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    Thursday, September 28, 2023

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

    CD TIP


    Devin Townsend

    About 60,000 new songs are uploaded daily to streaming platforms like Spotify. In that spirit, for me to suggest there’s NO ONE out there who sounds like Canadian guitarist/singer/songwriter Devin Townsend is saying a lot. He’s like a musical virus of sorts; he joyously charges into any of a variety of musical styles from metal to pop to ambient to prog, then imparts his DNA to the host form and ... well, suddenly his stamp is on it and it’ll never be the same. Townsend is so adventurous and prolific that it’s almost as though he writes and records new material almost before you can finish listening to the album he finished last week. “Lightwork” is from the more melodically accessible of his recordings in that there are definitive songs. But if in each of those songs are meandering ideas, do not fear: they’re always interesting and pleasing. Typically, it takes a few listens to any Townsend effort for it all to start to sink in. On “Lightwork,” once you’ve started to grasp it all, you’re not gonna want to stop listening. This is amazing, fresh music in a tired world.

    — Rick Koster

    TV TIP

    Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge

    9 p.m. Sundays on Nat Geo

    Streaming of Disney+

    Celebrities, understandably, often have their guard up. They are careful of what they say and often know what they want their talking points to be. The exception is when they’re faced with insane adventures led by Bear Grylls. Grylls puts stars through physical challenges in harsh environments in this series, and it’s a peek into, perhaps, the person’s real self. At one point, Bradley Cooper talks to Grylls about fame, and it sounds like a by-rote recitation. But when Cooper, who is no fan of heights, sees where he’s expected to pull himself on a wire across a ravine or where they’ll sleep (on the side of a cliff) — and when he overcomes various trials — well, that seems like the true Cooper. I missed the first season of this show but am totally onboard for the second. Coming up this season are Benedict Cumberbatch, Daveed Diggs and Russell Brand, among others. Russell Brand on an outdoor adventure? Can’t wait.

    – Kristina Dorsey


    The Puzzle Master

    Danielle Trussoni

    Mike Brink, the lonely and titular puzzle wizard who arrived at his skill after a brain injury gave him acquired savant syndrome, is drawn to help a popular woman novelist imprisoned for a murder she likely didn’t commit. The key to the situation is a 13th-century Jewish prayer circle/ritual called The God Puzzle — said to allow anyone who solves it to peer into the eyes of the Divine. Yes, evil people want to solve the God Puzzle, too, and will go to great lengths to get Brink to help them. In fact, they may be responsible for the writer’s conviction. Me? I think the problem to be solved here is in Trussoni’s delightful brain. This book is great fun, particularly when it takes a turn to the supernatural. Remember all those “Holy hell!” re-animation moments in Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” and Dan Simmons’ “The Book of Kali” and Andrew Michael Hurley’s “Starve Acre”? Fasten your seat belts!

    — Rick Koster

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