Staff Picks: Jenny Hval’s “Conceptual Romance,” Distant Worlds: Universe, and ‘To Have and Have Not’


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.

To Have and Have Not on Blu

Following The Big Sleep and Key Largo in March and Dark Passage in June, the fine folks at Warner Archive have completed the HD releases of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s quartet of feature collaborations – with their first, and still best, on-screen coupling. Bogie and Bacall met for the first time on the set of this 1944 Howard Hawks effort (a kind of spiritual sequel to Casablanca), and the sparks, as they say, flew. The film is pretty great, even outside of their scorching chemistry; Jules Furthman and William Faulkner (who would later co-write the duo’s Big Sleep) adapt Ernest Hemingway’s novel in a loosey-goosey manner suited to Hawks’ direction, which manages to be both tense and freewheeling. But the headlining duo really are the main attraction here, and when “Slim” famously tells “Harry” exactly how to whistle for her, it still singes the screen. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Jenny Hval — “Conceptual Romance”

Jenny Hval’s “Conceptual Romance” floats along instrumentally, with almost imperceptible electronic beats carrying it forth steadily as a conveyor belt, as Hval’s voice meanwhile attacks that stability from all sides, sometimes singing mellifluously, then rising to odd nasality, then sometimes just speaking with arresting plainness. The tactical range of her vocal expression here makes the would-be somniferous song jarring and direct, with blunt everyday statements unexpectedly breaking through the dreamscape: “My heartbreak is too sentimental for you,” “I lose myself in rituals of bad art and failure,” and, on repeat, “I’m working on it.” Following the first single — “Female Vampire” — released from the upcoming album Blood Bitch, “Conceptual Romance” reasserts that we might soon (September 30, to be exact) have something great on our hands. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Distant Worlds: Universe

All men have secrets, and here is mine: I really like 4X games, which is disastrous for a writer as they are — aside, perhaps, from online time black holes like World of Warcraft — the greatest time sinks ever conceived by mankind. For the uninitiated, “4X” refers to, quite literally, four “x”s: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate, which is a fancy way of say that these are games where you start off small and spend hours on end exploring the map and carving out space for your own empire/nation/civilization/etc. The best known 4X games are probably the Civilization games, of which I’m also a fan, but if you want a space-based game with a gazillion planets to explore and a stellar empire to be build, Distant Worlds: Universe is still the one to beat. It’s intimidatingly huge, intimidatingly complicated, and intimidatingly awesome. If you need me, I’ll be in the basement. FOREVER. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

Wild Beasts — “Tough Guy”

There’s something of Perfume Genius’s “Queen” about this, the second single from Wild Beasts’ upcoming album Boy King. Both songs command the listener’s attention from the get-go, “Tough Guy” does so with these opening lines: “Now I’m all fucked up/ And I can’t stand up/ So I better suck it up/ Like a tough guy would.” As with “Queen”, “Tough Guy” finds a singer who’s pretty much the opposite of traditional figures of male power nevertheless presenting himself as a powerful figure — it both subverts and reclaims masculinity, and as a result it’s a song that’s both hugely enjoyable and really rather inspiring. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

Mike Britton’s Design for the Globe’s Merchant of Venice

It’d be very easy — when working with 16th century Venice — to choose ostentation as a designer over subtlety. But for the Globe Theatre’s excellent production of Merchant of Venice — which just finished its brief run at the Lincoln Center Festival and will continue to a few more stops in the U.S. — Mike Britton staunchly chose the darkness of the script over the light. (For those who haven’t seen the play, it’s structured like a comedy, but within that structure is a plot that’s both descriptively gruesome and steeped in the ugliness of oppression.) And his set was mostly bare except for a porous, massive wooden wall, in which a high window would occasionally open onto a band, and out of which only muted specks of light would pour. Despite the characters’ assertions of religious purity, they look to exist in more of a tastefully decorated underworld than anything else. Merchant has evolved as one of Shakespeare’s most thematically and tonally complex plays, and I was thrilled that Britton so wholly gave into its bleak undertones, allowing director Jonathan Munby’s moments of pointed humor to selectively provide the levity. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor