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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.

Monday, October 20 2014

A Fitting (But Incomplete) End: “Death of Wolverine #4”

Wolverine's demise had just enough substance and not nearly enough style.


‘Neverending Nightmares’ Is More Tedious Than Terrifying

While it looks quite amazing, the problem with Neverending Nightmares is that there is a real lack of a bigger picture, either strategically or narratively, to motivate the play itself.


‘Watchers of the Sky’ and the Full Cruelty of Consciousness

Brutality can take many forms, from war making to banking.


‘The Vincent Price Collection II’ Is a B-Movie Lover’s Dream

Vincent Price brought class to everything he did, a quality evident even in the B-movies of The Vincent Price Collection II.


It’s Back to the Future with William Gibson’s ‘The Peripheral’

When Flynne Fisher witnesses a murder, a contract is taken on her life. The contract holders are from the future.


‘The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume One’ Attests to Risk-Taking in Creativity and Innovation

This collection of films is significant in illustrating the development of Mack Sennett's contributions to early film comedy and the lasting effects of Sennett and his troupe.


Waiting for the Rails to Rumble: The Cycles of Rock Music

The romantic sentiment that rock was better in the past and has, as they say, given up the ghost, is a charming but misguided notion.


The Waters Aren’t Choppy Enough in ‘Killer Fish’

There's hardly enough killer fish action in Killer Fish to keep the film afloat.


Scott Walker and Sunn O))): Soused

Twin titans of the underground come together to craft essentially what you'd expect a collaboration of this nature to sound like, for better or worse.


‘Voyaging in Strange Seas’ Tells of the Deep, Wide Roots of Modern Science

The history of the Scientific Revolution, retold: Clear, detailed, and as overwhelming as drinking from a fire hose.


Jukebox the Ghost: Jukebox the Ghost

In overemphasizing the pure pop side of its style, Jukebox the Ghost oversimplifies and dumbs down its songwriting smarts.


Jess Reimer: The Nightjar and the Garden

The Nightjar and the Garden is a highly literary effort, a testament to a woman's trying faith in a time and place where it is a commodity that is being continuously challenged.


Guilty Simpson: The Simpson Tape

Simpson's grumbling's gotten boring, but Oh-No's beats are as fresh as they've ever been (straight off the farm, we're talking).


Queen: Live at the Rainbow ‘74

This lost live record captures one of rock’s most unassailable giants, right when it was discovering how to really belt out its “fee-fi-fo-fums”.


Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen: Cold Spell

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen are poised to become a lasting force in bluegrass and also demonstrate the potential for broader success.


Friday, October 17 2014

‘The Book of Life’ Is a Boy-Band Approach to Moviemaking

The commercial approach of The Book of Life is to draw on a wide range of celebrities to craft an entertainment that just about anyone could like.


Michael Keaton and Edward Norton Square Off in ‘Birdman’

A onetime Hollywood superhero takes a stab at respectability by adapting Raymond Carver’s writings to Broadway in Iñárritu's hallucinogenic satire of the entertainment industry.


There’s No Beginning, There Be No End: The Last of the Greats

The Last of the Greats was published by Image in 2011-12, a five-issue mini-series that received deserved critical acclaim but ultimately flew under the radar, popularity-wise.


Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan

Ian Bell explores Dylan's unparalleled second act in a quintessentially American career. It's a tale of redemption, of an act of creative will against the odds, and of a writer who refused to fade away.


The Persistence of Mockery: Garfield and Surrealism

Goofing around with Garfield on The Garfield Randomiser and Garfield Minus Garfield evokes the poetic Surrealism that arose from Dadism.


“We Just Kinda Broke All the Rules”: An Interview with Lucinda Williams

Throughout her long and legendary career, Lucinda Williams has garnered a reputation for dismissing any notions of rules, expectations, or boundaries.


Ry Cooder: Soundtracks

Rhino’s seven CD retrospective box set Soundtracks covers off the bulk of Ry Cooder’s ‘80s film work. Interesting and varied, this is a worthy re-issue.


The Aislers Set: How I Learned to Write Backwards

Even though How I Learned to Write Backwards is arguably the band's darkest hour, it's still affirming and affecting, the final piece in a wonderful trilogy of albums.


‘Into the War’ Is Introspective, Poignant,  and Moralistic in All the Right Ways

Italo Calvino offers a rarely personal, and deeply insightful, glimpse of the adolescent experience of war.


Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Worker

The constantly morphing new jazz trio moves into deeply atmospheric, electronic territory and dares you to follow.


Pig Destroyer: Mass and Volume EP

This EP bears the mark of idle hands merely wanting to keep busy.


Hiss Golden Messenger: Lateness of Dancers

The latest from M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch's country-leaning band serves as an re-introduction and a rebirth for their signature sound.


Noel Torres: La Balanza

When playing corridos, one must be absolutely modern. If you play them as hard as possible, that helps.


Thursday, October 16 2014

‘Lilting’ Is About the Ways We Assimilate

Lilting challenges what it means to assimilate into a culture, suggesting that blending in isn't necessary for shared experience.


Soap, Candles, and Even the Humble Ice Cube Make Appearances in ‘How We Got to Now’

From the first selfie to the importance of jazz musicians, Steven Johnson puts a few surprises into How We Got To Now.


More Boy Than Witch: “Klarion #1”

Just keep moving, folks. There is nothing to see here, especially nothing scary. This Klarion, this Witch Boy, is a lot more boy than witch.


‘The Essential Jacques Demy’ Captures the Director’s Breezy, Bluesy World

The Essential Jacques Demy provides an insightful look inside an auteur who may finally be getting the recognition he deserves.


‘Surgeon General’s Warning’ Provides a Fascinating History on a Controversial Position

Written in vivid detail and expertly researched, Mike Stobbe's chronicle of the office of the Surgeon General parts the curtains on some surprising heroes and brings us to a surprising conclusion.


Mount Eerie: New York - 24 September 2014

Phil Elverum brought minimalist arrangements of songs from upcoming Mount Eerie release Sauna to NYC's Le Poisson Rouge, along with plenty of mystery and endearing stage banter.


Lucifer Is Free to Roam: (In)Justice and Retribution in ‘Hannibal’

Hannibal, unlike much-hyped pulp revival shows like True Detective and Fargo, refuses to give its audience neat answers on matters of right and wrong.


A Dark Rapture: The Rise of Punk in Spain

Spanish punkers came swinging harder than ever, screaming not for the sake of inducing change, but screaming for the sake of screaming – because now they could.


El May Reclaims Her Confidence on the Introspective ‘The Other Person Is You’

Lara Meyerratken, the Los Angeles-by way of-Australia indie pop musician, returns with her first new album in four years.


‘Revenge: The Complete Third Season’ Is Too Convoluted for Its Own Good

In its third season, Revenge jumps the shark and drowns slowly afterwards.


Kele: Trick

From the club to the bedroom, the Bloc Party frontman explores the empty sensuality of sleeping with complete strangers.


Johnny Marr: Playland

Johnny Marr's second solo album suggests a consummate musician becoming more comfortable with his solo status.


Lars Iyers’ ‘Wittgenstein Jr’ Is a Portrait of the Genius as a Tortured Thinker

Lars Iyer's latest novel explores sadness and genius while contemplating the end of philosophy.


Pharmakon: Bestial Burden

Bestial Burden really knows how to work a mood, and beat that sense of claustrophobic misery right into the ground.


JAWS: Be Slowly

These Birmingham lads mine their musical past to create a sound in keeping with their influences without straying too far from established templates, finding comfort in familiarity.


Billy Thermal: Billy Thermal

A long-shelved power pop gem gets its chance to shine.


Trigger Hippy: Trigger Hippy

Trigger Hippy's roots run deep and the down-and-dirty, soul-tinged blues they rock is the real deal.


Wednesday, October 15 2014

Pixies May Have Changed, But Their Energy Is Still Strong

The revamped Pixies prove there's plenty of fuel left in the tank yet.


In ‘The Zero Theorem’, Terry Gilliam Is Still Looking for the Meaning of Life

Terry Gilliam's quest for life's biggest answers finds a new formulation in The Zero Theorem: perhaps, the film suggests, there is no meaning to it all.


A (Not Quite) Epic Onslaught: “Avengers and X-men: AXIS #1”

A high concept that's high on potential and low on refinement.


Tim & Eric with Dr. Steve Brule: Boston - 4 October 2014

Tim & Eric, with Dr. Steve Brule in tow, shared their brand of entrancingly preposterous, thoroughly sweet comedy during an extended set in Boston's Back Bay.


‘The End of Absence’ Is an Argument to Turn Off and Tune In

These days there's so much technodread floating around that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a thinkpiece about how smartphones are ruining our minds.


Katie Kate: Nation

Nation isn't an opus. It's a warning.


Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles

Sarah Silverman's second HBO special/comedy album gives us another healthy helping of rape, incest, oral sex, profanity and jokes about Jews. In other words, Sarah Silverman being herself.


Sweetback in the Cosmos: An Interview with Melvin Van Peebles

He's almost single-handedly invented the Blaxploitation film genre, but as his recent collaboration with Heliocentrics proves, Melvin Van Peebles is so much more than simply a filmmaker in command of his craft.


Vashti Bunyan: Heartleap

Vashti Bunyan is given the final word on a sporadic yet influential career with the organic swan song Heartleap.


Dads: I’ll Be the Tornado

I’ll Be the Tornado is an enrapturing album, and one that you simply must hear with your mind and your heart.


The Magical Presence of Anna Karina: More Than Godard’s Muse

It’s not that Anna Karina couldn’t act, but that she didn’t have to. Her physical presence was the art, and her beauty, in and of itself, was a significant contribution to the culture.


Will We Ever Come First? ‘Vampire Academy’ and Female (Mis)Representation

Though a surface reading of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy suggests compelling depiction of women, underneath lies ages-old patriarchal myths.


‘Million Dollar Arm’ Is a Million Dollar Idea With a Ten-Cent Film Plot

Million Dollar Arm is a film that picked the wrong protagonist.


Foxygen: ...And Star Power

Try as you might to take Foxygen's ...And Star Power at face value, it's hard to because the mischievous duo does everything but play it straight on the 82-minute double LP.


The Acacia Strain: Coma Witch

Coma Witch is a bracing, unapologetic, mesmerizing album. And it could very well be easily one of the best metal albums of the year.


‘The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace’ Will Make You Think

This real-world account of an ill-fated Yale student's life will be haunting me for many months.


Tuesday, October 14 2014

What More Is Mankind Than Nature’s Parasite? Reflections on ‘Herzog: The Collection’

For Werner Herzog, man’s tug-of-war with nature is not a present imbalance but a lost cause, the barbarous beauty of nature made mere barbarism by humankind.


Pearl Jam: 3 October 2014 - St. Louis (Photos)

Pearl Jam's shows are more and more memorable for hardcore fans but they still remain approachable for everyone as they pulled from their earliest releases in St. Louis.


Mainstream Economists Are Leading America to Ruin

The challenges for Americans and other countries to grapple with are not economic ones, and they are not narrow, technically ‘scientific’ ones. They are moral and philosophical ones.


Roald Dahl, But for Adults: “Wytches #1”

"It’s not the greatest #1 I’ve ever read by a long shot but…"


The Afterparty: An Interview with Bloc Party’s Kele

Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke talks his new solo album, Trick, and explains how the album pushed him to make music in an entirely fresh way.


Songs of Simulation and Discouragement: Bowie, Bono, and Authenticity

With its Apple-sponsored free public release, U2's Songs of Innocence betrays just how far the band has come from their past, despite its attempts to bring back a Dublinesque vision.


The Bully at the Pulpit: ‘Elmer Gantry’

Richard Brooks's adaptation of Elmer Gantry lives and dies on Burt Lancaster's strangest, most unforgettable performance.


Gazelle Twin: Unflesh

Gazelle Twin's Unflesh is as immaculate as a hotel in a JG Ballard novel, and just as bloody scary.


Why You Have No Idea What Your Favorite Characters Look Like

Celebrated book designer Peter Mendelsund considers how readers construct (or fail to construct) visual images in their minds in What We See When We Read.


Revocation: Deathless

Deathless should cement Revocation as one of the top metal bands in the world, if they haven’t already reached such lofty heights on previous releases.


Jason Aldean: Old Boots, New Dirt

Aldean's personal life, and Nashville's change of direction, isolate the listener and reinforce stereotypes.


Gui Boratto: Abaporu

Abaporu is a record that, despite all of its differing hues, manages to come across as a unified mosaic of sound.


Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood: Juice

The jazz trio, supplemented by frequent partner John Scofield, put out another appealing blend of jazz and groove music -- a flavorful if somewhat slight version of what they do best.


Texas in July: Bloodwork

Texas in July is so lifeless that not even the transfusion of a whole new line-up can revive this corpse.


Monday, October 13 2014

Does ‘Marry Me’ Mark the Year of the Rom-Sitcom?

Why shouldn’t a maligned genre -- and romantic comedies are nothing if not maligned -- follow in drama's footsteps?


John Woo Said “For a Better Tomorrow:” CW’s “The Flash” and “This American Life’s” “Serial”

Just ahead of tomorrow's second episode of The Flash, we present this special Iconographies on this show isn't very different from This American Life's spinoff, Serial.


The Campus Novel as Gonzo Mayhem

His Ph.D revoked, a man fueled by anger returns to an institution he despises in Primordial: An Abstraction.


Neither Here Nor There: ‘The Institute’, the Game, and the Thread to Elsewhere

The trend in alternate reality gaming fits a traditional definition of hyperreality; the condition where fiction and the real become indistinguishably blended together.


“It’s Just About the Document”: An Interview with Danny Clinch

He's an iconic photographer for rock stars such as the Beastie Boys and Bruce Springsteen. Here, he talks about his first book and the stories behind some of his most memorable images.


‘Obvious Child’ Looks at Unplanned Pregnancy from a New Angle

Even when Obvious Child lacks interesting conflict, it still admirably presents women in a way atypical from mainstream cinema.


OK Go: Hungry Ghosts

OK Go successfully dips a toe into synth-rock without forgetting their power-pop roots, yet they still manage to include a small handful of outright clunkers.


In ‘The Beggar and the Hare’, Beggars Can Be Choosers

What really happens when you hit rock bottom?


We Were Promised Jetpacks: Unraveling

How many times can you challenge your audience to join you at the top of the room before these big moves become big tropes?


Lights: Little Machines

The Canadian singer-songwriter decides that pop music is no place for individualism or high-energy performances on her third album.


Purling Hiss: Weirdon

The latest from Philadelphia guitar wizard Mike Polizze gives voice to his catchy, pop-loving side.


Mark Turner Quartet: Lathe of Heaven

Fly guy Mark Turner makes a sparse quartet really work for him and you.


FaltyDL: In the Wild

FaltyDL's newest floats around without aim or interest.


Sunday, October 12 2014

‘Comic Book Men’ Is ‘Pawn Stars’ for Nerds

Kevin Smith and his comic book-loving posse spend each episode swapping tales about daily trades, sales, and purchases in Smith’s comic book store, Secrete Stash.


Saturday, October 11 2014

‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

Like most kids' movies, this one is less chaotic and inventive than it is predictable and reassuring.


Friday, October 10 2014

There’s Blood on the Drums in ‘Whiplash’

In Whiplash, all the visual and aural magic comes from Andrew's (Miles Teller) precise and jazzy drum solos.


Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall Chew Scenery in ‘The Judge’

A strong cast fights a losing battle against subpar material in this ramshackle drama.


There Are Lots of Bill Murray Bits in ‘St. Vincent’

Like any movie in the curmudgeon-mentors-a-child subgenre, St. Vincent draws some fine lines, between comedy and sentimentality, formula and, well, more formula.


‘Super Smash Bros.’ for the 3DS: Controller Blues

Almost all portable games are single player, and for the most part, this feels like a single player game, which does the fantastic series a disservice.


Austin City Limits: A History

An unprecedented access telling of this landmark musical showcase whose history spans dramatic changes in the nature of television, the expansion of digital media, and the ways in which we experience music.


‘Some Luck’ Is Sweeping, Bold, and Completely Engrossing

Few authors are able to write equally well about war strategy, communism, cover crops, and postpartum depression.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 20-1

These top 20 records of the '00s feature some familiar faces, but also several that, over time, have grown more fondly in memory.


Love in a Gilded Cage: ‘Blanche’

A master of visuals, Walerian Borowczyk's stunning recreation of medieval life presents a world which seems as real and defined as the space in our own living rooms.


Caribou: Our Love

By tweaking the sound of his previous record, Caribou's Dan Snaith has created one of the most enjoyable, crowd-pleasing records of the year.


Ex Hex: Rips

Mary Timony's new project Ex Hex makes the best case possible for listening to that urge to simplify on Rips.


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