When I began reflecting on the month of February and what my arts favorite would be, I drew a blank. For me, there was nothing new or exciting that I was looking forward to being released. It wasn’t until the morning of Feb. 26 that I knew what my favorite would be. I woke up that morning to an Instagram message from my younger sister, who sent me a post from The 1975 along with a text that read, “Can you believe it’s been five years since this album was released?”
I was in disbelief, had it really been five years since the release of “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It?” I decided — as one does — to play the album on repeat the entire morning. Listening to the album felt different, but in a good way. I felt that I was transported back in time to being a carefree 17-year-old. This album defined my high school experience — I can’t even begin to describe all the late-night drives spent singing “Love Me” and “Somebody Else” at the top of my lungs.
Half a decade later, this album still holds a special place in my heart, and I love it more now than I did back then. That’s the power of music: it brings you back to these wonderful moments in time and allows you to relive them. I spent that cold February night driving around the city and blasting the album, experiencing the same unexplainable joy as I did back then — and that’s why this album is my favorite for the month.
My favorite release of February has to be British rapper Slowthai’s sophomore studio album “TYRON.” Northampton-native Tyron Kaymone Frampton, more famously known as Slowthai, creates a dichotomy of moods on this project — one of all-out aggression, the other more mellowed out — signified by the track titles shifting from all caps to all lower-case halfway through the record.
Slowthai goes full throttle on this project with one middle finger aimed at cancel culture in “CANCELLED” and another at the fakeness of social media in “VEX.” On the back end of the album, Slowthai gets more introspective on tracks like “i tried” and “push (feat. Deb Never),” which depict the rapper’s dealings with depression, and “feel away (feat. James Blake & Mount Kimbie)” which is dedicated to Slowthai’s late brother Michael John, who passed when he was a child.
“TYRON” is full of emotion, and a record I highly recommend to anyone looking for catharsis during tough times.
On Feb. 6, Phoebe Bridgers made her Saturday Night Live debut with performances of “Kyoto” and “I Know the End” from her Grammy-nominated album “Punisher.” Bridgers’ two-song set was mesmerizing. The pairing of her iconic skeleton outfits with the hypnotic baselines and airy vocals was absolutely captivating.
Even my littlest brother, who asked, “What does that mean?” after every lyric could attest to her beautiful sound. We were floating for the entire nine-minute performance.
During the culminating notes of “I Know the End,” Bridgers lifted her Danelectro Dano ’56 baritone guitar above her shoulders and smashed it against her amp. As the instruments faded, she slammed the instrument against the stage, over and over, eventually giving up. Turns out, it’s a lot harder to destroy a guitar than you think.
The immediate backlash — from being called “pathetic” by David Crosby to dads on Twitter asking “who is this??” — was met with a simple Instagram caption: “got some really great feedback from my performance! next time I’ll just burn it and it will be more expensive.”
I’m looking forward to her next live performance.
Early in the month of February, I watched the documentary, “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” The documentary tells the story of the musical careers of the Gibb brothers, their long-lasting impacts on the music industry and the rise and fall of disco. The Bee Gee’s popularity began long before their classic pop-disco song, “Stayin’ Alive,” hit radio stations. For a significant portion of the ’60s and ’70s, The Bee Gees were dominating airwaves with their soul-inspired pop music that prioritized lyrical harmonies. The documentary features revelatory interviews, historical concert footage and incredible insights into the familial aspects of the Gibb brothers’ careers. The documentary gave me a newfound appreciation for the Bee Gees, and now I can’t stop listening to their music.
I first heard about Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in an anthropology class in 2017, when my professor compared the origin of human language to the appearance of the infamous monolith at the start of the film. I finally watched this highly anticipated movie with a couple of fellow anthropology-minded friends last month. I’m so grateful I did — and I’m grateful I didn’t do it alone, since “2001: A Space Odyssey” was less pleasant and far more disorienting than I expected. Like its characters — both human and non-human — the film is driven to explore its own questions at any cost. I recommend it for anyone on the search for a cinematic experience like none they’ve had before.
Despite the fact that “Bates Motel” concluded in the spring of 2017, I had never taken the time to finish the series all the way through. It took the threat of the show leaving Netflix on Feb. 19 to motivate me into watching all five seasons — and I’m still reeling from the conclusion. The contemporary spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “Psycho” offers as many suspenseful moments and thrills as its predecessor. But “Bates Motel” excels in another thing — its story of a morally grey, teenaged Norman Bates, who obviously struggles with mental health and has complex relationships with his mother Norma and half-brother Dylan. The series is fast-paced and turbulent, providing the viewer with equal doses of horror and melancholy drama that result in a need for answers and, bizarrely, — at least for me — a desire to see Norman figure things out.
I had been anxiously anticipating the home release of Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September 2020. It was finally released on Hulu this month, and I hopped on it almost immediately. I absolutely adore Frances McDormand and believe her to be one of the best active leading women in Hollywood today. Her stunning performance paired with Zhao’s sensational directing provided one of the most beautiful cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long time. This film — written, directed and edited by Zhao — is only her third feature film, and is making her one of the hottest up-and-coming Hollywood directors. I loved it, and if you have two eyes connected to a heart, you’ll love it too. I can’t recommend this movie enough.
To break up the pandemic monotony of this month, my wife and I turned to some spooky, camp classics. It might sound like an odd direction to take in February of all months, but Halloween is our favorite time of year, so it was only natural to turn to it for some much-needed fun.
We decided to watch some classics that we’d never seen before, starting with director Irving Yeaworth’s sci-fi horror film “The Blob.” This movie follows a giant blob of extraterrestrial jelly that shows no mercy, consuming and digesting small-town residents at a glacial pace until its eventual defeat. We also watched “Horror of Dracula” and “The Curse of Frankenstein.” Both were directed by Terence Fisher, featured the same actors — Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee — and were shot on suspiciously similar sets.
These comically macabre movies were the perfect solution to our pandemic blues and are now permanently situated on my list of favorite movies.
My dad is a big fan of “Bob’s Burgers” — the larger-than-life family dynamic, the dry and witty humor and the engaging animation style. It’s a show I’ve seen a lot of over the past year of isolation, but now I’ve discovered a new show that takes all the best aspects and places them in a world I relate to even more. “The Great North” is a new FOX animated series created in the style of “Bob’s Burgers,” and more like “Duncanville” or “Central Park.” The show follows the mountainous Tobin family, residents of Lone Moose, Alaska, on their journeys through the great wilderness. The cast of characters follows the patriarch, Beef (Nick Offerman), and his only daughter Judy (Jenny Slate) through fishing, hunting, moose chasing, bird trapping and sunset sighting in the great expanse of the North. There are six episodes currently released that are available to stream on FOX Now and Hulu.
Like so many during this pandemic, my TikTok habits have changed dramatically. From a once casual and infrequent “pop in” on the app, I am now absolutely, without a doubt, addicted to daily delightful doomscrolling of hilarity, cute pets, education and talent. One of my favorite trends lately has been watching the videos with the “Emo” and “ElderEmo” tags. Despite the pollution of what-is-real-emo discourse and the gatekeeping that peppers the tag, there is some seriously good music mentioned. As a self-identified “ancient emo” — because “elder emo” seems to start after I was well into the genre — I have “put a finger down” for the throwbacks to bands like The Juliana Theory and Saves the Day, and cheered for the deep cuts from My Chemical Romance to Dashboard Confessional and Paramore. I have basked in the nostalgia of lesser mainstream gems from bands like Valencia and The Academy Is…, felt the warm-and-fuzzies for my personal favorites like Taking Back Sunday and The Used — and been super excited about new bands in the genre. I don’t care if I am a “real emo,” “elder” or even “ancient,” this trend is by far one of my favorite on the app — at least until I find Ska TikTok.