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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, September 8 2014

Ashrae Fax: Never Really Been Into It

Re-recorded from old snippets, this new Ashrae Fax set is more self-assured than the band's debut, Static Crash!, though you might sometimes miss the nervous energy of that first album.


Soulja Boy: King Soulja 3

Soulja Boy's latest offering is a fairly vanilla addition to the trap genre, with few highlights to make it a worthwhile listen.


smallgang: San

The main discriminant between a bluff and the worthwhile is quality, and smallgang have plenty of it.


Friday, September 5 2014

‘Gringo Trails’ Explores the Complicated Business of Tourism

Gringo Trails doesn't explore the construction of travelers' desire for an "authentic" experience, but instead focuses on its effects: the global tourism industry.


The PopMatters Fall Preview: September 2014

For fans of everything from the truly buzz-worthy (Terry Gilliam) to that found footage trope yet again (Casey La Scala), this warm-up to the end of the year awards has you covered.


Ferguson, Missouri: Real and Imagined

As art imitates life, there are parallels between the violence in Laura McBride's We Are Called to Rise and the most recent headlines of violence in America.


The Holy Greil: Marcus Nears 70 and He’s Better Than Ever With This New Rock History

In The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs, Marcus's writing is as intoxicating as ever. The man is a poet.


He Can Do Quite a Few Things: Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips and Electric Würms

The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd talks with PopMatters about new group Electric Würms, his thoughts on progressive rock, and decades of musical exploration.


(Not So) Sex Obsessed: ‘Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films 1963-74’

The controversial French director's best known films are collected into this handsome six-film BFI box set, full of impressive nouvelle vague innovation.


M83: M83 / Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts / Before the Dawn Heals Us

This re-release of M83's first three albums paint a fascinating story of the band's rise to masters of catharsis-oriented synth-pop.


Wire: Document and Eyewitness (Re-issue)

Wire are arguably one of the most influential post-punk bands ever. But the (mostly) tuneless noise of this 1979/1980 live album is not the place to start.


Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk

The album feels like Paisley exerting his countryness, just three years after titling an album This is Country Music.


Martyn Bennett: Grit

A reissue of a beautiful yet tragic album which, as now as on its original release, unites a nation and a world with its mixture of traditions, sounds and stories.


Hamilton Leithauser: Black Hours

The Walkmen's bandleader becomes big-band bandleader.


Thursday, September 4 2014

‘Wetlands’: Grossing Out and Coming of Age Now

Wetlands is both sweet if off-kilter love story and a movie full of stomach-churning material. Think of a substance you might find unpleasant, and you can probably find it here.


They Call Alabama the Crimson Tide: Southern Bastards in the Heart of Dixie

Southern Bastards is a true Alabama story as much as To Kill a Mockingbird is a true Alabama story.


Twenty Years, Too Fast: ‘The Past Is a Grotesque Animal: A Film About Of Montreal’

The Past Is a Grotesque Animal takes a compelling, 20-year long story, and zips far too quickly through it.


The Great Tragic History of Southern Rock Is Revealed in ‘Southbound’

Some say it's impossible to call one volume the definitive history on a topic, but it is possible to announce one as the seminal work. This book is both.


Wake to Dream: An Interview with David Bridie, Australia’s Best Kept Secret

After three decades as a recording artist, David Bridie, Australia's best kept secret, releases his fourth solo album Wake, an album born on the outer reaches of a dream.


‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Needs a Little Humor

This adaptation of Rosemary's Baby misses out on a lot of the charms of Roman Polanski's original.


Half Japanese: Overjoyed

Overjoyed, Half Japanese's first record in over a decade, is all unapologetic, whole-hearted declarations of love that, oddly, make for some of the band's most confrontational material yet.


J Mascis: Tied to a Star

On his latest, deceptively quiet solo outing, legendary Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis wisely lets his guitar do the talking.


Darius Jones and Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Leider: The Darkseid Recital

Chamber jazz that cries, whispers, and aches beyond standard harmony but with focus and clarity despite being wholly improvised.


In the Valley Below: The Belt

In the Valley Below definitely recalls the synth pop of the ‘80s on this debut album, though without the sheer brightness or glossiness of that decade.


Wiz Khalifa: Blacc Hollywood

Blacc Hollywood is content to stay on the same eternally-stoned playing field as past Wiz Khalifa efforts.


Wednesday, September 3 2014

I Would Rather Be a Cyborg than a Goddess: “Pop # 1”

Curt Pires and Jason Copland delve into the mysterious origins of pop stars in their new miniseries from Dark Horse Comics.


‘To Be Takei’ Is to Be a Civil Rights Activist, Nonstop

Framing George Takei as part of a larger project that has as much to do with his civil rights activism as with his acting career, "to be Takei" is something of a job.


The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell

What could have been little more than a longform book about Gaiman's Sandman becomes a visual and engrossing biography on the prolific dream genius.


‘Blended’: Sandler’s Still Searching for His Sweet Spot

Reuniting Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore can't spark the magic long lost from the former comedian's flailing career.


‘Strange’ Magic: An Interview with ‘Love is Strange’ Director Ira Sachs

Ira Sachs' moving new film boasts career-best work from his lead actors John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a partnered couple.


Thought of Sound: An Interview with Matt Sharp of the Rentals

With years between albums, a lot of factors, including a "get here now so we can record" email from the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, was what got Matt Sharp's the Rentals back into gear.


‘The Normal Heart’ Is Full of Passion, but Not Enough Rage

Larry Kramer’s blistering cri de coeur about the early days of the AIDS plague gets a solidly respectful but flawed treatment from Ryan Murphy


Maroon 5: V

It's worth crediting Maroon 5 for having spawned a guilty-pleasure earworm, containing just enough traces of actual instruments to remind listeners that digital synthesizers haven't completely cannibalized rock 'n' roll.


Jennifer Castle: Pink City

Pink City is a real winner, and listeners will be swayed by its gentle beauty.


Botanist: VI: Flora

San Francisco avant garde black metal group opts for accessibility while maintaining its novel instrumental lineup on stellar VI: Flora.


Celebration: Albumin

The Baltimore psych-indie band, championed by TV on the Radio, have a new label and a new album that often is "out there" in a less-than-flattering way.


Black Pus / Oozing Wound: Split LP

Two very noisy bands try out kinds of noise.


Adam Faucett: Blind Water Finds Blind Water

A mature, powerful collection of songs from the Arkansas singer-songwriter, equal parts darkness and light.


Tuesday, September 2 2014

MIND: Path to Thalamus

The game earns a trust that allows you to let go of your worries and to just let the mood wash over you, vagaries and all.


Not-So-Epic Showdown: “Wolverine #12”

What was billed as the biggest fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth to date ends up being a total rip-off.


Unnerving ‘Insomnia’ Gets Under Your Skin

Most people know Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia; few people, regrettably, know the superior work from which it is adapted.


Z is for Zombie and for ‘The Zombie Book’

There are brains here, interesting tidbits that make you think. They're scattered all over the place, like matter without thought, without movement, without electricity.


The Forerunner: An Interview with Shabazz Palaces

"It’s just like exploration really, and just jumping off certain types of cliffs and trying to open up sonic parachutes that’ll get you floating down to your destination and landing on two feet."


Nixonian Paranoia in 2014: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

The Captain America movies are well-suited to mix and match time periods with a comic-book-y flair.


Disaster and Individualism in ‘Game of Thrones’

Game of Thrones trades in everything good and bad about nations and realms for everything good and bad about pure individualism.


Shovels and Rope: Swimmin’ Time

Swimmin' Time is the product of our generation's June Carter and Johnny Cash after the messy past has been laid to rest.


Blonde Redhead: Barragán

Barragán is aimless and directionless, and it’s hard to see what the group is trying to really do here other than make music that somehow pleases itself.


The ‘Angry Optimist’ Is Clearly a Search-Engine Approach to Biography

Put a thousand monkeys in front of a thousand Google searches, and eventually...


Music Blues: Things Haven’t Gone Well

There is a dark, dark humor that bubbles up on occasion, but its dry wit can't keep the record from being a depressing listen.


Robin Eubanks: Klassic Rock Vol. 1

The M-Base trombonist returns with a slippery, funky mix of rock tunes and originals.


The Knife: Shaken-Up Versions

Somewhere between remixes and a live album, this brief collection would be less of a let down if the band weren't about to end.


Friday, August 29 2014

‘Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering’: Language Turned Inside Out

Eric Merola's documentary shows us what happens when our everyday language must be turned inside out.


Yet Another One Bites the Dust: ‘The Calling’

Ironically, this film also takes pains to point out the obvious pratfalls of making yet another serial killer film in the first place.


Thursday, August 28 2014

‘Love Is Strange’: Complicated Lives in Tight Spaces

The film reminds us of just how difficult it can be to find one's own tempo amidst radical changes caused by unjust circumstances.


The World(s) That Video Made

Video Revolutions is a brief, brilliant inquiry into the history of a complex, contested medium.


In ‘The Love Punch’, Money Does Buy Happiness

The troubling implicit moral at the end of The Love Punch encapsulates the film's insubstantial construction.


“It Never Happened Again” and Again and Again

In his book It Never Happened Again, Sam Alden uses two short comicbook stories to offer a slight twist on the old journey-vs.-destination philosophy.


The Gunman on the Unemployment Line: Masculinity, Professionalism, and Ethical Bankruptcy

Surely even Dirty Harry needs a break from cinematic violence, some time off at Walden Pond. Though I doubt its tranquility would deter him from picking off the sparrows.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for September 2014

September's slate of releases features numerous living legends and big names, but "Listening Ahead" is focusing its attention on artists whose time has come, like Hiss Golden Messenger and Perfume Genius.


‘The Wind Will Carry Us’ Is a Challenging Climb to the Top of the Hill

Abbas Kiarostami's film subverts viewer expectations of what makes a film satisfying, or even enjoyable.


Opeth: Pale Communion

Pale Communion is both the culmination of Opeth's journey toward classic progressive rock and its best work since Ghost Reveries.


Ty Segall: Manipulator

The often quick-working Segall took 14 months to make Manipulator, but it's not so much a wild departure sonically as it is a return to and refinement of tangents we've heard from him in the past.


‘The Temptation of Despair’ Is a Marvelous New Work on World War II-Era Germany

Werner Sollors' memories formed the basis for this book, but his research caused him to re-evaluate and re-imagine what he thought he knew about the time and the era.


Tinnarose: Tinnarose

Tinnarose is a singer-songwriter showcase of the highest order, and there’s plenty of material to keep coming back to.


Various Artists: Kompakt Total 14

After taking a year off to celebrate the label's 20th anniversary, Kompakt's annual Total compilation is back.


The Cleaners From Venus: Volume Three

This third volume of reissues from the Cleaners From Venus gives us another set of complications to consider in Martin Newell's work.


Centro-matic: Take Pride in Your Long Odds

Take Pride in Your Long Odds adds further talking points to Centro-matic’s esteemed canon.


Wednesday, August 27 2014

Quality Time and Honest Mistakes: “Wolverine Annual #1”

How an innocent camping trip can be ruined by a reasonable misunderstanding


Someone Is Missing in Elizabeth McCracken’s ‘Thunderstruck’

These stories, to borrow Carrie Fisher’s title, are postcards from the edge, a place McCracken’s creative heart has taken up residence.


Who Wants to Read Comics on a Computer?

However modest in scope, comiXology's new downloads signals the beginning of the end for strict DRM in digital comics -- and it will change how we view comics.


Tongue Firmly in Cheek: An Interview with Ace Frehley

Several years sober, KISS' Ace Frehley comes fresh off some time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to release his first solo album in over five years -- and definitely knows how to write a sexy song better than Robin Thicke.


‘The Railway Man’ Goes Off the Rails With Sentimentality

The movie wastes its impressive cast, choosing instead to drown itself in sentimentalism.


The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers

Brill Bruisers, with its blaring, neon keyboards and deep hooks, is both a prototypical New Pornographers record and another variation on the band's established themes.


“Harry Potter for Grown-Ups” Grows Up

The third and final installment in Lev Grossman's 'Magicians' trilogy, The Magician's Land, is also its best.


Todd Snider: Cheatham Street Warehouse

Snider covers Kent Finlay on Cheatham Street Warehouse to raise funds for Finlay’s medical care.


The Rentals: Lost In Alphaville

Matt Sharp's side project-turned-band is back, and they sound just like most of you remember them. But is that really such a good thing?


Imelda May: Tribal

When May rants about a "Wild Woman", we know that it's the woman that lives inside her. She ferociously attacks the lyrics, growling and stuttering as needed.


Kindred the Family Soul: A Couple Friends

Soulful duo Kindred the Family Soul retain the refined persona of R&B on latest album A Couple Friends.


Tuesday, August 26 2014

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode 4

With episode 4 of its second season, I feel as if the well is running dry on Telltale's ability to wring new meaning out of The Walking Dead franchise.


Not Just a Comicbook: “The Multiversity #1”

In this story of multiple worlds, fiction is fact and comicbooks are true.


Tracing the Mythos of Dylan, One Fan at a Time

The Dylanologists doesn't give up any answers about Dylan, but it does ask the right questions of people, on the trail through Dylan's America.


The Body Politic: Violence and Rebellion in the First Wave of Hardcore Punk

The value of violence in the hardcore punk movement is not what it fought against, but rather the new ground it forged.


There Is Only Now: An Interview with Adrian Younge

The acclaimed L.A. producer Adrian Younge talks about his new album with Souls of Mischief, why he hates ProTools, and about his slew of upcoming projects.


Kristen Wiig Sinks ‘Hateship Loveship’

Infusing Alice Munro's portrait of a lonely woman and her quest for happiness with deadpan comic beats, Kristen Wiig muddies the tone of "Hateship Loveship" and leaves it without a center.


Basement Jaxx: Junto

The UK progressive house duo is in transition on their latest full-length.


Cymbals Eat Guitars: Lose

For its themes of loss and longing, its wide-eyed sense of wistfulness, for all of its hopefulness in misfortune, Lose ends up being a win.


If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get Out of the (Restaurant) Kitchen

Popular Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg loves to cook, as made clear in Delancey... just not in restaurants.


Liam Bailey: Definitely Now

Liam Bailey’s first full length album, Definitely Now , is so genre-defying that if not for the unmistakable voice of Bailey, it could seem like a mixtape of several artists.


The Gun Club: Fire of Love

A sawed-off, hard-bitten punk sensibility and a bluesy, drawn-out compulsion to sink deeper into cloudy depths. The Gun Club's debut from 1981 wallops on this reissue as exciting, entertaining and evil as ever.


Peter Gabriel: Back to Front

Peter Gabriel Live in London... So?


Monday, August 25 2014

Hohokum

The game plays like it belongs in a museum, one of those interactive displays that invites people to navigate the art rather than stare at it.


Not the Antidote You’re Looking For: “Trees #4”

What I’d hoped would happen is that Trees would be the natural antithesis to those gimmicky summer crossovers with anticlimactic events that seem to written in marketing departments.


Organized Murder and the Graphic Anthology, ‘To End All Wars’

This stark, chiaroscuro compilation promotes a humanitarian view of the First World War, as witnessed by an array of Earth's beleaguered creatures.


Is the Sadness Gone from Country Music?

Has country music lost its capacity for brutal, unshakeable loneliness? Or are we just experiencing some calm before the next, inevitable heartache?


“No Complaints”: An Interview with Pete Best, the Original Drummer of the Beatles

Despite missing out on being one of the Fab Four, Pete Best is as happy as ever: "I have no complaints, I’ve enjoyed life. Wouldn’t change anything."


‘Dream Deceivers: Heavy Metal on Trial’ Examines Culpability and Belief

Metal fans will remember this story in the lore of censorship and a dark moment in the history of Judas Priest. But this film is not about the band and is all the better for it.


‘The Legend of Hell House’ Is Cerebral Horror at Its Finest

Possibly the greatest haunted house film of all time is still as impactful as ever, a fact not reflected by this Blu-ray's paltry extras.


Ariana Grande: My Everything

In trying to sound like everything else on the charts, Ariana Grande continues to have one of pop music's most distinctive voices that has very little to say.


Which Is Better, Gorgeous Writing or a Gorgeous Blonde?

In The Black-Eyed Blond, Benjamin Black provides such a satisfying incarnation of Raymond Chandler's sensibility, it's almost possible to pretend Chandler is back among the living.


Cold Specks: Neuroplasticity

With its smorgasbord of texture and tones, Neuroplasticity is a real contender for Canadian Album of the Year.


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