Pulse: 60-Second Critic: June 2007

The Pearl Theater at Avenue North
1600 North Broad Street;
By Jihan Thompson
The Pearl is the first new movie house North Philly has seen in more than 50 years. But if you’re expecting any of the luster the name implies, you’re in for a soggy box of popcorn. There’s some good stuff here: seven screens in not-overcrowded spaces, and a seating plan (all the seats are located within the width of the screens) ensuring that even if you come in late, you’re not going to be wedged into some crane-the-neck space. (Now if only they could mute the chatty audiences.) Outside the screening rooms, the layout is open and empty, with nary a couch to sit on, leaving you to stand against a wall to eat your Milk Duds as you wait to enter your movie. And speaking of the concession stand, service there is egregiously slow, so you might want to hide some chips and soda in your bag. Or better yet, head to another theater. C+

Sound About Philly Podcast
By J.T.
I was skeptical when I heard about this latest offer to show me the city as I’ve never seen it before blah blah blah. I’m happy to report, I’m a skeptic no more. Sound About Philly ditches the monotone talking head and uses real Philadelphians to reveal the city in various themed, easy-to-follow walking tours, all downloadable onto your iPod. My fave: the Flavorhoods Tour, which guides you through 10 ethnic enclaves to offer a savory taste of Philly. (You’ll learn more than you ever imagined about the Italian Market from “Joe Bubbles.”) Philly Noir offers a look at the city’s rich African-American culture; Vintage Philly is an insider’s guide to retro shopping. And if you must succumb to a Betsy Ross jones, the Colonial circuit is represented, too. You can also mix up segments to create your own personal itinerary. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? Take a walk. A+

Urban Angel
Natalie Walker
(Dorado Records; $12.99)
By Richard Rys
With the re-release of her underappreciated 2006 debut, there’s hope that a legion of new fans will discover this Fishtown transplant, who delivers a stirring, sexy record that’s filler-free and rewarding from start to finish. Guitars take a backseat to the keyboards and ambient loops that swirl around Urban Angel’s centerpiece — Walker’s sweetly powerful voice — as she floats above playful grooves. With a palette ranging from come-hither (“No One Else”) to haunting (“Circles”), this is a soundtrack for rainy mornings, blue-sky afternoons and late nights, all at once. Two worthy bonuses on the iTunes edition: a sunny Thievery Corporation remix of “Quicksand,” her ode to breakup survival, and “Crush,” which is guaranteed to inspire rampant makeout sessions as Walker breathlessly insists, “You can take me anywhere.” A

The University and Urban Revival
By Judith Rodin
(University of Pennsylvania Press; $34.95)
By Sandy Hingston
If you’ve ever mused, “Gee, university president would be a pretty cool gig,” Rodin’s urban-studies memoir will disabuse you of the notion. The Ivy League’s first female prez reflects on her decade at the helm of Penn (1994-2004) and efforts to revitalize its West Philly environs. General readers will snooze at the endless accounts of procedure (“By late 1996, we had a plan, a policy for leadership and administration, an evaluation mechanism … ” ), while planning types will want more juice on how Rodin dealt with neighbors suspicious of the university’s history of heavy-handed “Penn-trification.” This is tough going for all but the most devout wonks. “It was exciting to ask ourselves, ‘How can we deploy our purchasing more strategically?’” Rodin writes. Need we say more? D+