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
‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ Is a Crash Course of Self-discovery and Independence

Richard Linklater's spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused hits the '80s with a little education and a lot of partying: self-discovery lies somewhere between.

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Roadies: Season 1, Episode 3 - “The Bryce Newman Letter”

It's all fun and games, until a wild critic is sent into the midst of the Fellini meets The Monkees tour of the Staton-House Band.

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‘The Technomancer’ Takes Your Suspension of Disbelief for Granted

The Technomancer's botched combat system and lazily constructed narrative undermine an otherwise interesting premise.

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‘Horses, Horses, In the End the Light Remains Pure’

Hideo Furukawa’s journey into Fukushima, post 3/11, is a journey into overlapping, concentric circles.

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“It’s not something you get to play very often”: Interview with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Clark Gregg

Clark Gregg shares his insights on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the MCU, and whether his Lip Sync Battle moment influences his performance.

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Brexit Blues: It’s the Anti-Intellectualism, Stupid

'Leave' campaign figurehead Michael Gove set the tone in early June when he claimed that ‘people in this country have had enough of experts’.

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12 Jul 2016 // 2:30 AM

Blood Orange: Freetown Sound

It’s a flawed love-letter to the '80s, to the people who just want to dance, to the people who feel marginalized, to the people who feel oppressed. Given recent events, it’s an uplifting album in embarrassing times.

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12 Jul 2016 // 2:20 AM

Moon Bros.: These Stars

A post-rock homage to the rich vein of cinematic western music, Matt Schneider’s Moon Bros. offers a warm kind of cool.

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12 Jul 2016 // 2:15 AM

Beth Orton: Kidsticks

British songwriter Beth Orton stretches to the heavens on her latest album.

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12 Jul 2016 // 2:10 AM

Kaytranada: 99.9%

Montreal-based producer Kaytranada attempts a lot of things on his debut. When he hits the mark, it's great. If only he hit the mark just a bit more often.

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James Thomas Shares His Oddball Sensibilities in Book Form

Why the Long Joke? is the perfect anecdote to all of the sad and terrible news and information with which we are pummeled on a daily basis.

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“No One Creates Art in a Vacuum”: An Interview with Car Seat Headrest

One of the most promising indie songwriters in a generation, Car Seat Headrest's Will Toledo talks about revisiting old material, living a modern life abutting Colonial Williamsburg, and the way that artists have always built on each other's ideas ... or at least until now.

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Corin Raymond: Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams

The weird and wonderful side of Americana.

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11 Jul 2016 // 10:50 AM

Jeff Parker: The New Breed

While unpacking boxes, Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker found demos for a fun, nifty little album that stands equal to his day job in Tortoise.

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UnREAL: Season 2, Episode 5 - “Infiltration”

If "Treason" was about betrayal, this episode keeps the theme going while dealing with some long-simmering consequences.

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Is Justice Merely Forgetfulness in ‘Justice League Rebirth #1’?

Apparently, the death of Superman and the absence of Hal Jordan don't matter.

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Outlander: Season 2, Episode 12 - “The Hail Mary”

On the eve of Culloden, it's the twists and turns in everyone's relationships that are front and center.

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‘The Naked Blogger of Cairo’ Combines Erudition With Style and Wit

Dwelling on the role of social media in political upheaval risks ignoring the human body, which lies at the root of creative insurgency.

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11 Jul 2016 // 3:00 AM

Pop Music and the Demise of Genre

Is musical genre outdated in today's Network Society? Or might it be harnessed for democratic ends?

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11 Jul 2016 // 2:30 AM

ScHoolboy Q: Blank Face

This is some 74 minutes of dark nights on the West Coast, looking for temporary satisfaction in women and drugs, with a production and feature roster that’ll make you drool.

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11 Jul 2016 // 2:20 AM

Kaleo: A/B

Kaleo exhibit raw, aggressive talent with their first American full-length, eager to showcase their wide skillset of styles and genres.

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11 Jul 2016 // 2:15 AM

Ben Trickey: Choke & Croon

The Atlanta-based singer-songwriter serves notice that he is ready for a larger stage, offering nine songs that embody our age of anxiety.

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‘Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC’ Is a Radical Revelation

Period adaptations, pagan pastorals, hard-hitting experimenta, and Bowie in Brecht: the BFI’s collection of Alan Clarke’s work at the BBC is essential, revelatory viewing.

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‘Warren Zevon: Desperado of Los Angeles’ and the Balance of Fandom and Criticism

George Plasketes has to balance fan appreciation and critical detachment here. He succeeds in providing a deep compendium of all things Zevon.

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‘Zero Days’ Makes Clear: Innovation in Warfare Is Governed by Short-sightedness

The US, so brilliantly networked, so technologically advanced, is "the most vulnerable nation on earth".

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‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ Abandons Comedy at the Altar

A collection of stupid people doing stupid things that even the stupidest person wouldn’t do.

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Robert Altman’s ‘The Player’ Is Art—Now More than Ever

Robert Altman's multi-layered sarcastic skewering of Hollywood culture still has to be seen to be believed, from the first moment to the last.

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Róisín Murphy: Take Her Up to Monto

Róisín Murphy's fourth album is an ambitious, intoxicating blend of art pop, jazzy cabaret, and cautionary love songs.

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Preacher: Season 1, Episode 6 – “Sundowner”

The true battle lines are finally drawn in a revelatory and impressive episode.

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Familiar Tones Bring New Life to Spider-Man on the Internet

Hannah Blumenreich's Spidey Zine takes the classic character through old paths on the digital highway.

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Roadies: Season 1, Episode 2 - “What Would Phil Do?”

Roadies shifts from the magic-surrealism of music love to the down-to-Earth mishaps of a road comedy in a big, entertaining step up from the pilot.

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The 100 Greatest Alternative Singles of the ‘90s - Part 1 (100 - 81)

The first part of our examination of the 100 Greatest Alternative Singles of the '90s, starting with 100 through 81. Stay tuned for part two on July 11th.

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‘Haven: The Final Season’ Barrels Like a Freight Train Toward Its Conclusion

The "final Season" of Haven rushes toward a satisfying end through inordinate amounts of death and destruction so that love can ultimately triumph.

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‘The Statesman and the Storyteller’: The Imperatives of State and the Imperatives of Conscience

Mark Zwonitzer's work offers a searing and sobering exploration of how America’s imperialist century opened: just as brutally as it would end.

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Like Its Titular Character, ‘The Phenom’ Is an Uneven Film, But Holds Promise

The Phenom is at once remarkable for both its transfixing cinematography and Johnny Simmons's tightly coiled performance, but it's mired by its over reliance on exposition.

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In ‘Cool Characters’, a Cultural Monstrosity Is Wrangled

Lee Konstantinou provides America with the definition of "Irony" it probably needs. As long as there's a dictionary nearby.

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‘Inside’ Embodies the Horrors of Collectivism

Like Limbo, Inside never tells you what you should do. Instead, by killing you, it only suggests, “Don't do that”.

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Forays Into the Fragment: Heidegger and Kant

Our relationship with fragments of art is one of a desiring proximity predicated upon an unfathomable and necessary distance.

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Roadies: Season 1 Episode 1 - “Life is a Carnival”

Rock 'n' roll is still the untellable enigma that us plebes will never understand in the pilot for Cameron Crowe's show about the backstage lives of our idols.

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UnREAL: Season 2, Episode 4 - “Treason”

Regardless of the state of Quinn and Rachel’s current relationship, theirs is the central one on UnREAL.

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‘Country Comes to Town’ Illuminates Nashville’s and Country Music’s Internal Struggles

A fascinating piece of analysis about Music City, USA, Jeremy Hill's book is a thoughtful and thorough urban scholarship on origins and authenticity, among other things.

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A Beautiful Restoration of a Modern Classic: Bille August’s ‘The Best Intentions’

Bille August's The Best Intentions with a screenplay by Ingmar Bergman, offers a view of the tumultuous relationship of Bergman's parents

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The Veridical Dream: Running on Empty With Etienne Daho

It’s funny how a dream, which has its basis in the intangible unknown and is full of fanciful fabrications, can lead to an indisputable truth. Daho soundtracks such dreams.

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5 Jul 2016 // 10:00 AM

Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle: Seasons 1 to 4

Stewart Lee's series offers rare fidelity to the "warts and all" of live comedy.

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Strained Sweetness Leads to a Bitter Feeling in ‘No Stranger Than Love’

Obsessing over gross small town stereotypes, facile symbolism, and mawkish philosophical exposition, this is an uneven mess, and misses opportunities.

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5 Jul 2016 // 9:00 AM

Lady Dynamite: Season 1

Lady Dynamite is wonderfully weird, brutally honest, and always very funny.

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Who Doesn’t Love the Smell of New Book?

"The sensual experience of reading still exerts its hold on us, as does the desire to represent and display our knowledge, attitudes, and passions on our bookshelves."

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‘The Purge: Election Year’ and Its Institutional Monsters

This film doesn't work too hard at making a wholly moral result inevitable, for it must deliver nasty death scenes, sacrifices and scares.

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Thomas-Christopher-Greene’s Well-Crafted Vignettes in ‘If I Forget You’

Green’s new novel takes about 30 pages to get used to, but once our seatbelts are securely fastened and we have attained cruising altitude, it's difficult to put down.

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‘The Legend of Tarzan’ Is Samuel L. Jackson’s Show

George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) is shoehorned into this movie to make sense of the white savior, Tarzan.

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Preacher: Season 1, Episode 5 - “South Will Rise Again”

Preacher gets cocky, Tulip gets jealous, Cassidy gets laid, and Quincannon serves God (kinda) in season one's halfway point.

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1 Jul 2016 // 8:53 AM

Broods: Conscious

Broods continue to refine their infectious, high-stakes electropop on Conscious. Here, the songs are higher in intensity and wider in scope, and Georgia Nott delivers some of her most arresting vocal performances to date

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Sara Watkins: Young in All the Wrong Ways

On her third solo release, Sara Watkins struggles to find a true sense of self following the end of a relationship, resulting in a multi-level transitional exercise in soul-baring and genre-hopping.

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‘Swiss Army Man’ Is a Boundlessly Creative Freak-show

Terrific performances and a whip-smart script propel this fearless dramedy to dizzying heights of sublime stupidity.

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Of Sweaty Basements, Short Skirts and the Paisley Underground: Vicki Peterson of the Bangles

The Bangles surveyed Los Angeles in the aftermath of punk and forged a new way. A new compilation looks back on that time as Vicki Peterson remembers the thrill of hearing herself on the radio for the first time and the terror of the group's first tour.

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Coulda Been Country: The Allman Brothers Dickey Betts’ Great Southern Songs

The Allman Brothers band receives attention for its southern rock tendencies, but its secret weapon was, for a time, the country inflections brought forth by guitarist Dickey Betts.

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Feminist Classic ‘Antonia’s Line’ Is Still Rewarding, Still Relevant

Given the wider "war on women", and an intensified "rape culture", Antonia's Line, now on Blu-ray, is as relevant as ever.

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‘The BFG’ Is a Modestly Magical Film for a Grimly Realistic Age

In a deft interplay of shadow and hint, Spielberg shows again his organic genius for the long reveal.

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BrainDead: Season 1, Episode 3 - “Goring Oxes…”

After a week in which this series finds its groove, the BrainDead universe hits a speed bump.

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If Only ‘Everything Is Teeth’ Had Been Content to Remain a Mood Piece

It's as though Wyld is, ironically, scared of writing a story willing to give fear its due.

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Spaceships and Scoundrels: An Interview With ‘Dark Matter’s Anthony Lemke

Dark Matter's Anthony Lemke discusses working on a genre show, sci-fi fandom, and ill-fitting pants.

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30 Jun 2016 // 2:30 AM

Maxwell: blackSUMMERS’night

Just over 20 years after his debut album wowed audiences, blackSUMMERS'night is upon us.

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Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders: Garcia Live Volume Six: July 5, 1973

Their partnership lasted about four years and 250 shows but a new archival record suggests that it was some of the best music either Merl Saunders or Jerry Garcia made at the time. And just who is that mystery trumpeter?

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‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ Is a Very Western Guide to Afghanistan

Out on Blu-Ray, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot brings a few laughs and some mixed messages.

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Elizabeth Cook: Exodus of Venus

It takes more than “balls”, as Cook used to sing, to get through life. Being tough is not enough.

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Various Artists: Studio One Dub Fire Special

Studio One Dub Fire Special is as clear an overview of dub’s most basic essence as you could ask for.

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A Shakeup in Wonder Woman’s Mythology Becomes Flat and Confusing

Although there's some intrigue, Wonder Woman #1 leaves too many unanswered questions, and too few reasons to get excited.

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‘The Neon Demon’ May Shock, But It Won’t Challenge

Gorgeous and grotesque, The Neon Demon's metaphors of predation may be campy or self-serious, critiques of clichés or just clichés.

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Wearing the Wrong Clothes: An Interview with Punk-Hippie Alig Fodder

Front man of shape-shifting post-punk act Family Fodder talks about the early days, the songwriting process, and how an unbridled fashion sense may have kept them out of the limelight.

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Outlander: Season 2, Episode 11 - “Vengeance Is Mine”

The focus on politics and war sacrifices the necessary character moments that made season one so compelling.

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Yearning for Re-enchantment With the World in Jessa Crispin’s ‘The Dead Ladies Project’

Meditations on love, life, and art in a book that combines travel writing and memoir with cultural criticism.

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Must We Sacrifice the Beasts at the Altars of Our Fierce Gods?

Like the Aztecs before us, and despite the sheen of humane treatment, zoos continue to be sites of ritual animal sacrifice.

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29 Jun 2016 // 2:30 AM

The Invisible: Patience

After four years and a couple brushes with death, the eclectic UK indie trio return with their most fully-realized meeting of the funky and the sublime.

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Tegan and Sara: Love You to Death

Three years after their unlikely ascent into synthpop stardom, Tegan and Sara continue down the same path with minor shifts to their thematic compass.

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Next Stop Mars? ... Maybe

This breathless celebration of space travel in the post-shuttle era is long on beautiful pictures, but short on hard truths.

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29 Jun 2016 // 2:15 AM

Sumac: What One Becomes

What One Becomes finds great musicians doing occasionally great passages during experimentally structured 10-minute songs with death growls that sound like belches; in other words, Sumac is a mixed bag.

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29 Jun 2016 // 2:15 AM

The Power of Bullshit in ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’

In McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the 1971 western directed by Robert Altman, bullshit seems like the stuff empires are built on, but as we quickly come to find out, it can also turn to quicksand.

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Whitehorse: The Northern South Vol. 1

The sexy cuts sound dirty, and the others -- oh, there are no others; after all, this is blues rock -- sound just as dirty.

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Ruby Friedman Orchestra: Gem

With Gem, Ruby Friedman's powerful voice has finally gotten a full-length release of its own.

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‘Popstar’ Stops Short of Mocumentary Greatness

Popstar pokes the softer side of celebrity satire.

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Sticking It to the Man with ‘SteamWorld Heist’

SteamWorld Heist is a game of little things that elevate simplicity into something blissful.

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Lick Your Fingers. Bite Your Nails. Now How’s That Appetite?

You’ll really feel like you’re in a KFC when those 11 herbs and spices waft up your nostrils on a wave of ethyl acetate.

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Adam and the Ants: Kings of the Wild Frontier (Deluxe Edition)

Adam Ant was a pop music prankster who upended the post-punk chart game, but at the end of the day, the real joke may have been on the listeners themselves.

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Future and DJ Esco: Project E.T.

Similar to Purple Reign and EVOL, Project E.T. lacks the urgency and eye for detail that made Future the star he is.

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28 Jun 2016 // 2:15 AM

The Shelters: The Shelters

The Shelters exist somewhere indeterminately between Tom Petty's "American Girl" and the Strokes' "Last Nite", crafting a high-energy blend of garage rock and old-fashioned Americana.

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28 Jun 2016 // 2:10 AM

The Posies: Solid States

After nine albums and almost 30 years as a band, the Posies continue to challenge themselves and push their well-honed power-pop sound to the limit.

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Dave King Trucking Company: Surrounded by the Night

Dave King hitches seven new melodies to his Trucking Company, a modern jazz supergroup that likes to play it cool to a fault.

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‘Life Moves Pretty Fast’ Hits Some Slowdowns

Freeman frequently complains about Hollywood's stereotypes about what male and female audiences are willing to watch, yet her own tastes are pretty stereotypical.

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The Other Side of Terry Reid

In the middle of his busiest year in recent memory, Terry Reid -- subject of documentaries, rarities releases, and even Johnny Depp's affection -- could not be more excited.

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In the Aftermath of the Brexit Vote: Staring Into the Void

Manufacturers of the ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ t-shirts can at least look to a rosy future, as that slogan is about as near to a plan as anyone has yet mustered.

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‘Wacky Raceland #1’ Is Dark and Unexpected

For those of us old enough to remember televised Saturday morning cartoons way back when, this take on the genre is a revelation.

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‘Worlds Elsewhere’ Makes Clear: Shakespeare Is What We Make of Him

Dickson takes readers on a journey of the many Shakespeares in our world; from an entertainer in Gold Rush bars, to the defender of freedom in apartheid South Africa, to a founder of communism.

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UnREAL: Season 2, Episode 3 - “Guerilla”

UnREAL remains well written, wonderfully acted, and wildly entertaining.

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‘Free State of Jones’ and Its Reimagined Popular History

However noble Gary Ross' revisionist history might be, Free State of Jones leaves unresolved -- and worse, unasked -- a series of vital questions.

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27 Jun 2016 // 8:26 AM

Alto!: LP3

With as many tracks as the group has members, Alto!'s LP3 is intellectual, challenging, and downright weird.

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Martha: Blisters in the Pit of My Heart

Blisters in the Pit of My Heart is an impressive record and a thoughtful ode to art as both expression and refuge.

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27 Jun 2016 // 8:11 AM

Mitski: Puberty 2

On Puberty 2 Mitski has hit a deep stride, delivering music with effortless power and resonant wit.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Getaway

The Getaway has the unmistakable aura of pointlessness. There’s no passion, no tension, no thrills, nothing memorable to draw the listener into the sonic world the Chili Peppers and producer Danger Mouse have tried to create.

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Wim Wenders’ Road Movies as Journeys of Disaffection

With his "Road Trilogy", Wenders suggests that to find our place, we must be displaced.

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Get All You Deserve: An Interview with Steven Wilson on Streaming Music

Porcupine Tree's centerpiece Steven Wilson held out to streaming services longer than the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Why he changed his mind recently proved worthy of a lengthy discussion.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
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Call For Papers: Celebrating Star Trek's 50th Anniversary

// Announcements

"To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hit franchise, PopMatters seeks submissions about Star Trek, including: the TV series, from The Original Series (TOS) to the highly anticipated 2017 new installment; the films, both the originals and the J.J. Abrams reboot; and ancillary materials such as novelizations, comic books, videogames, etc.

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