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When shopping nirvana shrivels away like the mega mall growing incrementally smaller behind you at the end of a long day, and buyer's remorse begins gnawing at your nerves, and you begin to fret the futility of it all, Rob Horning's blog, "Marginal Utility", steps in to stimulate your woefully neglected neocortex. Read, laugh, weep, but above all: realize. You'll feel smarter again in no time.

Friday, October 25 2013

The Trouble with Fandom and ‘The Elizabethans’

A.N Wilson's The Elizabethans is a very readable history, despite the author's inability to get out of his own way.


Wednesday, July 9 2014

Vengeance Is the Motive for Almost Everyone in Season 2 of ‘The Bridge’

While vengeance is surely a reliable dramatic device, its use here is also potentially more far-reaching.


Invisible No More: “Fantastic Four 100th Anniversary”

The setting is not one hundred years after Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny were first exposed to cosmic rays but rather one hundred years after Jack and Stan kicked off the Marvel revolution with the introduction of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”


Paul Gravett Is in the Mood for Love in ‘Comics Art’

Comics Art demonstrates Gravett's deep passion for the world of panels, speech balloons, fine lines and grand colors, subtle shading and transformative images.


Dirty Diapers Don’t Scare Me Nearly as Much as the Wiggles Do

Parenthood comes with a lot of change, and a lot of decisions to be made, including this one: What’s your musical strategy?


Old Crow Medicine Show Will Save Country Music from Itself

The veritable Top 40 Country outsiders, Old Crow Medicine Show, are the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. But does that really matter?


‘Quadrophenia: Live In London’ Proves That the Four Sides of the Who Are Still Alive and Well

For any a fan of The Who’s “Maximum R&B” music, this is as close to being there as you can possibly get without a time machine and a hefty ticket charge.


Boris: Noise

This is probably Boris’ most accessible record to date and the overall feeling is that it has, once again, managed to mould its inspiration while remaining quintessentially "Boris".


James: La Petite Mort

Tim Booth lost his mother and a friend. His band's aesthetic betrays his grief. But it all somehow comes out alright.


Paul Weller: More Modern Classics

No collection could do justice to some of the diverse paths which Paul Weller has pursued over the last decade.


Ruthann Friedman: Chinatown

If this was the last day on Earth, Friedman would still go out and greet friends and celebrate the moment rather than cry in despair.


Nikki Lane: All Or Nothin’

Tough and yet tender, sexy and yet seductive, All of Nothin’ appeals to all of your good senses, and it is a wonderful testament of an artist who is very quickly coming into her own.


Tuesday, July 8 2014

Halle Berry Lands on TV for ‘Extant’

Flashbacks appear first as if in her mind (via circular mirrors and quaint iris transitions) and then as if on digital recording (on a tablet), neither obviously accurate.


On Equal Footing: “Sex Criminals #6”

Sex Criminals fits into a category all its own. Is it a book about sex? It is certainly dirty, but it doesn’t exploit its characters.


Nobody Should Feel Embarrassed to Read YA Fiction

Young Adult literature is not just for kids, and it fills an important niche left vacant by much of contemporary "adult" fiction.


Still Stranger, Ten Years Later: An Interview with Tim Bowness

PopMatters catches up with singer and wordsmith Tim Bowness to talk about the creative process behind Together We're Stranger, its lyrical influences, and how it fits into the band's diverse career.


The Groundbreaking Wonderfulness of ‘I Spy’

I Spy is filled with revolutionary diversity, exotic filming locations, and a textbook example of on screen chemistry.


Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear

What happens when one of the most successful and prolific songwriters of the past few years decides to return to the career that debilitated her emotionally and physically?


Selina O’Grady’s ‘And Man Created God’ Edifies and Entertains

And Man Created God is an impressively detailed and panoramic survey of how power and piety interacted with one another in the increasingly globalized classical world.


Tombs: Savage Gold

Savage Gold proves extreme metal to be a race to the bottom that no one wins.


A Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sea When Absent

This wholly unique dream-pop band returns with an album that takes their ambient, dreamy sound to new and interesting places.


White Sea: In Cold Blood

Before this night is through, White Sea wants to do real bad things with you.


The Everymen: Givin’ Up on Free Jazz

While it sometimes sticks too close to home, most of Givin' Up on Free Jazz is an open and welcome invitation to join the band there and get lost in the feeling of good rock 'n roll.


Monday, July 7 2014

‘My Way to Olympia’: A Filmmaker’s Education

As it follows Paralympians en route to London 2102, this documentary makes clear the arbitrary dividing line between what's "normal" and what's not.


Beck + GOASTT: 1 July 2014 - Summerstage, New York (Photos)

Beck really knocked it out of the park with his show at Summerstage.


A Beautiful Institutional Breakdown: “Uncanny X-men #22”

Disorganization and ineptitude somehow come together in a wonderfully meaningful story.


With ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ the MCU Decisively Breaks with Comics

Marvel owns characters and its profits come from comics sales, film tickets, lunch boxes, etc. As such, character identification fluctuates easily between media.


Why Don’t Videogames Have Their Own Criterion Collection?

Though the video game industry bases itself on forward progression, the rich history of the medium is being underserved by the lack of preservation for older, essential games.


A Tree Grows in Stoningham: ‘All That Heaven Allows’

There’s no scenery chewing in All That Heaven Allows, just very eloquent décor.


Judas Priest: Redeemer of Souls

This is Judas Priest as they haven't been heard in nearly 25 years. Not since Painkiller has the band had this much power, energy, or hooks.


The Proper Ornaments: Wooden Head

Hardly original, but always something of quality, Wooden Head is a record you’ll be glad to hear, and, by the end, leaves you wanting more.


‘Famous Baby’ Shows What Happens When It’s Time for Mommy Bloggers to Grow Up

Famous Baby is fun and funny and a bit flawed, just like its two main characters.


Chrissie Hynde: Stockholm

The Pretenders vocalist delivers first solo album with a little help from her friends. Results may vary.


Mariah Carey: Me. I Am Mariah: The Elusive Chanteuse

Elusive would imply that she's hiding from us. The irony is that this album serves Mariah Carey in droves.


Handsome and Gretyl: Miles and Miles

Music of the earth, emotion and community, Handsome and Gretyl talk love, hope, optimism, and life.


Wednesday, July 2 2014

American Eats: Locavore Bonnaroo as Pop Community

Bonnaroo's four-course, farm-to-table "Bonnaroots" dinner showed the locavore food culture's vibrancy crossing into pop culture.


Demons From Iraq Come to the Bronx in ‘Deliver Us From Evil’

War is bad, demons are bad, walking on human skulls is bad. And then what?


Bottlerock Festival Battles For Long-term Viability

The middle day of the festival on Saturday featured a strong draw for the rock ‘n' roll crowd.


Shocking the Casbah: The Maghrebi-Noir of Rachid Taha

A furious mix of hip-hop beats, Arabic primal screams and punk-rock guitars, Taha brilliantly battles against the ideologies of both Western and Arab traditions.


The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview: July 2014

We take another trip to a certain simian world, we have another experience with an annual government authorized night of lawlessness, and we get our second sighting of a mythic Greek muscleman.


Howard Hawks and John Wayne Defined a Genre with ‘Red River’

It’s nearly impossible to not get roped in by the easy banter of the dialogue, the epic drama, and the luminous images of this quintessential Western.


The Bats: Volume 1

The Bats are a crucial part of the Flying Nun story, as well as the story of New Zealand music.


‘Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China’ Is both Trivial and Expansive

There is nothing hidden about the world of these stories, and Yu Hua’s writing is defined by its plainspoken voice and depiction of quotidian lives.


Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers

Willie Nelson still makes records that are smart, funny, sexy, and heartbreaking.


Linkin Park: The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party is a decent record on its own, but it feels too repetitive, uninspired, and generic to equal its immediate predecessors.


The Meatmen: Savage Sagas

“The Ballad of Stinky Penis”. “I’m Gonna Fuck You Up!". “Big Bloody Booger on the Bathroom Wall”. If those song titles seem even remotely appealing to you, boy, have I got the record for you!


Buddy Rich: The Solos

As the title implies, this is nothing but drum solos from one of the greatest drummers of all time. Even if the notion turns you off, the album itself will prove mesmerizing.


Tuesday, July 1 2014

In ‘Earth to Echo’,  Kids Find an Alien (and Themselves) with Their Cameras

The children in Earth to Echo are trying to be understood, and to matter, with the footage they shoot.


But for the Trees: “The Woods #2”

Imagine you’re back in high school. You’re faced with a lot of societal pressures such as fitting in and applying for colleges. Now to top that off your school has inexplicably been transported to an alien galaxy. You are now entering The Woods.


Going ‘Up the Junction’ to Get Down with the Common People

Despite being set in London's Swinging Sixties, Up the Junction comes across just as apropos of America's here and now.


Melvil Poupaud Reflects on Director Éric Rohmer and His Film, ‘A Summer’s Tale’

A Summer’s Tale is a rich snapshot of youth and the hopefulness contained in the realization that the world is nothing if not endless possibilities.


The Pleasure Seekers’ Have All the Cars, Clothes, and Guys That Money Can Buy

These adventurous women only wear some kind of underwear or nightie in front of the windows for that funny little peeping tom across the courtyard.


Phish: Fuego

Good effort, gentlemen, but not the best effort. You've put together a very solid studio album but also somehow managed to include two total duds and one supremely silly track.


William T. Vollmann’s Words to Howl at Death

The success of the 32 restless, spectral stories in Last Stories and Other Stories depends upon whether Vollmann can sustain in-depth soul-searching.


Peter Murphy: Lion

Here comes Peter Murphy again, and he's got a mane this time. He might even bite you. Seriously, Lion is ferocious.


Wiz Khalifa: 28 Grams

28 Grams is full of interesting, moody, personality-drenched beats, many of which go to waste because they’re not suited to the artist.


Chuck E. Weiss: Red Beans and Weiss

Cartoonish in nature, like an exploding cigar joke. No matter how smart one thinks he or she is, one always laughs to the groove at the moment of detonation.


Monday, June 30 2014

So There Are ‘112 Weddings’, but What Happens After the 112 Ceremonies?

This explores the marriages that come after the weddings and perhaps more provocatively, the hopes and limits of documentary filmmaking.


You’ll Lose Your Religion in ‘The Leftovers’

The cop and the reverend spend the first few episodes starting or not avoiding fights, their faces increasingly bruised and bloodied, increasingly emblems of disorder.


‘Tomodachi Life’ Is As Much a Digital Pet As It Is a Farcical Soap Opera

A sequel to the 2009 Japan-only DS release Tomodachi Collection, Tomodachi Life is less a game than a virtual aquarium (or perhaps sitcom set) populated by Miis.


The Demon That You Can Swallow: “New Avengers Annual #1”

According to Joseph Campbell, The Demon You Can Swallow "gives you its power—and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply."


‘Il Sorpasso’ Makes for a Luxurious Summer Treat

Dino Risi is able to turn this odd couple’s story into a film that’s socially and emotionally intelligent -- and entertaining.


Psalmships - ‘I Sleep Alone’ (album premiere)

PopMatters is pleased to premiere I Sleep Alone the new album by Psalmships.


“Capital’s” Critique of Global Capitalism Is Sage But Dispassionate

Capital offers a savage critique of capitalism and the banking industry, but it fails to imagine its ability to sustain its inhumane and self-destructive practices.


Brandy Clark on the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic of Life

Late last year, country songwriter Brandy Clark quietly released her debut album as an artist and a funny thing happened: people listened and loved it.


‘Bang! Bang! You’re Dead’ Gives Us a Wry Twist on the Wrong Man Theme

Tony Randall comes across like a star for the little screen overwhelmed by the Big Screen, a Felix Unger-type trying out unsuccessfully for Her Majesty’s Service.


The Jayhawks: Sound of Lies / Smile / Rainy Day Music

This Jayhawks reissue campaign makes us reconsider the band's legacy and shows how a band turned uncertainty into a new identity.


Amy Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ Tells the Tale of (Several) American Hustles

Nothing is quite what it seems to be in Lucky Us, a story of survival in '40s-era America.


Beverly: Careers

Beverly have created a distillation of the best of the ‘60s girl group sounds, garage rock, C86, early indie rock, and the girls with guitars revival of the last ten years or so.


Joe Henry: Invisible Hour

Lyrically dense and musically intimate, Invisible Hour, aims to be less a part of your hard drive and more a part of your record collection.


Malka Spigel: Gliding

Spigel gets a new band to play old songs. They not only sound new but, in some cases, completely different.


Thomas Dybdahl: What’s Left Is Forever

With a sound at once soft and serene but clear and vibrant, Thomas Dybdahl returns with What's Left Is Forever.


Sunday, June 29 2014

Word Play, Opera, ‘Endeavour’

Both Endeavour, and its parent series Inspector Morse make a point of juxtaposing a lovely illusion of Oxford with the city's uglier realities.


Friday, June 27 2014

‘The Supreme Price’ Asks, Is Nigeria Worth Dying for?

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), uses The Supreme Price to build on her mother's vision for a democratic Nigeria.


On ‘Kings Watch’ and its Effortless Humor

Kings Watch is an example of a classically outrageous sci-fi action tale being told with a more modern sensibility.


‘Coherence’, Confined Spaces and Multiple Selves

Coherence generates fear and mistrust with very little in the way of effects, gore or outright scares.


You Can’t Know the Answer in ‘Enemy’

Director Denis Villeneuve's most successful film to date is a baffling mood piece, a puzzle designed with no solution.


Is There Anything Rob Brydon Can’t Do?

Sometimes it seems like Rob Brydon is everywhere in the comedy world. And that's a good thing.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for July 2014

Get a sneak peek at some of July's most adventurous releases, including new efforts from Shabazz Palaces, Wolves in the Throne Room, and OOIOO.


‘Desire Me’ Leaves Much to Be Desired, Unless You Look at It through a Noir Lens

This is apparently the first major Hollywood film to have no director credit, because nobody wanted to claim it. Yet it deserves reconsideration.


Morrissey: Vauxhall and I (20th Anniversary Definitive Master)

Vauxhall and I has long been considered a pinnacle of Morrissey's solo work... is it still?


Soundgarden: Superunknown (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

One incredibly long and worthy exploration into the inventive Soundgarden's biggest (and arguably most consistently satisfying) release.


‘What Is Visible’ Is an Extraordinary Imaginative Feat

In this re-imagining of Laura Bridgman's life, we enter a vivid world, albeit one deprived of sight, sound, smell, and taste.


Tiësto: A Town Called Paradise

Most of the material on Tiësto’s A Town Called Paradise sounds like a Pepsi commercial.


Life Without Buildings: Any Other City

A new reissue of the Glasgow band's only LP reveals a powerful and idiosyncratic method to their music


Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun: Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun

This will appeal to both the fans of Gord Downie and the Sadies, and possibly, quite possibly, everyone else who has yet to discover these two wonderful national Canadian treasures.


Thursday, June 26 2014

Wherein Futurists and Anti-Futurists Lock Horns

Economists routinely fail to predict GDP or oil prices, and they do even worse at boom and bust cycles. In 100 Years, they attempt to predict the future.


Trip with an Infinite View: Chaos, Order, Good and Evil in ‘Forever People’

Jack Kirby, World War II veteran, was channeling youth when he produced Forever People. He was on the side of change and disorder for the cause of freedom.


‘The Pleasures of Being Out of Step’: Nat Hentoff’s Free Speech

If it's good to believe and to take a stand on it, it's also good to think through beliefs.


‘L’eclisse’ Is Beautifully Made, but Boring as Hell

L’eclisse is a highly regarded work of European modernism that is pretty to look at, interesting to think about, and grueling to watch unfold.


Fleeing the Familiar, Embracing the Abject in ‘Beyond Two Souls’

Within the spaces of darkness or the unknown, Beyond Two Souls asserts that we can exist without being shaped, manipulated, or brutalized by outside forces.


The Truth of Milli Vanilli a Generation Later

This musical duo that never really was a musical duo prepared a nation of adolescents for disappointment -- and the eventual acceptance of Auto-Tune.


The Sophistication, Charm and Murders in ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’

The mysteries are consistently smart and well done, but it's the relationships between the characters that really make the show.


Various Artists: C86 (Deluxe 3CD Edition)

It was the compilation that has a subgenre named after it, here given no less than 50 bonus tracks. Was that necessary? No. Is it still a blast to get through? Hell yeah.


Jad Fair and Danielson: Solid Gold Heart

Anyone who listens to this record is in for a treat: an uplifting, life-affirming experience.


Steve Gunn & Mike Cooper: FRKWYS 11: Cantos de Lisboa

The latest FRKWYS collaboration is a fascinating musical conversation between musicians from two different generations of experimental music.


William Ryan Fritch: Leave Me Like You Found Me

The second installment of Fritch's "Leave Me Sessions Subscription Series" shows a breathtaking, cinematic composer and post-folk experimenter at the top of his game.


Seun Kuti and Egypt 80: A Long Way to the Beginning

This is a well-oiled, veteran operation, with a fiery leader capable of carrying the torch of Afrobeat to far borders and bringing the music to new heights.


White Hinterland: Baby

White Hinterland's whole existence seems to be balancing conflicting interests: to be abstract/direct, about feelings/ideas, of genre/not tied to any genre.


Wednesday, June 25 2014

‘Freedom Summer’ and What Remains

This critical film underscores both differences and connections between then and now -- now as when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is being dismantled.


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