Fall into the season
Entertainment recommendations for the months ahead
Never have we anticipated its arrival as much as this year—the summer of scorch. Indeed, this brutally hot and smoke-filled season couldn’t come to an end soon enough for us here at the corner of Second and Flume. Sure, we know we’re in store for patches of warm weather, but it’s nice to know the dog days are behind us.
Of course, the close of summer marks an end to some of our favorite seasonal events—notably, the Fork in the Road food truck gigs, Friday Night Concerts at City Plaza and the Thursday Night Market (the latter runs through Sept. 28). Already, the sycamores are starting to lose their leaves. It’s just a matter of weeks before the tree-lined Esplanade begins its transformation into a picturesque showing of autumn colors (those ginkos!).
We know there’s plenty of outdoorsy stuff to enjoy in the next couple of months, but here’s a primer to get you in the mood for those chilly days ahead. It’s full of recommendations for autumn entertainment, so get ready to snuggle up with a good book, listen to some tunes or settle onto the couch for new TV shows and gaming. Happy reading!
From biographies to mystery novels, there’s a lot to look forward to from the literary world this fall, including a slew of political biographies from folks like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager. Some of it will, no doubt, be stranger than fiction—and this, for some reason, makes it all the more comforting that there will be new works from a few fantasy greats to indulge in, too. Here are a few recommendations that cover the bases.
Manhattan Beach (to be released Oct. 3)
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, published in June 2010, won the 2011 Pulitzer for fiction. Critics have contested whether it’s a novel or a collection of short stories. Told through 13 interconnected chapters, the stories span five decades from the late ’60s to present and have independent conclusions but feature a host of shared characters—mostly people involved in the music industry. In an interview with Heidi Julavits for Bomb Magazine, Egan explained, “I don’t experience time as linear. I experience it in layers that seem to coexist. … One thing that facilitates that kind of time travel is music, which is why I think music ended up being such an important part of the book.”
Egan’s new book, Manhattan Beach, promises the same nonlinear storytelling she executed so well in Goon Squad. The book opens in Depression-era Brooklyn before flashing forward to World War II. Anna Kerrigan is a young woman who’s working as the first female diver at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. She’s also searching for answers to the disappearance of her father, who in the book’s opening is dangerously entangled with both a crooked union official and a mobster.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (to be released Oct. 3)
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author, comic book writer, educator, journalist and general badass. He won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction for his second release, Between the World and Me—a book-length letter to his son about the realities of being black in the U.S. After reading it, A. O. Scott of The New York Times tweeted that it is “essential, like water or air.”
Coates is best known by many for a series of Obama-era essays that were originally published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President” (2012), “The Case for Reparations” (2014) and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (2015). All of these appear in his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. Many online summaries call it a “collection of previously published essays.” That’s not accurate. The publisher’s website reports the book also contains “eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’ own experiences, observations and intellectual development.”
La Belle Sauvage (to be released Oct. 19)
When Philip Pullman campaigned in October 2011 to stop the closure of 600 libraries in England, he called it a “war against stupidity.” Well-known for his late-1990s children’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, the British novelist has been an outspoken voice on many education issues and ran a campaign against age and gender labeling on children’s books.
Fans of the parallel universes Pullman explores in the His Dark Materials trilogy will be pleased to know that the author’s forthcoming novel, La Belle Sauvage, is the first in a companion trilogy. Of course, they may already know. Pullman originally announced the new trilogy on his website in April 2005. In 2016, the Telegraph reported that he’d promised not to cut his hair until the first book was complete. Perhaps some of his original fans have children of their own now with whom to share these new stories.
The Overneath (to be released Nov. 7)
Robert S. Beagle’s fantasy classic The Last Unicorn was published in 1968. A unicorn leaves her forest home in search of others of her kind and gets swept into an adventure that eventually leads her to a seaside castle where she meets a mad king who holds the key to the other unicorns’ whereabouts. Children of the 1980s may remember a cartoon adaptation with music by America. Beagle is the author of many fine fiction and nonfiction works.
The Overneath features new and previously uncollected short fiction. According to the book’s publisher, among the stories in the collection is one centering on a familiar character from The Last Unicorn.
Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime anytime)
After a 26-year pause, the story of Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer continues with 18 otherworldly episodes, and the series concludes in a way just as perplexing as it was when Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) stared at his Evil Bob reflection in the mirror at the end of Twin Peaks Season 2, over 25 years ago.
Peaks fans, let’s face it—whether or not this is the final bow, even if it does come back again, the story will never be tied up in a neat little package. Lynch loves his puzzles—with his Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway being proof of that—and Twin Peaks has proven to be the ultimate Lynch puzzler.
I do believe that it all makes sense, the Lynch dream world. You can approach the series in so many different ways, all of them making perfect sense. Or you can look at it as a failure of narrative and a script-writing cop-out. I choose the former, and I brand this whole undertaking an absolute masterpiece.
Does the final episode leave much to interpretation? Yes, but I believe most of the questions that fans will ask can be answered in the 18-episode series, along with the now invaluable and formerly maligned Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. (Hey, that movie sort of makes sense now!)
Does the final episode leave things open for a continuation of Peaks lore and future stories? Sure it does, and I hope there are more. I will always hope for more Peaks. I’m a junkie when it comes to this show.
If this is the open end for Twin Peaks, it’s a solid, fitting one. Thank you, David Lynch, for this funny, puzzling twister of a series, one that I will step up and call the best work you have ever done. Please make more. Or stop. It’s entirely up to you.
Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later (Netflix)
Even though this third trip to Camp Firewood, after the original Wet Hot American Summer film and the TV sequel/prequel Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is the least funny of the three, it’s still one of the funniest things you will find on television.
Most of the group returns, yet again, for writer-director David Wain and writer Michael Showalter. At the end of the original movie, the camp counselors (including Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo) promised to reunite 10 years later to see how they turned out. They do just that, with their reunion being threatened by an evil Ronald Reagan (Showalter) and the first George Bush (Michael Ian Black, in what has to be the worst and most hilarious first George Bush impersonation ever). They plan to nuke the place for nonsensical reasons.
Cooper, a superstar actor now, had to drop out (he’s replaced in a very funny way by Adam Scott), while Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, manages to return as rebel Andy. This time out, Andy is sporting grunge-long hair, and he has a tendency to look like his shots are inserted into group shots because Rudd probably couldn’t stick around for the whole shoot. Wain finds ways to make this obvious and, yes, very funny.
This one seems like a final chapter, with everything winding up in one of those clever 1990s twist endings. I certainly hope they can continue to get the band together for years to come. The world needs the continuing saga of Camp Firewood.
As the end of 2017 approaches, things are only ramping up when it comes to the top video games of the year. Even though most of the top releases of the fall are sequels, they still pack a punch to satisfy your gaming needs. So, strap in, loosen your belt a notch, and feast on some top-tier fall games.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC)—Oct. 10
Fans of the 2014 Game of the Year, Shadow of Mordor, can return to take on new enemies in this action-adventure based on the writings of Tolkien. With new improvements to the highly regarded Nemesis System, players can control and befriend orcs in the fight against Sauron.
South Park: Fractured but Whole (Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC)—Oct. 17
The second game in the new age of South Park video games has the player return as The New Kid in a role-playing adventure in the town of South Park. Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this game ditches the fantasy setting of The Stick of Truth for a more superhero aesthetic. With classes like Mystic and Karate Kid, battle it out in turn-based combat against fan favorites from the world of South Park.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)—Oct. 27
The next installment in the Super Mario franchise has Mario globetrotting all over the world to save Princess Peach from marriage to Bowser. With this addition to the franchise, Mario has the help of Cappy—a magical hat that can possess friend or foe to collect Power Moons in each world. The gameplay consists of the usual Mario tactics of running and jumping on enemies, along with possessing enemies like Goombas and Bullet Bills to access different parts of the world.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus (Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC)—Oct. 27
In this sequel to the 2014 game, players again assume the role of resistance leader BJ Blazkowicz in his fight against Nazis in an alternate 1961 where the Axis powers won World War II. While the first game was largely set in Europe, this game brings the fight across the pond to an America largely controlled by the Nazis. Run and gun your way through America, taking out Nazis with weapons ranging from hatchets to advanced laser-beam machine guns.
Call of Duty WWII (Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC)—Nov. 3
Gone are the days of exo-suits and space battles. The newest sequel in the Call of Duty franchise takes the action back to its roots in World War II. Featuring action-packed single-player and robust, online multiplayer modes, fans of the more realistic Call of Duty games may find their itch scratched with this one. Plus, it has zombies.
Along with some of the best games of the year, fall will see the debut of consoles—old and new. The SNES Classic will be released on Sept. 29, featuring 20 classic Super Nintendo games and the release of the long-awaited Star Fox 2! Fall also will see the arrival of the Xbox One X, on Nov. 7. It boasts the highest fidelity ever in console gaming, seen in true 4k resolution.
I know what you’re wondering: What are the hot new releases climbing up the personal playlist charts of overweight, beer-drinking, weed-smoking, over-35 rocker dads? Let’s throw some water on that burning question!
LCD Soundsystem: American Dream
As I write this, this is the No. 1 bestselling album in the country. It seems a bit disingenuous to celebrate that as a triumph of the underdog since schlubby middle-aged white men tend to be the overdogs in almost every other situation, but it’s still a bit strange and satisfying to see James Murphy, a guy who looks more like a recording engineer than a pop star, and who’s spent the majority of his career singing about the disappointments of aging, as a chart topper.
But the music has broad appeal, so it’s not that surprising. The perfect fusion of dance-floor anthems and post-punk face-rippers is even more appealing now that it’s been seven years since LCD Soundsystem last put out a new studio album.
LCD Soundsystem is one of rock music’s great postmodernist projects. Almost every note and lyric is a sly and clever twist on some classic song or other. I can’t listen to this new record without thinking about Brian Eno, the British recording artist and producer. “Other Voices” sounds like a cut from Talking Heads’ classic run of albums produced by Eno. “Call the Police” sounds like a cut from U2’s classic run of albums also produced by Eno. The guitar solos sound like Robert Fripp, the King Crimson guitarist who also played on many of Eno’s solo albums.
I love that connection, but it’s something I bring to listening to the record since I’m obsessed with Eno. Other people will hear other references. Other people won’t hear any references and won’t care, and will hopefully just enjoy some great, catchy, good-beat-and-you-can-dance-to-it songs. Like much of the best art, part of what you get out of it is what you put into it.
Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
This shit is just so much fun. I read a lot of music writing, and I feel like Queens of the Stone Age is a band that’s often described inaccurately. The words “stoner” and “metal,” which often appear in reviews and articles about the band, don’t seem 100 percent apt to me.
The music is focused and polished—with little of the repetitive slop I associate with the stoner tag. (And that’s with all due respect to stoners—I love a good repetitive slop.) The band’s music, especially on this funky new record, is more happy, poppy and uplifting than what I think of as “metal.” But “metal” is of course a genre label that gets argued about constantly—and arguing about genre labels is a sport for nerds, and I don’t want to play anymore.
But to my ears, this record sounds like catchy, 1970s-style boogie rock—think T. Rex, ZZ Top or Thin Lizzy. And don’t get me wrong—this album kicks ass.
One of the things I love about Liars is that every record in the band’s long career has been a reinvention, and every record sounds vastly different than the last. The first album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, was a perfect example of the disco-punk that was all the rage for about three months back in 2001, even though nobody seems to remember that. They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, from 2004, was a concept album about witches. Drum’s Not Dead, from 2006, is a masterpiece of anxious drone and bass. (Of course, not every reinvention works: the 2014 album Mess was all half-baked dance rock, and Sisterworld, from 2010, sounded like a mediocre Beck album.)
But this new album might be the most dramatic reinvention yet.
The band name is especially apt for this new record because the “s” at the end of the name is essentially a lie. This is a record about breakup and loneliness written, performed and recorded in isolation by producer and vocalist Angus Andrew. Much of the music is made from samples—some of them recognizable—like the iconic “My Sharona” beat that makes a brief appearance in “Cred Woes”—but most of them are obscure and strange. Sounds that sound alienated.
But this isn’t a total sad-bastard record. There’s wit and humor throughout, and the sonic palette is unique. Still, the themes of loss, loneliness and reinvention make the album sound unmistakably autumnal.