Also of interest...in wayfinding
by Robert Moor (Simon & Schuster, $25)
Robert Moor’s new book is “a wanderer’s dream,” said The Economist. Part travelogue, part wide-ranging natural history, it is anchored by Moor’s account of his through-walk of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. But Moor thinks on a bigger scale, so he also ponders ant trails, elephant trails, the Trail of Tears, and the trails left in Newfoundland 565 million years ago by soft-bodied creatures dragging themselves across an ocean floor. He has crammed “a wealth of such tales” into this engaging volume.
How to Read Water
by Tristan Gooley (The Experiment, $20)
Professional sailor Tristan Gooley “misses little in his paean to Earth’s most abundant resource,” said Angus Phillips in The Wall Street Journal. His “lovely” new book answers just about every question imaginable about water, including what causes a wave to break and why insects often swarm over rocky, fast-flowing areas of a stream. Gooley also recounts what he learned during his attempt at a Viking-style journey across the Norwegian Sea. Take it all in slowly—“or you’ll drown in the details.”
Wasting Time on the Internet
by Kenneth Goldsmith (Harper Perennial, $15)
“Pocket-sized, short, and as digestible as a cat video,” this book should relieve many a clickbait addict of guilt, said Chris Taylor in Mashable.com. Derived from a course of the same name that Goldsmith teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, it discusses radical group exercises like having students electronically pass $1,000 around a circle, or having them check social media feeds while classmates watch. At its best, the book “hits on a way of talking about modern technology that makes us see it anew.”
The Glamour of Strangeness
by Jamie James (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30)
Each of the artists featured in this “esoterically learned and always entertaining” group portrait felt a need to seek distant shores, said Joseph O’Neill in The New York Times. Paul Gauguin settled in Polynesia; Russianborn filmmaker Maya Deren made Haiti a second home. When author Jamie James dwells on the sojourners’ sexual exploits abroad, the material “feels like gossip.” But he is “on to something important” when he describes his subjects as a school of art defined by its lack of borders.
“It’s nice to hear Wilco not taking itself too seriously,” said Zach Schonfeld in PasteMagazine.com. On the band’s 10th album, Jeff Tweedy and company have taken a sharp turn away from the fuzz-heavy rock of last year’s Star Wars and delivered a quiet, mostly acoustic record of unusual ramshackle charm. The “loosest, most unadorned” set of songs the Chicago band has recorded since its 1995 debut, Schmilco features “some of Tweedy’s shrewdest lyrical nuggets in years,” and because the music is mostly up-tempo, “there’s electricity here, if not much electric guitar.” Despite the music’s comforting surface, these songs can also feel “strange and unsettling,” said Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune. Tweedy, in a hushed voice, opens up about how the self-doubts of adolescence can seep into adulthood, while bandmate Nels Cline accentuates the lyrical angst with “haywire” guitar work. Wilco has surprised us all with “a weird little folk record”—and “just when you thought you had these guys figured out.”
It’s about time Macy Gray made a jazz record, said James Nadal in AllAboutJazz.com. The Grammywinning pop singer, now 49, is “certainly no stranger” to the idiom, having gotten her start in Los Angeles’ jazz clubs, which means Stripped might be a showcase for her true musical persona. Accompanied by a premier quartet, Gray reinterprets some of her old songs alongside wild-card covers like Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” All 10 tracks were recorded live in an empty Brooklyn church, so the album sounds “as close to a live gig as one could imagine,” except with no crowd noise. “Gray’s patented purr-andgrowl vocals thrive in the intimate setting,” said Pablo Gorondi in the Associated Press. The bluesy opener “Annabelle” would sound at home in a speakeasy, while Gray “imbues Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ with a deep melancholy that never wilts.” On a double-bass reinterpretation of her 1999 hit “I Try,” she goes for straight communication—no mannerisms—and the song is “all the more effective for it.”
Acoustic Recordings: 1998–2016
“Haunting, catchy, spirited, and rooted in the best of Americana,” the music on this careerspanning compilation will probably be most disappointing to listeners who already know Jack White well, said Noel Murray in AVClub.com. The 26-song album, which culls acoustic tracks from the multitalented songwriter-guitarist’s recordings with the White Stripes and the Raconteurs, and from his solo career, “doesn’t offer much in the way of unheard music.” Beyond that, many of the tracks don’t even have an acoustic feel, because White is backed by a full band. The album does, however, “make a convincing case for Jack White the versatile pop songwriter,” said Alexis Petridis in The Guardian (U.K.). “Blessed with a sweet melodic touch,” he has successfully tried his hand at “everything from children’s songs (‘We’re Going to Be Friends’) to epic balladry (‘You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket’)” to comedy (“Honey We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap”). Perhaps this is simply how White wants to be seen now—“as a dedicated, conscientious craftsman.”