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
‘The Hollars’ Hits the Dramedy Sweet Spot

Krasinski puts an old indie formula to good use in this finely tuned small-town drama.

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Garry Trudeau Knows Words—He Has the Best Words

Television merely gives us “Trump l'oeil”: Doonsbury's 30-year coverage of Trump gives us (gasp!) the "real deal".

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‘Don’t Breathe’ Won’t Even Give You the Breath to Scream

With surprises and scares, Fede Alvarez's thriller keeps everyone but The Blind Man unnerved.

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Mr. Robot: Season 2, Episode 8 - “succ3ss0r.p12”

“succ3ss0r.p12” shows us just how much pressure is changing every character; Elliot might not be the only one succumbing to its power.

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Assessing Their Performance: The Burnside Project Legacy

Burnside Project had audience members screaming their quirky electropop lyrics back at them one moment and shrugging the next. Here, Burnside Project's rise and fall is documented, culminating in a free download of their unreleased private masterpiece.

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The Beach Boys: Becoming the Beach Boys

Becoming the Beach Boys offers a comprehensive glimpse into the embryonic stages of one of America’s finest pop groups.

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Extra Large Popcorn, Please: The Film Forum’s “Return of the Double Feature”

Originating as a practical means to ensure financial solvency, the “double feature” may now serve a more profound aesthetic purpose.

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26 Aug 2016 // 2:20 AM

Battle Trance: Blade of Love

Experimental saxophone quartet Battle Trance pushes the capabilities of both the tenor saxophone and the human breath on Blade of Love.

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Frank Ocean: Blonde (take 2)

Blonde is the sound of an artist urging his listener to be patient, and in this age of instant gratification, it is a refreshing, rewarding triumph.

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‘The Sea of Trees’ Can’t See the Woods for the Heavy-Handed Metaphors

This fairy tale mediation on guilt and redemption belabors its themes to the point of silliness.

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Revocation: Great Is Our Sin

Shredding eardrums with the mastery of technical death metal.

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‘The Accidental Life’ Is Both a Time Capsule and a Guide

Like a good editor, Terry McDonell may be invisible, but the insights into writing and editing make up for the author's elusiveness, here.

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Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 8 - “Grotesque”

Fear the Walking Dead draws its focus to Nick, who wanders the Mexican desert and finds his only comfort among walkers.

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‘Action Comics #962’: Deriving Novelty From the Inane

Is it possible to put this genie back in the bottle without destroying the bottle and everything else within a five-mile radius?

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Roadies: Season 1, Episode 9 - “The All Night Bus Ride”

Diving into Phil's past leads to an episode that's nearly perfect, until we're brought back to the present and the actual setting of the show.

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Rethinking the Closure of the Asylums in the Age of Community Care

Barbara Taylor's "bin memoir", as she terms it, tells a story of neglect, dysfunction, and failed expectations. She recovered; the mental health care system didn't.

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The New Oral History: Chris Shiflett and Steve Dawson’s Smart, Listenable Podcasts

There are more podcasts than you can shake a flash drive at these days. Though the number of 'casts that embrace Americana music is growing, these two stand out.

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Frank Ocean: Blonde (take 1)

Frank Ocean conquers all and prevails on his latest album, Blonde.

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Various Artists: Africa Airways One & Two: Funk Connection 1973-1980 / Funk Departures 1973-1982

Africa Airways One & Two features plenty of grooves from the disco era through the early '80s.

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Angela Pleasence Exhibits Madness and Love in ‘Symptoms’

Symptoms reaches for a different sort of horror, the kind that festers in the obsessive minds of the romantically distraught.

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Joseph: I’m Alone, No You’re Not

Joseph fuse their folk foundation with pop and rock tendencies to develop a delicious, if not inconsistent, soundscape.

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25 Aug 2016 // 2:10 AM

Ngaiire: Blastoma

Blastoma exemplifies the many ways music helps us explain unspeakable feelings, through a combination of words, sounds, moods and melodies that work on each other, through each other and around each other.

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25 Aug 2016 // 2:00 AM

In the Dark: An Interview With Carl Broemel

It took him six years to make, but My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel drew from surprising personal places to craft his latest solo effort.

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‘Imperium’ Is a Poignant and Horrifyingly Relevant Work

A taut, incisive look into America's hateful underbelly, guided by an understated performance by Daniel Radcliffe.

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BrainDead: Season 1, Episode 9 - “Taking on Water ...”

This is a series struggling to find its point; episode nine does nothing to help BrainDead find an answer.

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Marguerite Duras: A Sublime Passion

An intimate interview with France’s acclaimed woman of letters reveals the power of silence.

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24 Aug 2016 // 3:00 AM

It’s Bold to Be Honest: An Interview With Lowell

“There’s more than just my story.” Lowell struggles to find her place in a larger narrative.

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‘A Month in the Country’ Has a Pleasing Emotional Ambience

This is a thoughtfully scripted film that surreptitiously draws the viewer in before granting them an intensely emotional payoff.

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‘Gotham: Season 2’ Is a Muddled, Middling, and Messy Fare

Gotham steeps itself in Batman lore without ever becoming too faithful, its piety only extending far enough to communicate its loose ties to the source material.

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Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

Ryley Walker parades his influences out unabashedly in his new eight-track LP, concocting a technicolor amalgam of smokey, cellar-club jazz and gypsy-traveler Euro-folk

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Hope Against Hope: The Soul Politics of Obama’s Summer Playlists

Words may speak the promise of transcending divisions and borders, but it’s music that delivers.

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Gringo Star: The Sides and in Between

Atlanta quartet's newest LP captures the feel of getting behind the wheel and peeling out for parts unknown as the summer sun shines on.

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PartyNextDoor: PartyNextDoor 3

PartyNextDoor 3 finds the artist easing up on the emulation and indulging in musical eccentricities unique to him

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24 Aug 2016 // 2:10 AM

Denny Zeitlin: Early Wayne

Jazz veteran Denny Zeitlin covers jazz legend Wayne Shorter -- really, there is no downside to this.

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‘Frankenstein’: An Indictment of Divine Indifference

By examining the perils of creation, Frankenstein is a parable of the inscrutable nature of man's relationship with God.

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The A Word: Season 1, Episode 6 - “Lost”

There are no good reasons for actions that are selfish, mean and hurtful, a lesson Bowker will hopefully learn before season two.

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The Minus 5: Of Monkees and Men

Of Monkees and Men is a tangential journey through the Technicolor mind of Scott McCaughey

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23 Aug 2016 // 7:20 AM

Skepta: Konichiwa

Grime forefather reintroduces himself to the world and carries with him the hopes of a genre.

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The Chills: Kaleidoscope World

The latest reissue of the Chills' landmark 1986 release is a touchstone of the kaleidoscope of diverse and dynamic songs the band has been responsible for.

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The Album Leaf: Between Waves

Jimmy LaValle's mostly instrumental outfit returns with another collection of moody, ethereal soundscapes.

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‘Animal Rights’: Moby’s Attempt to Agitate Everyone Who Refused to Listen

Moby the artist -- and electronic music as a whole -- could not and would not be contained by fans' status-quo-worshipping conservatism.

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‘Night and Fog’ Continues to Haunt

Alain Resnais' documentary remains a landmark depiction of the Holocaust, having lost none of its power six decades on.

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Villette Is the Quiet, Genius Child Left Alone in the Room, Nurturing Itself

Brontë’s expedition traverses the darkest shadows away from the slightest sliver of light.

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Guns N’ Roses Knock It Out of the Park in San Francisco

The success of this tour is testament to the timeless power of these classic songs and the unique musical chemistry that coalesces when Axl, Slash and Duff share the stage.

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Requiem for the Green Goliath: ‘Civil War II: The Fallen #1’

The death of Bruce Banner is met with drama, angst, and a different kind of anger.

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‘Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ All-Time Greatest Hits’ Is a Fun, But at Times Frustrating Read

Binelli has his finger on the pulse of pop culture in this era, but Jay himself, as presented here, lacks a pulse.

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‘Midnight Run’ Is Among the Best of the ‘80s Film Offerings

Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro form a dynamic comic duo in this road trip from Hell.

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Various: Nigeria Freedom Sounds!: Popular Music and the Birth of Independent Nigeria 1960-1963

This new Soul Jazz Records set is pure listening pleasure and a perfect jumping off point for listeners curious about popular music beyond Europe and North America.

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Dale Watson and His Lonestars: Live at the Big T Roadhouse, Chicken S#!+ Bingo

Longtime Texas honky-tonker brings his tunes to life in a rowdy roadhouse complete with live chickens

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Madeintyo: THANK YOU, MR. TOKYO

After making the undeniably great "Uber Everywhere", Madeintyo comes back with a release that sounds like he's coasting.

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Motion Graphics: Motion Graphics

Electronic artist Joe Williams' latest project is a warm, futuristic explosion of synths and "found" sounds that results in a unique, colorful listening experience.

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Dark Blue-Grey With Neon Pink Flashes: An Interview With Jon Hopkins

Transcendent electronic musician Jon Hopkins reflects on two decades of composition and collaboration and hints at what’s on the horizon.

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Mr. Robot: Season 2, Episode 7 - “h4ndshake.sme”

Mr. Robot is up to its same old tricks, with a much less effective result, in a landscape-shifting episode.

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‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Is a Stop-Motion Fable That Will Expand Your Imagination

Laika draws on Kurosawa and Harryhausen to create a deeply felt, visually dazzling hero's tale.

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Pearl Jam Anchor Place in Fenway History and Storm Wrigley This Weekend

Eddie Vedder and Co. were in fine form as they played two landmark sold-out shows in Boston's Fenway Park.

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19 Aug 2016 // 11:38 AM

Sziget 2016 Ends on a Triumphant Note

Having people from literally more than half of all world nations visit your event is mind-blowing stuff.

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Truth Be Told, These ‘War Dogs’ Are Merely Political Pups

Todd Phillips' latest should be a smashing anti-War on Terror satire.

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‘Ben-Hur’ Should Have Left His Chariot in the Stable

Judah Ben-Hur is back, and this time he’s really… bland

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Natalie Portman Elicits Strong, Unsentimental Performances in ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’

Portman captures both the individual and national struggles to find sanctuary in the contested lands that became the state of Israel.

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Betty Davis: The Columbia Years 1968-1969

The Columbia Years 1968-1969 isn't the sound of Betty Davis finding her voice so much as it is the sound of her fighting to get out from under the shadow of then-husband Miles Davis.

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Young the Giant: Home of the Strange

Home of the Strange won't convert any naysayers of Young the Giant's straight-and-narrow take on alternative rock, but it underscores what has emboldened their fanbase for so long

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Exploded View: Exploded View

Exploded View's debut contains a ghostly sound that manages to whisk listeners into an illusion.

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‘Masterpieces of Soviet Painting and Sculpture’ Can Hardly Be Bettered

It is to the credit of the editors that they cover as much ground as they do, and in such style.

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The Hunted and the Haunted in ‘King Stakh’s Wild Hunt’

Deeply baroque and shamelessly foreboding, Uladzimir Karatkevich’s King Stakh’s Wild Hunt is a crowning achievement of Belarusian gothic.

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The Big-City Drama of ‘Little Men’: An Interview With Ira Sachs

Ira Sachs on Little Men: "I don’t think this story could be told in 1880 as well as in 2016. People seem to be responding to the movie because they’ve lived it."

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Something Laika Phenomenon: An Interview With Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner

Laika's Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner break down new film Kubo and the Two Strings and the stop-motion studio's artistic philosophies.

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Momus: Pubic Intellectual - An Anthology, 1986-2016

Hilarious, catchy, incisive, and exhausting, Pubic Intellectual captures Momus in all of his forms, from lo-fi pop craftsman to boundary-pushing satirist.

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It’s Batman at the End of Times in ‘All-Star Batman’ #1

Snyder and Romita have produced a riveting first issue and given us here, at the so-called end of times, the Batman we so desperately need.

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Penn & Teller: Fool Us: Season 3

Penn & Teller’s reverence of and respect for the vocation elevates the show considerably above mere brain candy.

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Prepare to Be Logofascinated by Paul Anthony Jones’ ‘Word Drops’

What conversation wouldn’t be improved by the inclusion of the word kummerspeck, which is defined as “excess weight gained through comfort eating” but literally means “bacon-grief”?

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Roadies: Season 1, Episode 7 - “Carpet Season”

The episode starts with a literal car crash that tries to convey all order will dissolve into chaos; despite a lot of complementary illustrations, the show continues to waffle about its true point.

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Hip-hop, History, Time Travel: ‘Joshy’ Party Talk

Jeff Baena’s mumblecore / dramatic blend is refreshing for those who find the best parts of a party in its quieter, more intimate pockets.

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The Ghost of Ingmar Bergman: Peter Bjorn & John’s ‘Breakin’ Point’

Peter Morén and John Eriksson discuss how their musical partnership is as strong as ever -- even if their belief in production dogma isn't.

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18 Aug 2016 // 2:30 AM

Gonjasufi: Callus

Callus is a bleak, seemingly hopeless sonic landscape. A massive bummer of an album in a year already pushing the bounds of reality in nearly every way imaginable.

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18 Aug 2016 // 2:20 AM

Lydia Loveless: Real

Columbus, Ohio-based singer-songwriter tightens things up musically, but loses none of her honest emotion and lyrical frankness

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18 Aug 2016 // 2:15 AM

Look Park: Look Park

Fountains of Wayne's lead singer Chris Collingwood's new band sounds like a low-key version of his old band. This is a good thing, regardless of Collingwood's attempts to present Look Park as a distinct project.

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18 Aug 2016 // 2:10 AM

Whitechapel: Mark of the Blade

Mark of the Blade takes the Whitechapel we used to know and tosses it away for something new.

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Eros and the Eschaton: Weight of Matter

Weight of Matter is a confident new turn for Eros and the Eschaton and suggests that, now a five-piece, they're just getting started.

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Freak Like Me: The Misunderstood Brilliance of Tom Green

Tom Green's brand of comedy allows viewers to embrace their own inner freaks.

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BrainDead: Season 1, Episode 8 - “The Path to War Part One…”

BrainDead sets the stage for battle in a strong follow-up to a weak week.

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The A Word: Season 1, Episode 5 - “Goodbye”

Writer Bowker turns a corner and changes The A Word from a show allegedly about autism to a show actually about autism.

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Shedding Light on the World in Edward Yang’s ‘A Brighter Summer Day’

This extraordinarily tender yet epic and incisive portrait of mid-century Taiwan is one of film’s great fumblings towards an elusive truth.

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The Scientists: A Place Called Bad

A beautifully compiled and curated box set of ugly music from an essential band.

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The Dangers of Playing in Unfinished Houses: Considering Early Access Video Games

Playing a game in its alpha or beta form is like living in an unfinished house; it's habitable, but some things seem off or don't work or might get better (or worse).

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17 Aug 2016 // 2:20 AM

Carl Broemel: 4th of July

Six years in the making, the second solo offering from the My Morning Jacket guitarist is tender, nostalgic, and often sweet. Neko Case, Laura Veirs, and MMJ buddies are on hand to help.

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17 Aug 2016 // 2:15 AM

Alice Bag: Alice Bag

With the release of her first solo album, chicana punk pioneer Alice Bag proves herself to not only still possess the fiery spirit of the first wave of LA punk, but also a vital voice of reason tackling social issues others would prefer to ignore.

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‘Thirteen’ Forces You to Confront Your Own Lazy Habits of Thought

Marnie Dickens' BBC mini-series, Thirteen, forgoes simple solutions and easy payoffs in favor of ambiguity and complexity.

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17 Aug 2016 // 2:05 AM

Eagulls: Ullages

Indie quintet follows up surprise success of debut album with the ambitious Ullages, but still struggle to find much to be positive about.

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‘Cyberspies’: Our Chapter Is Still Being Written

Cyberspies traces the history of computers and their relationship to espionage beginning with World War II code breaking to the present day's bulk data collection.

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“No One Ever Calls Anyone an All-Guy Band”: Heliotropic Feminism With Jessica Numsuwankijkul

For her second full-length as Heliotropes, Numsuwankijkul assembled a new crew of musicians who all happen to be male. The uproar was instantaneous -- and deafening.

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Sziget 2016, Days 4 and 5: Muse Give Another Legendary Performance,  Bloc Party Bring the Dance

For this tour, Muse didn't prepare an inverted pyramid of televangelical visuals, but rather a somewhat more toned-down scenography.

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Young Love Falls Victim to Class Warfare in ‘Little Men’

Ira Sachs continues to produce some of the best New York-centric cinema of the modern era.

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Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 3 - “Holly, Jolly”

Stranger Things continues to recreate unique film genre fixtures of a bygone decade in a fascinating ongoing televisual experiment.

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Press ‘A’ for Characterization: Video Games, Fiction and Drew Magary’s ‘The Hike’

The story in Drew Magary's The Hike is a sequence of separate, cool ideas strung together tenuously with flimsy video game logic.

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16 Aug 2016 // 2:30 AM

Factory Floor: 25 25

Factory Floor take their minimalist aesthetic to dramatic new extremes on their second studio album of retro house music.

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The Dark Side of the Modern Olympics

The Olympic Games have been avid partners with society’s reactionaries: patriarchal men, white colonial elites, fascist politicians, and now neoliberal corporations.

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Kuba Kapsa Ensemble: Vantdraught 4

Kuba Kapsa's second installment in his Vantdraught is another victory for modern chamber music, being both adventurous and accessible.

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Josh White: Josh at Midnight

One of music's most influential black voices shines just as well as it did 60 years prior.

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Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke: It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry

The first duo collaboration between Fennesz and O'Rourke turns out to be a good one, but only when they give each other the room to make this sound more like a conversation than a shouting match.

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‘George Crumb: Voice of the Whale’—A Whale of a Tale It’s Not

If George Crumb’s music sometimes skirts the borders of kitsch, it certainly doesn’t need the help of this insipid film.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

The Specter of Multiplayer Hangs Over 'Door Kickers'

// Moving Pixels

"Door Kickers is not a multiplayer game, but for a while there, I couldn’t tell the difference.

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