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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.

Wednesday, February 4 2015

“Leave the F-Bombs In”: An Interview With Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller

You may not know his name. You may not even know Daytrotter. But Sean Moeller has played an indispensable role in snatching many of your favorite groups from the clutches of obscurity.


Roman Polanski’s ‘Macbeth’ Is Sinister Jazz

Like a jazz performer playing a classic tune, Roman Polanski takes Shakespeare's classic text and offers slight but crucial emphases, inspired no doubt by his own personal turmoils.


Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan doesn’t try to compete with Sinatra -- he knows better than that. Shadows in the Night is clearly an act of love and honor.


Twerps: Range Anxiety

The Australian rock band's second album is a reverential throwback to the glory days of iconoclastic jangle pop. It's nostalgia done right.


The Characters in ‘The Half Brother’ Are Formulaic, at Times Startlingly So

Charles Spooner Garrett, Harvard English degree in hand, has no particular talents, ambitions, or goals when he lands a teaching position at the Abbott School, in Abbottsford, Massachusetts.


Chadwick Stokes: The Horse Comanche

With songs that literally seem to go from a whisper to a roar, Chadwick Stokes’ melodies inhabit a kind of netherworld where it’s never a certainty where they’ll end up next.


Loscil: Sea Island

Sea Island offers some surprises, but also maintains the serene identity that Loscil has been sculpting like a bonsai tree for 15 years.


Hozier: Hozier

On his rich debut album, Hozier blends deep South R&B with mythical Celtic folk, slipping in a lick of Motown heartache when least expected.


Tuesday, February 3 2015

We All Got Drawn Here: “The Multiversity: Guidebook #1”

This book is a wonder. Oh boy, is it a wonder.


Dr. Who Becomes da Vinci in ‘Inside the Mind of Leonardo’

Peter Capaldi, the current Dr. Who, delivers an avant-garde bit of performance art that should be deconstructed just like da Vinci's notebooks.


The Fluke That Wasn’t: Reconsidering the Success of Ray Charles’s Country Music Landmark

It's no accident that country is considered a white genre; it became white over time, and minimizing issues of race has been a key component of maintaining this whiteness.


Does the Title of the Bollywood Blockbuster, ‘PK’, Actually Stand for Performing Kulturkampf?

In the kulturkampf between India’s intelligentsia decrying the ‘cultural terrorism’ of extremists, a film like PK has me wondering, how long can secular liberals retain the moral high ground?


In ‘The Boxtrolls’, the Adult Authorities Are Corrupt

In the good-but-not-great Boxtrolls, it falls to the young characters to take care of business and save the day themselves.


Mount Eerie: Sauna

From beginning to end, Sauna reads its map upside down, but finds the destination all the same.


Various Artists: When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel, 1926-1936

Tompkins Square’s third major anthology of African-American gospel draws from the genre's earliest recorded sources to offer listeners evocative echoes of the nineteenth century.


‘Scarcity’ Suffers From Trying to Cram Too Much Into One Box

Although the interesting model of Scarcity makes it worth a read, like too many behavioral economics texts, it tries to cram too many global phenomena under its framework.


American Aquarium: Wolves

Still trying to find purpose after surviving the suicidal Flame.Flicker.Die., American Aquarium deliver a confused and confusing album.


Glenn Branca: The Ascension

A pioneer of massed-guitar music still worth listening to.


Monday, February 2 2015

The Ties That No Longer Bind: “Uncanny Avengers #1”

The aftermath of a major retcon can't be ignored, but it can't be rushed either.


Discovering the Essence of Fiction With ‘Timbuktu’ Director Abderrahmane Sissako

Academy Award for Best Foreign Film nominee director Abderrahmane Sissako discusses working with non-professional actors, difficult technical shots, and the meaning of receiving Mauitania's first-ever Oscar nomination.


Heaven Don’t Call Me Home: An Interview With the Lone Bellow

Rewriting the rules of Americana, the Lone Bellow are ready for their mainstream moment, working with Aaron Dessner of the National and releasing one of 2015's most anticipated albums.


The Visual Enchantment of Music Photography

Sometimes photographs tell stories that music cannot fully articulate, carrying in their grain long-gone atmospheres.


‘A Life in Dirty Movies’ Is a Touching Documentary That Isn’t About What You Think

With a title like A Life in Dirty Movies you might not expect a love story, but that's what you get.


Murder By Death: Big Dark Love

Love may be a many-splendored thing, but in the hands of Murder By Death, it’s also an instigator of pain and horror.


Ricked Wicky: I Sell the Circus

I Sell the Circus, Robert Pollard's first album with his new band, makes a convincing argument for Ricked Wicky as a powerful rock band.


‘The Struggle for Pakistan’ Masterfully Summarizes a Country’s Troubled History

Dr. Ayesha Jalal's thorough survey will remain the definitive history of Pakistan for decades to come.


Young Ejecta: The Planet

Leanne Macomber and Joel Ford's second release as Young Ejecta is too morose and humorless to be really good pop music, and too upbeat and cheap to be taken very seriously.


Guster: Evermotion

Guster takes a decided turn in direction with Evermotion, due mainly to the album’s softer sound and songs that evoke gentler, less complicated constraints.


Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses

This time out, saxophonist Paul Shapiro refracts his Jewish heritage not only through jazz but also through raw rock sounds, with guitarist Marc Ribot utterly riveting throughout.


Friday, January 30 2015

‘Project Almanac’ Can’t Time Travel Away From Formula

With underdeveloped female characters and an emotional generic backstory, Project Almanac is trapped too much in formula for the youthful energy of its cast to rise to the fore.


‘Black or White’ Doesn’t Explore Gray Areas

In reducing the complexity of its characters, Black or White boils down complex racial dynamics to worn-out tropes, like the "well-meaning white guy".


Legacy v. Statement: Talking with Goon Creator Eric Powell

Today the Iconographies proudly presents the magic of Eric Powell’s the Goon as it draws to a close. Maybe.


Perilous Discoveries: The Feminist Murder-Mysteries of Charlotte Armstrong

Armstrong's women opened the same forbidden doors as Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth's, but her characters also opened those doors for other, more pressing, reasons.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Music Releases for February 2015

Get a sneak peek of some of February's most intriguing releases, including albums by Father John Misty, José Gonzaléz, and Dan Deacon.


‘Kroll Show: Seasons One and Two’ Feels Like a Collection of Inside Jokes

Nick Kroll and his gaggle of comedian friends clearly think themselves hilarious; from a viewer's perspective, however, that judgment is usually questionable in Kroll Show.


Jessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again

Grief, upheaval, and a creative exile serve as the backdrop for the latest from rising California singer-songwriter.


Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band: Take It Like a Man

Following the conceit of the “versus” listed in the artists’ category (“Jim White vs. Packway Handle Band”) title, on Take It Like a Man, White and the band alternately offer songs with just one co-written between them.


These Protestant Communities Understood Persecution Firsthand, and the Nazi Agenda Horrified Them

The remote mountain villages of le Chambon and the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon were Protestant havens that opened their homes to shelter countless Jewish children during WWII.


Karen O: Crush Songs

Not only are these songs about crushes, they feel just like one: emotionally intense, completely beautiful, and above all, fleeting.


Nico & Vinz: Black Star Elephant

Black Star Elephant proves to be a pleasant, uplifting album, though by no means earth shattering.


Thursday, January 29 2015

CEO Supervillains: Toyo Harada & Dario Agger

The businessman bad guy is nothing new. Lex Luthor and Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin) both come to mind immediately as classic comicbook villains whose main source of power is their wealth. And they’re not the only examples…


What Does a Mexican Comic Hero and a Citizens’ War Crimes Tribunal Have to Do With Each Other?

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires is a blend of narrative genius with deep political philosophical significance, couched in a surreal blend of comic and prose.


Metaphor in a Time of Ebola

The more closely I followed the Ebola coverage, the more the simulacra of contagion in fiction, film, and games seemed inextricably woven into the mainstream media.


Back to What We Really Were All Along: An Interview with the Dodos

Individ, the latest by this San Francisco duo, finds them coming back to the same place they started: two "total nerds just being excited" as a duo.


‘Legends of the Knight’ Is a Little Too Reverent About the Dark Knight

Legends of the Knight takes the cultural impact of Batman seriously by highlighting a few of his biggest fans, even though the hero worship gets a little redundant by its conclusion.


Bettye LaVette: Worthy

More than 50 years into her career, Bettye LaVette still has a voice for the ages.


The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition)

Like that lady who dreams of an Oklahoma where Shirley Jones and Gordon McCrea dwell, we can fantasize of an England where our neighbors lead rich and eccentric lives and invite us over for a friendly spot of tea.


John Carpenter and His Works, in Still Life

Gazing upon this vast collection of images with an abundance of rare and previously unseen stills, one cannot help but feel that Gottlieb-Walker captures the films' ontological identity.


Branford Marsalis: In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

If you like the sound of a saxophone flying solo, just wait until you hear it in a big-ass church.


Vance Joy: Dream Your Life Away

The pop veins that Vance Joy mines so beautifully are unrequited and disbelieving love, and the songs’ appeal lie primarily in Joy’s voice, a voice that projects tremendous yearning.


Wednesday, January 28 2015

Sundance Film Festival 2015: ‘Princess’ and ‘The Wolfpack’

In the fictional film Princess and the documentary The Wolfpack, a child's resilience might thwart even the most determined of boogey men.


A Royal Struggle: “Wonder Woman #38”

Wonder Woman is the ultimate feminine ideal, but even she deals with her share of insecurities.


Reality, One Grain at a Time

There’s more of value in one Calvino essay about Roman pig sties than there is in a week’s worth of slop from the Huffington Post.


A Song Can Be About Anything: An Interview with Dan Wilson

In 2014, former Semisonic frontman and "Someone Like You" scribe Dan Wilson released a solo album, re-released his pre-Semisonic band Trip Shakespeare's albums, and challenged his fans about the fact that a song, in fact, can be about anything.


Tom Cruise: Hollywood’s Last Great Movie Star

Tom Cruise is the most consistent movie star Hollywood has, and when he stops making films, his absence will signify the end of an era.


There’s a Real Warmth Beneath the Cold Exterior of ‘Ida’

Pawel Pawlikowski's frosty drama, although perhaps too simple for its own good, elevates strong emotional connections from an entirely chilly exterior.


The Lone Bellow: Then Came the Morning

The Lone Bellow knows how to nail a crescendo. The problem with Then Came the Morning is that it makes it seem like the band is only good at that.


Having Trouble Sleeping? Relax, It’s All in Your Mind

Funny and direct, as well as useful and nurturing, Sane New World is a must read for anyone who has been up at night worrying about the future or regretting the past.


Björk: Biophilia Live

As Björk’s live shows become increasingly sprawling in their design and execution, less attention seems to be paid on the arrangements and the dynamics of her songs – or rather, their potential to be reworked into something entirely new onstage.


The House of Love: Live at the Lexington 13.11.13

Live at the Lexington 13.11.13 documents a return and pulverizes a myth. This album proves that the band is terribly alive. But it shows at the same time how mortal they are.


Tuesday, January 27 2015

The Return of the Big Red Cheese: “The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1”

After the tour de force of last issue's Pax Americana, this issue demonstrates conclusively that Grant Morrison is a master of all the genres in the comicbook superhero playbook.


‘American Experience: Edison’ Captures the Inventor’s Practical and Imaginative Spirit

Just as Thomas Edison represented the America of his time, so too does he represents the America of our time in his try-and-succeed, try-and-fail methodology.


Lisa Fischer: 8 January 2015 - New York

Headlining the first of six sold-out shows at New York's Jazz Standard, Lisa Fischer stirred the soul in a spellbinding 60-minute set.


Resident Evil HD Remaster

Oddly enough, a remake of the original game, Resident Evil HD Remaster, actually feels like the next big evolutionary leap for the series.


‘Alpha’ Female: An Interview With Actress Serafita Grigoriadou

A sweeping, mythological epic of dreams and nightmares, Alpha introduces one of Greek cinema's newest and most entrancing actresses.


‘Philosophy Bites Again’ Is a True Philosophical Gourmet

This is a dinner party in book form, although with topics such as torture, group agency, hate speech, and the afterlife, it's not for the absent-minded.


The 2015 Progressive Rock Preview

Forthcoming releases from Steven Wilson, Neal Morse, and many others highlight what is bound to be an excellent year for progressive rock.


‘Secret Agent: The Complete Series’ Out-Bonds James Bond

Patrick McGoohan's John Drake, superhero for the Cold War era, just might be the coolest hero of all time -- yes, even more than James Bond.


The Dodos: Individ

If 2013's Carrier was a meditation on loss, Indvid is a bold cry of life, with the duo returning to take inventory of themselves full of energy, poetry, and release.


A Convent Goes Psycho-Sexual in ‘The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio’

Based on the detailed notes from the original Roman Inquisition investigation long buried in a Vatican archive, Wolf unravels a tale of religious madness and power trips.


Noveller: Fantastic Planet

On Fantastic Planet Noveller's Sara Lipstate spends the early parts of the record selling us on her potential, making us rethink how we hear and feel texture in music, how we understand musical structures.


Moby: Hotel: Ambient

A re-release of a Moby bonus disc shifts focus back to the one of the artist's neglected talents.


Marcia Ball: The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man

If you own a good chunk of Ball’s catalog, there is nothing essential here. If you don’t, it’s a fine introduction.


Jean Grae: That’s Not How You Do That: An Instructional Album for Adults

Jean Grae is deep in the no-fucks-to-give phase of her career, and it's kind of great.


Monday, January 26 2015

Sundance Film Festival 2015: ‘Z for Zachariah’ and ‘The Witch’

Both The Witch and Z for Zachariah point to the terrifying uselessness of religion in the face of the wilderness.


Cougar Copulates With Crazy in the Ludicrous ‘The Boy Next Door’

This loopy and stupid film promises eros and instead delivers an earache.


Game of Thrones, Episode 1: Iron From Ice

In Telltale's version of Game of Thrones, you play the parts of people who themselves are playing parts. Each one is not playing the game of thrones, they are pieces in the games of others.


‘All the Light We Cannot See’: People in the Dark, Hunting the Right Frequency

In Anthony Doerr's richly romantic jewel quest of a war novel, a blind girl and an engineering prodigy pulse ever closer to each other across a ravaged Europe.


The Trials and Tribulations of “Dirty” Harry Callahan

Feeling lucky, punk? The road from obscurity to legend wasn't easy for Clint Eastwood's iconic character Dirty Harry. Think you know the back story? Read on!


Between the Stripes of That Sunlight Sound: An Interview with the Go-Betweens

With the first intensely exhaustive box set of their career released, Robert Forster reflects on a first-time bass player, a film critic, and himself helped change the very face of rock music.


The Final Season of ‘Better Off Ted’ Reminds Us That We Were Better Off With It

Better Off Ted was cancelled too early, and this truncated final season doesn't give any real closure. What it does give us, however, is more hi-jinks and zany creativity.


Björk: Vulnicura (Take 1)

Björk's devastating ninth album Vulnicura, brutally chronicles the dissolution of her relationship with longtime partner, avant-garde NY filmmaker and sculptor Matthew Barney.


This Collection of the Band’s Memories Makes Led Zeppelin Actually Likeable

No matter how grandiose the Led Zeppelin legend gets, hearing the golden gods tell their tale is both astounding and more real than anything anyone could ever make up.


Björk: Vulnicura (Take 2)

By escaping from her grandiose visions to dwell in her own head, Björk has made a stark and overwhelming record that proves she still has an abundance of ideas to explore, even at a detriment to herself.


Jan St. Werner: Miscontinuum Album

Jan St.Werner's huge, vibrant Miscontinuum Album is spellbinding -- and could use fewer guests.


Chris Hickey: Love Away

Intimations of mortality echo throughout this fifth solo release from the contemplative Los Angeles singer-songwriter, formerly of Uma and Show of Hands.


Friday, January 23 2015

Johnny Depp Is Lost Once Again in the Clueless Caper ‘Mortdecai’

As the eccentric art thief Charlie Mortdecai, Johnny Depp says things cleverly instead of saying clever things.


Broken Families Boxed In: ‘Mommy’

Mommy reminds you that mothers are not supposed to be sexual, and that children and everyone else need boundaries on mothers' behaviors.


Love Everybody, Trust No One in “Hinterkind”

Hinterkind focuses on characterization, developing its cast intelligently and deliberately so that everyone is fully formed and multi-faceted.


1995: The Year the Future Began

The world didn't just sit through the trials of both the tobacco industry and O.J. Simpson in 1995: it also welcomed in the sea changes that would shape the new millennium.


Miraculous Metropolis: A Reflection on Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes from a Memory’

Fifteen years after its release, Dream Theater's fifth LP remains not only the quintet's truest masterpiece, but arguably the greatest progressive metal album ever made.


With ‘Drunk History’, the More Shots You Have, the More You Learn

This isn't so much a comedy classic as it is passively amusing, but Drunk History's formula works damn well... especially after you've had a few of your own.


Mark Ronson: Uptown Special

This uptown ain't so special; honestly, you're better off staying downtown.


This ‘Vanity Fair’ Retrospective Reveals the Spirit of the Early Decades of 20th Century America

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers and Swells is a celebration of progress, of progressives, prophecy, and prescience.


Various Artists: Millions Like Us: The Story of the Mod Revival 1977-1989

The resurgent mod scene of the late 1970s gets its due.


Fall Out Boy: American Beauty / American Psycho

Fall Out Boy version II makes a bid for the continued evolution of their sound. A mostly entertaining work emerges from this creative maelstrom.


Thursday, January 22 2015

A Bolder, New Hope: “Star Wars #1”

Marvel Comics takes its first step into a galaxy far, far away and offers plenty of reasons for more hope.


‘Naked Cinema: Working With Actors’ Resonates

In this absorbing volume, Sally Potter provides an exploration of the director/actor relationship that teems with insight and intelligence, offering inspiration whatever your creative pursuits.


Every Blade of Grass: The Pros and Cons of Photorealism in Video Games

The dream of creating photorealistic video games seems odd to me when considering the medium itself, especially in contrast to other artistic mediums.


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