ALBUM | A couple of weeks back, I went to one of those monster-sized music fests with dozens of acts ranging from the young (The Weeknd, Alabama Shakes) to the old (Foo Fighters, The Strokes) and including every conceivable genre. No one was better than Rhiannon Giddens, the former Carolina Chocolate Drops singer and multi-instrumentalist who threw down a soul and gospel-filled rager in a small tent, heavy on songs from her TOMORROW IS MY TURN album. She's an opera-trained singer, and her voice cut through the place in a genuinely thrilling performance. Consider that album a must-have, and watch for her new Factory Girl EP, arriving Nov. 27.
TV | When I heard that ESPN was recreating its midnight SPORTSCENTER WITH SCOTT VAN PELT as its permanent host, I was skeptical. Not because of the man in charge — Van Pelt has long been one of the best things about ESPN, displaying a wicked sense of humor. I was more concerned that confining him to late night would cause him to get lost in the ether. I shouldn't have worried, judging by the verbal body-slam he delivered to the Kardashian clan and their attendant entertainment media for referring to a comatose Lamar Odom as a reality TV character rather than a former NBA star. Van Pelt's commentary went viral, proving that even his opinions uttered in the dead of night will find their way into the world.
FILM | Netflix's evolution from DVD rental service to streaming powerhouse to creator of original content takes another step with its first original feature film, and it's no small one. BEASTS OF NO NATION is a harrowing story of a young African boy, Agu (Abraham Attah), who sees his family slaughtered, then falls under the influence of a warlord (Idris Elba) training child soldiers to fight in the unnamed country's civil war. That training includes disturbing scenes of forced drug use, sexual abuse and cold-blooded murder. Elba is brilliant working alongside an army of untrained child actors, none better than Attah, who personifies his character's declaration that war made him an old man before his time. ♦