Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend

Black and white image of two men at a piano

A rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.

Twenty years ago, Sir Paul McCartney remarked in an interview that ‘sometimes I think we were the only guys that never saw the Beatles’. And what a strange phenomenon that is: to be one of only four people (two of them now dead) who truly experienced the innermost story of the greatest band ever to have played; and yet – at the same time – to be one of only four people who never got to enjoy the magic of the Fab Four from the outside.

Which, at heart, is what makes McCartney 3,2,1 (Disney+) so remarkable. Filmed in black and white over two days last August, at a soundstage in the Hamptons, the six-part miniseries consists of three hours of free-flowing discussion between McCartney and Rick Rubin about three dozen or so songs, the memories they evoke, and how they came to be composed and recorded.

McCartney is obviously the star, but it is Rubin who turns the key that unlocks the gate, discreetly dismantling tracks at the studio desk and asking the right questions about their constituent parts, prompting all manner of recollections to tumble out of McCartney.

As the founder of Def Jam records, the producer of the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, and Lady Gaga, and a music industry legend in his own right, Rubin has the presence and authority to chat with Macca as a peer if not an equal. 

This, in turn, enables McCartney to relax and simply to get into the music. He declares himself ‘a Beatles fan now’, and you can see in his features and demeanour that finally, more than half a century on, he can actually enjoy the music with the same pleasure and awe as the rest of us. 

What makes McCartney 3,2,1 so special is that – however briefly – it presses the pause button on the engine of myth, and presents two musical legends discussing records like a pair of regular fans. It has an intimacy and authenticity that is vanishingly rare in the world of pop music appreciation; and is, as a result, unmissable.

Here are this week’s recommendations:

Portrait of man


Candyman (general release, 27 August)
With Jordan Peele on board as one of its producers and co-author of the screenplay, Nia DaCosta’s direct sequel to Bernard Rose’s 1992 horror classic (itself based on a Clive Barker short story) was always going to be worth watching – and it does not disappoint. The original film’s exploration of slavery and Jim Crow is now deftly updated to match the social conscience of the Black Lives Matter era and the contemporary issue of white gentrification, with terrific performances from (among others) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris. Peele’s influence is evident in the movie’s successful combination of popcorn entertainment and sharp commentary on structural racial injustice. 


English Magic by Uschi Gatward 
Gatward has referred to her work as ‘protest fiction’, but this debut collection of short stories is far from didactic in tone. Rather, her themes – pollution, extradition, whistleblowing – are the backdrop to subtle interactions and character portrayals that, combined with her beautiful prose, render a world of rich imagination and subtlety. Also: hats off to Gallery Beggar Press, a small independent publishing house that hit the headlines in 2019 when one of its titles, Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Its commissioning is consistently imaginative and audacious, and deserves to be rewarded by commercial and critical success.

Book cover
Portrait of man


Tracing Bach by Yaara Tal
The Israeli-born pianist is best known as half of the acclaimed duo Tal & Groethuysen, but here strikes out on her own with an ingenious concept: pairing a Bach prelude with a fugue by another composer, including Chopin, Schumann, Anton Arensky, Charles-Valentin Alkan, and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The album concludes with a new work by the German composer, Reinhard Febel, ‘Tempus Fugit’, rounding off a collection of performances that, for all their eclecticism, have a compelling coherence – rooted in Tal’s exquisite interpretations and performing rigour.

City Of God by Blanco
Seven years after the hip-hop collective Harlem Spartans began making music in Kennington, south London, one of its most talented members delivers a mixtape that shifts between old-school drill and a growing fascination with Brazilian Baile Funk music (a form of funk born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro). There are sharp collaborations with Central Cee, Ama Lou and NSG, and a lyrical range and wit that suggest the 22-year-old Blanco will go from strength to strength (the track ‘Dennis Rodman’ is especially funny). 

That’s all for now. Enjoy the weekend and take care of yourselves.

Best wishes,

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media

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