Going back to school after a long chunk of downtime can feel bitter-sweet. We’ve compiled an, admittedly biased, list of great music, books, and TV shows to immerse ourselves in as we all cope with the stress of a new quarter.
House of Cards | Drama, Suspense | 39 eps. on Netflix
House of Cards is about a man, Frank Underwood, who wants to be president and will use any method to get his way. Underwood is cold and ruthless, yet I still love to watch him work his magic; seeing how he tries to gain power and then keep it is suspense at its finest. This show is very entertaining, especially for those into politics. However, if you do not enjoy politics, or anything involving governmental work then you will not like this show. There are a lot of heavy political scenes in this series such as voting, setting up budgets for programs, debating, etc. All the characters are interesting and multidimensional. There is drama, but their are also moments where the show poignantly discusses social issues such as gay rights. If you want to watch a long series that you feel will not waste your time, watch this series. You will not be disappointed. —Derek Downey, A&E Columnist
Once Upon a Time | Fantasy | 89 eps. on Netflix
Once Upon a Time is a fantasy series, with most of its characters taken from classic fairy tales and the Disney archives. Thanks to a dark curse, the characters are pulled from their magical homes to the not-so-magical “real world” of Storybrooke, Maine. It’s up to Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, to embrace her role as Savior and save the town, time and time again. However, things in Once Upon a Time aren’t always black and white, as the villains all have complicated, often sympathetic histories. The evil queen, Regina, and Rumpelstiltskin stand out especially as complex villains, who throughout the series continue to struggle with their storybook roles. As villains, they can’t expect a fairytale ending, and so they have to decide how they can find, or take, their own happy endings. —Jessica Astin, A&E Columnist
Psycho-Pass | Crime Drama | 22 eps. on Netflix
Psycho-Pass is a futuristic dystopian crime drama about police brutality, the prison system, and the value of social order. Its setting is a hyper-urbanized Japan whose borders are closed to the rest of the ambiguously-degraded world. However, the defining characteristic of the show’s world is its very namesake. A “psycho pass” is a sort of mental I.D. used to evaluate a person’s mental state and likelihood to commit crimes. Psycho pass scans are as common as traffic light cameras, and the Ministry of Welfare’s Public Safety Bureau (the police) immediately arrests those who reach a certain level of stress, even before they have committed a crime.
Psycho-Pass explores this subject from the perspective of Akane Tsunemori; a new detective at the bureau. Though she starts in Mary Sue territory, she serves as an expository vehicle to introduce viewers to the world. Crucially, Akane’s character is relevant to the themes present and really shines as the series goes on.
Composer Yugo Kanno’s orchestral soundtrack is great, incorporating an eclectic range of classical, J-rock, and electronic sounds into a cohesive mix. Most importantly, the piano and keyboard-heavy tunes match the mood of the scenes they accompany, furthering their climactic moments.
Also important to note; Psycho-Pass is very violent. Some of the futuristic crimes depicted are particularly intense and disturbing to watch. Nonetheless it’s well-worth watching for anyone seeking a serious, dramatic story. —Sean Ferrell-Wyman, Layout Manager
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood | Action | 52 of 64 eps. on Netflix
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime adaptation of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist. It follows the journey of our two main characters, Edward and Alphonse Elric, as they learn how to fix their bodies after a terrible tragedy happened to them due to their desire to bring back a family member. I’ve watched this series multiple times and I still want to watch more of it. This was such a great series for me due to its themes. FMA Brotherhood can be light-hearted, such as with its comedic relief towards the main characters and side characters. But then the show becomes dark again, exploring themes of war, genocide, and human sin. Each character in this show holds some importance with the overall plot and is very interesting and complex. The way this series ends will give the viewer a sense of satisfaction and sadness—sadness due to the fact the this series is over. It’s a shame that only the first 52 (of 64) episodes are available on Netflix, but I still strongly recommend it. —Derek Downey, A&E Columnist
Sleepy Hollow | Horror, Drama | 32 eps. on Hulu
Sleepy Hollow is ridiculous in the best way possible: it meshes historical drama with demons and witches, a kick-butt female protagonist, a hot British guy, and a story that toes the line between legitimately creepy and incredibly silly.
The show reimagines Washington Irving’s classic characters, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, and brings them to present day New York. There, Crane finds himself in a struggle to stop the Horseman from summoning a legion of demons to, you know, bring about the End of Days.
Crane teams up with Abbie Mills, a local police lieutenant who’s haunted by a demonic encounter of her own. When the two aren’t battling monsters or solving mysteries befitting the Da Vinci Code, Crane’s ignorance of the modern world provides the partners with many hilarious and tender moments. (Author’s note: 10/10, would ship.)
Admittedly, Sleepy Hollow will turn off people who dislike the “monster of the week” television formula and plotlines that verge on the absurd. But for those of us who don’t mind a few historical inaccuracies in the interest of lovable characters—a British hunk with great one liners and a strong, multidimensional heroine—this show is binge-worthy. —Danielle Burch, Managing Editor
Abraxas by Santana | Blues Rock / Chicano Rock | $13 on Amazon
In 1970, the famed Latin rock band Santana experimented with genres from different cultures to make a groundbreaking classic rock album. This primarily instrumental album incorporates psychedelic rock, blues, jazz-rock, and salsa. It focuses on Latin rhythm, incorporating the electric guitar, organ, rock and Latin drums. The album also incorporates Latin percussion like the congas, bongos, and timbales. The album highlights Carlos Santana’s stylistic versatility with the electric guitar. Although it emphasizes instruments, there are a couple of songs that contain lyrics, including their famous hits Black Magic Woman and Oye Como Va. The heavy guitar solos and rhythm section is great for having to write a paper in a short amount of time. It’s shimmery and organic sound makes beautiful background music instead of being overly distracting. —Christine Maggi, A&E Editor
Bitches Brew by Miles Davis | Jazz Fusion | $14 on Amazon
In 1970, Miles Davis released a controversial album that challenged people’s ideas about “jazz music.” Some listeners considered the album a pioneer of a new genre— “jazz fusion” or “avant garde jazz”—while others blasted it as garbled “noise.” In it, Davis utilizes a rock-influenced improvisational style. His rhythm section consist of a bassist, double bassist, three drummers, three electric piano players, and percussionist all playing at the same time. The rhythm section plays a central role in the album, while the solos consist of sporadic trumpet, saxophone, and bass clarinet.
This album will keep you company through a couple of hours of studying because each song ranges from 5 to 20 minutes. The slow harmonies are perfect for background music when studying, while the aggressive trumpet and saxophone solos will get your adrenaline flowing if you need to conduct research. —Christine Maggi, A&E Editor
Choose your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote | Neo Soul | $10 on Amazon
This Australian group has been getting critical praise for creating a vibrant new sound called “neo-soul.” The album consists of a variety of genres such as jazz, soul, R&B, West African funk, Samba, and Latin rock. Lyrically, it explores themes regarding death, technology, and the supernatural. The album uses electronics, kick snares, electronic organ, bass guitar, vocal melodies and acoustic guitars that help create brain-liquefying synth grooves and sporadic time signature shifts. Listening to this album from beginning to end will not only give you the chance to embrace a new, complex genre, it will keep you from going insane while doing homework in silence. This album would be especially great to listen to while working on a rough draft of some assignment that requires you to think up new ideas. The obscure lyrics, rough vibrato sounds that contrast with the vocalist’s soulful vocals, and frequent changes in melody, rhythm, and tempo will help you get the creative ideas flowing. —Christine Maggi, A&E Editor
Crush by Richard Siken | Poetry | $14 in paperback
Interested in experiencing the full depth and despair that we associate with “love”? Check out the 2004 gem Crush, which epitomizes every interpretation of the word from the sort of crush that one school-boy might have for another school-boy to the proverbial heartbreak. Richard Siken’s poetry “performs” on the page, but it is quite striking when read aloud. I’d recommend this as a brief (emotional) read, but also perhaps as an opportunity to expand your lexicon. When interacting with Siken’s diverse use of language, the first word you’ll Google is “Scheherazade,” the queen consort and storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights. You will most likely search a few words, and scratch your head at Siken’s sometimes cryptic nature, but Crush is definitely a great Autumn read for any poetry lover. —Zak Pelland, Opinion Columnist
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon | Historical Fiction / Romance | $8 in paperback
Outlander is the first in an eight-book series written by Diana Gabaldon about a young, British combat nurse named Claire Randall. World War II has just ended and Claire is reunited with her husband. After being separated by the war for seven years, the not-so-newlywed couple decides to take a second honeymoon to Scotland, where they learn the history of the Scottish Highlands at the same time they try to rediscover each other.
One day, Claire visits to a mysterious circle of hedgestones to find a plant that caught her eye. She hears a thunderous noise emanating from the center stone; when she touches it, she’s magically transported 200 years into the past. Claire is now forced to come to terms that she, a British woman, is unwelcome among the Scottish Highlanders. She is a Sassenach, an “outlander,” who must use her advanced medical knowledge to win allies, find a way back to her own century, and grapple with the romantic feelings she develops for a steamy Highland warrior, Jamie Fraser.
Outlander was made into a television series last year, developed by Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica acclaim. Episodes are available on OnDemand, but only with a STARZ subscription. —Alexis Fynboe, Page Designer
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis & Larry Sloman | Autobiography | $10 in paperback
Scar Tissue is an autobiography about the lead singer and lyricist of famous rock group The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Anthony Kiedis. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have contributed to popularizing the genre of hard-core funk music since they formed in the 1980s. In this biography, Kiedis discusses his life from when he was a child to now being recognized as a major influence to a generation of musicians. Readers will get the chance to learn about Kiedis’s creative, loving, and selfish mind. Kiedis humanizes himself when he talks about his rebellious childhood, on-and-off cocaine addiction, manipulative relationships, and the women who were his muse during tough times. His experiences traveling to other countries, as well as meeting other musicians, plus the conflicts and glorious moments with his band mates, explains the meanings behind the songs he has written throughout his career. Readers get to learn interesting facts about the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, like how the band was formed, how they came up with their band name, and the influences that helped them create a new sound in rock music. —Christine Maggi, A&E Editor