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ABC recently premiered Marvel’s Agent Carter, a spin-off of the iconic Captain America franchise that focuses on Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a character who helped Captain America on his quest to abolish S.H.I.E.L.D. foe Hydra in World War II – and stole his heart in the process.

Unlike another Marvel small-screen series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you need not have seen the Captain America movies or read the comic books (though I encourage you to do so), in order to understand what happens. Agent Carter is also superior to S.H.I.E.L.D. in its ability to stay exciting, as the focus on one character rather than many lends to a more gripping and engrossing storyline.

The series begins in 1946, where Agent Carter is back from the war and eager to use her impressive skill-set and experience at the Strategic Scientific Research to help her country – only to be stopped short by an office full of dominant alpha males who see her as nothing more than a secretary and Captain America’s ex. But when her good friend, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), needs her help to clear his name of treason, Agent Carter finds herself investigating a great threat with the help of Stark’s butler, Jarvis (James D’Arcy), through adventurous espionage.

Despite only being three episodes in, British actor Hayley Atwell’s charming style and allure guarantees an action-packed series she is more than capable of carrying. The period setting makes the program even more enticing, and the 1940s glamour that Atwell exudes provides a stark contrast with her remarkable skills of butt-kicking and tossing bad guys off of high places. Agent Carter does a considerable job in using the era’s unabashed sexism to its advantage; though Peggy isn’t happy with how she is treated (quite the contrary, actually), she refuses to do nothing and complain. In refute, she outsmarts the boys of the SSR and does their jobs, only better. The men at the office, Chief Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham), Agent Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Agent Ray Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer), may be stereotypical upon first impression, but a more sympathetic Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), who sustained a leg injury from the war, provides a more varied and interesting dynamic in potential character development.

As a Marvel fan, it’s refreshing to see a spin-off where the main character is not only female, but also not a “superhero” in the traditional sense. Considering recent small-screen releases among the ranks of The Flash and Gotham, Peggy Carter is female, does not have super powers, and does not own a cape. She’s just an independent, intelligent, and ambitious woman who isn’t afraid to challenge authority and fight against injustice. Carter shows her co-workers, and audiences, that she’s more than a pretty face; she can kick some serious ass in a floor-length gown and heels when need be. She conveys a rare sense of empowerment to audiences, both male or female – and that’s the superpower that will send Agent Carter soaring through ratings and firmly into a second season.

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Following the sprawling success of their critically acclaimed third album, Veckatimest, the members of Grizzly Bear each went their separate ways. Ed Droste, the intensely likeable lead singer, took some time to rekindle old friendships and venture on a few trips that lent themselves to dazzling Instagram photos (@edroste). Guitarist and vocalist Dan Rossen retreated to the countryside to record a stunning solo EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile. Bassist Chris Taylor released a solo album under the moniker CANT, produced records for Twin Shadow and Blood Orange, and is working on a cookbook. Lastly, drummer Chris Bear went into hibernation — kidding.

 

The time apart seems to have given the band a new perspective, helping make Shields their best record to date. Grizzly Bear recorded the album in a yellow house in Cape Cod that will ring a bell for some, and for the first time Droste and Rossen worked on songs together rather than in solitude. To say that the pair is the music world’s Jordan-Pippen duo is not far-fetched; Droste’s vocals have the guile and finesse of the latter, while Rossen’s singing owns tracks like the former owned the air.

 

Though Shields doesn’t have a standout single, the record is rewarding because of the painstaking attention to sonic detail. “Yet Again” is the perfect example, with a swell of guitars mounts to a crescendo as Droste and Rossen harmonize throughout. Taylor’s twangy bass lends elegiac tracks like “Gun-Shy” a joyfulness despite the morose subject matter.

 

I imagine it must be frustrating for other bands to observe the apparent ease with which Grizzly Bear constructs beautiful ballads that have enough presence to fill cavernous venues. This happened at Massey Hall, where Owen Pallet joined them with his violin in tow for a soul-stirring rendition of “Half Gate”. It’s easy to forget the bashful drummer, Chris Bear, but on lengthy album-closer, “Sun In Your Eyes,” he provides reason to believe the song is a new high for the band. His frenetic drumming lent the track an even more manic quality at their Toronto show last September.

 

At this point in their careers, Shields is a scary indication of just how good the New Yorkers are and will continue to be - as long as album-ending proclamation of “I’m never coming back” ends up not being true.

By: Tomi Milos

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