1 By the 1950s, the Soviet Union had the world’s highest percentage of women in its workforce. What that meant in reality is deftly sketched in “Women in Soviet Art,” a fascinating exhibit at the Museum of Russian Art of 60 post-World War II paintings by more than 50 artists. The pieces depict women energetically shoveling a golden mountain of grain, working in a dark factory, flanked by racks of fish carcasses, driving a trolley, plastering walls. Women’s lives in the Soviet era were challenging. www.tmora.org.
2 The exhilarating Sly & the Family Stone retrospective “Higher” is a perfect argument for the survival of the boxed set. With 77 songs, detailed in a richly illustrated 104-page booklet/oral history, it traces the genesis of one of pop’s most dazzling savants, Sylvester Stewart, from his days as a Bay Area DJ trying to break into the Top 40, to his formulation of a race- and gender-blending band that brewed R&B, pop, jazz, rock, even nursery rhymes into a funkadelic soul stew. Rarities include live cuts from the band’s prime at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. September isn’t too late for some “Hot Fun.”
3 No matter the time of day, there’s always a good meal to be had at Groundswell in St. Paul. The revamped Hamline-Midway coffee shop is now a full-on café serving a healthy, innovative bistro-style menu. Start with a cup of Dogwood coffee and a stunning bacon waffle sandwich for breakfast. For lunch, get the tempeh Reuben topped with sriracha Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. At dinner, the flatbreads are a must, but don’t be afraid to order the nightly special. After a recent visit, a melt-in-your mouth pork shoulder had us dreaming about slow-roasted piggies for days. Wash it all down with a local tap beer. www.groundswellmn.com
4Trent Reznor doesn’t exactly come back raging on “Hesitation Marks,” Nine Inch Nails’ first new album in five years and maybe its least riotous. Even when he is rocking hard, Reznor seems to be having fun delving deeper into electronic music-making and mixing it up with texture-providing new collaborators, including guitarists Adrian Belew and Lindsey Buckingham. Make no mistake: It has the usual Reznor bleakness, down to the suicide-referencing title. But the dude sounds as alive as ever.
5 As you wait for the new J.D. Salinger biography or for the documentary film, opening Friday, it’s worthwhile to go back to “At Home in the World,” the memoir by Joyce Maynard, who lived with Salinger for a year when she was 19 (and he was 54). The 1998 book has been reissued in an attractive paperback, with a new preface. It’s all in here — the flattering letters he sent to woo her, her eating disorders, his weird diet, her inability to have sex, their increasingly depressing life together in New Hampshire. It’s hard to read Maynard’s much-criticized memoir and not feel compassion for a messed-up kid desperate for approval and seeking it from the last person on Earth who would give it.