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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, March 18 2015

Norman Blake: Wood, Wire & Words

Calling an album consisting of a dozen original songs traditional may seem strange, but Wood, Wire & Wood surely is. Blake pens story songs about past events and composes instrumentals with roots in an earlier period.


Tuesday, March 17 2015

If It Looks Like a Duck

In Howard the Duck #1, Zdarsky and Quinones get the most important things right. They get Howard right.


Curiouser and Curiouser: An Interview With Charlie Winston

The British singer's latest LP, Curio City, finds all of his influences distilled down to a funk-strummed groove of pure pop magic.


The True Dogs of War: Nation, Language, and Identity in ‘Valiant Hearts’

Valiant Hearts challenges the barbaric connotations of the appellation “the dogs of war” by making a dog, the only creature blind to the “essential” identity markers of nationalism and language, the hero.


30 Musical, Literary and Cultural Reasons to Celebrate 30 More Years of Phish: Part One

In 2014, the legendary jam band Phish released its 12th studio LP, Fuego. Here are some reasons why this group's legacy is one worth celebrating.


‘Top Five’ Is the First Film to Fully Showcase Chris Rock’s Genius

Top Five is one of the most original and satisfying comedies in years.


Twin Shadow: Eclipse

Subtlety is nowhere to be found on Twin Shadow's major label debut Eclipse. One thing is for certain though, George Lewis Jr. still has an undeniable knack for crafting a killer refrain.


On the Very Bones of the Wireless World

The Undersea Network changes our imagination of communications infrastructure, revealing how culture, politics and geography interrelate in the global circulation of technology.


Lilacs & Champagne: Midnight Features Vol. 2: Made Flesh

On the third full album from their side project, the guys from Grails deliver instrumental hip-hop with a dark side.


Everlasting Lane Can Be a Harsh Place, Full of Beasts, Both Human and Animal

Everlasting Lane is an excellent reminder of how smart and intuitive children can be and how difficult childhood really is.


Eternal Tapestry: Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries is Earth-minded space rock of its own kind, grounded in both American and European strains of psychedlia.


Kenny Wheeler: Songs for Quintet

Kenny Wheeler finished his career and his life with a near-timid masterpiece.


Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors: Medicine

On their new album, Medicine, the emotional bond is especially affecting, reinforcing the budding relationship they’ve nourished with their fans.


Monday, March 16 2015

Gurf Morlix: Eatin’ at Me

Eatin' at Me is like Gurf Morlix is steering the sound through the side roads and avoiding any main thoroughfares as if to avoid notice.


“All-New X-men #37” Gives Us a Frenemy Indeed

Emma Frost teaches Jean Grey a few important lessons in unorthodox ways that feel oddly fitting.


Nickelback’s ‘No Fixed Address’ Tour Clearly Doesn’t Give a Damn

On their latest tour Nickelback’s shtick rings hollower than usual -- and for this band, that’s saying something.


James Franco and Seth Rogen Meet ‘Call of Duty’ in ‘The Interview’

Even if Sony had pulled off a successful marketing gambit with The Interview, they couldn't have masked that this is a genuinely unfunny film.


‘Here Comes Kitty’ Disturbs and Delights

Richard Kraft and Danielle Dutton's latest work is a visually stunning, intellectually perplexing postmodern comic.


Taking Off: An Interview with Catfish and the Bottlemen

After eight years on the road, these Welsh indie rockers are conquering the music world one show at a time.


Horror Lurks Behind Every Door But Beware the Robin at the Window

As the red-breasted bird folds its wings from flight, it too portends things are less than all right... on Prom Night.


Uncool Britannia: Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ vs. Britpop in a Battle for the Soul of Britain

The successors to Radiohead and The Bends are a generation who liked how the film started, but lost the script halfway through.


‘Through a Lens Darkly’ Should Have Let the Pictures Tell the Story

Through a Lens Darkly surveys the often hidden or forgotten history of African Americans as photographic subjects as well as photographers.


Modest Mouse: Strangers to Ourselves

On Strangers to Ourselves, Modest Mouse often come off like strangers to themselves.


Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz Vol. 6: Vocals

Rediscovering the spirit and power of the human voice.


What Some Folks Will Go and Do

Anne Tyler is an avowed fan of Eudora Welty's work, but it's Flannery O’Conner’s old woman down the way that came to mind when I read A Spool of Blue Thread.


The Black Ryder: The Door Behind the Door

Abandon hope all ye who enter here as this devilish duo fail to "Blow the bloody doors off".


Altan: The Widening Gyre

The Widening Gyre finds this veteran Celtic combo journeying to Nashville and intertwining their Irish roots with ample doses of Appalachian mountain music and wholly American bluegrass.


Olly Murs: Never Been Better

Although flawed, Never Been Better has many worthwhile moments.


Friday, March 13 2015

‘Injury Time’ and Others for ‘The Black Hood’

A quatrain of "ways of looking", as Wallace Stevens put it, at the groundbreaking first issue of Dark Circle’s relaunch of The Black Hood.


Liam Neeson and Ed Harris Make ‘Run All Night’ Electrifying

This paint-by-numbers crime film is buoyed by the sharp work of its lead actors.


‘The Wrecking Crew’ Celebrates One of the Music Industry’s Best Kept Secrets

By showing the range and the influence these session musicians had on the hits from the '50s to the '70s, The Wrecking Crew proves their place in rock 'n' roll history.


‘Cinderella’ Is All Eye Candy and Empty Entertainment Calories

The audience already primed for more "happily ever after" will be more than satisfied with the results. Everyone else will wonder what the studio was thinking with this strategy.


Cinema Made in Italy, March 5th - March 9th 2015, Ciné Lumière, London

Mob comedies, reflective looks at wartime, and the Italian financial crisis are all under the gaze of the cameras at the Cinema Made in Italy season.


Genius. Doesn’t. Fade: A Conversation With Steven Wilson

Revered English musical visionary Steven Wilson discusses the inspirations, methods, and reflections that helped create his newest solo opus, Hand. Cannot. Erase.


Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education

Although sex education is important, sex can never be reduced to a matter of health, science, or even knowledge.


‘A Place To Call Home’ Is a True Period Piece

A Place to Call Home is a period piece in the best sense in that it embraces its time period completely, all the while showcasing universal themes.


Truffaut Channels Hitchcock and Chabrol in ‘The Soft Skin’

This is a cold film where it's clear something is always wrong, but no one can quite piece together what it is.


Heems: Eat Pray Thug

Heems, having broken away from rap group Das Racist, tackles politics, race and romance on his disparate yet ultimately compelling first solo album.


Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is easily the strongest of Wilson's solo output in terms of cohesive narrative and dynamic song structure.


Tim Lee 3: 33 1/3

Tim Lee 3’s fourth and best release hankers for the excitement of the unknown lurking just around the next back road bend, offering a mature set of rock and roll songs about staying young at heart.


Diamond Rugs: Cosmetics

Not your run-of-the-mill supergroup, kindred spirits crank up the amps on the solid follow-up to their 2012 debut


Little Comets: Hope Is Just a State of Mind

Little Comets' fluttery experimental indie pop falls into a down-tempo rut on their third album.


Thursday, March 12 2015

Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Social Media

Guy Kawasaki defines “good stuff” to post online, and how to really get more followers. (Hint: don’t pay for them!)


Swingin’ Through the Slow Burner of Harvey Kurtzman’s ‘Jungle Book’

This story is about what happened in between Mad and Playboy. It's the story of how one time the great Harvey Kurtzman played a real slow burner.


The ‘80s Jazz Fads Return!

Two unique jazz phenoms of the Reagan '80s -- tapping guitarist Stanley Jordan and falsetto scatting legend Bobby "Don't Worry, Be Happy" McFerrin -- are back.


In ‘Rosewater’, Jon Stewart Conveys the Power of the Human Spirit

In a culture where people Tweet nonsensical thoughts, Rosewater challenges us to consider the ways we can use our voices to speak on behalf of those that are routinely silenced.


The Staple Singers: Freedom Highway Complete

With 50 years having passed after Freedom Highway's original issue, we get a new, complete version of this vital live recording.


Lady Lamb the Beekeeper: After

"They sleep, we live!" Young hearts come hither and feel the After glow.


Motor Sister: Ride

Anthrax's Scott Ian recruits ringers to revive obscure '90s and '00s hard rock band Mother Superior. The resulting album inadvertently makes the case for why Mother Superior was obscure in the first place.


The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band: So Delicious

Being dumb is a rebellion against city sophistication. It’s a clarion call to descend into the mud and morass of country life where being smart has nothing to do with intelligence.


Mikky Ekko: Time

Mikky Ekko shows great potential and promise throughout his debut album, Time.


Wednesday, March 11 2015

‘Arkham Manor #5’ Becomes the New Series’ Penultimate Issue

Arkham Manor #5 brings the series to its Batman-heavy, ass-kicking climax.


How Representative of India is Bollywood?

Axiomatically, Bollywood’s India is a survey of the collective dreamscape created by a billion desires and dreads.


Back to the Beginning and Forward into the Future: An Interview with Delbert McClinton

Touring with the Beatles. Topping the charts with hits like "Giving It Up for Your Love". Now, Delbert McClinton looks back on his career and hints at what's to come.


Uncovering Queer History in ‘Gay Berlin’

Gay Berlin reveals a vibrant gay rights movement that flourished in Germany a hundred years before Stonewall.


Sonic Bloom: The Lackluster Reception Turned Lasting Reputation of ‘The Bends’

No matter how many times someone writes that Radiohead and The Bends “changed the face of music” in 1995, the retail and radio numbers tell a different story.


‘Whiplash’ Isn’t Merely a Vehicle for J.K. Simmons

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons turn music performance into a battle of espionage and counter-espionage under cover of darkness.


Dick Diver: Melbourne, Florida

On their third release, Australia’s Dick Diver up the ante in terms of what indie pop can and should be.


The Minus 5: Dungeon Golds

Dungeon Golds reeks of Record Store Day as it sounds like something that a super fan would hoard.


James McMurtry: Complicated Game

Enmeshing heartfelt stories into a roots sound, McMurtry crafts an Americana classic.


Iron and Wine: Archive Series Volume No. 1

Archive Series Volume No. 1 ought to be considered an absolutely mandatory acquisition.



The Primitives: Galore (Deluxe Edition)

The long-out-of-print, Lightning Seeds-produced third album from the British indie-poppers isn't exactly a trainwreck, but it's no "Crash", either.


Tuesday, March 10 2015

‘Neverboy #1’ on How to Not Fade Away

Neverboy is a tight little story that begs to be read twice.


1965: 12 Months That Shook the World

1965 places that year's astonishing surge of innovative pop music in a larger context of social, cultural, and political change.


On Experiencing ‘The Bends’ As a First-Time Listener

With The Bends having such strong cultural and critical preconceptions behind it, hearing the album from the perspective of a new lister can help cut through the pre-ordained narrative.


In Defense of Doing Away With Guilty Pleasures

The CW's excellent Jane the Virgin reminds us there is no such thing as a true guilty pleasure.


Splitting Hairs (of Identity) in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

James Gunn's epic borrows from the mythologies of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but its characters are on a much more contemporary quest for identity.


The Odds Are Ever in Its Favor: ‘Mockingjay - Part 1’

Mockingjay -- Part 1 proves that a stellar cast and some meaningful direction can take a dreary storyline and turn it into the ultimate penultimate film.


Will Butler: Policy

Arcade Fire's Will Butler unapologetically leans into solo project stereotypes by making an album that sounds just like a diluted version of the band's early records.


River City Extension: Deliverance

River City Extension almost gets there, and that's the problem.


About the Books That Make Us Who We Are

In her memoir of a lifetime of reading, Samantha Ellis analyzes her early impressions and explores the ways that her adult reactions have since diverged.


Various Artists: Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade

If the importance of a label can be judged by its talent, then Signature has done pretty good in its 20-plus year existence.


Ty Segall Band: Live in San Francisco

Living in the afterglow of 2014’s excellent Manipulator, this live record sounds like a man hitting the beer tent hard after a marathon.


Children of the Mushroom: Children of the Mushroom

Unearthed late '60s psychedelic rock band featured a great organ player and a good drummer, but lacked the songwriting to compete with the Doors and Iron Butterfly.


Monday, March 9 2015

Royalty and Rebels in ‘Princess Leia #1’

Princess Leia begins an important part of her journey towards becoming a true rebel.


History Works Against Andrew Keen’s Latest Diatribe Against the Internet

The internet economy has changed the world, and Andrew Keen (still) isn't happy about it.


Game of Thrones, Episode 2: The Lost Lords

Game of Thrones is giving us something different in the adventure game genre. We are finally engaging with intrigue.


Too Much Is Adrift in ‘Every Man for Himself’

In his examination of the social isolation caused by capitalism, Jean-Luc Godard wanders too far off into the cerebral.


‘The Uncanny Reader’ Conjures Up Dreadful Pleasures

If death haunts fewer of the stories collected here than one might imagine, it's because there are things worse than death.


Ambiguously Yours: The Late Works of the Late Otto Preminger

Hurry Sundown, Skidoo, and Such Good Friends welcome you to a world of crowded frames and uncertain tones.


Between the Grooves of Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’

PopMatters begins its look back at Radiohead's The Bends today. Here we examine The Bends track by track, examining it from angles spanning the cultural to the theoretical.


Madonna: Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart has a profoundly human element to it, one that paints Madonna more as a person than a product, which is in and of itself a minor miracle.


Fawn Spots: From Safer Place

Moments of calm within the hurricane rush of massed vocals and guitars, from a young York, England, punk trio.


Tom Paxton: Redemption Road

In some ways, the line from his first album in 1962 to this one is straight and short, especially when one considers that Paxton has released more than 50 discs over the years.


Mourn: Mourn

Mourn condense the essence of Sleater-Kinney and PJ Harvey into an impressive bite-size debut.


Georg Breinschmid: Double Brein

Austrian bassist Georg Breinschmid has done it all on one release, a miracle to be shared by all.


Friday, March 6 2015

‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Is a Landlocked Version of ‘The Love Boat’

If you liked the first one, you'll love this return trip. All others should perhaps consider booking their entertainment lodging elsewhere.


‘Chappie’ Offers up Rave Rap Ridiculousness and Little Else

Chappie is a weird combination of science fiction and South African rage-rap culture that's so off key, you can't see the good for the god-awful.


With ‘Unfinished Business’, Vince Vaughn Can Kiss the Rest of His Career Goodbye

Unfinished Business is like a juggler given too many divergent elements to manage.


Judging Comics by Their Covers: Comic Books, Text, Paratext and Context

Comics covers may not always reflect what's inside, but it's difficult to see covers as distinct from the books they adorn.


‘Rebels’ Argues for Freedom As Pop Culture

Rebels is the book I was waiting for Brian Wood to attempt. Since long before Local, since before Northlanders since even before DMZ. It’s the story of the American Revolution, told in a way that only Brian Wood can.


Vulnerability Becomes Strength When Sleater-Kinney Takes D.C.

The crowd is riveted to the intensity of the performance; some barely moving as they watch the stage, almost reverent in their witness. Sleater-Kinney has walked out onto the ledge with us and back. Again.


Great Movies With Terrible Sequels: Sequels so Bad They’re Scary

Sometimes the most successful and acclaimed films are marked and marred by the absolutely worst sequels imaginable.


‘The Francois Truffaut Collection’ Captures the Director’s Finest Hours

These eight films collectively demonstrate a master filmmaker with a total understanding and command of cinematic language.


The Rezillos: Zero

Seminal Scottish punkers show they’ve still got what it takes.


Camper Van Beethoven: New Roman Times

Expanded re-issue of CVB’s 2004 epic New Roman Times remains ambitiously thrilling.


‘Vanessa and Her Sister’ Is Enchanting

Those of us who write only wish for half of author Priya Parmar’s talents, whose writing is a lovely, lilting thing.


In Tall Buildings: Driver

Driver is heavy on melodies and breezy in its effortlessness. It's the kind of album that moves in different ways during different times and reveals aural layers on multiple listens.


JJ Grey & Mofro: Ol’ Glory

JJ Grey and Mofro provide a connection to the past and a time when talent and tenacity moved the music forward.


Ralph Stanley: Cracker Barrel Presents Ralph Stanley: A Man of Constant Sorrow

A "new" CD of Ralph Stanley duets provides an easy metaphor for how music is currently sold.


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