Jeff Mangum's return: This singer-songwriter behind the beloved indie-folk band Neutral Milk Hotel could've been filed on the other side of this column given the fierce, cultish devotion his 1998 album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" has inspired. But after dropping out of the public eye for years, Mangum's recent tour that included a goose bump-raising stop among the Occupy Wall Street protesters shows he deserves an even bigger following.
Connie Britton in 'American Horror Story': It says something about the magnetic quality of Britton's acting that even when surrounded by the most cringe-inducing material from creator Ryan Murphy she remains unwaveringly watchable. Burdened by empty dialogue and unfortunate story turns that mistake shock value for genuine scares, Britton retains the charisma that made Tami Taylor from "Friday Night Lights" such a terrific character.
The actor-singer boomlet: First Jeff Bridges follows up "Crazy Heart" with a record on Blue Note, and now "House's" Hugh Laurie tries his hand at New Orleans blues on "Let Them Talk." Though these records have flashes of affable charm, this trend needs to be reined in before it spreads into more dangerous waters. Maybe a Roseanne-level national anthem meltdown could bring this trend back to Earth. Who will fall on that sword?
The drip coffee craze: Between a new craft beer scene and a growing awareness of the magic of a good barista, L.A. is starting to appreciate two of the finer yet simpler pleasures in life. But it may be time to call for a coffee break as the cost of a pour-over cup is now surpassing the rising cost of cappuccino, where some skill is required to pull a proper shot. Coffee is already full of hot water, but it might be taking on a little hot air.
— Chris Barton