Top Picks: Paolo Nutini's new album 'Caustic Love,' the PBS Arts Fall Festival, and more

The crew of the documentary 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle' gets close to penguins by disguising their cameras, Leonard Cohen's new album 'Popular Problems,' is simple and unadorned, and more top picks.

Courtesy of Paolo Nutini
Courtesy of Leonard Cohen

Leo the lion

Leonard Cohen, in his eighth decade, is still writing, still touring, still unraveling life’s mysteries. On Popular Problems, a collection of nine new songs, his voice is reduced to a gruff whisper, but that just makes you want to hang on every word. The music is simple, unadorned, and gently funky, with sweet-voiced backup singers delivering the melodies that Cohen can’t quite manage. Short on new classics, perhaps, but classic Cohen.

Smart phone photography

Most smart phones snap fantastic photos, but few can take really close-up shots. Easy Macro Cell Lens Band can help. It’s essentially a rubber band with a high-quality magnifying lens built in. Slide the band over your phone’s camera lens to zoom in four times closer than normal for crisp point-blank shots. It’s available for $15 at – a fun online photography store with loads of other smart phone gadgets.

Cue the ‘Penguin cam’

How does one film penguins without making them aware of an alien presence? Director John Downer and his team camouflaged cameras to look like rocks, eggs, and even other penguins in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and Peru. The series Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, narrated by David Tennant, formerly of “Doctor Who,” wraps up on PBS’s “Nature” Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. with the babies leaving the nest.

Arts cornucopia

The PBS Arts Fall Festival has begun. It kicked off with the musical theater classic “Sweeney Todd,” and will continue with more theatrical and musical performances through November, including a performance by singer Michael Feinstein at New York City’s Rainbow Room and a concert of Broadway classics performed by Kristin Chenoweth. Tune in Fridays at 9 p.m. for a cornucopia of the arts. 

Hot Scot

The third time is the charm for Scottish soul singer Paolo Nutini. His new album, Caustic Love, showcases a maturing artist who’s finally living up to his boundless potential after two uneven tries. An heir to the Amy Winehouse school of modern British soul, Nutini’s songs range from straight up James Brown funk to Marvin Gaye sexy. When his lyric-writing finally catches up with his other outsize talents – watch out!

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