Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Opium Traces

Tuesday, April 28 2015

Seasick Steve: Sonic Soul Surfer

Seasick Steve shows excellence while away from his comfort zone, but re-re-fried blues is a dead end.


The Soft Moon: Deeper

If the Soft Moon's techno-mope isn't exactly authentic, it's certainly genuine and most definitely consistent on Deeper.


Martin Sexton: Mixtape of the Open Road

Mixtape of the Open Road is as cohesive and dynamic as the road itself.


Monday, April 27 2015

A Response to Avengers: Age of Ultron, in Triptych

Even after Daredevil, especially after Daredevil, Avengers: Age of Ultron might be the finest realization of the Marvel Universe on screen.


James Wood on Why Fiction and Criticism Matter

James Wood is exactly the sort of champion of belles lettres we need, and this collection is proof of it.


‘The Boy Next Door’ Is Wrong, but It Feels So Good

Like a musical, The Boy Next Door often asks us to suspend our disbelief and take a ridiculous ride to an absurd place -- in this case, a place where first editions of The Iliad actually exist.


The Ethics of Death-Defying Media

Furious 7's path to the screen is emblematic of the ways in which film and other media defy (and define) death as images develop lives of their own.


The Potentially Great ‘Mommy’ Is Only Occasionally Good

Mommy has its memorable moments, but it's ultimately not worth the effort to watch obnoxious characters shout at each other for over two hours.


Kevin Barnes’ Monolithic Egress: An Interview with of Montreal

Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes explains why it's OK to make music that's ugly, why he loves Os Mutantes, and why he can't recreate his most hated song ever.


Blur: The Magic Whip

The Magic Whip is a goofy record, featuring a kind of scattershot energy that is usually only mustered by young bands just discovering their love of music for the first time.


Ava Luna: Infinite House

Ava Luna's latest is as multilayered and pleasantly bewildering as the "infinite house" where it was recorded.


‘The Light of the World’ Explores How to Cope When a Light Goes Out

In April 2012, Ficremariam Ghebreyseus collapsed on the treadmill in the house he shared with wife Elizabeth Alexander. Yet her memoir stubbornly adheres to joy.


The Late Call: Golden

Golden may be the one record to bring Johannes Mayer (The Late Call) to wider awareness.


Portico: Living Fields

The shift from Portico Quartet to Portico wasn't an evolution; it was a dismantling, a removal of so much of the soul that once made them vital.


Future Brown: Future Brown

Electronic supergroup Future Brown serve up a quietly evolutionary debut that blends multi-cultural styles without sacrificing mass appeal.


Man Without Country: Maximum Entropy

If you don't like music, then you'll adore Maximum Entropy.


Friday, April 24 2015

Harrison Ford Reminds You Why You Like Movies in ‘The Age of Adaline’

Harrison Ford's performance in this film about a woman who doesn't age foregrounds the consideration of time and desire, how each shapes the other, and how both affect imaginative horizons.


By Confusing Religion With Reality, ‘Little Boy’ Fails Its Faith-Based Foundation

Because it is unsure whether it wants to push the Bible or a little boy's wavering faith, Little Boy ends up giving us neither.


Russell Crowe’s War Drama ‘The Water Diviner’ Is Awards Season Sap

Instead of a potent post-war drama, first time director Russell Crowe gives us a jumbled, often incoherent attempt at an epic.


Status Flow: The Kingly Rhymes of Marracash

A household name in his native country, Italy has in Marracash one of its biggest contenders of hip-hop.


Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age

As a multifaceted cultural object, vinyl has remained a persistent force within our technologically accelerated culture -- although not without bumps in the road.


‘Cries and Whispers’ Is a Life-Affirming Film About Death

To call Ingmar Bergman's red-drenched masterpiece Cries and Whispers essential to any collection would be a serious understatement.


Scharpling & Wurster: The Best of the Best Show

Numero Group’s 16-disc box set of phone calls featuring Scharpling & Wurster is both the sort of product that might have been lampooned on The Best Show on WFMU as well as a great monument to their first, weird era together.


Squarepusher: Damogen Furies

Even when Damogen Furies starts to become overfamiliar in its spastic rhythmic explorations, Squarepusher finds a way to upset the listener's expectations.


Great Lake Swimmers: A Forest of Arms

A solid album with a number of beguiling songs and a lot of spirit, A Forest of Arms is the sound of a band well into their musical journey, with many more miles still to go.


Pokey LaFarge: Something in the Water

The music sounds old, as if it was meant to be played on a 78 rpm turntable, but without the scratchiness.


Steve Howe: Anthology

Anthology serves its purpose -- that is, to compile Howe’s solo stock and spotlight him outside the confines of his day job.


Thursday, April 23 2015

‘Helicopter Mom’ Depicts an Overbearing Mom With Overbearing Stereotypes

Any potentially forward-thinking ideas Helicopter Mom has are drowned out in the labels the film puts on itself.


Tribeca Film Festival: Harold Lloyd’s ‘Speedy’ With Live Soundtrack by Z-Trip

Criterion's new restoration of Harold Lloyd's Speedy was screened with a live score accompaniment from turntablist Z-Trip at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.


‘The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy’ Is Something of a Duck-Rabbit Itself

The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy does more than introduce major themes and arguments in philosophy. It raises interesting questions about the visual nature of philosophy itself.


‘Cult of the Damned’ Leaps Directly Into the “Camp” Camp

This cult obscurity remains bright and bewildering, chock full of silly dialogue and dangerous, ungrateful youths.


‘H Is for Hawk’ and for Healing

This book about grief and hawks and T.H. White is so beautifully written that even readers unable to tell robins from parakeets will be entranced.


Diss-Illusioned! Magic and the Supernatural

A new breed of magicians are self-consciously aware that their toolbox of trickery enables them to wield the potential power to affect beliefs—and thus behavior.


Still Built to Spill: An Interview with Doug Martsch

Doug Martsch and Built to Spill march on. Despite a core lineup shift, they never plan to slow down.


John Moreland: High on Tulsa Heat

John Moreland proves there's nothing sanctimonious about singing the truth on High on Tulsa Heat.


The Charlatans: Modern Nature

A survivor band if ever there was one, the Charlatans have drawn on personal tragedy to produce one of the stand-out albums of their long career.


Rocky Votolato: Hospital Handshakes

Hospital Handshakes is a milestone in Rocky Votolato’s career and one that would do well to serve as a springboard for all his efforts going forward.


Sandra Newman’s ‘The Country of Ice Cream Star’ Is a Heavy Read

There’s talk of war, rape, disease -- all things we associate with the worst of adulthood. But Newman never lets us forget that these are children.


iLoveMakonnen: Drink More Water 5

There's something about iLoveMakonnen's tone and inflection that turns his wobbly singing and hazy, uncomplicated rapping into reliable ways to deliver hooks. He might not have perfect pitch, but his pop instincts are awfully close.


James Bay: Chaos and the Calm

On Chaos and the Calm,, singer/songwriter James Bay delivers a sound debut album that's never earth-shattering.


The Westies: West Side Stories

Michael McDermott's newest project is off to a promising start. If only it was a little more difficult.


Wednesday, April 22 2015

Cross Culture Convergence in ‘Ms. Marvel #14’

It's easy to root for Kamala Khan, but that also means it's easy to feel the impact when her emotions get the better of her.


Michel Onfray’s Philosopher’s Guide to Good Food

From Nietzsche's 'Sausages of the Anti-Christ' to Kant's 'Ethical Alcoholism', the French celebrity philosopher serves up a sumptuous smorgasbord of philosophical plates.


Summer Camp Slashers and Greek Myths in ‘The Roommates’ and ‘A Woman for All Men’

A former Perry Mason director takes on the exploitation format in this pristine Blu-ray reissue and double feature.


Beyond Record Store Day: Digging Up Some Choice Used Americana Vinyl

There are plenty of good reasons to visit an actual record store besides that one hyped day in April.


‘The Wild Angels’ Lays Out the Rules of the Biker Film

Roger Corman's 1966 film is the storytelling legacy that works of cinema and television such as Sons of Anarchy draw from.


Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis Talks Self-Acceptance, Feminism, and Inclusivity in Rock Music

Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz talks with PopMatters about a growing progressive movement in rock music, her new record, and more.


Alabama Shakes: Sound and Color

What makes the Alabama Shakes sound new is that they’re evidently devoted to their musical forebears -- everyone from Etta James and Aretha to Bowie and Zeppelin -- yet also coquettishly unfaithful to each one of them.


Wire: WIRE

Eponymous albums aren't for amateurs, and Wire's 13th chunk of full-length steel proves it.


‘Soul!’, the Groundbreaking Public TV Show From the Black Power Era Is Rescued From the Archives

Musical acts ranged from Rahsaan Roland Kirk to Ashford & Simpson. Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin interrogated each other in a two-episode arc. Try finding a mix like that in the current PBS lineup.


Merzbow, Gustafsson, Pándi, Moore: Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper

A stunningly ferocious noise album from four masters of their craft.


Ron Sexsmith: Carousel One

Blandness sometimes encroaches, but Sexsmith’s 14th record proves, at its strongest, to be a typically warm, reassuring, and likeable piece of work.


Peggy Lee: At Last: The Lost Radio Recordings

Forty four tracks from Lee’s radio show that she never recorded later and have, for the most part, not been heard since they originally aired.


Tuesday, April 21 2015

Big Time Fun in ‘Chrononauts #2’

Chrononauts is a thrill ride that embraces the time travel genre while turning it on its head. It is big time fun.


John Andrews & The Yawns: Bit by the Fang

Bit by the Fang is a decidedly lo-fi, low-key album of psychedelic alt-country folk pop -- Big Lebowski fans, take note.


‘Preaching on Wax’ Is an Introduction to a Neglected Subset of Early Black Pop and Its Biggest Star

Rev. J.M. Gates was a hit from his 1926 debut, worlds apart from his stodgy predecessors. His best work can still really get the goosebumps going.


‘The Breakfast Club’ Gets Overpowered by Its Archetypes

The Breakfast Club is a solid effort, but one that spends too much times clubbing its viewers over the head with its message of, "We're more than just labels."


Dreamfall Chapters, Book Two: Rebels

Dreamfall Chapters is about power and its abuse.


Faith No More Come Back ‘From the Dead’ and Slay Vancouver - 15 April 2015

After a lengthy hiatus, Faith No More return to the stage, and never once do they appear like they're going through the motions.


Going Forward and Looking Back with Taking Back Sunday

The original lineup is still back, and Taking Back Sunday happily tell us about their Long Island origins and the real subject of "There's No 'I' in Team".


Great Movies With Terrible Sequels: Laughable Sequels in Action

Not even the combined might of Superman, Batman, Predator and James Bond can save their respective series from sinking like an ocean liner into the Bay of Pigs!


Burning Bridges With Wire

Colin Newman is a rock legend. Wire have been churning out great self-released LPs for years, and their new one is no exception.


A Vampire Falls in Love in Iran in ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the most exciting debut feature film of the decade thus far, showing a prodigious talent in director Ana Lily Amirpour.


Built to Spill: Untethered Moon

Built to Spill's guitar-driven sound is the indie-rock equivalent of comfort food, indulgent and satisfying in how familiar it is.


Crossing the Troll Bridge With ‘Marvel Comics in the 1980s’

It’s almost as if Pierre Comtois is trolling the reader, treating the printed page as a message board on which to make fans go crazy.


Turbo Fruits: No Control

No Control turns the trouble of being a very fast fruit into a full-on, true rock and roll experience.


Marie Davidson: Un Autre Voyage

Canadian Coldwave Queen's third heralds the rise of the machines. Quick hide!


Kristian Bush: Southern Gravity

This isn’t disconnected from the current country-radio charts entirely; some of what he’s doing is taking familiar tropes and making them sound “fun” and easily digestible.


The Gibson Brothers: Brotherhood

Eric and Leigh Gibson continue to innovate with a collection of bluegrass covers dedicated to fellow bands of brothers.


Bandit: Of Life

For an album that's sparse on ideas and interest it certainly SOUNDS big.


Monday, April 20 2015

‘Ninjak #1’ is Too Fresh to Fade

Valiant's new Ninjak reboot is remarkably fresh and a lot of fun.


You Can Tell Where ‘True Story’ Is Going Five Minutes In

No matter how much the ruthless male leads of this film (Jonah Hill and James Franco) try to control the narrative, it's all too obvious where their lie-fueled story is going.


Now, Voyager: Barry Hill’s ‘Peacemongers’

'Peacemongers', by the Australian poet and journalist Barry Hill, is an epic travelogue and probing meditation on the importance and elusiveness of peace.


Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

Unfortunately, the chief interest of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is not the game itself, but the demo for Final Fantasy XV that it comes bundled with.


Former Katrina and the Waves Singer Finds Her Bliss on New Record

Katrina Leskanich talks about her first solo album in ten years and the 30th anniversary of Katrina and the Waves' mega-hit “Walking on Sunshine”.


America Hears a Hoosier at the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference

A college conference is helping train students to battle the idiocy of laws like Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


The World Is Ready for ‘Star Wars Episode VII’

All signs point to the upcoming seventh installment of Star Wars remediating the follies of the prequel trilogy and returning the series to its original glory.


‘Late Phases’ Is a Tame and Toothless Experience

This tale of werewolves run amok in a retirement community could do with more guts -- in every sense.


Speedy Ortiz: Foil Deer

They may party like it's 1995, but 2015 might just be the year of Speedy Ortiz.


Daktyl: Cyclical

English DJ Daktyl's first album of originals suffers from a lack of conviction, but shines in short bursts.


‘The Lost Boys Symphony’ Has a Fascinating Concept and Strong Plotting and Pacing

This realistic novel about a collegiate love triangle develops into a fascinating genre-bender about time travel and mental illness.


Bombadil: Hold On

Hold On is full of perky, precocious and thoroughly engaging intent, an album with a more experimental nature that doesn’t diminish ample accessibility. Consider it a must-hear, even if for its sheer ingenuity alone.


Sarah Gayle Meech: Tennessee Love Song

Nashville's Sarah Gayle Meech will just as soon kick your ass as she will break your heart on Tennessee Love Song.


Anonymous 4 with Bruce Molsky: 1865

A vibrant and lively collection that will please a wide variety of listeners who open their ears to its many layers and surprising connections.


Friday, April 17 2015

‘Unfriended’, Social Media, and the Horror of Sharing Too Much

Unfriended raises a few good questions concerning how social media works, how it is used, and also how it shapes experience.


‘Child 44’ Is a Suspenseless Soviet-Era Misstep

By adding too many subplots and political asides to the true story of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, Child 44 becomes a deadly bore.


Every Generation Gets the ‘Daredevil’ It Deserves

Marvel's Daredevil is a reminder that our pop culture, even that which is rooted in the pulp tradition, can be vivid, vital, and powerful.


Disneynature Lets the Clichés Overpower the Footage in ‘Monkey Kingdom’

As Monkey Kingdom turns into another cookie-cutter family film in which the underdog overcomes all odds, it's easy to lose track of the incredible documentary footage.


Still Life: The Portrait of Time in ‘Boyhood’

Boyhood sets itself the daunting task of reflecting the breadth of a human adolescence, but it instead reveals that it is in life's minutia that we find the most meaning.


Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis

Who was the greatest of all American guitarists? The relatively unknown blind son of sharecroppers, whom Bob Dylan called “one of the wizards of modern music.”


“Why Don’t You Try Writing Your Own Songs?”: ‘The Bends’ and Its Cover Songs

Three unique takes on tracks from The Bends, spanning the stripped-down acoustic to the full-fledged orchestral, represent how these songs still have the power to stun two decades later.


John Carpenter’s ‘Escape From New York’ Is an A-Grade B-Movie

Playing a one-eyed special forces soldier, Kurt Russell has to save an inexplicably British president of America from a dystopian New York in this early '80s classic from director John Carpenter.


Tyler, The Creator: Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb is the first time in a long time that we’ve gotten to see Tyler grow up at all, but is it too much to ask for this 24-year-old man to mature a little faster?


The Staves: If I Was

The tightly woven harmonies of these three sisters evoke the old souls and sounds of British folk while offering an updated feminine perspective.


Therapy?: Disquiet

Therapy? never seemed to be programmed for longevity, but Disquiet shows us they aren't close to running out of gas.


Umphrey’s McGee: The London Session - A Day At Abbey Road Studios

Umphrey’s McGee’s ninth album finds the band taking a sojourn of sorts with a session at London’s landmark Abbey Road studios.


Emile Haynie: We Fall

Underground-turned-super producer Emile Haynie (KiD CuDi, Lana Del Ray, Eminem) stunt-casts his debut like crazy (Randy Newman?!) and against the odds crafts a very firm pop record out of the attention deficit.


Thursday, April 16 2015

‘Tangerines’ Is a Quiet War Film

As this Estonian-Georgian film shows, in harsh wartime conditions, something as unassuming as bringing in a tangerine crop safely becomes a significant metaphorical act.


The Steady Increase of Awfulness in ‘Borb’

With homages to Little Orphan Annie and Gasoline Alley, there's a lot serious ground to cover in Borb, and a lot of serious laughs.


Why Are Critics Falling All Over Deepti Kapoor’s ‘A Bad Character’?

Too many reviews of this book universalise Idha’s experience and praise it for providing a window into the Indian woman’s experience. Which women would that be?


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2015 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.