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.

chrisfarren
Chris Farren — Like a Gift From God Or Whatever

Like most people who have worked retail during the holidays, there are few things I hate more than Christmas music. Any Yuletide joy goes out the window when you’re forced to listen to the same 15 songs on an endless loop for six weeks, all while getting yelled at by customers. But enter Chris Farren (of Fake Problems and Antarctigo Vespucci, and the brain behind those inescapable The Smiths shirts) and his recent Christmas album Like a Gift From God or Whatever. These ten original songs, featuring everyone from Arrested Development‘s Mae Whitman to BTMI’s Jeff Rosenstock to Chumped’s Anika Pyle, are so good that even someone as anti-Christmas as me can get behind them. It’s an eclectic album: a sad tune imagining a breakup with a long-term girlfriend, a song inspired by Disney’s Frozen, and an optimistic New Year’s song that’ll be stuck in your head all through 2015. It takes a lot to get me to listen to a Christmas song, but it turns out it’ll take even more to get me to stop listening to these. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

newgirl

New Girl Gets Its Groove Back
New Girl lost me a little after Nick and Jess broke up. Coach wasn’t my favorite, Winston grew unbelievably oddball, and Schmidt had spent more time lusting after Cece than dating her. I never thought I’d ship Jess with any man besides Nick, but the introduction of Ryan earlier this season has restored my faith, while showing a changed, more career-focused Jess. Nick, too, has moved on to someone surprisingly suited for a long-term relationship. The wacky plotlines that loop in the full cast, instead of just Winston and another person, help to balance out how weird they’re trying to make him. All in all, Season 4 has the makings to be the show’s strongest yet. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

Trash Kit — “Shyness”
This cut from Trash Kit’s second full-length, Confidence, packs three-and-a-half minutes with precariously arranged post-punk guitars, rambling drums, overblown horns, and group chants to create a kind of musical mission statement for the London trio. Confidence is full of these brief, bottle-rocket songs, and the entire work is worth checking out. But “Shyness” is probably the most fun thing on there — and it’s all pretty fun. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

albertineViv Albertine, Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys

I’ve read enough musician memoirs to enjoy them without expecting much in the way of insight, but Slits guitarist Viv Albertine’s isn’t just (or even primarily) entertaining — it’s possibly the best piece of confessional writing I’ve read all year. Albertine does, of course, cover all the topics listed in the title, and Clothes won’t disappoint anyone looking for juicy stories about ’70s punk (Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunders, Vivienne Westwood, and The Clash figure especially prominently). But you don’t have to be a Slits fan to appreciate her story of artistic awakening as a working-class girl in London, or the richly, sometimes heartbreakingly complex path her life took after the band fell apart. It’s Albertine’s unflinching honesty and piercing analysis of herself and her peers that make this one of the rare “celebrity” memoirs that acknowledges life’s ups and downs and cyclical nature, rather than falling into Behind the Music cliché. For artists, women, and especially women artists, it’s essential reading. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Promotional art for "Guardians of the Galaxy"

James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Audio Commentary

The year’s highest-grossing movie hits DVD and Blu-ray this week, sporting a flawless transfer and excellent boom-boom home theater show for one of the more enjoyable (if ultimately too conventional) blockbusters in recent memory. And, of course, it comes fully loaded with bonus content: the expected platter of deleted scenes, featurettes, and the like. But it’s worth revisiting primarily for the audio commentary by director James Gunn. Gunn, who at points sounds like he still can’t believe that a low-budget horror/comedy purveyor like himself was given access to a side door into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is infectiously enthusiastic about the film and its cast (who are all his friends now, he says so convincingly that you actually believe him), and pinpoints some of the early thematic decisions that helped him pull off the film. But like the movie itself, the commentary is most enjoyable in goofy-tangent mode; for my money, the highlight is his very funny sidebar analysis of the lyrics to Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” Too many audio commentaries degenerate into dry factoids or plot summary; Gunn’s is nearly as fun as the events onscreen. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars — “Uptown Funk”
Sheer joy in three minutes, this song is buoyed along by Mars’ charismatic, sharp vocal. For a pop star, he’s a little bit underrated — have you ever tried, and failed, to sing “Grenade” at karaoke? It’s so hard, trust me — and this funky Morris Day and the Time-ish track is the perfect setup for him to knock it out of the park. The lyric “I’m too hot/make a dragon wanna retire man” will make me smile forever. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

woodsonJacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
A lyrical autobiography that’s also about writing’s ability to give its author a voice and a place in the world. I came to love the narrator’s family and friends and see her changing worlds — both Bushwick and the Civil Rights Era South —  incredibly vividly. It may be geared towards young readers, but everyone can benefit from its honesty and loveliness of language. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large