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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.

Wednesday, April 9 2014

David Nail: I’m a Fire

Happiness lurks in his purposely sad songs, while pain and confusion live within his meaning-to-be-happy songs.


Pat Metheny Unity Group: Kin

The guitarist expands his all-star group to add more texture and sound.


Tuesday, April 8 2014

‘The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden’ Is More than a Little Disturbing

As Goethe said, you can't leave civilization without being punished. You will be punished.


Deconstructing Superman’s Philosophy: “Superman Unchained #6”

Superman confronts his greatest vulnerability and it isn't kryptonite.


Is There Life Beyond the Wall of Your Cubicle?

Cubed considers how lonely crowds, power elites, hidden persuaders, and organization men in gray flannel suits collude to lock up Americans in conforming cages.


On Little Feat and One of the Great Mismatches in Rock Journalism

Little Feat's place in rock 'n' roll history is undeniable, as is Ben Fong-Torres' role as a rock 'n' roll scribe.


Who’s Tapping Into the Dream Market?

They don't make gay laundry detergent, lesbian deodorant, bisexual tomato paste, or transsexual wine coolers, but the effort to appeal to the LGBT demographic is on the rise.


The Pressure Cooker of ‘August: Osage County’ Explodes with Talent

During a brittle August, the battle for familial control flares when Barbara confronts her iron-willed mother in the aftermath of a family crisis. If only they didn’t have to be so loud about it.


Nickel Creek Returns to Recording and Touring with ‘A Dotted Line’

PopMatters got an advance listen to the new recording from the "newgrass" sensation -- and an interview with guitarist Sean Watkins.


Squarepusher x Z-Machines: Music for Robots EP

This is not music for computers, this is music for robots; soulful, hyperactive, possessed by the spirit of Miles Davis, robots.


Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks: Enter the Slasher House

Because everything -- the drums, the reverb, the extra blips and bloops that end up sounding like blahs -- is in such excess, it’s an exhausting listen to get to the end.


Future Islands: Singles

The layperson finally arrived to Future Islands, the question was: What would they find here on the beach of the band's new fame?


Rick Ross: Mastermind

Album number six from Rick Ross doesn't stray too far from the sound of his previous work, but a high level of polish just might make this his best album yet.


Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back

After a lengthy, 11-year lull, Stiff Little Fingers release latest album with a little help from the fans. A punk DIY ethos for an album of predominantly rock sensibilities.


Monday, April 7 2014

Mike Judge Does a New Series About Nerds with ‘Silicon Valley’

Silicon Valley is premised on a series of often funny clashes -- between cultures, generations, and expectations.


Scarlett Johansson Visits Our Planet in ‘Under the Skin’

Skin doesn't make you sensitive or good or even human, it only makes you feel, physically. However, this alien, whose skin is not like yours, doesn't feel like you do.


‘Reign of Error’ Attempts to Undo Some of the Most Toxic Thinking in American Education

Schools aren't failing, but we're failing at understanding them. Diane Ravitch doesn't just illuminate the problem, she provides real solutions that can be achieved.


A Mystery, a Marriage and a Fascinatingly Unreliable Narrator

Is Thomas Christopher Greene tipping his hat to the great Russian writers, particularly Dostoevsky, who combined thrillers, romance and domestic drama, too?


I Was Young When I Left Home: How Kurt Cobain’s Voice Resonates

There are times when you hear Kurt Cobain sing that you believe no other voice has ever told the truth about suffering. But it's more complicated than that, isn't it?


It May Be Titled ‘The Hobbit’, But It’s All About the Dragon

A shapeshifter, gigantic spiders, and a barrel-battle escape create exhilarating suspense in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but best of all is a deliciously devious incendiary beast.


Smaller Moments: An Interview with Wild Cub

Composer and Wild Cub frontman Keegan DeWitt talks the differences between pop songcraft and film scoring, what it means to grow up, and how life's smaller moments always last longer than the big ones.


Sohn: Tremors

Having launched the careers of Banks and Kwabs with brio, Sohn's full-length maiden voyage finds him deep in the witching hour waters of his own mind, a whirlpool as insidious and intoxicating as any siren song. Is he waking or drowning?


Tweens: Tweens

Tweens are making reference to punk rock that references pre-punk styles of pop, creating a double layer of musical nostalgia that is sometimes disorienting.


Various Artists: Bob Dylan in the ‘80s: Volume One

If you're unfamiliar with Bob Dylan's work in the 1980s, this album is no place to start.


Asia: Gravitas

Gravitas is pleasant enough, but with watered-down pomp and too much texture, the men of Asia don't bring enough heat to the moment.


Water Liars: Water Liars

There’s always a storyteller in Water Liars’ music, and the story he tells is the tale of a troubled man. Through their songs, we confront fear and desire, belief and betrayal, triumph and, more often, defeat. In other words, these songs make us feel alive.


Friday, April 4 2014

Oriatur, or a Bigger, Richer World: The Interview with Hellboy Creator Mike Mignola

In the handful of days before Dave Brockie’s passing, Mike Mignola and I spoke at great length about the then upcoming 20th anniversary of Hellboy, a character who by his very nature resisted his fate, and hoped to shape new options by his own hand…


It Can’t Be Easy to Be the Girl in the Marvel Universe

Captain America: The Winter Soldier's Natasha shows up on time, stays on task, drives an awesome Corvette Stingray, and is ever ready to kick or cover anyone's ass.


‘The Retrieval’: Bounty Hunting During the Civil War

The Retrieval weaves a complicated story of family, fear, and the hope for freedom during the Civil War.


The Perennial Puzzle That Is Donald Rumsfeld

The mirror image Donald Rumsfeld creates, his inverted similarity to the villain he mocks, would be comical if the effects of his and the administration's lies weren't so devastating and ongoing.


‘LUFTRAUSERS’: Perfectly Balanced Chaos

LUFTRAUSERS excels by offering balance in its mechanics and majesty in its presentation.


Une Énigme Politique: ‘A Taste for Intrigue: The Many Lives of François Mitterrand’

Philip Short's book is a masterfully written, sweeping narrative of Mitterrand’s life with decisive, revealing anecdotes and a meticulous chronicling of fact that is remarkable enough to be fiction.


Drastically Divergent: The Sequels That Strayed Far Too Far

Can a barely recognizable sequel save a franchise? Or is it doomed to mark its epitaph?


Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World

From Benjamin Franklin's hoax about the the death of his rival to Abbie Hoffman’s attempt to levitate the Pentagon to Stephen Colbert’s “news reporting”, pranksters, hoaxers, and con artists use humor to underscore larger, pointed truths about society.


The Lavish ‘Samson and Delilah’ Is Even More So in Blu-ray

Even the fiercest non-believer will see a flash of the truly divine in this Cecil B. DeMille epic.


Kaiser Chiefs: Education, Education, Education & War

A big moment for the Kaisers, this album just about passes the pick of the pops test. It still stays too much in their quasi-new wave/indie comfort zone, but the different and interesting bits lend it some allure.


Manchester Orchestra: Cope

A good record that could've been great if some of the meandering, mid-tempo rock had been dropped in favor of a signature Andy Hull acoustic ballad or two.


Glenn Kotche: Adventureland

The new solo record from Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche is a dynamic record front to back, one carefully orchestrated but then deconstructed and re-ordered in compelling ways.


Skrillex: Recess

The results are hit or miss on Skrillex's first LP, but EDM fans who have been with the DJ since the beginning will devour it.


Keith Jarrett: No End

The great pianist, noodling in the studio on a couple of chords -- without end.


Thursday, April 3 2014

How Did a Lie Became a ‘Truth’ in the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas Hearings?

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power not only recalls a horrific instance of political partisanship, but also reveals that this instance was not aberrant, but a precursor of more to come.


David Dow Is Compassionate Enough to Humanize the World’s Most Hated People

There are a plethora of memoirs and true crime stories to read, but few of them are as eloquent and passionate as Things I’ve Learned from Dying: A Book About Life.


Emerald City Comic Con and the Future of Media

Comic books become movies. Movies becomes soundtracks, games like Avengers Battle for Earth, become interactive experiences.


At It’s Worst, ‘American Hustle’ Is a Rollicking Comedy

Scene for scene, American Hustle may be most David O. Russell's most aesthetically pleasing film.


A Controlled Lunacy: Brigitte Fontaine’s Manic French Pop

French pop's most peculiar figure has been baffling and delighting audiences for decades with her challenging blend of global music styles.


‘Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 1’ Proves that When Bad Is Bad, It’s Just Bad

There's a big difference between being intentionally ridiculous and coming out hilariously self-aware and being intentionally ridiculous and succeeding in being bad.


Therapy?: Troublegum (Deluxe Edition) / Infernal Love (Deluxe Edition)

Five discs total the bulk of what listeners unfamiliar with Therapy? will want to hear, and this repackaging, two decades on, presents this fractious trio as they are meant to be heard.


Various Artists: Looking into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne

A significant number of these 23 tracks were recorded by Lone Star artists. Texans understand the mirage of sunny skies and good times.


Machine Code: Velocity

Blistering drum and bass from Berlin-based sonic innovators Machine Code.


Lea Michele: Louder

Lea Michele is the fifth Glee cast member to embark on a solo pop career -- and will enjoy the same level of success as the others.


Nerina Pallot: The Hold Tight / We Should Break Up EP

Nerina Pallot's ground-breaking project of releasing 12 EPs in 2014 is off to a flying start with the first two EPs.


Wednesday, April 2 2014

“Some Things Have to be Burned Out:” “Detective #30”

You call it “Icarus,” Francis, Brian, and already it’s beginning to feel like we’ve entered into the cathedral of something far larger than ourselves, something that can be built by ourselves…


How Did ‘Frozen’ Become so Popular?

Now the highest grossing animated film in history, there's no denying a certain appeal to Disney's Frozen. That doesn't make it a quality film, though.


What Is Permissible in the Name of Science, Wartime Expediency, and National Security?

"Our Germans beat their Germans," someone quipped when Wernher von Braun's team of rocketeers put Americans on the Moon, but Operation Paperclip reveals that US involvement with ex-Nazi scientists was far deeper, and far darker.


‘Year Walk’: Rituals and Resolutions

Year Walk ritualizes the acts of exploration, gathering data, and solving puzzles because it recognizes that within those acts lie the ability to lay bare meaning and significance.


‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Comes with a Perfect Spoonful of Charm

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are a joy to watch in Saving Mr. Banks, a sweet but worthwhile Disney film about the making of Mary Poppins.


In Defense Of ... The Phrase ‘Spoiler Alert’

Hey, did anybody else have the Good Wife plot twist spoiled for them last week? Thanks to Google, Time and the Associated Press, I did.


Rage Against the Mundane: An Interview with Protomartyr

PopMatters talks to Protomartyr's frontman Joe Casey about his band's working class roots, the pros and cons of making music in Detroit and his fascination with spinning cultural flotsam into surreal narratives.


‘The Big Melt’ Puts Flesh Onto the Memories of Sheffield’s Steel Industry

Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and director Martin Wallace join forces to breathe new vibrancy into a living history of glowing foundries, smoking chimneys and toiling men.


Pattern Is Movement: Pattern Is Movement

Pattern Is Movement opens up the musical framework, embracing R&B while resisting the compartmentalization that limits many of the band's contemporaries.


Mac DeMarco: Salad Days

The eccentric singer/songwriter has taken steps towards a more mature outlook on his latest full-length, but his skills as an arranger and songwriter are still superb.


John Zorn: Fragmentations, Prayers and Interjections

A 46-minute experiment and an anticipation of more things to come rarely -- very rarely -- are so beautifully crafted.


Frankie Cosmos: Zentropy

Frankie Cosmos makes excellently witty and crushingly sad indie-pop on her fantastic debut.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Live in Montreal 1977

A fine collection of ELP doing what ELP was known for: flashy sounds, lengthy compositions, and gaudy playing. Brilliant and complex, yet soulless and repetitive.


Tuesday, April 1 2014

Why Can’t I Quit You and Other Pop Culture References: Buffy Season 10 #1

Cultural identity, sexuality, female empowerment, good versus evil, corruption of power, high school, these are just some of the more academic topics that we critics have used to frame discussions of the Chosen One and her friends.


What Is ‘Teenage’?

With shifting politics and social structures, increasing mobility and advancing technologies in mind, how has the idea of the teenager changed over time?


The Freedom to Be: Frédéric Gros’s ‘Philosophy of Walking’

You may not find yourself in lockstep with Frédéric Gros, but you will be glad you made the journey with him.


Ron Burgundy and the Sorry State of Journalism

I didn't expect Anchorman 2 to be something the first Anchorman was not at all: a relevant, and dare I even say intelligent, satire on the state of news reporting in the US.


The Virtues of Faithlessness: Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D and the Crutch of Tradition

What can it mean for Dario Argento, auteur extraordinaire, to forsake his unique melding of fearless style and fearless silliness and instead submit to Bram Stoker?


“Doll & Em’s” Azazel Jacobs on the Pleasure of Being Stuck and Working Your Way Out of It

Azazel Jacobs’ unique worldview -- a place populated with characters that seem too strange to be real, and too sympathetic to be completely invented -- proves to be the perfect fit for Doll & Em.


Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line

For its first album in nine years, Nickel Creek tames down the displays of virtuosity that defined much of their previous albums, offering up a more pastoral take on their otherwise “newgrass" take on bluegrass.


Tokyo Police Club: Forcefield

If Forcefield is about hitting you in the moment, it does that. Sadly, too many of these songs don't last for whatever moment comes next.


YYU: Kiss As We Walk

Experimental hip-hop meets abstract singer-songwriting on YYU's debut 12" record for RAMP Recordings.


The Belle Brigade: Just Because

Backboned with lush layers and driven by dreamy rhythms, the brother-sister-led band takes on a slightly darker indie edge.


Archie Shepp / Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound

More than 40 years later, the saxophonist, activist, and free-jazz pioneer revisits his musical response to the Attica Prison uprising.


Monday, March 31 2014

‘Choice Eats’ Recap: 25 March 2014 - Pier 36, New York

A recap of favorite foods and thoughts from The Village Voice's 'Choice Eats' event.


Half-Verdict and Half-Mistrial: “Guardians of the Galaxy #13”

The Trial of Jean Grey ends, but neither justice nor injustice is served.


In ‘Mr. Selfridge’, Changes Loom with the Coming of World War I

Impressively detailed and masterfully assembled, Mr. Selfridge focuses on class relations that can be both supportive and dysfunctional, and affected by external forces.


The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode 2

Clementine is an 11-year-old girl in an incredibly hostile world, and often her only tool to aid in her survival is language. Escaping danger, saving lives, condemning others are all based on the careful application of words.


Sex and Inelegance in the City

If Sex in the City had been based on reality, it would have been more like the The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race.


Civilized Murders: An Interview with Hugh Fleetwood

Hugh Fleetwood's chilling and dark mysteries deal with psychologically damaged characters, ones whose actions are usually the result of some personality disorder often undisclosed to everyone but the reader.


‘True Detective’ and the Primal Urge to Tell Stories by Starlight

The True Detectives are driven by the desire to create form from void, to seek meaning where none exists. They share the primal urge to daub on cave walls and tell stories about the shapes we see in the stars.


While ‘Beneath’ Brings the Nails to the Story, It Forgets the Hammer

Beneath has the tools to be a good horror flick: stranded teens; the decline of judgment in the face of terror; severed limbs; lots of blood.


Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else

On 2012's breakthrough Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings' displayed a visceral, physical angst, focused on a series of anti-mantras. That album's great follow-up, Here and Nowhere Else, reveals the frantic mindset behind those calls to (in)action.


Glenn Tilbrook: Happy Ending

Quixotic (and that's just the name of the record label!) and plough-your-own-furrow he may be. But Glenn Tilbrook has the matchless quality to write a tune to his own enduring voice.


Koen Holtkamp: Motion

Holtkamp, of the duo Mountains, once again blurs the line between organic and electronic on Motion, an album that becomes a fascinating series of reversals and inversions.


Cheatahs: Cheatahs

While Cheatahs' self-titled debut might be in need of some streamlining, there are a few stunners hiding within this shoegaze release.


Dierks Bentley: Riser

A stripped down version of this overwrought and over-weighted album could have provided a way out of Nashville's doldrums.


Friday, March 28 2014

‘The Raid 2’ Is a Ballet of Contorted Bodies

Shot from multiple angles with slow motion and rapid-fast cuts, the choreography in The Raid 2 ranges from extraordinary to flat out, in the mud unconscious.


Tides of Adolescent Emotion Flood ‘It Felt Like Love’

It Felt Like Love's close framing suggests the limited perspectives and erratic motion characterizing Lila's attempts to work through her sexual identity and desires.


‘Breathe In’ Considers Inspiration

At first it’s not clear whether the high school music teacher Keith is falling in love with Sophie or with his own, newly rejuvenated capacity to create music.


‘The Age of Atheists’ Considers That Beyond Reason or Religion, Our Quest for Meaning Endures

Who will choose this enriching and rewarding removal from reality TV and manufactured distraction? Who will walk the course mapped in these heady pages, along a sobering path of self-awareness of our fragile presence surrounded by darkness and mystery?


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for April 2014

April's "Listening Ahead" offers some early impressions of the month's most intriguing albums, including new releases by the Afghan Whigs, Wye Oak, and Cloud Nothings.


Miles Davis: Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3

Recorded just months after Bitches Brew and available in their entirely for the first time, these sets show that if Davis was a mad scientist in the studio, he was still a sorcerer on stage.


The Industrial Revolution 2.0

We live in a world filled with powerful, compact, networked computers -- a world that those computers are about to transform.


Shit Robot: We Got a Love

The DFA producer is weighed down by his guests on his second album.


Danilo Perez: Panama 500

The astonishing pianist brings out two different trios, some strings, percussion, and native Panamanian chant to celebrate the anniversary of his homeland.


Milagres: Violent Light

There's a lot of beauty on the second album by this Brooklyn band, but the songs suffer from a museum-like coldness.


Uncle Tupelo: No Depression

If you care a thing for rock ‘n’ roll, country, or American music in general, No Depression is simply essential.


‘Yoshi’s New Island’: Parenting the Hard Way

Generally speaking, gamers aren't big fans of escort missions. Yet, Yoshi's New Island and the rest of the Yoshi's Island series doesn't seem concerned with that, as the entire game is an escort mission.


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