Our favorite things this week include CoverSpy, Ronnie Lane, and the next season of "American Horror Story."
We Know What You're Reading: You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it's fun to do so. Over at CoverSpy, book-loving "agents" briefly report what they see people are reading in public, what they looked like, and where they were spotted, updating in real time on Twitter and Tumblr. CoverSpy is great if you're looking for a new book. It can serve as a broad, informal look at what others are reading and love enough to leave the house with. The project is also great for people-watching.
The reports are quick sketches, the details and exact colors of which are missing but seem to fill in themselves. Take, for example, the 70-year old man reading a library copy of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: an American Saga at a McDonalds. Or the eight-year old girl with a copy of Nancy Drew: The Clue of the Gold Doubloons and a cupcake bookmark on the 6 train. The reports are heartwarming, chuckle-inducing, and relatable. Bestsellers come up often (it's nice to see everyone from those in their 20s to 60s picking up Donna Hart's The Goldfinch) as do classics, sci-fi novels, and books that their embarrassed readers were certainly trying to keep hidden. Reading the brief descriptions almost feels like being at the airport, casually sneaking glances at the strangers around you. A split-second glance will tell you a lot, and the impression of a person you're left with lasts much longer. (Stephanie Chen)
Slim, Almost None: Whose grave did Ronnie Lane piss on to be as poorly represented as he is in now that the Internet has erradicated scarcity? His story was sad in real time as replacement singer Rod Stewart became a break-out star in his band The Faces and obscured Lane’s more soulful contributions to such a degree that he left and formed the aptly named Slim Chance. In retrospect, it’s unlikely that country/folk/rock band touring the British countryside with acoustic instruments and a circus tent would ever be financially viable, but such was the unprecedented way that money flowed through rock ’n’ roll in the early ‘70s that Lane had no reason to think it would ever go away.
But it did, followed by his health as he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He died at age 51 in 1997, and his music seemed to go with him. Rough Mix, the excellent album he made with Peter Townshend’s out of print, and the recent Ooh La La: An Island Harvest only partly represents Slim Chance.
The set takes some patient listening to really hear. At first, it’s a little soft, a little ragged, and the songs don’t fall apart and together with the woozy precision as those cut by The Faces do. Few lyrics are as exactly right as “Ooh La La” or “Debris,” so it feels strangely indulgent even as it's unassuming. Rock star as country squire, grinning, high, with a pint and oblivious that the barn’s burning down and the sheep have left the field. But additional listens reveal how in love he was with the life he’d chosen, and his vocals are those of a man at home. The songs are simple because that’s all they need to be, and they say what needs to be said. With any luck, more of Lane’s music will find its way back into the world, but until it does, Ooh La La: An Island Harvest and his songs with The Faces will have to suffice. (Alex Rawls)
Freak of the Week: Living in New Orleans, sometimes you can’t help but trip over movie sets and celebrities. Everyone has their story, be it locking eyes with Kristen Wiig or high-fiving Nicholas Cage from a food truck. I recently stumbled across the set one of the most prominent TV shows to be filming in New Orleans lately. American Horror Story, about to enter its fourth season, has been filming in the city for over a year now. Season 3, “Coven,” was actually set in New Orleans, featuring local legends and familiar scenery. Despite the most recent season’s success—it was nominated for nine Emmys—it lacked the scare factor that categorized the first two seasons, which stream on Netflix. Though still delightfully creepy, it sometimes felt like it relied more on a gross-out factor instead. Regardless, the upcoming season, “Freak Show,” premieres in the fall and promises to deliver the same creepy punches as the first several seasons. (Lauren Keenan)