Top Picks: 'A Murder of Crows,' Sufjan Stevens' 'The Age of Adz,' Mike Wallace's 'Politics & Presidents,' and more

PBS documentary 'A Murder of Crows,' folk-rock Sufjan Stevens' new CD 'The Age of Adz,' lessons from an award winning journalist in '20th Century With Mike Wallace: Politics & Presidents,' and more recommendations.

Ben Garvin/Staff
A black crow soars above the tree tops at Fenway Gardens in Boston.
William Kentridge in 'Anything is Possible'.
Acorn Media
“20th Century With Mike Wallace: Politics & Presidents” DVD box set from Acorn Media, out Oct. 19.
Asthmatic Kitty Records
“The Age of Adz,” Sufjan Stevens’s latest CD.

Something to crow about

Scientists are now proving what Alfred Hitchcock already knew – that those loud-mouthed, glossy black-feathered friends are the smartest birds in the flock. Tune into PBS on Oct. 24 for "A Murder of Crows," in which researchers demonstrate just how much these smarty-pants fowls know and why the US Department of Defense is funding their investigations.

How to see the strange and wonderful

William Kentridge is a world-renowned South African artist profiled in the PBS special "William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible." A gentle, soulful film that traces his evolution into a mature artist in a complex country, this documentary is narrated by the artist himself and gives a lovely sense of how he aims to open our eyes to the strange and wonderful in the everyday. Airs Oct. 21.

The state of Sufjan Stevens

Choirs, orchestras, jubilant refrains, eerie melodies… add in electronica and you get the sense of "The Age of Adz," Sufjan Stevens's latest CD. Music from the folk-rock musician-conductor was popularized by his 2005 album "Illinois," the second installment in his so-called "50 States Project," after "Michigan." After going five years without updating the project, Stevens has admitted it was a mere publicity stunt. No matter. The 115-minute-long "Age of Adz" is a state worth enjoying in itself.

Peru's black rhythms

To get great recordings, find a great musician, put up a microphone, and press "record." This is the motto of the team behind Secret Stash Records. Their latest project took them to Peru, where they found music everywhere and brought it back. "Peña: Finding the Black Rhythms of Peru," is the CD and DVD set, full of evocative, infectious Afro-Peruvian music – a set that World Music magazine has dubbed "the best world music album of the year."

the sounds of melting ice

In advance of a rare North American tour this month and next, Ryuichi Sakamoto – an award-winning Japanese composer, producer, actor, and ecoactivist – has released a double CD set. The first CD, "playing the piano," features lovely Debussyesque solo piano versions of some of Sakamoto's best-known compositions, including soundtrack pieces from "The Last Emperor" and "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence." The second, "out of noise," showcases ambient electronica, featuring sounds of melting arctic ice, and guests such as Austrian laptop/guitarist Christian Fennesz and British early music group Fretwork. A compelling glimpse of a contemporary master at work.

History lessons from a pro

Over the decades, Mike Wallace won 21 Emmys, 3 Peabodys, and 3 duPont-Columbia University Awards as a journalist and fixture of the venerable CBS newsmagazine show "60 Minutes," interviewing world leaders, renowned artists, felons, and desperadoes. Now, the best of those segments is available on the "20th Century With Mike Wallace: Politics & Presidents" DVD box set from Acorn Media, out Oct. 19.

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