Opium Traces

Friday, October 25 2013

The Trouble with Fandom and ‘The Elizabethans’

A.N Wilson's The Elizabethans is a very readable history, despite the author's inability to get out of his own way.


Tuesday, July 29 2014

‘Frontline: Losing Iraq’ Shows a History of Mistakes

By the time Frontline: Losing Iraq arrives at the present moment of ISIS, the long history of US missteps in Iraq seems nearly overwhelming.


Immigrants and Aliens: “Superman #33”

Superman is not an alien. He is an immigrant. There is a difference.


Manufacturing Victory: ‘The Arsenal of Democracy’

The story of how Ford Motor Company's assembly-line techniques helped America win WWII, and the behind-the-scenes battles waged in order to get it done.


Philadelphia Cartoonist Box Brown Explores the Man Who Lived the Myth of Andre the Giant

In telling his story in such an accessible and sympathetic way, Box Brown helps even non-wrestling fans understand what made Andre "the Giant" Roussimoff so unforgettable.


Living and Dying for Silent Film

Home video companies such as Kino Lorber, the Criterion Collection, and Flicker Alley have been instrumental in meeting the changing methods of distributing silent film.


An Honest Liar: An Interview with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins

PopMatters catches up with Sean Watkins during one of his busiest years as a musician yet, which finds him touring with Nickel Creek, recording with Tom Brosseau, and releasing his new solo record, All I Do Is Lie.


In ‘The Big Chill’, Cynicism is the Illusion

Never heavy-handed in its response to Reagan's "Morning in America", The Big Chill shows loss, defeat and grief while still being funny.


Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty

The innovative hip-hop duo from Seattle is back with another genre bending album.


The Muffs: Whoop Dee Doo

Fresh off a short, aborted stint with the Pixies, Kim Shattuck reforms the Muffs and puts out a very solid album.


Ian McLagan: United States

McLagan has a pleasantly conversational voice. He’s a tasteful keyboard player. While he may not rock out, there’s a nice sashaying quality to the music.


Jennifer Lopez: A.K.A.

Jennifer Lopez has lost her steam since Rebirth. On her eighth album, she's never sounded so boring or flimsy.


PRISM Quartet: People’s Emergency Center

Long known for performing commissioned works, PRISM Quartet release a double album of original material. It is staggeringly wonderful.


Banner Pilot: Souvenir

There's nothing groundbreaking from Minnesota punk rockers Banner Pilot on their fourth album, but it's a solid release from a solid bunch of dudes.


Monday, July 28 2014

‘Love Child’ Crosses the Line Between Real Life and Virtual Life

The parents of the dead child declared that online gaming impaired their judgment, their comprehension, their fundamental life skills.


The Wolf Among Us: Episodes 4 & 5

Noir isn't about deduction or reasoning. It's about shaking the trees and seeing what falls out. That's what these episodes are about.


Worthy of Worship: ‘Storm #1’

Ororo Munroe is considered a goddess by many, but it's how she earns that title that makes her divine.


Cinema Sabbath: On ‘Heavy Metal Movies’

If metal is music’s loudest voice against oppression, then surely Mike "McBeardo" McPadden's is the loudest for obsession.


Storm in a Teacup: An Interview with Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski

Canadian artist Jay Malinowski takes to the high seas for his lushly sprawling sophomore effort Martel.


‘Shutter’, ‘Saga’ and ‘The Private Eye’ Showcase the Best of What Comics Can Do

The best creators will find ways to make the best use of whatever medium they are working in.


The 18 Ways of Beginning and Ending an Album

Whether by chance or by careful planning, there is an observable pattern to intros and outros in albums. PopMatters breaks down 18 of them.


‘Maidentrip’ Is a Journey Across the Sea and Into Adulthood

Laura Dekker was born to be a sailor, a fact she proves in her successful solo sail around the world in Maidentrip.


Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers provide a blistering reminder of rock 'n' roll's subversive nature with Hypnotic Eye.


Are Karl Marx and Adam Smith as Inviolable as Atoms or DNA?

Utopia or Bust is only a book about utopia if you believe Marxism, in its purest and most evolved form, is a utopian answer to the ills of capitalism.


Braid: No Coast

Late-'90s emo heroes Braid return with their first record in almost two decades.


Ed Sheeran: x

Ed Sheeran certainly doesn't exceed expectations, but he delivers something that resembles a solid mish mash of genres and often cliche lyrics about romance and breakups.


50 Cent: Animal Ambition

50 Cent's latest album is more of the same old 50.


John Escreet: Sounds, Space and Structures

On his sixth recording, this young UK pianist based in New York brings his trio into a fully improvised encounter with British avant-garde saxophone legend Evan Parker.


Otto A Totland: Pinô

Fans of Nils Frahm must be introduced to Otto A Totland, whose delicate piano melodies will forever feel like home.


Sunday, July 27 2014

The Elemental Appeal of ‘The Choking Game’

A paean to the virtue of arrested development lurks at the core, here, which may be predictable. After all, we’re talking about a Lifetime original movie.


Friday, July 25 2014

Scarlett Johansson Gets Goopy in ‘Lucy’

This might be as close to a point as Lucy can get, the essential illogic of movies, of illusion, of delusion.


The Glory of ‘Hercules’ and the Glory of Dwayne Johnson

Sweating and bleeding, swinging maces and destroying architecture, Hercules imposes his will by way of his body, the legend becoming a truth in spite of itself.


Woody Allen’s ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ Considers the Value of Illusion

Stanley rejects the very notion of an afterlife, bitterly noting, like so many Woody Allen characters before him, that our current existence is all we get.


Chalice California (featuring STS9 + Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang

Chalice provided the grooviest kicks seen along old Route 66 in some time.


The Music Playground Presents: The Two Man Gentlemen Band Live on PopMatters

Two Men. Eight Strings. Those are the base ingredients in a party when we’re discussing Andy Bean and Fuller Condon, aka The Two Man Gentlemen Band.


On Those Who Must Work as Whores, and Those Who Can Afford to Just Play at It

The debate about sex work is usually about the spectacle that accompanies “sex”, rather than about the sex workers and the work of sex. That needs to change.


Just Hate Nostalgia: Revisiting the Misanthropic Genius of Luke Haines

The Auteurs transcend the music of their time and place and subvert the notion of Britpop, Britishness, and the whole darkness of humanity.


Bob Marley and the Wailers: Legend (30th Anniversary Edition)

Legend presents Bob Marley at his most unthreatening, and most anodyne. And that was intentional.


Dave Douglas and Uri Caine: Present Joys

Frequent collaborators (trumpet and piano) make their first duet album, interpreting the “shape-note singing” tradition. Simple, different, delightful.


Kitten: Kitten

Kitten may be a young band, but it has an old style. That it partially misses the mark is just an example of music being way too regressive for its own good.


Nerina Pallot: Grand Union / When I Grow Up

Nerina Pallot’s fifth and sixth EPs of 2014 are both challenging and ambitious with big ideas, from pop to disco to funk to electro.


Pigeon John: Encino Man

As a title, Encino Man works both as a shout-out to John's beloved L.A. and a wink toward vintage coolness -- the album is a virtual love letter to '70s and '80s pop radio.


Stanton Moore: Conversations

With Conversations, drummer Stanton Moore moves away from the groove-infused work of his previous albums and work with Galactic and into straight ahead jazz territory.


Thursday, July 24 2014

The Pursuit of ComicCon: Comics, Fans and the Ideology of Choice

OK, I’m going to sound a little G.O.P., but ComicCon is a public good and must be defended. And you’d never guess from what…


The Who’s Pomp and Bombast, Egos and Flaws

The Who FAQ brings some entertaining insight into who the hell those guys are.


‘The Newburgh Sting’ Has Us Wondering, Is the FBI Thwarting or Conjuring Terrorism?

The plot these would-be terrorists conjure is as preposterous as any you'd find in a bad action movie.


Sun-Drenched ‘90s Nostalgia at Forecastle Day Three

Forecastle rounded out its 2014 installment with aplomb, proving that it is only going to get bigger and better from here on out.


Ripe with Rich Attainments: Jethro Tull’s ‘A Passion Play’, Reassessed

A Passion Play tends to draw the most resistance from even prog-rock aficionados; it obliges time and attention to let it work its charms.


“I Never Believed in Background Music”: Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes

Rich Robinson was half of the Black Crowes, but as a solo artist, he's finally flown into his most distinct, powerful effort to date.


Tatiana Maslany Continues to Astound in ‘Orphan Black: Season Two’

The second season of BBC America’s Orphan Black continues its breakneck pace of twists and turns, all the while showcasing the best performance on television.


“Weird Al” Yankovic: Mandatory Fun

Yankovic's release-week overexposure lead him to having his first #1 album, but the parodies prove to be way better than the originals this go-round. #Accordions


Got a Girl: I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now

These are faithfully recreated jet-setting sounds from the golden age of air travel, and the highs hit quite high.


Unkle Bob: Embers

Reformed British band Unkle Bob reform and return with characteristic charm on third album Embers.


Devon Williams: Gilding the Lily

LA-based tunesmith Devon Williams decides to join his peers and craft a musical exploration of that trendiest of decades, the 1980s.


Aisles: 4.45 AM

The real variance between a band of sophisticated copycats and this bunch is indeed intelligence.


Shawn Lee: Golden Age Against the Machine

The man who never met a genre he couldn't master tackle old-school hip-hop, delivering a solid effort that is more hits than misses.


Wednesday, July 23 2014

New Orleans Artists Headline the DC Jazz Festival

Festival organizers won the day by pulling in some top talent from the nation’s jazz capital (New Orleans, of course) to mark the occasion.


The Victor Belongs to the Spoils: 75 Summers of the Batman

Just a single thought about what Batman has come to mean over the last 75 years.


Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Landline’ Is Part Magic, Part Soap Opera, and All PopCorn

This novel plays hopscotch with different genres, and that’s part of its appeal.


The Music That Sprouts Between Empires: Ukrainian Culture Amidst Conflict

Ukraine was once considered the musical heartland of the Russian Empire, its culture thriving between the cracks of various powerful and competing empires.


A Tragedy Wanting to Happen: Death and Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey is both sculpted by pain and feels creatively defined by it. Her recent feud with the Guardian, however, reveals that she is not entirely lost.


Disney and Spike Lee Unite in ‘The Spike Lee Joint Collection’

Even with some dips in quality, these four movies represent part of a remarkable run; you can feel all of them strive for masterpiece status.


PS I Love You: For Those Who Stay

Some might be enamoured by the nods to classic rock, and some might not, but what you get in the end is an album of little significance.


David Gray: Mutineers

Deliverance. This being the singer's 10th album, David Gray presents himself as a complete man with these 11 songs.


Uri Caine: Callithump

Solo piano from the idiosyncratic and omnivorous jazz pianist.


Cardinal: Cardinal (reissue)

Reissue of the overlooked indie classic by pop oddballs Eric Matthews and Richard Davies.


K. Leimer: A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)

The songs on A Period of Review were essential to Leimer developing his own style. Whether or not they're essential to your music library is another matter.


Tuesday, July 22 2014

‘30 for 30: Slaying the Badger’: Shenanigans at the 1986 Tour de France

Slaying the Badger constructs an exciting, sometimes troubling story of competition and deceit, focused on the 1986 Tour de France.


Savage Fun: “Savage Hulk #2”

This isn't a perfect Hulk story. It doesn't break new ground or raise important issues. But, frankly, who cares? It's fun.


Smells and Bells, Halls and Hells: ‘The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London’

The mud, rain, smoke, fog, and excrement that abounded meant whatever one's rank, the weather and the smells took their toll on one's health, one's clothing, and one's nerves.


Jack White Rocks the Audience at Forecastle Day Two

Day two of Forecastle concluded with the audience being rocked to muscle weakness.


The Caging of an American Revolutionary

American Revolutionary wants to offer the appearance of revolution while anesthetizing any deeper understanding of the forces involved.


Merge’s Silver Age: 25 Essential Albums Over 25 Years

To mark Merge Records' silver anniversary, PopMatters picked 25 memorable albums that help tell the label's remarkable history.


‘Scanners’ Still Has the Power to Blow Your Mind

Three decades later, Scanners is still a head-popping good time.


White Fence: For the Recently Found Innocent

For the Recently Found Innocent, Tim Presley's first studio-made record as White Fence ups the ante over his previous work.


Marvin Gaye and Mos Def: Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two)

Yasiin Gaye swings back around for round two of the long-playing soul/hip-hop mashups. Nice.


Unicycle Loves You: The Dead Age

This is a pretty dull record that doesn’t excite the listener – you’ve heard this all done before on Psychocandy or Darklands or elsewhere.


The Hollies: Greatest + Singles 1 and 2

The Hollies were one of the most successful acts of the '60s, but are almost always relegated as a footnote.


Mac Miller: Faces

Mac Miller continues on his path following money, fame, drugs and alcohol, while writing some clever, craftily worded lyrics along the way.


Monday, July 21 2014

The Editor as Auteur in ‘A Fever in the Blood’ and ‘Wall of Noise’

Despite their flaws, A Fever in the Blood and Wall of Noise reveal the crucial role of the film editor.


Music Brings New Life to the Elderly in ‘Alive Inside’

The film's best argument for the positive effects of music is made in images of individuals' vivid, apparently immediate responses.


Aeon Command

By keeping it simple, Bat Country has developed a simple, engaging, and surprisingly relaxing two-player competition to pass the time on a lunch break.


Uncharted and Off-Track: “X-men #16”

Having a clear destination isn't the same as being on the right path towards it.


OutKast Fires Up the Audience at Day One of Forecastle Festival

From the minimalist indie rock of Spoon to the extravagant performance by OutKast, day one of Forecastle did not disappoint.


The Upsetters: An Interview with Metronomy

They're the electronic group that looked for a challenge, tried tape analogue tape recording, and made their most acclaimed disc yet.


‘Rebel Music’ and Islam’s Influence on Jazz, Hip-hop and More

Exhaustive and thorough, Hisham D. Aidi's study on the Islamic influences in contemporary music is alternately informative and alienating.


The Myth of the Global Brown Messiah in Kollywood Cinema

Recent films from the action-masala genre project India as a global sheriff, replacing a toothless West as an expression of muscular nationalism.


Telluride 2014: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Mandolins

In 2014, Telluride is the perfect encapsulation of where it has been and where it is going to be in the future.


La Roux: Trouble in Paradise

The collaborators are different, but the voice is just as strong, and has only gotten better with time.


Neil Hamburger: First of Dismay

America’s hardest working funnyman returns with his 10th full-length album, First of Dismay. Repulsive, repellent, live out your fears.


Carly-Jo: Carly-Jo

Carly-Jo is a magnificent addition to New Country sounds, and represents the very best of what country-pop, country-rock or whatever you want to call it has to offer.


Xymox: Subsequent Pleasures

(Clan of) Xymox launched their career with the long out-of-print EP Subsequent Pleasures. Dark Entries reintroduces this odd yet compelling recording to those who missed out on it the first time.


Lee Scratch Perry: Back on the Controls

With the best of intentions, British producer Daniel Boyle reunites Scratch with his vintage '70s dub equipment.


Friday, July 18 2014

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel Act Out for ‘Sex Tape’

Sex Tape demonstrates that it's very hard to do a funny movie about the difficulty of maintaining a successful marriage.


‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Takes Aim at the One Percent

The absurd extremes of this story have an expansive quality that leaves acres of room to explore its moral, political, and socioeconomic possibilities. But it doesn't.


Murdered: Soul Suspect

Salem is the perfect setting for the game's slightly unreal premise as even the name of the town evokes such slightly otherworldly possibilities.


A More Authentic Transmedia: The Ethics of Transmedia Fatigue

Sometimes, as Stuart Moore writes in Wolverine: Under the Boardwalk, you just gotta disappear.


The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style

Soul Train boldly went where no show had gone before, showcasing young African Americans and the fashions and music that defined their lives: R&B, funk, jazz, disco, and gospel.


Play It Right: An Interview with Sylvan Esso

They were backup singers for Feist. A remix project happened between them. Now, Sylvan Esso's debut album is a thing to behold.


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