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Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The surprise albums of December 2013

There’s always something that creeps me out a little about posting year-end lists before the year is actually over. How do they start as early as December 1, year after year? Thirty-one days is a long time! This makes me thankful that people like Burial, Beyoncé, and Angel Haze are calling us on our bullshit with phenomenal surprise albums, which I’d like to think are not only triumphant, compelling releases, but conscious middle fingers to music journalism. They might not be (though each of them defies music industry conventions in at least one significant way), but albums like these do serve as a great reminder that the year isn’t over until the ball drops. I haven’t listened to Angel Haze’s album yet (and Soundcloud troubles mean you probably haven’t either), but Burial’s Rival Dealers and Beyoncé’s self-titled release have taken my breath away in ways nothing else from 2013 has. Both of these albums are art: dark, daring, and utterly cohesive works that demand to be taken seriously. I am so glad to see that so many people agree with me. (If you don’t yet, watch Beyoncé’s “Mine” and this Burial/Lion King mash-up with the left side muted. Then talk to me.) —Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice

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Vanity Fair back-issues at HathiTrust Archive

Reading old Vanity Fair issues from the 1910s-20s at the (free! available to anyone!) HathiTrust archive. The ads are the best part! —Michelle Dean, Editor-at-Large

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Little White Lies, Issue 50

The fine folks at Little White Lies were nice enough to send me a copy of their recently released 50th issue, and it’s a doozy for film fans. In commemoration of their 50th year, they devote a two-page spread to a film from each of those years, featuring gorgeous, inventive new illustrations and essays from filmmakers (Rian Johnson, Monte Hellman, Mark Cousins, Andrew Bujalski, Ti West) and fine film writers (Ashley Clark, Vadim Rizov, Keith Uhlich, David Ehrlich, Adam Nayman). Some of the choices are odd and unconventional — but often delightfully so, as when A Touch of Sin director Jia Zhang-ke breaks down the influence of Breakin’, or Calum Marsh deconstructs the “anarcho-punk battlecry” that is Crank: High Voltage. Overall, an unpredictable, enjoyable tour through a half century of cinema. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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Kelela, Cut 4 Me

I’ve been on a Solange kick as of late, but in the vein of “mixing things up,” I discovered Kelela, who opened for Solange on tour last year. Kelela’s mixtape Cut 4 Me debuted in October (which you can download for free here), and a part of me is screaming, “IT’S ABOUT TIME I FOUND THIS.” The entire mixtape is totally chill, but still moody and emotionally present. I will happily ring out 2013 listening to Kelela’s melodic synth-R&B, the lyrics of which she writes after the music, fitting words into tracks that she initially records as gibberish. It sounds like a songwriting recipe for disaster — on writing her lyrics, she says, “Everything is left to chance” — but she makes it work, and well, at that. —Brie Hiramine, Editorial Apprentice

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Kiki & Herb, Do You Hear What We Hear?

I’m not much of a Christmas music fan in the sense that I don’t sit down to actively listen to it. (Having said that, I’ll sing along to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” as much as the next guy.) But I’m overjoyed that Kiki & Herb’s long out-of-print Christmas album, Do You Hear What We Hear?, is available for streaming on SoundCloud. Featuring holiday classics like “Frosty the Snowman” mixed in with the usual Kiki & Herb fare like “Running Up that Hill” and a medley made up of Mary J. Blige’s “Deep Inside” and Tori Amos’ “Crucify,” it’s a nice alternative to, say, Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped Up in Red. Basically, I’d like to crawl inside these sounds, have them squeeze me until I think I’ll die, and then drip Crown Royal and ginger ale down my throat. A Christmas miracle! —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

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