Coming off an intense and emotionally rough period that surrounded the recording and release of 2013's No Morphine No Lilies, drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom is in upbeat, adventurous form on 2016's Otis Was a Polar Bear. Which isn't to say that she and her bandmates weren't game for adventure on No Morphine No Lilies. On the contrary, the group found its footing on that album born out of a tumultuous year that included Miller taking care of her sick girlfriend, two of her bandmates having babies, and Miller drawing attention, some unfairly negative, for a Huffington Post article she wrote about being a lesbian feminist in the jazz world.
Mavis Staples is a soul-gospel legend, but her momentum keeps building as she targets the future. She just won a Grammy for a Blind Lemon Jefferson cover, but her latest album takes her to a new plateau enlisting contemporary songwriters such as Neko Case, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Tune-Yards, Valerie June, and M. Ward (who also produced). It’s an inspired set that frames Staples’ emotionally raw, transcendentally intimate voice in mostly spare arrangements that cut to the heart. Ward does a masterful job of simply turning Staples loose amid the positive vibrations of Harper’s “Love and Trust,” Tune-Yards’ “Action” (which even starts with some surf guitar), Son Little’s “One Love” (not the Bob Marley song, but a new one that sounds like a Ben E. King tune), and Ward’s own “MLK Song,” a stark ballad featuring his acoustic guitar backing Staples as she talk-sings words of peace by her civil rights mentor. The album feels stunningly fresh and cutting edge; expect to see it on some Top Ten lists later this year.
Documentary which tells the compelling story of how a group of young, feminist punk rockers known as Pussy Riot captured the world's attention by protesting against Putin's Russia. Through first-hand interviews with band members, their families and the defence team, and exclusive footage of the trial, it highlights the forces that transformed these women from playful political activists to modern-day icons.
Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world beyond, three young artists or the society they live in?