What to watch, read, and listen to this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy
Lazer Team, directed by Matt Hullum (January 27)
The first feature from Austin production company Rooster Teeth, best known for its wildly popular web series Red vs. Blue, is a shambling and reasonably funny goof on alien-invasion movies. Set in “Milford, Texas,” Lazer Team offers, among other spot-on caricatures, a high-ranking Pentagon official who says things like “We’ve got a planet to save. And more importantly, a nation.”
All the Way (The Alley, January 29–February 21)
Two years after its Broadway debut, Robert Schenkkan’s retelling of Lyndon Johnson’s fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 arrives in Houston, minus Bryan Cranston. All the Way won a Tony for best play; now the Alley (and, next month, the Dallas Theater Center) gives LBJ’s fellow Texans the chance to weigh in on whether all those New Yorkers knew what they were talking about.
South of Nowhere, Minerva Koenig (Minotaur, February 2)
In the second mystery featuring Julia Kalas, a woman with a criminal past who has been relocated to small-town Central Texas by the federal witness-protection program, Austin architect turned author Koenig moves most of the action to the border region, where her gruff but likable antiheroine gets caught up in the drug war—and revisits some ghosts from her old life.
Moonlight Is Sunlight, P. T. Banks (self-released, February 5)
Five years after his last, somewhat rootsy album, Austin’s Paul Banks returns with a record that suggests he spent the intervening half-decade woodshedding: his tenor has grown stronger, almost unearthly, and at moments it takes on a life of its own, leading his melodies and baroque arrangements far from his folk leanings and into a realm he wouldn’t have dreamed of back in 2011.
Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place, Shelley Armitage (University of Oklahoma, February 15)
Some years back, this UT–El Paso professor emerita returned to her native Panhandle and walked thirty miles from her family’s farm to the Canadian River, taking note of what she saw along the way. The result—think William Least Heat-Moon on the Llano Estacado—is an erudite rumination on family and geological history.
Southern Comfort, Matthew Hartnett (self-released, February 19)
On the cover of his debut album, this Louisiana-born, Houston-raised jazz-funk trombonist plays up his Bayou State heritage. But the Bayou City, too, leaves its mark, on songs like “Thursday Night,” which was inspired by Houston’s semi-official church rehearsal night, and “Da Crib,” which brings “chopped and screwed”-style hip-hop into the jazz fold.