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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.

Tuesday, February 17 2015

José González : Vestiges and Claws

José González delivers a lovely and dreamy set of songs defined by their humble grace.


The Year That Changed Chaucer From Court Insider to Ambitious Author

Paul Strohm's Chaucer's Tale tells how Chaucer's fall from political favor in London elevated his literary ambitions in rural retreat.


Wrinkle Neck Mules: I Never Thought It Would Go This Far

Wrinkle Neck Mules take their Southern pedigree seriously, mining a rural sound that's chock full of back porch sensibilities.


Menace Beach: Ratworld

Feedback-laden '90s touchstones are in full effect here. Too bad strong songwriting is in shorter supply.


Zs: Xe

Little band, strange name, BIG sound.


James Wolpert: The Entire City

The Voice rocker James Wolpert releases an astoundingly legit solo debut.


Monday, February 16 2015

The Dark Side of Empires: “Darth Vader #1”

Forget the prequels. Even when he's on the Emperor's bad side, this is the Darth Vader that everyone wants to see.


Who Made the Machines That Remade the World?

Walter Isaacson's The Innovators explores the history of the digital age as told through the intertwined lives of the men and women who created it.


Much Ado About Art, Satire and Terrorism

As the debate rages over Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons, Art Spiegelman offers sage advice on cartoons and free speech.


At the Core of Technology Is a Human: An Interview With Ayori Selassie

As a young professional in the entrepreneurial world of Silicon Valley, Ayori Selassie argues that technology's primary purpose should be to serve human needs first and foremost.


‘La Belle Captive’ Is a Beautiful Nightmare

Part murder-mystery, part erotic fever dream, La Belle Captive is a sumptuous nightmare.


THEESatisfaction: EarthEE

EarthEE, the duo's second album, creates its own singular space, one just as challenging, engaging, and revolutionary as its predecessor.


A Place to Bury Strangers: Transfixation

The Brooklyn-based noise-rock band try for a leaner, more focused sound, but they often find themselves missing the atmosphere of their earlier work.


Sir Richard Bishop: Tangier Sessions

The guitar playing is impressive, but the loose and self-indulgent nature of these compositions will test the listener's patience.


Cursive: The Ugly Organ (Reissue)

Cursive's much-loved rage cannon of a record has been remastered, allowing one to hear every mangled guitar chord, every abused organ note, every polyp in Kasher's throat. It's makes a legendarily bilious album even more so, like watching surgery in HD.


Nerina Pallot: Live From Union Chapel / Winter Rooms

Nerina Pallot releases the last two EPs of her 12-EP project: a live EP and some final studio recordings.


Friday, February 13 2015

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ Pushes the Spy Spoof Only So Far

Kingsman is a cut above the usual winter flicks, but it's also flummoxed by its inability to maintain it subversive tone.


‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is a Stale Confection for Valentine’s Day

Despite its risqué reputation, this film, like the book it is adapted from, is a generic tale of male power that's been told many times before.


Please Rise for the Honorable: Reflecting on 2011 via ‘Judge Dredd: Urban Warfare’

It wasn’t so long ago, 2011, but it felt momentous. It was only a matter of really, until our art would begin to make comment. And what better art than the decades old dystopian fiction of Judge Dredd?


Dreamfall Chapters, Book One: Reborn

Players of the Dreamfall Chapters may find that more than a little research is necessary to enjoy the game's finer points.


Tracing a Literary Lineage in Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Kraus Project’

This unlikely combination of a translation and memoir offers as many telling insights into the preoccupations of Jonathan Franzen as it does into Karl Kraus' life and work.


Love Songs: The Hidden History

What do evolutionary biology and its founding father, Charles Darwin, have to do with love songs? As it turns out, quite a lot.


You Can’t Sink Your Teeth Into Any of the Ideas in ‘Annabelle’

Annabelle pales in the shadow of its predecessor, the far superior The Conjuring.


Pond: Man It Feels Like Space Again

The Tame Impala-affiliated rock band bring psychedelia into the 21st century with lush textures, acid funk grooves, and huge infectious riffs.


Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Latin Rare Groove Volume 2

Treats for collectors of obscure Latin groove, but still appealing to more casual listeners.


King Crimson: Live at the Orpheum

King Crimson continue to march to the beat of their own drummers. All three of them.


Neneh Cherry: Blank Project Deluxe

If anything, the remixes on Neneh Cherry's deluxe release of Blank Project are essentially exercises in demonstrating the versatility and the loose and improvised constructs of the original versions' rhythms.


Trio Chemirani: Dawâr

Iranian-French trio makes ancient Persian music new.


Thursday, February 12 2015

“Rasputin”,  Issue 4, Page 14

Artist Riley Rossmo’s aesthetic energy is a big part of what makes Rasputin click as a comic, a major factor in its unique personality and tone, so any scene as strong and effective as this one must be attributed to him at least to some degree.


From ‘Cast Away’ to ‘Locke’: The Rise of the One-Man Movie

For every apparent innovation, one-man movies are as conventional as they come.


What’s He Banging on About?: An Interview with Rapper Bang On!

The young MC Bang On! may play dumb, but he's sharp as a tack.


‘Life of Crime’ Is Mediocrity Void of Ambition

Much like the Duracell bunny, Life of Crime has no brain; it has no anima.


Rumer: Into Colour

With her third release, Anglo-Pakistani singer-songwriter Rumer fully embraces the influences she’s merely hinted at on previous releases. The results are near-perfect.


The Body and Thou: You, Whom I Have Always Hated

A very, very rare effort, You, Whom I Have Always Hated, is as close to perfect an album as Thou and The Body have ever put out and nearly as perfect an album to emerge in years.


Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries

Letter to a Future Lover tries to make sense of the world through the flotsam and jetsam of things left in books.


Duke Garwood: Heavy Love

Heavy Love, the fourth album to date by this London-based multi-instrumentalist, is comprised mainly of hushed, harrowing soundscapes that are frequently as subversive as they are subdued.


John Grant: John Grant and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live in Concert

Celebrated singer-songwriter John Grant collaborates with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, in what proves to be one of the most incendiary live albums in recent memory.


John Supko and Bill Seaman: s_traits

This is chance over method: a real post-industrial display of art born out of an immediate flow of ideas, immortalised onto a disk, assembled by the very negation of art that is genuine calculus and roughly adjusted by man


Wednesday, February 11 2015

Transatlantic Sessions 2015, Royal Festival Hall, London

Old World meets New World once again at the final Transatlantic Sessions show of 2015: an evening to give the so-called “Special Relationship” a good name, after all.


In Defense of Brunch

A provocative and insightful new book challenges us to rethink our obsession with brunch, and to critically consider what this overpriced, messy meal really says about shifting class identities in today’s world.


Everything Is True: Continuity in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

In the world of comic book continuity, if everything is true, anything can happen.


‘101 Dalmatians’ Remains a Diamond in Disney’s Crown

Featuring a story filled with wonderful characterizations, genuine excitement, and a perfectly earned ending, 101 Dalmatians is one of Disney's best.


Natalie Prass: Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass is technically a self-titled singer-songwriter debut. It's just that it doesn't sound like any of those things.


Matthew Thomas Tackles Dementia in His Ambitious First Novel, ‘We Are Not Ourselves’

At one point, Thomas gave up his teaching job because the desire to finish his writing had outweighed the desire to achieve financial security. Such passion is evident in the pages of his novel.


Luke Haines: Adventures in Dementia

A "micro opera" involving a Mark E Smith impersonator, caravan holidays, and British fascist punks upholds Haines's reputation as a singular songwriter.


Blackberry Smoke: Holding all the Roses

Blackberry Smoke is one of those groups that fiercely adheres to past precepts. Indeed, if its sound recalls the aforementioned standard bearers -- and it does -- then it’s just as true that the members have learned those lessons well.


Jib Kidder: Teaspoon to the Ocean

Has the quirky, DIY indie-pop album become a cliche? How about the psychedelic collage album, then?


John Denver: All of My Memories: The John Denver Collection

Denver’s image was wrapped in sincerity and disarming, if sometimes hokey, charm. On one hand these were his weaknesses – he was an easy target for the critics – but they were also his strengths, as he came across as genuine and honest.


Tuesday, February 10 2015

I’m Nuts for Squirrel Girl: “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2”

You might think that it is easy to be confident when you are, after all, UNBEATABLE, but it really isn't. Unbeatable or not, a crush can still be pretty embarrassing.


America Went to War on Terror and Terror Won

Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn provides exceptional analysis of the Islamic State and the broader conflict in Syria and Iraq.


‘Jupiter Ascending’ and the Search for Renewed Narrative Conventions

Although the Wachowski siblings' latest film has taken a critical beating, it merits a closer examination for its clever playing with narrative tropes from science fiction and fairy tales.


Always Past, Always Present, Never the Moment: ‘Palo Alto’

Gia Coppola's film illustrates the paradox of the young and the old: each want wants what the other has. Neither can ever live in the moment.


Rhiannon Giddens: Tomorrow Is My Turn

Everything works on Tomorrow Is My Turn, an album that heralds the arrival of a major American artist.


‘The Warren Commission Report’ Reveals How Much the JFK Assassination Remains a Mystery

There's a lot to admire about this graphic-fiction account of the complicated and controversial evidence surrounding the Kennedy assassination


Wolfheart: Winterborn

Winterborn isn't particularly original, but the songwriting is strong and the riffs are a nice combination of heavy and catchy.


Red Red Meat: There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight

Red Red Meat were one of the purest American bands, pushing boundaries of music to the breaking point and incorporating diverse styles to create their own unique vision of America.


Howlin’ Rain: Mansion Songs

Howlin' Rain strikes an unbalanced chord between calm and cacophony on fourth studio release.


Various Artists: BART: Bay Area Retrograde Vol. 1 & 2

Dark Entries' compilation of early '80s underground bands from the Bay Area offers an exciting glimpse into a powerfully creative era.


Monday, February 9 2015

Does ‘The Jinx’ Give a Platform to a Possible Murderer?

The elements of glorification and exploitation in The Jinx are enough to make one wonder if it supports accused murderer Robert Durst.


How We All Survived the Astoundingly Morose 57th Annual Grammy Awards

AC/DC opened the telecast with a song called "Rock or Bust", a prophetic ultimatum that was answered all too quickly by a cavalcade of performers who seemed to be tripping over themselves to see who could be the most uninspiring of them all.


A Colorful Cosmic Convergence: “Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Alpha #1”

The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy come together again in a story that's as volatile as it is fun.


‘Citizens of Earth’ Falls in Line with traditional Japanese RPGs

Several jokes in Citizens of Earth expose the Vice President of the Worlds’s exaggerated love of bureaucracy. Too bad the game is sometimes as much fun as cutting through red tape.


The Comedy Is Bittersweet in ‘Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic’

The focus on the dark side of Pryor's life gives this documentary the feel of an epitaph rather than a celebration.


Do iPhones Dream of Boxcars? Joe Ely and Sci-Fi Country

In 1983, road-weary Texan Joe Ely hovers over gadgets and wires, entering a brave new world of technology. Is he creating science-fiction country music?


Cayamo 2015 Is a True Journey Through Song

The start of 2015 found a bevy of roots music's best artists taking to the open ocean for a week of concerts, social gatherings, and hi-jinks. (Spoiler: watch out for Kacey Musgraves if she's on a scooter.)


In Conversational Orbit of ‘God’s Planet’ With Owen Gingerich

Religion and science, two of the great cathedrals of knowledge, are often perceived as being in a state of conflict with one another. Gingerich is of the mind that the two cannot be separated.


‘Nightcrawler’ Reminds Us That Capitalism and the Media Have Gotten Worse

As Nightcrawler compellingly depicts, every member of society is one rent payment away from tapping into their dark side.


Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Josh Tillman leaves the depression that triggered his beloved debut behind. In its place is the subject of love in all its beauty and messiness.


Wardell: Love / Idleness

Just because their dad produced Transformers, it doesn't make Wardell bad people.


Rez Abassi Acoustic Quartet: Intents and Purposes

The guitarist takes his acoustic band (guitar trio plus vibes) for a spin on some classic fusion tunes from the 1970s.


The Notwist: The Messier Objects

The Notwist follow up last year's Close to the Glass with this collection of unreleased instrumental material.


Gov’t Mule: Dark Side of the Mule

With Dark Side of the Mule, Haynes and company’s faithful recitations do little to breathe life into already tired songs for those new to the Mule.


Friday, February 6 2015

Greyboy Allstars Kick Out the Jams in San Diego

There was a bit of cognitive dissonance in the air with the concept of Denson being 58 years old, because onlookers would be hard pressed to make such a guess.


‘Seventh Son’ Asks How Evil You Must Be to Fight Evil

Jeff Bridges, being very Dude-like, summarizes the motto of Seventh Son: "When you deal with dark, dark gets in you."


‘The SpongeBob Movie’ Works for the Five Year Old and the 55 Year Old

There's little subtext in this tale of the pineapple under the sea, but there is plenty of clever humor and scenery-chewing to rile up audiences of all ages.


The Wachowski Siblings Repeat Themselves in ‘Jupiter Ascending’

At this point in the Wachowskis’ career, another hyped-up science-fiction saga about fate and humanity-as-cattle feels like less of a recurring theme and more like a lack of imagination.


The Ghost of Spectres Past

On the cusp of “Convergence”, which ties together all DC comics ever published, have Fawkes and Templesmith finally found the character’s quintessential magic?


‘Satellina’: Is a Quintessential Example of Mobile Gaming

While it's definitely a bit more difficult than I was expecting, the difficulty of Satellina is fair when the game is behaving itself.


‘Dear White People’ Untangles Complicated Relations of Racism and Identity

This film's ability to balance character-driven stories with didactic critiques against the racist practices that haunt our daily lives speaks to a sophisticated outlook rare among first-time directors.


‘The Secret History of Wonder Woman’ Also Reveals a Great Deal About Our Own Social History

Jill Lepore's hit new book on Wonder Woman sheds light not only on the astonishing origins of this iconic character, but also on the fascinating social and political strands of history which gave rise to her.


A Portrait of the Boss As a Young Man: On Bruce Springsteen’s First Seven Albums

The go-for-broke inspiration Bruce Springsteen became legendary for providing in his songs initially sprang from the most authentic source: himself.


‘Left Behind’ Would Have Been Better Left Behind

This Christian "blockbuster" thriller is a movie that looks and sounds significantly lower-rent than even the other low-rent thrillers Nicolas Cage has been doing lately.


Lupe Fiasco: Tetsuo & Youth

Lupe Fiasco ends his troubled relationship with Atlantic Records with a thrillingly ambitious sendoff.


1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music

The year 1965 saw many musical developments, a significant one of which is Brian Wilson's development from poet laureate of high school to baroque visionary.


John Carpenter: Lost Themes

John Carpenter's non-soundtrack album is engrossing and dark, bringing to mind images from his best works both audio and visual.


Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It

Part of this Dogg's appeal always could be found in his strange sense of humor and gritty look at reality. He's not above being vulgar or afraid to be saintly.


Whitey Morgan & the 78’s: Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint

Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint is a primer on how honky tonk’s done, demonstrating no new spin is required.


Thursday, February 5 2015

Diana Ross: 3 February 2015 - Brooklyn, New York

Diana Ross inaugurated the historic reopening of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn with a dazzling lesson in longevity.


The “Change” You Want to See

What really pops out and smacks you in the face about Change is the art by Morgan Jeske and Sloane Leong.


Funny, Filthy, and Free: The ‘Do The Right Thing’ Podcast

Fancy being entertained, enlightened or offended, but not willing to pay for the privilege? Then you need the Do The Right Thing podcast in your life.


A Clunky Conclusion Prevents ‘John Wick’ From Being a Minor Classic

This straightforward revenge flick doesn't quite nail its blood-soaked final bow, but it nonetheless provides far more thrills than your typical run 'n' gun film.


Punch Brothers: The Phosphorescent Blues

This is another triumph for Punch Brothers, who continue to find a balance between catchiness and esoteria.


John Tejada: Signs Under Test

L.A.-based electronic musician John Tejada keeps on picking the locks where we were unaware of the doors in the first place.


‘The Never-Open Desert Diner’ Is Beautifully Written With a Delicate Sense of Humor

A book with this kind of subtly, lyricism, and quiet intensity isn’t just appreciated—it’s restorative.


Robert Lester Folsom: Music and Dreams and Robert Lester Folsom: Ode to a Rainy Day

A cherished self-released slice of 1970’s mellow gold gets a welcome digital reissue. It's accompanied by a second, previously unavailable set of formative home recordings certain to satisfy excavators of that decade’s lost sounds.


Gene Clark: Two Sides to Every Story

During a time when country was serious, large and in charge, Clark jokingly thumbed his nose at the appearance of genuine. Or not.


Wednesday, February 4 2015

‘Nashville’ Is No Conventional Melodrama

Forget the chit-chat about Nashville being a "sudsy" soap; as season three continues to show, this is a complex, feminist show that forges a new sort of sincerity.


It Should Have Been a Joke: “Zombies vs. Robots #1”

The robots are fierce and out of control. The zombies are hungry, rapacious, rattleboned and desperate.


The Programmer as Author in ‘If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript’

This inventive and engaging book imagines what JavaScript might look like in the hands of 25 writers, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Tupac Shakur, and J.K. Rowling.


Bligg Up!: The Bizarre Swiss Hip-Hop of Rapper Bligg

Swiss rapper Bligg, hip-hop's resident weirdo, reinvents the genre through subversion and humour -- and an alphorn's load of smart, catchy tunes.


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