing Easter eggs throughout the album. And while it is a beautiful thing to be able to celebrate and connect with an artist even after their passing, it is imperative to remember that although we know what happens in the end, his death was not part of his story as he knew it. The lyricism that set him apart in life comes across as dark and sad yet optimistic. And the use of electro-pop and doo-wop accents on songs like “Blue World” and “I Can See” highlight the light at the end of the tunnel for Miller, despite the fact that he never made it there. He suffered from depression and addiction but he had hope, making this release an unintended message to everyone listening to hold on and never stop trying. —Katie Sikora

PROUD/FATHER
SUNLIGHT BREAKS OVER THE BLACK PEARL
(SELF-RELEASED)

There are over a dozen releases on the Proud/Father Bandcamp page. Having heard most of them, the newest offering, Sunlight Breaks Over the Black Pearl, is a strong addition to the catalog. Proud/Father, the solo ambient vehicle of New Orleans artist Sebastian Figueroa, has been a stalwart presence in the experimental underground since 2009. As potent as it is prolific, his work is among the best in that community, and his newest album sets the bar for ambient music in the new year. Named for the historic uptown neighborhood, Black Pearl is a reflection on its embattled past, and the beauty that shines through it. This is powerfully represented through the track “Zion Traveler,” named for the Baptist church featured on the album’s cover. Murky ambiance and field recordings of what is likely the Mississippi River give way to a glowing yet solemn tapestry of feedback-laden melody. This isn’t wallpaper music. And while it demands the listener’s attention, it’s not needy. There is a maturity to this collection, with tension being one of its greatest virtues. Take the three part suite, “Darkness Past the Levee”: the first section sounds almost as though it would fit into a cult horror film, with high-pitched synth functioning as a Penderecki string section. The underlying ominous bass and accompanying sounds of rummaging are as eerie as they are hypnotic. This gives way to the frenetic percussion of the second segment, with the denouement’s wall of sound ebbing and flowing as a river will. This sense of scope is a testament to the album’s ability to pull the listener into its frame, a rewarding venture for those who will succumb. —Coco Cruse

TREADLES
AND THE ROCKS AND THE TREES AND THE EMPTY AIR BETWEEN
(SELF-RELEASED)

And the Rocks and the Trees and the Empty Air Between overflows with feelings of mourning and lament. Singer and guitarist KC Stafford presents musically diverse tunes united under oblique emotions. Opener “Kiss of Death” kicks off the album with hard-rocking earworms while tracks like “A Swaybacked Mare” are slow-growers that gradually evolve and meander in different directions. This is Treadles’ first full-length since Stafford transformed the project from a sad, solo acoustic endeavor into a loud, experimental rock band. These recordings reflect that dramatic shift. Drummer Ian Paine-Jesam’s precision is as essential to these tunes as Stafford’s wobbly vocals and finger-picked guitar parts. Bassist Rustle Pants delves into sharp, distorted bass parts and occasionally joins Stafford in screaming harmonies on tracks like “P R I C K” and “Cries From the Harpies.” On ominous closer “Wasted Wasted,” Stafford and keyboardist Emily Hafner harmonize that “All of that time wasted wasn’t wasted if it kept you alive.” To which Stafford bleakly replies at the end of the album, “Oh brother I’m trying.” —William Archambeault

WOLF PARADE
THIN MIND
(SUB POP)

Thin Mind, the fifth full-length from these indie rock stalwarts, is classic Wolf Parade, simultaneously rocking and melancholy. It is not a departure in sound from their previous albums, but is that even necessary? The band’s sound is solid, proof that good indie rock is still very much alive. The Spencer Krug-led “Julia Take Your Man Home” lyrically and musically finds a balance between wry humor and heartbreak: “Julia, take your man home / He’s just sitting at the bar / Carving shapes that look like dicksintothe wood.” On “Forest Green,” Dan Boeckner delivers gritty lyrics over the ‘60s and ‘80s-tinged rocker, a rumination on the worst parts of society creeping into every aspect of our lives, an anxiety that weaves its way throughout the album: “It’s something that you’ve known since birth / You understand this place is cursed / …But it feels like home.” Both Boeckner and Krug share lead vocals on the dark, synth-drenched “Against the Day,” the penultimate track that delivers one of the album’s final messages, a musing that is, in typical Wolf Parade fashion, both comforting and troubling: “Friend, isn’t it so strange / How the only things that change / Are the ones upon the surface?”. —Mary Beth Campbell

HORACE JENKINS
CANE RIVER
(OSCILLOSCOPE)

In 1981, TV director Horace Jenkins produced his first and only feature film before his untimely death the following year. Long thought lost, a print was discovered in a lab in 2013 and, after a long restoration process, Cane River is finally ready for its first real release. Shot in between Natchitoches and New Orleans on rich, hazy 16mm, the film begins as protagonist Peter Metoyer shows back up to his rural Louisiana hometown, determined to drop out of the NFL draft and become a farmer-poet on his dad’s land. His budding romance with young scholar Maria Mathis is frowned upon by both families for an unexpected reason: Peter’s ancestors were slave-owners descended from free people of color, and the long Metoyer legacy has followed him far into the 20th century. Though the story is as familiar as Romeo and Juliet—and the dialogue doesn’t always escape its own didactic urges in its treatment of colorism and the legacy of slavery within Black communities—it’s exciting to see these underexplored themes handled with such blunt-force earnesty. The film itself is a vital visual document and, like Bill Gunn’s recently-restored Personal Problems, another piece of Black cinema history rescued from oblivion. —Jon Kieran

HORACE JENKINS
CANE RIVER
(OSCILLOSCOPE)

In 1981, TV director Horace Jenkins produced his first and only feature film before his untimely death the following year. Long thought lost, a print was discovered in a lab in 2013 and, after a long restoration process, Cane River is finally ready for its first real release. Shot in between Natchitoches and New Orleans on rich, hazy 16mm, the film begins as protagonist Peter Metoyer shows back up to his rural Louisiana hometown, determined to drop out of the NFL draft and become a farmer-poet on his dad’s land. His budding romance with young scholar Maria Mathis is frowned upon by both families for an unexpected reason: Peter’s ancestors were slave-owners descended from free people of color, and the long Metoyer legacy has followed him far into the 20th century. Though the story is as familiar as Romeo and Juliet—and the dialogue doesn’t always escape its own didactic urges in its treatment of colorism and the legacy of slavery within Black communities—it’s exciting to see these underexplored themes handled with such blunt-force earnesty. The film itself is a vital visual document and, like Bill Gunn’s recently-restored Personal Problems, another piece of Black cinema history rescued from oblivion. —Jon Kieran

LORENE SCAFARIA
HUSTLERS
(GLORIA SANCHEZ PRODUCTIONS)

Hustlers is undeniably entertaining: great soundtrack, the men are pathetic, the women are loving to each other. The subtle evocation of early 2000s stripper nostalgia—the lighting, dressing room signage, club dynamics, DJ commentary—is admittedly heartwarming and meaningful to experience in a mainstream cinematic form. The xenophobia, addict-shaming, and whorarchy of strip clubs are written into the script. It’s hard to think of a more relatable scene from Hollywood than J. Lo bluntly dropping straightforward and accurate advice while slowly moving through the motions of a lap dance: proletarian wisdom over scenes of mediated desire. It’s also painful to think about how the film’s depiction of the real consequences of the financial crisis—empty clubs, aggressive and entitled customers, desperation—resemble the current reality for sex workers in New Orleans in the aftermath of ongoing raids and development of strip clubs on Bourbon Street and New Orleans East. I found Hustlers to be a movie about New York City, where you are wildly encouraged to never be satisfied. The failure of the traditional family unit leads to a horizon of mafia-style bands of hot organized criminals, happy and together when dripping in fur and designer bags, but panicked and out of touch when the money dries up. It reflects our world as a place where bonds, friendship, and flourishing are only reached through the same level of devotion to capital as those who profit off our deaths. I welcome movies about crime, dirty money, and despicable men where the protagonist isn’t a cop, the only sex is paid for, and no one gets saved. But I’m still waiting for the based-on-a-true-story film about the gang of hookers who cut and run with Wall Street money to fund the revolution. See the movie and dream up your own version of a “happy ending.” —Saint Agatha

JODIE MACK
THE GRAND BIZARRE
(NO DISTRIBUTOR)

Experimental animator Jodie Mack has a gift for making monumental-feeling films from simple materials: in 2008 she composed and animated a 30-minute musical about domestic responsibilities, entitled Yard Work is Hard Work. The Grand Bizarre, released in 2018 but unseen outside the festival circuit until recently, begins with two building blocks: landscapes and fabric. Armed with scarves, swatches, samples, and spools of every kind of stuff, Mack choreographs a series of vignettes, both stop-motion and live action, in which textiles are flaunted against globe-spanning backgrounds. Amid the kinetic, flooding buildup of images is not so much a document as a manifestation of the bounteous, teeming world-market punningly referenced in the title. Above all, Mack has a genius for exploiting the inherent humor in the unruly automatism of animation that’s so often smoothed down in more mainstream films. Paired with her own sample-driven soundtrack, there’s a caffeinated goofiness to the images that’s endlessly appealing. (Screens February 5th at Southern Rep Theatre, as part of Shotgun Cinema’s Full Aperture series.) —Jon Kieran

 

JOSH SAFDIE & BENNY SAFDIE
UNCUT GEMS
(A24)

“Holy shit, I’m going to cum,” jewelry slinger Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) coos, peering into the glowing depths of a rare Ethiopian opal—his latest high-stakes venture. Gems form under pressure, something that is familiar to Howard. The New York-based jeweler and gambling addict pummels through a life of chaos and ill-advised bets, leaving behind a wake of destruction. He owes his brother-in-law $100,000, ruthless loan sharks threaten his children, and his mistress is also his employee. When Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett visits Howard’s Diamond District store, he becomes enamored with the precious opal. Howard hesitantly loans it to him, ultimately using Garnett as a pawn in a million-dollar gambling opportunity towards the Celtics. What follows is a chaotic and uncomfortable fumble of Howard’s determination to be right, despite everything going wrong, as he screams, “everything I do is not going right.” The accompanying soundtrack scored by Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) mirrors the film’s manic anxiety race with a wailing synthesizer. The Safdie brother’s Uncut Gems is a story of exploitation, a dark comedy of errors in which an actor we’re all so familiar with completely transforms into a different person, and a sobering reminder of the depths of addiction. —Danielle Dietze

BRIAN AZZARELLO/ MARIA LLOVET
FAITHLESS (ISSUE #1)
(BOOM! STUDIOS)

Faith’s life just got a lot more interesting. In a chance encounter, she meets a blue-haired manic pixie dream girl, Poppy, and her father, Louis (who is implied to be the devil). She becomes embroiled in a wild and pretty creepy love triangle with these two art world layabouts. This is a very horny book, make no mistake. There is a lot of sex in Faithless. As is typical of the cautionary tale trope, her personality begins to change and her “real friends” start to notice as she begins her transformation into an It-girl. More interesting though, is the eldritch-cum-demon that makes a grotesque and sudden appearance. As this is only the first issue, one is curious to see if the series embraces this more absurd and abstract bent; because so far, the characters are a bit shallow and aren’t interesting enough to carry it. There’s a strong reliance on heavy-handed puns and quips that can get tiring. In fact, nearly every character feels the need to be a smartass in every other panel. This may work for some, but it felt a bit forced and an attempt to prove its intelligence when it isn’t actually all that smart. Faithless, however, wasn’t expected to be a work of genius. It was expected to be fun, and it is. The art style brings to mind Æon Flux, and it’s just strange enough to keep the reader turning the pages. If it can develop its world, and the people and hellions that live in it, Faithless could have a lot to offer. Come for the smut, stay for the occult horror. —Coco Cruse

ANDREA LONG CHU
FEMALES
(VERSO)

In Females—a long, well crafted essay; or, alternatively, a short, provocative book—Andrea Long Chu proposes that everyone is female. Being female isn’t informed by biological sex or gender, she asserts—it’s a universal condition, ontological in nature and defined by self-negation. It’s a bit of a complicated argument, but Chu makes it make sense. The subjects she writes about include, but are not limited to: porn, The Matrix, hormone therapy, vaginoplasty, misogyny, art school, a woman who eats pages out of Infinite Jest, a woman who documents her transition on YouTube, and a woman who shot Andy Warhol. It’s this last woman, Valerie Solanas, to whom this work owes the most. Chu is an avowed stan of the radical author/attempted murderer, using one of Solanas’ plays, Up Your Ass, as a loose framework for the ideas in Females. It’s funny, nuanced, and occasionally acerbic (Chu on the DSM: “Where gender dysphoria can be found sandwiched between frigidity and pyromania.”). Chu is an especially good writer, and the research in Females is complemented by a candid autobiography related to sexual identity and transitioning. —Andru Okun

BRIAN AZZARELLO/ MARIA LLOVET
FAITHLESS (ISSUE #1)
(BOOM! STUDIOS)

Faith’s life just got a lot more interesting. In a chance encounter, she meets a blue-haired manic pixie dream girl, Poppy, and her father, Louis (who is implied to be the devil). She becomes embroiled in a wild and pretty creepy love triangle with these two art world layabouts. This is a very horny book, make no mistake. There is a lot of sex in Faithless. As is typical of the cautionary tale trope, her personality begins to change and her “real friends” start to notice as she begins her transformation into an It-girl. More interesting though, is the eldritch-cum-demon that makes a grotesque and sudden appearance. As this is only the first issue, one is curious to see if the series embraces this more absurd and abstract bent; because so far, the characters are a bit shallow and aren’t interesting enough to carry it. There’s a strong reliance on heavy-handed puns and quips that can get tiring. In fact, nearly every character feels the need to be a smartass in every other panel. This may work for some, but it felt a bit forced and an attempt to prove its intelligence when it isn’t actually all that smart. Faithless, however, wasn’t expected to be a work of genius. It was expected to be fun, and it is. The art style brings to mind Æon Flux, and it’s just strange enough to keep the reader turning the pages. If it can develop its world, and the people and hellions that live in it, Faithless could have a lot to offer. Come for the smut, stay for the occult horror. —Coco Cruse

JENNINE CAPÓ CRUCET
MY TIME AMONG THE WHITES: NOTES FROM AN UNFINISHED EDUCATION
(PICADOR)

In Jennine Capó Crucet’s nonfiction debut, the author details growing up in Hialeah, Florida, a city in Miami-Dade County with the country’s highest percentage of Cubans and Cuban Americans. A first-generation Cuban American herself, Crucet grapples with race when she leaves for college in 1999, a source of inspiration for her critically-acclaimed 2015 novel Make Your Home Among Strangers. At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Crucet is immersed in a far less familiar, far whiter environment. She witnesses the way privilege works amongst her white peers, how vocabulary and access is so often shaped and defined by whiteness. Throughout this collection, Crucet uses her lived experiences to dissect white privilege and the inherent unfairness of white-dominated culture. It’s a personal narrative, not a radical text, but My Time Among The Whites still managed to be upsetting enough to a group of white students at Georgia Southern University that they recently staged a public burning of the author’s books. Crucet’s collection spans a wide range of topics, from childhood and family, marriage and divorce, homeownership and academia. Her essay on the constructed fantasy of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and false American optimism is a personal favorite, and her musings on life in Nebraska, where Crucet is an associate professor of English and ethnic studies at The University of Nebraska–Lincoln, are entertaining and insightful. —Andru Okun

GIBBY HAYNES
ME & MR. CIGAR
(SOHO PRESS)

If reading a YA novel about a magical dog and its magical parasite, invisible robbery, a teenage protagonist who goes into long ranting tangents that sound like the thoughts of an aging drug-addled rocker, copious drug use, excessive (unnecessary) parentheticals, and semi-frequent lapses in verb tense sounds like a good time, I highly recommend Gibby Haynes’ first novel, Me & Mr. Cigar. If those things sound confusing and maybe even unenjoyable, I don’t not recommend this novel. I just suggest going in with no expectations for logic, timing, or cogent plot. In this novel, teenager Oscar winds up with a magical dog; and though the dog’s magical powers are never quite clear, his first order of business is to grow a furry, flying parasite that ultimately attacks Oscar’s sister, severing her hand. This is not a spoiler; it happens in the prologue. After the prologue, there is a startling shift from third to first person, and then we follow Oscar, his friend Lytle, and Mr. Cigar as they throw a wild party, get robbed multiple times in different ways, get on the radar of super-secret U.S. government agents, attempt multiple robberies while invisible, and try to save his sister from something that may or may not be a kidnapping. Gibby Haynes, known first and foremost as the lead singer of the Butthole Surfers, has made a career out of psychedelic live shows and trippy lyrics, and this book is no different. As Oscar himself says midway through the book, “It sort of makes sense, in a less-than-understandable way.” Ultimately, there is a kind of delight in the weirdness of it all. —Allie Mariano

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