The Wood Brothers’ ‘Smoke Ring Halo’: There’s something about the dog days of summer that makes the intimate, rustic pace of roots music sound that much better. Co-led by vocalist Oliver Wood and brother Chris (of the jazz trio Medeski Martin and Wood), this band’s latest album is a lush trip away from the urban sprawl, with a casual drive mixed with taut musicianship. Start with the swerving jangle of “When I Was Young.”

Fiona Shaw on ‘True Blood’: Gory, trashy and sometimes just goofy, “True Blood” is a show you can either accept on its campy terms or not. And while there isn’t much room in Bon Temps for nuanced dialogue or Shakespearean acting, this Irish stage actress’ turn as coven leader Marnie Stonebrook has been a pleasure. Whether wittily capturing a mousy Wiccan shopkeeper or the spirit of lethal witch Antonia, Shaw remains fang-sharp.


Volunteering for ‘American Horror Story’: Improbably created by the minds behind “Glee,” FX’s upcoming attempt at one-upping “The Walking Dead” reaches a new level in viral marketing madness. Allowing people to sign up friends and family for a surprise, on-camera scare by the show’s cast, this reveals modern advertising at its core -- a home invasion with no regard for your privacy that comes without consent. Now that’s terrifying.


’ Insidious’: Recently released on DVD, this film written and directed by veterans from the “Saw” franchise is billed as an update to 1982’s haunted-house classic “Poltergeist.” But where the original’s relentless scares gained power through what you didn’t know, “Insidious” spells out what’s behind the terror. Despite some creepy images and a few nice quick-cut scares, things get kind of silly once red face paint is involved.

-- Chris Barton