Pomo Picks

Pop Culture Worth Your Time: The House of Flowers, Dead Prez, and More

The content in our queues, from a Mexican melodrama to a hip-hop classic

By Portland Monthly Staff February 11, 2021

The cast of Netflix's Casa de las Flores (House of Flowers)

Image: Netflix

The snowpocalypse is (allegedly) upon us. With steady winter weather in the forecast from Thursday to Sunday, you're gonna need some company while you draw the curtains and stay inside. Here's how we'll be passing the time.

The House of Flowers

One week ago I finished Casa de las Flores (The House of Flowers), and now I am sad. I am sad because, after binge watching the Mexican black comedy-drama, I miss those characters. The show follows the de la Mora family, who owns a prestigious flower shop attached to their mansion, and examines how a suicide in the first episode triggers all the possible drama in the world. OK, I know that doesn’t sound so fun, but I cannot state the level of addiction I had to the three seasons of this campy masterpiece. At times it was weird enough to make me miss Twin Peaks, at other times I chimed out, “That happened on Beverly Hills 90210!” There are drag queens, cults popping in and out, sibling rivalry, and friendship. And then there is Paulina.

What can I say about Paulina de la Mora, played by Cecilia Suárez? If you loved the kookiness of Catherine O’Hara’s line readings as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek, you’ll tumble for the way Suárez speaks as de la Mora. I walk around the house doing Paulina impressions every day to comfort my loss of having no new episodes. The show has won award after award in Mexico. It truly is some of the most stunning propping and art direction around, and I would hug every cast member possible were ‘rona not a thing to thank them for the time they made me forget about my worries. —Eden Dawn, senior editor

Key of Geebz

I try to ignore the YouTube algorithm. In fact, I spitefully act against it, even when it feeds me something I know I’d like. A three-hour lo-fi playlist featuring a mittened-up, cross-legged Bernie Sanders? Of course I’d like that. But seriously, fuck off for suggesting it. But sometimes, sometimes, I fall prey to the Almighty Algorithm. Sometimes it knows me better than I know myself.

For a while now, it’s been suggesting videos from one Key of Geebs, the self-proclaimed “decomposing composer.” It’s one of those “[insert person with a specific profession] reacts” videos, and in this case, Abba Geebz is a former composer and he’s reacting to “modern” music: stuff like Led Zeppelin, Tool, Radiohead, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, the Mars Volta. He’s even got a video about why Hoobastank’s “The Reason” makes your face melt. I went in expecting technical breakdowns of what’s happening musically—key signatures, time signatures, movements and phrasing—but Geebz tends to avoid that heady mumbo jumbo that might confuse or bore listeners to tears. Instead, he focuses on sonic presentation, engineering tricks, and production quality, plus some technical stuff here and there.

What glues all of this together is the unequivocal dad vibes throughout the whole thing. Geebz is slamming coffee, going off about surfing, calling System of a Down “System of the Down,” cracking bad (good) jokes, and he’s truly interested and excited about the music he’s listening to—often subscriber suggestion and often songs he’s never heard before. It’s reinvigorating my interest in some of this music I haven’t listened to in years, and it’s nice to have someone walk through it with me who’s funny, knows what he’s talking about, and appreciates some of the nuances one might miss in casual listening. So strap on your “cans” (headphones) and take a journey with Geebz. Maybe buy him a cup of coffee while you’re at it. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

Let's Get Free

Turning 21 is pretty overrated, but there's nothing overrated about Let’s Get Free, rap group Dead Prez’s iconoclastic debut album. On Monday, Dead Prez posted celebrating the 21st anniversary of the album, which topped charts and is considered a classic in the hip-hop canon. One fan rightly commented, “Might be the most important hip-hop album in history." The record came out as conscious rap began to thrive under the likes of the Roots, Mos Def, and Lord Jamar, who produced part of the album.

Let’s Get Free was radically fresh, and not one single track falls flat. From “Wolves,” which opens with a speech from African People's Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela analogizing hunters tricking wolves into suicide to imperialists benefiting from a cocaine epidemic within Black communities, to “Hip-Hop,” the duo’s most well-known song, the record is loaded with potent political punches. “Police State,” a pointed critique of the U.S. justice system, called to mind the Rodney King riots of ’92 and was heavily re-circulated after the murder of George Floyd, while “They Schools” decries the criminalization of Black students and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Dense on words and packing serious heat, the tracklist also lays down some bass-heavy beats and sweet vocals, courtesy of Tahir and Peoples Army, and Maintain of Illegal Tendencies. Let’s Get Free (gloriously) defies easy listening, and 21 years later, I'm still putting it in rotation. —Aurora Biggers, editorial intern

Reply All

Clearly, I have a thing for podcasts that tell me uncomfortable truths. Earlier this year, I recommended Nice White Parents, a searing look from the New York Times about how PTA moms and dads may think they have the best of intentions, but they are really just looking out for their own. Now I'm listening to Reply All's three-part take on the implosion at Bon Appétit magazine last summer, when the bro-y white men who lead the title were finally called to the carpet for years of micro and macro-aggressions against staff members of color, particularly those who worked in the magazine's Test Kitchen.

Though the podcast host spoke with the white managers and staff who rose through the ranks to inform her reporting, the first episode featured solely the voices of Black, Latino and Asian staffers who were marginalized for years, told that there were "too many chiles" in their tamale recipes, and that Americans wanted lasagna bolognese, not soup dumplings, for comfort food. (Speak for yourself. I want both.) As an editor at a magazine that's working to better reflect our diverse community not only in who we cover but who we pay to write stories and shoot pictures, this hits the spot, in more ways than one. —Julia Silverman, news editor 

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