The Gorillaz skewer the current political culture with their first album in seven years
For nearly two decades, the animated, fictional Gorillaz have been a widely adored band in their own right — as opposed to just existing as a collaborative side project of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and comic artist Jamie Hewlett. The group’s new album, Humanz, released April 27, is its first since 2010; thankfully, it’s worth the wait. This time around, the animated band members explore a kind of cheeky nihilism in the face of a world in sociopolitical turmoil, while joining forces with a range of guest artists, from gospel singer Mavis Staples to Albarn’s former Britpop rival Noel Gallagher of Oasis. Listen to it on your streaming service of choice. —Aja Romano
Netflix’s Dear White People is the best kind of binge-watching
Not every Netflix original series benefits from the binge-watching model the platform courts with its standard full-season dumps, but Dear White People, which launched April 28, is made to be consumed and enjoyed as fast as you can cram it into your eyeballs. The remarkably confident new series, which finds Justin Simien adapting his own 2014 movie of the same name, uses a canny structure to explore the fraught, so-called “post-racial” relations at a fictional Ivy League college. Each of the season’s 10 episodes centers on a different character — with an occasional double up — within Dear White People’s impressive ensemble.
Events overlap somewhat from episode to episode, but the narrative has a strong forward momentum as well; we’re not seeing the same events over and over from different angles, but rather jumping from character to character as the story progresses. This approach allows Dear White People to unpack the personal and emotional motivations behind each character’s actions and morality, creating a distinctive portrait of an incredibly complex collegiate ecosystem.
In doing so, it mostly sidesteps the didacticism and sermonizing implied by its charged premise — with the exception of the first episode, which engages with that assumption before the show blows it to pieces in subsequent entries. Power through the lukewarm beginning, and you’ll be rewarded with a scorching, highly entertaining, and often hilarious comedy that will make you think and feel in equal measure. —Genevieve Koski
The Fyre Festival was such a poorly managed disaster that its organizers didn’t make disgruntled former employees sign nondisclosure agreements
You might have heard a little about Fyre Festival, the Ja Rule-headed concert that was supposed to double as a luxurious getaway on a private tropical island, and instead ended up stranding attendees in a gravel pit with no music and disaster-relief tents the only available shelter. But the best Fyre Fest tell-all you’re going to read is from someone who wasn’t even there.
Chloe Gordon was briefly a talent producer for the festival, but she could see it was going to be a disaster and quit almost immediately. As she tells it in an essay for New York’s The Cut, “the whole thing was playing out as a hilarious disaster.” Gordon breaks down all the juicy details: the disappearing money, Ja Rule’s blithe indifference, the marketing department’s decision to “just do it and be legends, man.” But she’s most gleeful in her conclusion: “And baby, they forgot to make me sign an NDA.” — Constance Grady
Doree Shafrir’s new novel Startup wryly explores tech culture sexism in millennial New York
BuzzFeed culture writer Doree Shafrir’s highly anticipated new novel Startup approaches its satire as directly as possible, describing its subjects as “a new generation of twentysomethings, the data scientists and brand strategists and software engineers and social media managers and product leads and marketing associates and IT coordinators ready to disrupt the world with apps.”
But while these tech cultists aren’t tied to Silicon Valley, all the problems of tech culture still manifest in their glitzy New York venture capitalist-funded co-op spaces. Shafrir immediately plunges you into a world of high-stakes investment, ludicrous work ethics, and systemic sexism as she explores the intertwining lives of a hungry tech reporter, a Travis Kalanick-like CEO, and the complex gender politics that drive the startup world. —AR
Sense8 season two might save the world
Netflix’s Sense8 is kind of a ridiculous show. At its center is the idea that eight people from all around the world — seriously, this thing is filmed on four different continents, with occasional jaunts to Iceland — have a psychic link to each other and can borrow each other’s physical skills to get out of a jam. In the first season, creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski spent maybe a little too much time explaining how the characters’ connections worked, but by season’s end, the action sequences alone were worth all the time spent on exposition (and that’s to say nothing of the wild psychic orgy).
Season two — which debuted Friday, May 5 — is both tighter and wilder than season one, which is a good thing, and it’s just nice to see a series that posits with complete and utter sincerity that we’re all human beings, and if we could just walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we’d realize how false the divisions we create between ourselves are. The Wachowskis have always been among our most open-hearted, empathetic filmmakers, but Sense8 even outdoes their 2012 film Cloud Atlas in the sense that it wants to function as an ersatz religious text for some far-future utopian cult. I love it. — Todd VanDerWerff
Billions is quietly having a tremendously fun second season
Showtime’s corporate thriller launched as a prestige TV play in 2016, with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis headlining, but it’s gotten better the looser and more cutthroat it’s become. While I’ll always be slightly disappointed the series isn’t the rabble-rousing indictment of capitalism it clearly wants to be, season two has been a lot of fun, thanks to some killer plot twists, the endless maneuvering of the two main characters, the presence of the always amazing Maggie Siff, and a genuinely groundbreaking performance by Asia Kate Dillon, the first gender nonbinary actor in a major role on television.
Even better, Dillon — who plays the similarly nonbinary character Taylor — is more than a historic casting choice. Their engaging work has slowly pivoted toward the season’s center, and as Billions wraps up, it’s hard not to hope Taylor escapes the season mostly unscathed. (Billions airs Sundays at 10 pm on Showtime; the season two premiere is streaming in full on YouTube, with subsequent episodes available to Showtime subscribers via the network’s website.) —TV
Obit, about the New York Times’s obituaries desk, is less about death than it is about life
Now in limited theatrical release, Obit is a surprisingly thoughtful documentary about the writers who work in the obituaries department at the New York Times. Some of what goes into obituary writing, like any other journalistic endeavor, follows basic fundamentals: deciding who and what is newsworthy, tracking down sources, and getting the facts straight.
But other parts of the obituary-writing craft are surprising — the liveliness of the writing today, the sheer enjoyment the NYT’s obituary writers get from talking to the families of the deceased, and the process of shaping a narrative from the details of someone’s life, sometimes in very short order. Most importantly, writing about death turns the writers’ minds toward their own mortality, and Obit captures this poignantly. —Alissa Wilkinson
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is sure to be Marvel’s next big hit
When Marvel first introduced us to the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, no one knew that the superhero machine would have a giant hit on its hands. The characters and source material were more obscure, the story was a departure from the studio’s main universe, and the central team featured a talking tree.
Now Marvel is back with a sequel that’s ready to prove the original wasn’t a fluke. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 crackles with vibrant color, wild energy, and fizzy humor that builds on the spirit of its predecessor. At times the space opera sequel gets a little too big and a little too complicated for its own good. But when Guardians 2 hits its highs, it taps into a certain smile-inducing joy that no other Marvel movie can touch. The movie just opened in theaters, and it’s well worth the ticket price. —Alex Abad-Santos