Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Yesterday (2019) (Movie)
In Short: If you’re a solid Beatles fan, or even a Beatles-lite fan I reckon you’ll come away from this movie feeling warm, happy, and then stream your favorite Beatles album while you make dinner.
First off let’s establish my Beatles fandom, crucial for understanding my review:
I grew up listening to my dad play Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Let It Be on our record player. I spent time studying the two album covers and trying to figure out how these two drastically different albums were created by the same band. I’ve listened to a lot of their music over the years, but never read any biography or memoir. “Ob la di, ob-la-da” was a common bedtime nursery rhyme I sang to my two-year-old daughter.
So I’m not a super-fan, but I have a solid appreciation and love for The Beatles.
Now on with the movie Yesterday – a film where, after a freak accident, a struggling musician wakes up in the hospital to find out that The Beatles never existed. A world without “Let It Be” or “Yellow Submarine.” The lead Jack Malik goes on to share The Beatles catalog as though he wrote it which propels him to monumental fame.
I felt an instant connection with this premise. In 2009, I switched to streaming my music and didn’t buy CDs anymore. I didn’t have a record player. I went full digital. The downside: The Beatles weren’t on any streaming service. And they took their sweet time getting there. I had to wait seven years to finally stream “Something!” That was a long time to have a musical world without the fab four. It was like a gap in music history. And man, was I happy in December 2015 to have The Beatles back in my digital life.
And while the film revolves around The Beatles, they are really the backdrop to explore Jack Malik’s rise to fame and the decisions he makes. Jack is actually “discovered” by Ed Sheeran who has a major role in the film. Jack and Ed have a songwriting battle. Don’t even get me started on the song suggestion Ed has! Sheeran does such a good job of poking fun at himself and it sets such a nice tone for the film.
The movie is directed by Danny Boyle famous for Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 Days Later. I love Boyle’s films because even his grimiest, grittiest movies have an empathy and warmth to them. He explores characters with a tenderness, no matter their setting or circumstances. In Trainspotting and Trainspotting 2 he makes you feel sorry for Begbie sometimes – that’s a miracle!
If you’re a complete Beatles maniac you might feel this film misses out or can’t quite live up to your expectations. But if you’re a solid Beatles fan, or even a Beatles-lite fan I reckon you’ll come away from this movie feeling warm, happy, and then stream your favorite Beatles album while you make dinner.
Beatles grammar note – I went with a capitalized “the” for this article. Apparently this is a very contentious issue on Wikipedia where some Editors have been banned from participating in the discussion. Ah, Beatles fandom!
Rewinder by SB Nation (YouTube Show)
In Short: Rewinder takes a deep dive into the background, context, and important events preceding those moments in sports history that have become so legendary and so iconic that people might forget what made them so important.
So Sad So Sexy by Lykke Li (Album)
TL;DR: Listening to this album feels like a breakup, without having to go through a breakup.
I love this album for the emotional journey. The lyrics sound like she’s searching for a great love but is constantly dashed with the reality of failing relationships. The song “Utopia” shows some of that grand vision: “I see, I see, I see a light in your eyes and I want it / It’s burning bright like a fire from a comet.”
Other songs on the album show real struggles in the pain of a relationship falling to pieces. “Two Nights” is a duet that I find particularly catchy: “You never came home / Two nights in a row, where’d you go? / I’ve been smokin’ / Two nights in a row, now I know that it’s broken“. The titular song “So Sad So Sexy” is an emotional low in the album. The lyrics and sound are beautiful though, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs. “I was only lyin’ when I looked in your eyes / I’m cryin’ diamonds like a river inside / And it’s so sad, so sexy.”
Lykke Li‘s voice is full of soul and distant emotions. Her sound is sort-of pop, sort-of R&B, sort-of electronic, held together with the international flair that is typical of Lykke Li. Plus, the tracks have lots of low bass which sounds great in my headphones!
Ali Farka Touré (Musician)
In Short: Ali Farka Touré is internationally renowned for weaving traditional Malian music with North American blues music.
Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Touré is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Born in 1939, he was the 10th and only child in his family to survive past infancy. Touré learned to play traditional instruments like the n’goni (sort of like a harp) and the n’jarka (a single-stringed fiddle), before learning the guitar.
His first concert in North America was at Harrison Hotsprings (I find this delightful since I’m from BC and I’ve been there!).
His album, Talking Timbuktu, a collaboration with Ry Cooder, was released in 1994 (which is also the year I was born!). I find it so peaceful and joyous to listen to, as well as a great choice when needing to focus at work.
If it’s your first time listening to Touré, I recommend putting on an album on a Sunday morning as you sip a hot beverage and look outside the window.