Top Picks: The Shacks' 'Haze,' the podcast 'Brains On!,' and more

The film 'Phantom Thread' is available on DVD and Blu-ray, the PBS program 'The Jazz Ambassadors' chronicles how the American government sent jazz musicians around the world as cultural ambassadors, and more top picks.

Return to the ’60s

Sounding like some great, lost Nehru jacket- and bead-bedecked garage band from the late 1960s, The Shacks are actually four New York musicians barely into their 20s. Haze is their preternaturally assured, self-produced album, fronted by the wispy-voiced Shannon Wise. On the standout track “Follow Me,” her beguiling vocals, backed by cheesy, reverb-drenched guitars, beckon us into her super-groovy, lava-lamp-lit world.

Engage the mind

The American Public Media science podcast Brains On! can keep both you and the kids entertained in the car. The podcast explores topics from the science behind batteries to how underwater creatures survive to how dinosaurs became so big. It is available at


Farewell to Day-Lewis

The film Phantom Thread, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray, is reportedly the last for legendary actor Daniel Day-Lewis. In it, he plays couturier Reynolds Woodcock, who embarks on a relationship with waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) that becomes complicated. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer writes that actress Lesley Manville as Reynolds’s sister, Cyril, and Krieps are both “marvelous.” Regarding Day-Lewis’s decision to leave acting, Rainer laments, “Might perhaps our greatest living actor want to reconsider? As Reynolds, he is so galvanizing that the slightest flicker of his hand, of his brow, opens up for us a wide thoroughfare into this man’s stricken soul.” 

Barbie and society

A Barbie doll is recognized across the world. What does her creation and her appearance (and how it has changed over the years) say about our society? The Hulu documentary series Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie chronicles the creation of the doll and looks at the history of feminist issues. The series debuts April 27. 

Courtesy of Louis Armstrong House Museum

Jazz around the world

During the cold war, the American government hit on an idea: Send jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, around the world as cultural ambassadors. But the musicians struggled with touting the values of America when segregation was still occurring. The PBS program The Jazz Ambassadors is narrated by Leslie Odom Jr. of “Hamilton” and airs May 4 at 10 p.m. 

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