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.

Taylor Swift — “All Too Well” 

After her performance at the Grammys on Sunday night, I have listened to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” approximately 60 times, to the point where I think I’m spending too much on therapy and could just pay the $1.99 on iTunes and feel fine. Do I get Taylor Swift now? Hell yeah, I do. Also, I volunteer to go to Jake Gyllenhaal’s house and get her damn scarf back. —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

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Neutral Milk Hotel at Brooklyn Academy of Music

In the 21st century, the reunions of bands both legendary and inconsequential have become foregone conclusions. Yet somehow, each step in Jeff Mangum’s reemergence has come as a surprise to me. Watching him fight through and eventually triumph in his solo performances, I didn’t take it for granted that a Neutral Milk Hotel reunion was next. So this tour, too, feels like a gift (albeit one that seems squandered on Coachella audiences). A few people I know have said they preferred the shows that were just Mangum and a guitar. I disagree. Maybe those performances felt more intimate or emotionally charged, but surrounded by his original band mates — particularly the exuberant multi-instrumentalist Julian Koster, whose range of talents can really only be appreciated in a live setting — Mangum seemed to let himself go a bit, to shed the weight so many years of cultural obsession had piled on him and his songs. If we’re ever going to get any new music from NMH, I imagine that’s the way it’s going to have to happen. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

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Chuck Klosterman’s I Wear the Black Hat

I know the tide has kinda turned on Chuck Klosterman, but I’m still a fan of his distinctive blend of pop commentary, confession, and vernacular writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed his latest tome, I Wear the Black HatIt’s in the searching, thematically-unified essay form of Fargo Rock City and Killing Yourself to Live, an exploration of what it means to be (and, more interestingly, to choose to be) a villain. The topics aren’t unexpected (O.J., Clinton, Machiavelli, Bernhard Goetz, and, um, The Eagles), but Klosterman comes at them from unexpected, intelligent, and funny angles, and arrives at some surprising conclusions. (Also, the Kindle version is currently on sale for three bucks, so c’mon.) —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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George Eliot

Thanks to all the hype around Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch, I’ve felt the need to read more of George Eliot’s work. I’m going to give Middlemarch a reread in a few weeks, but for now I’m starting with Daniel Deronda. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

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Jacob Banks — The Monologue

Jacob Banks is a singer/songwriter from the UK, whose debut album The Monologue was released early last year. Looking past the fact that he has a song called “YOLO” (side note: I appreciated Drake’s apology on SNL for that), Banks has a gorgeous voice, rich and velvety — he reminds me a tiny bit of Citizen Cope, but with a lot more soul and a slight accent. By far, the album’s standout track is “Worthy,” an ambling, piano-backed track where Banks’s voice alternates between a sweet falsetto and a low rasp. —Isabella Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

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Mike Kelley Retrospective at MOMA PS1

You have until February 2 to see the Mike Kelley show at MOMA PS1. From his Superman-in-a-jug series Kandor to his miniature cities of perfume bottle dildos (which instill in the museum-goer conflicting urges to smell, live in and sit on them), to his video art reenactments of high school yearbook photos, to a room of unexpectedly elegant canvases, that, on closer look, are covered in phalluses and/or defecating monkeys, Kelley’s materially eclectic work will appeal to anyone who can stomach an exhibit that is, on the surface, what Louis C.K. might refer to as a “bag of dicks.” In the early ’90s, after creating a series of suspended blobs of mashed-together stuffed animals, Kelley was harassed by the media for psychobiographical information, especially regarding sexual abuse in his childhood; in response, Kelley allegedly recreated a patchwork model of all of the places he’d been schooled, called Educational Complex, with the purpose of tongue-in-cheekily inviting speculation about where such abuse might have occurred. While, like any multimedia artists’ retrospective might be, the show is aesthetically scattered, it is unified by its vocabulary of stunted, puerile hypersexuality. —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice