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

Opium Traces

Friday, October 3 2014

‘Seizure’ Rides on Oliver Stone’s Name

Oliver Stone's feature film debut is a wicked little horror movie that predicted the home terror films of later eras.


Oasis: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Deluxe Edition)

Oasis' Morning Glory still holds up, which can be attributed to the fact that albums with this level of cultural clout and collective popularity tend to help define the sounds of their era.


Big Star: #1 Record / Radio City

If you don’t have these two albums, your record collection has a massive hole.


Lia Ices: Ices

Lia Ices' third album is nothing short of folk style innovation.


On Memory, Family, and Voice

Elizabeth is Missing is a beautifully written book that touches on so many of the challenges that come with aging.


Cabaret Voltaire: #7885 (Technopunk to Electropop 1978-1985)

For the first time, both sides of the post-punk/industrial/techno pioneers are collected in one place.


Locust Honey String Band: Never Let Me Cross Your Mind

A warm and emotional record, this is the product of the band's collective knowledge and lives steeped in music.


Mary Gauthier: Love & Trouble

Gauthier knows how to write and deliver a killer song. She uses a sharp knife to make one bleed with empathy.


‘The Two Faces of January’ Tells the Tale of Compatriots in a Foreign Country

Aided by Marcel Syskind's gorgeous cinemaphotography, the audience sees that these characters are often hidden beneath only the lightest of masks.


Thursday, October 2 2014

Of Mermaids Falling from the Moon: Ancient Comicbooks from Before the Flood

Richard Shaver called the rocks that he found "Rock Books". Within them he saw both stories and pictures from the ancient past. They were the world's first comicbooks -- comicbooks from before the flood.


‘Gracepoint’, a Remake of ‘Broadchurch’, Is Both the Same and Different

A precarious balance between precision and messiness structures Gracepoint in its storytelling and in its position as a US network series.


The Wit is Strong With This One

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth offers an amusing, fresh look at some pop culture classics that you only thought you had overanalyzed before.


Jessica Lea Mayfield, Crash, and Ark Life Play Central Iowa’s Best-Kept-Secret Venue

There's no bar, no restaurant, ballroom or theater. But between the silos and stars sits the music venue equivalent of the Enchanted Kingdom.


In Defense Of ... Well, You’re Not Going to Believe This One ‘Til You Read It

Regarding the Ray Rice saga, TMZ not only forced the NFL's hand, it put domestic violence back in the spotlight, where it should be.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Music Releases for October 2014

October's Listening Ahead focuses on some of the month's most adventurous releases from the likes of Scott Walker and SunnO))), Caribou, and Grouper.


In ‘Juggernaut’ a Ship Is in Peril, But Do You Care?

As much as Richard Lester throws the audience into the action, we have no reason to care about the fate of any of the passengers of the SS Britannic.


The Smashing Pumpkins: Adore (Deluxe Edition)

The misunderstood Adore is an album that proved to be better appreciated than enjoyed, but endless amounts of bonus ephemera provides little revelations, a slog that only hardcore Corganistas should feel compelled to make.


Flann O’Brien and His Various Personae Had an Innate Faculty for Finding Things Funny

Ireland's clerical and lay authorities, humbugs and scolds, and the dull "plain people" were not safe from Flann O'Brien's many sharp pens.


Electric Youth: Innerworld

"This year... in a world... 'A Real Hero' will rise again! But this time it's not alone."


The Last Bison: VA

VA effectively charts a bold new course for the band that doesn't need to rely on folk rockers du jour.


Counting Crows: Somewhere Under Wonderland

Memory loss. Death. Being under water. A lot. Counting Crows' latest features some of Adam Duritz's best moments ever, and it's now been more than 20 years after their debut.


Rubblebucket: Survival Sounds

The Brooklyn-based indie pop band manages to make a spirited fourth album without straying too far from formula, even when they should be busting out of it.


Nerina Pallot: Rousseau / Little Bull

EPs seven and eight for Nerina Pallott are a mix of literary ballads and commercial pop; Rousseau leans on philosophy and poetry, whilst Little Bull turns adult.


Wednesday, October 1 2014

Monterey Jazz Festival: 19 September 2014 (Photos)

The 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival shone bright as a beacon for a long-standing organization with a mission for musical outreach and jazz education.


‘Band on Tour’ Is an iOS App Developed by Musicians to Help Book Shows

While going to individual venue websites and finding booking information was usually a hassle before the advent of mobile apps, searching for that same information took less time than using this particular app.


‘Ain’t it Time We Said Goodbye’ Is a Reader’s Digest-like Condensation of the Rolling Stones Story

Veteran Stones scribe Robert Greenfield captures a band, and its key relationship, in turmoil and on the cusp of change.


The Guest: Interview with Director Adam Wingard and Screenwriter Simon Barrett

The duo discuss their filmic influences, toying with audience expectation and the use of humor in horror.


On Not Showing the Action: Stillness in ‘Trees’

The normalcy of reading movement into comics art is what makes Warren Ellis' and Jason Howard's new series, Trees, a curiosity.


Lit Up: The National’s ‘Alligator’ and the Hope of Indie Rock

The National's seminal 2005 album Alligator shows the band, like America, to be lit up by white lights even as it is surrounded by darkness.


‘Ivory Tower’ Is a Scattered Look at an Important Topic

Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower opts to generate heat rather than shed light on key issues in American higher education.


‘The Mysteries of Laura’ Is Too Many Shows in One

Trapped in the hour-long drama structure, the half-hour sitcom that The Mysteries of Laura might long to be never finds its footing.


Lucinda Williams: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Both familiar and challenging, Williams' new record invites her audience to dance slow and close to a set of adult songs for adult listeners.


Bonnie “Prince” Billy: Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues

Existential dread is nothing new for Will Oldham's performing persona, but this new record might be his most harrowing yet.


‘Joe’ Rewards Close Reading with Good Jokes and a Hard-Won Honesty

This novel became a Nicolas Cage movie about a year ago. Rent the movie; read the book. Both are worth your time.


Various Artists: Temporary: Selections from Dunedin’s Pop Underground 2011-2014

Much of this New Zealand compilation recalls a promo sampler from 25 or 30 years ago, when "college rock" was a niche and variety encouraged on a more daring or more cocky label's eclectic roster.


So Cow: The Long Con

On So Cow's first full-band record, the trio sounds natural and the songs instinctual, even as they tighten into tense, nervous coils, twisting the edges and tilting the balance of typical garage rock structures.


Blake Shelton: Bringing Back the Sunshine

On Bringing Back the Sunshine, Blake Shelton brings back more of the same.


Tomás Doncker Band: Moanin’ at Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project

Here's an album that crackles with fresh mojo while maintaining the authentic vibe of the originals that inspired the project in the first place.


Tuesday, September 30 2014

Lofty Legacies: “Superman: Futures End #1”

An issue about carrying on a legacy, but for only some of the right reasons.


‘Selfie’ Is Like ‘Pygmalion’ with Cell Phones

One of Selfie’s biggest sins is how tone-deaf it is about social media and those who use it successfully.


Haruki Murakami’s Characters Grapple With Friendship and Aging, But His Stories Never Grow Old

Stapled onto an ephemeral present shaped by Lexus cars, Twitter, and transformational training, Murakami engages with timeless themes in his latest colourful tale.


‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Is a Small Part of a Growing Live-Action Comic Book

Marvel is making their own live-action comic series, and while you don’t necessarily need to collect all the pieces to enjoy the story, there’s a much bigger payoff if you do.


An Interview with ‘Two Faces of January’ Writer-Director Hossein Amini

"There’s something about identity I think is very fascinating and the idea of people having secrets and I think we all have that in our life."


Reinventing Scotland, Reinventing Ourselves: After the Referendum

To be in the minority is the natural condition of artists. The referendum gave Scotland's creative community a brief respite from its sense of isolation.


‘Papers, Please’ and the Bureacracy of Play

Lucas Pope's "bureaucracy simulator" both satirizes our information culture and reveals just how much we love mundane, everyday tasks.


‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ Remains the Ultimate Revisionist Western 40 Years Later

It opens with images of mortality and ends with a monster’s operatic dance with a chain saw under a deathly, brooding Texas sun—it’s about America, man.


Prince: Art Official Age / Prince & 3rdeyegirl: PLECTRUMELECTRUM

These two new albums are welcome additions to Prince's canon, as none of his post-2004 comeback discs are as wall-to-wall fun as these are.


Luke Winslow-King: Everlasting Arms

Luke Winslow-King furthers his explorations of pre-war American music on his latest for Bloodshot.


Share ‘Belzhar’ With the YA in Your Life, But Enjoy It Yourself, Too

Jam Gallahue and her English classmates are given journals to keep. But when they begin writing, something strange happens.


S: Cool Choices

Former Carissa's Weird member Jenn Ghetto expands her solo project, S, into a full band for the best parts of Cool Choices. Oddly enough, it's when she's alone on the record that her emotions are the hardest to make out.


Zoot Woman: Star Climbing

Zoot Woman’s eagerly anticipated return to the electronic music scene rarely reaches the glittering heights of its shimmering title.


Deru: 1979

By making an album for himself, Benjamin Wynn just might end up pleasing everyone.


Bruce Hornsby: Solo Concerts

Hornsby explores his many, many sides on a double-disc that might be tough listening for fringe fans.


Monday, September 29 2014

Hitting the Limiter: “Roche Limit #1”

Any good futuristic tale worth reading should transport you to a believable, yet otherworldly reality. Luckily, Roche Limit succeeds at this…


‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Serves as a Metaphor for Our Time

Like Star Trek, this looks back as it looks forward, situating our present in an alternative world that reflects our story today.


Playing With Consistency Inconsistency: Jeff VanderMeer Takes Us into Area X

The adventurous Annihilation + the Raymond Chandler-like Authority + the existentialist Acceptance = the engaging Southern Reach Trilogy.


‘Cowboys and Indies’ Is a Helluva Book That Will Become a Go-To Guide

Despite its awful title, Gareth Murphy's extensive and compelling tome is the kind of stuff that music nerds' dreams are made of.


How Women Dominated Pop Music in the ‘00s

We owe it to ourselves to recognize the many women in pop music that made an undeniable impact on popular culture and the world at large.


You May Not Get It, But David Lynch Knows What He’s Doing in ‘Eraserhead’

It takes 89 minutes to watch David Lynch's Eraserhead, but it could take 89 years to figure out what the hell it was that you just saw.


Thom Yorke: Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes isn't about any new technology, even with its faux-edgy release through bittorrent; it's about the old question about the power and limitations of our human containers.


The Rural Alberta Advantage: Mended With Gold

On third LP, Mended With Gold, the band pursues escape velocity with the most commitment yet, making the most bombastic and polished arrangements of their career.


There’s Plenty of Realism in “Land of Love and Drowning’s” Magic

While there's a fairy tale tone (think of the original ones, that don’t always have happily ever after endings), the characters are well developed and empathic.


Sun Ra and His Arkestra: In the Orbit of Ra

On In the Orbit of Ra Sun Ra collaborator and Arkestra member Marshall Allen presents a portrait of the jazz legend every bit as complicated and strange as a cross-section of his reality could possibly be.


Lowell: We Loved Her Dearly

If We Loved Her Dearly is any indication, Lowell has simply run out of material, if not ideas, musical or otherwise.


NONONO: We Are Only What We Feel

This electro-dance trio wants you to feel human. Easier done than said.


Sheer Terror: Standing Up for Falling Down

Hate Core is alive and well! Sheer Terror, New York hardcore hate-mongers, return with a new record, new line-up, and their same old abhorrence for, well… everything.


Friday, September 26 2014

In ‘Tracks’, Life Hangs Upon a Single Moment

Tracks explores the problem of authenticity, what it means, and who perceives it.


Tom Hardy’s Role in ‘The Drop’ Makes This Film More Than Just Another Noir

If you follow your instincts and bolt at the start of this sturdy and bleak noir, you miss Tom Hardy creating a thing of beauty yet again


Everything About ‘The Equalizer’ Is Wrong

As much as Robert (Denzel Washington) delivers action and melodramatic conventions, he also hints at another possibility entirely.


Getting Lost in the South: The Hopscotch Music Festival 2014

Did I truly experience "the Real South" over the course of the Hopscotch Music Festival weekend?


The Day the Old Batman-town Steel Mill Shut Down

Imagine Batman, the whole of the intellectual property, the full weight of publication and production history, now 75 years on from its inception, and imagine it as a town.


A Career in Rock Journalism Makes for Some ‘Strange Days’

Throughout Strange Days Goodman displays elements of what the great Papa described as a “built in bullshit detector”.


Is There Hope for the Creative Underclass as the Internet Changes?

The People's Platform exposes the Internet's capitalist underbelly of exploitation, control and broken promises, while still managing to offer hope for an alternative.


Singing Across Continents: An Interview with Somi

Somi is a not-exactly jazz singer with roots in Africa and the American midwest, and she has made the year's most amazing record, evoking the spirit of Lagos, Nigeria.


Three Great Albums Fade in Reflection

Despite their canonical status, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Oracular Spectacular, and White Blood Cells lack the staying power of truly great albums.


There’s No Horsing Around in ‘A Brony Tale’

A Brony Tale isn’t as fun as it should be, but it does manage to say a lot of interesting things about stereotypes and fandom.


Chuck Prophet: Night Surfer

Despite the high anxiety, Night Surfer, Prophet’s 13th album, is pure-bred, colourful rock with a dark sense of humour.


‘The Golem of Hollywood’ Is a Fresh Novel About Truth and Justice

The father/son team of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman debuts with an impressive novel that supplants expectations and enhances the legacy of both authors.


Jason Moran: All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller

A wild mix of styles are brought to the music of Fats Waller by the pianist Jason Moran and his collaborator MeShell Ndegeocello. A dance party that proves, again, that jazz boundaries are joyously crumbling.


Dntel: Human Voice

Producer Jimmy Tamborello puts together a pleasant but modest set of textured beats and ambient sounds for his fourth studio album.


Hamish Kilgour: All of It and Nothing

The Clean member Hamish Kilgour's first solo record, All of It And Nothing, doesn't seem interested in grabbing for your attention.


Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa: Savage Imagination

Almost every single moment of Savage Imagination is pretty and melodic, but these tracks tend to just drift by before dissolving into the next pretty, sweet bit of noodling.


John Zorn: Myth and Mythopoeia

Myth and Mythopoeia holds the course for John Zorn's career -- presenting music that is as difficult to hear as it is rewarding to absorb. There's also one track here that can be preserved for the ages.


Thursday, September 25 2014

Shonda Rhimes Takes Over Thursday Nights in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

How to Get Away with Murder is aimed to capture the essence of both of the Shonda Rhimes shows that precede it, Grey's Anatomy and Scandal.


Exemplary Continuity in She-Hulk

“My own views on continuity are something of a mixed bag. Basically, I think the massive, over-populated mainstream superhero worlds create opportunities for interesting, inventive interactions between the disparate characters…”


‘The Girls from Corona del Mar’ Is a Serious Study of Female Friendship

The challenges of adulthood can alter the friendships we forge in childhood.


Dumpstaphunk + Everyone Orchestra: Denver - 28 August 2014

Maybe getting down just for the funk of it could indeed help unite the world in peace and harmony.


Cut! Shoot! The Directorial Styles of Blake Edwards and Richard Lester

The Party, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Juggernaut give us good clean fun about slavery and brothels.


The ‘00s: Hip-Hop Got Weird at the Turn of the Century

Hip-hop's turn for the weird in the '00s ended up being one of the smartest moves it could take. Forget the old guard; 21st century hip-hop succeeded in improving on its forebears.


‘The Stream’ Is a Deluge of References

Aching for the past dam(n)s The Stream.


Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems

Cohen's 13th studio release offers nine powerful reflections on the sacred and the profane with characteristic mix of humor and longing.


Perfume Genius: Too Bright

Glittered with transcendent brilliance, gilded shadows do not hide the empowered dramatic turn of Perfume Genius's Too Bright.


‘The Childhood of Jesus’ Has the Simplicity of Myth But None of the Clarity

Like many of J.M. Coetzee’s books, this one feels written for and about the author himself, ruthlessly interrogating his own beliefs and purpose.


Justin Townes Earle: Single Mothers

Single Mothers sounds like something you would expect from Earle: a carefully calculated and cohesive product.


Prude: the dark age of consent.

This is psychologically dangerous stuff, and a great deal of enjoyment comes from revelling in Prude’s excesses. That comes to a point, though.


Mark Kozelek: Live at Biko

With Live at Biko, Mark Kozelek delivers a live set of highly compellingly autobiographical later period work that sets a new standard for the nakedly confessional singer-songwriter.


Girl Talk & Freeway: Broken Ankles

Girl Talk & Freeway collaborate to bring you a fast-paced EP that is well worth its short run time.


Wednesday, September 24 2014

Berlin Is Still at It in ‘The Blacklist’

Unlike weekly procedurals that wrap up everything with a bow, the knots tied in The Blacklist are entwined on frayed ribbon that runs the risk of falling apart.


Kathy Sledge: 6 September 2014 - New York

At the New York premiere of "The Brighter Side of Day", Kathy Sledge captured the spirit and soul of Billie Holiday.


If We’d Never Had to Fight a War: “The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1”

Tell your people, your super-people, that it won't stop here. It's coming your way, too. And if you have no super-people, may the lord have mercy.


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