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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

    CD TIP

    There is So Much Here

    Glen Phillips

    We all know the conundrum faced by songwriters: There are only so many notes, chords, patterns and so on ... And yet the really great ones find ways to zag when you think they’ll zig — or zug or zag or zog — and it always makes me happy when it happens. Glen Phillips is one of these artists. If his name doesn’t immediately grab you, think of his off/on band Toad the Wet Sprockett and pop jewelry like “Fall Down” and “Walk On the Ocean.” Phillips also has a very rich solo career, and “There is So Much Here,” his latest, is a scarily fine collection of tunes. Not a weak song on the entire album. He zogs like crazy — or zigs and even zygs (since “y” can occasionally be called into service as a vowel). See him tonight at The Kate in Old Saybrook. Let’s hope he gives the new album plenty of attention.

    — Rick Koster


    The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder

    David Grann

    Author David Grann makes history read like a superbly written novel. Or maybe like a fast-moving, fully involving prestige-TV series. But the story in “The Wager” is, in fact, real. No wonder this tome has become a best-seller since being released last April. This isn’t Grann’s first nonfiction book, of course; the journalist also penned the acclaimed “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “The Lost City of Z.” The adventure starts with the British ship the Wager setting off in 1740 from England during a war with Spain, chasing a Spanish galleon that was supposed to be stuffed with treasures. It ended up shipwrecked on a desolate island off the Chilean coast. The stranded sailors struggled to survive — and ended up turning on each other. The writing makes the era feel viscerally real. Grann brings the raw difficulties of sailing then, particularly around the wildly perilous Cape Horn, starkly to life. This might be one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read. Oh, and local connection alert: Grann graduated in 1989 from Connecticut College.

    – Kristina Dorsey


    Black Sheep

    Rachel Harrison

    Hey! Maybe Hell has it right! In this latest supernatural novel from Harrison (“Cackle,” “Such Sharp Teeth!”), 24-year-old Vesper, a waitress in a chain grill and bar, has a bad attitude only partially because she hauled ass from her family and their oppressive religious community. But now she has an invitation to return home for the wedding of her best friend, and the hubbie is Vesper’s old boyfriend — both of whom she had to abandon in her flee for freedom. There’s a fun surprise fairly early on and another that is pretty easy to anticipate. Either way, Harrison has great fun playing with stereotypes. Vesper can be annoying, but I’m presumably not the target audience for her angst and rebellion. There are also some genuinely clever and freaky moments — watch those banquets! — and this is mostly a clever, fresh ride through the literature of darkness.

    — Rick Koster

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