Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
Nico, The End…
Though largely ignored upon release, the trilogy of harmonium-based records Nico put out from ’69 to ’74 are some of the German singer’s most moving, influential work. In particular, The End…—the last of them, naturally—has captivated me this winter, not just for inspired contributions by longtime collaborator John Cale, plus Brian Eno and Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, but also for the pure, elegiac emotional weight behind the album. Nico decided to record it after covering The Doors’ song “The End” at a gig earlier that same year, and included the stunning “You Forget To Answer,” written about her final, unanswered phone call to former lover Jim Morrison. The song’s lyrics are simple, but I find the line “When I remember what to say / You will know me again” to be unbelievably beautiful, made devastating by the silence on the line: “You forget to answer.” Ditto the way, on “We’ve Got The Gold,” Nico can break down a delicate word like “flower” into three leaden syllables. [Kelsey J. Waite]
It took a few episodes to really click, but one of my favorite podcasts is the entertainment industry satire Hollywood Handbook. The show centers on big-time Hollywood insiders Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport as they interview their famous friends, engage in serious discussions about showbiz, and try to help their listeners break into the world of movies, but it’s all operating under layers and layers of gleefully wacky irony and absurdism. Recently, they launched a premium show called Hollywood Handbook: Pro Version that is ostensibly a back-to-basics spin-off that resurrects older running gags without an interview segment, but the real appeal of the Pro Version is the open contempt Clements and Davenport have for the premium format. It might seem like the kind of pretentious bullshit that they’re parodying on the main show, but hearing one of them give a heavy sigh when they realize they’ve only been taping the show for 30 minutes is hilarious every single time it happens. The normal show is like a meta-podcast that’s occasionally about podcasting, but Pro Version cuts the artificiality out and ends up with a ridiculous celebration—and condemnation—of the whole podcast medium. [Sam Barsanti]
We have entered the age of Bluetooth headphones as the audio standard, though I’ve never minded the cord, to be honest. There’s something tactilely satisfying listening with old-school headphones that have some physical heft—to me, the music comes through fuller and richer. Shinola, the Detroit-based makers of boutique watches, also manufactures headphones, and its on-ear headphones we were sent to test drive feel like a Cadillac for audiophiles. Crafted with leather headbands, lambskin ear cushions, and a sleek chrome-like stainless steel finish, they’re the only headphones I’ve encountered that come with their own polishing cloth. They’ve got some weight to them (0.73 pounds), and they feel substantial wrapped around your head. That heftiness translates to a gorgeous sound, with rich, buttery bass and a sparklingly crisp high end. There are far lighter cordless headphones that offer more freedom of movement, but these cans feel old-school and luxurious. [Kevin Pang]