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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.

Monday, June 30 2014

Psalmships - ‘I Sleep Alone’ (album premiere)

PopMatters is pleased to premiere I Sleep Alone the new album by Psalmships.


“Capital’s” Critique of Global Capitalism Is Sage But Dispassionate

Capital offers a savage critique of capitalism and the banking industry, but it fails to imagine its ability to sustain its inhumane and self-destructive practices.


Brandy Clark on the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic of Life

Late last year, country songwriter Brandy Clark quietly released her debut album as an artist and a funny thing happened: people listened and loved it.


‘Bang! Bang! You’re Dead’ Gives Us a Wry Twist on the Wrong Man Theme

Tony Randall comes across like a star for the little screen overwhelmed by the Big Screen, a Felix Unger-type trying out unsuccessfully for Her Majesty’s Service.


The Jayhawks: Sound of Lies / Smile / Rainy Day Music

This Jayhawks reissue campaign makes us reconsider the band's legacy and shows how a band turned uncertainty into a new identity.


Amy Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ Tells the Tale of (Several) American Hustles

Nothing is quite what it seems to be in Lucky Us, a story of survival in '40s-era America.


Beverly: Careers

Beverly have created a distillation of the best of the ‘60s girl group sounds, garage rock, C86, early indie rock, and the girls with guitars revival of the last ten years or so.


Joe Henry: Invisible Hour

Lyrically dense and musically intimate, Invisible Hour, aims to be less a part of your hard drive and more a part of your record collection.


Malka Spigel: Gliding

Spigel gets a new band to play old songs. They not only sound new but, in some cases, completely different.


Thomas Dybdahl: What’s Left Is Forever

With a sound at once soft and serene but clear and vibrant, Thomas Dybdahl returns with What's Left Is Forever.


Sunday, June 29 2014

Word Play, Opera, ‘Endeavour’

Both Endeavour, and its parent series Inspector Morse make a point of juxtaposing a lovely illusion of Oxford with the city's uglier realities.


Friday, June 27 2014

‘The Supreme Price’ Asks, Is Nigeria Worth Dying for?

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), uses The Supreme Price to build on her mother's vision for a democratic Nigeria.


On ‘Kings Watch’ and its Effortless Humor

Kings Watch is an example of a classically outrageous sci-fi action tale being told with a more modern sensibility.


‘Coherence’, Confined Spaces and Multiple Selves

Coherence generates fear and mistrust with very little in the way of effects, gore or outright scares.


You Can’t Know the Answer in ‘Enemy’

Director Denis Villeneuve's most successful film to date is a baffling mood piece, a puzzle designed with no solution.


Is There Anything Rob Brydon Can’t Do?

Sometimes it seems like Rob Brydon is everywhere in the comedy world. And that's a good thing.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for July 2014

Get a sneak peek at some of July's most adventurous releases, including new efforts from Shabazz Palaces, Wolves in the Throne Room, and OOIOO.


‘Desire Me’ Leaves Much to Be Desired, Unless You Look at It through a Noir Lens

This is apparently the first major Hollywood film to have no director credit, because nobody wanted to claim it. Yet it deserves reconsideration.


Morrissey: Vauxhall and I (20th Anniversary Definitive Master)

Vauxhall and I has long been considered a pinnacle of Morrissey's solo work... is it still?


Soundgarden: Superunknown (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

One incredibly long and worthy exploration into the inventive Soundgarden's biggest (and arguably most consistently satisfying) release.


‘What Is Visible’ Is an Extraordinary Imaginative Feat

In this re-imagining of Laura Bridgman's life, we enter a vivid world, albeit one deprived of sight, sound, smell, and taste.


Tiësto: A Town Called Paradise

Most of the material on Tiësto’s A Town Called Paradise sounds like a Pepsi commercial.


Life Without Buildings: Any Other City

A new reissue of the Glasgow band's only LP reveals a powerful and idiosyncratic method to their music


Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun: Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun

This will appeal to both the fans of Gord Downie and the Sadies, and possibly, quite possibly, everyone else who has yet to discover these two wonderful national Canadian treasures.


Thursday, June 26 2014

Wherein Futurists and Anti-Futurists Lock Horns

Economists routinely fail to predict GDP or oil prices, and they do even worse at boom and bust cycles. In 100 Years, they attempt to predict the future.


Trip with an Infinite View: Chaos, Order, Good and Evil in ‘Forever People’

Jack Kirby, World War II veteran, was channeling youth when he produced Forever People. He was on the side of change and disorder for the cause of freedom.


‘The Pleasures of Being Out of Step’: Nat Hentoff’s Free Speech

If it's good to believe and to take a stand on it, it's also good to think through beliefs.


‘L’eclisse’ Is Beautifully Made, but Boring as Hell

L’eclisse is a highly regarded work of European modernism that is pretty to look at, interesting to think about, and grueling to watch unfold.


Fleeing the Familiar, Embracing the Abject in ‘Beyond Two Souls’

Within the spaces of darkness or the unknown, Beyond Two Souls asserts that we can exist without being shaped, manipulated, or brutalized by outside forces.


The Truth of Milli Vanilli a Generation Later

This musical duo that never really was a musical duo prepared a nation of adolescents for disappointment -- and the eventual acceptance of Auto-Tune.


The Sophistication, Charm and Murders in ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’

The mysteries are consistently smart and well done, but it's the relationships between the characters that really make the show.


Various Artists: C86 (Deluxe 3CD Edition)

It was the compilation that has a subgenre named after it, here given no less than 50 bonus tracks. Was that necessary? No. Is it still a blast to get through? Hell yeah.


Jad Fair and Danielson: Solid Gold Heart

Anyone who listens to this record is in for a treat: an uplifting, life-affirming experience.


Steve Gunn & Mike Cooper: FRKWYS 11: Cantos de Lisboa

The latest FRKWYS collaboration is a fascinating musical conversation between musicians from two different generations of experimental music.


William Ryan Fritch: Leave Me Like You Found Me

The second installment of Fritch's "Leave Me Sessions Subscription Series" shows a breathtaking, cinematic composer and post-folk experimenter at the top of his game.


Seun Kuti and Egypt 80: A Long Way to the Beginning

This is a well-oiled, veteran operation, with a fiery leader capable of carrying the torch of Afrobeat to far borders and bringing the music to new heights.


White Hinterland: Baby

White Hinterland's whole existence seems to be balancing conflicting interests: to be abstract/direct, about feelings/ideas, of genre/not tied to any genre.


Wednesday, June 25 2014

‘Freedom Summer’ and What Remains

This critical film underscores both differences and connections between then and now -- now as when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is being dismantled.


After the Invasion: “Trees #2”

The Trees are intelligent life that fail to recognize humans as anything more than parasites, if that. It’s the ultimate nature fights back tale. Except these Trees are invading from space.


Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars

Even calling the seven women of Conception II "heroines" is almost disingenuous, since it's clear from the start of the game who the hero is and who the "help" is.


Kiarostami’s ‘Like Somone in Love’ Is Like Something Beautiful

Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami doubles-down on familiar themes in this film, with varying results.


Dr. McMurtrie and the Gay Kiss

A homophobic doctor, writing in 1914, helped NFL player Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend on TV 100 years later.


The Anti-War Panels: Underground Comix and Vietnam

Although some comix generally avoided the topic, many artists and writers signaled their opposition to the Vietnam War in creative and daring ways.


‘The First World War: The Complete Series’ Is an Outstanding Primer on This Multi-Faceted Conflict

Often overshadowed by the World War II 20 years later, the Great War remains, in many sad ways, the yardstick for futility, pointlessness and waste.


Strand of Oaks: HEAL

With each album, Tim Showalter complicates our understanding of him and, really, of what we should expect from singer-songwriter records.


Stephen King, ‘Mr. Mercedes’, and Our Love of Literary Junk Food

Why can't a reader enjoy both Stephen King and Alice McDermott? Fancy Michelin critics have been known to go wild for Shake Shack, after all.


How to Dress Well: “What Is This Heart?”

The latest album from How to Dress Well sounds similar to his previous work, but doesn't have enough to keep it interesting the third time around.


Tijuana Panthers: Wayne Interest

Tijuana Panthers mix surf, garage, and punk rock to mostly great effect. Except when they rely on the same exact mix for a few too many songs.


Flashlights: Bummer Summer

On the band's sophomore record, Florida's Flashlights peel back on some of their their scrappy, crashing rock sound, exposing the complex pop sensibilities underneath and letting them carry the day. It's a risky shift, but one that paid off.


Ingrid Michaelson: Lights Out

Less a record than a highly calculated means to a bigger end, Lights Out is an attenuated statement of purpose to further develop the Michaelson brand.


Divine Fits: Live at Third Man Records

While still one of the best “supergroups” out there, Divine Fits' latest release seems a bit forced and perhaps unnecessary.


Tuesday, June 24 2014

Excessively Bad Days and Bad Moods: “Batgirl #32”

An insight into the worst days of Barbara Gordon's life.


‘Whitey: United States v. James J. Bulger’: Lies, Files, and Silences

Whether officials' lying and covering up in order to crack cases are a matter of necessity, ambition, or ineptitude, the lack of investigation in this case is just that, a lack.


In ‘300: Rise of Empire’ We See How Xerxes Became That Bald, Pierced Badass

If 300 is the cinematic equivalent of a video game, then 300: Rise of an Empire, is at water level: murky, awkward and not nearly as fun.


(The Limits of) Football, Samba, and Commonality

The 2014 FIFA World Cup theme song highlights one of the worst trends in a global society: culture boiled down to a sort of triumphant universal human-ness.


At the Core:  An Interview with The Antlers

The Antlers' multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and singer/lyricist Peter Silberman speak with us about the process of creation, keeping your emotions genuine, and why their music is good for cooking to.


‘Winter’s Tale’ Is Blinded by the Light

The love story should be at the heart of this film, but it instead gets caught up in the supernatural elements.


Mastodon: Once More ‘Round the Sun

Mastodon's Once More 'Round the Sun condenses the prog of Crack the Skye into the structures and trademarks of hard rock.


Black Bananas: Electric Brick Wall

Black Bananas carries enough high voltage for most stadium acts, and Electric Brick Wall is chock full of fretboard acrobatics and thrasher-chick swagger.


The Rock*A*Teens: Sweet Bird of Youth (Reissue)

Released 14 years ago, the final album from Atlanta's Rock*A*Teens' failed to find an audience its first time around. Merge's reissue gives it a much-deserved second chance.


Fennesz: Bécs

This is not easy music, but at the same time it is experimentalism made accessible through the artist’s cunning methods


Split Single: Fragmented World

These muscled, lush rock songs put Jason Narducy's honeyed voice, tight hooks, and pop sensibilities front and the trio bolsters them with serious power.


OK Go: Upside Out EP

Four tracks. Two hits, one middling song, and a miss. OK Go keeps making great videos but musically they're still trying to live up to their excellent first album.


Monday, June 23 2014

Mirror’s Edge: “The City on the Edge of Forever #1”

You’d think that retracing the fertile ground of Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay for “City of the Edge of Forever,” would bring that primal creativity into sharp focus…


AFI Docs 2014: ‘The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz’

The case against Reddit's Aaron Swartz, as upsetting and disproportionate as it was, was also part of a longstanding and ongoing pattern.


‘The Nutty Professor’, or, The Strange Case of Dr. Kelp and Mr. Love

Jerry Lewis' update of the Jekyll and Hyde story into the case of a nerd and his stallion alter-ego is still excellent after 50 years.


Bring Back the Beat! What’s Up with Hip-Hop Reissues?

The record industry makes huge efforts to reissue rock CDs, but nowhere near as much effort for hip-hop CDs.


Optical Illusions: The Problem with OK Go’s Accidental Legacy

They started out with great songs. Then they made amazing music videos. Now, their songs serve as soundtracks to viral meme-fodder and little else.


‘Brazil With Monty Python’s Michael Palin’ Isn’t the Brazil You’re Thinking of

This BBC series is a nice way to learn some things about the world's fifth largest country, which is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.


GusGus: Mexico

Mexico wants to show us how GusGus has changed and matured while still clinging to things that seem distant and remote.


White Lung: Deep Fantasy

Deep Fantasy flies by with ten tracks in 22 minutes, but there's plenty to White Lung's punk-pop that stays with you.


‘K-Pop Now!’ Is the Literary Equivalent of a K-Pop Disco Night

Gangnam Style is only the tip of the iceberg, as this handy, lavishly illustrated introduction to Korean pop reveals.


Los Pacaminos: A Fistful of Statins

Despite high cholesterol levels, Los Pacaminos deliver excellent results.


William Orbit: Strange Cargo 5

William Orbit self-releases a career and genre high point.


Ex-Cult: Midnight Passenger

On Ex-Cult's new album, more refined recording makes the chords and hooks sharper, the tracks sinewy and hard-muscled as Iggy Pop's arms, but it also affords the Memphis band space to explore.


Friday, June 20 2014

‘Jersey Boys’ Heavy-Handed Mama’s Meatballs Nostalgia

Clint Eastwood’s bland band biopic approach drains the energy from the stage version of this blockbuster razzmatazz jukebox musical.


A Bit More Collected: Down the Pop Culture Rabbit Hole with “Death Sentence”

To understand Death Sentence you'd need to understand why 1986's Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were both roaring successes, and a dismal failures.


Home Video - ‘Here in Weightless Fall’ (album stream) (Premiere)

The inviting melancholy of Home Video's Here in Weightless Fall, a document of a group that knows exactly how to write moody electronic music, is available to stream here exclusively at PopMatters.


‘Noir Syndrome’: Style and Simplicity

Noir Syndrome is simplistic enough to pick up and play and clever enough to keep you coming back for more.


‘Cry Danger’ Is Simple Noir Elegance

Olive Films' reissue of the 1951 Cry Danger is as no-frills as the old school film itself.


The Fascination with Fundamentalism in Hardcore Punk

Some bands echoed the Dead Kennedys' anti-Moral Majority messages; others embodied right-wing religion.


On Finding Arab Gulf Identity in ‘the Space Between’

Tribal Modern neither wallows in nostalgia for a lost past, nor is fundamentally critical of processes of globalization and modernization.


‘The Monkey’s Paw’ Is Not a Bad Little Film

This low-budget thriller manages a few creepy moments.


The Soft Pink Truth: Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Judged by concept alone, Drew Daniel has made one of 2014's most innovative releases.


Sam Smith: In the Lonely Hour

For once the hype is entirely justified, and if Sam Smith's debut album is any indication, the success he has experienced in the UK will easily be replicated stateside.


Lone: Reality Testing

Lone's most laid back work yet pokes at the space between dreams and reality.


The Roots: ...and Then You Shoot Your Cousin

It may surprise someone who has never listened to the Roots before, but for anyone else this will be slightly troubling.


Steven Wilson: Cover Version

A collection of covers and originals that are as remarkable and unique as anything else Wilson has done.


Thursday, June 19 2014

Where Do They Come From? What Do They Want?

In the long pop culture heyday of UFOs that stretched from the late '40s to the mid-'70s, it seemed that flying saucers were everywhere. UFOs swept the nation.


‘Out in the Night’: The Case of the New Jersey 4

First, the women are black and second, they're lesbians, and once the term "gang" is applied by media and used by prosecutors, their legal charges become felonies.


‘Lone Survivor’ Is a Formidable Piece of Storytelling

Both a visceral and heartbreaking experience, Lone Survivor honors truth through fiction in a way that is both rare and haunting.


A Wheel Inside a Wheel: Gillian Welch’s ‘Time (The Revelator)’

Time (The Revelator) conjures a hazy post-millennial American dream of disappointment and ambition that's disturbed by what it sees and hears.


A Poet Perfectly at Ease: ‘The Letters of Robert Frost’

Known for his evocative use of place, Robert Frost's work, once out of fashion, is enjoying a renaissance, as seen in this impressive volume.


20 Questions: Say Hi

Eric Elbogen is a music critic turned indie rock icon. His latest, Endless Wonder, just released. And he wants to name his kid after a cracker company.


There is One Clever Moment in ‘Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles’

This kung fu film is all over the place with food, nunchucks, guns and a lot of scratch your head moments.


Nightmares on Wax: N.O.W. Is the Time

Career-spanning retrospective from Nightmares on Wax takes in black music from jazz and blues to funk and hip-hop, and then some more.


NRBQ: Brass Tacks

The reconstituted smarty-pants rock band, in the studio, still wonderful, still weird and tuneful and a delight.


Miniature Tigers: Cruel Runnings

On their fourth album, it seems like Miniature Tigers are heading towards the rest of the power- and synth-pop crowd and away from the niche they carved for themselves early on.


Eyedress: Hearing Colors

Eyedress’ first born Hearing Colors offers a pretty persuasive invitation for living life after dark.


The Flaming Lips: 7 Skies H3

7 Skies H3, like the majority of The Flaming Lips albums, ‘beats to its own drum’.


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