In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

‘I Want More’ by Kaleo

Icelandic rockers Kaleo put down roots in Austin back in early 2015, after a string of breakout SXSW performances helped them ride the double-platinum single “Way Down We Go” to international success and a Grammy nomination. The years after the release of 2016’s A/B were quieter for the band, thoughthey haven’t released new music or hit the road in more than two years. They performed in their adopted hometown with a show at ACL Live in December, though, and released a pair of singles last week that tease an as-yet-unannounced follow-up album. One of these, “I Want More,” doesn’t reinvent Kaleo’s wheel—it’s firmly in line with the band’s debut U.S. single (“All the Pretty Girls”) as a yearning, openhearted ballad. But there’s something to be said for doing what you’re good at, and “I Want More” is a nice way for one of the more promising Texas rock acts in recent years to reassert itself. If you’re looking for a tender-yet-tough anthem, “I Want More” goes down nice and easy.

—Dan Solomon, associate editor

‘Focus On: Ragnar Kjartansson’ exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art

During a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art this month, I toured the “Focus On: Ragnar Kjartansson” exhibit. On view until March 22, the show features two parts: One is a display of 415 postcards written to one recipient every day for 14 months, a work titled Postcards to Marguerite. The second part, The Visitors, exists in a dark room containing nine large screens, each separately showing the porch and different rooms of a house in Hudson Valley, New York. In unison, eight musicians sing and strum a song with lyrics based on a poem by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttirand for over an hour, the emotion and sound from their voices gradually rise. I would say the exhibit left me speechless, but in reality I couldn’t stop telling people about it for days.

—Lawson Freeman, editorial intern

Just Mercy

Just Mercy paints a picture of resilience that feels both familiar and urgent. Based on civil rights activist and lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s 2014 memoir of the same title, the film depicts Stevenson’s efforts to free Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian, a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1988. McMillian (played by Terrell native Jamie Foxx) does not have a unique story—his is a tale of an underprivileged black man asserting his innocence against a legal system that has historically rendered him, and others like him, voiceless. As the movie unfolds, it becomes clear that Stevenson is attempting to put racism itself on trial, resulting in a bleak reminder that the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow in the Deep South—particularly in a state where, like Texas, the death penalty is legal—are still very much present. 

—Kennedy Williams, editorial intern

‘Visitor’ by Bryan Washington

A recent issue of New Yorker included a piece of short fiction by the acclaimed Houston writer Bryan Washington that, much like his 2019 novel Lot, shines a spotlight on the Bayou City. In “Visitor,” a young man gets an unexpected knock on his door a month after his father’s funeral, from someone who claims to be his father’s former lover from Jamaica. He and the guest spend a few days together, processing their grief and learning about each other through the relationships they had with the young man’s late father. In his work, Washington uses Houston as more than just a backdrop for his stories. The two characters visit the late father’s favorite places—like the Menil, a Buc-ee’s, the Rothko Chapel, Chinatown, a fish fry on Scott Street—in a piece that displays how expansive this city, and the people there, can be.

—Arielle Avila, editorial coordinator