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.
More Recent Features
China Mieville’s ‘October’: The Bolsheviks Are Back in Vogue

What was the secret of the Russian Revolution? What lessons -- both positive and negative -- does it hold for the present day?

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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Evolves Into an Emotional Powerhouse

Perhaps the greatest virtue of director Matt Reeves’ film is that it captures the madness of war without ever glamorizing the abhorrent carnage.

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Roger Waters Takes on the Swine in Oakland

The pinnacle zeitgeist moment of the show occurs with “Pigs”, and who would have thought back in 1977 that the song would make such a fitting anthem for 2017 some 40 years later?

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26 Jun 2017 // 7:19 AM

Little Cub: Still Life

South London's Little Cub craft a debut album that elegantly addresses modern-era woes via a blanket of warm, familiar influences.

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26 Jun 2017 // 7:15 AM

Billy Stoner: Billy Stoner

Lost outlaw country classic gets a second chance at the long-overdue critical praise it so richly deserves.

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26 Jun 2017 // 7:10 AM

Laurel Halo: Dust

Dust dissects the modes and techniques of commercial advertisement and displaces them in barely recognizable, decidedly non-commercial contexts.

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Vince Staples: The Big Fish Theory

Vince Staples returns with his troubled and furious second album, The Big Fish Theory.

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Navigating the Hollywood Monsters of the ‘Resident Evil’ Videogame Franchise

From crawling to walking to running to the White House: dissecting 20 years of zombie evolution.

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As a Way of Being in the World, to Be Cool Is to Be a Fascinating Asshole

Cool seems to be a phenomenon located mainly between the end of Hitler’s war and the beginning of Kurt Cobain’s band.

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23 Jun 2017 // 9:27 AM

Banditos: Visionland

Banditos are at the fore of a new generation of Southern rock bands capable of both mining the region's deep musical heritage and nudging it forward.

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The Drums: “Abysmal Thoughts”

With "Abysmal Thoughts", the Drums have made a record that is emotionally powerful, disarming in its honesty, and unexpectedly fun.

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Steve Earle: So You Want to Be an Outlaw

Steve Earle reaffirms his country outlaw status with the appropriately titled, outlaw country primer So You Want to Be an Outlaw.

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Movies Matter in ‘Talking Pictures’

Critic Ann Hornaday’s clear-eyed, unpretentious guide to watching cinema is a long overdue call for thoughtful appreciation in our time of media overload.

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‘In Pursuit of Silence’ Challenges the Senses

In Pursuit of Silence's technical mastery overcomes its overuse of interview commentary to illustrate silence's numerous edifying properties.

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From Amar Akbar Anthony to Baahubali: Whither Indian Cinema’s Secularism?

A retrospective of Manmohan Desai’s Bollywood classic Amar Akbar Anthony, and the films it has influenced, 40 years on.

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War and the Novel of Integrity in ‘The Story of a Brief Marriage’

A brief, brutal, and exquisite novel set over the course of one day in a man's life in the refugee camps of war-torn northern Sri Lanka.

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Novice Enters Nick Cave Performance at Beacon, Comes Out Undeterred

Intense and dramatically profound, Nick Cave's performance allows fans to worship at the feet of a preacher.

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How Perfume Genius Learned to Live in the Moment

After touring his essential fourth album No Shape for a month, Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) talks to PopMatters about why this project is his most immediate and everything that implies.

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Crushing Adamantium Claws and Other ‘Weapons of Mutant Destruction #1’

The concept of living weapons in the Marvel Universe will make anyone who has ever had to clean up blood stains roll their eyes.

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22 Jun 2017 // 8:19 AM

Rancid: Trouble Maker

Rancid deliver yet another Rancid album, rehashing nearly every facet of their multi-decade career as they rage their way into middle age punkdom.

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Echoes of History and Nature: A Conversation with Jökull Júlíusson of Kaleo

JJ Julius Son, lead singer of Kaleo, speaks with PopMatters on his early influences and how he will never fall into the trap of a single genre.

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22 Jun 2017 // 2:30 AM

Beth Ditto: Fake Sugar

Former Gossip frontwoman makes a welcome return with her first solo album of pure pop bliss.

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22 Jun 2017 // 2:20 AM

Com Truise: Iteration

On his first full-length album in five years, Seth Haley, a.k.a. Com Truise, unleashes his usual battery of vivid retro-synth anthems.

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‘Dear Ijeawele’, Dear Tired Church Ladies

Adichie's excellent and urgent feminist undertaking is a shot in the arm that doesn’t hurt at all.

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Nick Laird’s ‘Modern Gods’ and Restless Protagonists

Modern Gods veers away from its trajectory, but it lingers askew.

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Midnight North: Under the Lights

The blend between their rock side and their country/folk side is actually what makes Midnight North a relatively unique band.

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Various Artists: Oté Maloya - The Birth of Electric Maloya on Reunion Island 1975-1986

Strut Records delivers the best of vintage African music yet again, this time straight from Réunion Island.

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Cigarettes After Sex: Cigarettes After Sex

The Brooklyn-based quartet's smokey-eyed songs breathe with dark nuance, each devastating track allowing Greg Gonzalez’s seductive voice, one of elegant, epicene beauty, to blossom and dance in the shadows.

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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound

The 400 Unit join Jason Isbell on a personal and strong set of songs tuned to modern American life and the past we can never recapture.

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“Still It Keeps Haunting You”: Thom Bell Revisits the Dionne Warwick Sessions

In an exclusive interview with PopMatters, Grammy-winning producer Thom Bell recalls bringing Dionne Warwick to number one and crafting her critically acclaimed "Track of the Cat".

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A Mother and Her Trans Son Try to Connect ‘At the Broken Places’

Can a mother and trans son write their way out of the rift that tore them apart?

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Junot Díaz’s Favorite Short Stories: the Future of American Literature Shines Bright

After finishing this compilation, I knew I preferred the puncture wounds of a lethal short story to the blunt force trauma of a novel.

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Mark Cousins, Director of ‘Stockholm My Love’, on Art and Compassion

"Often for reasons of anxiety or fear, or lack of money, we don’t feel fully alive and so that’s what art tries to do."

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The Ineluctability of Time in Coppola Drama, ‘Rumble Fish’

Rumble Fish suggests that in our complex relationship to time, we become the cartographies of our own misperceptions.

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‘Flavor’: It’s Not on the Tip of Your Tongue

Do you think cilantro tastes like soap? Do you ever get a hit of barnyard off a fine Bordeaux? Flavor will end up taking wine snobs down a peg while lifting up everyone else.

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How Fragile Relationships and Plans Can Be in Cara Hoffman’s Running

Running is a disconcerting, moving, and ultimately treasurable novel whose rich, lived-in world and remarkably complex and empathetic protagonists remain alluring from start to finish.

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Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald by David S. Brown

In a comprehensive new biography, the life and work of F. Scott Fitzgerald is examined in historical, literary, and sociological perspectives.

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‘Orphan Black’: The Frenetic “The Clutch of Greed” Features Impersonations, Violence, and Loss

There’s a lot to unpack, but the show deftly moves things toward a quickly approaching finalé with its signature fast pace.

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Award-winning Cinematography Enriches François Ozon’s ‘Frantz’

Impressive camerawork draws viewers close to characters whose lives have been turned upside down by World War I.

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‘OKNOTOK’ and the Nostalgic Radiohead

Radiohead completists already own much of what is on OKNOTOK, but those wanting to experience OK Computer for the first time need look no further than here.

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Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm: Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm

Robert Cray teams up with Memphis's Hi Rhythm for a supergroup album with no pretensions and all soul.

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Various Artists: Funky Chimes: Belgian Grooves from the ‘70s

The good and the baffling of 1970s Belgium come together for a unique ride through a tiny nation.

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DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, and Scofield: Hudson

Four top-shelf jazz musicians who are neighbors in the Hudson Valley of New York collaborate on a set of varied tunes that represent their neighborhood. Graceful but fragmented.

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Young Fathers: TAPE 1 and TAPE 2 (Reissue)

The reissue of Young Fathers' TAPE 1 and TAPE 2 shows the Scottish group's early promise.

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20 Jun 2017 // 2:30 AM

Lorde: Melodrama

Lorde continues to mine the uncertainties of youth, the tribulations of romance, and an ambivalence toward partying on her revelatory sophomore album.

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Does Mariko Tamaki Think in a Gothic Font?

Mariko Tamaki’s words exist in an in-between state, neither entirely physical nor entirely a free-floating consciousness.

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Yes, Music Can and Should Elicit Worldwide Progress

Sound System is ceaselessly fascinating and incredibly well researched, with a narrative voice that’s simultaneously highly educated and humbly inviting.

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“The Book of Nora” Opens as ‘The Leftovers’ Draws to a Perfect Close

The story ends with a story, making The Leftovers' experiential sensation one of divine artistic intent.

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‘Zombies, Migrants, and Queers’ Make for a Monstrous Economy

One of the intellectual strengths of Fojas’ book is how she consistently surprises in historicizing and theorizing neoliberalism.

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‘Maudie’ Explores How Art Can Come From the Most Unlikely Places

Sally Hawkins lifts her complex role with a graceful energy, helped by Maudie's visual approach, which is sometimes delicately impressionistic and sometimes more artisanal.

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Leslie Mendelson Sings Songs of Bittersweet Catharsis at the Sweetwater

“Love You Tonight” has a decidedly somber tone, but finds Mendelson melting hearts across the room as she sings with an aching longing of not wanting to be “another of the lonely ones…”

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Träd, Gräs och Stenar: Tack för Kaffet (So Long)

As the group nears its 50th anniversary, Träd, Gräs och Stenar brings heavy and hypnotic rock to its brand new album.

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Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem

There are two types of music fans: people who love Garland Jeffreys and people who've never heard of him. His latest album is proof that the legendary artist still has a lot of great music left.

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19 Jun 2017 // 7:21 AM

Arcadea: Arcadea

Mastodon's Brann Dailor sings and drums like crazy for this synth metal act featuring no guitars. It's a treat if you're part of that very specific audience that enjoys synth-metal.

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I’ll Fight for Your Life: An Interview with the Drums

He seemed to lose a band member with each passing album, and then a big breakup made him rethink things. Jonny Pierce turned all of that into an album some are calling The Drums' best.

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‘The Girl at the Baggage Claim’: Culture, Context, and the Self in East and West

Gish Jen's study of independence and interdependence brings polarized ideas of the self into conversation with one another.

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19 Jun 2017 // 2:30 AM

UMFANG: Symbolic Use of Light

UMFANG has created a thrillingly live and raw techno album with the emphasis placed on capturing the moment.

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Life in the Time of Outrage: We’ve Drawn So Many Lines in the Sand That We’ve Eroded the Beach

The ad hominem argument, traditionally considered a logical fallacy, has gained a cultural acceptance and a widespread tacit approval that boggles the mind.

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Important, Which Means It Has to Do Better

Everything in The Handmaid's Tale narrative is grounded in gendered oppression that exists, or has existed, somewhere in the world, always.

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Whatever Happened to American Idealism?

Young Radicals reminds us that idealism and progressive radicalism are not terms of insult; they are core American values that America needs desperately to rediscover.

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‘Imagine Wanting Only This’ Is as Beautiful as It Is Troubling in the Questions it Poses

Through her visually stunning graphic memoir, Kristen Radtke explores themes of love and loss and the impermanence of life in all its forms.

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16 Jun 2017 // 8:31 AM

Goldie: The Journey Man

Goldie returns after a near decade absence with the lengthy double-album The Journey Man.

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‘Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2’ Humanizes the American Juror As More Than Just Another Digit

Lindy’s conversations  with fellow former jurors reveal some understated nuances in American politics and culture better than mere argumentation ever can.

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Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister: Planetarium

Although overly padded and repetitious at times, Planetarium is a poignant, adventurous, and highly promising debut.

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I’ve Got No Beef With Nu-Disco Editing—It’s the Cutting Into Disco’s Gayness That Bothers Me

There’s nothing wrong with stripping the frills. But what happens when you carve out the heart in the process?

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Family Bonding, Poverty and Vagrancy in Children’s Literature

Three European classics, Seacrow Island, An Episode of Sparrows and Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill explore difficult topics with profundity and sincerity.

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Chasing the Jester’s Ghosts: “American Pie”

In light of the March 2017 announcement of "American Pie" being preserved in the Library of Congress, let's not forget other songs of the '70s that matter just as much.

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16 Jun 2017 // 2:30 AM

Fleet Foxes: Crack-Up

On their first album in six years, Fleet Foxes produce a dense, complex album that's easily their best, most ambitious work yet.

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‘iZombie’: “Conspiracy Weary” Deftly Connects the Season’s Numerous Plots

With a fourth season confirmed, everything doesn't need to be wrapped up quickly in iZombie, season 3.

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United, Divided, and Spited: Marvel’s ‘Secret Empire United #1’

The real world and the world of Secret Empire intersect to create a relevant, yet compelling story.

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Summer Turns to Fall: Revisiting the ‘Summer of Love’ 50 Years Later

Summer of Love simultaneously demonstrates why that moment in the cultural timeline is worth commemorating, what its legacy is, and what was lost as summer turned to fall.

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‘The Book of Henry’ Goes From Tearjerker to Just Plain Jerky

It’s difficult to recall a film soaring so high, only to crash beneath the weight of its own narrative and thematic blunders.

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Joe Bonomo’s ‘Field Recordings’ Makes Plain the Poetry Inside of Him

In his lifelong attachments to music, Bonomo holds on loosely and succeeds in never letting go.

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15 Jun 2017 // 10:11 AM

Bibio: Beyond Serious

Since Mineral Love, Bibio has been in an exploratory period which has blossomed into two drastically different EPs. Beyond Serious is way off the beaten path.

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‘The Jacques Rivette Collection’: Three Proto-Lynchian Dream Teases

Rivette's Duelle, Noroît and Merry-Go-Round are the kind of films that are always on the verge of almost making sense.

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Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Jug Band Blues

Full of surprises, this lively anthology explores a sometimes under-appreciated genre of early-recorded blues, highlighting its creative diversity.

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London Grammar: Truth Is a Beautiful Thing

While compelling, London Grammar did not exactly sound wildly original when they first emerged in 2013. In 2017, it is even harder to find a context for their work.

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15 Jun 2017 // 9:11 AM

Ride: Weather Diaries

Oxford’s dreaming sons erase their ending with an album that is fondly unfamiliar and more rewarding for it.

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Does It Take a Superhero to Understand One’s Own Mind?

In A Little More Human, Fiona Maazel provides a madcap conspiracy involving high-tech medicine and the stranger within.

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Mind Blowing: Leroy Smart in the Heady Days of 1977

In 1977, reggae music burst out of its Caribbean confines and found its way to a record store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That's the first time I met "The Don", Leroy Smart.

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Netflix Mystery ‘Shimmer Lake’ Opens Up a Conversation About the New World of Film

"Studios are not making these types of movies anymore... and so places like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube Red are coming in and filling the void," says Footprint Features CEO, Adam Saunders.

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‘Beyond Trans’ Exposes the Absurd Sex and Gender Bureaucracy

Reading Beyond Trans is like having one's window shades thrown open after arising from a long night of sleep: the sunlight burns the eyes, but it awakens them.

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Mark Mulcahy: The Possum in the Driveway

With only the second release after his wife’s tragic passing in 2008, Mark Mulcahy manages to make the most of his time spent moving forward.

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Brash and Playful ‘Okja’ is the Summer’s Activist Epic

Bong Joon Ho’s uneven but still electrifying caper about a little girl and her giant pig on the run from villainous Tilda Swinton swirls a sharp dose of slapstick comedy into its pop satirical narrative.

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Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1

Although From a Room likely won’t sweep the CMAs as Traveller did, its refined craftsmanship hammers home Stapleton’s abilities as a singer and songwriter.

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Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound: Not Two

It is elevating to the spirit to encounter music and philosophy characterized by such warmth and amenity.

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14 Jun 2017 // 8:52 AM

Katy Perry: Witness

Who's going to bear Witness? The listeners, of course, because this album, unfortunately, proves to be one hell of a burden.

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‘Pussy’ Is a Savage Satire in the Form of a Comic Fairytale

Howard Jacobson shows that Donald Trump may not be beyond satire, after all...

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Ella Fitzgerald’s Centennial: Is It Possible to Reinvent This Artist?

The First Lady of Song was a seeker, and it's been all too easy to just imitate her: the scatting, the silky melodies. On her 100th, there's a better way to do it.

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Allen Ginsberg: The Artist as Mensch

The overwhelming impression from Ginsberg's interviews is his lack of ego. He comes across, again and again, as a fundamentally decent person.

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It All Began the Day ‘Blade’ Sliced Through the Silver Screen

How Blade found success out of the rubble of comic book films and Marvel's bankruptcy.

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‘The Production of Money’: How to Break the Bankers and Put Our Broken Economy Back Together

There’s plenty of money floating around in the world, but it’s all in the wrong places.

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In ‘The Blood is at the Doorstep’, a Family Suffers From an Intransigent Criminal Justice System

Erik Ljung's work is an auspicious cinematic debut which reminds that for every criminal justice statistic, there's a stirring story which deserves to be deeply considered.

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‘Orphan Black’s The Crowded “Few Who Dare” Sets Up for the Final Season

"The Few Who Dare" continues to keep the clones separate, for the most part, as they each pull on a different thread in the Neolution plot.

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20 Questions: Doctors of Madness’ Richard Strange

The Sex Pistols once opened for them, and are cited as the missing link between glam and punk. At long last, their music is available again, and frontman/erstwhile Death Eater Richard Strange reflects on it all.

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A Warts and All Look at 150 years of Women’s Wrestling

As GLOW gets a second look on Netflix and a group of new women wrestlers grab attention in the WWE, Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy celebrate the female performers who paved the way.

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13 Jun 2017 // 8:14 AM

Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange

One of the era's most astonishing trombonists, Fiedler has made his best, most appealing recording with a sterling quintet.

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13 Jun 2017 // 8:08 AM

Lyle Lovett: Greatest Hits

Despite being something of a misnomer on multiple levels, Greatest Hits is as fine a place to start as any for those looking to get into Lyle Lovett.

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13 Jun 2017 // 7:53 AM

Phoenix: Ti Amo

Summer is here and Phoenix have returned with a set of pop songs determinedly celebrating vacationing on the beach and the joys of love and romance.

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13 Jun 2017 // 3:00 AM

One Nation, Divided by Humor

We may be one nation in America, but today we appear to be living on different planets.

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More Recent Features

//Mixed media
//Blogs

The Moving Pixels Podcast Discusses 'Tales from the Borderlands Episode 2'

// Moving Pixels

"Our foray into the adventure-game-style version of the Borderlands continues.

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