Across ten- to twelve-hour days, Amanda Shires wrote her new album holed up in a clothes closet and emerged with some of the most disparate and expansive-sounding songs of her career. Meanwhile, on the heels of back-to-back New York Times best sellers, author and cultural commentator Shea Serrano opted to release his latest work in PDF format, forgoing both a traditional publisher and physical copies. Both Texans are attempting to both challenge and super-serve unusually committed audiences.
NPR describes Shires’s just-released album, To the Sunset, as “bracing” and “invigorating,” and for people who only know the Texas native from her early days as Billy Joe Shaver’s fiddle player or as a part of her husband Jason Isbell’s touring band, it might also be a little jarring: there are more than a few moments when her fiddle, run through effects pedals, is louder and fuzzier than anything we’ve heard from her yet. In our conversation, she details her sonic restlessness, her childhood in Mineral Wells, and the constant pursuit of something like work-life balance with her husband/bandmate.
Earlier this week, Texas Monthly described Serrano as “America’s foremost chronicler of pop minutiae,” and after books on basketball and hip-hop, the Ringer.com staff writer’s new project focuses on the cult television hit The Office. Conference Room, Five Minutes is a ten-essay collection—with illustrations from Arturo Torres, the Dallas-based artist who collaborated with Serrano on The Rap Year Book and Basketball (and Other Things)—that Serrano is selling mostly via Twitter, asking fans to send $20 via the Venmo app for a PDF copy of what he’s a little hesitant to call a book. On the second half of this week’s podcast, the former teacher, who recently moved back home to San Antonio after a long stint in Houston, talks about The Office, San Antonio Spurs basketball, and what he’s learned about the power of social media.