This week's favorite things include Nerdist and WTF podcasts, "Inside Llewyn Davis," new Youth Lagoon, and Sleeper Agent.
[Updated] The Heart of Saturday Night: For fans of Saturday Night Live, the last few months of The Nerdist and WTF with Marc Maron podcasts have been pirate treasure. Chris Hardwick recently talked on The Nerdist at great length and frankness with Jon Lovitz about his affection for Phil Hartman, and he has had interviewed Will Forte, Taran Killam, Chris Elliot, and Bill Hader in the last six months. Hader reveals that Bill Murray remains royalty on the show, and how he’s the guy other stars get starstruck around.
Marc Maron also interviewed Forte and Hader, but the latter is no longer available for a free listen. You can go back and hear Michael McKean for free, along with Jim Breuer, Seth Meyers, Will Ferrell, and Andy Samberg (who is offputtingly normal and great in the very funny Brooklyn Nine-Nine). Maron’s SNL interviews always have an edge because he tried out and didn’t get hired to do “Weekend Update,” so each conversation feels like an examination of the road not taken. Breuer talks about his possible role in Maron not getting the gig and how difficult his time on the show was. It’s worth paying $8.99 for the premium WTF app to hear Norm McDonald talk about his time on the show and his gambling problem. Almost anyone else’s delivery would make the stories too self-destructive to hear; when his off-kilter deadpan makes them jaw-dropping and funnier than they should be. (Alex Rawls)
Space Powers: It's always exciting when the typical album cycle is broken by one-off tracks or non-album singles. Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon dropped a track Monday for Space Project, an effort by Lefse Records that recruited artists to take sounds recorded in space and use them in songs — a perfect scenario for Powers' hypnotic, off-kilter pop. (link: http://www.lefserecords.com/listen-to-youth-lagoons-track-from-the-space...) "Worms," his slow-burning contribution, is not only notable for its celestial foundation but it’s progression from 2013's underrated and seemingly forgotten Wondrous Bughouse. Powers is already thinking forward not even a year after Bughouse's release, and he's found a lovely medium between his neurotic psychedelic and his knack for pleasant melodies. Getting a little something extra from an act is always welcome, but this reaches for the heavens and exceeds expectation. (Brian Sibille)
Celebrity and Sons: Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac as a talented, socially inept folk singer struggling for success in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. Dave Van Ronk’s songs are featured in the film in homage to the singer’s own struggles to be recognized, and his “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” serves as a motif in the film that charts the main character’s transformation from dependency to autonomy. However, the presence of Marcus Mumford in a duet with Isaac is in conflict with the film’s message. His charisma enhances the track, but his well-known voice nearly drowns out that of Oscar Isaac, and his celebrity is at odds with the film’s suspicion of the mainstream pop music. Justin Timberlake’s cameo as a sellout further highlights this misstep. (Ashley Gaddis)
Agents of Change: A successful first record can be a blessing and a curse for young bands, especially when a group waits three years to release new material. Too often, the sophomore album is overhyped or the band falls into irrelevance. The latter seems to be the case for the Kentucky-based group Sleeper Agent, which was listed as one of the “bands to watch” in 2011 by Rolling Stone. It has since fallen off the radar - mine, anyway. I particularly enjoyed the way Celebrasion, its first album, celebrated youth while playfully feigning rock n’ roll toughness. I thought about them when they came through town recently on a tour with emerging alternative rock bands, and saw that they had recently come out with a new track titled “Waves,” which doesn’t stray too far from Sleeper Agent’s original music, but hints at a transition towards a beach rock sound similar to California bands like Best Coast and Wavves. The new song misses the punk edginess that made Celebrasion so much fun, maybe because the group is older. Singer Alex Kandel was only 18 when she joined Sleeper Agent, and her voice has matured significantly. Maybe the group just wanted to try something new, but there are a lot of bands with bands with a similar style, I hope that Sleeper Agent remembers what brought them to the spotlight in the first place. (Will Halnon)
Updated 9:42 p.m.
Alex Kandel of Sleeper Agent is a woman. The text has been changed to reflect that.