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

Opium Traces

Thursday, April 16 2015

‘That Man From Rio’ and ‘Up to His Ears’ Find Jean-Paul Belmondo Shirtless and Athletic

These eye-popping '60s French capers feature the legendary Jean-Paul Belmondo hopping the globe in a series of illogical but zanily fun adventure pieces.


Lapalux: Lustmore

Lustmore is a widescreen vision narrowed by delicate sonic focus that, unlike so much beat music, commands attention.


James Blackshaw: Summoning Suns

Summoning Suns is a perfect entry point into James Blackshaw's eclectic musical journey.


‘Times Beach’ Gives Us Theater, Free-form Jazz, Art Cinema, and Southern Gothic Literature

Times Beach is less a collection of poetry as it is an anthology of performance art presented under the guise of poetry.


The Damnwells: The Damnwells

The fifth album by this Brooklyn-based quartet provides a tribute to their dogged persistence.


Bettye LaVette: Child of the Seventies

This re-release provides evidence that Bettye LaVette should have been famous decades earlier.


George Morris: We Will Go to Hell for This

Detroit troubadour merges the shimmering decadent of '70s glam rock, the subtleties of indie rock, and the danceable innovation of synth pop on sophomore solo LP.


Wednesday, April 15 2015

The Romance of Obsession in ‘Schubert’s Winter Journey’

Tenor Ian Bostridge has sung Winterreise hundreds of times and here gives it the equivalent of 33 1/3 entry -- only denser in substance, more elaborately written, and with some fascinating tangentials.


Actress Alicia Witt Finds Her Voice in Music

The TV and film star unveils her full-length studio debut album, produced by Ben Folds.


On Epigraphs and Other Incestuous Things

Like a cover letter, the epigraph must take me to the textual meat without giving me reason to discard the sandwich altogether.


Talking “Method” Recording and Youthful Delusions with the Manic Street Preachers

For the first time in the band's history, Manic Street Preachers will bring the politically charged post-punk of their 1994 LP The Holy Bible in its entirety to American audiences.


The Science Overshadows the Story in ‘Interstellar’

Interstellar is a movie full of Big Ideas that end up overshadowing the human element, particularly during the poorly plotted first act.


Villagers: Darling Arithmetic

The addition of a full musical ensemble has done little to alter Villagers’ sound, what with the lush, ethereal arrangements, the lonely reminiscing and reflection, and the hushed gaze that pervades these pieces overall.


Beth Hart: Better Than Home

On Better than Home Beth Hart delivers a veritable tour-de-force that highlights her remarkable prowess as both a singer and songwriter.


Coming Full Circle as the Children of Immigrants

The Blind Writer is less about South Asians and the Indian-American experience as it is about Indian-American men and their (in)abilities to navigate life.


Boz Scaggs: A Fool to Care

A delightful journey of songs through musical decades and styles, all delivered in Scaggs' soulful tenor.


JEFF the Brotherhood: Wasted on the Dream

If you wanted a cover album of Black Sabbath, Nirvana and Weezer's greatest hits but the originals were too strong for you, no worries! JEFF the Brotherhood's prolonged adolescent fixation with their predecessors continues!


Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith: Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Judas Priest's three-disc re-issue of their classic 1984 chart-topper shows that the years have been kind to both the album and the band.


Tuesday, April 14 2015

Sufjan Stevens Shone With Sorrowful Genius at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music

Stevens goes for a transformative, pensive, and atmospheric live presentation. Ultimately, that’s what makes his artistry so one-of-a-kind and invaluable.


‘Saga #27’ Characters Are Unforgettable

Saga propels readers into new and unchartered, yet always compelling, spaces. From the horribly exotic to the stunningly beautiful, the characters are impossible to forget.


Greed Gets Tiresome in ‘Beyond the Reach’

The idea here is that Madec's limitless financial resources make him every bit as phantasmal and inexorable as Jason Voorhees.


‘The Queen’s Bed’, the Queen’s Body, and the Body of the State

A rigorous, middle ground between lurid populist histories and dry academia, Anna Whitelock provides an excellent biography as a well trained historian.


The Fictional Life of the Wombats

Arguing with your label about Vicodin. Creating a fictional life to write songs about. Embracing "weird crystal-worship party lovers." Just another day in the life of the Wombats.


School’s Out Forever in ‘Class of 1984’

Aiming for an incisive social commentary on the increasing violence of youth gangs, Class of 1984 falls short.


Fighting the New Censorship: Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists

From terrorists and authoritarian regimes to government surveillance and control of the Internet, the threats to freedom of expression are greater than ever.


Calexico: Edge of the Sun

Seeds of experimentation and collaboration planted long ago bear some of the best fruit of Calexico's long career.


The Heart Says Whatever in ‘Hausfrau’

Jill Alexander Essbaum’s first novel bleakly evokes the life of a woman adrift. However well built, it is story constructed over a sinkhole.


Delta Rae: After It All

On its second album After It All, the Durham-based sextet successfully raids the storehouse of American musical traditions, incorporating influences ranging from blues to folk, rock to pop, and hip-hop to musical theater.


Folk Family Revival: Water Walker

Americana's band of brothers expand their sonic horizons in Water Walker.


Madeon: Adventure

Madeon has the ear for a strong hook and a natural knack for dance production, but by failing to provide enough distinction to his tracks on an individual basis, his Tumblr-friendly brand of EDM turns him into a bit of a one-trick pony.


Sidewalk Chalk: Shoulder Season

Sidewalk Chalk rise further to the top of the hip-hop scene with their third release, Shoulder Season.


Monday, April 13 2015

A Confluence of Conflicts in ‘Convergence #1’

The arena for a multiversal clash is set, but lacks theatrics.


‘Ravensbrück’: The Nonfiction of Nightmares

Sarah Helm’s Ravensbrück is a searingly comprehensive look at the sole concentration camp built to house women. It is the nonfiction of nightmares.


Big Ears 2015 Was a Festival for Serious Artists and Listeners

From 27-29 March, Knoxville, Tennessee music fans were treated to a world of daring and avant-garde music at the latest installment of the Big Ears festival.


Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ and the Escape from Alternative Nation

While OK Computer is important in its own right, The Bends transformed Radiohead from being a potentially indistinguishable Alternative Nation contributor to a band who has redefined the term "rock" for the past two decades.


Smear the Queer: ‘The X-Files’ Reboot and Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction

If Fox really is going jump-start The X-Files, it better not pull any of the stereotypical homophobic crap again.


Death in the Land of Smiles

A recent biopic about the last executioner in Thailand explores the extremes between killing and redemption.


‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Became a Cult Classic Upon Creation

The charming and eccentric humor of this vampire mockumentary makes it feel like it was born to be a beloved cult classic.


Eels: Royal Albert Hall

What becomes of the broken-hearted? They go to an Eels gig, obviously.


The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion aren't about to reinvent the wheel, but with music this good they don't need to.


Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues

Filled with beautiful obscurities and aural surprises, this collection will delight fans, new and old, of the genre it celebrates.


Lowland Hum: Lowland Hum

Lowland Hum's self-titled new album provides further evidence of their ability to wield seamless harmonies and a hushed low cast glow. While a handful of songs take flight, nothing here really breaks the mold or shows any evidence of an uptick in their MO.


Nite Fields: Depersonalisation

Down Under and down in the mouth, Brisbane's Nite Fields are a certainly a moody bunch, but is that a smile lurking in the gloom?


Friday, April 10 2015

Ryan Gosling’s Directorial Debut Is Far From Lost

When Lost River premiered at Cannes last year, Gosling's urban fairytale was greeted with jeers. It should have been met with cheers.


Callous Masculinity and Robot Sexuality Conflict in ‘Ex Machina’

This artificial intelligence flick uses the nerd archetype to make points about masculinity, ego, and empathy.


‘Copperhead’ Is Greater Than the Sum and Then Some

New Sheriff Clara Bronson comes to Copperhead not because she wants the job but because she needs it. The real reason though, isn’t explained.


‘The Longest Ride’ Loses Itself in the Past

This is a film featuring two likeable leads that goes cold and convoluted once we abandon their story and flashback to the past.


The Decemberists + Alvvays: 7 April 2015: Philadelphia

The Decemberists recreated its sonic specialties wonderfully at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on April 7.


The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood

The model of a good parent is an ever-changing concept, one at the mercy of the forces of cultural change.


Backwards Compatibility is the Only Way Forward

Every generation has attempted to preserve the most important pieces of its art. It should be just the same with computer games, but often it is not.


If He Were Still With Us, ‘Life Itself’ Would Be Worthy of Roger Ebert’s Praise

Ebert never lived to see the finished product, but it's not a stretch at all to imagine what kind of score Siskel & Ebert would have given it had they the chance: two thumbs up.


Frank Black and the Catholics: The Complete Discography

This seven-disc set takes all Frank Black's output with the Catholics favors the moment, the song, over the career, which is not a new concept for Black.


Gavin Harrison: Cheating the Polygraph

The music of Porcupine Tree meets the rhythmic intensity of Whiplash in these eight dazzling reinterpretations.


I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana

Right from the start, Nirvana had numerous musicians backing their cause.


East Cameron Folklore: Kingdom of Fear

Heavy on literary references but lacking any relative substance, Kingdom of Fear is akin to AM band conspiracy theorists spouting questionable source material with impunity.


Aidan Baker: The Confessional Tapes

One of heavy music's most prolific and interesting artists makes a quiet, patient album that stands with his best work.


Fort Romeau: Insides

London's Fort Romeau delivers a treat for progressive house fans and old-school electronica devotees alike.


George Van Eps: Once in Awhile

'40s Jazz Guitar Pioneer in Full Regalia


Thursday, April 9 2015

‘The Beat Generation’ Is More Deadbeat Than Beatnik

The Beat Generation fails to capture the trendy, hipster social scene that its title promises.


Robert Christgau Falls From Grace in ‘Going into the City’

We have here the post-apocalyptic wanderer, able to go anywhere because there’s nowhere he belongs.


Michael Des Barres Puts His Heart on His Sleeve for ‘The Key to the Universe’

With his new album, the veteran British singer/actor delivers a set of spirited and emotional rock and roll.


‘Alexander’ and the Not-So-Terrible Family Comedy

When it comes to family comedies, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is the exact opposite of terrible, horrible, and no good.


Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee​’s latest album is a brilliant self-study that occupies a haunting liminal space.


Lord Huron: Strange Trails

Bringing a broader instrumental palette, more cinematic in scope than their debut, Lord Huron aims high and largely succeeds.


Perception vs. Reality in Tracy Manaster’s ‘You Could Be Home By Now’

Some books you just don’t want to end. Manaster’s debut is one of those books.


The Apartments: The Evening Visits… and Stays for Years

The first album from one-time Go-Between Peter Milton Walsh plus attendant early material, spanning 1979-85. Moody and impressive. But loveable?


MilkDrive: Places You’ve Not Been

MilkDrive becomes an Americana band to watch with their genre-defying new release full of pop-ready jams.


Kylie Minogue: Kylie / Enjoy Yourself / Rhythm of Love / Let’s Get to It

On these reissues of Kylie Minogue's first four records, the singer starts to figure out who she is, no matter how little her producers/hit-making assembly lines seemed to care.


Wednesday, April 8 2015

‘The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1’ - Don’t Read This Comic

I should have listened to the cover. After all, the warning was clear: "You must NOT read this comic!"


In ‘Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits’, Horror and Comedy Clash but Don’t Always Mix

Scream! Factory's horror/comedy "double feature" doesn't truly fit into either genre.


Per Petterson’s Tales of Innocence and Experience

Petterson's closely-knit stories sadly and beautifully reveal the passage from boyish innocence to "manhood", and show us what it means to be a man.


The Leap: The Universe of Difference Between ‘Pablo Honey’ and ‘The Bends’

In jumping forward from the lackluster Pablo Honey, Radiohead finally started becoming the Radiohead that is idolized today.


Bill O’Reilly’s Rock & Roll Machine

Nostalgia has its uses, its benefits. But is it useful and beneficial when it obscures the reality of the past and present, usually in the service of power, prestige, and making a buck?


Exploited Athletes Exploit the Exploiting System: The Hidden Game Behind College Sports

There is a game hidden behind the basketball courts and football fields of our universities, an unscrupulous match that mostly advantages the institutions themselves.


‘Blacula’ Bites, but Never Sucks

The two most famous horror blaxploitation films look and sound excellent in this dual release, but they deserve more extras considering their importance.


The Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ

The Mountain Goats follow up albums about divorce, heartbreak, and scripture with one about professional wrestling.


Comedy Is a Lower Form in B.J. Novak’s ‘One More Thing’

B.J. Novak forsakes an impeccable sense of timing and an acerbic wit to patronize with this collection of cast-off skit ideas and sappy short-stories.


Becca Stevens Band: Perfect Animal

Becca Stevens makes a giant leap into pop music complexity with her latest, an exhilaratingly fun listen.


Yoko Ono: Antony & Yoko / Yoko Ono & John Zorn

With a pair of singles, Yoko Ono furthers her case for artistic relevance as a proponent of fringe music that, like much of her back catalogue, was never intended for mass consumption.


The Go-Betweens: G Stands for Go-Betweens (Vol.1)

First volume of the Go-Betweens' box set series: four LPs, four CDs, with re-issued albums, rarities and a live concert – a completist’s reverie.


George Usher and Lisa Burns: The Last Day of Winter

After fighting the crippling effects of chemotherapy, George Ushers's dogged determination is apparent even at the outset.


Tuesday, April 7 2015

Exposing Strengths and Weaknesses in ‘Batman/Superman Annual #2’

Superman's strengths are once again explored, but his weaknesses tell the story.


Toro y Moi: What For?

Chaz Bundick turns his restless dissatisfaction into artistic fuel on Toro y Moi's psychedelic fourth album.


Talkin’ Bout Evil With the Lower Dens

The Lower Dens' new album is called Escape From Evil, but the way Jana Hunter tells it, recording it was nothing but a joy.


Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth

Given what we know about Billie Holiday now, much of Lady Sings the Blues can be read as autobiographical fiction.


Billie Holiday at 100: Still an Inspiration

On Billie Holiday's centennial, her influence remains everywhere in music. Jazz singers Cassandra Wilson and Jose James, have new tributes out on Blue Note.


‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ Brings a Bloated Trilogy to Its End

This epic flick concludes a trilogy that, in retrospect, should have been a duology.


Brian Wilson: No Pier Pressure

No Pier Pressure is a lifeless, limp collection of songs that counts as a Brian Wilson album in name only.


‘Wayward Volume One: String Theory’ Beautifully Captures Accurate Folkloric Context

The comic series Wayward depicts the struggles of a group of supernatural teens growing up and fighting evil on the streets of modern Tokyo.


Ray Wylie Hubbard: The Ruffian’s Misfortune

Perhaps this is the true ruffian’s misfortune: one mellows with age. Hubbard tries to pretend otherwise by snarling and playing blues licks.


José James: Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday

Forgoing a more exploratory route, José James delivers a set of pleasantly predictable Billie Holiday covers.


Barnstar!: Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!

In spite of a few generic weaknesses and maybe a little too much joy, Barnstar!'s sophomore effort's a boot-stomping good time.


Monday, April 6 2015

‘Frankenstein Underground’ and the Deaths That Tax Us

Frankenstein Underground is the magnificent postmodern crown jewel in the Hellboy-verse that creator Mike Mignola thinks of as a love-letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs. We think otherwise.


Tales from the Borderlands, Episode 2: Atlas Mugged

Yeah, the manic murder fantasy playground of Borderlands gets more subtle moments of humanity than the grand tragedy of Telltale's catalog, The Walking Dead.


Signs of Genius at the End of the World

Signs Preceding the End of the World is a moving novel about borders, identity and the world to come.


Time, Space and Plasticity in Long-running Comics Series

Some creators and publishers choose to make time and space infinitely malleable. Others take readers to new times and places while leaving characters in a single timeline.


Fact and Fiction: The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle on Wrestling and the Creative Process

The prolific songwriter and now acclaimed author John Darnielle tells PopMatters how he created his wrestling-themed album Beat the Champ, what he calls the Mountain Goats' "most musically interesting record by a country mile".


‘Maude’ Remains Funny and Groundbreaking 40 Years On

Maude certainly paved the way for other strong-willed, independent, feminist characters, but she more than others will be remembered for her wit and unwavering beliefs.


Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too

Young Fathers’ radicalization of pop is important and thrilling.


‘Culture Crash’ Aims to Draw Attention to the Dwindling Creative Subset of the Middle Class

Has the US abandoned its middle-class creatives? Scott Timberg explains in Culture Crash.


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.