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MY FAMILY CAPPED off Christmas this year with Soul, Pixar's latest computer-animated gem. In it, Joe Gardner, a struggling jazz pianist and middle school band teacher, falls into a manhole and into the afterlife just as he's approaching his big break. For most of the movie, he fights to return to the living to realize his dream of becoming a successful musician. He makes it back just in time for his debut with a famed jazz ensemble, performs brilliantly, and yet, when the set ends and he steps out of the club, he is visibly disappointed. "I thought I'd feel different," he admits.

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Mall Tales

Swimwear Department makes a splash with raucous concerts and quirky tunes about retro teen spirit. Live Photo by Todd Spoth,

Swimwear Department live

Step into the crowd of a Swimwear Department concert, and you’re transported into a 1950s fever dream. Dressed in a bright, flowery romper at a June show at Darwin’s Pub, lead singer Matt Graham swerves through the audience, imploring show-goers to participate. His energy is manic and exuberant as he leads calls-and-response about swimming pools, and initiates a spirited limbo contest. The crowd chants “summer” as the contest winner cuts a ribbon with oversized scissors to mark the start of the season.

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Art+Culture

Band Together

For the members of dream-pop trio Astragal, friendship comes first.

Jhane Hoang
JH1_3978

Spend an hour with friendly dream-pop band Astragal — named after a 1960s French novel about an escaped prisoner — and it would be impossible to guess its three members were strangers less than three years ago. Singer Jimmy Bent, 22, and drummer Sam Enkelmann, 23, met at a house-music party in 2016, where their only exchange was complimenting each other’s shirts (Bent wore a disco-era button-down; Enkelmann donned an Animal Collective T-shirt). When they bumped into each other weeks later, they made a spontaneous plan to jam at Enkelmann’s parents’ house, and used Craigslist to recruit bassist David Sosa, 21. Astragal was born.

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