Marginal Utility
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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

8 May 2017 // 2:30 AM

Midnight Oil’s Time Has Come Again

Midnight Oil taught me that citizens not only need a soundtrack for resistance, but we also need to resist.

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Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka-Spel: I Can Spin a Rainbow

I Can Spin a Rainbow is a slow parade of gothic vaudeville, but what at first seems a tolerable novelty quickly becomes insufferable.

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Anna Domino: East and West + Singles

This expanded reissue of Domino's debut EP begs the question, Why wasn't she as big as Kate Bush or even Julee Cruise?

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The Reluctant Superhero: The Guilty Walk of David Banner

The Incredible Hulk offered a number of metaphors for both post-war guilt and issues of white masculinity.

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‘Atlantic’: A Nautical Dirge for a Dying Ocean

'Atlantic' is an urgent and visually moving lament against corporate privatization of the ocean.

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The Human Face in Poetic Motion: William Oldroyd’s ‘Lady Macbeth’

A film of genuine force, Lady Macbeth strikes you in the gut with a clenched fist, simultaneously seduced by its beauty while recoiling at the moral abyss.

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‘13 Reasons Why’ Is a Thorny, Thought-Provoking Reworking of the “Dead Girl” Trope

Netflix's 13 Reasons Why offers up a powerful, if problematic, spin on the teenage melodrama.

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‘Farewell to Europe’: An Interview With Director Maria Schrader

Understated, unorthodox, and effortlessly multicultural, Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe is a must-see for anyone interested in the intersections of politics and film.

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Coheed and Cambria Impress As They Perform ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV’ in Full

Coheed and Cambria put on a stellar show as they ran through a performance of their stellar 2005 album Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV

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Jay Farrar Talks Pedal Steel Guitar, Open Tunings, and Jerry Garcia

Son Volt's Jay Farrar opens up about the impetus of the new album, another new record about a half a year out, and how Tom Brumley and Ralph Mooney are probably his favorites on the pedal steel guitar.

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5 May 2017 // 8:57 AM

Forest Swords: Compassion

Forest Swords offers a dazzling, evocative album that acts as the perfect soundtrack to the precarious times we live in.

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‘Freddie Mercury’: The Stories, Fables, Parables, and Odysseys of the Man and the Band

Nearly anyone who picks up An Illustrated Life will have a predefined idea of Freddie Mercury; Blake's book is a marvelous document of how we came to accept that idea as truth.

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5 May 2017 // 2:30 AM

Mac DeMarco: This Old Dog

Don't let its modest exterior fool you: DeMarco's latest has a rich emotional life that will reveal itself over time. This Old Dog indeed has some new tricks in it.

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The Creators of ‘Secret Empire #1’ Take a Huge Risk With This Issue

Hydra may be fascist, but those who buy into it gain a level of security and certainty that doesn't require mind control to appreciate.

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‘#MyEscape’ Employs Innovative Filmmaking Techniques to Cover the Middle Eastern Refugee Crisis

Director Elke Sasse doesn't need to embellish the refugees’ stories; their own cell phone filmmaking and interviews provide plenty of narrative depth.

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‘The Leftovers’ “The Book of Kevin” Subverts Expectations in a Near-Perfect Episode

"The Book of Kevin" subverts its own narrative to offer a profound meditation on its own intelligent design.

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The New Pornographers Bring Siren Songs and a Monkey’s Paw to Oakland’s Fox Theater

Their siren sound draws indie rock fans like the sailors who would shipwreck after being enchanted by the sirens’ voices of mythological lore.

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So It’s About Time I Asked, Who Is Susan Sontag?

Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s and reflections on being under the influence of Camille Paglia.

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Avery*Sunshine: Twenty Sixty Four

Avery*Sunshine focuses on the power of love and relationships on Twenty Sixty Four, her sophomore project for Shanachie.

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Christopher Paul Stelling: Itinerant Arias

On Itinerant Arias, a masterful collection of songs, Christopher Paul Stelling is willing to take his listeners into dark places, but he never loses faith in the light.

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Les Amazones d’Afrique: République Amazone

When a dozen of West Africa's most talented women hit the studio for a good cause, the result is a potent brew of musical skill and fighting spirit.

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American Gun Culture and the Political Aesthetics of Keith Maitland’s ‘Tower’

Tower seeks to awake us from our ideological slumber by returning us to the first mass school shooting in modern US history. Are we awake, yet?

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Laughing Through the Pain With Kamau Bell

Why The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is the book we need to get through these times we don’t want to be in.

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Van Morrison: The Authorized Bang Collection

Van Morrison's Bang sessions have been bootlegged and shamelessly repackaged for 50 years. This collection brings it all together the right way.

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Fyre Festival Is an Argument for Higher Taxes—on the Rich

Every day elite policymakers throughout America make the same arrogant blunders as the Fyre Festival organizers did, and their mistakes can be seen in a drive through most inner cities.

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Might Be the Schlockiest Blockbuster of All Time

James Gunn has made an obscenely fun superhero movie packed with amazing visuals, groovy tunes, and unapologetic schmaltz.

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Leo Kottke and Keller Williams Transcend Fear and Loathing in Phoenix

The best treat occurs when Williams joins Kottke onstage for several songs to close out the set -- the interaction is infectious with the dynamic duo trading licks and complimenting each other in virtuoso fashion.

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A Spoked-wheel View of America by an Award-winning Comics Artist

Eleanor Davis documents her up-hill struggle with America and her weak-kneed self in 'You & a Bike & a Road.

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Lone: Ambivert Tools Volume One EP

If artists like Jon Hopkins or even Burial have crafted odes to the club scene that depict it as a meaningful and beautiful experience, Ambivert Tools too often sounds like a hollow caricature.

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Gary Clark Jr.: Live/North America 2016

Gary Clark Jr. continually sharpens the core of what he does without losing the musical curiosity that makes him an engaging artist.

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Black Lips: Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?

New band members help resurrect a classic Black Lips sound. Rock 'n' roll is safe and sound for now.

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Phil Marcade’s Story Is an Allegory for the ‘70s-era New York Punk Scene

The true story of a naïve young man looking for fun who accidentally fumbles through a music revolution and becomes a symbol for the rise and fall of a scene.

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On Wanting Sly Stone to Take Us Higher Yet Again

Sly Stone was one of the first audacious badasses of modern black pop music, a hero and then an anti-hero to millions.

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John Moreland: Big Bad Luv

Big Bad Luv might just turn 2017 into the Year of John Moreland.

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The Graduate’s Alienation, Anger, and Uncertainty Resonates for College Kids Today

This is a film about impressions, suggestions, passive-aggressive bitterness and anger that never shows its face until the last scene.

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New York Minute, Hollywood Moment: An Interview With Actor David Labiosa

"In 1980, I was a Hispanic in a lead role on television. It was a big deal." The veteran of the acting business for 40 years relates a wealth of memories working in the Hollywood industry.

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‘iZombie’: “Wag the Tongue Slowly” Brings the Funny, Moves the Season Forward

Liv gossips, Peyton goes all in on Blaine, and Major gives into his hero complex in "Wag the Tongue Slowly".

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Visually Mesmerizing, ‘The Love Witch’ Could Use More Fire Power Behind Its Spell

Prescient feminist issues are brought together with problematic cinephilia to expand upon horror nostalgia.

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‘Saturday Night Fever’ Casts Disco-Ball Light into America’s Dark Corners

Much like All in the Family -- which also addressed sexuality, gender roles, and race in a brutally honest manner -- Saturday Night Fever uncovers ugly truths.

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Rahim AlHaj: Letters from Iraq

Oud and chamber strings bring to life eight poignant stories of love, loss, and life in post-Hussein Iraq.

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Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind

On her fourth album as a leader, one of the best young bass players in music provides equally superb compositions that use silence and texture with the wisdom of an elder.

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‘Til Death Do You Part: And Other Thoughts About Family

Annabelle Gurwitch's humorous memoir, Wherever You Go, There They Are, captures how one is forever in the thralls of the family -- no matter the form that family takes.

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Cinema Cinema: Man Bites Dog

Brooklyn duo makes loud, angry music that reminds us that there is no escape from the inevitable.

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2 May 2017 // 7:49 AM

Fazerdaze: Morningside

The balance between poppy and grungy make Morningside a fine debut, despite its all-too clean appearance.

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Sing Like a Thunderstorm: An Interview with Eisley’s Sherri Dupree-Bemis

Her kids can sleep on a tour bus like pros, her new album comes after two other songwriters (amicably) left the band. Yes, Eisley's Sherri Dupree-Bemis proves you really can have it all.

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Sound Machine: The Evolutionary Vocabulary of the Human Voice

Amplification and voice technologies are bringing a broader palate of sounds to the singer. It’s not all beautiful, but it's very human.

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On Georgette Heyer’s Debonair, Polished Butchery

Heyer perfected the art of banter and her social engagements on the page often read like David Campton and Edward Albee plays -- sans the existential subversions.

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Perfume Genius: No Shape

As its title suggests, No Shape is playfully elusive, and the album is often content simply to create beauty while remaining agnostic about what lies beneath its surface.

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Beware the Superhero Fallacy

Heroes in thrillers, war films, sci-fi and horror films have been known to accidentally kill the wrong person. Why doesn't this happen in the superhero genre?

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1 May 2017 // 9:50 AM

Miles Okazaki: Trickster

The jazz guitarist has made his best record, marrying the Steve Coleman sensibility with so many other influences and serving up songs for an ideal quartet featuring Craig Taborn, Sean Rickman, and Anthony Tidd.

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Relics and Replicas: A Retrospective Reimagining of ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Disney's latest rendition misses a kaleidoscope of potentialities: to revise and ruminate, to subvert and distort, to complicate and transcend.

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Helado Negro: Private Energy (Expanded)

Floating electronics and strong social messages make an exquisite combination on the latest dynamic update from Helado Negro.

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Alexander Theroux’s ‘Einstein’s Beets’ Is an Acquired Taste

Einstein's Beets digs up animal and spiritual drives that lure us to gorge and stir us to gag.

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The Afghan Whigs: In Spades

On their second reunion album, the Afghan Whigs craft a layered exploration of the fluid nature of memory and how experiences shape us as individuals.

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Why Wasn’t This Band Massive?: A Conversation with Six By Seven’s Chris Olley

"Under virtually all YouTube video of ours, there's a comment that says, 'Why wasn't this band massive?' This thing has followed me around all my life," says Chris Olley.

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Maxïmo Park: Risk to Exist

On their sixth release, the Newcastle post-punk band lay out an impassioned cry of protest with a danceable disposition.

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The Cathartic Expansion of One’s Tribe: An Interview With Director Angie Wang of ‘Cardinal X’

"I was a kid that grew up longing for a sense of community, acceptance and belonging, and that's really the most beautiful thing that I've found through making this film."

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Can an Illustrator Capture One Man’s Descent into a Void?

Imagine sitting, chained in place, watching the light from a window move across the wall. Guy Delisle imagines and renders it in Hostage.

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Bridget Kearney: Won’t Let You Down

Won’t Let You Down is an album that stays true to its name.

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Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Way Out West

Musical preservationist and staunch traditionalist Marty Stuart returns with his Fabulous Superlatives for a musical exploration of the myriad sounds and styles indicative of the mythic West.

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28 Apr 2017 // 9:33 AM

Ryuichi Sakamoto: async

The celebrated composer is back from a recent health scare with his first solo album in eight years, and it's a dark, eerie, ethereal beauty.

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A Divided Economy Will Not Stand: America and ‘The Vanishing Middle Class’

As America starts to resemble a developing country, racism plays a key role in the One Percent's seizure of power.

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28 Apr 2017 // 2:30 AM

Gorillaz: Humanz

Gorillaz return with their fifth album, Humanz, their most chaotic release yet.

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Spy for Sale: What Does the Future Hold for the James Bond Series and for Bond Himself?

With Sony's 007 contract expired, we take a tongue-in-cheek look at how very differently the Bond films might take shape under different studios.

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28 Apr 2017 // 2:20 AM

Ray Davies: Americana

The most quintessentially, idiosyncratically British of all British Invasion artists returns to a time of youthful idealism and a fascination with the American mythos that finds him exploring the titular nation in all its idioms, while also delving into his past.

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Emotional Engineer: An Interview with Jay Som

After releasing music in relative obscurity, the basement-pop of Melina Duterte's Jay Som is suddenly taking the world by storm.

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Progress Through Enlightenment, Progress Through Force: ‘Infamous Iron Man #7’

While stories about heroes becoming villains are nothing new, a character like Victor Von Doom requires a certain level of refinement.

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On Profiting From War and the Privatization of Earth’s Remaining Resources

Loewenstein paints an essential portrait of post-9/11 globalism, framing war and natural disaster as among the most coveted "commodities" facing mass exploitation for financial gain.

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‘Feud’ Finds the Emotional Truth of an Epic Rivalry

By flipping the script, Feud dreamed of a way to reinvent two of Hollywood's most iconic and most tragic leading ladies.

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“A Reflection of Your Internal Life”: A Conversation with CFCF and Jean-Michel Blais

Fresh off their collaborative EP, Cascades, CFCF's Michael Silver and pianist Jean-Michel Blais spoke with PopMatters about their collaborative process, what to do in Montreal, and much more.

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The Suitcase Junket: Pile Driver

The Suitcase Junket is an old school one man band who uses a beat up old guitar and found objects as percussion. Wait, don't leave! His songs are actually very good.

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Speculating About Daunting Futures in Sci-fi Anthology, ‘Northern Stars’

Disaffection, alienation, a search for lost compassion, and the mechanical, cold reality of passionless sex are just a few of the themes linking many of the stories here.

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Wilsen: I Go Missing in My Sleep

Wilsen look to the tranquil balm of the night to create a unique and graceful post-folk album.

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Mark Lanegan Band: Gargoyle

Cult bard's new LP finds him continuing to deliver hardscrabble tales of dashed romance and yearnings for second chances amid bluesy, dark wave-laden compositions.

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Contentious Collaboration: Cocteau, Melville, and ‘Les Enfants Terribles’

Paul and Élisabeth yearn to savor the elixir of transcendent possibility, but know only the bitter taste of wretched futility.

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Projecting Delusions: Two French New Wave Masters on the Dangers of Film

The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers and Ophélia will satisfy buffs who must track down previously obscure items from the French New Wave.

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Genre as the Flesh of the Human Experience: An Interview With Rod Blackhurst of ‘Here Alone’

Blackhurst reflects on his discovery of cinema, the need to rely on the conventions of cinema, and his ambitions to create a character study that will resonate.

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Sarah Shook and the Disarmers: Sidelong

Sarah Shook is a honky-tonk badass with a chip on her shoulder and a kickass back-up band dedicated to the beauty of the profane.

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Massive Illusions: A Look Back at Gazpacho’s ‘Night’ With Keyboardist Thomas Andersen

Ten years later, Gazpacho's fourth LP, Night, remains the group's best representation of isolation, reflection, and yearning.

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26 Apr 2017 // 2:20 AM

Charly Bliss: Guppy

Guppy is a special release, proving that all you need is 30 minutes of hooks and riffs sung by a voice familiar the first time you hear it.

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Colin Stetson: All This I Do For Glory

On his most recent release, Stetson produces some of the most intense expressions of his virtuosity.

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26 Apr 2017 // 2:10 AM

Geotic: Abysma

Abysma is undoubtedly a pleasant listen, but it runs the risk of leaving very little impression at all.

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Joy Kogawa’s Latest Asks: Is There a Limit to Our Capacity to Forgive?

From the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to her father's pedophilia, Kogawa embarks on a brutally honest and personal exploration of the nature of guilt and forgiveness.

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‘The Good Fight’: “Chaos” Is Anything But as Season One Draws to a Close

"Chaos" is a near-perfect ending to a near-perfect season of a near-perfect series.

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Is Brilliant Appropriation a Contradiction? On Gillian Welch and Pastiche

The historical references the virtuosic instrumental work, and the stunning close harmonies all took intelligence and skill to master, but that doesn't mean that Time (The Revelator) should be beyond critique.

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Being All Things by Being Nothing: The Enigma of ‘Being There’

Being There provides a gentle rumination on the aimless beauty of hope.

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A Flock of Seagulls: Remixes & Rarities

This odds 'n' ends compendum from the underrated '80s band does exactly what it says on the box, for better or worse.

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: The Tourist

Alec Ounsworth takes his long-running project in a different direction -- a new branch on a creative tree 12 years in the making.

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Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band: Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band

Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band also resembles records from the past because it is short, a mere 34 minutes in length. The good news about this is that it doesn’t need editing.

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Wolfbrigade: Run With the Hunted

Run With the Hunted is pure thunderous metal-influenced hardcore. It should reward fans of the style as well as enlarge the band's presence and legacy.

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Music in Motion: On ‘Jazz as Visual Language’

A "jazz studies" scholar looks at jazz as integral to and informed by film and television depictions of the music and its methods.

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I Can’t Bear to Watch, I Must Watch: Revisiting McLuhan, Postman, and DeLillo in These Heady Days

Americans' voyeuristic attraction for scarlet-stained murder spectacles spills over into our need for similarly doomed entertainment in our highest national political office.

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Animation Film ‘Your Name.’ May Be the Best Body Swapping Movie in Decades

Although lacking slightly in character development, Makoto Shinkai's newest film is saccharine, gorgeous and heartwarming.

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25 Apr 2017 // 2:30 AM

Mew: Visuals

Visuals proves that Mew can carry on safely as a trio.

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All This I Do for Glory: An Interview With Saxophonist Colin Stetson

Extreme soul searching leads sax stylist Colin Stetson towards the very core of his creativity.

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Never Forget: Angela Sarafyan On ‘The Promise’ and The Armenian Genocide

Best known for her memorable work on Westworld, Sarafyan discusses her new film, The Promise, an epic memorial to the Armenian Genocide.

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Tamil Film ‘Mannan’ Presses the Limits of Using Violence on a Female Nemesis

Not only does Mannan inflict pre-meditated physical violence on a female superior at a workplace, it equates that retaliation to ‘manhood’ and brings in the angle of honour, for good measure.

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On State of Mind in ‘Hounds of Love’

Through its sheer sense of presence, Hounds of Love doesn't ask for, but rather demands, an appreciation for the visceral experience it cultivates.

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‘The Fuzzy and the Techie’ Argues That a Philosophy Degree Might Prove Useful, After All

Business powerhouse Scott Hartley examines those workers that bring context to elaborate codes and data, and humanistic ethics to the cold calculus of algorithms.

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Where the Heart Is An Interview With Multi-Grammy Winner Kim Carnes, Part Two

This is part two of our career-spanning interview with Kim Carnes.

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More Recent Features

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Supernatural Sets the Stage for Season Finalé With “There's Something About Mary”

// Channel Surfing

"A busy episode in which at least one character dies, two become puppets, and three are trapped and left for dead in an unlikely place.

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