A magic children’s show, headphones, and a melancholy pop album

A magic children’s show, headphones, and a melancholy pop album

Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations

Brooklyn-based band Teen
Brooklyn-based band Teen

Just Add Magic

This is for a really specific audience age group, but it’s solid gold for the 8-12 subset (and their parents): Amazon Prime series Just Add Magic. The streaming service recently added a new stable of youth-oriented shows, but Just Add Magic was the first one to intrigue my grade-school-aged offspring, and I can’t think of a show I’d rather have them watch. Based on a book by Cindy Callaghan, Just Add Magic tells the tale of three best friends who come across a magical cookbook from one of their grandmothers (E.T.’s Dee Wallace), who has been struck mute. They soon discover that certain recipes like Shut-Up Shortcake and Brain-Boosting Bolognese yield interesting results, and realize that the grandmother is under a spell left over from (what else?) a long-ago mystery. The combination of magic and cooking is genius, and the kids in the show are funny, smart, and engaging, but never smart-alecky or obnoxious (looking at you, live-action Disney Channel). Just Add Magic resembles a suburban Harry Potter or a tamer Goosebumps, and it’s even made my kids want to cook more. Although I should probably be paying closer attention to their recipes… [Gwen Ihnat]

Sennheiser HD 598 Over-Ear Headphones

After realizing that maybe my roommates weren’t as cool with me blasting Scrotum Grinder records in the middle of the day, I needed to get a good pair of headphones for my marathon record-listening sessions. I consulted a ton of forums and reviews, and got the opinions of a bunch of clerks at boutique audio shops, and then decided that this entire process was needlessly overwhelming. I ended up settling with a pair of Sennheisers that Amazon had on sale and haven’t looked back. Due to the fact that a lot of what I listen to has the aural qualities of a raccoon banging on a trashcan, looking for something top of the line would be counterintuitive. Instead, I’ve found a pair of headphones that gives me exactly what I need. They’re comfortable, well-made, and can make everything from Charles Bronson to Grouper sound good without having to endlessly fiddle with my receiver’s settings. For the money, the HD 598 is hard to beat. [David Anthony]

Teen’s Love Yes

The Brooklyn quartet Teen has evolved with each successive album, and its third full-length Love Yes caught me totally by surprise. For the uninitiated, the four women who comprise the group started out making dreamy, melancholy pop, heavy on ethereal sounds and vocals, before adding a more slinky, R&B-inflected sound for their second album. But on Love Yes, they’ve thrown out previous restrictions altogether, and the result is great retro synth-pop, as though someone unearthed a jukebox from the early ’80s that has only female-fronted bands. Gary Numan and other electronic luminaries are clear touchstones, but Teen also continues to churn out songs reminiscent of its first couple of records, so there’s a diverse and bold assortment of tunes here. You could sample three different tracks, and come away thinking you had heard three different bands, were it not for the wonderful harmonizing vocals that paint the music as definitively Teen. Actually, sampling three different tunes isn’t the worst idea in the world. Here’s one. And here’s another. If you’re still with me, try this one out, too. See what I mean? It’s great stuff, and has been on near-constant rotation in my headphones for the past month. Whether you’ve tried Teen in the past or are being introduced for the first time, it’s exciting to hear artists this comfortable mixing things up, and to such great success. [Alex McCown]