Opium Traces
More Recent Features
Pulitzer Prize Winner Jorie Graham’s Collection of Poetry, ‘Fast’, Will Haunt You, Beautifully

These poems are replete with thoughts and images that haunt me, that shake the tendrils of my nervous system and appear to me in unbidden moments.

READ more
Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Day One

Creative musical talents, nice weather, and friendly people combined with long, long lines, some minor technical issues, and a few lackluster performances.

READ more
The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II

Zappa-indebted big band leader Ed Palermo carries his singular vision across the pond, taking on the British Invasion and more in strikingly original fashion.

READ more
Silverstein: Dead Reflection

Dead Reflection shows the band’s development in a subtle manner, carrying tropes and images with crowd-pleasing lines rather than intense guitar riffs.

READ more
Sabrina Malheiros: Clareia

A feel-good blend of samba and soul, Clareia is the perfect album to put on with your morning coffee.

READ more
The Teddy Charles/Teddy Cohen Jazz Map of Random Finds and Significant Directions

I take a chance on the unknown used records of Shenzhen and Los Angeles and unwittingly connect the dots, opening up the wide but previously obscured vistas of post-bebop history.

READ more
Laibach: Also Sprach Zarathustra

Intended as a score for a theatrical version of Friedrich Nietzsche's famous novel, Also Sprach Zarathrustra could also just as easily be the next David Fincher soundtrack.

READ more
Arthur Alexander: Arthur Alexander

Alexander's music shares an affinity with the gospel-turned-secular R&B that made Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, and others so damn good. These songs express heart and soul.

READ more
Why It’s Too Late to Let Spider-Man Into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Peter Parker of Homecoming doesn't resemble a superhero so much as an approval-starved, attention-seeking child.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’: Rachel Makes a Brutal Choice in “Gag or Throttle”

"Gag or Throttle" exemplifies how well the series combines plot, character payoff, and great pacing with the consistently outstanding acting of Maslany and company.

READ more
‘Dunkirk’: “The Bodies Come Back”

Dunkirk turns war movie tropes inside out to articulate a broader theme, not only the truism that war is excruciating, but more profoundly, that war is always the same, that it repeats, that it cannot be won.

READ more
Thin Lizzy / Philip Lynott Bio ‘Cowboy Song’ Is Like Reading the Best Liner Notes, Ever

Cowboy Song is not the first biography of Thin Lizzy and/or Lynott, but it is profoundly well-researched and may be the best.

READ more
The Ongoing Struggle With Society in ‘The Savage Innocents’

Nicholas Ray's personal frustrations inform his fable of the far north, now on Blu-ray by Olive Films.

READ more
Deep Soul Diving: Jahshua Smith Deconstructs ‘The 4th Wall’

Smith's music is balanced on a sagacious tip, where he examines the rigmaroles of daily life through the Afrocentric prism of dialogue and debate.

READ more
Harry Taussig and Max Ochs: The Music of Harry Taussig and Max Ochs

A pair of overlooked solo acoustic guitarists reunites 50 years after appearing together on John Fahey’s legendary 1967 Takoma sampler LP for a fine, succinct program of that for which they are each best known.

READ more

24 Jul 2017 // 7:46 AM

Goatwhore: Vengeful Ascension

Extreme metal overlords Goatwhore celebrate 20 years of with their most mature outing to date.

READ more
The Society of the ‘Fight Club’ Is the Society of the Spectacle

All work and no play make Fight Club's Jack deconstruct life, Cinema, and his own sanity.

READ more
Waltzing With a City in ‘Stockholm, My Love’

Spend an intimate hour and a half with a living, breathing city. Journeying Through the Soul of a City, and the Self

READ more
Nick Lowe: Reissues, 1982-1990

Six vital releases from one of the most underappreciated titans of power pop are finally back in print.

READ more

24 Jul 2017 // 2:20 AM

Gaudi: Magnetic

The producer's interplay between drum and bass forms the album's heart. A resonant, visceral listen.

READ more
Basic Income Is the Future; Basic Income Could Be the Present

The Epilogue to Basic Income correctly identifies that the cause for economic anxiety and stagnation is the “dictatorship of the market”. From this, UBI would inarguably set us free.

READ more
The Top Tier X-men Assemble for a Top Level Blockbuster in ‘Astonishing X-men #1’

Astonishing X-men may be the most important X-men comic to come along since Secret Wars.

READ more
When American Women’s Dreams of Equality Carried Them to Russia

By uncovering lost stories of women living abroad, Julia Mickenberg revives rich histories of adventure.

READ more
Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology

Weaver's confidence is well-earned and it is a satisfying spectacle that a rather underappreciated artist should find her moment nearly 25 years into her career.

READ more
Laura Nyro: A Little Magic, A Little Kindness - The Complete Mono Albums

Nyro herself was known to prefer the mono versions that would sound good on a cheap radio, so this does honor her spirit.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 5:00 AM

Toro y Moi: Boo Boo

Boo Boo is an engaging, immersive album that unfolds itself over repeated listens.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 4:00 AM

Coldplay: Kaleidoscope EP

This is Coldplay in 2017, saying "hi" to the mainstream by pandering to pop, and actually managing to do a not-half-bad job of it.

READ more
The True Origin of the Superhero Film Craze? ‘X-Men’ Comics

Bryan Singer's first X-Men film launched the comic book film craze that is still sweeping through Hollywood. But it had a predecessor in Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 1.

READ more

21 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

A Feminist Reads Philip Roth

Thoughts about Roth's The Dying Animal, as brought on by the season 6 episode of Girls, "American Bitch".

READ more
‘Dunkirk’ Is a Masterpiece of Overwhelming Realism

As uplifting as it is unrelenting, Christopher Nolan’s epic war thriller unites everyone in the most basic of objectives: survive to fight another day.

READ more
What’s Wrong With Education Today? It’s Missing the Monsters

College should include courses on zombie apocalypses. Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us explains why.

READ more
What a Man’s Gotta Do?: ‘The Virginian’, ‘The New School Teacher’ and ‘Feel My Pulse’

The Virginian, The New School Teacher and Feel My Pulse are good examples of the art of silent film from worthwhile filmmakers.

READ more
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors

Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor have done it again, this time by teaming up with two London musicians. But what on earth is "it"?!

READ more

20 Jul 2017 // 8:07 AM

SZA: CTRL

SZA's first solo album is a confessional look at her psyche through previous relationships. Bolstered by powerful production its as resonant and sure-footed of an R&B debut as any this year.

READ more
Art Pepper: Presents “West Coast Sessions” Volumes 3 and 4

These late-career Art Pepper reissues offer the chance to reevaluate the genius of the troubled saxophonist’s remarkable final years.

READ more
Melvins: A Walk With Love and Death

This double album from the legendary troublemakers tests and teases, but it also rewards

READ more
Japanese Breakfast: Soft Sounds From Another Planet

Michelle Zauner follows her breakout Japanese Breakfast debut with Soft Sounds From Another Planet, easily one of the more compulsively listenable indie records of 2017.

READ more
Awesome Tapes From Africa: An Interview with Brian Shimkovitz

What started as a blog soon turned into a label, and the founder/curator reflects on the newest reissue and the cassette's diminishing African presence.

READ more
‘Assassin’s Creed - Syndicate’: Power Abhors a Vacuum

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate's politics are painted with broad strokes, but in these times of absurd politics, those broad strokes become pointed commentary.

READ more
‘Devil’s Music, Holy Rollers and Hillbillies’ Joins the Debate on the Origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Devil’s Music delves into the murky world of rock 'n' roll history and the genre’s convoluted origins, resulting in a concise analysis of how the music came to be.

READ more
Chris Robinson Holds Rock Services at the Chapel in San Francisco

Throughout the set, Robinson’s trademark soulfully cathartic voice shines regardless of whether he’s singing a fan favorite or an obscure deep cut. He’s got plenty of both...

READ more
‘Dunkirk’ Is a Compelling, Paralyzing, Nightmarish Vision of War

Christopher Nolan delivers his most cinematic work yet, assaulting the senses while examining courage and cowardice in wartime.

READ more
The Steel Woods: Straw in the Wind

With their full-length debut, veterans of the Nashville circuit deliver a country/Southern rock hybrid for the ages.

READ more
Big Star: The Best of Big Star

Another compilation album from Big Star? Should we care? Yes. Yes we should.

READ more

19 Jul 2017 // 7:30 AM

DWNTWN: Racing Time

Although Racing Time showcases DWNTWN’s hook-driven pop sensibilities, it positions such displays on the played out stage of ‘80s emulation and in the less-than-stellar lighting of the album’s second half.

READ more

19 Jul 2017 // 2:30 AM

Tau Cross: Pillar of Fire

Tau Cross displays no intention of slowing down or conforming and delivers an alchemical work of crossover thrash and brainy post-punk with folk deviations.

READ more
The Guinness-drinking Folks at ‘The Forensic Records Society’ Sure Know Their Music

Magnus Mills tackles religious disintegration with a precision which is almost excessive in The Forensic Records Society.

READ more
Everything Was Fake: ‘Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris’

In the wake of the 'Terrible Year', Flaubert railed against the "stupidity" of his fellow citizens. Are we any smarter 150 years later?

READ more
A Look Back but a Step Forward: An Interview with Steve Earle

Steve Earle has blazed his own trails but now, at 62, he reflects on fallen heroes, chance encounters, and how he'll always be a political rabble-rouser.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’: Krystal Is the Amusing Delight of a Serious Story

The islanders rebel, Cosima escapes, and everything is coming to a head in "Manacled Slim Wrists".

READ more
‘Threads’ Is a Cartoon Sojourn in a Metaphorical Jungle of Real-world Refugees

A comics journalist interprets the plight of would-be immigrants trapped in French refugee camps just miles from their UK destination.

READ more
A Weak Case for the Important Issue of ‘Muslims and the Making of America’

A book like Muslims and the Making of America is necessary in these times, and it's for that very reason that Hussain's effort is so disappointing.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:20 AM

INMusic Festival Wows Record-breaking Crowd

Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon deliver wildly disparate spectacles as thousands gather for Croatia's premiere music festival.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:10 AM

Kacey Johansing: The Hiding

The L.A.-based singer’s third solo album softly grasps the art of holding back.

READ more

18 Jul 2017 // 8:07 AM

Kneebody: Anti-Hero

Kneebody pit their maverick tendencies against the vast languages of modern jazz.

READ more
Daniel Martin Moore: Turned Over to Dreams

Daniel Martin Moore's latest release may just be his most eclectic.

READ more
Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift in Decorum - Live at the Village Vanguard

Our most intriguing young trumpet player, live and with just a rhythm section, making magic.

READ more
Brush Up on Your Film Studies With ‘Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2’

Scorsese and the World Cinema Project are not only opening up international filmmaking to Western audiences but providing immaculate film quality and history, too.

READ more
“Gotta Stay Up ‘Til the Sunrise”: An Interview with Animal Collective’s Avey Tare

Animal Collective's Avey Tare talks with PopMatters about his California album Eucalyptus and the importance of space and mystery in music.

READ more
Offa Rex: The Queen of Hearts

Think of Offa Rex as the Decemberists and UK singer Olivia Chaney jumping into a wormhole to come out the other side as Fairport Convention. It works magically in every way.

READ more
Our Times of Political Turmoil and Upheaval Call for Grace Paley’s Astute Criticism

A Grace Paley Reader is a powerful, captivating, and extremely relevant survey of Paley’s work from the field. It's a fine example of the personal as political.

READ more
Goran Therborn’s Scholary Study, ‘Cities of Power’ and the Global Moment

"Capital cities are by definition sites of political power... they are open also sites of resistance, of political counter-power, of protest rallies and headquarters of opposition movements, parties and trade unions."

READ more
The Premise of ‘Imagine Wanting Only This’ Is Artful In a Way More Typical of Fiction

A paradoxically impersonal memoir of not-quite coming-of-age in an age of isolation.

READ more
‘Groundhog Day’ Meets T.S. Eliot in ‘Life of Significant Soil’

This indie film charts the last gasp of a relationship between two New Yorkers who need each other, but aren't sure why.

READ more
Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul

Captured at the height of their strength as a live unit, Truth, Liberty & Soul proves an excellent showcase for both Jaco Pastorius and the Word of Mouth Big Band.

READ more
Whitehorse: Panther in the Dollhouse

The music has a Western movie vibe and offers an aural CinemaScope in black and white where the color sometimes bleeds in. Is that blood really red?

READ more
Algiers and the Political Structures of Noise

How can there be a political movement if we're unwilling to move? Algiers connects past and present for the sake of the future.

READ more
Poetry, Art, and the New Spirit of Capitalism

Poet and critic Jasper Bernes seeks nothing less than a complete reconsideration of poetry and art over the past 50 years in this book, which heralds the appearance of an important new voice in criticism.

READ more
‘Sand + Bone’ Confronts What War Does to a Man

Sand + Bone doesn't take a position so much as it illustrates a problem.

READ more
The Poetry of Heartbreak in ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’

Jacques Demy's dazzling musical explores a realistic side of love -- one that doesn’t always lead to a happy ending.

READ more
‘Three Stones Make a Wall’, an Introduction to Archaeology, Struggles Against Its Genre Boundaries

The blur that this book will "engage all readers no matter what their background", I'm afraid, I find myself constrained to differ.

READ more
Various Artists: American Epic - The Collection

Think of American Epic: The Collection as a newly definitive survey that captures the fullness of rural American music recorded during the 1920s.

READ more
Beach House: B-Sides and Rarities

This collection adds further definition to our understanding of a band too often reduced by oversimplified interpretations.

READ more

14 Jul 2017 // 8:01 AM

Quindar: Hip Mobility

Space is the place. On Hip Mobility, Quindar's two-man instrumental combo provide a lush, futuristic soundtrack of NASA's glory days.

READ more

14 Jul 2017 // 7:20 AM

The Flipside #2: Baby Driver

In the new bi-weekly column, critics Brice Ezell and Evan Sawdey saw Edgar Wright's Baby Driver and trace its heist-film lineage and iPod fetishization to its funky ends.

READ more
The Story’s Jennifer Kimball Makes Folk Music for the New Century

One-half of the '90s duo The Story collaborates with Cuddle Magic's Alec Spiegelman to create mature Americana that has a modern groove.

READ more
Convergence of Character and Chaos In Marvel’s ‘Dr. Aphra #9’

Dr. Aphra continues to carve her own place in a galaxy far, far away.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’: “Ease for Idle Millionaires” Allows Maslany’s Portrayal of Cosima to Shine

"Ease for the Idle Millionaires" pulls at the complex and interconnected plot threads, while giving Maslany endless opportunities to showcase her talent.

READ more
With ‘Wish Upon’ You Come for the Horror and Stay for the Comedy

The clinical precision of John R. Leonetti’s simplistic horror premise is undermined by set pieces that resemble slapstick comedy routines.

READ more
Radiohead Music Theory, Pure and Simple

The most intelligent bunch of musicians to ever sell out an arena are the subject of rich, in-depth critical analysis. Have a highlighter and headphones handy.

READ more
Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band Re-ignite the Spirit of 1967 at Monterey Pop

There’s a truly endearing vibe here watching Grahame Lesh lead the band through Jerry Garcia’s most epic song while Dad continues to drop bass bombs.

READ more
Retro Film Theory Feels Important but Romantically Distant in ‘On the Eve of the Future’

As hybrid art critic-scholar, Annette Michelson writes with a complex beauty that toggles between mechanical and poetic.

READ more
I Draw Slow: Turn Your Face to the Sun

This Dublin-based folk band plays American-style folk music but sounds better when they stretch outside the traditional American folk style.

READ more
Erasure: From Moscow to Mars - An Erasure Anthology

From Moscow to Mars is a definitive set that thoroughly explores three decades of pop magic by the veteran British duo.

READ more

13 Jul 2017 // 8:03 AM

Lo Tom: Lo Tom

David Bazan's new group, Lo Tom, makes low-stakes indie rock that's easily enjoyable.

READ more
Haim: Something to Tell You

These songs remain as tightly constructed, propulsive, and personally relatable as ever, and it's hard to deny the talent Haim has for hooks and intricate songwriting.

READ more
Low and Slow: David Lowery on the Simplicity of ‘A Ghost Story’

Following up last year's family-friendly Pete's Dragon, director David Lowery returns with ambitious indie A Ghost Story, a movie that revels in intimacy and the passage of time.

READ more
‘Puffin Rock’ Opens Up a World of Ecological Imagination for Children

What differentiates Puffin Rock from its peers in the crowded market space of children’s educational programming is its commitment to place and how it imagines authority.

READ more
‘Playing House’: Season Three Offers a Near-Perfect Blend of Humor and Drama

Playing House's third season proves that "sisters doin' it for themselves" means sisters doin' it for each other, too.

READ more
Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie: Lindsey Buckingham / Christine McVie

Fleetwood Mac - Stevie Nicks = Buckingham/McVie. Typical Fleetwood Mac math, yet somehow it adds up to a pretty-good album.

READ more
The Dark, Funny, Subversive Chamber of Angela Carter’s Imagination

In this expansive yet detailed and nuanced biography, Edmund Gordon allows the complex and endlessly fascinating Angela Carter to come alive on the page again

READ more
Ryan Keberle and Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light

The trombonist's superb quintet is now both more political and more lush in arrangement. One of the music's best bands just got better.

READ more
Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Calvin Harris’s new album Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1 is a high-water mark for good vibes pop, reflecting the whimsical and collaborative spirit that is prevailing in pop music right now.

READ more

12 Jul 2017 // 7:59 AM

Ex Eye: Ex Eye

Led by Colin Stetson and augmented by drummer Greg Fox, Ex Eye makes a black metal/jazz amalgam that is cathartic in its athleticism.

READ more
Dope Opera: Azeem Talks with PopMatters About His West Coast Hip-Hop Classic, ‘Garage Opera’

In 1999, Azeem recorded his underground classic Garage Opera, hip-hop's equivalent of garage rock.

READ more
Does Western Civilization Owe a “Classical Debt” to Greece?

Hanink takes us on an exploration of ancient and modern Greece, showing how our ideas of classical antiquity can have powerful implications for how we think about the present.

READ more
Do You Want to Be Dead or a Monster?: An Interview With Jen Goma

While known for work in A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Jen "Showtime" Goma surprised even herself by going solo and embracing all the craziness that comes with it.

READ more
Truth ≠ Clarity: Antonioni’s ‘Blow-Up’ and the Melancholy of Discovery

Blow-Up taunts its viewers with a significance that never manifests, a Truth that always recedes.

READ more
‘Complicated Fun’ Is a Thorough Study of the Glory Days of the Twin Cities Punk and Indie Scenes

The tales of a record store, a set of like-minded club owners, and a record label all tie together into a beautiful narrative of the burgeoning Minneapolis music scene.

READ more
‘Orphan Black’ - ‘Let the Children and the Childbearers Toil’ Tackles Mothers and Daughters

Almost halfway through the final season, Orphan Black continues to showcase the complex relationships of the sisters and those closest to them.

READ more
More Recent Features
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Inside' and the Monstrosity of Collectivism

// Moving Pixels

"An ability to manipulate a collective is a hint at what a little boy's power as an individual might be.

READ the article