News about coronavirus is coming hard and fast, and the Portland Monthly staff is working to bring you up-to-date information about how the crisis is affecting Portlanders. It’s vital we all stay informed and figure out how to help each other through this surreal, challenging moment.
It’s also vital that we take some breaths. Every week, in lieu of a “top things to do this weekend” post, we’re going to pause and share the pandemic-free content that’s keeping us sane (or somewhere close).
Ladies and gentlemen, the first stone-cold masterpiece of the young decade is here. In 2018, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield (whose stage name, Waxahatchee, nods to a creek near her ancestral Alabama home) got sober. Then she wrote about it. Far from sanctimonious, the resulting record is the finest entry in Crutchfield's formidable catalogue, and it isn't close. Saint Cloud is an album about putting down the bottle, sure, but more than that, it's an album about slowing down and living patiently with yourself. How fitting. "Tomorrow could feel like a hundred years later," she sings on the slow-burning "Fire." "I'm wiser and slow and attuned."
Across 11 near-perfect tracks, Crutchfield shares the kind of hard-won wisdom that only clicks into focus when you stop running, and she matches it to indelible country melodies that owe equal debt to Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams. It's the kind of close-listen, detail-laden record we clutched to our chests when we were 16 and now, blessedly, have time to lose ourselves in again. I only regret that these lyrics won't make it to the margins of my chemistry notebook. –Conner Reed, Arts & Culture Editor
New Orville Peck and RZA
Two things this week. First: incognito cowboy Orville Peck unveiled a gift today with a new song, “Summertime," and its accompanying music video. This song has everything—a David Lynch-approved guitar tone, a tall man strutting through stunning magical flower fields, and the hope that summer will actually come one day.
Second: in 2020’s most unexpected collab, RZA from the Wu Tang Clan teamed up with Tazo Tea to make a guided meditation album called Guided Explorations. And it’s pretty fun/zen/entertaining. –Eden Dawn, Style Editor
It’s a weird time to be putting out new music. According to Rolling Stone, coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the music industry, but there are some artists who have found success despite the global pandemic (see The Weeknd’s After Hours or Childish Gambino’s 3.15.20). In a surprise announcement, Nine Inch Nails, the industrial-mad-bois turned ambient-mad-bois, released parts V and VI of their instrumental series Ghosts—Together and Locusts, respectively—“two different albums for two different mindsets,” they say on the download page. (Both are available for free direct download at the link above.) Where Together feels dreamy and ambient, reminiscent of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, Locusts feels like some Twilight Zone-esque soundtrack for this absurdist nightmare in which we currently find ourselves. –Gabriel Granillo, Digital Editor
So it turns out that in addition to being PoMo's news editor, I am now a part-time homeschool teacher. Whee? Actually, though, the virtual book clubs I'm running for my fifth graders and a few of their friends have turned out to be an enormously cheerful bright spot in these dark times, exposing me to some wondrous YA lit in the bargain.
We're working our way through recent Newberry Medal winners, which is how I discovered Kwame Alexander's excellent The Crossover. Written in verse, it's the story of a star basketball player and his twin brother on the verge of their teens, and of their father, a former big league player who never quite escaped his own demons. The prose is sharp, full of braggadocio and foreshadowing; if you've got middle grade readers feeling cooped up at home, this one will stretch their minds and hearts. –Julia Silverman, News Editor
I won’t deny it: I devoured Netflix phenoms The Tiger King and Love is Blind as if they were the last bags of potato chip on Earth. But every once in a while the brain needs real sustenance. So I urge everyone: if you love for great cinema—1950s film noir to the best of Fellini—add the Criterion Channel to your surf diet. Every month, selections rotate from a vast archive of film, grouped together like mini film festivals, double-features, or perhaps retrospectives of directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa, and Errol Morris, along with new international voices. You might find yourself going down the rabbit hole on German Expressionism (no one does shadows better) or plunging into the career of Burt Lancaster. Among the gems dropping in April: a celebration of the 1970s, Annie Hall to Shaft.
Recently, I discovered a little-known Quentin Tarantino favorite, Targets, the debut of director Peter Bogdanovich. It stars, of all people, Boris Karloff, basically playing himself as a fading horror icon, in a plot line that dovetails with a clean-cut sniper on a spree. If you love Tarantino, the influences will become quickly clear:
Confessed PoMo's Conner Reed recently, "I'm in the middle of an Agnès Varda deep dive. That is my sole thread to joy." Try a two-week free trial. –Karen Brooks, Food Editor & Critic
Movies That Take Care of Me
When I’m sick in bed (or just housebound in a pandemic while my own mother is 2,500 miles away), my top choice for screen time is a good parent movie. Not Mommie Dearest, certainly, and not even ultimate-dad movie To Kill a Mockingbird, since Gregory Peck’s distracting handsomeness muddles things too much. My go-to is I Remember Mama, the 1948 George Stevens film with Irene Dunne as a Norwegian immigrant in San Francisco, managing local gossip and doctor’s bills and a cat at death’s door and a whole lot of demanding kids, including aspiring writer Barbara Bel Geddes.
Another is William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, from 1946, with serious momming and dadding from Myrna Loy and Fredric March, not just of their own daughter (Teresa Wright) but of a whole community of returning soldiers adjusting to postwar life. A good, no-BS nurse or governess acting in loco parentis will also suffice: Julie Andrews’s Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music gets bonus points for also appearing in my house once a year in my pre-cable childhood, via that movie’s annual airing on NBC. And Thelma Ritter’s sassy home health care worker, physical therapist, personal chef, amateur detective, and life coach to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window is a figure we could all use in our lives. –Margaret Seiler, Managing Editor
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In this bizarre time of social distancing and homeschooling, many of us are suffering the effects of ever-present children— the malaise is particularly oppressive in the “totally boring” afternoons. Best solution I’ve found is a midday TV break. At this point we’ve already exhausted the obvious kid-appropriate content out there, so we’re tapping into more adult fare, and Schitt’s Creek on Netflix is the current pick. Touting a 5 year-old TV show as a “discovery” might seem strange, but it's genuinely solid kid content: funny and light for the most part, and it somehow stays in a child-safe zone, where adult conflict and drama arise but no one is especially mean to each other.
Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy play absentee parents who lose it all thanks to a shady business manager and are forced to learn, over time, how to be there for their children. Both actors are fantastic, as is the rest of the cast, and the character development is great. One of the show’s major messages is, charmingly, one of acceptance, where all of the characters are different but those differences are not the most important thing about them. There’s a bit of cursing, and definitely some sex, drinking and drug use, but most of that will go over your kids's heads. It’s a refreshing break from the bland kid-centric programming we’re watching far too much of these days. –Mike Novak, Art Director