1. Hear Belle and Sebastian
They only look like sweetie-pies.
The Etsy mafia will be out in force for this Celebrate Brooklyn! show by the world’s cuddliest band—pop music’s equivalent of a hand-knit tea cozy. It’s a chance to step back and admire the lilt and lushness of their shapely chamber pop songs—and to take stock of their secret weapon, bitchiness: the vengeful nerd’s acidity that seeps from songwriter–front man Stuart Murdoch’s pen. They’re cute, but they’re deadly. —Jody Rosen
Prospect Park Bandshell, July 11.
2. Read Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish
David Rakoff, rhyming.
Even thinking about David Rakoff—a funny, sweet man of loose-limbed creativity, gone much too soon—is enough to bring us to tears. This last book, a novel written entirely in verse, will leave you wet-eyed with laughter.
Doubleday, July 16.
3. Listen to Ciara
Girl deserves a comeback.
Ciara began her career with platinum sales, then hit the skids commercially. That’s a pity, because she’s one of the more interesting R&B divas around: a lover of classic Prince and a committed seeker of the freakiest au courant beats. The new album, her fifth, offers the usual stuff—sonically arresting boudoir music—with an assist from her boyfriend, the rapper Future. —J.R.
Epic Records, July 9.
4. Watch Gasland Part II
Upstate New York, are you recording this?
The sequel to Josh Fox’s persuasive documentary about fracking and its discontents.
HBO, premiering July 8, 9 p.m.
5. & 6. See A Civil Action and Not Fade Away
Gandolfini didn’t just play thugs.
James Gandolfini’s big-screen legacy underscored the secret of his greatness as Tony Soprano. In 1998, he projected extraordinary vulnerability as a blue-collar worker who’d witnessed sickness and death from toxic-waste exposure in A Civil Action. And last year, as the teen protagonist’s father in Not Fade Away, Sopranos creator David Chase’s semiautobiographical portrait of sixties suburban New Jersey, he went in an instant from a brutish, angry man to one who was fragile and infused with regret. Gandolfini wasn’t an external actor. He made everything scarily personal. At his most violent, you could see the gentleness of his spirit, at his most gentle the suppressed violence. —David Edelstein
At Amazon.com and on Netflix.
7. Read I Wear the Black Hat
All about bad guys.
Chuck Klosterman—he of sex, drugs, cocoa puffs, and dinosaurs—has returned to the literary landscape with a similarly American obsession: villains. I Wear the Black Hat is not what you would call a rigorous philosophical examination of the problem of evil, and the villains in question skew more toward Andrew Dice Clay than Adolf Eichmann. But hey, it’s summer, and Klosterman offers up great facts, interesting cultural insights, and thought-provoking moral calculations in this look at our love affair with the anti-hero. —Kathryn Schulz
Scribner, July 9.
8. Hear She & Him and Camera Obscura
Also known as Zooey Deschanel and her partner M. Ward, joined by the Glaswegian indie popsters. Start growing out your beard today!
Central Park SummerStage, July 6 and 8.
9. Hear The Blind
An alarming program note for an opera: Audience members will be blindfolded throughout. The work receiving its world premiere is The Blind, a one-act opera for a cappella vocal ensemble by Lera Auerbach. In the past she’s written music so focused and intense that it is almost literally gripping: Each chord throbs against your wrists. This is about a different kind of confinement: A dozen characters, trapped on a desert island, meander through the audience, hoping in vain to be found. —Justin Davidson
Lincoln Center Festival, July 9.
10. Spend An Evening With Alice Cooper
School is, in fact, out for summer.
Because how many chances do you get to see a 65-year-old heavy-metal shock-rocker who’s also a born-again George Bush fan?
Beacon Theatre, July 18.
11. Watch Sharknado
A tornado. That is full of giant sharks.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Sharknado—wherein a gigantic storm sucks sharks out of the ocean and deposits them on the mainland—with an almost unseemly giddiness. The description makes it sound as if some Syfy executive looked at one of those Photoshop images of fish gliding through flooded streets and thought, “That’s it! All we need is some stock footage and a rubber shark head.” And, of course, Tara Reid. —Matt Zoller Seitz
SyFy, July 11, 9 p.m.
12. See Bill Traylor at the American Folk Art Museum
Out of a monstrous time, extraordinary things.
The former slave Bill Traylor is one of the best American artists. Ever. Wrongly labeled an “outsider,” the man behind this spine-and-retina-tingling show (more than 60 drawings) had one of the greatest graphic sensibilities of the twentieth century. —Jerry Saltz
2 Lincoln Sq., through September 22.