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
‘Self/Less’ Gives Life Lessons for Rich People

Even if we give the protagonist his newly found joie de vivre a pass, what with him essentially being brought back from the dead and all, it's still pointless.

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Morrissey and Blondie at Madison Square Garden

At 56, Morrissey is singing better than ever. His New York concert, however mostly was a drag.

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‘The Gallows’: Dude, I’m Sorry!

Per formula, our victims get themselves into a mess, entering the high school after hours the night before the performance and then running directly into scary noises and locked doors.

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Intimacy Between Two Voices: An Interview With Mandolin Orange

Discussing their latest album Such Jubilee, Mandolin Orange share insight into the inspiration of their melancholic songs.

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‘Minions’ Is a Big Yellow Blur

Like most kid franchise spinoffs, this headache-inducing snooze from the Despicable Me team is just a cash grab.

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The Odd Thing About Dissent Is the Illusion of Its Virginity

There are people in jail right now, others in early graves over this whole dissent business.

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Four Tet: Morning/Evening

Largely succeeding on the strength of the record's second half, Kieran Hebden has proved his mercurial approach to electronic music is as vital as ever.

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10 Jul 2015 // 2:20 AM

The 23s: Flamingo

On Flamingo, the 23s concoct a mesmerizing mixture of gentle grooves to soundtrack a film taking place in the imagination of the viewer.

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Robin Gibb: Saved By the Bell: Collected Works 1969-70

Ten years in the making, this anthology presents Robin’s first two solo albums with generous outtakes and demos, establishing him as a master of chamber pop.

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The Kids Are Not Alright in ‘The Decline of Western Civilization Collection’

Whether you have a nostalgic connection to punk rock or just want to glimpse into a couple of under-examined subcultures, this set is well worth adding to your collection.

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10 Jul 2015 // 2:10 AM

Richard Buckner: The Hill

The Hill is an eerie concept, but as a piece of sepia-tinted folk art, it works remarkably well.

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10 Jul 2015 // 2:05 AM

Valet: Nature

Valet’s first album in seven years captures an element of first-generation shoegaze that many new-school groups too often miss.

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Name That Tune: ‘Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack’

Thirty years after the release of his most famous work, there are likely still many who don’t know the name Koji Kondo -- yet they know they've heard his music, somewhere.

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The Beatles Are Pent-Up Prisoners of Their Own Notoriety in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

Over 50 years after its release A Hard Day's Night is regarded as a minor classic. It's easy to forget, however, that no one thought the film would ever achieve such stature.

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10 Jul 2015 // 2:00 AM

Rachel Grimes: The Clearing

Neoclassical composer Rachel Grimes pokes holes in the mold rather than snapping it in half.

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‘What We Did On Our Holiday’ Finds Order in Chaos

This seems like a primer on how to do divorce badly. But it also gets at a broader theme: how truth and lies shape lives.

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John McCrea’s Fun-Loving, Magical Terrors in ‘Mythic’

John McCrea’s combination of bananas-crazy and legit-scary artwork is enough to keep one enthusiastically following the title all on its own, patiently waiting for the meat of the plot and/or characters to reveal themselves in full.

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‘House of Cards: Season 3’: Sic Semper Tyrannis

Although the political stakes have never been higher with Francis Underwood as (shudder) President, this series’ personal drama keeps narrowing, to its detriment.

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The Thunderbolt of Change: ‘Angels in America’ and the Marriage Equality Victory

Complicated, fabulous and deeply progressive, Angels in America may be more pressing and relevant in the time of SCOTUS' decision on marriage equality than it was during the height of the AIDS crises.

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Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People

Like a shark, albeit in a $5 dress and red lipstick, Ezra Furman's gotta keep on movin'.

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9 Jul 2015 // 2:20 AM

Matrixxman: Homesick

The self-proclaimed futurist brings his industrial world to life in staggered, inconsistent bursts.

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Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Conny Plank Session

A rare treat for jazz enthusiasts comes in the form of a surprising new addition to Duke Ellington's tremendous catalog.

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Instant Empire: Lamplight Lost

Instant Empire's debut manages to hit a sweet spot where jagged edges meet smooth melodies.

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Like Its Title, ‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’ Is Brilliantly Odd

Roy Andersson's latest absurdist trip into the lives of others is as good as anything he's done.

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Roberto Fonseca / Fatoumata Diawara: At Home: Live in Marciac

At Home: Live in Marciac is one of those rare live albums that somehow retains the show's sense of excitement.

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A Series of Unlikely Events Come Together in Judy Blume’s Latest

In Blume's latest and possibly final novel, three plane crashes leave a lasting impact.

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9 Jul 2015 // 2:00 AM

Leaf Rapids: Lucky Stars

Leaf Rapids have created a most affecting debut album with a set of songs that reflects what one can only imagine must be the carefree feeling inspired by life in the vast expanse of Canada’s western provinces.

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The Kids Are Alright in ‘We Are Robin #1’

The Robins come out to play.

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8 Jul 2015 // 2:30 AM

The Internet: Ego Death

With Ego Death the Internet create a sound that is both consistently difficult to pin down but alternatively easy to love.

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Afropunk Is Officially a Brand and That’s a Good Thing

There is a large community of alt-black folks out there, and Afropunk has given them a big tent to party under.

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Leon Bridges: Coming Home

Leon Bridges harkens back to that earlier era of rock history when quiet and sincere could be just as radical as its opposite.

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The Moons: Live at Bush Hall

Live at Bush Hall is an excellent high-energy audio capture of a rock band's average night on tour.

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RP Boo: Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints (take 2)

The godfather of Juke comes through on his debut album.

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‘Eddie Cantor Four Film Collection’ Moves In and (Thankfully) Out of Blackface

Beneath the grotesque surface, white performers tried to tap a secret power of blackness in the '30s. This Eddie Cantor four film collection is one such document of that time.

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Nora Pouillon and the Birth of the Farm-to-Table Movement

Nora Pouillon's restaurant was the first in America to receive organic certification.

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Denny Zeitlin and George Marsh: Riding the Moment

Denny Zeitlin and George Marsh celebrate the telepathic power of music the hard way.

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KaiL Baxley: A Light That Never Dies

Baxley clearly commands the groove and there’s no reason to think that further triumphs aren’t left to come.

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Adding Color to a World of Music: The Revival Rock Stylings of the Moons

"Don't let the bastards grind you down!" encourages music industry veteran Andy Crofts. As frontman for British rock band the Moons, Crofts seeks to spark creativity and musicality in a throng of eager fans.

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Minimized Melodrama in ‘Uncanny Avengers #5’

Ending with neither a bang nor a whimper.

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‘In Stereo’ Is More Than Just Young Creatives in Love, in New York, Again

Details make In Stereo a better movie than its many clichés might suggest.

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Bryan Adams Revisits His Definitive Hit Album ‘Reckless’

The Canadian rocker celebrates the 30th anniversary of Reckless with a full tour performance.

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Between the Buried and Me: Coma Ecliptic

Coma Ecliptic is an exquisite masterpiece that once again proves why Between the Buried and Me is leading the progressive metal movement.

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Superchunk: Come Pick Me Up (Reissue)

In 1999 Superchunk released their prettiest album to date thanks to Jim O'Rourke's delicate touch. Now Merge Records releases the album with a handful of gorgeous demos.

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Pete Townshend: Truancy: The Very Best of Pete Townshend

With the Who hitting their golden anniversary, we get another pocketing-picking Pete Townshend retrospective with two new songs.

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Dawes: All Your Favorite Bands

The rootsy SoCal group stays the course on album number four, begging the question of whether honing a narrowly-defined sound amounts to progress.

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‘Howling II’ Is a One-of-a-Kind Disasterpiece

Howling II is the kind of car wreck you can't look away from.

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‘Broadcast Hysteria’ Revisits When a Pop Culture Event Went Wildly Viral

This deeply researched account reveals the history and misconceptions behind the legendary piece of radio theater, "War of the Worlds".

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Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris: The Traveling Kind

Having rekindled a decades old musical partnership, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris return with the quietly triumphant and assured The Traveling Kind.

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7 Jul 2015 // 2:02 AM

The Myth of Elvis Presley

Rock critic Greil Marcus holds that Elvis' songs are simply a facade. But is there not a creative person behind the facade?

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Antonio Sánchez: Three Times Three/Meridian Suite

Antonio Sánchez's future is flourishing before our eyes; all we have to do is sit back and watch it unfold.

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Black Widow Earns Her Mark in ‘Black Widow #19’

The story of the infamous "red" in Natasha's ledger is brought to light.

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When Slayer Screams About Dying, You Feel Alive

When the latest incarnation of Slayer walked onto a stage full of Marshall stacks and upside-down crosses, it was a chance to see how a band long obsessed with death was coping with its aftermath.

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‘Manglehorn’ Showcases David Gordon Green’s Odd Lyricism

Manglehorn emphasizes its title character's inability to accept many forms of attention, good or bad.

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Paul Verhoeven’s Authenticity Came to Light at Chicago’s Logan Arcade

Some works by Paul Verhoeven, a director known for satire, were shown in an ironic setting this summer. The result was an earnestness soaked in blood.

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Vince Staples: Summertime ‘06

The Long Beach rapper steps out with a coming-of-age story on his bold debut album full of stark beats and penetrating lyrics.

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Various Artists: Nu Yorica! Culture Clash In New York City: Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77

A newly-reissued compilation from the Latin music explosion of the 1970s with names familiar and obscure.

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6 Jul 2015 // 2:15 AM

In Camera: Era

The short-lived East London band captured the pessimism and angst of late '70s Britain.

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‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’ Will Please Fans of Agatha Christie

An old-fashioned Christie-styled mystery, Evil Eye/The Girl Who Knew Too Much will give thriller aficionados much to enjoy.

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6 Jul 2015 // 2:10 AM

Yukon Blonde: On Blonde

Yukon Blonde are a band that focuses on simple indie pop, and with On Blonde they succeed in just, and only, that.

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The Nuclear Family Explodes in ‘Mislaid’

Nell Zink's characters represent and confront most of the "-isms" and phobias related to the “Other” that still plague not only the USA, but the entire world.

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Barenaked Ladies: Silverball

Barenaked Ladies’ well-tailored tongue-in-cheek delivery is by a radio-friendly sound that places its emphasis on sentiment and sincerity.

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Ashley Monroe Is on Her Biggest Winning Streak Yet

Country music star Ashley Monroe gets up close and personal, discussing the emotional rollercoaster that went into creating her latest release, The Blade along with her creative process and her role within the music business.

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Joel Plaskett: Park Avenue Sobriety Test

These blues are cast as irrational, but also related to the pressures of aging; awareness of death, what can manifest itself as mid-life crisis.

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‘Amy’: She Was All About the Music

As sad as Winehouse's story may be, Amy is gorgeous and provocative, too.

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It’s Good to Be Afraid of Pablo in ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’

Benicio del Toro is perfect as the infamous drug lord. He looms in frames even when he's off to the side, pressed into a lower corner or out of focus.

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It’s a Stripper Road Trip in ‘Magic Mike XXL’

Channing Tatum and his crew of (ahem) “male entertainers” are still looking for a place to belong in this big-hearted, fast-paced sequel.

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Barb Jungr Transformed the Music of Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen for City of London

Two superb and dynamic Barb Jungr shows, both revisiting the work of three of her favourite artists, were among the highlights of this year’s City of London Festival.

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Trolling the Man of Steel: Superman #41

Superman #41 feels less like a blockbuster movie and more like a teaser trailer.

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Down by the Riverside: Thelonious Monk’s High-Water Mark

The Complete Riverside Recordings comprises 15 discs' worth of raw material to sift through, a formidable task with endless rewards.

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Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material

A sumptuous dive into classic country that's also an exploration of identity, growing and exploring the idea of self within the sentimentalized past and our social-media-driven present.

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30 Jun 2015 // 2:30 AM

Is Gender Out of Fashion?

Sex and Unisex, a history of fashion trends offers insight into changing notions of gender – and raises the possibility that the concept has outlived its usefulness.

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30 Jun 2015 // 2:20 AM

Miguel: Wildheart

Wildheart is the sound of Miguel fully coming into his own , but we're still left feeling engaged but not thrilled, satisfied with the night out but lacking the impulse to text him back the next day.

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The Grateful Dead Are Dead, Long Live the Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead didn’t seem to give a damn about the American dream and yet seems to have lived it—well, parts of it, anyway.

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RP Boo: Fingers, Bank Pads, and Shoe Prints

If listeners can immerse themselves in the repetition, let go, and stop fighting it. The results can be transcendent.

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30 Jun 2015 // 2:10 AM

No Joy: More Faithful

Shoegaze revivalists No Joy deliver their best work yet with the transcendent More Faithful.

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‘Prime Cut’ Is Proof That the ‘70s Is American Cinema’s Greatest Decade

Like many great American films of the '70s, Prime Cut tackles major social issues through the lens of realism.

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30 Jun 2015 // 2:05 AM

Moullinex: Elsewhere

Elsewhere is an ebullient escape to wherever it is you would rather be.

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Ryan Montbleau: Growing Light

After a decade of touring together, Growing Light becomes the Ryan Montbleau band’s swan song, a fact attested to in the liner notes. If indeed that is the case, they’re exiting on what’s arguably their greatest work to date.

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29 Jun 2015 // 10:01 AM

Mud, Sweat, and Beers: Four Days at Download Festival

In which our correspondent bravely chronicles the exhaustion, rain, and euphoria of one of Europe's biggest music festivals.

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29 Jun 2015 // 9:56 AM

Trails and Ways: Pathology

World beats and poetic lyrics vie in up-tempo dance songs on this debut album

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Furiosa Returns in ‘Mad Max - Furiosa #1’

But is it the Furiosa we know and love?

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‘Her Story’ Asks You to Learn Your Story

The game only ends when you let it end, when you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten all of its story, or when you’re simply satisfied with its story.

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“Feeling the Notes”: An Interview with Anderson East

With his album Delilahon the horizon, Anderson East talks with PopMatters about the lead single "Satisfy Me" and connecting in the Nashville music scene.

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‘While We’re Young’ Satirically Skews Gen Xers and Millennial Hipsters

While We’re Young is less about "acting your age" and more about embracing your authentic self.

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29 Jun 2015 // 2:30 AM

Refused: Freedom

On their first studio album in 16 years legendary Swedish hardcore band don’t lose a step in their mission to hybridize punk with anything they can.

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Matt Pond PA: The State of Gold

The State of Gold fulfills the dark mandate of the adult alternative genre, encouraging listeners to consider the virtue of all things beige.

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Good Old War: Broken Into Better Shape

Despite their seemingly inexplicable handle, Good Old War proves to be anything but belligerent.

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‘Broadchurch’ Retains Its Suspense and Offers Another Excellent Season

Broadchurch not only continues to draw in and engage viewers, it also finds a way to add even more interest in its second season, making for a wholly satisfying series.

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A Wicked Sense of Humor Veers Heavily Towards the Sadistic in ‘Crow Fair’

If sometimes flawed, often confusing and always marked by challenging style, Thomas McGuane's Crow Fair remains a remarkable offering from one of America's finest writers.

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Ben Lee: Love Is the Great Rebellion

Ben Lee’s latest album unfolds as possibly his most seductive set yet, even despite its series of heady observations.

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Barrytown: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Yacht Rock

Two things helped me appreciate the Dan: the first is getting older. That goes hand-in-hand with caring less about the opinions of others.

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At Folsom Prison: Every Dream and Every Crisis Means the Rise

Nervousness and talent make the band’s third album a brilliant departure point from which to venture into unknown territories.

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‘Max’ Abides by the “More Is More” Mantra

In Max, more is more: more emotional crises, more stereotypes, more action are all spun as if by a centrifuge of formula then spewed onto a big summer screen.

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‘Ted 2’ Is Smarter and Smuttier Than Your Average Bear

Ted 2 is uproariously funny, with just enough sprinkling of social satire to stretch this already thin premise into a satisfying sequel.

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‘A Little Chaos’ Is Too Orderly

The few proto-feminist inklings in Alan Rickman's A Little Chaos wither away by the end, trading in chaos for the usual order.

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Have We Colonized the Night? Or Has Neoliberal Capitalism Colonized Us?

Bright Eyed: Insomnia and its Cultures has us wondering if our work-obsessed society, which valorizes sleeplessness, is inventing new technologies to keep us perpetually "on".

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Tyga: The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty

Tyga's infatuation for ancient Egyptian royalty seems more like a cursory interest rather than a man looking at peers.

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What’s So Funny About Atheism?

Since New Atheists have done a stand-up job of elucidating the illusions of religious belief, why not point out some of the logical absurdities of atheism?

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26 Jun 2015 // 2:19 AM

Motopony: Welcome You

Motopony's sophomore effort skillfully explores interesting and varying sounds, creating one of the most interesting indie albums in recent memory.

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Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City

Going hand-in-hand with the ongoing museum exhibit of the same name, A New Music City does an outstanding job defining the sweeping influence of Dylan and Cash throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Blood and Thunder: Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabotage’ at 40

// Sound Affects

"In 1975, with lawyers in the studio and a financial empire crumbling, Black Sabbath fought back with their last classic album of the decade.

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