This is a new blog series we're starting to showcase books, records, artsy and cultural things that we don't have time to review or feature outright. Check back every Friday and discover the shit we like...the shit we think you should like.
Lisa Lewis | Burned House with Swimming Pool
Lewis's fourth book is a kick in the gut with its big, fearless poems that examine a floundering America we'd rather forget exists: "...haunted by terror of getting in over my head with loans / as I had to just to survive for twenty years, / I wonder how wrong she was, since I can't kick the fantasies, / urge to shop, to spend, American woman / raised to fulfill my place in the system." —Jeff Simpson
Matt Hart | Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless
Hart's fourth book is an evangelical roadshow for the poetry circuit. This thing runs at the speed of an avalanche picking up bodies and debris, and if you make it out alive you're a believer in Hart's restless vision: "And the blood on my fingers / And the gravel of driveways We couldn't imagine / how we'd take it to the future, so we thought about the moment / when the future wouldn't matter[,] No future no future / and no past in the margins." Don't forget to check out the companion album Blank Sermons...Relentless Lectures by Travel, Hart's Cincinnati-based rock band. —Jeff Simpson
Paul & Linda McCartney | Ram
Ram was one of the few McCartney albums I never bought when I was young and trying to own everything Lennon, McCartney, or Harrison touched (I didn't 'get' Ringo, post-Beatles). I never got around to Ram because all of the record guide critics I read said it was a shitty album. A few years ago, I was convinced to give Ram a chance and found it to be one of the warmest, most inventive albums I'd ever heard. The production and songwriting may not have struck a chord with critics in 1971, but Ram is a brilliant precursor to some of our finest, contemporary indie pop. It was so ahead of its time, it hurts. This new reissue does a fine (but unnecessary) remastering job, and adds a second disc of mostly charming bonus tracks. Also, there's a mono version available, commercially for the first time ever. (It was only sent to radio stations in '71.) —James Brubaker
Dwight Yoakam | Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.
Of all my records, including a first-pressing of Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain, I cherish Dwight Yoakam's 1986 debut, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. most of all. This album, which began as an EP before Reprise released it as a 10-track LP, is a timeless party record that captures Yoakam's near-perfect splicing of Kentucky bluegrass with the Bakersfield sound popularized by Buck Owens in the late '50s. With tracks like "Honky Tonk Man," "It Won't Hurt," "Bury Me," and "Guitars, Cadillacs"—not to mention the most danceable version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" ever recorded—Guitars, Cadillacs not only helped change country music in the early '90s, but introduced listeners to one of the most talented and unique songwriters in American popular music. Yoakam's never made a bad record, but this one deserves special attention. —Jeff Simpson