The best books of 2019

I read fewer new novels than I would’ve liked in 2019. Beginning last January with Rebecca Makkai’s uneven, likely classic The Great Believers, I trudged through an estimated two dozen histories and biographies and old favorites. Sally Rooney’s 2017 Conversations with Friends and Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 A Little Life consumed time, fruitful and otherwise. TheContinue reading “The best books of 2019”

The best covers of Lou Reed songs

Discovering the Velvet Underground in 1993 made sense, for suddenly their ubiquity was a fact I had to step around. Billy Idol covered “Heroin.” Duran Duran covered “Femme Fatale.” Bryan Ferry covered “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Don’t be fooled by this miscellany: not many people have covered Reed’s vast catalog, much less the solo work, henceContinue reading “The best covers of Lou Reed songs”

The worst cover songs ever

What problem do y’all have with William Shatner’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”? Unless you were Bryan Ferry, how would you sing this jingly-jangly lyric? I’e tried to be free-ranging with this list. Some are too obvious to list (Bruce Willis’ “Respect Yourself,” Bowie ‘n’ Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street”), so I chose, say, Madonna’s Rose RoyceContinue reading “The worst cover songs ever”

2019: The year in Singles Jukebox reviews

Below are the songs for which I wrote blurbs published at The Singles Jukebox in 2019. Ranging from piss-ant one-liners to submissions of a couple hundred words, these contributions since 2005 have loosened up my style and kept me in the hustle. For readers with the patience to compare my official best-of list and theirContinue reading “2019: The year in Singles Jukebox reviews”

Time goes by so slowly: Ranking Pazz & Jop’s 2005 singles

How poignant “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People” sounds now! The Hague Weezer – Beverly Hills Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams R. Kelly – Trapped in the Closet Meh Kanye West ft Jamie Foxx – Gold Digger Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl Bright Eyes – When The President Talks to God DeathContinue reading “Time goes by so slowly: Ranking Pazz & Jop’s 2005 singles”

Art and ardor: ‘Little Women’

Film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel reflect their decades. An air of making-do with genteel poverty suffuses George Cukor’s 1933 Depression-era version starring Katherine Hepburn as Jo March. The air of a proficient radio show melodrama characterizes the credible 1949 version directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Gilliam Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation glows as if theContinue reading “Art and ardor: ‘Little Women’”

The best covers of Rolling Stones songs

The fuck outta here with your Sundays cover of “Wild Horses.” Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “Tumbling Dice is my favorite cover of a Stones song. Snotty and taut, the version on 1997’s Simple Dreams gleams; the original, which I love, sounds as if recorded in a hayloft; the live version on FM is even better,Continue reading “The best covers of Rolling Stones songs”

The best Beatles covers

From Duane Allman poking holes to let the air out of Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” and Sonic Youth sticking a kotton krown on the head of “Within You Without You” to PM Dawn riding the sun-kissed melody of “Norwegian Wood,” plenty of artists have done the Beatles proud; less often, they’ve exposed latent qualities unknownContinue reading “The best Beatles covers”

Covering impeachment

Assessing the manner in which the political press has covered Donald J. Trump’s impeachment, Margaret Sullivan decries that press’ instinctive both-sides-do-it position. “The Democrats said this; the Republicans said that; we don’t know — it’s so tribal! — so you decide,” she writes. Sullivan: In an unceasing effort to be seen as neutral, journalists timeContinue reading “Covering impeachment”

Ambition meets hysteria in ‘Uncut Gems’

Adam Sandler never stops acting in Uncut Gems; if he did, the film would collapse from angina. As Howard Ratner, a gem dealer in NYC’s Diamond District, Sandler plays a garrulous hustler familiar to fans of Richard Widmark in Night and the City and John Cassavetes’ early seventies work. He’s a liar, unable to keepContinue reading “Ambition meets hysteria in ‘Uncut Gems’”

‘i will kiss your cool bark’

e.e. cummings can layer schmaltz over typographical unorthodoxies with rather too much enthusiasm, but his Christmas poem is a beaut. little tree little silent Christmas tree you are so little you are more like a flower who found you in the green forest and were you very sorry to come away? see i will comfortContinue reading “‘i will kiss your cool bark’”