Marginal Utility
Image: Marginal Utility
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.
More Recent Features
Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 12 - “Bizarro”

A version of the Silver Age comic book villain, Bizzaro, makes a first appearance on CW's Supergirl.

READ more
The Expanse: Season 1, Episode 5 - “Back to the Butcher”

While several key mysteries move forward, this episode is bogged down by an uninteresting protagonist.

READ more
Rock Pioneer Lloyd Price Has a Couple of Stories to Tell

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and rock pioneer Lloyd Price’s life has been much more interesting than yours or mine, from writing hits with Fats Domino to playing an influential role in the Rumble in the Jungle. Yet Price still has many more yarns to spin even now.

READ more
Stacking the Rolling Stones’ Best Shows

The From the Vault series adds infinite layers of the Rolling Stones' performances for diehard and casual fans alike.

READ more
Lucinda Williams: The Ghosts of Highway 20

On her superb new album, Lucinda Williams takes the wheel for a memory trip down Highway 20.

READ more
As Al Jazeera America Dies, the News Dies, Again: An Open Letter to the Liberal Media

Liberal-leaning American TV news is hopelessly lost in a Manichean tug-of-war with right-wing infotainment.

READ more
John Cale: Music for a New Society / M:FANS

Rather than merely reissue his classic 1981 album, John Cale reworks and rerecords the majority of the album, showing the thematic through line that connects the two.

READ more
The Pines: Above the Prairie

The Pines give us a record that is artful and imaginative and in many ways defies easy classification. In others, it's pure joy Americana.

READ more

3 Feb 2016 // 2:10 AM

Lemaitre: 1749 EP

1749 EP finds Lemaitre approaching the top of their pop-slinging game

READ more

3 Feb 2016 // 2:05 AM

MONEY: Suicide Songs

A Manchester band who create some beautiful music. But the singing is not on the money.

READ more
Peter Pál Pelbart’s ‘Cartography of Exhaustion’ Is Exhilarating

This is a sunny, revitalizing book, despite its ostensible focus on exhaustion and nihilism.

READ more
The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 13 - “Judged”

The inevitable has finally come to fruition in so many ways, and now, we can resume our regularly scheduled The Good Wife programming.

READ more
Coming-of-Age Within the Exquisite Eccentricities of Europe

A precisely refined blend of unique and hypnotic people, places, and philosophical phrasings make Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs wondrously impactful and artistic.

READ more
Is Miles Jupp On Your Guest List?

Miles Jupp excels at many things, but he earns special top marks for his ability to be both an engaging guest and host of comedy panel shows.

READ more

2 Feb 2016 // 2:30 AM

Field Music: Commontime

David and Peter Brewis dexterously bend funk, R&B and Top 40 radio to fit their distinct regional post punk dialect.

READ more

2 Feb 2016 // 2:20 AM

Your Friend: Gumption

Gumption is a pop album and an experimental work, with all of the deep charms of both.

READ more
Nothing But Thieves: Nothing But Thieves

Ever wondered what Adele would sound like fronting a middling rock band? Nothing But Thieves has the answer!

READ more
Mose Allison: American Legend: Live in California

Idiosyncratic, unclassifiable jazz/blues/etc. singer and pianist Mose Allison delivers a fine set of live performances spanning the whole of this career.

READ more
‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ TV Series Still Has the Cool Factor

Before there was Sam and Dean Winchester, before there was Mulder and Scully, Starsky and Hutch, there was Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

READ more
Loss and Selfishness, Isolation and Pleasure and Other Themes in Italian Literature

Tim Parks' A Literary Tour of Italy is no tour guide of the haunts of famous writers; it's an informative choice for readers seeking the best that Italian writers can offer.

READ more
Stephen Kellogg: South West North East

True to the sprawling designs implied in its title, it comes across like an epic effort, thanks to the memorable melodies etched in every one of its 20 songs.

READ more
Fame, Faith, and a Meaningful Life: An Interview With Ruth Pointer

Why is Ruth Pointer so excited? Her new memoir celebrates three decades of sobriety and a lifetime of survival.

READ more
‘No Más Bebés’: Sterilized Without Consent

As the struggle for reproductive rights continues, we might look back on history in order to understand the consequences of denying women sovereignty over their own bodies.

READ more
Beware Strangers Bearing Literary Quotes

In Mojave, an effective thriller struggles under the weight of its intellectual pretensions.

READ more
Agent Carter: Season 2, Episodes 1-3

In its second season, Agent Carter's brightly colored world continues to be well worth visiting.

READ more
Rock ‘n’ Roll Needs Secrets: Talking Music’s Essence as Art with Dean Fertita

Dean Fertita, the incendiary strike force alongside rock titans Joshua Homme and Jack White (among others) and solo artist, discusses creativity, music, and art.

READ more

1 Feb 2016 // 2:30 AM

Sia: This Is Acting

As a pop songwriter who can bend her style into many different forms, This Is Acting is the most compelling when Sia decides to simply be herself.

READ more

1 Feb 2016 // 2:20 AM

DIIV: Is the Is Are

The Brooklyn-based band seems either unwilling or incapable of taking the artistic steps to make music that isn't just more of what they've done before.

READ more
Intersystems: Intersystems

This is one of those great lost recordings (three of 'em actually) that comes from the lysergic era. Get your weird on presently.

READ more
Jeremih: Late Nights: The Album

Jeremih knows how to make sex a powerful force, but it's a shame that the rappers he features don't

READ more
Resnais Explores Fear and Memory in Je t’aime je t’aime

In slow, hypnotic ellipses, director Alain Resnais draws out the moribund inner world of a suicidal man haunted by a series of disturbing memories.

READ more
Cass McCombs: A Folk Set Apart: Rarities, B-Sides & Space Junk, ETC.

This sturdy collection of rarities provides a glimpse behind the curtain of McCombs’ prolific career.

READ more
‘The Record Store of the Mind’ Is a Memoir Worth Spinning

Josh Rosenthal's book is filled with robust details, larger than life personalities, a fine balance of tongue-in-cheek humor and impassioned perceptions.

READ more
Buried Bowie: 25 Deep Cuts

For all of the imagery that dominated the religiosity of Bowie  --  the fashion, the characters, the hairstyles --  what matters most are the songs. Here are 25 killer deep-cut Bowie originals, album by album.

READ more
The Story Is In His Eyes in ‘The Finest Hours’

Ray's (Casey Affleck) eyes tell their own story, more hauntingly and more urgently, than any of the plot's clunky machinations.

READ more
American Crime: Season 2, Episode 3

As the second season's story finally gets moving, the complicated makeup of American Crime's architecture reveals its good and bad spots.

READ more
Living in a (Fleeting) Moment With ‘All-New, All Different Avengers #4’

A new era of Avengers brings a new and fitting narrative.

READ more
More Po and His Pals Are Not A Bad Thing With ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

Kung Fu Panda 3 contains a lot of those necessary beats to keep fans happy. It also does so in a way to keep things from feeling stale.

READ more

29 Jan 2016 // 9:27 AM

7 Year Bitch: Live at Moe

Newly discovered live album reveals the best of 7 Year Bitch's pioneering punk power

READ more

29 Jan 2016 // 2:45 AM

Our Insatiable Techno Zombie Love

The popularity of zombies indicates that powerful techno-social forces have ramped up our fear of joining -- or just being surrounded by -- George A. Romero’s mindless zombie herd.

READ more
Christianity’s Crisis in Medieval Japan Says a Lot About Cultural Dialogue Today

Shusaku Endo’s classic novel of faith, doubt, and intercultural communication, Silence, readies itself for a timely big-screen debut by Director Martin Scorsese.

READ more

29 Jan 2016 // 2:30 AM

Rihanna: Anti

Rihanna has released some of the smartest and sexiest pop of the new millennium. Unfortunately, on Anti she seems lost and unsure about what she’s trying to do and where she’s trying to go.

READ more
Cian Nugent: Night Fiction

On Night Fiction, guitar maestro Cian Nugent navigates the world beyond the blues.

READ more
Tedeschi Trucks Band: Let Me Get By

Marrying the rural and the urban, the old and the new Tedeschi Trucks Band finds its groove and delivers a record filled with memorable songs and even more memorable grooves. Best listened to after midnight.

READ more
The Cactus Blossoms: You’re Dreaming

The Cactus Blossoms fill a unique niche in revisiting the early days of country music with Everly Brothers-like harmonies.

READ more

29 Jan 2016 // 2:05 AM

Fred Hersch: Sarabande

A reissue of an early trio recording by the sparkling jazz pianist -- featuring the late Charlie Haden as well as Hersch's marvelous "Child's Song", written to Haden.

READ more
The Flash: Season 2, Episode 11 - “The Reverse-Flash Returns”

The Flash's been running, in one form or another, for 75 years: to save the world, to save the universe, to save the multiverse, to save us all; he's still running in this episode of The Flash.

READ more

28 Jan 2016 // 10:35 AM

Sam Means: 10 Songs

A charming collection of gentle pop songs from the quieter half of the much-missed desert pop group, the Format.

READ more
Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 1 - “Pilot, Part 1”

It's not perfect by any stretch, but the first episode of Legends of Tomorrow lays the groundwork for what should be an incredibly fun season of time-traveling superhero hijinks.

READ more
The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 11 - “Mr. Gregory Devry (No. 95)”

After two and a half seasons, will The Blacklist finally get around to answering one of its central mysteries?

READ more
PJ Harvey and the Inherent Ambiguities of Music Video as a Genre

One of Abigail Gardner's PJ Harvey and Music Video Performance main strengths is its impressive command of the scholarly literature.

READ more
Arrow: Season 4, Episode 10 - “Blood Debts”

Following the events of the mid-season finale, a rage-filled Oliver makes one of his worst decisions ever.

READ more
Kayaktivists’ Colorful and Effective Protests in 2015

The most elaborately staged spectacle of 2015 was performed by the “kayaktivists”, a group of environmentalists that successfully stopped oil giant Royal Dutch Shell from drilling in the Arctic.

READ more
Opeth: Deliverance & Damnation

Thirteen years after their release, two of Opeth's most important albums have been reissued in this essential new package.

READ more
Should Hideo Kojima Just Go Make a Movie, Already?

In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Kojima uses the language of cinema in ways that are only possible in a virtual game.

READ more

28 Jan 2016 // 2:20 AM

Wet: Don’t You

Wet. Wet? Wet! Rarely has a band been so aptly named.

READ more
Miranda Lee Richards: Echoes of the Dreamtime

Richards has created an album to ponder and savor, one that finds questions more interesting than answers and celebrates the journey of the spiritual seeker.

READ more

28 Jan 2016 // 2:10 AM

Ches Smith: The Bell

A versatile "jazz" drummer proves well beyond category in this essential, gorgeous trio with viola and piano.

READ more
‘The Dressmaker’s War’ Is a Tangled Mess of Threads

Mary Chamberlain's skilled seamstress finds herself in an impossibly snarled plot.

READ more
Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill (Collector’s Edition)

They only made 30,000 of these, and if you were a fan of the original, the atypical rerelease bells and whistles here are a must.

READ more

28 Jan 2016 // 2:00 AM

How Sia Kept Breathing and Became a Formalist

Although there are for Sia 1,000 forms of fear, if you will, there are only two formal conventions in her manual of pop songwriting.

READ more
Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 11 - “Strange Visitor From Another Planet”

Supergirl hits its stride in an episode about immigrants and aliens.

READ more
The X-Files: Season 10, Episodes 1 and 2 - “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation”

Duchovny and Anderson have an undeniable chemistry, and the world of The X-Files, imperfect though it may sometimes be, is a welcome diversion from our real-world paranoias.

READ more
Sundance 2016: ‘Manchester by the Sea’ + ‘Certain Women’

Two exceptional films at this year’s Sundance Festival resist the typical character arc, and instead follow individuals who either have no interest in changing or are powerless to do so.

READ more

27 Jan 2016 // 8:30 AM

The Expanse: Season 1, Episode 4 - “CQB”

Excellent storytelling, intelligent world-building, and stunning visuals mark The Expanse’s continued improvement.

READ more
Is Eli Roth’s Quest for the Real in ‘The Green Inferno’ Successful?

Cannibal movies such as this question whether the protagonists are any better than those who are eating them.

READ more
Anthropology’s Storyteller-Shaman-Sorcerer Strikes Again With ‘The Corn Wolf’

Michael Taussig’s work both attracts and angers other anthropologists. It also re-enchants a discipline that is in desperate need of it.

READ more

27 Jan 2016 // 2:30 AM

Suede: Night Thoughts

Night Thoughts has all the elements that make Suede one of the most important bands of the last 25 years.

READ more
Panic! At the Disco: Death of a Bachelor

The precocious Death of a Bachelor may overreach, but it's an undeniably fun pop album through and through.

READ more
Buddy Miller and Friends: Cayamo Sessions at Sea

Buddy Miller is a born collaborator, always managing to get brilliant performances out of the musicians he works with. This collection, which finds him dipping into the bag of country classics, is no exception.

READ more

27 Jan 2016 // 2:10 AM

POP ETC: Souvenir

POP ETC find a happy medium between the retro sound of their previous moniker, the Morning Benders, and the glitzy synthpop of their previous record.

READ more
Blue Daisy: Darker Than Blue

A musical journey from warmth to melancholy to anger to depression, Darker Than Blue is compelling but not always an easy listen.

READ more
The Ethics of Lying and Other Philosophical Inquires Into ‘The Princess Bride’

Each essay in The Princess Bride and Philosophy does precisely what the series intends: offers new perspectives and greater insights into popular culture.

READ more
You Don’t Have to Be Dissident: Stephen Coates on Late Russian Composer Mikael Tariverdiev

This is the story of how a British musician stumbled upon one of the most prolific Russian composers of the last century and became determined to bring his music to a new audience.

READ more
Sundance 2016: ‘Wild’ + ‘Author: The JT LeRoy Story’

Two films at the Sundance Film Festival -- Wild and Author: The JT LeRoy Story -- challenge familiar categories.

READ more
Carsten Norgaard: The Mystery Man in ‘The Man in the High Castle’

It's tough playing a Nazi with a conscience, but veteran actor Carsten Norgaard not only lives up to the challenge presented in Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, but stretches far beyond what's expected of him.

READ more
It’s the Kicker’s Fault, as Always, in ‘Four Falls of Buffalo’

Four Falls of Buffalo shows how misfortune brings some communities "closer together" even as it also breaks others open.

READ more
Shades of Blue: Season 1, Episode 3 - “False Face, False Heart”

Shades of Blue's Harlee Santos is no Walter White. Yet.

READ more
Welcome to ‘Tharsis’. You’re Screwed.

I just ate an astronaut, and I don't feel even a little bit guilty about it.

READ more
‘Good on Paper’ Asks, Is Fidelity Possible?

Rachel Cantor follows A Highly Unlikely Scenario with a literary mystery about the difficulties of translating art into life and life into art.

READ more
David Mamet and Al Pacino’s ‘China Doll’ Rat-a-Tats Without the Tat

There's an interesting play somewhere in the thin structure of China Doll, but not even a dutiful performance by Al Pacino can bring it to life.

READ more
The Long Ryders: Final Wild Songs

This timely anthology might just help to finally set the record straight: The Long Ryders made some of the best rock and roll of the early '80s.

READ more

26 Jan 2016 // 2:20 AM

DJDS: Stand Up and Speak

Stand Up and Speak, though lackluster, has the benefit of at least giving one hope and the push to run to one's Point B.

READ more

26 Jan 2016 // 2:15 AM

Wall of Death: Loveland

Loveland doesn't just tip its cap to its psychedelic forebears; it gives them the mic.

READ more
Bob Dylan Deserves Another Look Back

D.A. Pennebaker's Dylan documentary, Dont Look Back, still feels amazingly fresh and experimental.

READ more

26 Jan 2016 // 2:10 AM

Autechre: AE_LIVE

Autechre give their fans a digital hernia with AE_LIVE, but the glitch-lover wouldn't have it any other way.

READ more

26 Jan 2016 // 2:05 AM

When Things Get Ugly

The slipperiness of ugliness is the interesting thing about it; ugliness is a transitory marker that contains the possibility to be both harmful and enabling.

READ more
Eleanor Friedberger Channels Her Inner ‘70s for ‘New View’

The Fiery Furnaces’ member Eleanor Friedberger talks to PopMatters about her sublime third solo record.

READ more
The Magicians: Season 1, Episode 2 - “The Source of Magic”

With all the introductory stuff out of the way, The Magicians' second episode is a vast improvement on the pilot.

READ more
An Icon is Reborn in ‘The Legend of Wonder Woman #1’

The mythical story of Wonder Woman is retold as a young Diana seeks her destiny.

READ more
Almost Everything Is Open to Interpretation in Quentin S. Crisp’s ‘Blue on Blue’

Blue on Blue is a delightful kaleidoscope of ponderings, musings, and mysteries.

READ more
American Crime: Season 2, Episode 2

Despite slow plot advancement, the second season of American Crime continues to provoke interest with compelling character moments and broad thematic considerations.

READ more
‘Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents’ Ranks 100 Greatest Sci-Fi Films

Not only does this collect all the film ephemera into one place for easy reference, it also serves as a springboard for the kinds of conversations that energize sci-fi fans.

READ more

25 Jan 2016 // 2:30 AM

Roly Porter: Third Law

In the history of electronic music paying homage to our ideas of outer space, Porter has crafted a deserving addition to the canon.

READ more
From Yugoslavia to South India: The Rise of Tamil Turbo-folk

Like its Serbian counterpart, Tamil Turbo-folk masquerades as ethno-nationalist resistance against the dislocations brought to bear by nation building, liberalization, and globalization.

READ more

25 Jan 2016 // 2:20 AM

Anderson Paak: Malibu

If Malibu is anything to go by, 2016 will be an even more notable year for Anderson Paak than the last.

READ more
The Anchoress: Confessions of a Romance Novelist

Like the medieval anchoresses from whom the artist takes her stage name, Davies carves out a niche for herself and steadfastly inhabits it.

READ more

25 Jan 2016 // 2:10 AM

Caspian: Dust and Disquiet

Placing cinematic swells and retreats in a mélange of delicate arpeggios, thrashing metal, and haunting vocality, Dust and Disquiet reimagines what post-rock music can do.

READ more
The Reign of ‘Black Caesar’

Trading on the charm of its leading man, Black Caesar is one of blaxploitation's classiest entries.

READ more
A Comic Book Look at Guns N’ Roses Wild Ride Through the Perils of Rock ‘n’ Roll Decadence

With Axl, Slash and Duff at least now set to reunite for the 2016 Coachella Festival and a rumored summer tour, Reckless Life comes at a great time to revisit the band’s colorful history.

READ more
More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Violin Virtuoso L. Subramaniam Mesmerizes in Rare New York Performance (Photos)

// Notes from the Road

"Co-presented by the World Music Institute, the 92Y hosted a rare and mesmerizing performance from India's violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam.

READ the article