A Brilliant Return for a Talking Heads Album

The New Yorker

Byrne and the other Talking Heads--the guitarist and keyboardist Jerry Harrison, the bassist Tina Weymouth, the drummer Chris Frantz--had spent several weeks jamming in recording studios, swapping instruments and bringing in other musicians, such as the guitarist Adrian Belew, who had played with David Bowie and Frank Zappa. The questions nearly broke up the band--and when Weymouth and Frantz's side project, Tom Tom Club, caught on with black listeners (more than "Remain in Light" did), it was seen by some people as sweet revenge. Thirty-seven years after Hendryx sang "Houses in Motion" in Central Park with Talking Heads, she sang it with Kidjo, and the sight and sound of these two women passing the lyrics back and forth gave fresh meaning to the notion of call and response--suggesting that this notion, better than the language of identity or influence, expresses the way musicians respond to the call of songs from other ages and other cultures, making their responses into calls to other musicians going forward. It was a one-world moment, and yet just as often Kidjo's band re-rooted Talking Heads songs in American vernacular music.

Yelling at Amazon's Alexa

The New Yorker

The first time I met Alexa, the A.I. robot voice inside the wine-bottle-size speaker known as the Amazon Echo, I was at my friends' house, in rural New England. "Currently, it is seventy-five degrees," she told us, and assured us that it would not rain. This was a year ago, and I'd never encountered a talking speaker before. She's in cahoots with a sensor in their driveway.) When I razzed my friend for his love of gadgetry, he showed me some of Alexa's other tricks: telling us the weather, keeping a shopping list, ordering products from Amazon.

This Week in Fiction: Lara Vapnyar on Living According to Leonard Cohen Lyrics

The New Yorker

Your piece in this week's issue, "Waiting for the Miracle," tells the story of a young Russian man who arrives in the U.S. for the first time and spends a night looking for the miracle of a true New York City adventure. His expectations are actually met. Do you think that's a common experience for a Russian émigré in New York? But only to those Russian émigrés who live according to Leonard Cohen's lyrics as if they were the Bible. Leonard Cohen songs form a kind of soundtrack to the piece (and give it its title).