Marginal Utility
Image: Marginal Utility
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.
More Recent Features
Preacher: Season 1, Episode 1 - “Pilot”

Preacher's pilot may have more moving parts than most pilots these days, but it's supremely confident in its own specific vision.

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Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 6 - “Sicut Cervus”

The survivors at last reach a place of relative safety in Mexico; how safe remains an open question.

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Steven Universe: Season 3, Episode 1 - “Super Watermelon Island”

Despite lacking much narrative progression, "Super Watermelon Island" still has a lot of fun, beauty, and subtlety for the open-minded viewer.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen Is a Lucid and Robust Voice for the Forgotten

Nothing Ever Dies is a timely meditation on the power of memory as an implement and a consequence of war.

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‘The Lonely City’ Makes a Case for Empathy and Kindness

Olivia Laing mixes art criticism and memoir; effectively synthesizing these two modes of writing so that the personal elevates the analysis, with a sizable emotional heft.

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A Poetic Filament: An Interview with Writer and Musician Azeem

What you hear in Azeem's music is bluster and anger, a rage of words and sound. But at the very core of his sonic tirade is the enveloping silence of anagogic contemplation.

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Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book

On his third solo mixtape, Chicago’s Chance the Rapper preaches the gospel of community.

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Meghan Trainor: Thank You (Deluxe Edition)

Thank You shows musical growth for Trainor while simultaneously moving her closer to the more homogenous sound of mainstream pop.

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25 May 2016 // 2:15 AM

Cate Le Bon: Crab Day

Cate Le Bon shows the true extent of her powerfully versatile creative voice on Crab Day.

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Astrally Project Myself Into the Life of Someone Else: An Interview With Beth Orton

Everyone thinks they've pegged Beth Orton. But her sharp turn towards bedroom dance-rock, she's thrown all her fans for a loop -- and she's loving it.

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Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 6 - “The Scandal of Altruism”

"The Scandal of Altruism" is one of the season’s best episodes, because it so perfectly combines the show's strengths.

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Outlander: Season 2, Episode 6 - “Best Laid Schemes…”

Just when Jamie and Claire seem to be turning the tide, everything goes to hell.

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In ‘Duskers’, Knowledge Is the Most Important Resource of All

There are no good choices in Duskers, as the game constantly forces you to work with limited resources and, more importantly, with limited knowledge.

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Tolstoy, Rasputin, and Teffi, One of Russia’s Greatest Woman Writers

Teffi’s genius lies in applying a light, ironic and at times satirical flair of humour to deeply serious subjects

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24 May 2016 // 8:26 AM

Twin Peaks: Down in Heaven

Down in Heaven is an energetic and indebted collection of highbrow garage rock suitable for mass consumption.

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‘Digital Signatures’ Finds a World of Sound in a Handful of Songs

How have ears and minds become conditioned to the binary codes that shape contemporary pop music?

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‘The Swords’ Is a Short Game With a Simple Title That Hides a Wealth of Beauty

Our drawing moves in circles and spirals, around us and our enemy, then swings from side to side quickly, as if dancing a jig.

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Katatonia: The Fall of Hearts

Following a stretch of stripped-down and glum releases, Katatonia hearkens back to its best albums and reinvents them with the dynamic The Fall of Hearts.

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24 May 2016 // 2:20 AM

µ-Ziq: RY30 Trax

British synth wunderkind Mike Paradinas takes a trip back to the '90s with another fascinating archival release.

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Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker (Deluxe Reissue)

Powerful outtakes and soul-searching demos add even greater power to Ryan Adams' iconic debut.

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24 May 2016 // 2:05 AM

Bird of Youth: Get Off

Bird of Youth concoct a delicious blend of folk, '80s pop and psychedelia on their sophomore release.

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“Standing in the Sun”: ‘Scandal’ in the Age of ‘The New Jim Crow’

The counter-narrative in Scandal brings up complicated -- and necessary -- questions about race.

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Through Loosely Connected Sub-plots, a Foundation Is Laid in ‘Civil War II #0’

Civil War II #0 serves merely as the opening credits to a much larger story to come.

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23 May 2016 // 10:30 AM

Cannes 2016: ‘American Honey’ + ‘Uchenik’

Two films that won awards at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival reflect on young people's experiences, emotional and spiritual.

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Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 10 - “The Man in the Box”

Daredevil and The Kingpin confront one another, while The Punisher is set loose on the city.

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Street Roving in ‘Downtown 81’ and ‘Wild Style’

These two films speak earnestly to the nature of creativity and the sense of urgency one often experiences in producing a work of art – especially when faced with little to no means during the creative process.

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The Heart Evolves: An Interview With Coeur de Pirate

Coeur de Pirate discusses her new album Roses, her soundtrack work and her love for television during a chat before a show in New York.

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2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

With some of the worst presenters possible and musical performances about as exciting as leftover crab meat, 2016's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show was one of its least interesting to date.

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‘Avedon / Warhol’ Is an Astute Juxtaposition of the Two Brightest Stars in the Gagosian Galaxy

Gagosian has a clear-eyed, bird’s eye view on perhaps the most self-evident yet severely complicated relationship in modern art history.

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Looking for a Way to Supplement Your Income? Why Not Steal the Mona Lisa?

All you need is Taylor Bayouth's How to Steal the Mona Lisa to help you figure out how to get away with it.

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23 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut

Sci-fi television falls back to earth in the "grounded astronaut" cycle of '70s-era sci-fi TV.

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23 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

Hecklers in the Van: A Tour Dispatch from Wussy

Yeah, sure: say that Wussy typify the "Midwestern sound," but do so at your own risk, lest you miss out on blazing songs dealing with alien gods and Biblical reckonings.

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Robert Glasper: Everything’s Beautiful: The Recordings of Miles Davis Reimagined by Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper honors a jazz legend in the best way possible.

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Various Artists: A Tribute to Pet Sounds

Some of the most respected experimental artists of the 21st century dish up their takes on the Beach Boys' classic album.

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Islands: Should I Remain Here at Sea / Taste

Islands’ latest two records are a liberated, iconoclastic take on a dual set of genres. Some of Nick Thorburn's clearest and most relaxed work, the albums serve as an extended meditation on the idea that music is simply a matter of taste.

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Rufus Wainwright: Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets

Tightly curated and ultimately exhilarating, Wainwright fashions nine of the bard’s classics into a mini-opera.

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My Robot Friend: Open the Book

After seven years away from the spotlight, My Robot Friend returns with a record that's an awful lot of fun even when it lacks cohesion. Dean & Britta as well as Andre Williams join in.

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‘Almost Holy’: A Controversial Mission to Save Kids in Ukraine

Almost Holy can’t make sense of the perpetual trauma facing kids in Mariupol, Ukraine. But it can show the battle waged against it.

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Why Make a Film About Anthony ‘Weiner’?

For all Weiner's focus on the mayoral campaign, on the media everywhere, and on Anthony Weiner, you're never not thinking of his wife, Huma Abedin.

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Max Hatt / Edda Glass: Ocean of Birds

Dedicatedly low-tempo as it may be, the passion put into this album makes for an easy listen.

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‘The Angry Birds Movie’ Will Make for a Good Electronic Babysitter

Kids won't walk away from this one with a better understanding of the human condition, but for 90 plus minutes, at least, they're out of your hair.

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‘The Nice Guys’ and a Wonderful Little Girl

The Nice Guys has you hoping that Holly, wise, clever, and charismatic, will eventually help redeem her cynical, brutal, alcoholic father.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 20 - “Emancipation”

Beneath all the action, "Emancipation" ponders deeper questions of faith and freedom.

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Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2 - “We All Fall Down”

The Clark-Manawas visit a family on shore and face many of their own darkest fears.

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20 May 2016 // 8:44 AM

Bob Dylan: Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels is a touching tribute to Dylan’s continued passion for music, his love of performing and a celebration of some damn good songs.

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Divine Resurrection: An Interview with Divine Weeks’ Bill See

One of the late '80s L.A. scene's most promising and uncompromising bands have reconvened to demonstrate their relevance to the here and now. Lead singer Bill See talks about avoiding nostalgia while remaining engaged in an ongoing spiritual and artistic quest.

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A New Beginning: An Interview with Wolfie’s Just Fine’s Jon Lajoie

He made comedy YouTube songs and had a great guest spot on The League, but Jon Lajoie's turn for something more serious was a long time a-comin'.

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Films in ‘Found at Mostly Lost’ Are Mostly Concerned With Avoiding the Police

Tramps, dapper husbands, fake dinosaurs and young William Frawley.

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Various Artists: Sharon Signs to Cherry Red

This two-disc set comprises 45 songs that capture not a sound, but rather an attitude. These artists island hop across labels and genres and, in doing so, create vital songs worth unearthing now.

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20 May 2016 // 2:20 AM

Keith Urban: Ripcord

Keith Urban is a 48-year-old student of the game (popular music). This album is his playground. He’s trying out various things -- adapting -- while staying very much the same.

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Tanya Donelly: Swan Song Series

The compilation is a bit scattershot, but it does make a sturdy testament to years of talented work.

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20 May 2016 // 2:05 AM

Lifetones: For a Reason

After his band This Heat came to an end, Charles Bullen saw signs of imminent destruction all around him. This six-song record is a chronicle of that time.

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‘Til Human Faces Wake Us: Don DeLillo’s ‘Zero K’

For all that it is cold and disquieting, DeLillo's latest is also his most sincere -- his most human -- meditation on death yet.

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Beyond the Credits With ‘Independence Day #2’

The mythos of the movie expands in this comic, but not in all the right directions.

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Cannes 2016: Survivors of Dictatorship Tell Their Stories in ‘Hissein Habré, a Chadian Tragedy’

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's spare but searing documentary gives voice to those who suffered under Habré's regime.

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The Flash: Season 2, Episode 22 - “Invincible”

"Invincible" manages to ratchet up the angst in anticipation of the season finale, while still providing tons of fun to counterbalance the menace.

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Never Again, Until Next Time

David Rieff's exploratory work in In Praise of Forgetting seeks to map the ways in which historical memory acts upon us and can be acted upon.

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The British Library’s Delightful Anthologies of Cats and Dogs in Literature

These charming books include some of the most famous (and infamous) dogs and cats known in literature, along with some lesser known tales and poems.

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19 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

Terry Allen: Juarez

Forty-plus years later this little-known Terry Allen album deserves a larger audience, a new and much bigger set of listeners to puzzle over this eccentric classic.

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19 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

‘The Walking Dead’: Negan as Sadomasochistic Fantasy

Hot dad and sadistic villain -- why casting Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan works so well.

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James Blake: The Colour in Anything

James Blake had it in him to release a great album here. He just chose not to.

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Various Artists: Music of Morocco - Recorded by Paul Bowles 1959

Dust-to-Digital extensively explores the culture of Morocco in a box set filled with the earthy, soulful pleasures of the country's music.

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19 May 2016 // 2:10 AM

Julianna Barwick: Will

A faintly sketched canvas, listeners can color their own emotions to Will.

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Barry Adamson: Know Where to Run

Know Where to Run will do little to seduce those already unwilling to wade through Barry Adamson’s spotty catalog, but in spite of a few regrettable artistic choices the album as a whole is eminently listenable, and for brief stretches even indispensable.

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19 May 2016 // 2:00 AM

Vic and Bob: A Love Story

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer may be comedy legends, but at the heart of their success lies a romance that's real and true.

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Outlander: Season 2, Episode 5 - “Untimely Resurrection”

The return of Jack Randall reopens the breach between Jamie and Claire… and the future.

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18 May 2016 // 10:30 AM

Cannes 2016: ‘The Handmaiden’ + ‘The BFG’

Fantasy is at the heart of two adaptations of famous books screened at Cannes this week, Steven Spielberg's The BFG and Park Chan-wook’s Agassi (The Handmaiden).

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‘Captain America: Civil War’ Reflects Current Global Issues in a Surprisingly Personal Way

Civil War: What is it good for? Quite a lot, actually.

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Cannes 2016: Almodóvar Adapts Alice Munro With Some Success in ‘Julieta’

Pedro Almodóvar once more places a fractured mother/daughter relationship at the centre of his work.

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Howard Means’ ‘67 Shots’ Crucially Reminds Us That We Can’t Always Trust Those in Charge

Tension and painful memories still hang over Kent State, 46 years after the state-sanctioned murder of students, as does the warning it conveys.

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‘Nitro Mountain’ Is Harrowing and Dark

This is an unabashedly fierce and often violent novel that owes as much to Graham Greene's Brighton Rock as it does to Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.

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Hard Working Americans: Rest in Chaos

Hard Working Americans offer up a heaping helping of kick-ass, blues-drenched, old-school American rock and roll served with a side of fuck-all.

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As If Response Were Based on Fact: A Conversation With Wire

It's been nearly four decades since Wire put out Pink Flag, one of the most seminal rock albums of the modern era. Now, with their 15th studio effort, Colin Newman and Graham Lewis are fiesty as ever with zero signs of slowing down.

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18 May 2016 // 2:20 AM

Digitalism: Mirage

As Digitalism continues to bring back the ghosts of old songs, Mirage demonstrates the duo’s willingness to welcome new ghosts, promising them a more audacious future.

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18 May 2016 // 2:15 AM

Marissa Nadler: Strangers

Marissa Nadler’s newest release is the type of solid work we've come to expect from her.

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Winfield Parker: Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker at Ru-Jac

Baltimore-born Winfield Parker's sides for the Ru-Jac label were more often hits than misses. This new collection explores the best and worst moments of his time on that tiny label.

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Stephen Colbert’s Consumption of Junk Food Is Deeply American—and Catholic

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert examines food in a manner that is Catholic. But also, it engages with food in a manner that is catholic.

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‘We Love You, Charlie Freeman’ Ponders Over Watching and Being Watched

This novel tries to find words for the ways in which being other means being constantly under observation.

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Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 5 - “Human Raw Material”

“Human Raw Material” wasn’t a perfect episode, but it continues to build on the momentum from the season's excellent first episode.

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Moe. Concocts Explosive Recreational Chemistry in Hollywood

Some mainstream music fans don’t have the patience for such improv, but for the moe.rons, the psychedelic jamming is what it’s all about.

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The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 22 - “Alexander Kirk (No. 14)”

Unfortunately, The Blacklist decides to use the season's penultimate episode as backdoor pilot for a Janssen-led spin-off.

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Hope, Love, Bikinis and ‘Starfire #12’

When a female character can be both lovable and sexy, everybody wins.

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Cannes 2016: Maren Ade’s Mediocre ‘Toni Erdmann’ Has Been Bizarrely Overpraised

Ade's comedy about a father and daughter relationship is interminable and unfunny.

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Key and Peele Kill Us With Kittens

No matter who you are, good or bad, innocent bystander or merciless gangster, everybody loves kittens.

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17 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

World Renown: An Interview With Mr. Lif

It's been seven years since we last got an album from Mr. Lif, but his journey towards his latest involved seeing old friends and (of course) a Balkan brass band.

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17 May 2016 // 2:30 AM

Jessy Lanza: Oh No

“I just want to impress you," Lanza explains on “Going Somewhere”, and anybody who listens to Oh No can confirm that she’s succeeded.

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17 May 2016 // 2:20 AM

Torn Hawk: Union and Return

Sprawling, ambitious, and sonically sophisticated, Torn Hawk's Union and Return transplants German Romanticism into the digital age.

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17 May 2016 // 2:15 AM

Cannes 2016: ‘Eshtebak’ + ‘I, Daniel Blake’

At Cannes, these two powerful films inspire fury at appalling and seemingly insurmountable social divisions.

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Deerhoof / Ensemble Dal Niente: Balter-Saunier

Not one forgettable moment surfaces; not one skippable track presents itself in this era of impatient listeners waiting for the memorable or gut-punching banger.

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17 May 2016 // 2:10 AM

Goo Goo Dolls: Boxes

Expectations are a dangerous thing.

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17 May 2016 // 2:05 AM

Tacocat: Lost Time

Seattle-based Tacocat return with their third album, Lost Time, a fun and memorable record full of great hooks and bright production that speaks to the experience of the uncertainty and listless of emerging adulthood.

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Slain Journalist’s Open Letter Tackles Racism, Islamophobia, and Free Speech

For all its infamy, few outside of France really understand what Charlie Hebdo is all about. A manifesto posthumously published by its editor, offers insights.

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‘Homintern’ Is Not as Subversive and Liberating as Its Subject Matter

What was unique and liberating about the gay influence on Western culture? Gregory Woods tells only part of the story.

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Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 9 - “Seven Minutes in Heaven”

Each character confronts their true nature with brutal honesty in "Seven Minutes of Heaven".

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Cannes 2016: Spielberg Delivers One of the Best Roald Dahl Adaptations With ‘The BFG’

Intelligent, huge-hearted, and as rich in its dialogue as in its visuals, The BFG is an enchanting adaptation.

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Cannes 2016: In Pursuit of a Poet in Pablo Larraín’s ‘Neruda’

Larraín riffs on Pablo Neruda's biography to create an idiosyncratic and stylized portrait of pursuer and pursued.

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To Read ‘Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart’ Is to Fully Inhabit Haworth Parsonage

Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Bronte sheds new light on a woman too often confounded with her beloved heroine.

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Why Does the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ Still Have Its Hold on Us?

Fifty years on, Brian Wilson’s emotive musings on love, loss, and loneliness have proven to be truly timeless.

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Mark Pritchard: Under the Sun

Under the Sun is Pritchard discovering his own voice through the voices of others who continue to inspire him today.

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Cannes 2016: Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’ Is an American Folly

Arnold's self-conscious and overlong American road trip runs out of steam long before it reaches its destination.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
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You Should Dance Like Gene Kelly Today

// Global Graffiti

"In the glut of new "holidates", April and May offer two holidays celebrating the millions who preserve and promote the art of dance

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