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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.

Friday, April 3 2015

Ride: OX4: The Best of Ride

Reissue of the British dream-rock band's 2001 compilation, to "celebrate" their current reunion. As ever, the back half of Ride's career nearly spoils the party.


Quiet Company: Transgressor

This is a record of top-notch power pop that’s a strong candidate for one of 2015’s best in its genre.


Janet Devlin: Running with Scissors

An Irish singer-songwriter learns how the shine of her voice can transform angst into maturity.


Thursday, April 2 2015

“Get Down, America!” Howard the Duck for President

Howard the Duck ran for president way back in the year of the American Bicentennial. His platform sounds just as good today as it did back then.


Cannabis Cowboys, Guitar-slinging Musicians, and Desert Landscapes

Homegrown captures the weirdness of Austin, as depicted in music poster art from the hippie days to the punk days.


‘Get Hard’ and Get Angry

The Left is veering uncomfortably close to the Right in its half-informed demonization of individuals and artworks, as response to Get Hard illustrates.


The Curious Art of Wrapping Music

With the 'gratuity' of music fostered by digital ubiquity came a renewed, exacting demand for magic artefacts.


‘The Beat Generation’ Is a Relic of the Fraying of the Production Code

This imperfect police procedural is nonetheless both a rare example of the point of view of women in the '50s and a case study for how the Production Code ultimately met its demise.


Lower Dens: Escape From Evil

Escape From Evil is a reminder that all things in life are always filled with the potential to vanish completely in an instant.


Simon Joyner: Grass, Branch & Bone

Call this beautiful record what you will: late-night or rainy-day music. Whatever, it demands active listening.


The Grim, Strangely Hopeful World of Per Petterson

As existentially bleak as it is, I Refuse is not devoid of hope. A refusal is a negation, to be sure, but a lost swimmer may refuse to drown.


Buena Vista Social Club: Lost and Found

From the vaults come 14 unreleased tracks by the beloved Cuban ensemble.


Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott: The Chopin Project

Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott join forces on a genre-defining rendition of some of Chopin's greatest compositions.


6 String Drag: Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll

This fondly remembered alt-country band comes back in an impressive way.


Wednesday, April 1 2015

Modest Mouse’s Webster Hall Show Could Have Done With More of the Early Stuff

These indie giants' recent two-night run at New York City's Webster Hall answers the question: what kind of band is Modest Mouse in 2015?


‘New Suicide Squad #8’ Raises More Questions Than Answers

A heated confrontation between Black Manta and Amanda Waller is the highlight of New Suicide Squad #8.


‘The Hunting Ground’ Highlights the Horrors of Rape on College Campuses

For many, going to college is a dream come true. Sadly, as this film points out, it will also become a nightmare.


Hamid’s Collection of Essays on Life, Art and Politics Sparkle With the Magic of His Prose

The essays in Discontent and its Civilizations treat their subjects with skill and beauty; sharing an idea or insight and then leaving it to the reader to nurture the thought further.


Remember Death: Passage of Time Through Linklater’s Lens

Richard Linklater's Before trilogy is a rare work of cinema that lives up to the true spirit of memento mori: remembering that we all will die.


The Deconstruction and Destruction of a Hero

Shadow of the Colossus begins as a game about a hero rescuing a princess, but by the end, there are no heroes and there are no princesses.


This Is Our New Song: ‘The Bends’ and the Reformation of Alternative Rock

The Bends was the genesis of Radiohead’s perceptive, forward-thinking tendencies, which would go on to inspire countless musicians in myriad ways.


The Nuclear Family Dies at the ‘River’s Edge’

This mid-'80s obscurity is a chilling depiction of the violence amongst those who find themselves on the fringes of society's moral landscape.


Death Grips: The Powers That B

While the layers of their enigma are gradually peeled away, Death Grips still show how relentlessly messy and fascinating they can be on their first double-album.


‘I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son’ Shows Russell’s Potential

Kent Russell explores multiple, often bizarre manifestations of American masculinity in addition to his own.


Action Bronson: Mr. Wonderful

Action Bronson takes the best ingredients of his acclaimed mixtapes, buffs them up with tighter production values and greater artistic focus, and produces his strongest statement yet.


Ringo Starr: Postcards From Paradise

Ringo sings praises to the past with obvious nods to nostalgia.


Evil Invaders: Pulses of Pleasure

This old school-style thrash metal album would be a lot of fun if the lead singer didn't punctuate his vocals with random, aggravating falsetto shrieks.


Various Artists: Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness

This nifty compilation fills in some blanks on the lesser-known variation of Chicago house. No booty has been spared.


Tuesday, March 31 2015

‘Weird Loners’ Is Fox’s ‘Unromantic Comedy’

The initial set-up contrivances suggest that Weird Loners is not so strange as its title might lead us to think.


Overwhelming and Overdue Humility in ‘Uncanny X-men #32’

Cyclops is put in a difficult position that reveals his vulnerabilities, amongst other things.


‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ Makes One Wonder, Are All Internet Outrages Fabricated?

Internet shamings are simple: people say dumb things, are then pilloried for it and in the ensuing frenzy lose their jobs and reputations.


Good Food, Big Ideas: An Interview With Chef Christian Puglisi of Copenhagen’s Relae

With three restaurants, a Michelin star, and now a new book under his belt, Puglisi leads a new generation of chefs in shaking up food culture.


What’s Not to Love About the Trombone?

There was a time when jazz trombonists like Glenn Miller were mega-stars. Not so today, but talents like those of Ryan Keberle and Joe Fiedler make the case that they should be.


Beyond Don as Dorian: Fin de Siècle, Mad Men, and Aesthetics

Given the parallels between Dorian Gray and Don Draper, can we use the lesson of the former to predict the fate of the latter?


‘The Imitation Game’ Is Equally About Wartime and Emotional Codes

This biopic both reminds the world of Alan Turing’s genius and aims to empower “those people no one expects anything from who do the things no one expects.”


Death Cab for Cutie: Kintsugi

This isn't the sound of "indie rock", nor is it "dad rock". This is "obligation rock", a forced brand of music that exists just because it has to.


‘Seraphim 266613336 Wings’ Will Set Your Imagination Afire

This little-known collaboration between, Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon, two giants of anime was never completed. But it’s very much worth reading anyway.


Vetiver: Complete Strangers

A lack of substance, coupled with an occasionally overwhelming “lite-ness” that veers dangerously close to easy-listening, makes Complete Strangers a less-than-solid effort.


Benjamin Clementine: At Least for Now

Benjamin Clementine's emotional cup runneth over... again and again.


Tom Brosseau: Perfect Abandon

Perfect Abandon seems to try and fit as many people into a tiny corner as possible. It's a straight-ahead folk record, but it walks that straight road with a crooked walk.


Art Pepper: Neon Art Volume One

Art Pepper reignites his stake on the jazz industry in this modernized re-issuing of the first in his Neon Art series, originally pressed onto vinyl in 2012.


Monday, March 30 2015

Exit Life, Pursued by a Bear: ‘Backcountry’

This indie horror flick finds a young couple stranded in the woods looking for safety in an uncaring natural world.


Foul Play in ‘Strange Sports Stories #1’

There is plenty of horrible fun to be had in this weird mixture of horror, science fiction and good old fashioned, healthy, wholesome sports.


A Look Into the Shadows Cast by Hitler’s Rise to Power

A victory of endurance, Blood Brothers should also be recognised as a testament to the resilient spirit of art and culture.


Experiencing Isolation and Connection In Tall Buildings

In Tall Buildings' Erik Hall got the name from recording in a Chicago skyscraper, but notes that "I don't tend to write songs that jump out at the listener, but rather kind of invite the listener in."


Contemplations on the Nature of Truth: True Crime, ‘True Detective’, & ‘Serial’ Obsessions

True Detective and Serial mark our society’s preoccupation with all things illegal, especially when they end in murder.


‘The Bends’ and the Blazing of a Trail Into the New Millennium

Amidst a transformational time in the post-Vietnam and post-Reagan eras, The Bends represented a transition between the tumultuous latter half of the 20th century and the new millennium ahead.


Revenge Travels South in ‘Ride the Pink Horse’

This oft-overlooked desert noir illustrates the residual violence of post-war America, where paranoia and deception abound.


Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell

Nearly five years after his last studio effort, Sufjan Stevens brings us a quiet meditation on grief.


The Sonics: This Is the Sonics

The first new studio album since 1967 from these garage rock legends has its faults, but it's an overall solid addition to their already classic discography.


The Master of Dark Yet Delightful Russian Tales About Family Is Back

Russia’s premiere teller of bleak, woeful tales strikes again with There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children Until They Moved Back In.


Eternal Death: Eternal Death

This is pop music that's also anti-pop music. It's consistently accessible and intentionally confusing.


These Tall Trees: And All Things In-Between

These Tall Trees veers towards a psych-lite sound, mostly upbeat and effervescent.


The Mavericks: Mono

Recording in mono might seem like a back-to-basics move but the Mavericks never forgot what they were about anyway.


Friday, March 27 2015

Ben Stiller Takes on a Woody Allen Persona in ‘While We’re Young’

This examination of documentary filmmaking, of truth and not-quite-truth, is somewhat undercut by the neuroses of its male lead (Ben Stiller).


Jim Parsons Can’t Escape Sheldon Cooper in ‘Home’

Even though Jim Parsons is trying to distance himself from his Big Bang Theory character, his role in Home, like the film itself, feels awfully familiar.


Janelle Asselin, Rosy Press and the Reinvention of the Ordinary

Sometimes once in a rare while someone with a single idea disrupts an entire industry. Veteran Editor Janelle Asselin's Rosy Press might just be that idea for this generation.


‘Serena’ Re-Teams Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper Amidst Clichés

Every time the movie makes the claim that its protagonist is a "strong woman", it just as quickly reduces her to the worst clichés.


Is ‘Get Hard’ Humor or Hate Crime?

You may find yourself laughing at the homophobia and hate on display in this borderline despicable film.Said snickers are nothing to be proud of.


‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ Finds Riches in the Coen Brothers’ ‘Fargo’

This film about a woman so obsessed with Fargo she thinks it contains clues to buried treasure turns into a beautiful, chilly odyssey.


Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock

Morningstar plays like a Star Trek episode that forgot to add in a moral message about the nature of humanity at the end.


How to Use the Media

Don’t just sit there looking at your computer (or tablet, or phone). Engage!


Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science

The colourful science of marijuana and psychedelic drugs will make you wish you paid more attention in science class.


30 Musical, Literary and Cultural Reasons to Celebrate 30 More Years of Phish: Part Two

From Romanticism to structuralism, the musical ingenuity of Phish pays tribute to a variety of cultural movements; they're more dada than dad rock.


Tinseltown Has Rarely Seemed More Terrifying Than in ‘Starry Eyes’

Starry Eyes presents a twilit world of hysterical ambition that would put Norma Desmond to shame.


Liturgy: The Ark Work

Religious music, black metal, electronic, and 8-bit all come together in this bizarre yet ultimately captivating philosophical tome from Liturgy.


Zu: Cortar Todo

It roars, dilutes, squeals, shrieks, pulsates and squawks. Welcome to the world of Zu.


Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home

Chastity Belt brings the '90s nostalgia, but forgets to bring the variety along with it.


Joe Pug: Windfall

Pug fought through some tough times to produce this optimistic, rewarding record.


Ryan Bingham: Fear and Saturday Night

The candor of Bingham on Bingham reveals an intimate portrait of love and hope on Fear and Saturday Night.


Theophilus London: Vibes

True to its name, Vibes comes chock-full of different vibes for different situations.


Thursday, March 26 2015

‘Convergence’ and ‘Secret War’ Get to the Heart of the Matter

In the lead up to the release of Convergence and Secret War, we explore why these comicbook stories matter to you, no matter what the publishers' say.


No One Gets Away Unscathed in David Joy’s Latest

Where All Light Tends to Go is unflinchingly violent, difficult to witness, and tragic from its outset.


The Artist Is Not Present: The Significance of Sia’s Anti-Pop Persona

For once, a pop artist has rejected the idea of stardom, and as a result, has become one of the world’s most discussed pop stars.


Too Smart to Be Naïve, Too Young to Be Jaded: ‘The Bends’ and Teen Angst

Even teenagers two decades removed from The Bends' original release can still find deep emotional connections to its depiction of isolation and dissatisfaction.


‘Stranger at My Door’ Is a Western That Doesn’t Settle for the Obvious

This isn't some towering milestone of the genre, but it's something harder to pull off: a quietly intelligent, handsomely made, satisfying B-western.


Laura Marling: Short Movie

The eclectic guitar becomes a tool that complements Laura Marling's lyrics on this pivotal album, at times articulating visceral anger and, at others, obliterating psychic barriers and clearing space for something new.


On “the Agony of Becoming”

Green Girl is Kate Zambreno's searing meditation on a young American girl's coming-to-being in London.


The Go! Team: The Scene Between

With heavier rock influence and toned-down electronic methodology, The Scene Between represents the Go! Team's greatest deviation from their original template yet.


Tobias Jesso Jr: Goon

Goon isn’t great, but it is a fine example of what might evolve from pure pop purpose.


Andrew Combs: All These Dreams

Andrew Combs is either ignorant of or recording in deference to the past by rekindling the gilded countrypolitan spirit on his sophomore release, All These Dreams.


Tangerine Dream: Booster VII

The Booster series wraps up as the world bids farewell to Edgar Froese.


RxGF: Any Other Way

There's an innovative sound happening here, with many tracks sounding like they came from the soundtrack of some dystopian sci-fi world or even just the dark Orwellian future that’s currently on Earth’s horizon right here in 2015.


Wednesday, March 25 2015

In Gotham The Kids Are Alright, Day Two

By incorporating genres as diverse as Harry Potter, Dan Brown and Van Helsing, Gotham Academy #5 is as close to perfect as you can get.


Marge Piercy and the Geography of Home

In topics ranging from poverty to war’s ravages to environmental collapse, Piercy obeys the poet’s dictum to act as witness with Made in Detroit.


Thursday’s Geoff Rickly on Reissues, the Future, and Selling Crockpots

Thursday is no more, but their legacy lives on, with singer Geoff Rickly reissuing Waiting on his own label and talking about what chances, if any, there are to the group reuniting.


What Would Don Draper Do? Reading Dante in a Secular Age

Many readers of our generation emulate Don Draper, having lost Dante's connections to Christianity or perhaps to any such deity.


“Where Do We Go from Here?” ‘The Bends’ of the 20th Century and Beyond

The Bends is the 20th century's identity emerging under pressure, forced to search bleakly for some form of cohesion among an increasingly artificial and commercial world.


‘Watership Down’ Is a World of Rabbits in Darkness

Like all great films based on great literature, Watership Down does a fine job of not replacing, but rather complementing the source material.


Earl Sweatshirt: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

Earl Sweatshirt leaves shock horror behind and finds something much better on his brilliant third album.


It’s an Art Form, Talking ‘Bout Your Mama

Readers that aren’t easily offended will find themselves laughing and cringing at what is surely the raunchiest history book in years.


Lightning Bolt: Fantasy Empire

In the end, this is exactly what we have come to expect from Lightning Bolt; a set list of fuzzy, overwhelming, noise rock that keeps it simple while never missing its target.


John Statz: Tulsa

Tulsa speaks to more than the desolate environs its sound sometimes suggests.


Contretemps: Pronouncement

Distressing, awkward, disturbing and almost upsetting, this aura of discomfort, if combined with the sound of the term itself (|ˈkɒntrətɒ̃|) is the essence of the music presented by Joel Ebner.


Junior Wells: Southside Blues Jam

Junior Wells and his men straddle two decades and lay down 15 gems.


Tuesday, March 24 2015

In Gotham the Kids Are Alright, Day One

It’s when publishers create titles outside the hype of their most recognizable heroes that writers and artists are able take risks that can lead to some of the most innovative and original comic books available. This is where Gotham Academy comes in.


How the Go! Team Puts the “I” in Team with ‘The Scene Between’

Ian Parton, leader of the Go! Team, weighs the maturation and development of his crazed wall-of-sound schoolyard aesthetic on new album The Scene Between.


‘The Voices’ Gets to the Very Essence of the American Nightmare

Disturbing, funny, alluring and repulsive in a uniquely American way that no one likes to admit, The Voices should trouble you.


Of Maus and Men: Postwar Identity Through a Postmodern Lens in Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’

Far more than a comic book with an edge, Maus interrogates the fallacious identity politics of the Nazis, to an unforgettable effect. Given recent events in Europe, this is a vital book to revisit.


There Aren’t Many Reasons to Go ‘Into the Woods’

Die-hard Sondheim fans may enjoy this adaptation, but the rest of the world should revisit Chicago and wonder why Marshall hasn’t been able to capture that film’s magic since.


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