1 Imagine making HBO's "True Detective" a decade ago. Wouldn't happen. Woody Harrelson was probably climbing the Golden Gate Bridge in some kind of protest. Matthew McConaughey was starring in yet another pitiful rom-com. Fast forward to last Sunday's season premiere. The two actors are doing the best work of their careers as cops on the trail of a diabolical serial killer. Harrelson and McConaughey chew right through the scenery in a show that is as dark and superbly written as anything HBO has dared put on television. 8 p.m. Sundays
2 Makers of one of the mightiest punk albums of the '00s (2007's "New Wave"), Florida's anthemic buzz-saw quartet Against Me! now brings us one of the boldest and most personal rock records of this decade. "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" follows frontwoman Laura Jane Grace's transformation from the former Tom Gabel. Brandishing the same fiery voice, she's uncommonly blunt yet thoughtful in such riotously rocking songs as "Drinking With the Jocks" (about trying to fit in) and "Unconditional Love," which seems to be all the album is really asking for. Easy, in this case.
3 As if we needed another reason to love Amy Poehler, she has a great website, Smart Girls at the Party, that dispenses advice, "smarticles," fun photos and a global worldview that encourages girls to "change the world by being yourself." And just like Amy, it's the opposite of schoolmarmy. It's the antidote to all the silly, superficial girls' websites out there — without being preachy. sgatp.net
5 Chicago journalist Greg Kot reaches out to many sources in his essential new biography "I'll Take You There," the story of Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers. He traces Pops Staples' life back to a Mississippi plantation (Charley Patton lived nearby) and then to Chicago (Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls went to school with the Staples kids) and interviews key people in the Staples' lives and career (Jesse Jackson, Steve Cropper, Jeff Tweedy) and, of course, the various family members. Kot puts these Rock Hall of Famers in a cultural context, examining their roles in the civil rights movement and musical genre blending. And he shares priceless details on how Bob Dylan proposed to Mavis and how Prince came to produce her comeback.
4 British photographer Sarah Jones stakes a claim on contemporary anomie. Or so it appears in the 13 color photos, each at least 5 feet tall and nearly that wide, in a Midwest introduction to her career at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Like Sylvia Plath's poetry to an earlier generation, Jones' archetypal imagery — stallions, blossoms, thorns, blood-toned fabric, emptiness — unleashes a psychological cry into the feminine cosmos.