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
	Hoppy Kamiyama + Bill Laswell: A Navel City / No One Is There

Having made great records with every celebrity in the Western world, Bill Laswell heads to Japan to make fascinating music with an ass hole. In a box.

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	Frank Jackson: New York After Dark

Unfortunate only in being a memorial to James Williams, an exemplary presentation to the great American songbook by a tight quartet including singer and sometimes a horn: what mainstream jazz vocal discs should aspire to.

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	Drive-By Truckers: Gangstabilly / Pizza Deliverance

Bulldozers, Bullets, and Buttholes: Early tales from the Dirty South from one of the best rock bands in America.

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25 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Lost Embrace (2004)

It's this unmistakable pluralism that gives a Lost Embrace its warmth and generosity.

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Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)

While Helen's story is compelling, it's subsumed by the men's antics.

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25 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Born into Brothels (2004)

The Oscar-nominated documentary film is a look into the lives of children in Sonagachi, North Calcutta's red light district.

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That Hunter S. Thompson's death is apparently self-inflicted is expectantly unexpected, a sad and disappointing end to not only a breathing American literature objet d'art, but of a life.

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Hunter S. Thompson, was, in many ways, the embodiment of the true American Spirit.

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Thompson possessed a singular voice, one influenced by his various delusions perhaps, but not bound to them.

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News today, even when it's basically right-wing propaganda and lies, makes a point of telling you how fair and even and balanced it is. Thompson knew better.

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Doctor, Rest in Peace: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005

That shit will get you, one way or another.

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Age: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005

Tonight, when I look out my window, I can see the tide mounting again. Thompson obviously saw it too, or maybe it had already crashed over and devoured him.

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Easy Rider with a pen, Hunter S. Thompson personified the power of journalism by challenging authority on a multitude of fronts.

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Thompson's death shatters the illusion of his life, and the first layer of that illusion is that we knew him. What we knew was a mask, a fictionalized self.

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The problem was the '60s. Even as that hoary decade recedes faster and faster into the past, the red-shift switching to magenta and eventually to a deep painful purple, the echoes of lingering culture war still hang in the air like cordite.

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Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh (or, “These Things Don’t ‘Just Happen’”): Dr. Hunter S. Thompson 193

Hunter spoke his mind. He loved peacocks and firearms. He lived out in Woody Creek in Aspen, Colorado, a town where he almost became sheriff in 1970 when he ran under the Freak Party. Can you imagine if the man had been president?

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He was a liar, a cheat, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a violent and temperamental person, and he was a brilliant writer -- a funny writer, a creator of masterful, thought provoking analysis and social dissections.

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	Various Artists: The Only Doo-Wop Collection You’ll Ever Need

Doo-wop music is the most beautiful music ever made in this country. It was highly avant-garde and highly populist at the same time.

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	James Yorkston and The Athletes: Just Beyond the River

Scotland's James Yorkston is onto something special. Just Beyond the River is less summery than anything he's done before. But these songs crackle with the warmth of a fireside on a rainy autumn day.

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24 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Mars Volta: Frances the Mute

The moment that the Mars Volta’s new album Frances the Mute leaked, listeners began reacting strongly to it. PopMatters writers Justin Cober-Lake and Adrien

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24 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Ian Brown: Solarized

You are an American, probably male, approximately 30 years of age, and your affinity, when it comes to music, for everything British has waned considerably over

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24 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Built Like Alaska: Autumnland

These songs are an eclectic mix of mostly sad thoughts, infused with small town ennui and presented in a haunting and hypnotic manner.

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Collective Soul's Ed Roland goes unrecognized at home, but he and his bandmates are getting back to their roots.

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

The Shield: Season 3

The Shield's moral center perpetually shifts, as the Team members struggle to maintain their sense of balance, caught between the outright villains and their own dishonesty.

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Millennium: The Complete Second Season

Frank's newly troubled family life was the first of many alterations made to the format of Millennium during its second season.

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Sam the Man (2000)

If Sam the Man didn't tackle some difficult relationship questions so perceptively, its horrible lead and crappy lighting would have sunk it.

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Shanghai Ghetto (2002)

As survivor Henry Meisel observes in one of the supplemental, extended interviews: 'It's amazing how people can improvise.'"

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

She Hate Me (2004)

As the last bill appears -- a three dollar 'bogus' bill featuring George W. Bush's face -- Spike Lee laughs. 'Hopefully, by the time you're seeing this DVD, he'll be out!'"

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Nine Good Teeth (2003)

While the director suggests he wants make an objective film, Nine Good Teeth is undeniably skewed to display Nana in the best possible light.

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Hello Down There (1969)

Having failed to hold onto small-town American values during the late '60s mod explosion, the nuclear family man here flees to the bottom of the sea.

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The Grudge: Special Edition (2004)

Precisely composed frames of urban and ancient architecture give way to Karen's face, deftly shadowed and shot from low angles, as Karen struggles to decipher the symbols that set her course.

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24 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

All About Lily Chou-Chou (2002)

The film's point is to suggest that emotional withdrawal is symptomatic of contemporary Japanese culture.

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The American Astronaut (2004)

At an hour and a half, the film is transporting to look at but only intermittently fun to watch.

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23 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Various Artists: Music From the Chocolate Lands

Another cutesy compilation concept from the Putumayo label overcomes predictability with some truly infectious songs.

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	Old 97’s: Old 97’s Live [DVD]

In their first (but hopefully not last) concert DVD, these alt-country stalwarts damn near blow the roof off Hollywood's Troubadour.

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23 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Martika: Toy Soldiers: The Best of Martika

Just missed pop diva and historical footnote, Martika gets the 'best of' treatment, leaving everyone but her most sentimental fans wondering why...

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23 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Libretto: Ill-Oet: The Last Element

Libretto takes Coolio's funk revival and gives rise to slum funk, a sound heavily influenced by the Stylistics and the Delfonics.

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23 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Joy Zipper: American Whip

This is an album of conflicted tunes that tease the listener with pure pop melodies subverted by gallows humor.

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23 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Jennifer Gentle: Valende

Jennifer Gentle is not a woman, it is a band consisting of two Italian men who clearly love confounding listener expectations. Why else would they follow-up the rock and roll rave-up of the year with a series of strange folk sketches and noise collages?"

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	Miles Davis: A Tribute to Jack Johnson

Not so revolutionary as it presumed to be in 1971, the recording presents a more conservative Miles Davis paired with John McLaughlin's blues-influenced guitar, jamming on rhythms that are mainstream now.

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	Crooked Fingers: Dignity and Shame

The fourth full-length album from Eric Bachmann and Co. is unabashedly hopeful, shaking awake the sleeping promises in human compassion.

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Former James frontman discusses love, lust, and man's darker impulses.

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23 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

In which the Foreign Devil shares four Beijing-area rock experiences to prepare readers for what is Out There, and, further, what is to come.

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Vaughan and Harris insert yet another facet of reality into the fictional world of comic book superheroics, one that has gone largely overlooked: politics.

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23 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

She is very unlike the usual female protagonist: she drinks, she smokes, and she kills.

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It's hard to envision Sandra Dee as an actual person. For so long, she was an icon, an emblem of virginal purity who seemed incapable of complexity, vulnerability, or even inner life.

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23 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Our sophisticated game culture critic goes infantile, and has a blast doing it.

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23 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

McDonald vouches for SquarePants' character. He should know, he roomed with him in college.

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	M. Ward: Transistor Radio

With the recent success of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and the like, Ward should be set for broader critical and commercial recognition. But he's not quite a folker.

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22 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Ursula 1000: Ursadelica

Welcome to the razzamatazz world of Ursadelica. The Willie Wonka of the big beat flexes fancy behind the decks this time out. Why he saved his best album title yet for a mix CD is the only puzzler.

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	Miss TK and the Revenge: XOXO

If they could stop trying to be Le Tigre, and wait until they have enough actual songs before releasing their next album, Miss TK and the Revenge could bring fluffy feel-good '80s pop back to the masses.

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	Nicolai Dunger: This Cloud Is Learning [reissue]

'The Swedish Van Morrison' strikes again. Kind of. Originally released in '00, this reissue is a fine introduction to yet another bearded guitar strummer with whom you might want to acquaint yourself.

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	Detroit Jr.: Blues on the Internet

A venerable blues piano stylist with a classic Chicago bluesband lineup including some younger veterans, decent songs of his own and an enduring integrity in performance.

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22 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Beep Beep: Business Casual

Business Casual is pretty much a dud -- a danceable, raucous, frantic, and flamboyant dud.

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	Buried Inside: Chronoclast: Selected Essays on Time-Reckoning and Auto-Cannibalism

Got the time tick, tick, ticking in my head: Want some philosophy to go with your metal?"

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22 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Imagine the biggest Afro you can: four nappy dreads, each thicker than a banana, two resting atop a head like ram horns. Extraordinary.

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22 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Hippy-spazzed songcraft precedes the [literal] rise of an unlikely [Swedish] superstar.

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22 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Any diehard smoker can understand the pleasure of choosing your own demise. Of course, everyone has their limits...

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22 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Like it or not, the torch burns on: Vietnam is the new Phish and proud of it.

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Then They Started Shooting: Growing Up In Wartime Bosnia by Lynne Jones

The children who distanced themselves from the war, who avoided talking about it and trying to make sense of it, were often the healthiest psychologically.

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22 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography by James Burge

Burge describes the letters between the two as 'a sort of creation myth for their affair; the golden age upon which they would always look back, longing to return'.

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Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood by Steven Mintz

The closer the book gets to the end of the story, the more general and obvious the conclusions that it draws.

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“Fear: Its Political Uses and Abuses”, Social Research by Arien Mack

The weight of evidence presented and deconstructed by the various researchers could lead the average reader to shrink before the seeming omnipotence of the neoconservative cabal now at the nation's helm.

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	William Elliott Whitmore: Ashes to Dust

Black crows and cow skulls and buzzards and drinkin', these are a few of his favorite things.

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	Kermit Ruffins: Putumayo Presents Kermit Ruffins

A singer-trumpeter descended from followers of Louis Armstrong who he mostly declines to imitate: a fun performer from the happily not too fashion-conscious New Orleans of today.

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	Ozark Mountain Daredevils: It’s Alive

If the old TV variety show Hee-Haw had a versatile house band, these guys would qualify.

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21 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Iron & Wine: Woman King [EP]

Sam Beam and producer Brian Deck continue to experiment in the studio, replacing the sounds of necessity with the sounds of possibility. Woman King is Iron & Wine's most economically expansive set of songs to date.

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21 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	I Am Kloot: self-titled

An American release for this sophomore album, by a band who live or die by the smallest things -- and the sheer quality of their songs.

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21 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Petra Haden: Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out

Even to the curious Who fan, this experiment will probably come off as nothing more than a silly novelty item.

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	Jeremy Ellis: Lotus Blooms

Let the PR machine sound off on Ellis' ill-fated trip to the PR islands. Instead, indulge in Lotus Blooms' bliss: all natural, organic hype, the type that make you want to shake shake shake or marinate with the 'phones for a minute... or sixty.

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	Dave Holland Big Band: Overtime

This is another great disc from Dave Holland's big band, which contains some of the best contemporary jazz musicians on Earth.

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Robert Collins delivers a European perspective on the Superbowl in this conversation with an American counterpart: 'From the moment I switched on the pre-game, the coverage was a tribute to US moral and military superiority.'

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Hunter S. Thompson, was, in many ways, the embodiment of the true American Spirit: a gun-toting, drug-ingesting, beyond blue-and-red, sane lunatic.

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The problem was the '60s. Even as that hoary decade recedes faster and faster into the past, the red-shift switching to magenta and eventually to a deep painful purple, the echoes of lingering culture war still hang in the air like cordite.

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	Robbers on High Street: Tree City

Tree City consists of 13 tracks of tightly-wound, musically-literate passion from musicians who themselves are conscious of the awesomeness of their output.

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20 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Living Colour: Live at CBGB’s

At its best, this look into Living Colour's past reminds the listener just how strong a voice this band brought to the world in its day; rarely have such songs of uncompromising honesty been celebrated with Grammy awards and sales in the millions. At its worst, Live at CBGB's is inexplicable: while it's a pleasant listen, the reason for its coming to the light of day now seems as obscure as is its all-too-often muddled sound.

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	Laurent Garnier: The Cloud Making Machine

It doesn't sound a lot like most of his recent material, and the new sounds that he utilizes here are neither very new or very good.

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20 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Adam Green: Gemstones

Adam Green comes off like a 'blue' comic trapped inside the body of a folk singer who wishes he were a Vegas showman... but his songs are weirdly affecting.

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	Roger Davidson Trio: Rodgers in Rio

Musically Conservative Jazz Piano Trio -- an unusual combination of the pedestrian and the genuinely originally creative.

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20 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	The Color Guard: Dark Pop

With Evanescence on hiatus, NYC's the Color Guard fills a niche you that didn't know needed filling -- gothpopmetal flagwaver.

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	The BellRays: The Red, White & Black

The BellRays give us the same old stuff, which is all we ever ask of them.

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Mansun often seemed to be mocking, not just the trappings of rock stardom (which had become commonplace in the Britpop era), but themselves-the whole ridiculous notion that four kids from Chester could possibly be cut out for this monumental task.

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18 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

From cheap pulp to classic literature, The Maltese Falcon has come along way in 75 years. Nicholas Taylor takes a look back at Dashiell Hammett's hardboiled tale with one quesion in mind -- does Sam Spade still thrill?

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18 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Son of the Mask (2005)

The baby is endowed with awesome powers to shape-shift and abuse every living creature that comes within reach of his chubby little hands.

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18 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Constantine (2005)

Doubting his mission and his faith even as he's consumed by them, Constantine is an achingly topical comic book/movie hero.

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18 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Assisted Living (2003)

The easy moral to draw is that everyone needs assistance in living, but the more difficult truth is that living is illusory always.

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	Various Artists: Lif Up Yuh Leg an Trample

The boutique label- and Blur-frontman-backing lend Lif Up Yuh Leg an Trample an out-of-place discomfort, not unlike Otter and co. walking into the Dexter Lake Club. However, Honest Jons remains true to its name and presents a complete document of pan-African music, this time focusing on hits from Trinidad's most recent Carnival seasons.

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17 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

M.I.A.: Arular

To Congo, to Colombo, can't stereotype her thing, yo. Ms. Arulpragasam has delivered the best UK debut since Dizzee Rascal's Boy in da Corner.

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	My Morning Jacket: Chapter 1: The Sandworm Cometh: Early Recordings

Jim James and co. deliver the first of two volumes chronicling their infancy. A confusing and superfluous listen for the casual fan, The Sandworm Cometh proves a captivating treat for the My Morning Jacket cognoscenti.

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	Kings of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak

Even if their lyrics are sometimes unintelligible, these swampy Southern rockers haven't run out of things to say on their rollicking sophomore offering.

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	J.B. Hutto: Stompin’ at Mother Blues

From the commencement of J.B. Hutto's wider than South Side Chicago career, the very fire that lit its touchpaper.

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	Dubtribe Sound System: Baggage

Despite good intentions, veteran act is not up to the task of Saving House Music.

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17 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Tim Booth: Bone

The return of former James front-man, Tim Booth, finds him with much to say, working to the bone...

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17 Feb 2005 // 11:00 PM

	Bettie Serveert: Attagirl

While the world sits and patiently waits, Bettie Serveert makes another record that does not live up to the promise of their debut.

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Taxi: The Complete Second Season

And so Louie is suddenly a sensitive guy. It's a typically funny and revealing moment in Taxi's second season.

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17 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

The Yes Men (2004)

The DVD offers yet another avenue to the Yes Men's visibility, and, as they hope out loud, inspiration for others to make trouble in their own ways.

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Sister Helen (2004) - PopMatters Film Review
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Sister Helen was, by the movie's account, an unpleasant person: hard, focused, and motivated by the kind of purposeful regret that verges on self-loathing.

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Get Shorty (Special Edition) (1995)

Sonnenfeld keeps all of this under two hours by cutting the movie at a dazzling clip. The film moves like Travolta, quickly and with style.

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Donnie Darko: Director’s Cut (2001)

The problem embodied by Donnie is at once mundane and painfully special, the dilemma of fate vs. free will, laced though with unanswered questions of identity and responsibility.

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17 Feb 2005 // 1:00 AM

Dottie Gets Spanked (1993)

Dottie Gets Spanked contextualizes and foretells the artfully designed surfaces and off-kilter universes of Haynes' later successes.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article