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
Kurt Vonnegut: Our Reluctant, Agnostic, Hippy Guru

Vonnegut's timeless stories challenge the assumptions, institutions, and ideologies that so delimit critical thinking and open-mindedness.

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Orphan Black: Season 4, Episode 1 - “The Collapse of Nature”

The fourth season of Orphan Black seems poised to go back to its roots with “The Collapse of Nature”; that's a good thing.

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The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 18 - “Mr. Solomon, the Conclusion”

Touching acting, brilliant self-parody, and whetting the viewers' appetite for next week -- The Blacklist bounces back.

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‘Grief Is the Thing With Feathers’ Pokes Around in Poetry’s Carcass

In his first book, Max Porter pulls disparate voices and bangs them together to make something beautiful and scary.

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There’s Music Coming From ‘The Last House on Dead End Street’

Having apparently blown $2,200 of his $3,000 budget on coke, Roger Watkins turned to what's known as ‘library music' to salvage a decent soundtrack.

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Murder for Two: Oedipal Death-Cycles in ‘The Eye of the Beholder’

Behm turns the detective novel first on its head and then sideways before shot-putting it across a terrain of Żuławskian terror; its film adaptation is an equally nerve-wracking descent into oedipal destruction.

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19 Apr 2016 // 2:30 AM

Suuns: Hold/Still

Suuns made a career-focusing album reflective of, and worthy of, our scattered brains.

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Woods: City Sun Eater in the River of Light

A slight step out of the comfort zone from Brooklyn's Woods, one of indie rock's most reliable and steady voices

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19 Apr 2016 // 2:15 AM

Ace Frehley: Origins Vol.1

We finally get the inevitable covers collection from the ex-KISS guitarist and it's all we imagined it would be.

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Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil: Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música - Multishow Live

These artists' names evoke Brazilian music to anyone even faintly familiar with the country's cultural history.

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Ulli Bomans: Sort by Dragging

Ulli Bomans may deal mainly in moods, but his music still has a profoundly eerie pulse.

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19 Apr 2016 // 2:02 AM

Claffy: Claffy

Well-fashioned post-bop from an up-and-comer with a broad pedigree.

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Without a Net: A Conversation with Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton: "(W)hen I do finally kick the bucket it's going to read 'Frampton drops dead', it's not going to say 'Frampton Comes Alive!', anymore."

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The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 17 - “Mr. Solomon (No.32)”

Are ten seconds of near-Lynchian imagery worth 59 minutes and 50 seconds of Christmas Lilies of the Field?

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Satire Is a Key Feature in ‘Silicon Valley’ Season 2

Silicon Valley's relentless skewering of the Bay Area's well-known tech valley continues as Pied Piper faces new challenges.

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All the WOO in the World: An All-star Benefit for P-Funk Legend Bernie Worrell

The Wizard of WOO got his due as Nona Hendryx brought together George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Living Colour, David Byrne, Meryl Streep, and dozens more.

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Vinyl: Season 1, Episode 9 - “Rock and Roll Queen”

While the boring murder and crime storyline gets some airtime, we really delve deep into Vinyl's Madonna/whore problem in this episode.

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Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 5 - “Kinbaku”

Daredevil's relationships with women highlight his identity crisis at the expense of their own characterization.

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Questlove’s ‘Somethingtofoodabout’ Is Immensely Satisfying

Questlove’s Somethingtofoodabout showcases how the performing arts necessitate a different kind of creativity.

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18 Apr 2016 // 2:30 AM

Kevin Morby: Singing Saw

Singing Saw is a breakthrough record for Kevin Morby, brimming with vibrant imagery and fluid orchestration.

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18 Apr 2016 // 2:30 AM

Cloud Nine: Interview with Hælos

They broke on Soundcloud and are being hailed as a successor to the sound of trip-hop greats like Massive Attack. But HÆLOS are out to craft a legacy all their own.

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Weezer: Weezer (The White Album)

Weezer's long-awaited return to form continues with a loose concept album about California, complete with the requisite Beach Boys influences.

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Tiny Tim: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-1970)

All of the idiosyncratic performer’s late ‘60s singles are brought together in one place, providing a small piece of the puzzle necessary to reevaluate his place within popular culture.

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Father: I’m a Piece of Shit

Rapper Father returns with more debauchery. But he’s feeling more conflicted about it.

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‘Culloden’ and ‘The War Game’ Don’t Rewrite History, They Rewrite How We Can Learn From the Past

Peter Watkins' controversial BBC documentaries from the '60s still astound, startle, and disturb.

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Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss (Deluxe Edition)

Chelsea Wolfe's latest album, Abyss, improves upon her distinct metal-folk fusion that's characterized her music since the beginning.

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18 Apr 2016 // 2:00 AM

Persona and Modern Music in 17 Songs

Persona -- the “I” of the song -- has evolved, broadened, and expanded to more fully represent a diversity of experiences as well as emotional, political, and cultural orientations.

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In ‘Criminal’ Gal Gadot Is Surrounded by Galoots

Jill (Gal Gadot), who's really good at protecting her body, her home, and her child, adept with a gun and smart too, is nonetheless turned into a plot point.

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By Mixing Comedy With Social Commentary, ‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’ Finds Its Voice

With one foot in the contemporary and the other in the franchise's past, this latest installment of Barber Shop is fresh, funny, and not overly familiar.

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iZombie: Season 2, Episodes 18 and 19 - “Dead Beat” and “Salivation Army”

iZombie’s finale cemented how expertly paced this season has been as a whole, revealing huge secrets and enough gallows humor in keeping with the show’s distinctive tone.

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Jon Favreau Delivers a Future Family Classic With ‘The Jungle Book’

It may be a live action adventure, but The Jungle Book has all the magic of Disney's original animated effort, and much more.

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Outlander: Season 2, Episode 1 - “Through a Glass, Darkly”

Is the past fixed, or can Jamie and Claire make a difference in Scotland's fate?

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‘Hardcore Henry’ Tells Gamers Sorry, There Is No Princess

Hardcore Henry questions gamers' instinctual need to fulfill a particular role within the context of a presumed masculine identity.

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Is Copyright Killing Creativity?

It's time to move toward an open-source model for literary and creative production, argues Illegal Literature, a provocative new challenge to traditional copyright models.

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The Last Shadow Puppets: Everything You’ve Come to Expect

Simultaneously fresher yet less exciting and memorable than its predecessor, Everything You've Come to Expect captures almost everything that makes the Last Shadow Puppets stand out.

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Miracle Legion: Portrait of a Damaged Family

Miracle Legion returns after a 20-year hiatus and reissues their barely-noticed final album. It's an album that richly deserves to be heard.

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The Lumineers: Cleopatra

The trio’s three year hiatus complimented their songwriting, but their recent effort to provide less singalongs and more authenticity feels too tempered.

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15 Apr 2016 // 2:10 AM

East of Venus: Memory Box

An indie super-group comprised of members of the Feelies, Winter Hours, and the Bongos, East of Venus have crafted one of the year’s best rock and roll records so far.

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‘Try and Get Me’ Goes Where Most Films Fear to Tread

This overlooked noir film takes a disturbing look at ordinary American life, circa 1950.

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Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements

Trouble Boys is a deeply intimate and nuanced portrait, exposing the primal factors and forces—addiction, abuse, fear—that would shape one of the most brilliant and notoriously self-destructive groups of all time.

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The Magicians: Season 1, Episode 13 - “Have You Brought Me Little Cakes”

There isn't any better way to respond to this episode than with a angry, sustained "no".

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Mindbending Avenging in ‘All-New, All-Different Avengers #8’

This comic gives the impression that the human mind is stronger and more rational than daytime talk shows would have us believe.

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Better Call Saul: Season 2, Episode 9 - “Nailed”

For the first time all season, "Nailed" is in a hurry to give not only answers, but plenty of action to go along with them.

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‘Green Room’ Strikes Visual and Emotional Balances

Jeremy Saulnier's film underscores the basic drives and manipulations of belonging, of social existence.

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Once Upon a Time: Season 6, Episode 16 - “Our Decay”

Hades forces Rumpelstiltskin to bring Zelena and child down to the Underworld, because it turns out that he and Zelena have a bit of a past.

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‘Day of the Tentacle Remastered’: Remastering a Classic

Day of the Tentacle follows the structure of a Saturday morning cartoon. It also has the stakes of one.

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The City as Autobiography in Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland

Leaping from one fragmented city to the next, Pinckney’s narrator uses history to simultaneously define and obscure himself.

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‘Disruptive Film’ Creates a Constellation Where the Past and Present Meet

One should approach this collection not unlike how Walter Benjamin approached collecting books: ".... not as dry, isolated facts, but as a harmonious whole..."

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Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Sturgill Simpson's latest musical offspring is a love letter we can all cherish.

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Bottled Out of Eccentricity: A Conversation With Kavus Torabi of Knifeworld

Knifeworld mastermind Kavus Torabi discusses the positive rewiring effects of LSD, Gong's late Daevid Allen, and Knifeworld's newest, Bottled Out of Eden.

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14 Apr 2016 // 2:20 AM

Ben Watt: Fever Dream

Ben Watt’s Fever Dream resembles those dark Impressionist paintings where everything bleeds together in the rain.

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The Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend

More weekend than nosebleed, the Coathangers deliver a mix of sluggishly performed garage rock and passable punk attitude.

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Eric Bachmann: Eric Bachmann

Eric Bachmann continues to age gracefully without sacrificing his youthful essence.

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New Kids on the Block’s Fans Are Hangin’ Tough

The 33 1/3 book on New Kids on the Block highlights the perils of aging gracefully.

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Free Cake for Every Creature: Talking Quietly of Anything with You

These indie pop kids describe themselves best: "All you gotta be when you're 23 is yourself."

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‘Master of None’ and Serial Storytelling in the Binge-Viewing Era

Master of None encapsulates the storytelling shifts brought about by the binge-watching phenomenon.

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The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 16 - “Last Day on Earth”

Rick and the rest of the survivors finally face off with Negan's full force of Saviors; for the first time, they're the hunted rather than the hunters.

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Supergirl: Season 1, Episode 19 - “Myriad”

Superman makes an appearance in this episode of Supergirl, but he's hardly needed.

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13 Apr 2016 // 9:01 AM

Brett Harris: Up in the Air

We soar with Harris up in the air, and are plummeted back to Earth with powerful emotion.

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A Partridge Compendium That Probes Some of the Best Parts of XTC’s Rich Pageant

In lieu of an XTC biography or a Partridge memoir, we take a trip through the notebooks and brainwaves of the master.

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Mayer Hawthorne: Man About Town

Mayer Hawthorne returns to form with a pop-soul record that echoes his first two albums.

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What’s So Funny? Stewart/Colbert and the Short Shelf Life of Satire

The spot-on satire of series such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show is their longevity's worst enemy.

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Keb’ Mo’: That Hot Pink Blues Album

Hot Pink essentially proves that all Keb' Mo' albums should be live albums.

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Cheap Trick: Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello

On album number 17, the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees show just why they got there.

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Is Chinese Martial Arts Cinema Underexamined or Undervalued?

Stephen Teo's updated academic appraisal of the action genre delivers fascinating historic and cultural context.

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Clark: The Last Panthers

The Last Panthers eschews the thumping beats of his back catalog for open, airy compositions and more traditional instrumentation intended to serve a purpose beyond the music itself.

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Authority Issues: Questioning Authorial Control in the Films of Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier’s reputation rests on his ability to create and shape narratives of control, but has this approach always proven successful?

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Time and Place and ‘Counting’

In Counting, observation is transformed into a set of questions, ethical and aesthetic, political and practical.

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If You Like Browsing, You’ll Like ‘Old Records Never Die’

Taking a somewhat circuitous route, Spitznagel’s book is more about the people who shape us and the music we share than the music itself.

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‘Samorost 3’ Is a Game About Observation and Interpretation

Despite occasional frustrations, Samorost 3 feels alive and wondrous and weird in a way that most games aren’t.

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Charles Bradley’s Voice Full of Love and Hurt: The Interview

Soul master Charles Bradley talks about the painful changes that shaped his latest album and the way that his raw, powerful music helps him transcend heartache.

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Mr. Lif: Don’t Look Down

Mr. Lif's debut for Mello Music Group shows the Bostonian emcee growing as both a lyricist and a songwriter more than ever before.

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12 Apr 2016 // 2:20 AM

Ital Tek: Hollowed

Ital Tek releases this year's best album to date.

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Hayes Carll: Lovers and Leavers

Hayes Carll returns a bit wiser and in a pensive mood on Lovers and Leavers.

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Licht-Akiyama Trios: Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow

How many experimental guitarists does it take to change a light bulb? I don't know, ask the cornet player.

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Criterion’s ‘Bicycle Thieves’ Captures the ‘Life as It Was’ Quality of the Film

Bicycle Thieves' exploration of the struggle of everyday people still resonates nearly 70 years later.

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‘How to Watch a Movie’ Is Valuable Reading for Novice Film Buffs

Enlightening insights are scattered throughout, but this book draws familiar conclusions about ways of watching and appreciating film

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Talk Tight

Would it be too much of a mouthful to say that you might just catch Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever fever after hearing this EP?

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Carter Tanton: Jettison the Valley

Carter Tanton usually tinkers with gauzy layers, but his new record rings clean with acoustic guitars and the laid-bare sweetness of his voice.

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Soylent: Ingesting the Future

An exploration of lifestyle branding for the coming environmental apocalypse.

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Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 4 - “Penny and Dime”

The Punisher proves to be both a challenge and a complement to Daredevil.

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String Cheese Incident Brings March Madness to San Diego’s North Park

The counterculture remains blessed to have a band like the String Cheese Incident still dedicated to delivering exploratory jams framed in a socially-conscious context.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 15 - “Spacetime”

The latest episode keeps tackling big concepts while expertly moving the plot forward.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Brings a Steady Hand to ‘Black Panther #1’

Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has never written a comic book before, but this first issue of Black Panther puts to rest any fears of a vanity project gone bad.

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The Magicians: Season 1, Episode 12 - “Thirty-Nine Graves”

Disjointed and sloppy writing make the first season's ostensible climax feel more like a narrative tug-of-war between two incompatible writers.

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11 Apr 2016 // 3:00 AM

Is There June Cleaver on Mars?

What kind of world-building is NASA’s white, suburban, nuclear family propaganda of exoplanet travel establishing exactly?

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Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire

Sub Pop label mates Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop create some of their best songs to date on their new collaborative album.

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Romeo + Juliet + Baz Luhrmann: Reconsidered

Baz Luhrmann's films are not subtle. So why do I like Romeo + Juliet so much?

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Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs

One of contemporary jazz's most unique voices pays respect to another unique voice.

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11 Apr 2016 // 2:15 AM

Jan St. Werner: Felder

Felder, Jan St. Werner's latest solo record, is impressively expansive. But for all its challenging experimentation, the album is surprising comforting listen.

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The Arrow Must Fall: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’

Mockingjay Part 2 is an excellent finalé to the popular film series, but due to its nature as a second (or fourth) part, it can't stand on its own.

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11 Apr 2016 // 2:10 AM

Haxen: Haxen

Providence, Rhode Island grimmers are more set on making "Ceremonial Wounds" than standing on ceremony.

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Language Is an Energy in John Lydon’s ‘Anger Is an Energy’

Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. frontman John Lydon spills his guts with sloppy but delightful syntax and riddle-like onomatopoeias.

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Cavern of Anti-Matter: Void Beats / Invocation Trex

Stereolab's Tim Gane and a couple of friends try out retro instrumental synth-rock, with catchy, impressive results.

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Mary Lattimore: At the Dam

On At the Dam, Lattimore delivers a haunting, lasting performance, one that feels solitary but never spare, alone but never lonesome.

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How Does a Feminist Deal With a Cheating Husband?

Couple Mechanics is a suspenseful, moving drama about marriage, resilience, and the misogyny of faux feminist men.

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Melissa McCarthy Is Terrific, ‘The Boss’ Not So Much

The comic actress is rapidly becoming the John Candy for a new generation, for all that's good and bad about the comparison.

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Instead of a Thrill Ride, ‘Hardcore Henry’ Is Nauseating Nonsense

Gamers may enjoy this exercise in exasperation. Everyone else needs to keep the Dramamine handy.

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‘Demolition’ Bulldozes Ahead

If you want to build your movie on a metaphor, you don't have to explain everything.

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David Gilmour and Polly Samson Take LA by Musical and Literary Storm

With Gilmour playing his first American shows in a decade, seen here at the Hollywood Bowl, there was a rare opportunity for the couple to appear together to discuss their collaborations.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'SUPERHOTLine Miami' Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

// Moving Pixels

"SUPERHOTLine Miami provides a perfect case study in how slow-motion affects the pace and tone of a game.

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