1 A lot has happened to Texas songstress Patty Griffin since her last album in 2010, including a tour and subsequent romantic relationship with Robert Plant. But her powerful new record, “American Kid,” is not about her but rather her late father and his own storybook life fighting in the Great War and raising seven kids. It’s moving stuff, lent an earthy Americana grit by collaborators Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars. The Golden God is on it, too, humbly singing backup for a change.
2 When it comes to being mightily and merrily annoyed, David Sedaris wrote the book. In his eighth collection of humorous essays, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” he is often ticked off, but he’s always willing to complicate matters by seeing the other side, or acknowledging how annoying he himself may be to others. Sedaris deftly limns the hilarious absurdity of living in England (where he moved a few years ago), keeping a diary and arguing, among other topics. Laugh-aloud moments arrive on nearly every page.
3 It’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” as you’ve never seen it before. Just Blanche, Stanley, Stella and Mitch illuminated by a bare lightbulb and Tennessee Williams’ sad, beautiful words. Ten Thousand Things Theatre’s intimate aesthetic, spare technical accoutrement and Peter Vitale’s bluesy saxophone make this a “Streetcar” to be experienced. www.tenthousandthings.org
4 “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” is outrageously opinionated — as it should be. Written by former record-label exec-turned-tattoo shop manager Howie Abrams and former magazine editor Sacha Jenkins, this paperback covers the good, the bad and the “terrifically ugly” (their words) about metal music (not hard rock). Lists range from the obvious (20 of the greatest metal voices) to obscure (15 metal album covers featuring goats) to the odd (five craziest things I learned by opening Slayer’s fan mail). Crank it up to 11!
5 “Kon-Tiki,” the handsome dramatization of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 raft voyage from Peru to Polynesia, has the feel of a boy’s adventure. Nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film, it was shot simultaneously in Norwegian and English versions (we get the latter). Most historians and anthropologists remain skeptical of the theory of east-to-west migration across the Pacific. In the film’s terms, though, the adventure is achievement enough.