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

11 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Aloha: Here Comes Everyone

Aloha take the technical precision of their odd time signatures, virtuoso playing and love of jazz, tempering the whole mix with a new found dedication to hook and melody.

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11 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

While we may have a few of these types of big-hitters on our combined lists, PopMatters' ultra-eclectic league of book reviewers have, for the most part, steered clear of praising the already over praised.

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11 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

The Year is ‘42 by Nella Bielski

Bielski no doubt invokes Dostoevsky because he is literature's finest chronicler of the human conscience in revolt.

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Truth or Dare: A Book of Secrets Shared by Justine Picardie

This is less about confession, and more about who these writers are and how they got that way.

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11 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig

Traig paints a strangely colorful and flippant picture of a life with a host of serious mental and physical problems.

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The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje

Murch's example reveals how art is actively created through engagement with raw materials, which are transformed, for good or bad, into the stuff of dreams.

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	Various Artists: Nickodemus and Mariano Present Turntables on the Hudson: Fifth Anniversary Edition

Celebrating their fifth anniversary, Turntables on the Hudson organizers Nickodemus and Mariano compile a disc of hits that have moved the crowd over the years.

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	Brenda Russell: Between the Sun and the Moon

Brenda Russell tends to be slapped with the “one-hit wonder” label quicker than an NBA star is slapped with a paternity suit. Most people remember

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10 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Pinback: Summer in Abaddon

Much like Grandaddy, Pinback weave classic pop fodder into the modern machinery of mainframe technology and to generate a form of post modernism that's even alienated from alienation.

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10 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Devlins: Waves

Dubliners who create fine-tuned pop songs with echoing guitar notes, grand choruses, and more hooks than Velcro? Nope, this isn't U2 - just the Devlins, who prove that they can combine the catchy with the sublime.

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10 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Donovan: Beat Cafe

Beat Cafe is unquestionably the strongest album that Donovan has released since his '60s heyday.

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	Call Me Lightning: The Trouble We’re In

Call Me Lightning bring unchecked energy touched with a bit of madness to its debut that will have fans yelling 'We Be the Lightning!' in no time.

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	Blanche: If We Can’t Trust the Doctors…

Blanche is not yet a touchstone of the alt-country community, but it shows major promise as a potential bearer of folk fringe oddities.

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Punk's not dead. It just smells that way.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Given the visible solidarity of punk rock lesbians and harmonizing churchgoers, maybe it's time to consider the idea of Ambassador Dolly.

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In the face of anti-rave legislation and increasingly stringent laws for maintaining nightclubs, L.A. takes to the streets.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

From pimply teenage soda jerks to drug addled, androgynous, monster rockers. What a long strange trip indeed.

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Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

The first black Heavyweight Champion of the World, 1908 to 1915, Jack Johnson was rowdy, smart, rebellious, and proud.

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Prisoner: Cell Block H - 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Women in prison. What wonderful, wanton images those three words conjure up.

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Home Improvement: The Complete First Season

Tim's determination to add 'more power' to every household appliance or gardening tool speaks to his skewed sense of what it means to be a man.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Hermitage Masterpieces

The Hermitage represents the climax of the Russian aristocracy's longtime fascination with Europe.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-Up Comedian

Shocking and mocking his way through the mid-'80s comedy scene, Bill Hicks invited controversy with his dark, explicit sexual humor.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

The Village (2004)

'I have to keep doing things that scare me, and this certainly scares me,' says M. Night Shyamalan.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Paparazzi (2004)

'In case you're wondering,' says director Paul Abascal, 'in this movie, the paparazzi are very sleazy guys.'"

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

High Art (1998)

Where other lesbian-themed films might ride the sweat-stained cliché for all it's worth, Cholodenko instead shows restraint.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Made in 1929, Un Chien Andalou is based on the exchange of 'dreams' between two young Spanish artists.

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10 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Anchorman—The Legend of Ron Burgundy Giftset (2004)

Will Ferrell's comedy is escapism as abstract art, a breathless retreat into the frenetic headspace of a 12-year-old boy.

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	Toad the Wet Sprocket: Welcome Home: Live

Though seemingly untimely, this release lends credence to the belief that Toad was much more than the sum of its radio parts.

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9 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Paper Chase: God Bless Your Black Heart

My productivity as a writer has ground to a halt in the last few months because this record has rendered all other records obsolete.

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	The Only Children: Change of Living

Not so long ago there was a band called the Anniversary. Their earnest heartbroken lyrics and power pop sound got them lumped into a genre

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9 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Oneida: Nice/Splittin’ Peaches EP

Oneida has emerged as one of the more compelling groups around over the past few years. Save for 2003, the prolific Brooklyn-based band has released a

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	Gerald Levert: Do I Speak for the World

A bold (and blatantly commercial) attempt to bring purpose to R&B -- and to bring soul music back to the world.

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	Her Space Holiday: The Young Machines Remixed

For a Sunday afternoon mope, what could be better than an album of melancholy electro-pop? How about that same album remixed by the likes of Super Furry Animals, Stereolab, and Dntel?"

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	Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight [CD + DVD]

As he had so masterfully done at Monterey and Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix engulfed Isle of Wight festival goers in a brilliant sea of cosmic sights and sounds. No one could have imagined that the 1970 concert would be the Voodoo Chile's last hurrah.

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9 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Early Day Miners: All Harm Ends Here

The fourth Red House Painters -- er, Early Day Miners -- album in as many years, All Harm Ends Here is the type of electric folk perfect for endless plains and tattered dreams. Zzzzzzzzz....

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	Transmissionary Six: Get Down

The latest entry in the oft-revised 'Hipster Bible', is the Transmissionary Six's third album worthy of canonization?"

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	The Ocean Blue: Waterworks

The Ocean Blue has always sounded out of place. Formed in the late ‘80s in Hershey, Pennsylvania, their sound was rooted in same vein as

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6 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Nein: self-titled

Not just another '80s revivalist band, The Nein offer you a danceable alternative to the prefabricated angst of today's pop. Provided you're not a kid.

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	Nas: Street’s Disciple

With middle age rapidly approaching, ghetto poet/prophet Nasir Jones settles in for the long haul. Of all his peers, he ages gracefully, although Street's Disciple two discs reflect the less-focused Nas of the past, a Nas that's ready to hand off the baton, but unsure what to do next.

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	Mnemic: The Audio Injected Soul

Heavily indebted to the abrasive, progressive strains of Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad and Soilwork, Danish five-piece Mnemic are fully intent on taking contemporary metal

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6 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Adam Marsland: You Don’t Know Me

More musically complex than any previous Marsland collection, You Don't Know Me serves up an intriguing mix of largely piano-driven compositions.

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	The Grip Weeds: Giant on the Beach

The Grip Weeds wear their influences like badges of honor. The New Jersey band plays the kind of jangly, space-age rock perfected by bands like

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6 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Brandon Butler: Killer on the Road

The lower the volume, the more likely you are to be taken seriously. While not a hard and fast rule, it’s a pretty accurate

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6 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

A highlight of 2004 was the way documentary reclaimed a place on the big screen.

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This past year's films are at once peculiarly individual expressions and easy to group by genre: studio comedies were funnier than usual; horror films were intriguing in concept but disappointing in execution; science fiction was undercooked.

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Colgan loves the bewitching Buffy and eye-dazzling Peter Pan as well as the comic brilliance of the Office.

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The dead returned to life during 2004, with Zack Snyder's mall-set remake and Edgar Wright's pub-set spoof.

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PopMatters' Political Editor presents the most shameful moments of the year in the US media, from Star Jones' wedding to the embarassment of William Hung and the hypocrisy of Bill O'Reilly.

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Great though it may have been to see Australia's longest running soap tackle issues beyond who's at the pub, the whole lesbian thing turned ridiculous with Skye's conflicts and Lana's perving on every woman in the Coffee Shop.

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I seem to be in the minority by thinking that this last season of The Sopranos was boring. In fact, I found most of the past year on television to be unexciting. So I looked for treasures in hidden places.

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Kuersten raves about the controversial director Lars Von Trier's condemnation of the hypocrisy of the New Testament in 2004's Dogville.

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This annual ritual of looking back has rarely seemed so apt. As it turns out, a majority of the year's worthy films take up precisely this theme, treating the messy processes of memory and/or history as exercises in creativity, anxiety, and futility.

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Music videos continue to push boundaries, visual, technical, and political. And new artists continue to emerge alongside the old.

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The year 2004 was monumental in the brief history of DVD. The death knell tolled for VHS, while the next big innovation started a blue-ray vs. HD DVD debate that lit up blogs and bulletin boards across the web.

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6 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

White Noise (2005)

White Noise falls into that least-likely-to-succeed genre, the horror film released in winter.

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William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Pacino, noted lover of Shakespeare, strives for a multi-dimensional characterization of the angry Shylock, underlining his sadness and indignation.

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6 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

The Woodsman (2004)

Walter (Kevin Bacon) lives in a world perpetually gray.

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6 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Faith in his own work ethic keeps Paul from acknowledging the turmoil erupting all around him.

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5 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Nikki Sudden & the Last Bandits: Treasure Island

Hail, hail the collective conscience! And, rock and roll, of course! After spending roughly 30 years languishing in relative obscurity, Nikki Sudden has finally been 'discovered' by the music scene.

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5 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Late BP Helium: Amok

The sad, but entirely foreseeable demise of the Apples in Stereo has raised some questions as of late, primarily regarding whether there is any life

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	J-Zone: A Job Ain’t Nothin’ But Work

It is disconcertingly rare, these days, to find an MC whose primary mode is self-effacing, and not self-aggrandizing. Modesty and humor are two almost lost

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	In Flames: Soundtrack to Your Escape

Although In Flames have still yet to achieve great success in North America, the Swedish band, over the past decade, has become one of the

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	The Foreign Exchange: Connected

Little Brother's Phonte and Nicolay of the Netherlands make beautiful music together while proving that message boards ain't all bad.

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5 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Efterklang: Tripper

Efterklang's otherworldly debut effort proves why the Icelandic instrumental is the classical music of the 21st century.

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5 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Bowman: Living to Dream

Since this appears to be Boston’s year (curses reversed and then some), it’s not a big surprise to find a Bostonian making great

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5 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

These days, it's possible to have a porn website on the computer screen and an MTV video on the telly, and lose one's ability to distinguish one from the other.

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Shopping within three European countries on a 'universal' credit card can prove to be most taxing to one's historical, not to mention monetary, tolerance. Damn the Irish, the French, and not least, the British!

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Portable entertainment and communication technology has obliterated the distinction between public and private spaces, and the inconsiderateness that accompanies these devices is fast becoming the public status quo, which drives more people to tune out, hastening the spiral toward complete incivility.

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Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal

The perfect blend of humor that was actually funny, running-and-gunning action, and platformer puzzles and timing was almost more than I could handle.

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5 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Lilo & Stitch 2: Hämsterviel Havoc

Disney is sitting on a goldmine but is too blind to see it.

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5 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Dead or Alive: Ultimate

DOA: Ultimate is generating a lot of buzz and quite a bit of talk for 'Game of the Year' awards in action/fighting genres, but the truth is that all of this acclaim is really for half the package.

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5 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Alien Hominid

Lost lives are actually one of the ways in which the game establishes its old school credibility.

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4 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

Tinariwen: Amassakoul

Although Halloween night was cold and cloudy in Santa Cruz, the desert winds blew in soft and sultry toward the Kuumbwa Jazz Center to quite

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	Eugene Mirman: The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman

There are many drawbacks to living during a time of social polarization and moral controversy like the one we're living through now. But even as the political landscape seems to grow more humorless by the day, comedy seems to be thriving.

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4 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Marilyn Manson: Lest We Forget: The Best Of

“It’s been 10 years since his debut, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and David Bowie continues to cling to variations on his Ziggy

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	Me First and the Gimme Gimmes: Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah

Think of any remotely cheesy hit from the ‘70s or ‘80s, and you can bet the farm that there’s a punk rock cover of

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4 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Ministry: Early Trax

It’s been 20 years now since Al Jourgensen first introduced “Every Day is Halloween”, his anthem of “snakes and lizards and other things that go

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4 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection

Jackson has opted to produce a collection that, given its cost and its content, is likely only to appeal to his diehard fans. They're the ones most interested in hearing the rarities and demos included within, but they're not the ones who need to be reminded how great Michael Jackson once was and could yet be again.

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	Steve Earle: Live From Austin TX [CD and DVD]

Clean and sober, Earle's prolific string of seven albums in nine years has been nothing short of masterful. It has also usurped the first half of his career: Earle, formerly competent songwriter, now makes sonically adventurous records with political and social conscience.

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In the midst of the flash and cacophony issuing from the Idiot Box, Jerry Orbach emerged as a singular talent, his work an oasis of depth and humanity.

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In 2004 our writers made it to hundreds of concerts, meticulously recording every mic-twirl, every ear-splitting riff. Now it's time to cast into obscurity the sullen nights, the disappointments and the failures and thus deliver PopMatters' .

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4 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

New Cinematographers by Alexander Ballinger

Ballinger opens up the roles a director of photographer must assume on a movie set, letting others in on the sometimes cumbersome but richly rewarding craft of cinematography.

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Kin: New Fiction by Black and Asian Women by Karen McCarthy

McCarthy destabilizes conventional definitions of 'family' by suggesting socially rather than biologically defined kin relations. She presses readers to challenge pedestrian conceptions of the very word.

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4 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

I Am a Red Dress by Anna Camilleri

It's more than a story of incest and its aftermath; it's a study of one woman's search for identity in an environment in which all the traditional building blocks of the self have been broken apart.

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The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage

It wouldn't be so distressing if these tests simply existed innocuously in their own little pocket of American life; the reality of it is that they find their way into nearly every aspect of how we live our lives publicly.

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	Various Artists: The Sound of Young New York II

Is it OK to forgive New York now? I mean, seriously, they tried to get their act together, to make a go of having a “

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	Various Artists: Sounds Eclectic 3

Navigating the homogenized fog of commercial radio can be perilous, but Los Angeles-based public radio station KCRW-FM is a beacon of individuality and independence. KCRW—

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3 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss

Jazz’s directional changes always lead to new cross-pollination of styles; forward-thinking shifts rub off on the surrounding genres of hip-hop and electronica in ways

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3 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Múm: Dusk Log

What is it, exactly, about Iceland that inspires such awe-inspiring music? Is it the discordant presence of scenic vistas and lush greenery in a land

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3 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Automato: self-titled

If you want to make some kind of racial point out of Automato’s debut album, I won’t stop you. There’s certainly some

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3 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Autolux: Future Perfect

Autolux is the band that Pavement and Pastels lovers in the mid-'90s were hoping for. About a decade too late.

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3 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Jason Anderson: The Wreath

So much of Jason Anderson’s career has revolved around idolatry. Inspired in 1996 by an Elliott Smith concert, the singer/songwriter formed Portland, Oregon’s

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3 Jan 2005 // 1:00 AM

Rocked with Gina Gershon (2004): Gina Gershon

Gina Gershon's made quite a name for herself as a B-movie actress.

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Reba: The Complete First Season

Reba happily infuses the character 'Reba Hart' with the star's own perkiness and sweet spirit.

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The 4400: The Complete First Season

The 4400 intimates that most of the returnees' integration problems boil down to fear approximating a post-9/11 'dread of difference'.

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Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season

How did Boy Meets World manage to stay on the air for seven years?.

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Wild at Heart: Special Edition (1990)

'The most rewarding thing about working with David,' says cinematographer Frederick Elmes, 'is helping him see the vision through.'"

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How to Steal a Million (1966)

When Simon enters the picture, it doesn't take much (a few batted eyelashes and Audrey Hepburn in a nightie) for him to overlook her father's crimes.

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	Various Artists: This is Indie Rock: The Best Bands You’ve Never Heard

Many of these songs make no impression whatsoever -- which smothers the genuine gems.

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2 Jan 2005 // 11:00 PM

Neil Young: Greatest Hits

As a one-disc career-spanning compilation, Greatest Hits manages well, even if the two-disc retrospective Decade (1977) offers more in-depth analysis.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Gremlins and the Housewife in 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'

// Short Ends and Leader

"The house itself wants to pull the neurotic woman into its maw and absorb her whole as a literal housewife.

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