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.
More Recent Features

2 Jul 2004 // 12:00 AM

The Clearing (2004)

As wealthy, world-weary Pittsburgh businessman Wayne Hayes, Robert Redford is typically low-key.

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2 Jul 2004 // 12:00 AM

Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset illustrates the beautiful and frustrating complexity of human hearts seeking love and meaning in a life we know to be transient.

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	Throbbing Gristle: The Taste of TG

In many ways, I’m the perfect person to review this “taste” of a band who’ve been cited as influences by everyone from the

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	Spring Heel Jack: The Sweetness of the Water

You know that drum & bass is losing its commercial viability when one of its preeminent practitioners turns to improvisational free jazz. Yet, that’s

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	Elvis Presley: Elvis at Sun

“...if it came down to a choice between sound and feel, there was never any question which Sam Phillips, or Elvis Presley, would choose. Sam

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1 Jul 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Madvillain: Madvillainy

I first became aware of MF Doom at the turn of the last century, when his independently released Operation: Doomsday first appeared in Bay Area

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1 Jul 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Maritime: Glass Floor

Maturation is an ugly process. It often feels like a pyrrhic victory in a battle between conflicting sets of expectations. Most of us make it

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	The Fall: 50,000 Fans Can’t Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats

It was most interesting when Mark E. Smith, during a recent newspaper interview, mentioned that author William S. Burroughs’ experimental album Nothing Here Now But

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	Paco de Lucia: Cositas Buenas

“El Maestro” Paco de Lucia released his first solo recording La Fabulosa Guitarra de Paco de Lucia in 1967 on Phillips records when he was 19 years

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	Desoto Reds: Hanglide Thru Yer Window

Desoto Reds look like they’ve been inspired by Monty Python and Devo at the same time. But one can never judge an album by

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	Circlesquare: Pre-Earthquake Anthem

“Best heard from the floor”, says the message from Vancouver’s March21 (that’s his name) a.k.a. Circlesquare in the liner notes for

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	Various Artists: Shake Yer Popboomerang Volume 2

Popboomerang announces its intention with its newest Australian pop music sampler from the first chords. Shake Yer Popboomerang Volume 2 opens with a couple of classic

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	Armand Van Helden: New York: A Mix Odyssey

Armand Van Helden is cooler than you. He owns more records than you do, he hangs out with cooler people, and has wild sex with

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	Two Lone Swordsmen: From the Double Gone Chapel

Weird things are happening over there at Britain’s most famous electronic music label, Warp. If you pay attention to things like that, you’ll

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30 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Temptations: Legacy

One need only revisit the pop charts of the ‘60s to get a sense of the musical juggernaut known as Motown. A bit of further

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30 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Legendary Pink Dots: The Whispering Wall

Director Mel Stuart’s 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has gone down in history as a beloved family film, but most of its

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30 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Joe Jackson Band: Afterlife

Sometimes that old adage really rings true: “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” That’s certainly the case for Joe Jackson and

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30 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Corrs: Borrowed Heaven

They are, too, and not just because I have a soft spot for catchy pop in general and the Corrs in particular. And who cares

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	Crack City Rockers: New Myths

Add this to the list of things the music industry needs more often: hype-building EPs. Granted, it helps if such a release is a band’

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30 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Rhian Benson: Gold Coast

Much lauded in several well-known publications, Rhian Benson’s Gold Coast finds a comfy home on the less-than-gold coasts here in the United States. Her

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

At about 11 p.m., singer-songwriter Ben Lee walked onstage at the Hollywood branch of the Knitting Factory wearing a red cape. Now, this is not

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Youssou N’Dour Fès, that incomparable Moroccan city, is a place of gentle and sublime harmonies. The world’s oldest Islamic university, the Karaouin,

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Only a week into an ambitious world tour, bassist Michael Davis, guitarist Wayne Kramer, and drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson took to the Bowery stage

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

S E T    L I S T Hello ResolvenGene AutryDon’t Forget to BreatheLandslide BabyPopular Mechanics for LoversEmma Blowgun’s Last StandGravity’s

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

It’s around the fifth song that some of the snickering, arm-crossing, industry types begin leaving the back room of the Mercury Lounge in hot

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Stock car racing has its origins in the working class south. Many of the sport's legends began their racing as bootleg runners, known locally as 'trippers' in the 1950s and '60s. Nowadays, a racer can't get out of the starting gate without first fueling up on corporate sponsorship.

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Destroyed during WWII and again in '56, during the anti-communist, Hungarian Revolution, it seems Budapest was always pulling itself from the rubble. This 'second city' to Prague is stronger, now, and wizened, but full of promise.

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Designating someone a "hero" involves an underlying claim about what is good in this world and for whom it is good... The question when it comes to Reagan is quite simple. Who was he good for?

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

NBA Ballers

Its erasure of racism, its fetishization of an imagined black cultural aesthetic, its glorification of excessive materialism, its celebration/demonization of black athletes as focused solely on bling-bling, and its treatment of women as sexual objects of possible acquisition, are all troubling.

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Lightning Break

No video game has ever, or will ever, accurately reproduce the pool hall atmosphere. Not even the best of them. And Lightning Break is no different.

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30 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Donkey Kong (Classic NES Series)

Nintendo has gone the purists' route with this title and has left everything at its mediocre best.

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29 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Velvet Revolver: Contraband

When deciding whether to pick Velvet Revolver’s debut CD, Contraband, off the music store rack, there is more to consider than the question of

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	This Moment in Black History: Midwesterncuttalistick

This Moment In Black History has very little to do with vignettes on Rosa Parks or the movement for racial equality. Rather, it is a

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	Lee “Scratch” Perry: 20th Century Masters (The Millennium Collection)

Dub reggae is heavy music, music with an irresistible gravitational pull. The rhythm section is more than just the genre’s backbone, it’s the

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	Dave Liebman: In a Mellow Tone

If this for the most part all-round nice CD turned out unexpectedly mellow, how come the first track, which is the title track, was part

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	Juvenile: Juve the Great: Screwed and Chopped

The first time I heard Juvenile was on “Ha”. This was probably one of the greatest hip-hop singles ever, a real blast of New Orleans

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29 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Greg Johnson: Here Comes the Caviar

Revered as a pop star in his native New Zealand, singer/songwriter/pianist/trumpeter Greg Johnson still remains something of a well-kept secret in the

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29 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	I Am the World Trade Center: The Cover Up

Athens, Georgia duo I Am the World Trade Center has succeeded in the midst of tragedy to make the best album of its career. The

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	The Honorary Title: Anything Else But the Truth

Anybody with a pitch-black sense of humor can release an album with cover art featuring a blood-stained giant panda gnawing on a severed leg while

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29 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Helio Sequence: Love and Distance

Portland-based band the Helio Sequence want their songs to be a lot of things—poppy, atmospheric, layered, complex—but most obviously, they want their sound

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On paper Lollapalooza 2004 looked to be the most anticipated offering of the festival in a decade. The event was to traverse North America hitting 16 cities with an unprecedented two-day bill in all but one town. In hindsight, one has to wonder if there were other options tour organizers could have used to prevent this unfortunate end. The only certainty, right now, is that Lollapalooza 2004 is cancelled leaving an enormous void in the touring plans for many bands and their followers.

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Surrealist Art and Thought in the 1930s: Art, Politics and the Psyche by Steven Harris

The co-option of the movement into modern mass culture is overwhelming, a testament to its genuinely threatening force.

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So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other Tr

Slichter seems to have cleverly rewritten his material in the apparent hope that it can be used as a textbook by burgeoning young stars to slip past the Simon Cowells of the music world.

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Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism by P.J. O’Rourke

O'Rourke does more than simply visit these places, he goes out of his way to finding understanding in them, to find common ground. It's a commitment few understand and are willing to indulge in.

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29 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Natasha: And Other Stories by David Bezmozgis

Bezmozgis is undeniably a promising young writer, but now, only 147 pages into his career, he could not be called the new Roth, the new Malamud, or even the new Jhumpa Lahiri.

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	The Toasters: In Retrospect: The Best of the Toasters

When the Toasters play, it’s difficult not to get up and dance. And that’s precisely the point. Ska has always been about the

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	Pan American: Quiet City

Just as Puck (whose delight at Shakespeare in Neil Gaiman’s stunning The Sandman I loosely quote here) is amazed by the capacity of art

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28 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Nina Nastasia: Dogs

Any streetwise New Yorker keeps the secrets of their fair city close to the vest. They would never tell a tourist about the stellar hot

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28 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Graig Markel: Tall Tales on Tape

Leaving a position as the primary crooner of a rock band to pursue a solo career as a “singer-songwriter” is a tricky business that only

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	Mississippi Sheiks: Honey Babe Let the Deal Go Down: The Best of Mississippi Sheiks

At first blush, it might be easy to confuse the legendary Mississippi Sheiks with Portland’s ludicrous Kingsmen: after all, the Sheiks to seem to

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28 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Hiromi: Brain

The second issue by a young artist whose first was acclaimed lays a big duty on its reviewer. It’s necessary to avoid misidentifying this

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	The Forty-Fives: High Life High Volume

I can’t speak for any other critics, but I am officially retiring the phrase “the band’s secret weapon is [bandmember]‘s [somewhat odd

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28 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Colder: Again

Parisian Marc Nguyen Tan is a designer by trade, working in a highly stylized modus operandi within graphic design and video production for top-shelf fashion

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	Black Ox Orkestar: Ver Tanzt?

Klezmer music has an interesting history running through the 20th Century. It had been a traditional folk music that Jewish travelers took with them through

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28 Jun 2004 // 3:00 PM

	The Briefs: Sex Objects

Just as the social unrest of Thatcherite London in the late 1970s invigorated a revolutionary punk movement courtesy of unruly outfits like the Sex Pistols,

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South Park: The Complete Fourth Season

Originally airing from April until December of 2000, the episodes take frequent aim at U.S. culture and politics.

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28 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

The World of Suzie Wong (1960)

Originally released in 1960, The World of Suzie Wong still elicits both fond remembrance and complete revulsion.

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28 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

3-Way (2004)

Dwight Yoakam needs our support, and that's the only reason to watch 3-Way.

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28 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

The Perfect Score (2004)

As Kyle's nightmare indicates, The Perfect Score includes a rudimentary political critique of the U.S. educational and testing system.

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Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)

Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) comes to understand a new place for himself, and, no small thing, frames an acutely political history by his own story.

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	Marah: 20,000 Streets Under the Sky

When Marah put out their Kids In Philly album, I couldn’t sing enough of their praises—the gritty tunes that mixed a bit of

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27 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Manual: The North Shore

Jonas Munk, after stripping down IDM’s blueprint and resurrecting it with shoegaze surrealism and blissed-out melodies on previous full-lengths Until Tomorrow and Ascend, has

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	Joni Harms: Let’s Put the Western Back in the Country

Full disclosure: I know Joni Harms. Well, I kind of do. We both come from Canby, Oregon, a not-very-big town in the heart of the

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27 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Godsmack: The Other Side

It’s no secret that Godsmack has made a pretty good living by ripping off Alice in Chains. They named their band after a song

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	Bobbie Gentry: Chickasaw Country Child: The Artistry of Bobbie Gentry

It is the familiarity that first draws you in, the traditional sound of the picked guitar and Bobbie Gentry’s tenor edged in gravel. Just

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	Galaxie 500: Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste (1987-1991)

Although it had a short existence, Galaxie 500 remains an important group from the late ‘80s underground scene. The group—singer/guitarist Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi

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The Decemberists: The Tain

The Decemberists’ Tain is about the nameless individuals whose lives were swept up as they fought and mourned. As it was in 1974, 2004 seems the right time to resurrect this story, as its tragic themes unfortunately never go out of style.

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27 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Delays: Faded Seaside Glamour

When you come from a place like Southhampton, on England’s southern coast, it might be hard to dream up anything but breezy, ocean-scented, lush

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	Chester Copperpot: The Kings of Kirby

Here’s another fine example of not judging a band by its cover (or, rather, a band by its name): I was all set to

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27 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Blaze: Found Love

Considering the endless stream of constantly shifting generic permutations that defines modern electronic music, it might seem almost quaint to reflect on a group such

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	Various Artists: Rock & Roll: 50th Anniversary Collection

The entire notion of whether rock ‘n’ roll either needs an anniversary or possesses a birthdate is made entirely irrelevant by the sheer exuberant fun

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	Überzone: Überzone Presents Y4K

Change is hardwired into the DNA of electronic music. The history of the form is a history of transformation, with genres begetting genres, and those

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24 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse

The involvement of newest member Jim O’Rourke has nurtured Sonic Youth into a comfort zone, allowing them to achieve both an accessible and challenging record, thereby giving the music world exactly what they need from a prodigious and legendary group.

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	Robots in Disguise: self-titled

The two members of the British electro-pop band Robots in Disguise call themselves Sue Denim and Dee Plume. Denim and Plume not only sing about

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	Vernon Reid & Masque: Known Unknown

Fiery six-string fretwork hasn’t been so hard to come by since Eddie Van Halen blew minds with “Eruption”‘s sheer insanity. In the two

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	The Icarus Line: Penance Soiree

Los Angeles-area rock quartet the Icarus Line earned themselves a footnote in rock history back in 2002 at the SXSW Festival when guitarist Aaron North smashed

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	Hederos & Hellberg: self-titled

Hederos & Hellberg sound like a respectable pharmaceuticals company, or possibly a meeting of Greek and German philosophic minds. In fact these two Swedes are

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24 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Fever: Red Bedroom

Geremy Jasper’s singing is temperamental and bratty, hurled out like insults from the mouth of a sassy adolescent. Overtop the catapults and javelins of

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24 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Amy Farris: Anyway

Amy Farris is from Austin, Texas, but what separates her from the rest of those singer-songwriters from the city is that she didn’t relocate

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24 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

White Chicks (2004)

Marcus and Kevin's observations also make them think again about their own behaviors, more respectful of black women.

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24 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

The Mother (2003)

May's new sense of self and awakened sexuality are startling, not least of all to her.

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24 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Bush's own behavior and speech are, of course, easy targets, as Moore repeatedly shows him fidgeting and misspeaking.

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Van Morrison: Astral Weeks

I was 17 starting fall semester at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a quaint golden-hilled town in central California. For my first few weeks in the

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	Charnett Moffett: For the Love of Peace

Charnett Moffett is a phenomenon on bass. He has a huge sound, and it is to the fore here not as personal display but an

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	PJ Harvey: Uh Huh Her

It’s obvious from its cover photograph that Uh Huh Her is a deliberately stripped-down, lo-fi effort in comparison to PJ Harvey’s previous (and

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Fluke: Puppy

Fluke emerged during the British acid house boom of the early 1990s and have been unfairly lumped in with the “electronica” scene ever since, a

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Five for Fighting: The Battle for Everything

These days, confessional singer-songwriters walk a thin line: they either find universal messages in individual experience, or they just suck. When singing about oneself, it’

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Call and Response: Winds Take No Shape

It’s a sign of immense talent when a band can change sounds dramatically and still improve on previous efforts. San Francisco quintet Call and

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	Beat Happening: Dreamy

Despite having a vastly overrated body of work, Nirvana did pull off one feat for which they deserve what the young ‘uns would call “mad

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	The Bruces: The Shining Path

We’ll get to The Shining Path, the latest from lo-fi folk/pop project the Bruces, but first I need to float a theory about

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	Bohren & Der Club of Gore: Black Earth

A group of friends in Germany, all former members of such grisly-named hardcore acts as Chronical Diarrhoea and Macabre Farmhouse, meet up, looking to take

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23 Jun 2004 // 10:00 PM

	The Argument: Recess Serenade

It’s not very often one comes across a highly melodic power pop record chock full of solid radio-ready material that’s this solid from

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Exit 13 is a promising group of talented, creative, and imaginative writers and artists, who, with a little more experience, should grow into prominent voices within the industry.

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

It's a digital comic book with a strong female protagonist.

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

Quantum still has its rough edges, but it's a book with heart, which is better than I can say for most books with 50 times it's distribution.

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Before you lay your hard earned cash down on this summer's multitude of reunion tours and related merchandise, stop and think about what they're trying to do to you. We ask the question: Is the resurgence of college rock legends good for the future of music?

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John Vanderslice Pedro the Lion With Pedro the Lion and John Vandeslice coming in to support their new albums, I wasn’t sure what to

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

The last time I was in Europe, I dreaded going to parties. At some point in the night, my American accent inevitably would be sniffed

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

The Stills MetricPhoto credit: Ivan Oyarzun Still Waters Don’t Always Run Deep Opening bands sometimes have the unenviable task of plying their trade and

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23 Jun 2004 // 12:00 AM

So, Acid Mothers Temple have a new record out, and are touring to support it. This may not sound like a big deal, but, for

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
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'Cube Escape' Is Free, Frustrating, and Weirdly Compelling

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"The Cube Escape games are awful puzzle games, but they're an addicting descent into madness.

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