Monday, December 8 2014
From Polish black metal to mind-blowing progressive R&B and electronic music, 2014's best albums certainly have something for everyone.
An illuminating, queer theory-influenced study of the work of one of Britain's most distinctive filmmakers.
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's fifth album as She & Him, comprised of smooth and languid covers, is decidedly relaxed despite a move to a major label.
Black Beauty, now on CD for the first time, may have a totally different sonic palate than Forever Changes or Da Capo, but it's similarly built around Arthur Lee's emotionally revealing lyrics and careful pop sensibilities.
Where does minimalism end and ambient begin?
Former folkie Frazey Ford returns with a set of exceptional Memphis soul.
If you like synth pop colored with the flavor of New Age dance tunes without a hint of passion or the erotic you'll love these sterile shenanigans.
Fred Hersch's apprehensions about taking his trio back into the studio are for naught.
Sunday, December 7 2014
Austin City Limits has defined how music is experienced through television for 40 years. This is a look back at a cultural institution that has always pushed forward.
The Librarians combines Willy Wonka with Indiana Jones to create the next Scooby Gang in search of magic, artifacts, and its own places in the universe.
Saturday, December 6 2014
Pressed for Time suggests new ways of looking at how we fit in as individuals with the rapid evolution of time and technology.
Friday, December 5 2014
This is it, the final push for the 2014 Awards Season, which includes some big names, some Academy almosts, and subjects as diverse as snipers, orphans, civil rights, and paintings of children with big, sad eyes.
The metaphor of Cheryl's (Reese Witherspoon) giant backpack works in multiple ways, from the personal ordeals she confronts to the social expectations she can't avoid.
This year, Alfred E. Neuman puts his hands up against the pure Dumb of racism, football field not included.
This War of Mine is a great game about survival, hope, loss, despair, companionship... but oddly enough not about war.
In this excerpt from his book on legendary soul singer Gil Scott-Heron, Marcus Baram recounts Scott-Heron's crucial time touring with Stevie Wonder.
Metal's shining moments in 2014 include a long-awaited reunion, a culmination of a nearly 20-year career, and a sophomore outing that rose to the occasion.
The fundamentalist atheism and myopic intellectualism of Woody Allen's latest depiction of an older man/younger woman dynamic makes it a pale imitation of his best work.
There’s no possible way you can go wrong with these voluminous reissues of some of Brian Eno's best work.
Meryle Secrest’s biography pays homage to Schiaparelli’s unique oeuvre by highlighting the efficiency of form and style in her designs, while framing them as miracles in their own right.
After 20 years of steady releases and catalog development, the rest of the country has finally caught up to the vision of Bloodshot Records.
This is pretty damn indispensable listening, and somewhere down below the man with the horns and cape is grinning in wild approval.
Stalley serves up more intelligent trunk music on his major-label debut.
What started as an ambient horror film soundtrack took on a life of its own as Last Ex.
As with most copies of copies, the quality degenerates with each generation. Kids these days indeed.
Thursday, December 4 2014
Liv Ullmann's take on August Strindberg's classic drama emphasizes the class struggles of its characters, depicting the ways in which power systems drive individuals beyond reason.
Captain America is black. Of course he is. Perhaps he always was.
These two graphic novel versions of The Graveyard Book preserve everything good about the original and add the benefit of visual interpretation by a number of fine artists.
Chrissie Hynde’s stout-hearted, superb Kansas City show made a Sunday feel like a wild Saturday night. It’s no mystery as to why Chrissie Hynde still has skin in this rock and roll game.
Anita Diamant’s storytelling is exceptional. There’s something here for everyone in a work which is an unquestioned masterpiece of historical fiction.
If forced to define Americana, it's the one genre where honest craftsmanship is required, respected, and rewarded, something the best of 2014 lived up to.
Saint Saviour explores a sound that effortlessly flits between intimate folk and string-laden chamber pop. Sublime. Gorgeous. Pick a glowing adjective. In The Seams is one of the best albums of the year.
Behold, the largest compilation of music by UK heavyweights the Levellers or, Just Let the Band Do the Singing.
Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present is an informative and well-written exploration of worldwide comics. Yet it attempts to cover too much, and it will leave you wanting more.
You can certainly call Adrift unique, and the title is rather a propos, considering just how laconic the album is, for one, and, for two, just how all compassing and over the map it is.
An engrossing biographical travelogue that provides a unique perspective on both Woody Guthrie and a long lost New York City
The Fall appear to be enjoying themselves now. But what about the rest of us?
Pinata Beats is a humble title for an album that can stand alone, as its own experience. It stands out among instrumental versions of non-instrumental hip-hop albums in that regard.
Wednesday, December 3 2014
This excellent collection, expertly curated by Amelia Jones, brings together the core ideas that inform the relationship between contemporary art and human sexuality.
Like many avant-gardists before them, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping view their performances not as an artistic practice or profession, but as an orientation toward life.
It's hard to see how any lover of indie pop could find the field of choices lacking in 2014, a year when the top ten albums are just the tip of the iceberg.
It's been 25 years sinceDoolittle first screamed about slicing up eyeballs and the numerical properties of deities. Now, we live in wake of its seismic impact.
If Blood Canticle was meant to be the farewell book to the Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat is its funeral.
Genuine artistic growth or a cheap ploy to adhere to popular culture's latest trend in music?
This Christmas album from a veteran Canadian roots rock group is not your standard album of holiday carols, which is a bold and courageous move.
Simple Minds have released their best studio album in possibly three decades, striking a beautiful balance of pop radiance and musical delicacy.
Gay Dog Food is a bold statement without a lot of substance, one that isn't even sure of its own meaning.
Mute Records continues to surprise with the latest signing of the Acid, a genre-bending super sound.
Tuesday, December 2 2014
The Babadook reveals that grief is a lot like a monster: even if you think you've killed it, it's never quite as killed as you would hope.
Despite ill health almost curtailing this series of shows, Marianne Faithfull proved to be in funny, fierce, formidable and fascinating form at her Royal Festival Hall concert in London, the only UK stop on her 50th Anniversary World Tour.
Superman faces a daunting challenge to his principles and ideals, but he ends up not having to confront it.
The audience hears wonderfully evocative global music between Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré as they collaborate unrehearsed on stage.
Someone is among this risk-taking writer's very best books.
Jen Wood did a duet with the Postal Service, but has an amazing solo career all her own -- as well as an invisible Lasso of Truth, we're told.
When knowledge falls outside of that which is found on the Internet, it falls outside of modern understanding. Thus, games like these, which fall outside of the norm, become intensely compelling.
Some of the heavy hitters may not have made the cut for the best indie rock of 2014, but newer acts did more than just fill the vacuum left by the usual suspects.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnificent drama The Conformist bridges the supreme elegance of the jazz age with Euro mod-chic.
More hard rock from those kings of heavy riffs, AC/DC; big on chorus, short on verse.
Essence magazine proved its founders’ bets were right: black women comprised a significant market with money to spend, and the right product with the right approach could virtually own it.
Foulbrood adeptly welds together Two Inch Astronaut's DC influences into ingenious structures.
With her latest release, the Divine Miss M takes on girl groups from the Andrews Sisters to TLC and a little bit of everything in between.
Jon Hopkins' quasi-companion EP to last year's Mercury Prize-nominated Immunity is the audio equivalent of a warm blanket. Just in time for the Polar Vortex.
The San Francisco duo imbue their lo-fi, psychedelic tendencies with pop songwriting and clearer production on the follow-up to 2012's Lucifer.
Haerts is an album, that although not awful, will have to find a way to stray a little bit from their tiresome formula to keep listeners interested.
Monday, December 1 2014
I kept expecting a villain to pop up or hints of a conspiracy or some outside force that connected all the various vignettes of the story together. In A Golden Wake, there are a bunch of short term goals, but ultimately this is a character-driven narrative.
When Worricker is on screen, paying attention is consistently rewarding.
H.G. Wells' invading menace is back, this time to be met by a different sort of Invaders.
In Culture Worrier, Pulitzer Prize Winner Clarence Page tackles a multitude of issues in his intelligent newspaper columns from 1984-2014.
Roman Polanksi's adaptation of David Ives' play is a layered film where the true identity of its characters, including Polanski himself, is constantly being interrogated.
From electro to Americana... from R&B to metal... from hip-hop to rockin' and poppin' indie... 2014 had something great for everyone.
So if you want the Leonard Cohen experience, but cannot afford the $100-plus tab for the ticket, this is the next best thing
Research suggests that RTTP games provide historical education, create a sense of community, foster long-term friendships, aid in memory retention, and help create moral leaders.
The posthumous The Pale King finally gets its day in court.
Children of the Iron Age is a sturdy, dependable release that weaves a tapestry of dark magic across its eight songs.
The Wings album on which each member of the band sings and it really doesn't matter.
Like the band's namesake bird, Greylag follows rather than leads, traversing domesticated grounds and tested sounds of bands that have come before.
Echolalia, a covers record, finds the band revealing its influences while still shifting them into a Winterpills' sound. Songs here become both tributes and spaces for exploration.
Jazz’s post-modern “little big band”, fronted by trumpeter Steven Bernstein, gets together with a great New Orleans pianist to bring you back in time and up to the present.
Sunday, November 30 2014
Whether you entertain delusions of grandeur or merely write to justify alcoholism, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure is a book for you.
Saturday, November 29 2014
From Jerome Robbins to an all-black school production, Solomon cherishes the Fiddler's legacy.
Friday, November 28 2014
The sequel skips the original’s workers' fury and lets its comedy all-star trio play to their strengths, with mixed results.
Wednesday, November 26 2014
As in its previous literary and screen incarnations, the whale here is a demonic force, producing fear in the whalers (and the audience) even when it is not visible.
The Monty Python legend offers something completely different: a look back on what led him to his storied career in comedy.
As visible as the Turing machine may be on screen -- and it is gorgeous, strange, and haunting, as well as sublimely mechanical and daunting -- it remains unfathomable.
Tobias Rüther’s exploration of Bowie’s artistic and personal development in mid-'70s Berlin offers few cogent insights and a confusing timeline of an artist in a city.
The Invisible Hands have given us a glimpse of Alvarius B.'s (Alan Bishop) view of the world from the center of Cairo. It's not a happy perspective, but there's a hint of hope.
Zoë Howe's biography of the Jesus and Mary Chain opens with a look at the band's hometown of East Kilbride, Scotland, a "dull" and "antiseptic" place that wasn't the worst place in the world.
Featuring episodes from both Comedy Central and the Sci-Fi Channel, this Turkey Day Collection is a feast for comedy fans.
Few bands ever had a year like the Velvet Underground did in 1969. Even fewer have a set that documents a year like that as beautifully as this one.
Filled with six charming tales about the American West in the 19th Century, Skidoo is an off-the-wall history lesson about the American Frontier most of us were never taught in school.
On The Endless River, Pink Floyd sounds as strong as it did during some of its best years. On this almost entirely instrumental album, however, the lyrics are sorely missed.
No more head games: there are some true pop gems worth uncovering on Foreigner's first few albums, but a single-disc best-of would just as well satisfy anyone else.
Revealing the true horsepower behind the Swans’ "Oxygen", this four-song collection should be handled by a professional driver on a closed course.
Mark Van Hoen is not one-offing his Locust resurrection. Not by a long shot.
Game Theory's nervy debut album gets to baffle another generation of listeners with this bulky reissue.
Tuesday, November 25 2014
This is a complex and, perhaps, technically perfect comicbook. So why is it, I wonder, that I am unmoved?
It seems right that Werner Herzog narrates the start of Penguins of Madagascar, concerning the overwhelming cuddly cuteness of penguins and the absurd value humans attribute to them.
Rebel Souls tells how Walt Whitman and a cast of colorful characters helped define American culture from a dark, 19th century basement bar in Manhattan.
Grotesque, strange, and difficult, Rebirth offers a fantastic vision of what might be the ideal roguelike.
At its best, Maya serves as a window into an era of kids' adventure series with unusually authentic production values and undercurrents of thoughtful attention to cultural differences.