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Marginal Utility
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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, September 17 2014

Stylish and Dramatic, ‘Breathless’ Delivers

Breathless is an entertaining glimpse into a time period both dominated by men and also on the cusp of great change.


‘Runers’: What’s My Motivation?

Shoot better and better and better. Then, shoot some more.


Soul Murder and Dreams in ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’

Like the cobwebs and spider webs that colonize a neglected basement, Haruki Murakami’s filamentous plot threads trail uncannily across our psyches.


From Outer Space to the Bowels of Planet Earth, This Is the Stuff We’re Made Of

In Stuff Matters, Mark Miodownik, a quirky science writer, shares his love and knowledge of the materials that shape our world.


Possessed by ‘Wild Palms’: How Far Will You Go to Feel Connected?

Have Croatian Amor's listeners given more of themselves than the musician ever would?


Formerly Poor Old Shine

Following its name change, Parsonsfield, New England's most exciting folk band, is letting its music speak for itself.


‘Queen Margot’ Is a History That Only Goes Downhill

Patrice Chéreau's multiple César winning film receives a lavish 20th anniversary edition from Cohen.


Banks: Goddess

If you happen to be in the market for a new, hyper-hip iteration of slow-burning electronica, then Jillian Banks is your girl.


‘Walt Before Skeezix’ Captures a Slice of American Life just After World War I

'Walt Before Skeezix' offers an in-depth look at the early days of 'Gasoline Alley' in a beautifully-presented volume


GRMLN: Soon Away

On his third release as GRMLN, Yoodoo Park expands and explores pop-punk's roots.


The Wilderness of Manitoba: Between Colours

Between Colours reaches for the sun and the stars, not to mention the backs of the bleachers.


Sarah Jaffe: Don’t Disconnect

Sarah Jaffe speaks volumes while singing very little on Don’t Disconnect’s futuristic indictment against modernity.


David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights: End Times Undone

Similar to albums by Kilgour's band the Clean, End Times Undone feels longer than it is, in a good way.


Die Antwoord: Donker Mag

Die Antwoord have described their work as "exaggerated experience", and that's apt. Anger, lust, passion, violence - all things through the lens of Die Antwoord become amplified to the point of deafening.


Tuesday, September 16 2014

‘This Is Where I Leave You’: Family Dramedy Revisited

This, of course, is how such concoctions work: all supporting players tell you something about the original squabbling family members, and each of these tells you something about the primary family member.


Juliette of the Spirits: An Interview with Kelly & Cal’s Leading Lady Juliette Lewis

Despite years of wonderful work, it’s taken Juliette Lewis almost two decades to land her first flat-out great leading role: Kelly & Cal.


This Issue Has Harold H. Harold!: “Hawkeye #20”

Matt Fraction is leaving Hawkeye. It's just never gonna be the same.


“I’ve Seen the Future and It’s Hungry”

The Bone Clocks merges set-scenes of imaginative showdowns with intellectual reflection, which will reward the keen and alert reader.


More Than Bjork: A Journey Through Iceland’s Pop Music History

Blue Eyed Pop includes a trove of candid band shots, live performance photos and more that would otherwise go unseen by anyone outside of Iceland.


The Power of Body Language: Michelle Yeoh, Action Cinema’s First Lady

Watching Michelle Yeoh fight on screen is like watching Fred Astaire dance: simply beautiful.


Silly Sexual Politics Undermine ‘Operation Petticoat’

Silly sexual politics prevent this film from being a bona fide classic.


An Artist Capable of Making Something Magnetic: Matt Johnson on Jeff Buckley

Drummer Matt Johnson shares his reflections 20 years later on working with Jeff Buckley and recording what turned out to be a masterpiece, 1994's Grace.


‘Circle the Wagen’ Prefers a Predetermined Map

Circle the Wagen begins with the end in mind, and suffers as a result.


Death From Above 1979: The Physical World

Ten years on, Death from Above 1979 kicks just as much ass.


‘SMiLE’ Left Me Terribly Unhappy

Labored and unfocused, the study that Luis Sanchez attempts with SMiLE is a poor fit for the 33 1/3 format.


My Brightest Diamond: This Is My Hand

By time a song ends, one has undergone the journey from ignorance to familiarity accompanied by a sense of Déjà vu as if one already knew what one never has known.


Zeus: Classic Zeus

Classic Zeus is sturdy and stormproof, and has enough memorable hooky hooks to make your head spin.


Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

Not all the guest artists fit, and sometimes the connection to Satchmo seems tenuous indeed. But when it works, as it mostly does, the album delivers much pleasure and pleasant surprises.


Electric Würms: Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd's new project is a solid attempt at arty prog-rock, but in the end, they just can't shake sounding like the Flaming Lips.


Monday, September 15 2014

A Girl, Her Dog, and So Much More: “Ms. Marvel #8”

A loveable girl and a loveable dog team up to create a world of entertaining complications.


Martha Davis and the Motels: 25 August 2014 - New York

Five years in the making, Martha Davis & the Motels made a triumphant return to New York City.


‘Last Days of Vietnam’ Reveals the Lessons Still Unlearned

In Last Days in Vietnam, archival footage is both thrilling and heartbreaking, at once emblematic of the broader saga of so many mistakes set against so many heroic efforts.


There Is an Unwritten and Unfilmed Core to ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’

This is a movie about hearts and selves, bodies and trusts, and most importantly how people deal (or don't deal) with loss.


Eimear McBride’s Debut Novel Is a Polarizing Experience

I found A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing to be the literary equivalent of a shot of blackest espresso: sharp, jolting, and acidic.


Stream of (Music) Consciousness

The 'Marshall McLuhan' message borne by the MP3 revolution is clear: music is endlessly plentiful and entirely disposable. So what's the message of streaming?


Kind of, Kind of Blue: A Conversation with Mostly Other People Do the Killing

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have taken on an ambitious task: recreate Miles Davis' landmark Kind of Blue note for note. Except, as bassist Moppa Elliott notes, note-for-note might just be impossible.


The Road to ‘Grace’: How Jeff Buckley’s Debut Album Remains Timeless 20 Years Later

Drawing from 20 years worth of reviews and books, in addition to new interviews with those involved in Jeff Buckley's music, David Chiu looks back on Grace, which two decades later remains just as impactful.


‘Godzilla’ Is Paint-By-Numbers Monster Movie Making

This reboot is a pretty pedestrian affair, managing to pull out all the tropes you've come to expect from monster movies without offering anything new.


U2: Songs of Innocence

It's hard to fault a lot of young people for are asking the question of "Who is U2?", because after listening to Songs of Innocence, this is a question that not even the band themselves could answer.


Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, Mike Auldridge: Three Bells

Mike Auldridge is joined on this, his final recording, by fellow dobro masters Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes. A fitting capstone to a legendary career.


‘Flirting with French’ Reminds One of That Unrequited Love We’ve All Experienced

William Alexander's cardiologist asks about any new stress in his life. "Well, I am studying French," he answers.


Sinkane: Mean Love

To a large degree, the last year in music has been about the triumph of the smooth.


Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

There are different ways to experience and to express joy. It can be celebratory, or quiet and introspective. Joy in Spite of Everything balances those poles of sound and style on what is one of the most successful jazz releases of the year.


Mick Jenkins: The Water(s)

Saying that The Water(s) shows potential would be unfair. Mick Jenkins has already arrived.


The New Mastersounds: Therapy

Some of these experiments are more successful than others, but it is that basic uptempo, wah-wah inflected, bass-heavy, organ-choogling funk that makes the strongest impression here.


Friday, September 12 2014

Timeless Resonance: An Interview with Luluc

Australian songwriter Zoë Randall of Luluc has been listening to her favorite albums, over and over, for decades. Her own new one Passerby is so effortlessly lovely that you can likewise imagine yourself putting it on again this year and next year and the one after that.


‘The Trip to Bountiful’ Is a Reminder of Why We Go to the Theater

This television version directed by Michael Wilson is lacking in the same of urgency that made the Broadway show such a sensation.


The “Going Out of Business” Sale for the 20th Century

This is a story about the distribution model of comics and why I want to see it evolve to the same levels comics storytelling did in the ‘90s. And this story begins with two vignettes…


‘What We See When We Read’: Covers, Imagination, and Everything in Between

"When we discuss the feeling of reading we are really talking about the memory of having read," says Peter Mendelsund, "and this memory of reading is a false memory."


Riley Rossmo’s Eclectic Signature

“Momentum” is a good word for Rossmo’s work in general. If there’s one thing that ties together his eclectically vast projects, it’s the kinetic energy his art contains.


The Defiant New Postmodern Tamil Cinema

Fed up with the empty rhetoric of utopian ideology and highfalutin discourse, the new generation of filmmakers take their frustrations out on the grand narratives of Tamil cinema.


More Than Just LOLCats and Finger-Chomping Babies, Memes Are a Window Into Contemporary Culture

Thought not always humorous, memes demonstrate the power of whimsical humour to undermine the legitimacy of the most laboriously manufactured control structures.


The Guggenheim’s Latin American Survey Reveals Something New Under the Sun

Categorizing the world we live in may be one of the most primal of human appetites.This exhibit challenges how we do that.


Pere Ubu: Carnival of Souls

Pere Ubu's 18th album offers their most cohesive and disturbing vision of dystopian America. A carnival of oblique reference points, it's also their best album of the 21st century.


Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer: Bass and Mandolin

Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer meet up for a second time, making music that, unsurprisingly, sounds like it was made for virtuosos.


Changing Lanes With John Waters

To most, hitchhiking is a terrifying risk taken by the desperate or insane. This makes it a perfect subject for John Waters’ latest book, Carsick.


Tricky: Adrian Thaws

Adrian Thaws is one of Tricky's most successful attempts to achieve reconciliation between the strengths of his established sound, and his need to progress as an artist.


Various Artists: XL Records - Pay Close Attention

A concise, pure and punchy pop history lesson.


American Hi-Fi: Blood and Lemonade

American Hi-Fi is not a group to reshape the way we hear music. They’re simply a good time.


Brian Setzer: Rockabilly Riot! All Original

It's a fine line between "retro" and "novelty", but no one walks it better than Brian Setzer.


Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra: Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 & 6

Three of Shostakovich's symphonies sound as scary as they probably did during their premiere, thanks to a unique orchestra and a unique conductor.


LP: Forever For Now

From the top on down, the intent of Forever For Now is perfectly clear: fun. This is one big good time broken into 12 melodically succinct, percussively infectious packages.


Thursday, September 11 2014

Rich Aucoin: Ephemeral

This is a celebratory affair from start to finish, and constructed in such a way as to put a big grin on your face.


Robyn Hitchcock: The Man Upstairs

The Man Upstairs is a beguiling diversion for Hitchcock, one devoid of any mystery or humor.


Durutti Column: Chronicle XL

Seemingly on the verge of death not long ago, Vini Reilly re-emerges with a timely, often gorgeous reminder of why he is among the greatest guitarists of his generation.


Wednesday, September 10 2014

Truth Is an Allusion: “The Wicked and the Divine #3”

Gods as pop stars. It’s a novel concept and one that could crumble under its own weight if not pulled off correctly. But so far, we’ve been treated to a thoughtful exploration of where divine intervention meets celebrity worship.


‘The Girl Who Passed for Normal’ Is a Sagacious Study of the Female Mind

Hugh Fleetwood's eerie tale of deadly symbiotic relationships is rife with Freudian desires and erotic tensions.


Great Sex and No Worries: The Myth of Drug Use

Drugs. We LGBT folk certainly seem to like them. We use them at higher rates than heterosexuals, and we really like to mix them with sex. What a shame they're killing us.


‘True Detective’ and the Conventions of Morality

In the realm of moral ambiguity they occupy, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart become a microcosm of Lawrence Kohlberg's three stages of moral development.


‘Night Moves’ Depicts the Blindness and Violence of Ideology

Never once do Night Moves's three lead characters genuinely consider the ramifications of what they're doing. Naturally, they can't foresee their downfall.


‘Devo: The Men Who Make the Music/Butch Devo and the Sundance Gig’: Punk and Progressive

If you've never been a Devo fan, this DVD will give you all the reason you need to remedy the situation.


Sloan: Commonwealth

Sloan changes things by giving each member a side of a double-vinyl record. It works.


Avi Buffalo: At Best Cuckold

Avi Buffalo settle for a sleeker, cleaner set of psychedelic folk on the follow-up to their more compelling 2010 debut.


Orlando Julius and the Heliocentrics: Jaiyede Afro

Forty-plus years on, Afro-beat master Orlando Julius is still gettin' it done.


The Wytches: Annabel Dream Reader

Any anticipatory pleasure to be derived from the pain detailed on Annabel Dream Reader is numbed by its own flogging tedium.


Loudon Wainwright III: Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet) - take 2

He tells you about a "Brand New Dance" that’s sweeping the nation. The craze is just getting out of bed, standing up, and confronting death. He's not just being funny


Tuesday, September 9 2014

‘Frontline: Ebola Outbreak and Hunting Boko Haram’: Resistance and Devastation in West Africa

Images of devastation unite Ebola Outbreak and Hunting Boko Haram, two harrowing PBS documentaries.


Yet Another Perspective on ‘Another Perspective’

What Another Perspective wants to say is that the the essence of the video game is rooted in interaction. In other words that “You are me. I am you.”


A Quirky Legal Drama with Superheroes: “She-Hulk #8”

She-Hulk is a quirky legal drama, like Ally McBeal or Boston Legal. With superheroes.


The Darkness of Teenage Girls in Tana French’s ‘The Secret Place’

Perhaps because of her acting background, French has a knack for creating layered, multi-dimensional characters and distinctive voices.


The Teachers Are the Children in ‘Words and Pictures’

The premise of the film is too silly to ring as true, but the palpable chemistry of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche makes this an enjoyable trifle.


What Happens When an Interactive Horror Experience Figures Out the Fourth Wall?

P.T. has the digital world bleeding out into the real, hands flailing in search of something to hold onto so it can pull itself out of the game and into your living room.


Waiting for the Sound of His Heart: An Interview with Ethan Johns

Ethan Johns calls upon the ghosts of such British songsmiths as Bert Jansch and Nick Drake, while developing interwoven and metaphorical narratives in the footsteps of Richard Thompson and Bob Dylan.


The Empress’ New Clothes: Brave New Heroines in Young Adult Fiction

Reading heroine-driven young adult (YA) fiction, one can't help but wonder why stagnant views of women’s sexuality and societal roles prevail.


What Happens When You Don’t Want Your Kid?: ‘Proxy’

A slack conclusion can't totally detract from the twisty script, mannered performances, and uncommonly gorgeous direction that make Proxy, the must-see independent thriller of 2014 so far.


Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams

Somebody call 911! Ryan Adams is on fire!


Busdriver: Perfect Hair

Just when you thought hip-hop couldn't get weirder...


Eamon McGrath: Exile

Exile proves that McGrath deserves something more: a rabid following of many devotees who sing along with every pointed word and buy his albums with no reservations.


Rustie: Green Language

Rustie continues his go big or go home mission statement, for better and worse.


Neil Diamond: All-Time Greatest Hits

Its similarities to 2011's Very Best differ only by three songs -- but excising his Rubin-produced songs for some '70s schmaltz will make you say "Play Me" to this comp.


Jon Langford and Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters

Those that didn’t enjoy Skull Orchard before won’t be won over, but it doesn’t change the fact that those naysayers have conspicuously terrible taste.


Monday, September 8 2014

‘A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY’: Tales of How to Stay Alive

Knowledge of what might happen, a sense of limits and possibilities, make New York firefighters' lives simultaneously extraordinary and essential.


Making Death Matter: “Death of Wolverine #1”

Death is a revolving door in comics so how does the upcoming death of Wolverine have meaning?


Abuse and Weakness in Pialat’s ‘We Won’t Grow Old Together’

The most excruciating of breakup movies, "We Won't Grow Old Together" showcases a classic performance from Jean Yanne.


The Other Side of the Looking Glass: An Interview with Kelli Deeth

Kelli Deeth’s characters, at the end of their wits and their youth, take the long, last painful look into their abating past, only to see themselves staring back at a fated future.


In Kierkegaard’s Reflektion?: Arcade Fire in a “Reflective Age”

Like Kierkegaard did more than a century-and-a-half ago, Arcade Fire has the courage to ask whether our experience of the world is really as spectral, thin, and shallow as it sometimes seems.


‘Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!’: Pornography and Love in the Eye of the Beholder

Almodóvar's shocking, NC-17 film makes us realize that pornography and love are only in the eye of the beholder.


Interpol: El Pintor

Interpol return with confidence on El Pintor, a record that may satisfy even Turn on the Bright Lights devotees.


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