Signal Morning

Though the music on the Circulatory System's Signal Morning was made in analogue, with a fleet of four-track tape recorders and probably a box full of razors, to call it "lo-fi" is misleading.  Each of its thousand sounds is carefully manicured: Squalls of feedback are arranged like precise slashes of color on an abstract canvas; the beauty achieved by parabolic upward leaping guitar lines is both mathematical and sublime; the occasional audible tape splice feels something like the artist's thumbprint.  Even if the machines used to produce this music were old the fidelity to the artist's vision seems of the highest level.   No space on the album's seventeen tracks feels untouched or unexamined, no sound unattended or excessive.   From William Cullen Hart though this is nothing new; the first Circulatory System record and his work in the Olivia Tremor Control is all so focused, all the music he's help to sculpt so delicately balanced and tightly detailed.  A record full of blissful psychedelic flight and delicate pop lyricism yet absent any singles, Signal Morning is the increasingly rare album that demands to be heard whole; even its centerpiece "Round Again" sounds incomplete without the shiver of bells and the one-tone blast of guitar that caps "News from the Heavenly Loom," what Hart's titled the preceding twenty-four seconds of joy.   Songs bleed one into next, instruments and melodies tangling and mixing new colors, calling out new instruments and new melodies; on a whim an abandoned hook is recalled and recast, floated through a new sonic space like something real and straight in a dream that twists everything else; big doodles of bass corral roaring guitars, also predicting the twists and turns in the riffs they carve; the thousand layers and million sounds all strung together through a single pair of ears.  It's been a long eight years since the first Circulatory System record, but the thrill's the same to be in Hart's headspace.  

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.