Friday, October 25 2013
A.N Wilson's The Elizabethans is a very readable history, despite the author's inability to get out of his own way.
Friday, December 6 2013
Falling in love is hard on the knees, Aerosmith reminded us some two decades back. Between President Obama's "backpedaling" on the Syrian red-line and Miley's twerking, 2013 has been a little like that.
The Coens appear to be back in Barton Fink mode, setting up a straw man whose creative arrogance ensures that he won’t see a moment’s happiness from his work.
Like a great battle, or a criminal desperately trying to avoid capture, Hollywood breaks out the big guns this month, giving us new efforts from Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, the Coen Brothers, and Spike Jonze, along with the typical mainstream holiday fare.
Eminent criminologists make a compelling case for why America's 40 year embrace of the punitive spirit has been morally bankrupt and endangered public safety.
Bands across metal's subgenres reached their full potential, be they acts coming into their own, making crowd-pleasing comebacks, or even bowing out at the top of their game.
Kino-Lorber's release of Nosferatu features some of the best special features of any DVD this year.
Placed back to back in this collection, Davis's late '50s and early '60s albums reveal a man coming fully into his powers as a band leader, a composer, and a trumpet player while still remaining restless.
Doctor Who: The Vault: Treasures from the First 50 Years offers a visual treasure trove and plenty of history for even the most devout Whovian.
An incredible document that shows us a subgenre that was just too weird, too unique, and too damn funky to be forgotten by time.
The debut solo release from the indie rock legend finds him both at peace with his legacy and determined to blaze a new path.
First album in four years from the German producer. Is it too early for retro deep house?
The Bad Plus drummer takes another swipe with his new band and hits the sweet spot for modern roots jazz.
Thursday, December 5 2013
Russell's life-changing drunk driving accident, which sends him to prison, is rendered in a slash of harsh sound and illegible wreckage: from now on, you know, his options only dwindle.
Entering into Gomes’s hypnotic triptych, Tabu gives the viewer a chance to see just how far cinema has come, and just how far it can go in the hands of a master.
Ivan Klíma emphasizes moral dilemmas in spare, simple prose, shorn of philosophical digressions; as his autobiography demonstrates, Klíma avoids cant or cliché.
Unlike the Thanksgiving leftovers reheated, going for seconds is hard when it comes to comicbook issues.
Though Citizen Kane has cemented his place in film history, The Magnificent Ambersons -- especially had its original ending been kept -- would prove Orson Welles one of Hollywood’s greatest masters of tragedy, if not the greatest.
Clint Mansell’s score for Darren Aronofsky’s metaphysical science fiction film, The Fountain, is a masterpiece of both film music and contemporary art music.
In 2013, the best indie-pop felt like "secret music" meant for our ears only and, at the same time, like we're being pulled into a community.
The great band featuring Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Tony Williams, at its best.
The 2003 indie-rock classic gets its reissue in the same year that its creator, Jason Molina, died.
Caroline Norton is a little known woman who arguably changed the world. Author and scholar Diane Atkinson explains how.
Beastmilk's unabashed re-imagination of the music of their influences is so well conceived and unapologetic that the lack of originality at the heart of Climax becomes little more than an afterthought.
Hunters' paradigm of noise-punk layered with melodic hooks is a common enough model, but Hunters pursue some sideways diversions on the grime-ridden path.
The Brightest Light isn’t a perfect album from the Mission. That said, it is very good and has the potential to please established fans as well as the newly interested.
The title track will floor you: a stunning return to form for our favorite indie rock weirdos. The rest of this slapdash EP? Not so much.
Wednesday, December 4 2013
The premiere suggests exactly why this period isn't more often plundered by television, namely, the extraordinary difficulty of shaking off the popular culture clichés of the period.
What strange magic has propelled writer-creator Robert Kirkman's zombie apocalypse epic, The Walking Dead for so long? Whatever it is, it's alive and kicking still in issue #116.
This substantial documentary displays the genre at its most vital: telling a story for a subject incapable of voicing complaint.
American journalist Max Lerner claimed "to reject the word is to reject the human search." Under the Third Reich, the book industry faced its own destruction, leaving the people with empty words bursting with Nazi propaganda.
How can global destruction have the same effect in a world that has already endured too much of it?
As civil liberties were absorbed by the religious state and exacting codes of conduct were implemented with brutal force in Iran, Kiarostami used his canvas to show hope to his countrymen.
In Naked City there are rarely clear instances of heroism or cowardice. Guilt and innocence are always subjective, and early impressions are more often than not reversed by the final reel.
This year saw the release of some of the best modern progressive music from a wide array of subgenres and idiosyncratic approaches.
Like the band's proper albums, its singles collections get better each time around. Volume 3 is the best collection yet, with some downright gems and curious if imperfect steps into the unknown.
This new collection of critical essays on Twin Peaks has bright moments, but suffers from poor curation.
Intending to pique and whet before note one, this partnership between members of Neon Indian and Tigercity infuses some sorely needed sexuality back into oft-sterilized electronic pop.
Father John's soundtrack to his wife's upcoming short film wants to be hypnotic and foreboding; it settles for fitfully pretty and forgettable.
The UK pop star barely avoids a sophomore slump with this retro, hook-heavy set.
The best tracks on Engravings combine icy ambience with doomy grooves. The more lackluster pieces lack melodic hooks and try to get by on atmosphere alone.
Tuesday, December 3 2013
Marvel’s latest cosmic donnybrook comes to an end, closing as it has progressed--neatly, thoughtfully, and with a restrained temperament.
As alter egos go, you couldn't have two more opposite types than the adorable Sven and the relentlessly fierce ice monster.
Following the US release of new Dexys album One Day I'm Going to Soar, Kevin Rowland talks about why it took so long to get back in the studio, the benefits of meditation, and why he's not your friend.
It's been 45 years, and we're still trying to figure this record out, but this expansive edition gives us the clearest picture of the band's murky sophomore record. It reveals the group's thorny vision for the album and perfectly honors the late Lou Reed.
Whales and Leeches is not the raging triumph hoped for.
Afrobeat's most famous AIDS casualty gets Red Hot honors once again.
The latest work from electronic artist Mike Silver finds him expanding his sonic palate to reach new heights.
There's some great, if hokey, material to be had on I Robot, and yet it is also hugely entertaining and a must have for geeks interested in the late '70s sci-fi landscape
Cassavetes' aesthetic, both in front of and behind the camera, was less Method immersion than mad (as in gleeful) exploration, skirting the emotional edge without tripping into or wallowing in cathartic excess.
Jethro Tull is one of progressive rock's longest-running bands. But is it progressive rock? If not, Ian Anderson and Co. have some explaining to do when it comes to Thick as a Brick and Passion Play.
The heart is in the right place even if the head isn't for Springsteen and I, a "fan-made" homage to the Boss for... who, exactly?
Kelly Reichardt has established herself as a singular and essential voice in modern cinema by being a master of the miniature, a maestro of The Moment.
It's a generalization, but the year in indie rock saw a turn away from harmony-focused, gentle rock and back toward something a bit noisier, a bit more idiosyncratic, a little harder to ignore.
I felt ridiculous, but I found myself choking back tears throughout this film.
This is a fascinating book about a murky time in American history, pre-Civil War, when race politics was catch as catch can.
Monday, December 2 2013
A star who lamented the wages of fame for most of her life, Elizabeth Taylor embraced the spotlight in order to raise awareness and money regarding AIDS.
WWII in HD is required viewing for its high-minded ideals and its near-flawless execution. It makes other films on the subject matter pale in comparison.
If you're a customer, the Walmart of online retailers loves you. If you're a competitor or an employee, not so much.
Contrast is the rare game that prioritizes story to the detriment of gameplay.
While Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may stem directly from The Avengers film franchise, like those movies, the show also has comics in its DNA.
From the electro-dance of Daft Punk, Disclosure and Rudimental and the boundary-pushing R&B of Janelle Monae and John Newman to the warm sounds of Americana blossoming into the hippest sounds in American music and the always-compelling Kanye West, PopMatters counts down 2013's 75 best songs.
More than anything, this is a portrait of man trying to find peace and a place in post-World War II China.
The soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' film about Greenwich Village's folk scene is slick, polished, and reverent to a fault.
Dirty Love’s four linked novellas examine the ways we fail one another in love, in all the old-fashioned ways: lies, adultery, criticism, betrayals, booze.
A mostly scattershot sequel to 2012's Blue Chips.
Milk Money is a pleasant work of songcraft, but one wonders if it might have been a touch stronger by just including the album closer and nearly 25-minute epic “Legos (for Terry)”.
A fine, varied set of tunes from a talented Madagascar native.
One of the best stand-up comics around shows off a skill set few can match on her new album.
Wednesday, November 27 2013
Winnie (Naomie Harris) appears as the sign of her husband's sacrifice. Her face is brilliant and transcendent, telling a long and complicated story in a few seconds.
Before a series of showdowns that take some advantage of Jason Statham's physicality, the mayhem builds at a methodical pace.
Why doesn't Superman simply kill all his enemies and rule the world? In Action #25, incoming regular writer Greg Pak confront's Superman's inherent potential for fascism.
Placebo have been a cult band of reknown for years, but even after all this time, they are trying new things like taking guitars out of some songs completely, turning down offers to make more money, and loving their process more than ever.
My ramblings about reading are so valued that I'm now a big star in Tanzania. On my recent whirlwind tour I was mobbed at the airport and carried about on people's shoulders.
When I touched a copy of the Beatles’ Rarities from The Odd, Older Man’s box of records, the hair stood on the back of my neck.
Proof that the best art can be both timeless and a document of time and place, La Notte observes modern love.
Experience the primal scream and dance pop (!!!) of early Soundgarden.
Far from "bowing their heads and leaving out the back", the Los Angeles-based post-hardcore/screamo outfit Touché Amoré is doubling down on its clean guitar/screamed vocal contrast, and successfully so, at that.
Deborah Solomon’s incisive biography shows us a hitherto unseen side of the celebrated illustrator—one that’s complex, neurotic and darker than the images of breezy Americana that he made famous.
Strong, varied songwriting is the name of the game regardless of what genre you’re peddlin', and Sandrider's second album Godhead has this in spades.
The Burger Records debut for this synth-pop project shows a considerable amount of promise, as well as a few growing pains.
This superb collection properly revisits select songs from a wide portfolio, adding respectful guest appearances that accentuate more than not.
Tuesday, November 26 2013
Her remarkable relationship to the camera is visible in most of the photos and footage of Bettie Page, perhaps especially in those she took with two women photographers.
Far from just the journey westwards, there've been three other American migrations. Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years introduces the idea of a fifth.
Some argue that Lou Reed, the man who never ran out of ways to say "fuck you", might not be the best influence for a child. I say he was the best role model a ten-year-old could have.
Anachronism so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel.
Like Jimmy Darmody, his Boardwalk Empire counterpart, Tommy Shelby has grown up to find all Gods dead and all faiths in man shaken -- but not quite all wars fought.
Death Grips' creativity is flowing at its peak and they are only concerned with music, and you should be as well.
Mug Museum: a magical place that'll wrap your troubles in dreams (and likely have a gift shop, too).
It doesn’t seem enough that our conversations about pop culture only take one of two opposing poles: how it corrupts people totally and leads to “moral problems” and solipsism, or how it provides means of “agency” and “empowerment” and new ways of envisioning freedom.
This uniquely celebratory work is one of the best of the year.
Despite some minor quibbles, this is a very accomplished album and one that shows Flynn well on his way to becoming the U.K.’s next great folk troubadour.
Listening to this comp feels more like a college assignment, but the feeling of being properly educated is well worth it.
Monday, November 25 2013
When questions came up as to the toxicity of flame retardants, the three primary manufacturers made their case with faulty studies or deliberate misreadings of studies.
Ghosts doesn’t have the same ambition to attempt the social commentary that Modern Warfare had, but that allows it to go so buck wild crazy that the loss is worth it.
At 75 years, both Superman and the print collection that celebrates his anniversary, suggest the idea of perpetual fictions as public good.
Among the A-list jambands born in the mid-‘80s through about the early ‘90s, none has been more consistent that this one for as long a period, nor seems as poised to remain so.
Not many noise/electronic duos get their music featured in the Olympics, but Fuck Buttons aren't any ordinary group, and they talk to PopMatters about their big gold medal moment, their new album, and so much more.
Here as in all his works, William T. Vollman sides with the poor and the marginalized, but he tries to remain fair to all he meets, even as he confesses his prejudice, or tolerance.
Graham Nash has always seemed like an affable dude, but his personality grates rather quickly in this mercifully short memoir.