ALBUM | While the noisy guitar rock, insistent hooks and hyperliterate lyrics slathered across Alejandro Escovedo's new album will be familiar to any fans of his recent work, BURN SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL is a departure on many fronts. The most obvious is that the Texas legend packed up from Austin to record in Portland with some Northwest luminaries; Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker lends some backing vocals, the Decemberists' John Moen plays drums and Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks) and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) all join Escovedo on an unfailingly excellent set that's strong from its punky start on "Horizon" to the distorted orchestral ballad, "Thought I'd Let You Know," that finishes it off.
TV | If you just watched the TBS series PEOPLE OF EARTH to see writer/comedian Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) deliver one of the funniest deadpan acting jobs in recent memory, it would be worthwhile. But the show has a lot more to offer thanks to a killer cast (including Ana Gasteyer, Veep's Brian Huskey and H. Jon Benjamin from Archer and Bob's Burgers) and charming concept. Cenac plays a journalist who joins a small-town support group of alien abductees to write about their experiences, only to realize he has more in common with them than he thought. Non-spoiler-alert: The aliens in this show are definitely real, and prove hilariously human in their pettiness, incompetence and quick tempers.
BOOK | Author Whitney Terrell swung through Spokane this fall as part of the Gonzaga Center for Public Humanities Series, and his descriptions of his on-the-ground war reporting in Iraq were enthralling to hear in person. They're equally vivid in his latest novel, THE GOOD LIEUTENANT, set in the war-torn country and touching on myriad issues at play during warfare. Terrell kicks off the book with an explosive event from which the narrative unspools, in reverse time, in a way that takes the reader on a journey that is a joy to read while dealing with questions that are unsettling to ponder. ♦