What's up and what's down in pop culture this week.
Neko Case’s ‘Hell-On’: It’s a strange truth of music that the longer you produce at a level of reliable excellence, the easier it is to be taken for granted. Beloved in critical circles, Case just released her seventh solo album, a tangled mix of contemplative balladry and her own catchy brand of rock that’s girded by unexpected textures and lush arrangements as strong as anything from her career. But, as always, there’s her unmistakable voice and way with words at the center, a combination that finds transcendence in vivid, head-turning lines like “God is a lusty tire fire.”
Dulcé Sloan on ‘The Daily Show With Trevor Noah’: Comedy Central’s warhorse has continued to evolve since the 2015 departure of Jon Stewart. Since coming into its own under Noah’s leadership, it’s continued its standing as a platform for breakout comics. A strong bet for the next one up is this Atlanta-raised correspondent, who joined the show just last year but who has already become a standout with segments that have touched on Fashion Week and Roy Moore. At last weekend’s Clusterfest in San Francisco, her knockout stand-up set earned an extended ovation, confirming it’s not only TV where she’s well-worth catching.
GIFs as discourse: It’s been fun, awe-struck Chris Pratt from “Parks and Recreation.” I’ll miss you the most, James Harden dipping his head and gliding away from an interview. If you have no idea what either of these means, count yourself lucky — these few-second, looping clips are just two of the many ways you can respond to something on the internet, and like any other digital thing that has become wildly popular, they have reached an expiration date. From now on, internet replies may be expressed only via snapshots that are packaged, bound by sealing wax and mailed. Or words.
‘Star Wars’ fans: It’s difficult to say this as someone who grew up on Tosche Station and various Yoda-isms, but after another week that saw devotees of the franchise behaving badly, the best thing may be for the most committed of them to march into the ocean at the next convention. The latest victim is Kelly Marie Tran of “The Last Jedi,” who deleted her Instagram account after being bullied by fans who like their “Star Wars” the way it looked some 40 years ago. Guess what, gang? Those three movies are still available for purchase. Nothing else about them belongs to you or ever has.