Staff Picks: ‘Hadestown,’ ‘Kindred,’ and ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

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. Scroll through for our picks below.
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Halt and Catch Fire

Don’t let Halt and Catch Fire‘s awful name deceive you: This AMC drama set during the early-’80s personal computing boom is an excellent meditation on our relationship with technology. On its surface, and particularly in the first season, the show can feel like an ’80s knockoff of Mad Men: It’s a period workplace drama with a Don-Draper-esque central figure (Lee Pace) who’s dark and broody and good with words. There’s the young woman working in a male-dominated industry (Mackenzie Davis) and the put-upon wife (Kerry Bishé) with a heavy-drinking yet brilliant husband (Scoot McNairy).

The second season reboots the original concept, as that put-upon wife, Donna, teams up with Davis’s Cameron to start a video game company, Mutiny. As the season progresses, Donna convinces Cameron that the next step is to move beyond games and into online communities where people can chat. The show has distanced itself from its early Mad Men trappings, and yet in many ways Halt and Catch Fire is a continuation of that show’s examination of the American workplace. Halt and Catch Fire returns in August for a third season, so now’s the time to catch up with the first two, available on Netflix. — Lara Zarum, Contributor, TV


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Octavia Butler’s Kindred on Audible

There are always those lists of literary classics within specific genres. And even as fans, students, and supporters of those genres, very few of us have actually read them all. We creatively figure out ways to check more of them off of our lists in between the demands of our jobs and personal lives. Octavia Butler’s Kindred sits prominently on the Black fiction list, and over the weekend I used a road trip from Atlanta to Maryland to New York as my opportunity to finally hop on the audiobook wagon. This sci-fi narrative — the first written by a Black woman — follows the experiences of a woman who’s involuntarily transported from the comfort of her home and interracial marriage in 1976 California to antebellum Maryland. Her journey transcends both time and distance. My own infatuation with the narration was undoubtedly heightened as my trip took me through the southern states that boast rich but painful histories of the slave trade. But even as I listened to the last few chapters on the New York subway, I felt eerily distanced from the hustle and bustle of this northern city until narrator Kim Staunton declared “The End.” — Sesali Bowen, (Pop) Culture and Politics Staff Writer


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Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop 

Anais Mitchell’s “folk opera” has had an interesting trajectory in that it began as a stage show in 2006, was released as a concept album — to glowing reviews in 2010 — and has returned to the stage completely anew, directed by Rachel Chavkin and at New York Theatre Workshop through July 3. Mitchell’s vastly layered album based on the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus now gets a boost with a ferocious band and a talented cast of varied voices, ranging from the vocal contortion acts performed by Nabiyah Be’s Eurydice and Damon Daunno’s Jeff Buckley-ish Orpheus to the inebriated growling (and then ultimately sobering and potent final words) of Amber Gray’s Persephone to Patrick Page’s magnetically monotone Hades. (Also, if you ever watched The Knick, Chris Sullivan aka Cleary plays a blues singing Hermes). I was at first bothered by the fact that the movement in the production seemed secondary to the music; rather than being any kind of stylized, it consisted of pretty forgettable half-dancing that served more as visual filler than anything else. However, it’s to the show’s credit how quickly one can forget this and get carried by the mellifluousness of Be and Daunno’s voices and Mitchell’s deft songwriting, straight into the growling underbelly of Hadestown. It’s not difficult to empathize with Eurydice: it is hard to leave Hadestown. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor


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Wolf Parade’s EP 4

There’s never much hope associated with a four-track release from a band that’s been gone for five years, and yet I approached the release of Wolf Parade’s EP 4 with dumb optimism — and it hasn’t been dashed. Instead, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The collection’s brief length might not be the best for fan service, but it’s great for helping the band recapture some of the energy that made them so vital back in 2005, when they released their first LP. Singers Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner both have standout tracks, too: “Mr. Startup” and “Floating World,” respectively. The band is on a brief, highly coveted comeback tour right now; catch them if you can. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor


This Talk with the Killing of Osama Bin Laden author Seymour Hersh

Many publishers lose patience with high-quality nonfiction and journalism during presidential election years, but Verso Books never seems to. Last month, they published Seymour Hersh’s The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, one of the year’s most important nonfiction books. It collects Hersh’s reporting for the London Review of Books, where his recent pieces have upended official narratives from the Obama administration on the killing of Osama Bin Laden and Syria, among other things. Here Hersh talks to his editor at the LRB, Christian Lorentzen. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor


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Old ’97s

I may be a bit biased, since this alt-country group hails from my hometown of Dallas. After 10 studio albums, they have no real mainstream hits, and can’t even rise to the level of “one-hit wonder,” — but doesn’t that make their fandom all the more pure? And Hollywood certainly seems to like them: their work has been featured on TV shows like Scrubs (the song “Question”), Veronica Mars (“Adelaide”), and even as recently as Scorpion. There’s even a whole sequence in The Break-Up when Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn go to an Old ’97s concert. I’ve seen the group in L.A. and just saw them again here in NYC, and they’re great live. Their music is fast, the lyrics are fun, and even the sad songs have a pulse and a drive. Perhaps best of all, they’re their own tribute band, performing as the Satellite Riders when they can’t contractually use their real name. Oh, and their lead signer, Rhett Miller, wrote a song about a lost cat. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor 


Cop Rock on DVD

The pilot episode of Steven Bochco’s 1990 cop show opens with a gritty, cinematic scene that wouldn’t have been out of place in his breakthrough series Hill Street Blues: cops descend on a reported drug spot, break down the door, and arrest everybody in the place. It’s chaotic, tough, and tense – and then, three minutes in, the perps they’ve arrested bust out with a hilariously dreadful slab of what white people thought rap music was in the late-‘80s. Yes, this is Cop Rock, Bochco’s notorious flop that interspersed scenes of typical cop show drama – shoot-outs, heartfelt monologues, tense interrogations, courtroom wrangling – with uproariously incongruent ballads and Broadway-style production numbers (songs by Randy Newman!). It’s a notion so woefully misguided, it’s tempting to think it’s fiction, some kind of entertainment industry urban legend. So that’s why Shout Factory’s brand spanking new DVD release of Cop Rock: The Complete Series, all eleven episodes of it, is so welcome; you really have to park yourself in front of this thing to appreciate that it went the full process of writing, production, editing, and airing without anybody stopping to say, “Hey, um, this is insane!” A must-have for fans of bonkers television, and of tender serenades to babies who’re about to be sold for drug money. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor