What to read, watch, and listen to this month to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy.
Queen of the South (USA, premieres June 23)
In this English-language telenovela, a working-class Mexican woman running from narco violence ends up in Dallas and rises to the top of a drug cartel. In short, the stuff of Donald Trump’s nightmares, if only the show were as deranged as that plot sounds. But a clunky voice-over, obligatory violence, and an inert lead performance from Alice Braga make for a bad trip indeed. ¡Triste!
A Little Death, My Jerusalem (Washington Square, June 24)
A Phil Spector drumbeat; a guest vocal by Elle King; a smoldering, eighties-style saxophone solo; an overt nod to the cult band Morphine’s classic song “Candy” on a track called “Candy Lions”—My Jerusalem takes a few left turns on its third album, but there’s no mistaking the overall trajectory. With every record, this Austin band just gets gloomier, tighter, and more convincing.
Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross (June 24)
Matthew McConaughey hasn’t appeared on-screen (let’s ignore those car ads) in nearly two years—a notable absence after a string of career-transforming performances. Fortunately, his return is no relapse to fluffy rom-coms: Free State is based on the true story of a Southerner who apparently convinced the denizens of a Mississippi county to secede from the Confederacy.
Gloves Intl (GTZ, June 24)
On its second album, this Austin quartet strips down the maximal funk of its 2015 debut to create the sort of skeletal R&B that might have emerged from London circa 1979. At times it seems as if nothing is happening—rhythm guitarist Ajit D’Brass never plays a chord when a note will do, and drummer Salem Abukhalil sticks to a tinny rat-a-tat—but each song manages to sink a hook into your ears and hips.
Some Enchanted Evenings, David Kaufman (St. Martin’s Press, July 12)
The career of stage and screen star Mary Martin didn’t take off until she left her native Weatherford for Los Angeles, so it makes sense that this biography pretty much dispenses with North Texas after the first chapter. What follows is the globe-hopping life of a woman who seemed to give everything to her audience but hid her deepest feelings from everyone.
Rounded Up in Glory, Michael R. Grauer (University of North Texas Press, July 15)
Frank Reaugh, the long-out-of-favor “Dean of Texas Artists,” seems to be experiencing a revival. Last summer Austin’s Harry Ransom Center put together an exhibition of his work, and now we have the first full-scale Reaugh biography, which tracks his outsized influence on countless painters and the sad, cruel fall of his later years.