Opium Traces
More Recent Features
Bang on a Can All-Stars: Field Recordings

Background, foreground, acoustical, mechanical, pre-recorded, and live. Noise and music coexist in a strange place.

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Doldrums: The Air Conditioned Nightmare

Doldrums' latest is a sprawling exploration of modern synthetic life through artificial drum sounds, synthesizers and Airick Woodhead’s hauntingly human voice.

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Two Works in Anaïs Nin’s Cities of the Interior

Ladders to Fire and Seduction of the Minotaur, two of Anaïs Nin's most self-reflexive works, examine the sexual tensions rooted deeply in the female consciousness.

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21 May 2015 // 2:05 AM

San Fermin: Jackrabbit

San Fermin's second outing offers extensive chamber pop that's both exhilarating and exhausting.

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Trout Steak Revival: Brighter Every Day

A wistful travelogue, Trout Steak Revival can book this trip as a successful blend somewhere between the sonic realm of "Randy McNally meets pie."

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‘Freedom of Choice’ Is What You Got: A New Look at Devo’s 1980 Hit Album

Evie Nagy's latest book explores Devo's most successful record, Freedom of Choice, which contains the legendary “Whip It”.

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Altman Turns to Crime in ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’

These two crime pictures provide insight into the ways Robert Altman operated within and without Hollywood conventions.

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Cannes 2015: ‘Youth’ Is a Memorable Meditation on Ageing and Art

Paolo Sorrentino’s arresting new film brilliantly pairs Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as two elderly creators assessing their lives, loves and attitudes toward art.

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Clear Skies and Clearer Understanding in ‘Storm #11’

A perfect ending to a story that reminds us why the X-men's resident Weather Goddess is truly worthy of worship.

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Science Inspires Thomas Pierce in This New Story Collection

Hall of Small Mammals is a disquieting book of bizarre, brainy tales from a young Virginia-based writer.

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Black Widow and the Burden of Being the Female Avenger

All too often, when you have a token female in a story, that character's primary super power is simply that she's a girl.

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20 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

Shamir: Ratchet (take one)

Far beyond boxes and genres, Shamir Bailey's debut album Ratchet sees the 20-year-old arrive in front of the public eye, creatively unscathed and defiantly confident. 

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Shamir: Ratchet (take two)

On Ratchet, Shamir predicts his own domination of pop music. He’s probably right.

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Prefuse 73: Rivington Nao Rio

The second of three releases for 2015, Rivington Nao Rio finds Guillermo Herren testing his ability as collaborator and producer, and ever-so-slightly evolving his acoustic-tinged electronic formula.

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Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld: Never Were the Way She Was

The unlikely duo of saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld creates a series of classically minimalist dronescapes that toe the line between the accessible and the avant garde. It’s a daring collection with often surprising results.

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Jeremy Loops: Trading Change

There's something for everyone in Trading Change, a record that altogether breaks down every conventional wall sustained by the music industry for the past several decades while maintaining a respect for the traditions of each.

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Punk Was Never the Same After the Slits Came on the Scene

There’s a lot of blood on the pages of Albertine's memoir. And she mixes it into the ink generously for an unflinching look at life in a punk and post-punk world.

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There’s a Freak Out Brewin’ at My House: The State of DIY Music in Santa Fe

In the words of Santa Fe musicians, when it comes to making a DIY music culture grow and stay nourished, "If you’re not gonna work, it’s not gonna work for you.”

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Fairport Convention: Myths and Heroes

In some ways, Fairport's new album, Myths and Heroes is a bit of a throwback to their hallowed legacy.

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Agatha Christie Plus Alfred Hitchcock Equals Mario Bava’s ‘Evil Eye’

This dual language (Italian and English) Blu-ray release is a disorienting, elliptical, and dreamlike horror experience.

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Cannes 2015: ‘Carol’ and ‘Nahid’ Reveal the Costs of Repression

Two dramas at Cannes 2015, one by Todd Haynes and the other by Ida Panahandeh, depict the costs of repression and loss of privacy for women under patriarchal codes.

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Cannes 2015: ‘Mia Madre’ and ‘Tale of Tales’ Are Two Contrasting Italian Films

Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre is a minor-key ode to family and film-making, while Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is a wild fairytale ride.

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‘Toren’ and the Art of Mythmaking

Toren does everything that games are supposed to be excellent at while also providing all the things that games need most right now. It looks stunning, it sounds incredible, and every moment of play is filled with importance.

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It’s Not the Spirit of (19)76 in ‘Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters #1’

It's disappointing that so little of the original spirit of these characters found its way into this book.

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‘Formalism and Historicity’ Marks an Important Place in the Revival of the Frankfurt School

Benjamin Bucloh's dense, insider guide to 20th century problems of Abstraction continue the rigorous and serious work of October press.

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Faith No More: Sol Invictus

While it probably won't top Angel Dust or The Real Thing for most longtime fans, Sol Invictus finds Faith No More fully engaged and playing with enthusiasm. That's a whole lot better than where they left it in the late '90s.

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19 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

Is Online Trolling a Reflection of Our Social Values?

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things confronts the interrelation between subversive trolls and mainstream ideas, and opens up conversations about post-internet politics, activism, and human relationships.

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19 May 2015 // 2:20 AM

Holly Herndon: Platform

The nexus of surveillance paranoia and sound architecture resides in Holly Herndon's mind.

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Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino: Quaranta

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino marks its 40th anniversary with a portrait of Italy and its discontents.

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Raekwon: Fly International Luxurious Art

The world of top-40 rap proves to be to Raekwon what dry land is to Aquaman.

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Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection

The Centennial Collection serves as a masterful representation of Billie Holiday’s enduring legacy.

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Dave Alvin, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Louis Walker: Live in Long Beach 1997

Dave Alvin leaves little doubt about his commitment to the blues.

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Jim Cornette on Rescuing the Lost Carolina Wrestling Classics

Jim Cornette is one of the most outspoken figures in all of pro wrestling, but his journey to unearth rare, lost match footage from decades prior makes for a story worth telling.

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‘The Babadook’ Isn’t a Horror Movie About a Monster, But a Mother

The Babadook doesn't twist all that many conventions, but its crystal-clear execution as to what makes people truly terrified puts it a cut above the rest.

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Cannes 2015: ‘La Tête Haute’ Is a Rosy View of France’s Juvenile Courts

Long takes of Malony gazing at harvested wheat fields and planted trees surrounding his rural rehab center -- a traditional, idyllic, cultivated French countryside -- suggest order and peace.

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Three Fully Formed Concepts in First Issues: ‘The Maximortal’, ‘Deep Sleeper’ and ‘Rebel Blood’

The first time I read The Maximortal #1, I honestly believed it was a self-contained one-shot. Was I ever wrong.

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Don’t Shoot Yourself!

A game with this many bullets shouldn’t be this boring.

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18 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

Hot Chip: Why Make Sense?

Why Make Sense? falls a bit short of the high standard set by its predecessor, In Our Heads, but it's still a wryly creative release by a brilliant group.

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Ubiquitous Grooves: A Vinyl Obituary

Perhaps these days our real choice is not between buying vinyl or digital, but between listening and not listening.

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Yes: Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two / Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two

Prepare to travel back in time to an era where an eight-minute progressive rock song was a smash hit.

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18 May 2015 // 2:15 AM

Juan Wauters: Who Me?

Wauters slouches, sighs, and whines his way to goofy charm.

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Leo Bud Welch: I Don’t Prefer No Blues

On this latest album, Leo Bud Welch makes the blues sound like the future and, at 82 years old, his future is bright.

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The Pro-War Verus Anti-War Debate on ‘American Sniper’ Misses the Point

It’s impossible to observe sniper Chris Kyle’s (Bradley Cooper) gradual descent into madness and believe that Clint Eastwood promotes an explicitly pro-war message.

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Glen Campbell: Rhinestone Cowboy (expanded reissue)

The overly amplified arrangements and an occasional clunker like the schmaltzy "Pencils For Sale" aside, Rhinestone Cowboy makes for an album well worth rediscovery.

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The Characters in ‘The Book of Unknown Americans’ Are Silenced by the Voice

Though Cristina Henriquez's entrancing prose promises to save this poorly plotted and contrived mess, it ultimately dooms it.

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Young Fathers Want to Change What’s Normal

With their new album White Men Are Black Men Too, Young Fathers look to shake people from complacency and change their understanding of pop.

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‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Is a Nonsensical Copy-and-Paste Job

Pitch Perfect 2 is not very new, seeming awfully like a combination cover and mash-up of the first movie.

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Charlize Theron Brings the War Rig in ‘Mad Max - Fury Road’

Like the titular Max, Charlize Theron's Furiosa is trying to survive in a world made of beauty and bruising violence, a hallmark of all the Mad Max movies. But she has a mission, too.

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Rhett Miller: The Traveler

Rhett Miller has spent much of his songwriting in tunnels. With The Traveler, he also has the sense to have light shine into them.

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Róisín Murphy: Hairless Toys

If Hairless Toys is the sound of an artist with absolutely nothing to lose, it's also the sound of an audience with little to gain.

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Ryan Adams: Live at Carnegie Hall

Live release of 2014 solo shows at Carnegie Hall bring Adams’ poetic flair into focus. Interesting and varied set lists, excellent sound, and good humour.

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15 May 2015 // 2:15 AM

Curiosity

As far as literary companions go, Dante and Montaigne are some of the finest ones to have when in pursuit of one's own curiosity.

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Ivan & Alyosha: It’s All Just Pretend

With only one previous LP and a pair of EPs paving the way, It’s All Just Pretend finds Ivan & Alyosha accelerating their momentum, making the case that they’re well deserving of being labeled the next big buzz band.

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‘Still Alice’ Tells the Story of Alzheimer’s From the Patient’s Perspective

Still Alice is a perceptive film about the tragic ways illness impacts identity, and Julianne Moore is the sole reason for its success.

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‘Rocky IV’ Is a Cold War Montage With a Robotic Heart

Rocky IV is a Cold War-themed fairy tale, with a hero who overcomes monumental trials and defeats evil monsters so that we can all live happily ever after.

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15 May 2015 // 2:05 AM

Michael Price: Entanglement

Entanglement is a very personal expression of my obsessions: music, love, physics and the inter-connectedness of things.

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‘Apple Tree Yard’s Protagonist is a Wife, Mother, Ph.D. and… Murderer?

Louis Doughty often describes things with a blunt gracefulness; she is an author that can take the simplest or smallest turn of phrase and make it memorable and powerful.

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Anne McCue: Blue Sky Thinkin’

Despite the fact McCue had a hand in writing every one of its dozen songs, any one of the selections might just as easily be mistaken for a standard tune that originated in the ‘20s, ‘30s or ‘40s.

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Why They Fight: A Brief History of Batman Battling Superman

Over the course of any relationship, especially ones that last three quarters of a century, there's bound to be some friction, some tension and some overall sour times.

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In ‘Mad Max - Fury Road’, the Devil and Delights Are in the Details

This Mad Max is an amazing accomplishment, a throwback that actually finds a way to return to the present day with its brilliance intact.

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Life on Tour Is Exactly What You Might Expect

The vibrance of A Million Miles is hindered by the unnecessary facade of fiction.

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14 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

Torres: Sprinter

The foreboding sonic weather systems that Mackenzie Scott summons in her songs give dimension to the complex topics she explores.

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A Tale of Two Ill-Fated Hollywood Stars

As Hollywood hopefuls Gig Young and Inger Stevens would learn, Hollywood is a dream factory; but it produces nightmares, as well.

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14 May 2015 // 2:20 AM

Tyondai Braxton: HIVE1

As a look into Braxton's mind, HIVE1 is as fascinating as it is unsettling.

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And So I Watch You From Afar: Heirs

The reverb-drenched Heirs is a solidly fun and frantic album, a rarity for the stuffy, overserious post-rock genre.

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Taraf de Haïdouks: Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts

Taraf de Haïdouks mix the old and the new on their 25th anniversary set.

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The Cathedral and the Shrink’s Office: ‘All Things Must Pass’ vs. ‘Plastic Ono Band’

All Things Must Pass and Plastic Ono Band are the best of the post-Beatles albums because they demonstrate the opposing modes in the ways we exist.

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In His Fourth Novel, Paul Beatty Aims to Get Under Your Skin

The Sellout is a blistering satire from a gifted poet and novelist. Just prepare to be uneasy!

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14 May 2015 // 2:05 AM

Buxton: Half a Native

Houston-based Buxton alters the alt-country dynamic established with their first two albums.

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Schizophonia: Cantorial Recordings Reimagined

Schizophonia set a new bar for ways we can imagine intersections between the old school, the spiritual, and the evanescent.

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Jean Pierre Melville’s ‘La silence de la mer’ Is the French Resistance in Microcosm

Austere even by Jean-Pierre Melville's later standards, La silence de la mer is a powerful testament to nonviolent resistance.

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‘Wayward Pines’ Tinkers With Familiar Strangeness

Mixing together the perfection of Wisteria Lane, the damp environs of Twilight, and Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines is an intriguing collection of the familiar.

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A Stiff Drink of Humility in ‘Superman #40’

A drunk Superman is both entertaining and insightful.

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Acting Connects Us All, Which Is ‘Why Acting Matters’

Through memorable, entertaining stories about actors and a brief history of acting in Britain and the United States, David Thomson reveals why acting matters so much to us all.

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Looking Into the Future of Cinema with Director John Boorman

The iconic Academy Award-winning director John Boorman discusses what may very well be his final masterwork, Queen & Country.

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The Story of Billie Holiday’s Life Shouldn’t Overshadow the Power of Her Music

To say that Billie Holiday's songs remain memorable because we know she lived a hard life does her artistry a most insulting disservice.

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13 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

The Weather Station: Loyalty

Taking up the mantle of great Canadian singer-songwriters, the Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman delivers her masterpiece.

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13 May 2015 // 2:20 AM

Sóley: Ask the Deep

As murky as the waters of Ask the Deep can get, the saving grace is always Sóley’s unique and arresting voice, which can conjure fairy worlds all on its own.

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The Increasingly Political, Ever Lulzy, Richly Cultural World of Hackers

Gabriella Coleman, ethnographer of Anonymous, is on a mission to dispel stereotypes and acknowledge the cultural contributions of hackers.

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Max Richter: The Blue Notebooks

If The Blue Notebooks was ever in danger of not being considered a classic, let this re-visitation be a way to cover our bases.

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13 May 2015 // 2:10 AM

The Revelers: Get Ready

The party rolls on with this Louisiana supergroup’s second independent release, where mastery of Cajun, zydeco, and swamp rock is on full display.

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Tony Barrell’s Banging on About Drumming

Born to Drum is most engaging when it gets away from worrying so specifically about what draws people to the instrument.

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Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys: Ionia

Michigan-based four-piece Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys routinely mix roots, bluegrass and Americana influences into their own distinct sound on new album Ionia.

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13 May 2015 // 2:00 AM

HOLY: Stabs

Stabs is too conservative a psychedelic album to stand out but provides some easy fun while it lasts.

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‘Mr. Turner’ Is a Film as a Canvas

Mr. Turner, the biopic of the famous painter J.M.W. Turner, speaks to the inherent difficulties of navigating the art world.

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‘The Multiversity #2’ Is More Than an Empty Hand

At the beginning of this series, Grant Morrison's ambiguities looked like strengths. Here, at the end, they are clearly weaknesses.

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‘It’s the Pictures That Got Small’ Tells of Hollywood’s Golden Age Like Only a Diary Can

Charles Backett's diaries provide readers with a close and very personal look at the genius of Billy Wilder and a glance at nearly every other Hollywood big-wig of the Golden Age.

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Watching the Verbs Take Action!

Meegan Voss and Steve Jordan are dynamite musicians on their own, but when together as the Verbs, their years of studio mastery truly come into the fore.

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12 May 2015 // 2:30 AM

Blanck Mass: Dumb Flesh

Like a shiny penny left submerged in Coca-Cola, the elements of dance music corrode here in Benjamin John Power’s hands.

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Hollywood Creative Accounting, or, How to Hide a Hit and Still Profit From It

From Batsuits to Lawsuits, Hollywood Studios have a long history of hiding profits to claim that enormous hits were actually flops. How do they do this, and why?

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Surfer Blood: 1000 Palms

Surfer Blood's dreamy beach pop returns, more melancholic and sentimental than ever.

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12 May 2015 // 2:15 AM

Psychic Reality: Chassis

Chassis succeeds the most when Leyna Noel bares her voice opposing the music that back her.

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The Pine Hill Project: Tomorrow You’re Going

Two master songwriters flaunt their performance skills on a collection of well- and lesser-known covers.

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Color Therapy: Mr. Wolf Is Dead

If you're looking for mood-music and a soporific, look no further! Color Therapy's here to put you to sleep and exercise any of those unwanted emotions!

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Everclear’s Art Alexakis Is the Man Who Broke His Own Heart

Everclear's Art Alexakis reflects on his career in music as well as his band's "best-sounding" new album.

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Lyal Strickland: Balanced on Barbed Wire

Before long, Strickland may not be just the Ozarks’ storyteller, but America’s. Balanced on Barbed Wire, both in its production and moxie, represents a strong step in that direction.

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In 1987, ‘Hollywood Shuffle’ Satirized Hollywood’s Race Problem That Still Exists Today

Hollywood Shuffle sends up Hollywood's stereotype treatment of black actors.

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11 May 2015 // 8:50 AM

Coming Out Honestly in ‘All-New X-Men #40’

Bobby Drake, the X-Men known as Iceman, is outed by a close friend. But could the situation have been handled better?

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‘Hot Pursuit’ Substitutes Hate for Humor

Hot Pursuit is a sexist screed in which women are reduced to ridiculous gender stereotypes all for the sake of laughs -- which are nonexistent.

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‘Trigger Warning’ Proves Once Again That Neil Gaiman Rarely Fails to Be Entertaining

Trigger Warning collects 23 of Gaiman's recent stories and poems, and serves as a reminder of how he became such a phenomenon in the fantasy field.

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More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

Kiasmos: 26 May 2015 - Rough Trade NYC (Photos)

// Notes from the Road

"Kiasmos is the exciting, dark and trippy electronic project from Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen.

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