Welcome to the latest edition of BuzzFeed News' culture newsletter, Cleanse the Timeline! You can subscribe here.
Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you are not dreaming of labor, but instead telling jokes to your friends, making delicious food, switching out your summer wardrobe for cozier gear, drinking sparkling beverages, or lying flat on the floor (that’s what I’ll be doing).
If you’re craving cultural fare for the holiday, I’ve been watching The Resort (a little more on that below), which is a perfectly nice way to pass the time, and Tomi Obaro has a great book recommendation, as always. And this week we’ve been rolling out It’s Brutal Out Here, our fantastic series of dating stories — just in time to prepare for cuffing season.
Take good care,
Estelle Tang, deputy culture editor
PS: Let me know if you got any good Labor Day deals. :)
Welcome to I Like the Sound of That, where a staffer goes deep on a song they’re currently obsessed with.
“Song to Keep You Company” by Bridget St. John
Scrolling through TV offerings this week, I landed on Peacock’s The Resort, thinking that its whole “The White Lotus but the people aren’t rich” vibe would probably result in a pleasant few hours. A dark comic mystery set at a Mexican resort, the show seems designed to appeal to any geriatric millennial who identified as “the weird one” in high school: Mr. Robot creator/writer/director Sam Esmail is an executive producer, High Maintenance’s Ben Sinclair directed the first four episodes, and it stars William Jackson Harper, Cristin Milioti, Nick Offerman.
I’m not obsessed with it yet, but it’s fun; Harper and Milioti play a couple dealing with a mid-30s malaise I can relate to, and the actors all seem to be having a good time. But what I like most is the music. With two timelines — one in the present day, the other in 2008 — the soundtrack resurfaced some great songs I had forgotten about, like David Byrne’s jaunty yet melancholic “Strange Overtones” and Margo Guryan’s breathy 1960s pop ditty “Someone I Know.”
But the choice I’m really grateful for came during one of Milioti’s scenes. Her character Emma is spending the vacation googling things like “how to know if you should leave your relationship” and looking moodily out a bus window. Few songs are more apt than Bridget St. John’s “Song to Keep You Company” if you’re trying to convey wistful despondency. Released in 1969, it just features St. John’s wonderfully textured voice and finger-picked guitar. The lyrics are like a morose precursor to Nico’s more circumspect “These Days”: “I feel around and find you are / No longer where you used to be.”
Two live recordings of the song are readily available on streaming services; both sound intimate yet definitive enough to sound like studio versions. Listening to these prompted a deep dive into St. John’s back catalog, which is full of bewitching stuff. (St. John is now 75; a compendium of three albums from the ’70s and ’80s was released this month.) A very nice rediscovery for anyone looking forward to fall. —Estelle Tang
Welcome to Read This, where we recommend something old or new to add to your ever-growing book pile.
If I Survive You: Stories by Jonathan Escoffery
As talk of another recession continues to build, this debut collection of interconnected short stories, out on Sept. 6, is eerily timely, charting the effects of downward mobility on a Jamaican immigrant family living in Miami. Told mostly from the point of view of the youngest son, Trelawny, we witness the steady degradation encroaching poverty brings upon Trelawny, his father, and his older — in Trelawny’s eyes, more favored — brother Delano. The depictions of poverty’s humiliations are all kinds of bleak; from living in cars to stealing trucks to racist sexual encounters in exchange for money. And yet Escoffery also has a withering sense of humor that leavens some of the stories’ relentlessness. His observations about being racially ambiguous and the confusion of being a light-skinned Jamaican, with all the attendant colorism that results, feel particularly astute.
I laughed and I cringed when reading this memorable debut by an author set to have a huge literary career. —Tomi Obaro
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