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.

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“She’s Still Dying on Facebook” by Julie Buntin (The Atlantic)

Writing about social media’s day-to-day impact on our lives is a tricky business. We’re discovering new ghosts every day (a Facebook friend’s passing is a strange thing), with limited words to describe that strangeness. Buntin’s essay looks at her friendship with her best friend from high school, and where it guts you is in her canny, sharp use of social media — namely, Facebook profiles — to show the difference in the two women’s lives, and the haunting void that death leaves behind. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

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The Beatles: All These Years Vol. 1: Tune In by Mark Lewisohn

When I first heard about The Beatles: All These Years Vol. 1: Tune In (from a convenience store clerk who noticed my sporty Beatles baseball cap — hi, I guess I’m “normcore,” how ya doin’), it sounded utterly ridiculous: the first in a trilogy of Beatles biographies by the group’s longtime archivist and historian Mark Lewisohn, this 900-plus-page volume ends at the conclusion of 1962, before they even land their first #1 hit. In other words, it’s nearly a thousand pages of the stuff I usually skim in other Beatles biographies. But I gave it a shot, and if you’re enough of a fan (that part probably goes without saying), it’s well worth the effort. Lewisohn uses his unprecedented access to the Beatles archives to construct a profile that humanizes and personalizes the Fab Four, keying in on the young men they were before they became a phenomenon, digging a real narrative out of their years of struggle, false starts, and near-misses. And the book’s density ends up weirdly working in its favor — it’s so detailed and so intricate that you sort of get lost in it, swept up in those details, and fostering a rooting interest in these young men finally making the breakthrough they’ve spent so long yearning for. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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Days of Being Wild by Matt Kivel 

Matt Kivel’s Days of Being Wild is, in my mind, the perfect summer album. It’s the sort of record that is mellow enough that you’ll let it sink in for a few moments after it finishes; then you’ll stand up, refill your drink, and play it again. It calls to mind Nick Drake and Elliott Smith (and a little Vetiver as well), but it’s far sunnier — if you can imagine such a thing. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

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Shamir’s cover of Lindi Ortega’s “Lived and Died Alone”

Last week, I wrote about Shamir’s “I Know It’s a Good Thing” for Flavorwire’s 25 Best Songs of 2014 So Far – so doing led me on a listening spree (still going strong!), playing and replaying his EP, Northtown. I feel like half of the meager 4,079 Spotify listens on the EP’s last song, “Lived and Died Alone,” might be mine – I’d like to change that. The song is the EP’s quietest, notably lacking in drum machine. Shamir’s voice defies most forms of categorization: its androgyny excited many, but perhaps the more remarkable quality is its agelessness: on “Lived and Died Alone,” he could be a young boy singing from a playground or an old woman singing from a nursing home – there’s at once a wornness to it that makes it seem crushingly old and an unbridled emotionality you can’t imagine coming from any jaded adult. “Lived and Died Alone” is actually Canadian country singer Lindi Ortega’s song – and while her version sounds distant (its production relies on reverb), Shamir’s brings the listener so close it sounds like it could have been recorded in his head. Ortega’s sweet melody is paired with the loneliest of lyrics – perhaps the most beautiful usage of metaphorical necrophilia I’ve ever heard – where the lonely narrator croons: “When the sun has set, I will go dig up the dead/Lift their bodies from their graves/And I’ll lay them in my bed/To fill their hollow hearts with all my broken parts.” — Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

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Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? by Beach Slang

For the last two weeks or so, the first thing I’ve done every morning is put on Beach Slang’s debut EP, Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? These four angst-filled, booze-addled punk anthems about “dumb kids getting wasted and knowing we’re alive” are the perfect way to start a summer morning, whether your plans are to lazily stay in bed all day or head out in search of fucking things up. Between confessional lyrics like “these books and bars and this honesty, they’re all I’ve got” and questionable reassurances like “the kids are still alright; we’re just too high to fight,” this EP is the most refreshing record that I’ve heard all year. Beach Slang’s short and sweet set at Suburbia last month was perfect, and I can’t wait to see them again. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

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Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich

78 rpm collecting is a hard sell in terms of potential hobbies: there’s a finite supply of fragile artifacts, intense competition among collectors, back-channel buying with a learning curve, and often steep costs, to name just a few deterrents. But if anyone captures the practice’s weird beauty and legitimate historical importance, it’s writer Amanda Petrusich in her third book, Do Not Sell at Any Price , out this week. Not a collector herself (well, at least not when the book begins), longtime music journo Petrusich spends an inordinate amount of time getting to know America’s most obsessive 78 rpm collectors and the musical history represented within their flea market finds. This book will make you consider, and possibly rethink, digital music culture.  — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

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Adam by Ariel Schrag

I’ve been reading Ariel Schrag ever since I heard her name-checked in Le Tigre’s feminist-artist roll call, “Hot Topic,” in 1999. Back then, she was chronicling her high school years and queer coming-of-age in a series of comic books-turned-graphic novels; with her first novel, Schrag revisits teenage life and issues of sexual identity, but this time through the surprising perspective of a straight, cisgender boy. As Jason Diamond recently wrote, her premise is a challenging one — but it pays off in one of the best and most contemporary explorations of gender and sexuality I’ve ever encountered in fiction, a book whose fast pace and uncomplicated language ensure that Schrag’s nuanced observations go down easy. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief