Staff Picks: ‘Penny Dreadful,’ James Blake’s “Meet You in the Maze,” and Pet Shop Boys’ “Twenty-something” Video


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Scroll through for our picks below.

Radiohead, generally

If you read my review of the Radiohead album earlier this week, you’re probably not surprised that it’s been on high rotation round my way this week — but it’s also let to a pleasant re-immersion in the band’s older work, a lot of which had fallen into the category of “stuff I like but haven’t listened to in ages.” People whose opinions I respect have argued of late that some of the band’s early work — specifically OK Computer — hasn’t aged well, but I’d beg to differ: that album, in particular, sounds as relevant today as it did in 1997, because while the technological environment the album it alludes to has changed somewhat, the sense of overwhelming anxiety remains. It’s especially striking how much of Radiohead’s work is ultimately about a fear of people, of what our fellow humans might be — and often are — capable of. That, sadly, is a fear that never gets old. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

Cary Grant and Mae West

One of the few positive side effects of the physical media drain is the degree to which the discs we’re getting seem bent on giving you more bang for your buck. Universal is leading the charge; last year’s 18-film W.C. Fields: Comedy Essentials Collection was a must-have, and now they’re following it up with the new Cary Grant: The Vault Collection . And if the price tag is hefty ($49.99 currently), you get plenty for your money: a total of 18 films (five of them previously unavailable) on six discs, nine comedies and nine dramas, all from the formative period of 1932 to 1936, when Archibald Leach was figuring out exactly what this “Cary Grant” persona was going to be. And the best of the bunch, for my money, are She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel, in which the future superstar plays himbo eye-candy for star Mae West, who looks at the jaunty young Englishman the way I look at a bacon cheeseburger. Those Pre-Code comedies still smolder and spark; they’re worth having, and this set is too. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The first season of Mad Men

This is the first year in nearly a decade that we don’t have a new season of Mad Men to look forward to, and as a die-hard fan since the show’s first episode aired in 2007, I feel the void. So I started watching from the very beginning, and I highly recommend that any Mad Men fan who hasn’t revisited the first season join me in my nostalgia trip back to 2007. The characters who stick out the most to me are Betty and Rachel Menken, the department store heiress and Don’s true soulmate (I think). The first season positions them as mirror images of each other: the blonde housewife and mother in suburban Ossining versus the dark-haired, single, working woman in the city. Maybe the real reason I’ve been especially captivated by these characters is that they’re both 28 years old, the same age as me (in a month), and yet as women in 1960, their choices are already so constrained. If you’re about a decade older now than you were when you first watched these early episodes — before the groovy, let-it-all-hang-out vibe of the late ’60s takes over — get ready for a real trip. — Lara Zarum, Contributor, TV

Penny Dreadful

I really wanted to like Van Helsing when it come out in 2004. After all, the Universal Monsters were the first shared cinematic universe, so the idea of bringing them all back in one Indiana Jones-style film, starring Hugh Jackman, delighted me. But as you well know, the film was horrible. The studio is rebooting all the classic monsters, but set in the modern day. Where can I find them in their natural habitat: castles, moors, and Victorian London slums? The answer is Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which just began its third season — though I’m ashamed to admit how late I am to the ghoulish party. The series is scary and smart, gory and goofy, and presents a unique take on the monster mash. So far, we have a vampire, Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, Dorian Gray, and…others (I’m still only in the first season). Eva Green is fantastic, Timothy Dalton barks like Sean Connery, and the rest of the cast is either beautiful, talented, and/or deadly. And its pace, a creepy slow boil, makes it perfect for binging. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

Pet Shop Boys’ “Twenty Something” video

Last year, cholo goth heroes Prayers covered Pet Shop Boys’ classic dance floor pop smash “West End Girls,” reworking it into a hard-edged LA goth anthem, with trap snares and a dark twist on the poppy synths of the original. This year, when looking for help visualizing their single “Twenty-Something,” the Boys looked no further than the Prayers camp. For the video for “Twenty-Something,” The British dance duo picked director Gavin Filipiak—who directs all of Prayers’ videos—to translate the lyrics into the daily life of a hispanic character in California. Univision, which premiered the video, has an interview with Filipiak and the band, in which they go deeper on the issue of recidivism and its effects on Latino communities. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

James Blake’s “Meet You in the Maze”

I spent a bunch of time thinking about James Blake this weekend, and after a lot of listening, the song I’m most haunted by on an album full of haunting is undeniably the LP’s last track, “Meet You in the Maze.” Though Blake is known for his tiny, itching “post-dub” beats, this track — written with Justin Vernon, and recalling his own “Woods” — is a cappella, letting Blake’s distorted vibrato quiver its way into an alien chorus. There are many Blakes singing here, each bearing a drastically different timbre (and one sounding like it’s just Vernon himself?), with an enfeebled, helium-filled Blake sounding particularly tragic against the simultaneous fullness of Natural Blake voice. Finishing an album on an a cappella note is bold, and for the song that strips everything away to then declare, “Music can’t be everything” at the end of a 70+ minute album is even bolder. Seemingly telling a lover he’s parting with he’ll someday “meet [them] in the maze,” he finds a melancholy serenity in loneliness. He states, “It’s me that makes the peace in me” — and so here we get the album’s loveliest, simplest track, just a wilting bouquet of Blakes singing alone among themselves. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor