After Life. Ricky Gervais returns as the writer, director and star for Season 2 of the critically acclaimed Netflix series. He’s back as Tony Johnson, a writer for a local British newspaper who, despite making significant emotional breakthroughs, is still still grieving the death of his wife Lisa (Katy Godliman). But as he wrestles through his own personal trauma, Tony makes attempts to be more kind to those in his immediate circle. It includes helping his brother in a law and boss Matt (Tom Basden) work through a marital separation and the possible shutdown of the newspaper; setting up his mailman Pat (Joe Wilkinson) with sex worker Roxy (Roisin Conaty); advising ad exec Kath (Diane Morgan) as she has to deal with her unreturned affections for Matt; and help recent hire Sandy (Mandeep Dillon) work out a personal and career crisis. But the show’s best moments come when Tony opens up about his conflicted feelings about starting a new relationship with nursing home attendant Emma (Ashley Jensen), and his talks with Anne (Penelope Wilton), an older widow who frequently visits her late husband’s gravesite. This season has its fair share of laughs, but this is more of a extended meditation on grief, loss, and how the power of community can get help someone find the strength to carry on. It’s another strong offering from the mind of Ricky Gervais. Season 2 of After Life is available now on Netflix.
Beastie Boys Story. Spike Jonze directed this ‘live documentary’ looking back a group whose career has spanned over three decades. Recorded at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, Mike ‘Mike D’ Diamond and Adam ‘Ad Rock’ Horowitz tell the story of how a bunch of city kids fell into the New York punk and hip hop scenes to become one of the most influential and beloved groups of their generation. Their story gets more fascinating when they describe the insanity that happened leading up to, during and after their best selling debut, Licensed To Ill; the shocking split from Def Jam Records; their attempts to reinvent themselves in L.A. and their artistic and commercial rebirth with such albums as Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head and Ill Communication. The doc is also a love letter to the group’s spiritual and creative leader, the late Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, who continuously pushed the group to new heights as artists, businessmen, and as human beings. Told with warmth, humor and candor, this is a ode to friendship and perseverance from one of hip hop’s most beloved groups. Beastie Boys Story is available now on Apple TV.
Shelby Lynne by Shelby Lynne. The latest album from the Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter was originally intended to be included in a film directed by Cynthia Mort. The film never materialized, the songs (many of which were co-written with Mort) are incredible. Lynne plays all of the instruments (including sax) throughout, with being material that ranges from the sultry (‘I Got You’), defiant (‘Here I Am’), mournful (‘Weather’, Revolving Broken Heart’, ‘My Mind’s Riot) and restless (‘Strange Times’, ‘Off My Mind’, ‘Don’t Even Believe In Love’). The sparse, stripped down arrangements makes the songs more intimate, making it sound like you are dropping in a late night conversation than a recording session. Blurring the lines between soul, gospel, R&B, torch and rock, Lynne’s vocals are nothing short of sublime, sounding more like she’s lived these songs as much as she’s performing them. This is yet another highlight in a career that has been nothing short of legendary. One of the year’s best. Shelby Lynne by Shelby Lynne is available now through Amazon, Apple Music and all major streaming outlets.
Earth by EOB. Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien doesn’t have the name recognition of his bandmates Thom Yorke or Jonny Greenwood, but with the release of his debut solo album, it will show why he’s a key cog in their musical machine. Working under the name EOB, the album features off kilter rockers (‘Shangri-La’), moody electronics and deep grooves (Brasil, Deep Days); introspective acoustic songs (‘Long Time Comin’, Mass, Sail On), punchy political commentary (Banksters) and much more. Whether you want to groove out or chill out, O’Brien delivers an album that’s on par with any of the material that you can find on his parent band. Earth by EOB is available now through Amazon, Apple Music and all major streaming services.
ChangesNowBowie. While rehearsing for his 50th Birthday celebration concert at Madison Square Garden, David Bowie recorded nine songs at Looking Glass Studios that were going to be included for a BBC special. The results of this largely acoustic set make up this new posthumous release. It features stripped down versions of deep cuts from The Man Who Sold The World (‘The Supermen’ and the title track); Hunky Dory (‘Andy Warhol’, ‘Quicksand’); Ziggy Stardust (‘Lady Stardust’); Aladdin Sane (the title track); Lodger (‘Repetition’) and the second Tin Machine album (‘Shopping For Girls’). There’s also an excellent cover of the Velvet Underground classic, ‘White Light/White Heat’. Bowie and his incredible band – which included guitarist Reeves Gabriels and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey (who also provides exceptional background/accompanying vocals) – are having a blast performing that dip deeper on the Bowie catalog, with arrangements that don’t make this sound at all dated or rehashed. Bowie never had a chance to do a former MTV Unplugged, but this album is the next best things. ChangesNowBowie is available now through Apple Music, Amazon and all major streaming services.