Staff Picks: Moses Sumney, Under the Radar Festival, ‘Pretty Poison’


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.

Pretty Poison on Blu-ray

The sun-drenched neo-noir gem (new on Blu-ray from Twilight Time) was a commercial flop but a critical fave when it was released in 1968; its continued low profile over now gives it a kind of subversive quality, the feeling of a slippery little movie that no one “got” all those years ago. Anthony Perkins stars, in a variation on his Norman Bates role of eight years previous, as a nervous young man recently released from a mental hospital who falls in with a high-school sexbomb (Tuesday Weld, terrific) with murder on her mind. First-time director Noel Black imbues the picture with deadpan wit and a sprung sensibility; it’s an odd duck of a film, careening from one strange scene to another for 90 minutes, both exuberant and dangerous. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Moses Sumney — Lamentations

Last year was saturated with good music, but for the last couple of months I’ve been pretty reluctant to listen to anything but Moses Sumney’s Lamentations — and given that it’s only a 5-track EP, I can say that it certainly withstands the test of endless repetition. Sumney creates music with swelling emotionalism that’s both lyrically and instrumentally restrained: with a voice with as much range and potency as his, the power comes from his knowledge of the most impactful moments to isolate it, and when to spin it around itself over itself over and over again. Similarly, the pairing of the most minimalist-imaginable snapped beat with baroque vocals on album highlight, “Worth It,” allows the blunt lyrics, “You reject solitude/But I don’t know if I am worth it,” to become a shockingly deep “it’s not you, it’s me.” (That song’s video is above.) Indeed, I can say that my favorite love song of the year is actually just a strangely poetic rendering of tepid rejection. Meanwhile, his pairing of lyrics about emptiness through vehement vocalization — with an album that hinges so heavily on his singing — makes his voice itself into something of a thesis: he sings on “Lonely World,” “And the void speaks to you/In ways nobody/Speaks to you/And that voice fills the air/Fog in the morning/Going nowhere.”

Might I add, without any bias whatsoever, that he also has a great name. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor

Noveller — A Pink Sunset for No-One

Literally two hours after I published our list of 2017’s most anticipated albums, I got an announcement of an album to be released in 2017 that I am anticipating a great deal. Sigh. The album in question is Noveller’s A Pink Sunset for No-One, due out on February 10 through Fire Records — it’ll be her eighth studio album, and the first since 2015’s Fantastic Planet, which was, um, fantastic. Noveller’s music is some of my very favorite writing music — it’s largely instrumental, and pulls off the relatively rare trick of being subtle and unobtrusive without ever becoming boring or fading completely into the background. Lead single “Trails and Trials” suggests that A Pink Sunset for No-One will continue in this vein, which is entirely fine with me. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

The Boston Strangler’s split screens

Richard Fleisher’s 1968 dramatization of the manhunt for the early-‘60s serial killer (new on Blu-ray from Twilight Time) has much to recommend – its narrative patience, its sterling ensemble of character actors, a quietly disturbing Tony Curtis performance – and much that hasn’t aged well at all (particularly its treatment of gay culture, hew lord). But the element that would seem most dated is, in fact, its most remarkable: director Fleisher’s frequent use of split-screen, a popular stylistic flourish in that year of The Thomas Crown Affair. But Fleisher doesn’t just use it as a gimmick – it’s an ingenious method of multi-frame, simultaneous storytelling, and a brilliant cinematic visualization of a city in fear and a police force struggling to keep pace. It’s a shame the trick has become so (negatively) tied to the era; if it didn’t automatically scream LATE ‘60S or EARLY ‘70S, some filmmaker might not mind having it in their toolkit. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater

The Public Theater’s annual Under the Radar Festival — which brings small theater companies from around the world under their wing — is happening right now, through January 15. This year’s lineup features some especially intriguing productions; particularly of note are Gardens Speak , (an immersive theatrical work/sound installation gathering oral histories of ten Syrians who were given domestic burials after having died in the recent conflicts and atrocities in Syria; here, each audience member listens, alone, to the story of one person over the course of 40 minutes), Lula Del Ray (a piece that sees a troop of puppeteers and musicians essentially creating an animated film in real-time), and The Bitter Game , a solo performance Keith A. Wallace examining police brutality and the resulting trauma in America’s black communities, through the relationship between a mother and son. The festival encompasses 12 pieces in total; if any given year you want a panoramic look into how the era (and all of its horrors, crises, intimacies, and occasional instances of progress) is being translated into performance around the world, Under the Radar is the place to be. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor