Sun, Cat Power
Critics praising Cat Power’s first release in six years say it’s her most adventurous and joyful record yet. Poppy songs like the new single "Ruin" no doubt sound brighter than notoriously mournful Cat Power classics like "Where Is My Love." Still, if fans detect her signature melancholia just beneath the surface, there’s a reason — this is a breakup record. (Her four-year relationship with the actor Giovanni Ribisi ended this past spring; by summer, he’d married model Agyness Deyn.) Cat — aka Chan Marshall — once said that all creativity comes from a place where we don't have love. With Sun, she remains convinced that happiness and artistry don’t coincide.
NFL Season Opener: New York Giants v. Dallas Cowboys
NBC September 5, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Fans may love or loathe Eli Manning’s defending Super Bowl champion Giants and/or their rival Cowboys, but it’s of little consequence on opening night. More than 10 million of us are likely to tune in to the annual rite of passage simply to celebrate the arrival of the new NFL season. The first game's kickoff is like the instant after falling in love. Everything is blissful — until it’s not. No pass has been dropped. No route has been botched. At this moment, any team — your team! — can win it all. This season, with a surfeit of wild cards — Andrew Luck! RG3! Peyton’s iffy neck! Tebow’s spastic arm! — reality surely, cruelly will implode most fans’ expectations. Yet on this night we all have hope.
“I’m such a gray mouse,” says Nadya, a 13-year-old blonde from an impoverished village in Siberia. The self-described ordinary country girl says she dreams of ”something different in my life.” Enter Ashley Arbaugh. The ex-model traverses the Russian countryside scouting young girls to feed the Japanese fashion market’s insatiable appetite for boyish figures and innocent, anime eyes. Their stories are intertwined in this unflinching doc about the international modeling circuit. While Nadya’s solo journey to Tokyo, predictably, turns nightmarish, it’s jaded Ashley who truly illuminates just how ugly the fashion business can be.
NW, Zadie Smith
The Olympics hangover has barely subsided, and already Zadie Smith is calling us back to London again. Set in a public housing unit in the northwest quadrant of London where she grew up, NW confronts the complications of urban life. “How does it work," one British reviewer wrote, "this trick of living in almost complete isolation from human beings who eat, talk and sleep only a few feet away? NW is a novel about escape, but one so rooted in Smith's sense of place, not to mention her highly tuned awareness of the infinitely subtle gradations of social class, that there are moments when you wonder if her tunnellers will ever come up for air again.”
WORTH THE TRIP
National Symphony Orchestra Labor Day Capitol Concert
September 2, 8 p.m.
With a limping economy, warty politicians and an epidemic of gunmen running amok, national pride can be tough to muster — until the Sunday before Labor Day, when the West Lawn gates open and the National Symphony Orchestra takes the stage for this annual free performance, presented by the Kennedy Center. With the glowing Capitol as a backdrop and the mesmerizing music reverberating off the Hill, the words of JFK himself may, if only for an hour and a half, ring true: “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in L.A.