Bluegrass music – with its emphasis on poverty, cheating, drinking, and the occasional murder – is not always child-friendly. Astrograss, a Brooklyn-based bluegrass band, turns all of that on its head with The Colored Pencil Factory on Smoggy Borough Records. Playing old-timey favorites like "Sail Away Ladies," "Shortenin' Bread," and "Cluck Old Hen," Astrograss plays familiar, hummable tunes, along with new ones written by guitarist Jordan Shapiro and co-writer Joe Grossman. Don't worry, bluegrass snobs, it's a skilled musicianship that would make Bill Monroe smile.
Celebrity physicist Brian Cox has illuminated the Wonders of the Universe in books, TV specials, and now an iPad and iPhone application. This comprehensive and comprehensible new app ties in text, video, and a swirling, interactive map of the cosmos. The software makes great use of Apple's touch controls, allowing you to swipe your way from the big bang to the end of the universe and pinch your way from whole galaxies down to tiny quarks.
America's favorite coffee-shop patrons arrive on Blu-ray as Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray. The set contains 236 episodes, complete with a 32-page episode guide. New extras for superfans include a gag reel previously only seen by the cast, documentaries that explore the "Friends" phenomenon, cast interviews, and an uncut version of the show's catchy original song "Smelly Cat." The episodes and extras span 10 seasons, so get a cup of hot chocolate and settle in.
Led Zeppelin's Last Stand
When Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off concert in 2007, more than 20 million people applied for tickets. Celebration Day, a live DVD and CD of that astonishing show, more than compensates those fans who were unable to attend. In a hit-laden set that spans the blitzkrieg funk of "Trampled Underfoot;" the wintry disquiet of "No Quarter;" and the sandstorm swirl of guitar, keyboards, and drums of "Kashmir," Led Zeppelin unleashes a kinetic power that would put the Large Hadron Collider to shame.
Can't get enough of Javier Bardem, the despicable Bond adversary, Silva, in "Skyfall"? Now you can enjoy a triple feature with Javier Bardem: 3-Film Collection, which packages his Oscar-winning villain in No Country for Old Men (2007), his Oscar-nominated role in Biutiful (2010), and his lesser-known film Mondays in the Sun (2002) into one action-packed DVD set.
Biographer Jon Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize for his treatment of Andrew Jackson. In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Meacham takes on America's third president, calling him "the most successful political figure" of his time. He might have gone further, tagging him as the most important political figure in US history. Meacham's well-executed biography focuses on overriding issues and events as well as telling trivia, capturing Jefferson not just as a statesman but as a man.