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Monday, February 23 2015

The Woman Who Had the Front-Row Seat to the Height of Basquiat’s Career

The story of Jean-Michel Basquiat's longtime companion lets us see him as more than merely a brilliant artist.


Romare: Projections

How many modern electronic/downtempo acts take their primary inspiration from the Afrocentric American painter Romare Bearden? At least one.


Doe: First Four

London-based Doe resurrects '90s punk with a compilation of their First Four EPs.


Duane Eubanks Quintet: Things of That Particular Nature

The trumpeter, brother of guitarists Kevin and trombonist Robin, leads a sharp band of top players, and the result is a gem.


DMX: Redemption of the Beast

This year is barely eight weeks old, but Redemption of the Beast will likely be the worst rap album of the year.


Friday, February 20 2015

In ‘McFarland, USA’, Sports Victory Vanquishes Prejudice

Although the "Great White Hope" overtones are troubling, McFarland, USA trumps the racism of its antagonists with sports team-building.


‘Still Alice’ Is the Story of a Mind in Search for Words and Self

Julianne Moore's luminous performance as a woman with early onset Alzheimer's reveals how the disease makes it difficult to find oneself.


‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’ Is an Exercise in Stunted Scatology

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will be clever only to those who never outgrew hearing their first dirty joke at summer camp.


Crashed Saucers and Contactees: UFOs and the Secret Origin of the Green Lantern

From Roswell to Aztec to Oa. The secret origin of Green Lantern, DC's science fiction superhero, is found among the crashed saucers and contactees of the 1950's UFO movement.


‘Dying Light’: The Terror and Triumph of Nightfall

The zombies here aren't monsters, they're just another kind of terrorist.


That’s Entertainment? Sold Into Bondage for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Network and cable programming both demonstrate overwhelming irresponsibility and contradiction concerning depictions of sexual violence and abuse.


Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor

Performing in a country rife with racism and segregation, the tenor Roland Hayes was the first African-American man to reach international fame as a concert performer.


‘The Palm Beach Story’ and the Comedy of Patriarchy

In pure madcap fashion, Preston Sturges' wartime comedy depicts just how absurd the constraints on women are in a patriarchal society.


Sumac: The Deal

The latest project by metal titan Aaron Turner may be rough around the edges, but it's a thrilling enough ride to merit ignoring the bumps.


Phosphorescent: Live at the Music Hall

A sprawling, hits-heavy live album reminiscent of classic rock’s golden era, Phosphorescent’s Live at the Music Hall serves as a near-perfect introduction to this exceptional band.


JD McPherson: Let the Good Times Roll

Imagine rockabilly with punk overtones and you have this album, a foot-stomping, ass-shaking thing of beauty.


Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver: In Session

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver show how it's done with traditional bluegrass anthems on In Session.


Title Fight: Hyperview

Hyperview, the third studio album by the punk outfit Title Fight, finds the band wandering in a more melodious direction, for better or worse.


Thursday, February 19 2015

Mauritania’s First Academy Award Nominee ‘Timbuktu’ Examines Missing Motives

Timbuktu shows how the most intense religious conflicts are often fought without much reason or thought.


Can Television Be a Solution to Hollywood’s Diversity Problem?

We are living in the second Golden Age of Television, and not just because the writing is so good: TV is where we can tune in for real diversity.


Will the Bubble Burst on Our Right to Privacy?

A legal scholar and former journalist warns that if modern media pushes the envelope too far, we could all wind up losing.


‘The Haunting of Black Wood’ Contains No Haunting Whatsoever

The issue with this ostensible haunting in Black Wood is not a paucity of dollars in the budget, but rather of tension, drama, and ideas.


Krill: A Distant Fist Unclenching

Boston's Krill gives us a healthy dose of existentialist objectivity masquerading in post-punk grit -- and maybe one of the most singular albums we'll see this year.


The Juliana Hatfield Three: Whatever, My Love

The first Juliana Hatfield Three album in over 21 years suggests a timelessness, a pop sensibility that forgets scene in favor of hitting you with pure hooks in the here and now.


Carl Barat and the Jackals: Let It Reign

Carl Barat, of Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things fame, blazes a furious, punk-inflected trail with a new band of sidemen.


Championing the Middle Ages as Innovative

Johannes Fried's erudite study traces our evolution towards reason, worldwide exploration, and rational procedures to a dynamic medieval period.


Future & Zaytoven: Beast Mode

By teaming up with one of Atlanta hip-hop's biggest cult heroes and trimming all the fat, Future has not only put out his definitive album, but perhaps one of 2015's as well.


Half Japanese: Volume 2: 1987-1989

Half Japanese's second three-album set of reissues presents the band's unique perspective on punk, blues and rock 'n' roll, proving they knew how to do it all, or, at the very least, knew how to fake it.


The Thompson Family: Family

What do you do if your calling is the same as your parents’ vocation, and they are famously good at it?


Wednesday, February 18 2015

John Boorman Revisits the British Empire With ‘Queen and Country’

While John Boorman doesn't transform the genre here as he did in Hope and Glory, he does give Queen and Country more bite than the usual soft-focus waltz down memory lane.


Man Against the Elements, Alone on the Prairie

Hugo Glass survives a brutal attack to pursue those who left him to die in this retelling, based on true events during the frontier winter of 1823-1824.


Time Slips: “Guardians 3000 #5”

Guardians 3000 is a thrill ride, a roller coaster, a starship making 180 degree turns.


The Assassins’ Aristocracy

Assassin's Creed: Unity highlights the difficulty of influencing social change from the shadows.


“Music Is More Than Just Notes”: An Interview with Mino Cinélu

How does Mino Cinélu tell stories with percussion? Just ask Sting, Kate Bush, or Herbie Hancock.


In Defense of the Chris Rock Renaissance

Chris Rock transcends generations of fans with a signature combination of intelligence and contemporary comedy.


‘Jimi: All Is by My Side’ Is a Portrait of an Artist Without His Art

Where Jimi Hendrix’s music is a fireworks display, this film is rather grey and lifeless.


Steve Earle and the Dukes: Terraplane

Terraplane pays homage to the Texas blues, with mixed results.


The Amazing: Picture You

Picture You is too solid to float away and, at its finest moments, too lasting to fade.


Six Organs of Admittance: Hexadic

While Six Organs of Admittance do an admirable job of crafting big walls of feedback and drones over which to jam, the tracks on Hexadic tend to meander and stumble around without really going anywhere.


Elephant Micah: Where in Our Woods

Another inward-looking, yet inviting collection from Joseph O'Connell’s idiosyncratic DIY project Elephant Micah. Fans of introspective, late-night lo-fi should seek this out.


Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

An all-grown-up Andrew McMahon forgets the appeal in keeping parts of himself forever young.


Tuesday, February 17 2015

Barb Jungr: My Funny Valentine: Songs for the Wild At Heart, Purcell Room, London

What better way to spend Valentine’s Night than in the company of the amazing Barb Jungr, singing songs of love and loss?


A Call for the Academy to Reconceptualize the Best Original Score Category

So long as the Academy clings to a myopic definition of what an "original" score is, too many deserving composers will be left out come Oscar night.


“It’s Morphin’ Time!”: Twenty Years of Power Rangers With No End in Sight

The campy Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: 22 years, 22 seasons and two movies in (and a reboot on the way). Why do we love this show?


Clove Cigarettes and Indonesian Books: An Armchair Traveler’s Pleasure

The Modern Library of Indonesia series offers unparalleled access to the cultural landscape of the world's fourth most populous country.


‘The Theory of Everything’ Needs More Jane Hawking

Felicity Jones' remarkable performance can't save The Theory of Everything, in large part because the film doesn't fully commit to her own point of view.


José González : Vestiges and Claws

José González delivers a lovely and dreamy set of songs defined by their humble grace.


The Year That Changed Chaucer From Court Insider to Ambitious Author

Paul Strohm's Chaucer's Tale tells how Chaucer's fall from political favor in London elevated his literary ambitions in rural retreat.


Wrinkle Neck Mules: I Never Thought It Would Go This Far

Wrinkle Neck Mules take their Southern pedigree seriously, mining a rural sound that's chock full of back porch sensibilities.


Menace Beach: Ratworld

Feedback-laden '90s touchstones are in full effect here. Too bad strong songwriting is in shorter supply.


Zs: Xe

Little band, strange name, BIG sound.


James Wolpert: The Entire City

The Voice rocker James Wolpert releases an astoundingly legit solo debut.


Monday, February 16 2015

The Dark Side of Empires: “Darth Vader #1”

Forget the prequels. Even when he's on the Emperor's bad side, this is the Darth Vader that everyone wants to see.


Who Made the Machines That Remade the World?

Walter Isaacson's The Innovators explores the history of the digital age as told through the intertwined lives of the men and women who created it.


Much Ado About Art, Satire and Terrorism

As the debate rages over Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons, Art Spiegelman offers sage advice on cartoons and free speech.


At the Core of Technology Is a Human: An Interview With Ayori Selassie

As a young professional in the entrepreneurial world of Silicon Valley, Ayori Selassie argues that technology's primary purpose should be to serve human needs first and foremost.


‘La Belle Captive’ Is a Beautiful Nightmare

Part murder-mystery, part erotic fever dream, La Belle Captive is a sumptuous nightmare.


THEESatisfaction: EarthEE

EarthEE, the duo's second album, creates its own singular space, one just as challenging, engaging, and revolutionary as its predecessor.


A Place to Bury Strangers: Transfixation

The Brooklyn-based noise-rock band try for a leaner, more focused sound, but they often find themselves missing the atmosphere of their earlier work.


Sir Richard Bishop: Tangier Sessions

The guitar playing is impressive, but the loose and self-indulgent nature of these compositions will test the listener's patience.


Cursive: The Ugly Organ (Reissue)

Cursive's much-loved rage cannon of a record has been remastered, allowing one to hear every mangled guitar chord, every abused organ note, every polyp in Kasher's throat. It's makes a legendarily bilious album even more so, like watching surgery in HD.


Nerina Pallot: Live From Union Chapel / Winter Rooms

Nerina Pallot releases the last two EPs of her 12-EP project: a live EP and some final studio recordings.


Friday, February 13 2015

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ Pushes the Spy Spoof Only So Far

Kingsman is a cut above the usual winter flicks, but it's also flummoxed by its inability to maintain it subversive tone.


‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is a Stale Confection for Valentine’s Day

Despite its risqué reputation, this film, like the book it is adapted from, is a generic tale of male power that's been told many times before.


Please Rise for the Honorable: Reflecting on 2011 via ‘Judge Dredd: Urban Warfare’

It wasn’t so long ago, 2011, but it felt momentous. It was only a matter of really, until our art would begin to make comment. And what better art than the decades old dystopian fiction of Judge Dredd?


Dreamfall Chapters, Book One: Reborn

Players of the Dreamfall Chapters may find that more than a little research is necessary to enjoy the game's finer points.


Tracing a Literary Lineage in Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Kraus Project’

This unlikely combination of a translation and memoir offers as many telling insights into the preoccupations of Jonathan Franzen as it does into Karl Kraus' life and work.


Love Songs: The Hidden History

What do evolutionary biology and its founding father, Charles Darwin, have to do with love songs? As it turns out, quite a lot.


You Can’t Sink Your Teeth Into Any of the Ideas in ‘Annabelle’

Annabelle pales in the shadow of its predecessor, the far superior The Conjuring.


Pond: Man It Feels Like Space Again

The Tame Impala-affiliated rock band bring psychedelia into the 21st century with lush textures, acid funk grooves, and huge infectious riffs.


Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Latin Rare Groove Volume 2

Treats for collectors of obscure Latin groove, but still appealing to more casual listeners.


King Crimson: Live at the Orpheum

King Crimson continue to march to the beat of their own drummers. All three of them.


Neneh Cherry: Blank Project Deluxe

If anything, the remixes on Neneh Cherry's deluxe release of Blank Project are essentially exercises in demonstrating the versatility and the loose and improvised constructs of the original versions' rhythms.


Trio Chemirani: Dawâr

Iranian-French trio makes ancient Persian music new.


Thursday, February 12 2015

“Rasputin”,  Issue 4, Page 14

Artist Riley Rossmo’s aesthetic energy is a big part of what makes Rasputin click as a comic, a major factor in its unique personality and tone, so any scene as strong and effective as this one must be attributed to him at least to some degree.


From ‘Cast Away’ to ‘Locke’: The Rise of the One-Man Movie

For every apparent innovation, one-man movies are as conventional as they come.


What’s He Banging on About?: An Interview with Rapper Bang On!

The young MC Bang On! may play dumb, but he's sharp as a tack.


‘Life of Crime’ Is Mediocrity Void of Ambition

Much like the Duracell bunny, Life of Crime has no brain; it has no anima.


Rumer: Into Colour

With her third release, Anglo-Pakistani singer-songwriter Rumer fully embraces the influences she’s merely hinted at on previous releases. The results are near-perfect.


The Body and Thou: You, Whom I Have Always Hated

A very, very rare effort, You, Whom I Have Always Hated, is as close to perfect an album as Thou and The Body have ever put out and nearly as perfect an album to emerge in years.


Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries

Letter to a Future Lover tries to make sense of the world through the flotsam and jetsam of things left in books.


Duke Garwood: Heavy Love

Heavy Love, the fourth album to date by this London-based multi-instrumentalist, is comprised mainly of hushed, harrowing soundscapes that are frequently as subversive as they are subdued.


John Grant: John Grant and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live in Concert

Celebrated singer-songwriter John Grant collaborates with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, in what proves to be one of the most incendiary live albums in recent memory.


John Supko and Bill Seaman: s_traits

This is chance over method: a real post-industrial display of art born out of an immediate flow of ideas, immortalised onto a disk, assembled by the very negation of art that is genuine calculus and roughly adjusted by man


Wednesday, February 11 2015

Transatlantic Sessions 2015, Royal Festival Hall, London

Old World meets New World once again at the final Transatlantic Sessions show of 2015: an evening to give the so-called “Special Relationship” a good name, after all.


In Defense of Brunch

A provocative and insightful new book challenges us to rethink our obsession with brunch, and to critically consider what this overpriced, messy meal really says about shifting class identities in today’s world.


Everything Is True: Continuity in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

In the world of comic book continuity, if everything is true, anything can happen.


‘101 Dalmatians’ Remains a Diamond in Disney’s Crown

Featuring a story filled with wonderful characterizations, genuine excitement, and a perfectly earned ending, 101 Dalmatians is one of Disney's best.


Natalie Prass: Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass is technically a self-titled singer-songwriter debut. It's just that it doesn't sound like any of those things.


Matthew Thomas Tackles Dementia in His Ambitious First Novel, ‘We Are Not Ourselves’

At one point, Thomas gave up his teaching job because the desire to finish his writing had outweighed the desire to achieve financial security. Such passion is evident in the pages of his novel.


Luke Haines: Adventures in Dementia

A "micro opera" involving a Mark E Smith impersonator, caravan holidays, and British fascist punks upholds Haines's reputation as a singular songwriter.


Blackberry Smoke: Holding all the Roses

Blackberry Smoke is one of those groups that fiercely adheres to past precepts. Indeed, if its sound recalls the aforementioned standard bearers -- and it does -- then it’s just as true that the members have learned those lessons well.


Jib Kidder: Teaspoon to the Ocean

Has the quirky, DIY indie-pop album become a cliche? How about the psychedelic collage album, then?


John Denver: All of My Memories: The John Denver Collection

Denver’s image was wrapped in sincerity and disarming, if sometimes hokey, charm. On one hand these were his weaknesses – he was an easy target for the critics – but they were also his strengths, as he came across as genuine and honest.


Tuesday, February 10 2015

I’m Nuts for Squirrel Girl: “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2”

You might think that it is easy to be confident when you are, after all, UNBEATABLE, but it really isn't. Unbeatable or not, a crush can still be pretty embarrassing.


America Went to War on Terror and Terror Won

Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn provides exceptional analysis of the Islamic State and the broader conflict in Syria and Iraq.


‘Jupiter Ascending’ and the Search for Renewed Narrative Conventions

Although the Wachowski siblings' latest film has taken a critical beating, it merits a closer examination for its clever playing with narrative tropes from science fiction and fairy tales.


Always Past, Always Present, Never the Moment: ‘Palo Alto’

Gia Coppola's film illustrates the paradox of the young and the old: each want wants what the other has. Neither can ever live in the moment.


Rhiannon Giddens: Tomorrow Is My Turn

Everything works on Tomorrow Is My Turn, an album that heralds the arrival of a major American artist.


‘The Warren Commission Report’ Reveals How Much the JFK Assassination Remains a Mystery

There's a lot to admire about this graphic-fiction account of the complicated and controversial evidence surrounding the Kennedy assassination


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