Opium Traces
More Recent Features
The Top Tier X-men Assemble for a Top Level Blockbuster in ‘Astonishing X-men #1’

Astonishing X-men may be the most important X-men comic to come along since Secret Wars.

READ more
When American Women’s Dreams of Equality Carried Them to Russia

By uncovering lost stories of women living abroad, Julia Mickenberg revives rich histories of adventure.

READ more
Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology

Weaver's confidence is well-earned and it is a satisfying spectacle that a rather underappreciated artist should find her moment nearly 25 years into her career.

READ more
Laura Nyro: A Little Magic, A Little Kindness - The Complete Mono Albums

Nyro herself was known to prefer the mono versions that would sound good on a cheap radio, so this does honor her spirit.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 5:00 AM

Toro y Moi: Boo Boo

Boo Boo is an engaging, immersive album that unfolds itself over repeated listens.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 4:00 AM

Coldplay: Kaleidoscope EP

This is Coldplay in 2017, saying "hi" to the mainstream by pandering to pop, and actually managing to do a not-half-bad job of it.

READ more
The True Origin of the Superhero Film Craze? ‘X-Men’ Comics

Bryan Singer's first X-Men film launched the comic book film craze that is still sweeping through Hollywood. But it had a predecessor in Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 1.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

A Feminist Reads Philip Roth

Thoughts about Roth's The Dying Animal, as brought on by the season 6 episode of Girls, "American Bitch".

READ more
‘Dunkirk’ Is a Masterpiece of Overwhelming Realism

As uplifting as it is unrelenting, Christopher Nolan’s epic war thriller unites everyone in the most basic of objectives: survive to fight another day.

READ more
What’s Wrong With Education Today? It’s Missing the Monsters

College should include courses on zombie apocalypses. Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us explains why.

READ more
What a Man’s Gotta Do?: ‘The Virginian’, ‘The New School Teacher’ and ‘Feel My Pulse’

The Virginian, The New School Teacher and Feel My Pulse are good samples of the art of silent film from worthwhile filmmakers.

READ more
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors

Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor have done it again, this time by teaming up with two London musicians. But what on earth is "it"?!

READ more

20 Jul 2017 // 8:07 AM

SZA: CTRL

SZA's first solo album is a confessional look at her psyche through previous relationships. Bolstered by powerful production its as resonant and sure-footed of an R&B debut as any this year.

READ more
Art Pepper: Presents “West Coast Sessions” Volumes 3 and 4

These late-career Art Pepper reissues offer the chance to reevaluate the genius of the troubled saxophonist’s remarkable final years.

READ more
Melvins: A Walk With Love and Death

This double album from the legendary troublemakers tests and teases, but it also rewards

READ more
Japanese Breakfast: Soft Sounds From Another Planet

Michelle Zauner follows her breakout Japanese Breakfast debut with Soft Sounds From Another Planet, easily one of the more compulsively listenable indie records of 2017.

READ more
Awesome Tapes From Africa: An Interview with Brian Shimkovitz

What started as a blog soon turned into a label, and the founder/curator reflects on the newest reissue and the cassette's diminishing African presence.

READ more
‘Assassin’s Creed - Syndicate’: Power Abhors a Vacuum

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate's politics are painted with broad strokes, but in these times of absurd politics, those broad strokes become pointed commentary.

READ more
‘Devil’s Music, Holy Rollers and Hillbillies’ Joins the Debate on the Origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Devil’s Music delves into the murky world of rock 'n' roll history and the genre’s convoluted origins, resulting in a concise analysis of how the music came to be.

READ more
Chris Robinson Holds Rock Services at the Chapel in San Francisco

Throughout the set, Robinson’s trademark soulfully cathartic voice shines regardless of whether he’s singing a fan favorite or an obscure deep cut. He’s got plenty of both...

READ more
‘Dunkirk’ Is a Compelling, Paralyzing, Nightmarish Vision of War

Christopher Nolan delivers his most cinematic work yet, assaulting the senses while examining courage and cowardice in wartime.

READ more
The Steel Woods: Straw in the Wind

With their full-length debut, veterans of the Nashville circuit deliver a country/Southern rock hybrid for the ages.

READ more
Big Star: The Best of Big Star

Another compilation album from Big Star? Should we care? Yes. Yes we should.

READ more

19 Jul 2017 // 7:30 AM

DWNTWN: Racing Time

Although Racing Time showcases DWNTWN’s hook-driven pop sensibilities, it positions such displays on the played out stage of ‘80s emulation and in the less-than-stellar lighting of the album’s second half.

READ more

19 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

Tau Cross: Pillar of Fire

Tau Cross displays no intention of slowing down or conforming and delivers an alchemical work of crossover thrash and brainy post-punk with folk deviations.

READ more
The Guinness-drinking Folks at ‘The Forensic Records Society’ Sure Know Their Music

Magnus Mills tackles religious disintegration with a precision which is almost excessive in The Forensic Records Society.

READ more
Everything Was Fake: ‘Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris’

In the wake of the 'Terrible Year', Flaubert railed against the "stupidity" of his fellow citizens. Are we any smarter 150 years later?

READ more
A Look Back but a Step Forward: An Interview with Steve Earle

Steve Earle has blazed his own trails but now, at 62, he reflects on fallen heroes, chance encounters, and how he'll always be a political rabble-rouser.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’: Krystal Is the Amusing Delight of a Serious Story

The islanders rebel, Cosima escapes, and everything is coming to a head in "Manacled Slim Wrists".

READ more
‘Threads’ Is a Cartoon Sojourn in a Metaphorical Jungle of Real-world Refugees

A comics journalist interprets the plight of would-be immigrants trapped in French refugee camps just miles from their UK destination.

READ more
A Weak Case for the Important Issue of ‘Muslims and the Making of America’

A book like Muslims and the Making of America is necessary in these times, and it's for that very reason that Hussain's effort is so disappointing.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:20 AM

INMusic Festival Wows Record-breaking Crowd

Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon deliver wildly disparate spectacles as thousands gather for Croatia's premiere music festival.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:10 AM

Kacey Johansing: The Hiding

The L.A.-based singer’s third solo album softly grasps the art of holding back.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:07 AM

Kneebody: Anti-Hero

Kneebody pit their maverick tendencies against the vast languages of modern jazz.

READ more
Daniel Martin Moore: Turned Over to Dreams

Daniel Martin Moore's latest release may just be his most eclectic.

READ more
Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift in Decorum - Live at the Village Vanguard

Our most intriguing young trumpet player, live and with just a rhythm section, making magic.

READ more
Brush Up on Your Film Studies With ‘Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2’

Scorsese and the World Cinema Project are not only opening up international filmmaking to Western audiences but providing immaculate film quality and history, too.

READ more
“Gotta Stay Up ‘Til the Sunrise”: An Interview with Animal Collective’s Avey Tare

Animal Collective's Avey Tare talks with PopMatters about his California album Eucalyptus and the importance of space and mystery in music.

READ more
Offa Rex: The Queen of Hearts

Think of Offa Rex as the Decemberists and UK singer Olivia Chaney jumping into a wormhole to come out the other side as Fairport Convention. It works magically in every way.

READ more
Our Times of Political Turmoil and Upheaval Call for Grace Paley’s Astute Criticism

A Grace Paley Reader is a powerful, captivating, and extremely relevant survey of Paley’s work from the field. It's a fine example of the personal as political.

READ more
Goran Therborn’s Scholary Study, ‘Cities of Power’ and the Global Moment

"Capital cities are by definition sites of political power... they are open also sites of resistance, of political counter-power, of protest rallies and headquarters of opposition movements, parties and trade unions."

READ more
The Premise of ‘Imagine Wanting Only This’ Is Artful In a Way More Typical of Fiction

A paradoxically impersonal memoir of not-quite coming-of-age in an age of isolation.

READ more
‘Groundhog Day’ Meets T.S. Eliot in ‘Life of Significant Soil’

This indie film charts the last gasp of a relationship between two New Yorkers who need each other, but aren't sure why.

READ more
Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul

Captured at the height of their strength as a live unit, Truth, Liberty & Soul proves an excellent showcase for both Jaco Pastorius and the Word of Mouth Big Band.

READ more
Whitehorse: Panther in the Dollhouse

The music has a Western movie vibe and offers an aural CinemaScope in black and white where the color sometimes bleeds in. Is that blood really red?

READ more
Algiers and the Political Structures of Noise

How can there be a political movement if we're unwilling to move? Algiers connects past and present for the sake of the future.

READ more
Poetry, Art, and the New Spirit of Capitalism

Poet and critic Jasper Bernes seeks nothing less than a complete reconsideration of poetry and art over the past 50 years in this book, which heralds the appearance of an important new voice in criticism.

READ more
‘Sand + Bone’ Confronts What War Does to a Man

Sand + Bone doesn't take a position so much as it illustrates a problem.

READ more
The Poetry of Heartbreak in ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’

Jacques Demy's dazzling musical explores a realistic side of love -- one that doesn’t always lead to a happy ending.

READ more
‘Three Stones Make a Wall’, an Introduction to Archaeology, Struggles Against Its Genre Boundaries

The blur that this book will "engage all readers no matter what their background", I'm afraid, I find myself constrained to differ.

READ more
Various Artists: American Epic - The Collection

Think of American Epic: The Collection as a newly definitive survey that captures the fullness of rural American music recorded during the 1920s.

READ more
Beach House: B-Sides and Rarities

This collection adds further definition to our understanding of a band too often reduced by oversimplified interpretations.

READ more

14 Jul 2017 // 8:01 AM

Quindar: Hip Mobility

Space is the place. On Hip Mobility, Quindar's two-man instrumental combo provide a lush, futuristic soundtrack of NASA's glory days.

READ more

14 Jul 2017 // 7:20 AM

The Flipside #2: Baby Driver

In the new bi-weekly column, critics Brice Ezell and Evan Sawdey saw Edgar Wright's Baby Driver and trace its heist-film lineage and iPod fetishization to its funky ends.

READ more
The Story’s Jennifer Kimball Makes Folk Music for the New Century

One-half of the '90s duo The Story collaborates with Cuddle Magic's Alec Spiegelman to create mature Americana that has a modern groove.

READ more
Convergence of Character and Chaos In Marvel’s ‘Dr. Aphra #9’

Dr. Aphra continues to carve her own place in a galaxy far, far away.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’: “Ease for Idle Millionaires” Allows Maslany’s Portrayal of Cosima to Shine

"Ease for the Idle Millionaires" pulls at the complex and interconnected plot threads, while giving Maslany endless opportunities to showcase her talent.

READ more
With ‘Wish Upon’ You Come for the Horror and Stay for the Comedy

The clinical precision of John R. Leonetti’s simplistic horror premise is undermined by set pieces that resemble slapstick comedy routines.

READ more
Radiohead Music Theory, Pure and Simple

The most intelligent bunch of musicians to ever sell out an arena are the subject of rich, in-depth critical analysis. Have a highlighter and headphones handy.

READ more
Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band Re-ignite the Spirit of 1967 at Monterey Pop

There’s a truly endearing vibe here watching Grahame Lesh lead the band through Jerry Garcia’s most epic song while Dad continues to drop bass bombs.

READ more
Retro Film Theory Feels Important but Romantically Distant in ‘On the Eve of the Future’

As hybrid art critic-scholar, Annette Michelson writes with a complex beauty that toggles between mechanical and poetic.

READ more
I Draw Slow: Turn Your Face to the Sun

This Dublin-based folk band plays American-style folk music but sounds better when they stretch outside the traditional American folk style.

READ more
Erasure: From Moscow to Mars - An Erasure Anthology

From Moscow to Mars is a definitive set that thoroughly explores three decades of pop magic by the veteran British duo.

READ more

13 Jul 2017 // 8:03 AM

Lo Tom: Lo Tom

David Bazan's new group, Lo Tom, makes low-stakes indie rock that's easily enjoyable.

READ more
Haim: Something to Tell You

These songs remain as tightly constructed, propulsive, and personally relatable as ever, and it's hard to deny the talent Haim has for hooks and intricate songwriting.

READ more
Low and Slow: David Lowery on the Simplicity of ‘A Ghost Story’

Following up last year's family-friendly Pete's Dragon, director David Lowery returns with ambitious indie A Ghost Story, a movie that revels in intimacy and the passage of time.

READ more
‘Puffin Rock’ Opens Up a World of Ecological Imagination for Children

What differentiates Puffin Rock from its peers in the crowded market space of children’s educational programming is its commitment to place and how it imagines authority.

READ more
‘Playing House’: Season Three Offers a Near-Perfect Blend of Humor and Drama

Playing House's third season proves that "sisters doin' it for themselves" means sisters doin' it for each other, too.

READ more
Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie: Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie

Fleetwood Mac - Stevie Nicks = Buckingham/McVie. Typical Fleetwood Mac math, yet somehow it adds up to a pretty-good album.

READ more
The Dark, Funny, Subversive Chamber of Angela Carter’s Imagination

In this expansive yet detailed and nuanced biography, Edmund Gordon allows the complex and endlessly fascinating Angela Carter to come alive on the page again

READ more
Ryan Keberle and Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light

The trombonist's superb quintet is now both more political and more lush in arrangement. One of the music's best bands just got better.

READ more
Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Calvin Harris’s new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1 is a high-water mark for good vibes pop, reflecting the whimsical and collaborative spirit that is prevailing in pop music right now.

READ more

12 Jul 2017 // 7:59 AM

Ex Eye: Ex Eye

Led by Colin Stetson and augmented by drummer Greg Fox, Ex Eye makes a black metal/jazz amalgam that is cathartic in its athleticism.

READ more
Dope Opera: Azeem Talks with PopMatters About His West Coast Hip-Hop Classic, ‘Garage Opera’

In 1999, Azeem recorded his underground classic Garage Opera, hip-hop's equivalent of garage rock.

READ more
Does Western Civilization Owe a “Classical Debt” to Greece?

Hanink takes us on an exploration of ancient and modern Greece, showing how our ideas of classical antiquity can have powerful implications for how we think about the present.

READ more
Do You Want to Be Dead or a Monster?: An Interview With Jen Goma

While known for work in A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Jen "Showtime" Goma surprised even herself by going solo and embracing all the craziness that comes with it.

READ more
Truth ≠ Clarity: Antonioni’s ‘Blow-Up’ and the Melancholy of Discovery

Blow-Up taunts its viewers with a significance that never manifests, a Truth that always recedes.

READ more
‘Complicated Fun’ Is a Thorough Study of the Glory Days of the Twin Cities Punk and Indie Scenes

The tales of a record store, a set of like-minded club owners, and a record label all tie together into a beautiful narrative of the burgeoning Minneapolis music scene.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’ - ‘Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil’ Tackles Mothers and Daughters

Almost halfway through the final season, Orphan Black continues to showcase the complex relationships of the sisters and those closest to them.

READ more
Clearly, ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ Belongs in the Pantheon of Essential Music Documentaries

Win Wenders beautifully intersperses images of concert footage with more intimate performances of the same song. The differences are both illuminating and affecting.

READ more
‘Making Sense’ Provides a Fresh, Logical Approach to Grammar

Teaching grammar is like holding water. You just can’t get a grip. That's where David Cyrstal's Making Sense comes in.

READ more
Drummers of the Société Absolument Guinin: Vodou Drums in Haiti 2

The impact is immediate when hypnotic ritual drumming strips music down to its most basic element: pure rhythm.

READ more

11 Jul 2017 // 8:14 AM

Foreigner: 40

40 is a well-rounded overview of hits that would make even the most jaded indie music fan admit that Foreigner songs have an ability to really sink in their hooks.

READ more
Young Thug: Beautiful Thugger Girls

It's not the singing album we were promised, or the country album we were suggested: it's just a great Young Thug album.

READ more
The Telescopes: As Light Return

The Telescopes have progressed from an experimental style with concealed moments of melody and drama towards one that abandons almost every formula associated with conventional songwriting

READ more
Broken Social Scene: Hug of Thunder

Broken Social Scene return after a seven-year hiatus with their most vital release since their 2005 self-titled album.

READ more
‘The Lodger’ Is the First True Hitchcock Film and His First Masterpiece

Here we have Hitchcock's first archetype of "the wrong man", his first blonde heroine, and his first cop-boyfriend of ambiguous character. We also have his mastery of image and, ironically for a silent film, of sound.

READ more

11 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

Christopher Willits Is Enveloped in Spherical Sound

Ambient composer Christopher Willits wants to surround you in sound that comes from every direction. He talks with us about spatial audio, his latest album, Horizon, and the healing power of music.

READ more
The Highway Is for Gamblers: Joyce Carol Oates, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen Take a One-way Trip

How Joyce Carol Oates, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen traveled out of a small town towards the great unknown.

READ more
‘Popular’: You Are Not Fated to Be Disliked

Adolescent psychologist Mitch Prinstein's new study of popularity, Popular, confirms the worst and hopes for the best.

READ more
‘Star Wars #33’ Has Luke and Leia Stranded on a Watery Planet

This comic is basically the sci-fi equivalent of Cast Away, but with more sea monsters and fewer volleyballs.

READ more
Will and ‘Will’ Struggle to Find the Drama in Shakespeare’s Origin Story

Seeing William Shakespeare as a relatively blank slate doesn't give the audience much to sink their teeth into.

READ more
‘A Ghost Story’ Is an Artful Prelude to Pattern

Lowery's movie transforms all manner of ordinary actions into weird little bits, most often offered in long takes and long distances, immobile images or slow frame movements.

READ more

10 Jul 2017 // 8:29 AM

White Sea: Tropical Odds

White Sea's debut separated her sound from her previous work with M83, but the lush, morose dance-pop of her piecemeal sophomore effort paints her as a truly compelling pop figure.

READ more
Various Artists: The Photographs of Charles Duvelle

Sublime Frequencies co-founder Hisham Mayet and musicology pioneer Charles Duvelle curate word, image, and sound in layers of cultural insight.

READ more
Saint Etienne: Home Counties

A concept album that bemuses as much as it enlightens, Home Counties lacks passion and punch even though the Saint Etienne pop sensibility is still there.

READ more
#EverythingGetsAThumbsUp: How Avidity Has Overtaken American Culture

An oh-so-brief and intentionally broad characterization of American life in these times of the Avidity Epidemic.

READ more
‘The Abominable Mr. Seabrook’ Explores a Life Lived From Inside a Bottle

Fleshing out the man behind the term ‘zombie’ and questionable claims of cannibalism, cartoonist Joe Ollmann presents a holistic look at the fascinating, though largely forgotten, life of William Seabrook.

READ more

10 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm

Waxahatchee releases her strongest selection of songs to date on open and honest fourth record.

READ more
Observe and Report: The Ethics of ‘Cameraperson’

Cameraperson is observational in ways both purer and more complex than much of what appears in documentaries edited to appear as objective works.

READ more
More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Doctor Who': Casting a Woman as the Doctor Offers Fresh Perspectives and a New Kind of Role Model

// Channel Surfing

"The BBC's announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor has sections of fandom up in arms. Why all the fuss?

READ the article