Unsolicited Endorsements: IX

Because sometimes you just want friends to tell you about cool things… the Brew House team offers up its weekly mix of author-supported goodness.

Writer and Story: Chris Ballard, SI, “The Kiss”

 These days, with the oversaturation of sharing devices and linking and instant connectivity, it can be hard to keep pace with the non-stop reading recommendations. To be sure, I’d prefer an onslaught of reading material to none… it’s just… I only got so much time, brother.

And how many times do you stumble upon a link on some pocket of the internet and hear: “Best thing you’ll read all day” or “Must-read” or “Great read” or “So well-written” or some other generically boring review*. 

 *Quick tangent: One of my ultimate pet peeves is when a fan base of a certain team ultimately deems a certain article “The greatest thing ever written” because it paints their team in a positive light. When in reality – and I don’t mean to sound snobbish – the piece was just “meh” … and even the reporter would probably concur.

This is an awkward setup for this: I have a story that IS actually worth your time. Last week, Sports Illustrated published its year-in-review issue, and Chris Ballard wrote a layered and dynamic story about Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver, the violent riot that followed and the circumstances that led to the sports photo of the year: The Kiss.

I’ve long thought that Ballard was (and is) one of the best long-form writers around — his talents perhaps get obfuscated by the long shadows of Gary Smith and S.L. Price, but they shouldn’t. (He also wrote one of my favorite pieces from 2010: “The Courage of Jill Costello” — the story of a young coxswain on Cal’s crew team and her brave battle with cancer.)

Ballard’s latest story is loaded with detail, and while it examines the cultural factors that lead to sports riots, it doesn’t dwell or moralize. It just lets the story unfold, from the beginning to end, the subtleties of a night of hockey in Vancouver turning into a badass feat of writing. — Rustin Dodd

***

Album: Rihanna – “Talk That Talk”

Lost in all the talk of Beyonce’s “4” being the ultimate pop album is the simple fact that Rihanna did it better with her latest effort, “Talk That Talk.” It’s no secret that Rihanna built her career on solid hooks contributed to others’ hits (think “Run This Town” and “Love The Way You Lie”), but this album stands as an impressive solo feat. “Talk That Talk” is great for the same reason Robyn’s “Body Talk”* is one of the best albums of the past decade-plus: It combines a number of influences from all over the map to create a cohesive-yet-interesting whole that is as adventurous as it is radio-friendly.

The album has its slow spots (“Farewell,” “We All Want Love”) and its unbearably cheesy lyrical moments (“Birthday Cake”), but top to bottom, “Talk That Talk” is competing with Drake’s latest for the title of mainstream pop album of the year, even if Pitchfork doesn’t say so. Think Madonna’s early work, given a 21st-century update: Add propulsive beats to all the sex and synths and you’ve got “Talk That Talk.”

*Make no mistake: “Body Talk” is far superior to “Talk That Talk.” In fact, if you’ve got any iTunes credits left over from the holidays, use them immediately to buy Robyn’s classic before picking up the Rihanna album. — Asher Fusco

***

Why Not?: Personal TV-watching marathon

Hardcore TV-watching has never been my thing. I hear from my friends/read blogs about people who watch the entire series of Mad Men or The Wire or Lost in one weekend. I’ve never quite understood the fervor for such watching. I’ve never thought I could watch so many hours of one TV show in such a short period of time. I’m not saying I’m above it or too productive for it, just that I can’t do the same thing over and over again without getting sick of it.

That could change this weekend. I started watching Showtime’s “Homeland” on Wednesday night, then watched another two episodes on Thursday. I have about nine to go, and I want to watch all of them by Sunday. Hardcore-TV watching, here I come! — Mark Dent

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