There’s a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what’s up and what’s down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that is worth considering.
The Westerlies: How does a four-piece trumpet and trombone instrumental combo earn raves from both indie-leaning music blogs and public radio while also performing at the Newport Jazz Festival and local rock clubs? The answer can be heard in the sprawling self-titled album due Oct. 7. Over two discs the New York City-based, Seattle-born brass band occupies a lively territory between jazz, Steven Foster-styled folk and chamber music with bracing melodies and, crucially, an undeniable sense of fun. Listen to the rollicking “New Berlin, New York,” for starters.
‘Louder Than Bombs’ (2016): Rendered with a patiently drawn eye for beauty and reflection by Norwegian director Joachim Trier, this film explores the profound ripple effect that cuts through a dysfunctional New York family after a mother’s death. Centered around the suicide of a war photographer (Isabelle Huppert), who left behind her detached husband (Gabriel Byrne) to reassemble a new life with their two sons — new father Jesse Eisenberg and troubled teenager Devin Druid — the film thoughtfully examines the raw, double-edged power of grief to both unify and divide.
Debate audiences: With presidential debate season in full swing as we (mercifully) head into the home stretch of this election, it’s time to remove the most volatile actors out of the equation: ourselves. The primary debates often felt like little more than televised searches for the biggest applause line or outrageous social media sound bite, and the recent jousting around special guests leading up to Monday’s installment was exhausting. Can we get a streamlined, “Frost/Nixon”-style conversation removed from a crowd that can’t help but give in to applause lines? Or would that hurt ratings?
Bon Iver: An artist who would maybe benefit from a smaller spotlight with only two albums to his name, Justin Vernon’s musical nom de plume brought spare heartbreak-folk to new heights with his 2008 debut and dabbled with overproduced yacht rock with his second, which yielded a best new artist Grammy in 2012. But now that he’s scolded Beyoncé for taking corporate sponsor money (after regretting taking some himself) and throwing a press conference to hype the new album “22, a Million,” it’s hard not to wish for Vernon’s return to the remote Wisconsin cabin where he came from.
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