Opium Traces
More Recent Features
Creativity, Codes, and Conditions: An Interview With A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers

With Dan Bejar busy with Destroyer, celebrated power-pop stylists the New Pornographers get inspirations from horn honks and alarm codes on their latest riled-up set.

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The Grace and Beauty of Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’

It's not often that great bands have the opportunity to end a career on a high note with their swansong song albums, but Roxy Music brilliantly did with Avalon.

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Cannes 2017: Radicalism and Other Crankiness in ‘Redoubtable’ & ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’

In these films, Noah Baumbach's understanding of New York City's intellectual scene exceeds Michel Hazanavicius' grasp on film history.

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Joe Gould, Madness, Creativity, and the World in Between

How do we treat our most disturbed fellow citizens? How far should we go to accommodate and tolerate eccentricities for the sake of a good story?

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‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’—Jack Sparrow Should Have Slept This One Off

Though Captain Jack Sparrow is to be commended for trying to make alcoholism fun again, watching Johnny Depp channel his best Dudley Moore becomes tedious.

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Clawing (and Struggling) for Relevancy in ‘X-men Blue #4’

Everything Jimmy Hudson does just makes Wolverine fans miss Logan.

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iZombie: Season 3, Episode 8 - “Eat a Knievel” Has Liv Acting Especially Ridiculous

Liv staples her brain and offers Justin some of Finn Vincible’s brain so that they can have the same personality for their date.

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Poetry and Imagery in Abdellah Taïa’s ‘Another Morocco’

Taïa is a writer whose talent shines brightly enough to illuminate the difference between an imitator and an original.

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Andrzej Żuławski’ Finds Love and Family in the ‘Cosmos’

At its heart, Cosmos is a very human story born from rudiments both otherworldly and oneiric.

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Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales: Room 29

These songs drift by languidly, as if they had been dipping into John Belushi’s barbiturate stash, leaving the listener somewhat foggy headed, but otherwise unchanged.

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Jean-Jacques Perrey’s Passport to the Future

Jean-Jacques Perrey inspired the Beastie Boys, Gang Starr and many more and returned to life as a performer and recording artist during his final decades of life.

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Author Lee Smith’s Memoir Is a Balance of Sweetness and Heartbreak

Dimestore should take its place alongside Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings and King’s On Writing as a beautiful and haunting memoir about the American journey.

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25 May 2017 // 2:30 AM

Jlin: Black Origami

Black Origami is not an album you can sink into; attempting to do so is like trying to sleep on a bed of steel wires. Yet it is a challenging, demanding, and wholly edifying work of rhythmic art.

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25 May 2017 // 2:20 AM

Wooden Wand: Clipper Ship

A sea change for James Toth with its altered origin and minimalist compositions, Clipper Ship is an opus of restraint.

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25 May 2017 // 2:15 AM

Dona Onete: Banzeiro

Now pushing 80, Dona Onete is just beginning her musical career. Infectious sophomore album Banzeiro proves that in the spotlight is right where she belongs.

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‘Supernatural’: Season 12 Ends With a Bang, Not a Whimper

The wayward sons carry on in a two-part finalé full of action, surprises, and death.

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Roots Remain: A Conversation With Bill Kelliher of Mastodon

Among other things, Mastodon rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher delves into how loss and life shaped their sixth outing, Emperor of Sand.

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Walerian Borowczyk Explores the Obsessive Quest in ‘Story of Sin’

In Story of Sin, there's a realism articulated through a psychological terror, an anxiety ramped up to the wild-eyed surveying of struggle and compromise.

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The Stories in ‘All Stories Are Love Stories’ Are a Haunting Tribute to Perseverance

Four characters search for healing and resolution in the wake of a San Francisco earthquake.

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24 May 2017 // 8:38 AM

Jason Eady: Jason Eady

Jason Eady set out to make a simple sounding recording but it raises some unexpected emotional complexities that linger long after the songs have wound to a close.

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Oceans Are Zeroes: Oceans Are Zeroes

Oceans Are Zeroes will leave you emotionally exhausted and utterly satisfied.

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Los Straitjackets: What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets

Nashville's premiere surf rockabilly instrumental band covers a bunch of Nick Lowe songs and it works so well you wonder why it wasn't done a lot sooner.

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Pere Ubu: Drive, He Said 1994-2002

The period covered by this box set is perhaps the least understood or appreciated among Pere Ubu’s many iterations, yet these might just be their most vibrantly subversive recordings.

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How the Strokes and Other Indie Bands Reignited Rock ‘n’ Roll in NYC and Beyond

Author Lizzy Goodman talks with PopMatters about "beautiful, accessible, sexy, dirty, pretty punk rock" and her new book, Meet Me in the Bathroom.

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‘Hard-Boiled Hollywood’ Is a Fine Entry Point Into the World of Postwar L.A.

Film scholar Jon Lewis takes a look at some of the more infamous happenings in postwar Hollywood while also exploring the political and cultural climate of the day.

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Maybe What’s Going on in ‘Get Out’ Is All in His Head

This film's horror could be satire of a fish-out-of-water situation; perhaps Chris is only imagining much of what he thinks is happening, and he's just overly anxious...

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23 May 2017 // 8:37 AM

Takashi Miyaki: The Dream

The Dream could loosely be described as a shoegaze dreampop album, though that doesn't even begin to touch the number of genres and styles that show up in one form or another.

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“An Identity Crisis in a Good Way”: An Interview with Will Stratton

The upstate New York-based guitarist talks about his newest album, his intricate guitar technique, and the need to write music in tumultuous times.

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is

Preservation Hall Jazz Band continues fusing past and present to create a contemporary, vital sound that keeps the music out of the museums and lecture halls.

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Do Make Say Think: Stubborn Persistent Illusions

Do Make Say Think's Stubborn Persistent Illusions is a strong return for a band that crafts unique, expressive, and loose soundscapes.

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An Unmerciful Consideration of Anne Lamott’s Book on Mercy

The profession of teaching has taught me that Lamott’s view of merciful action is impractical and improper.

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You’re Such a Lovely Audience: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’

Celebrating Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band with a little help from their friends; Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker, Neil Young and the Mona Lisa Twins.

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‘War Machine’ Takes a Satirical Look at the Lost Cause of the Afghanistan War

After a rough start and an unsure handle on what kind of comedy it wants to be, this Afghanistan war satire says what few have been willing to say.

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Observational Tragedy: Jonathan Coulton’s Approach to Songwriting

Jonathan Coulton reveals how his unique balance of comedy and tragedy, optimism and cynicism, and the past and future form the heart of his new multimedia concept album.

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‘Shake It Up’: All the Music That’s Fit to Freak Out About

The Library of America’s rollicking greatest-hits volume of music criticism is an awesomely unwieldy pile of opinion that celebrates not just music, but the very act of appreciating and understanding it.

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The Journey to Paul Gauguin’s Other World Is Well Worth Taking

Graphic novel Gauguin: The Other World traverses the tropical landscapes and surreal mindscape of self-titled “savage” artist Paul Gauguin.

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Kevin Eubanks: East West Time Line

The Tonight Show guitarist is back to jazz most certainly, putting two bands into action: one on original tunes and the other on creative covers.

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T-Pain and Lil Wayne: T-Wayne

T-Wayne’s greatest legacy will be that even after hearing it, we will still be left with our imaginations to do the heavy lifting.

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22 May 2017 // 3:00 AM

Eminem: A Love Story

Who can listen to Eminem’s discography today and not be struck by one of popular music’s most prolonged and extraordinary expressions of interminable sadness?

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22 May 2017 // 2:30 AM

Alex G: Rocket

Alex G offers a richly observed album that uses a raft of different characters to explore the universal truths that define us all.

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Asta Nielsen and Fatma Girik’s Hamlets: Old Mysteries, New Problems

Wherein Hamlet is no longer a neurotic male in princely guise but a woman invested with an identity crisis.

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Cannes 2017: Border Crossings in ‘Jupiter’s Moon’ and ‘Okja’

Looking for fresh ways to raise social awareness, these films mix genres to the point of becoming mutants.

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The Last Waltz 40 Tour Delivers Triumphant Finale in San Francisco

The audience is deeply familiar with the songs. Yet throughout the two-set, nearly three-hour show it feels like there’s a collective vibe in the air of re-discovering the manner in which the material can move the soul.

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19 May 2017 // 8:52 AM

Goldlink: At What Cost

On the D.C. rapper's first studio album, Goldlink highlights his city but obscures his own perspective.

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From Garden to Higher Truth: The Legacy of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell

No matter what Chris Cornell did, there was always the sense that he was doing what he wanted.

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Coldcut x On-U Sound: Outside the Echo Chamber

Legendary producers team with a stellar slate of guests to show just how much they've influenced modern music.

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The Como Mamas: Move Upstairs

Brooklyn, New York meets Como, Mississippi in this treasure of auditory bliss.

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White Hills: Stop Mute Defeat

White Hills can't and won't stop smashing the state in smashing fashion.

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‘Alien: Covenant’ Descends Into Madness in a Beautiful, Finessed Kind of Way

Marching to the beat of the same drum as the first films in the series, Alien: Covenant finds extra depth in the existential dread of its divisive predecessor.

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The Perfectly Suitable, Perfectly Silly Comedy of Harry Hill

Harry Hill pulls funny faces and he does stupid things. But these are things I like in a comedian (as opposed to, say, a US president).

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On Norman Mailer, Jack Henry Abbott, and the Legacy of Going Too Deep Into the Belly of the Beast

How Norman Mailer, while preparing 1979's The Executioner's Song, collaborated with Jack Henry Abbott and opened doors that should have remained shut.

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Things Move Fast in ‘iZombie’ “Dirt Nap Time”

The fast-paced “Dirt Nap Time” successfully juggles large plot points and entertaining character moments.

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Niyaz: The Best of Niyaz

Melodrama and haunting melodies put The Best of Niyaz right at its well-deserved center stage.

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‘Generation X #1’: A (Familiar) Youth Revival

Christina Strain and Amilcar Pinna bring the X-men's young guns back into the mix with a fresh foundation devoid of sterilization or extinction.

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John Lee Hooker: Whiskey & Wimmen - John Lee Hooker’s Finest

Adding to an already voluminous catalog of John Lee Hooker compilations, Whiskey & Wimmen offers up still more of the same without anything new to say.

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‘Broad Strokes’ Beautifully Illuminates Often Overlooked Women Artists

Art historian Bridget Quinn is an engaging writer with a knack for choosing the telling anecdote. The result is a fun book full of beautiful art.

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18 May 2017 // 8:22 AM

Juliana Hatfield: Pussycat

A dark but musically jubilant reaction to the 2016 election from a rock singer-songwriter at the top of her craft. This is Juliana Hatfield's best album.

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18 May 2017 // 8:15 AM

T.Raumschmiere: Heimat

T.Raumschmiere creates a shape-shifting ambient techno album but with enough drive and ambition to invigorate the late night dance floor.

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An Android’s Dream: How the Robot Traitor Became the Center of ‘Alien: Covenant’

In an allegory where humans are the damned and the aliens are the plague, what does it mean to spend so much time with immune robot bystanders?

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David Sedaris’ ‘Theft By Finding’, Truth or Elaboration, Matters Not

David Sedaris' decades-spanning collection of his diary entries reveals the growth of one of America's most beloved humorists.

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Callback to the Future: Maestro Gamin on the Miracles and Medicines of His Latest EP

Maestro Gamin’s latest venture with producer Books One, Miracle Work Medicine, sees a return to Daisy Age hip-hop.

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17 May 2017 // 12:30 PM

Make America Cool Again

Joel Dinerstein's The Origins of Cool in Postwar America is an oddly reassuring handbook for the future of resistance

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We Write Our Own Ends: Emergent Endings in Gaming

There’s no such thing as a premature ending for a video game. There’s only your ending.

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The Whiskey Gentry: Dead Ringer

This solid country-rock record keeps getting distracted by singer Lauren Staley Morrow's lyrics about her insecurities.

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17 May 2017 // 8:46 AM

Lord RAJA: Amadeus EP

If you're going to so publicly announce that your music is a reaction to something, that music should stand on its own as such a reaction.

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Mamadou Kelly: Politiki

The desert meets the Deep South on the easy and low-key Politiki.

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Parochial Hierarchy in Walerian Borowczyk’s ‘Goto, Isle of Love’

Shot in lustrous black and white, Borowczyk’s film straddles an impossible line between grim drama and ramshackle fantasy.

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Adolescent Awakening: KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight”

In 1975, an aimless teenager goes to an obscure discothèque in Boston and discovers “Get Down Tonight” -- just the kind of funk he's looking for.

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All the World Really Is a Stage in Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘Hamlet: Globe to Globe’

Dromgoole’s account of touring the Globe’s production of Hamlet to almost 200 countries is a moving, funny and enlightening testament to ambitious ventures.

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17 May 2017 // 2:30 AM

Helium: Ends With And

True to the title of this odds and ends collection, the ‘90s Boston-via-DC band finished in a place that felt like the middle.

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Fans Killed the Magic of Mystery in Hollywood Films

The Force is no longer mysterious. We've demanded to know everything about Logan’s history at the expense of his mystery. Hollywood complies. The magic is dead.

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Each of the Stories in Murakami’s ‘Men Without Women’ Is a Psychological and Existential Mystery

If Lars Svendsen helps one to understand loneliness cognitively, Haruki Murakami allows one to experience it affectively, giving it a slow, desperate pulse.

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Corin Ashley: Broken Biscuits

An independent release filled with deep rewards for Anglophiles and power pop fans.

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16 May 2017 // 8:47 AM

Sóley: Endless Summer

Endless Summer has an emotional precision that elevates it beyond your typical ode to the warmer seasons.

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‘iZombie’: “Some Like It Hot Mess” Sets Up Interesting Developments

Halfway through the season, "Some Like It Hot Mess" answers one big question, sets up more, and establishes the direction of the remainder of the season.

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Pokey LaFarge: Manic Revelations

A vibrant and often brassy mix that would sound equally at home at a Harlem rent party as a small-town barn dance.

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Contrary to Popular Belief, the Blues Were Not Born on the Mississippi Delta

Historians Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff debunk myths about the origins of blues music, locating them not in the Mississippi Delta but in southern black vaudeville.

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Understanding the Archaeology of the Archive in ‘Archive Everything’

Through participatory Web 2.0 culture, archives have moved from preserved, cherished documents to the structure of everyday life.

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Bureau of Sabotage Takes Fans for a Bicycle Day Trip in San Francisco

A special rendition of “Dark Star” moves the Bureau of Sabotage into the vanguard of second generation bands keeping the flame for Grateful Dead music.

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My Life May Be a Mess, But ‘Wait Till You See Me Dance’

In this excellent volume of stories, Deb Olin Unferth uses a slippery sense of perspective to stoke empathy for characters acting out.

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15 May 2017 // 9:09 AM

Five Alarm Funk: Sweat

Sweat is a solid blast of fun that shows why Five Alarm Funk, on album number six and decade number two, are still a force with which to be reckoned.

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‘Riverdale’ Gets Good By Embracing Its Campy, Gothic Aesthetic

Despite my initial dislike of the CW's Riverdale, this soapy teen drama slowly grew on me.

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Power Play: Brian Williams, Leonard Cohen, and “First We Take Manhattan”

In "First We Take Manhattan", Leonard Cohen recognized the shared appeal of extremism in politics and art as the allure of power.

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Paul Weller: A Kind Revolution

In a career that spans 40 years, Paul Weller is still making vibrant, essential music and his latest album is among his most impassioned and focused.

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The Mastersons: Transient Lullaby

Each of the 11 cuts on this album share an emotional core about the search for a heart of gold ... oops, I mean peace of mind.

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The Shammasian Brothers, Directors of ‘The Pyramid Texts’, Ponder Authorship in Film

Converting a monologue to film, even from a text so "perfect" as Geoff Thompson's The Pyramid Texts, raises interesting questions about authorship.

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Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth

The 15 tracks here take the listener on an aural journey to the gritty past where the connections between being brave and realistic, courageous and coarse, liquored up and stone sober, are all part of the continuum of daily life.

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Sera Cahoone: From Where I Started

Sera Cahoone channels home and self on her personal and emotional fourth solo album.

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The (Space) Ship Has Definitely Sailed on ‘Alien: Covenant’

Ridley Scott’s attempts to demystify his iconic Xenomorphs only dilute the primal terror that made them compelling in the first place

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Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life

All the Beauty in This Whole Life is infused with the constant drive to push forward, to do better, to love harder.

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Nightlands: I Can Feel the Night Around Me

Lush harmonies combine with retro-style synths on the gorgeous third album from Dave Hartley's Nightlands.

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T Bone Burnett: Don’t Let the Form Distract You From the Content

Lloyd Sachs explores the life, times, and endless journeys of singer-songwriter-musician T Bone Burnett.

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‘The Cross’: A History of One of the World’s Most Iconic Symbols

The Cross manages to re-tell an old story comfortably and enjoyably, without getting dragged down into pedantry or the dry distractions of academic writing.

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Passing Masters of Jazz: Arthur Blythe and Larry Coryell

Jazz long ago lost its early geniuses of swing and bebop. Now masters from the '70s and onward are starting to pass, too. Remembering Arthur Blythe and Larry Coryell.

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The X-men’s Jean Grey Finally Gets a Chance to Forge Her Own Path

Despite all her overwhelming burdens, Jean Grey is all too human when it comes to matters of life, death, rebirth, and evil clones.

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‘Tomcat’ Paints an Intimate Portrait of How We Ride the Wave of Our Emotions

This is film beyond entertainment -- it's the observational curiosity of art to reflect back an intimate view of ourselves that bridges the literal and non-literal.

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‘Supernatural’: “Twigs and Twine and Tasha Banes” Recalls the Past, Suggests the Future

A dark and dreary chapter that ends up being one of the season's most memorable stand-alone episodes.

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Hard Fun in Gaming: On Finding the Sweet Spot in Anxiety

As gamers, we frequently contrive artificial difficulty to foster enjoyment.

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11 May 2017 // 8:26 AM

Mokoomba: Luyando

Mokoomba takes an acoustic turn on Luyando, a release that sees them leave pop behind for solid Zimbabwean traditions.

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Penguin Cafe: The Imperfect Sea

The Imperfect Sea is the third release of Penguin Café, and it sees the band crawling from out of the shadow of its namesake, Penguin Café Orchestra.

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More Recent Features

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Slowdive Sell Out Brooklyn and Release Bonus Song "30th June"

// Notes from the Road

"Although sound issues delayed their set on the second night, Slowdive put on an unforgettable show in Brooklyn, or rather two shows.

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