Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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.

Wednesday, July 16 2014

Ab-Soul: These Days…

Ab-Soul's follow-up to Control System sees him forgetting all quality control.


Severed Heads: Dead Eyes Opened

Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened" was an accidental critical success back in 1983. Relive this modest hit's moment in the sun on a vinyl reissue.


Comet Control: Comet Control

Fuzzed-out guitar riffs. Locked-in rhythm section. Emphasis on slow grooves. Yep, Comet Control is a stoner rock band. A pretty good one, too.


Tuesday, July 15 2014

‘Frontline: Separate and Unequal’: The Case Against Resegregation

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, points out, "People who do things that have racial implications always say that race has nothing to do with it."


Clearwater Festival 2014: 22 June 2014 - Day 2 Recap + Photos

The spirit of Pete and Toshi Seeger permeated Clearwater Festival as this was the first year without the environmentally conscious folk musician and the filmmaker.


Needlessly Elaborately Epic: “Uncanny Avengers #21”

Overly elaborate plots rarely justify their complexity. But there are exceptions.


‘Mind of Winter’ Is a Thrilling Page-Turner with Shimmering Prose and a Heart-Wrenching Ending

Laura Kasischke's tenth novel is a dark fairytale about the sacrifices of motherhood and of secrets so deep, we learn to keep them even from ourselves.


311: 3 July 2014 - Kansas City, MO (Photos)

311 most definitely underscored its cannabis-friendly, mellow, laid-back facet, as more intense tracks were largely set aside. Yet again, though, 311 put on a top-notch, electric live show that few bands could touch.


Smokin’ Modernism Is Alive and Well in the Upper West Side

Smoke Sessions Records is doing it old-school: recording the best musicians in New York playing mainstream jazz that cooks.


Do What You Want: OK Go and the New Landscape of Artistic Integrity

I wrote a piece wondering why OK Go's videos were so good but their songs seemed to be lacking. It generated a lot of great responses -- and then OK Go's Damian Kulash decided to give me a ring.


Mysterious Aliens and Inscrutable Humans: ‘Under The Skin’

The simple yet transformative hat-trick of Under the Skin is that it is the humans who are alien.


Morrissey: World Peace Is None of Your Business

With World Peace Is None of Your Business, Morrissey finds himself becoming lyrically divisive to the point of self-parody.


JPNSGRLS: Circulation

With the manic drive and creativity of the Dillinger Escape Plan at its best, the Vancouver-based JPNSGRLS craft a pop-punk gem in Circulation.


Fink: Hard Believer

Hard Believer is about the immersive experience that a cohesive record can offer. It's a top-to-bottom, unhurried listen.


Lucky Peterson: The Son of a Bluesman

Lucky Peterson is the son of a bluesman. He has the blues in his blood. He says so himself, many times.


Kronos Quartet: A Thousand Thoughts

This is an album about diversity without intellectual compromises. It is how it is because this is the way it is. There is no re-elaboration or, worse, reinterpretation of the existing aesthetic principles.


Monday, July 14 2014

‘Getting Back to Abnormal’ Is How Things Are Done in New Orleans

Masquerade is a means of survival in post-Hurricane Katrine New Orleans.


‘Closed Curtain’ Opens the Door to Trouble

Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain showcases the difficulties of making art and being an artist in a troubled world.


Good Guys With Guns?!: “Grayson #1”

The obvious question is whether or not Dick Grayson can carry a book, minus his mask and superhero identity. The answer, at least in this first issue, is yes, yes he can.


Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Tesla Effect is B-grade fun that unfortunately soon turns into B-grade nonsense.


British Summer Time at Hyde Park

Black Sabbath, Faith No More, Soundgarden and more: a tale of music and Independence.


‘All These Characters Are Me in Different Ways’: An Interview with Director Ritesh Batra

"So it all came from a point of view of nostalgia, of how India used to be when I still lived there," says Ritesh Batra of his film, The Lunchbox.


Magnus Hirschfeld and the Struggle for Transformation, Not Tolerance

Sexual rights in America remain both provisional and cynical; we know everyone should have them, but we are beholden to cowardly, outmoded, theocratic institutions that are fearful of egalitarianism.


John Hiatt: Terms of My Surrender

Legendary songwriter John Hiatt takes the hard road on Terms of My Surrender, a tough, modern blues contemplation which turns into an exciting heartland roar.


Landlady: Upright Behavior

The way Landlady can explode with joy and strangeness puts them on some sort of a pedestal, right from their debut.


There’s Generational Magic in Tiphanie Yanique’s ‘Land of Love and Drowning’

Tiphanie Yanique's debut novel is both a family saga and an unusual love story. It seems likely to become a classic of Caribbean American literature.


Trampled By Turtles: Wild Animals

When your album highlights sound much like a previous rock incarnation and a pair of fast songs sound like fraternal twins, it’s probably not your best effort.


The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer: A Real Fine Mess

This is a streamlined collection of a standard sound with some sonic detours into pop territory, and it draws inspiration from both the classic and the contemporary styles of blues.


Various Artists: The Motown 7s Box Volume 2

The second set of Northern Soul-flavored 7x7"-singles from the legendary soul label highlights just how tough it is to consider the Motown sound objectively these days.


Sunday, July 13 2014

Guillermo del Toro’s Vampires Are Let Loose in ‘The Strain’

People must make choices, dire, resonant, tragic, repeatedly in The Strain.


Friday, July 11 2014

It’s the Humans That Go Ape in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

Matt Reeves’ sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a tight, bleak, and dramatically lopsided tragedy wrapped inside a pummeling summer crowd-pleaser.


Cast Off the Ego Scars: An Interview with Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson

The song was "Flagpole Sitta", and it was everywhere in the late '90s. Nearly two decades later, it finally gets the vinyl treatment.


On Roman Polanski and the Psychosexual Power in ‘Venus in Fur’

Polanski's movies tend to be even-handed in their treatment of the sexes, at least in that both male and female characters can be conniving and power-mad.


Quest for Infamy

In Quest for Infamy, you’ll spend more time looking for a story and puzzles than you do participating in a story and puzzles.


Singing the Low-Down, Down-Low Blues

Women in jazz can sing about their same-sex experiences, while men tend to stay deeply in the closet. Odd, considering the genre once embraced such dalliances.


In ‘Proof’, Science Writer Adam Rogers Investigates Booze, and Suffers Gladly for His Art

Should you indulge, I encourage you to pour your favorite tipple, settle into a comfortable chair, open the pages of Proof, and enjoy the "bar moment".


Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film

Artisanal chocolate. Mustaches. Locally sourced vegetables. Etsy. Birds. Flea markets. Cult films. Horn-rimmed glasses. Twee.


‘Southern Comfort’ Is Populated By Tropes

Walter Hill's talkiest action film boasts one of his best stories, but isn't the forgotten classic one might hope for.


Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto 50th Anniversary

The seminal bossa-nova record for American audiences still sounds perfect.


Chicago: Now (Chicago XXXVI)

Now (Chicago XXXVI) will likely make moms across the land swoon, and that’s pretty much all you can ask from Chicago by this point.


Mick Harvey: Intoxicated Man / Pink Elephants

They are Serge Gainsbourg's songs, but it's Harvey’s show, and he does a fine job as frontman throughout.


Say Hi: Endless Wonder

Watching Eric Elbogen's career has been like watching a turtle come out its shell in slow motion, and Endless Wonder is perhaps Say Hi's most fully realized album to date.


Black Prairie: Fortune

A mixed bag from Portland's folk-rock superstars.


Thursday, July 10 2014

The Art of Romance in ‘They Came Together’ and ‘Begin Again’

With so many mainstream movie romances mired in clichés, it's up to the indie sector to offer more nuanced, more original versions of the movie romance.


Reanimating the Dailies: Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics

Over the last couple of years IDW has collected the entirety of the Star Trek strips that ran from 1979 to 1983 into two large, coffee table style volumes in their Library of American Comics series.


‘Panic in a Suitcase’ Is a Solid Debut from an Immensely Gifted Novelist

Nothing goes unnoticed in Yelena Akhtiorskaya's satire of an immigrant family, and nothing is sacred.


Should Film Music Stand Alone?

In evaluating what makes a great film score, writers, composers, and listeners must ask themselves if the function of cinematic music limits the form it has to take.


In ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, Trifle Becomes Transcendent

Silly plot aside, the real attraction to A Hard Day’s Night is the music and the way it is presented.


Hearts Alive: An Interview with Mastodon

Bassist for the Atlanta sludge metal monsters Troy Sanders discusses why Once More 'Round the Sun is simply the next logical step in the band's Go-Go's-loving journey.


The Clientele: Suburban Light (Reissue)

The Clientele were one of the greatest triumphs of the fickle aughts, and also one of the most overlooked successes of indie pop.


The Skygreen Leopards: Family Crimes

Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson took a straight ahead approach to making their latest, a record infused with immediate charm making its 33-minute running time feel breezy, even effortless.


Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden: Last Dance

Two masters play mostly love songs as if the night were coming to a close.


Bidiniband: The Motherland

The Motherland shows that, at the age of 50, Dave Bidini shows no signs of slowing, and we can all celebrate the fact that he’s still making music.


Kris Delmhorst: Blood Test

Kris Delmhorst aims for a mature, minimalistic style on her seventh studio album Blood Test, a move which ultimately lacks punch and floats by in a puff of nothingness.


Wednesday, July 9 2014

Vengeance Is the Motive for Almost Everyone in Season 2 of ‘The Bridge’

While vengeance is surely a reliable dramatic device, its use here is also potentially more far-reaching.


Invisible No More: “Fantastic Four 100th Anniversary”

The setting is not one hundred years after Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny were first exposed to cosmic rays but rather one hundred years after Jack and Stan kicked off the Marvel revolution with the introduction of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”


Paul Gravett Is in the Mood for Love in ‘Comics Art’

Comics Art demonstrates Gravett's deep passion for the world of panels, speech balloons, fine lines and grand colors, subtle shading and transformative images.


Dirty Diapers Don’t Scare Me Nearly as Much as the Wiggles Do

Parenthood comes with a lot of change, and a lot of decisions to be made, including this one: What’s your musical strategy?


Old Crow Medicine Show Will Save Country Music from Itself

The veritable Top 40 Country outsiders, Old Crow Medicine Show, are the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. But does that really matter?


‘Quadrophenia: Live In London’ Proves That the Four Sides of the Who Are Still Alive and Well

For any a fan of The Who’s “Maximum R&B” music, this is as close to being there as you can possibly get without a time machine and a hefty ticket charge.


Boris: Noise

This is probably Boris’ most accessible record to date and the overall feeling is that it has, once again, managed to mould its inspiration while remaining quintessentially "Boris".


James: La Petite Mort

Tim Booth lost his mother and a friend. His band's aesthetic betrays his grief. But it all somehow comes out alright.


Paul Weller: More Modern Classics

No collection could do justice to some of the diverse paths which Paul Weller has pursued over the last decade.


Ruthann Friedman: Chinatown

If this was the last day on Earth, Friedman would still go out and greet friends and celebrate the moment rather than cry in despair.


Nikki Lane: All Or Nothin’

Tough and yet tender, sexy and yet seductive, All of Nothin’ appeals to all of your good senses, and it is a wonderful testament of an artist who is very quickly coming into her own.


Tuesday, July 8 2014

Halle Berry Lands on TV for ‘Extant’

Flashbacks appear first as if in her mind (via circular mirrors and quaint iris transitions) and then as if on digital recording (on a tablet), neither obviously accurate.


On Equal Footing: “Sex Criminals #6”

Sex Criminals fits into a category all its own. Is it a book about sex? It is certainly dirty, but it doesn’t exploit its characters.


Nobody Should Feel Embarrassed to Read YA Fiction

Young Adult literature is not just for kids, and it fills an important niche left vacant by much of contemporary "adult" fiction.


Still Stranger, Ten Years Later: An Interview with Tim Bowness

PopMatters catches up with singer and wordsmith Tim Bowness to talk about the creative process behind Together We're Stranger, its lyrical influences, and how it fits into the band's diverse career.


The Groundbreaking Wonderfulness of ‘I Spy’

I Spy is filled with revolutionary diversity, exotic filming locations, and a textbook example of on screen chemistry.


Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear

What happens when one of the most successful and prolific songwriters of the past few years decides to return to the career that debilitated her emotionally and physically?


Selina O’Grady’s ‘And Man Created God’ Edifies and Entertains

And Man Created God is an impressively detailed and panoramic survey of how power and piety interacted with one another in the increasingly globalized classical world.


Tombs: Savage Gold

Savage Gold proves extreme metal to be a race to the bottom that no one wins.


A Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sea When Absent

This wholly unique dream-pop band returns with an album that takes their ambient, dreamy sound to new and interesting places.


White Sea: In Cold Blood

Before this night is through, White Sea wants to do real bad things with you.


The Everymen: Givin’ Up on Free Jazz

While it sometimes sticks too close to home, most of Givin' Up on Free Jazz is an open and welcome invitation to join the band there and get lost in the feeling of good rock 'n roll.


Monday, July 7 2014

‘My Way to Olympia’: A Filmmaker’s Education

As it follows Paralympians en route to London 2102, this documentary makes clear the arbitrary dividing line between what's "normal" and what's not.


Beck + GOASTT: 1 July 2014 - Summerstage, New York (Photos)

Beck really knocked it out of the park with his show at Summerstage.


A Beautiful Institutional Breakdown: “Uncanny X-men #22”

Disorganization and ineptitude somehow come together in a wonderfully meaningful story.


With ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ the MCU Decisively Breaks with Comics

Marvel owns characters and its profits come from comics sales, film tickets, lunch boxes, etc. As such, character identification fluctuates easily between media.


Why Don’t Videogames Have Their Own Criterion Collection?

Though the video game industry bases itself on forward progression, the rich history of the medium is being underserved by the lack of preservation for older, essential games.


A Tree Grows in Stoningham: ‘All That Heaven Allows’

There’s no scenery chewing in All That Heaven Allows, just very eloquent décor.


Judas Priest: Redeemer of Souls

This is Judas Priest as they haven't been heard in nearly 25 years. Not since Painkiller has the band had this much power, energy, or hooks.


The Proper Ornaments: Wooden Head

Hardly original, but always something of quality, Wooden Head is a record you’ll be glad to hear, and, by the end, leaves you wanting more.


‘Famous Baby’ Shows What Happens When It’s Time for Mommy Bloggers to Grow Up

Famous Baby is fun and funny and a bit flawed, just like its two main characters.


Chrissie Hynde: Stockholm

The Pretenders vocalist delivers first solo album with a little help from her friends. Results may vary.


Mariah Carey: Me. I Am Mariah: The Elusive Chanteuse

Elusive would imply that she's hiding from us. The irony is that this album serves Mariah Carey in droves.


Handsome and Gretyl: Miles and Miles

Music of the earth, emotion and community, Handsome and Gretyl talk love, hope, optimism, and life.


Wednesday, July 2 2014

American Eats: Locavore Bonnaroo as Pop Community

Bonnaroo's four-course, farm-to-table "Bonnaroots" dinner showed the locavore food culture's vibrancy crossing into pop culture.


Demons From Iraq Come to the Bronx in ‘Deliver Us From Evil’

War is bad, demons are bad, walking on human skulls is bad. And then what?


Bottlerock Festival Battles For Long-term Viability

The middle day of the festival on Saturday featured a strong draw for the rock ‘n' roll crowd.


Shocking the Casbah: The Maghrebi-Noir of Rachid Taha

A furious mix of hip-hop beats, Arabic primal screams and punk-rock guitars, Taha brilliantly battles against the ideologies of both Western and Arab traditions.


The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview: July 2014

We take another trip to a certain simian world, we have another experience with an annual government authorized night of lawlessness, and we get our second sighting of a mythic Greek muscleman.


Howard Hawks and John Wayne Defined a Genre with ‘Red River’

It’s nearly impossible to not get roped in by the easy banter of the dialogue, the epic drama, and the luminous images of this quintessential Western.


The Bats: Volume 1

The Bats are a crucial part of the Flying Nun story, as well as the story of New Zealand music.


‘Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China’ Is both Trivial and Expansive

There is nothing hidden about the world of these stories, and Yu Hua’s writing is defined by its plainspoken voice and depiction of quotidian lives.


Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers

Willie Nelson still makes records that are smart, funny, sexy, and heartbreaking.


Linkin Park: The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party is a decent record on its own, but it feels too repetitive, uninspired, and generic to equal its immediate predecessors.


The Meatmen: Savage Sagas

“The Ballad of Stinky Penis”. “I’m Gonna Fuck You Up!". “Big Bloody Booger on the Bathroom Wall”. If those song titles seem even remotely appealing to you, boy, have I got the record for you!


Buddy Rich: The Solos

As the title implies, this is nothing but drum solos from one of the greatest drummers of all time. Even if the notion turns you off, the album itself will prove mesmerizing.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.