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Thursday, December 11 2014

Smashing Pumpkins: Monuments to an Elegy

Meet the new Smashing Pumpkins, gradually distancing themselves from the old Smashing Pumpkins.


The Best Emo Albums of 2014

Like emo's first wave, today's revival has taken issue with the category itself. But concerns over labels shouldn't get in the way of appreciating the connections between the subgenre's up-and-comers and legacy acts that reconvened like Y2K never happened.


The Heart That Refused to Burn Steadfastly Holds Its Secrets Close: Joan of Arc

Kathryn Harrison's longtime fascination with the Catholic Church finds its ultimate expression, and biggest challenge, in this biography of Joan of Arc.


Computational ‘Superintelligence’ and Human Idiocy: What Does Our Future Hold?

Superintelligence may evolve or it may be engineered; either path leads to an existential threat to humanity, perhaps in decades, perhaps in hundreds of years.


‘The Copyright Wars’ Rage on After 300 Years

In a historical sweep of trans-Atlantic arguments over copyright law, some surprising shifts and patterns emerge, but the key, centuries-long battles remain.


The Best R&B of 2014

With no small amount of soul and passion, the best R&B records of 2014 will make you feel the power of love.


With Season Two, ‘The Paradise’ Had to Duck Out Too Early

The Paradise lights a slow fuse that burns brighter than its ITV rivals. Too bad low viewership has brought the series to an end.


Frank Sinatra: London

Sinatra box-set with re-mastered studio album Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain and a wealth of British extras.


Wednesday, December 10 2014

The Results of True Collaboration: ‘The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio’

Reading this book is like entering the offices of Simon and Kirby and rifling through their files, scouring the slush pile, even breathing in the smoke from one of Kirby’s cigars.


Weapons of Bass Destruction: Mondo Marcio’s ‘Musica da Serial Killer’

Italian rapper Mondo Marcio turns the bass on Musica da Serial Killer into a weaponized element. Never before have the sensations of death, dread and groove been so synonymous in music.


Six Shots in Ferguson, One Night in New York

Trumpeter Igmar Thomas and his haunting tune, "The Hunted", sums up the most difficult lesson of 2014.


The Best Dance Singles of 2014

Like a gluttonous monarch with a taste for domination, electronic dance music continued to saturate the airwaves and feast upon the U.S. charts in 2014.


‘Accused Series 1 and 2’ Is a Good Procedural, Episodically

Fans of quality British television could do much worse than Accused, but only certain episodes, such as the one featuring Sean Bean's stunning role as a transvestite, stand out.


David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed

Nothing Has Changed, despite the exact nature of its target demographic being up for debate, remains a thrilling go-to for the semi-casual Thin White Duke observer, and is about as damn close to perfect as a Bowie anthology can get.


Could It Happen in America? The Rise and Fall of Fritz Kuhn’s German-American Bund

Could America have become a Swastika nation in the '30s? Arnie Bernstein assembles a riveting in-depth portrayal of the rise and fall of Fritz Kuhn's German-American Bund.


Lloyd Cole: Standards

Lloyd Cole’s Standards is literate and engaging, with pop music hooks deserving of attention.


Robbie Basho: Art of the Acoustic Steel String 6 & 12

This reissue of Robbie Bahso's 1979 album feels more like a conversation between him and his guitar about larger Western spaces.


Teyana Taylor: VII

Though she doesn’t break new ground, Teyana Taylor delivers an enjoyable contemporary R&B album capturing the ups and downs of love.


Various Artists: New Orleans Soul: The Original Sound of New Orleans Soul 1960-76

The Big Easy creations are grounded in luv, pronounced with a long sultry dipthong, doing somebody wrong for the right reasons and instrumental arrangements dipped in the sweat of sex.


The American Analog Set: Know by Heart (Reissue)

They could have been contenders; they probably should have been. But ultimately the peak of this band's hushed, precise, nuanced indie rock might have been a bit too twisty to catch on.


Tuesday, December 9 2014

Press Start With Your Mind Finger: “God Hates Astronauts #4”

Don't let God read God Hates Astronauts. He would hate it even more than he hates astronauts.


Lou Reed: Uptown Dirt, Downtown Man

Waiting for the Man is a beautiful read, fluid like a long conversation with a friend in your favourite coffee shop.


‘Unrest’: An RPG of a Different Sort

Unrest is The Wire, but set in an ancient, mythical India.


Youth in Trouble: An Interview With the Presets

Coming off of the tour of their life, dance mavens the Presets talk about their influences, Chicago house music, and a sneak peak of what we can expect in their next whole decade.


‘Yes Please’ Is White Liberal Feminism in Full Force

Yes Please is an honest but dull book that embraces the politics, and thereby the problems, of white liberal feminism.


The Top 10 Overlooked Albums of 2014

The finest of the unsung in 2014 remind us of the power of experimentation and tradition, energy and intricacy, discovery and getting lost.


‘Tesis’ Hits All the Points on the Standard Suspense Curve

Alejandro Amenábar’s suspense-drama Tesis is a fairly predictable, American-influenced thriller, but its stellar performances, particularly from Ana Torrent, are all aces.


Cracker: Berkeley to Bakersfield

The stylish conceptual double album Berkeley to Bakersfield travels fast across California, spanning garage rock to Americana.


The Hedonistic Nihilism in ‘Moomin’ Comes to the Fore in This Collection

While children may laugh at the simplicity of the non-sequiturs in the Moomin stories, adults will be drawn to the droll humor -- and something much darker.


Owen: Other People’s Songs

The comfort zone is where Owen gets his mail delivered, but Other People’s Songs is at its most engaging when it steps just a bit outside.


Dope Body: Lifer

Noise rockers explore a more varied palette with mixed results, admirable progress.


Wadada Leo Smith: Red Hill

The out-trumpet icon teams with Jamie Saft, Joe Morris, and Balazs Pandi, making six bracing free improvisations that hark back to the 1970s and come fully up to date.


Brian Eno and Karl Hyde: High Life

For their second collaboration of 2014, these two artists remain frustratingly close to making the great album this one hints they're capable of.


The Dead C: The Twelfth Spectacle

It seems a fitting end for Grapefruit Record Club's final release to be this massive, involving, exhausting set from the Dead C.


Monday, December 8 2014

Heavenly Beginnings: “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1”

Angela is now a part of the Marvel Universe. This is a story of how she stakes her claim in it.


Remember When Youth Culture Was Not Served on a Platter?

Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace offers a thoughtful and stunning visual and oral history of '80s postpunk and goth.


Von Trier’s Cinema as Literature in ‘Breaking the Waves’

Lars Von Trier’s cinema, particularly in Breaking the Waves, is an acknowledgement of film as an offshoot of literature and the heritage of storytelling.


‘Terence Davies’ Is a Perceptive Exploration Into the Filmmaker’s Work

An illuminating, queer theory-influenced study of the work of one of Britain's most distinctive filmmakers.


She & Him: Classics

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's fifth album as She & Him, comprised of smooth and languid covers, is decidedly relaxed despite a move to a major label.


Love: Black Beauty

Black Beauty, now on CD for the first time, may have a totally different sonic palate than Forever Changes or Da Capo, but it's similarly built around Arthur Lee's emotionally revealing lyrics and careful pop sensibilities.


Bing & Ruth: Tomorrow Was the Golden Age

Where does minimalism end and ambient begin?


Frazey Ford: Indian Ocean

Former folkie Frazey Ford returns with a set of exceptional Memphis soul.


Rush Midnight: Rush Midnight Deluxe Edition

If you like synth pop colored with the flavor of New Age dance tunes without a hint of passion or the erotic you'll love these sterile shenanigans.


Fred Hersch Trio: Floating

Fred Hersch's apprehensions about taking his trio back into the studio are for naught.


Sunday, December 7 2014

‘Austin City Limits’ On a Pedestal

Austin City Limits has defined how music is experienced through television for 40 years. This is a look back at a cultural institution that has always pushed forward.


‘The Librarians’ Is Packed With Allusions and Wily Behavior

The Librarians combines Willy Wonka with Indiana Jones to create the next Scooby Gang in search of magic, artifacts, and its own places in the universe.


Saturday, December 6 2014

‘Pressed for Time’ Shows That Technology’s Not All That Bad

Pressed for Time suggests new ways of looking at how we fit in as individuals with the rapid evolution of time and technology.


Friday, December 5 2014

PopMatters Film Preview: December 2014

This is it, the final push for the 2014 Awards Season, which includes some big names, some Academy almosts, and subjects as diverse as snipers, orphans, civil rights, and paintings of children with big, sad eyes.


Reese Witherspoon Takes a Trek With a Gigantic Blue Backpack in ‘Wild’

The metaphor of Cheryl's (Reese Witherspoon) giant backpack works in multiple ways, from the personal ordeals she confronts to the social expectations she can't avoid.


Putting a Shot Clock on Racism: Exclusive Preview of MAD’s 20 Dumbest, 2014

This year, Alfred E. Neuman puts his hands up against the pure Dumb of racism, football field not included.


This War of Mine

This War of Mine is a great game about survival, hope, loss, despair, companionship... but oddly enough not about war.


Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man

In this excerpt from his book on legendary soul singer Gil Scott-Heron, Marcus Baram recounts Scott-Heron's crucial time touring with Stevie Wonder.


The Best Metal of 2014

Metal's shining moments in 2014 include a long-awaited reunion, a culmination of a nearly 20-year career, and a sophomore outing that rose to the occasion.


In ‘Magic in the Moonlight’, Ideas Trump Characters

The fundamentalist atheism and myopic intellectualism of Woody Allen's latest depiction of an older man/younger woman dynamic makes it a pale imitation of his best work.


Brian Eno: Nerve Net / Shutov Assembly / Neroli / The Drop Reissues

There’s no possible way you can go wrong with these voluminous reissues of some of Brian Eno's best work.


Elsa Schiaparelli and Fashion Made Sublime

Meryle Secrest’s biography pays homage to Schiaparelli’s unique oeuvre by highlighting the efficiency of form and style in her designs, while framing them as miracles in their own right.


Various Artists: While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records

After 20 years of steady releases and catalog development, the rest of the country has finally caught up to the vision of Bloodshot Records.


ZOM: Flesh Assimilation

This is pretty damn indispensable listening, and somewhere down below the man with the horns and cape is grinning in wild approval.


Stalley: Ohio

Stalley serves up more intelligent trunk music on his major-label debut.


Last Ex: Last Ex

What started as an ambient horror film soundtrack took on a life of its own as Last Ex.


Judah & The Lion - Kids These Days

As with most copies of copies, the quality degenerates with each generation. Kids these days indeed.


Thursday, December 4 2014

Liv Ullman Takes on Strindberg’s Class-Focused Drama in ‘Miss Julie’

Liv Ullmann's take on August Strindberg's classic drama emphasizes the class struggles of its characters, depicting the ways in which power systems drive individuals beyond reason.


Shield Down, Don’t Shoot: Ferguson, Missouri and the All New Captain America

Captain America is black. Of course he is. Perhaps he always was.


Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s ‘Graveyard Books’ Are Deliciously Scary Adaptations

These two graphic novel versions of The Graveyard Book preserve everything good about the original and add the benefit of visual interpretation by a number of fine artists.


Chrissie Hynde: Kansas City - 16 November 2014

Chrissie Hynde’s stout-hearted, superb Kansas City show made a Sunday feel like a wild Saturday night. It’s no mystery as to why Chrissie Hynde still has skin in this rock and roll game.


‘The Red Tent’ Has Regaled Readers for 17 Years, and It Remains as Powerful as Ever

Anita Diamant’s storytelling is exceptional. There’s something here for everyone in a work which is an unquestioned masterpiece of historical fiction.


The Best Americana of 2014

If forced to define Americana, it's the one genre where honest craftsmanship is required, respected, and rewarded, something the best of 2014 lived up to.


Saint Saviour: In the Seams

Saint Saviour explores a sound that effortlessly flits between intimate folk and string-laden chamber pop. Sublime. Gorgeous. Pick a glowing adjective. In The Seams is one of the best albums of the year.


Levellers: Greatest Hits

Behold, the largest compilation of music by UK heavyweights the Levellers or, Just Let the Band Do the Singing.


Comics Are Not Just an American Artform…

Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present is an informative and well-written exploration of worldwide comics. Yet it attempts to cover too much, and it will leave you wanting more.


Tarwater: Adrift

You can certainly call Adrift unique, and the title is rather a propos, considering just how laconic the album is, for one, and, for two, just how all compassing and over the map it is.


Nora Guthrie: My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town

An engrossing biographical travelogue that provides a unique perspective on both Woody Guthrie and a long lost New York City


The Fall: Live UUROP VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son

The Fall appear to be enjoying themselves now. But what about the rest of us?


Madlib: Pinata Beats

Pinata Beats is a humble title for an album that can stand alone, as its own experience. It stands out among instrumental versions of non-instrumental hip-hop albums in that regard.


Wednesday, December 3 2014

‘Sexuality’ and Art as a Dynamic Force

This excellent collection, expertly curated by Amelia Jones, brings together the core ideas that inform the relationship between contemporary art and human sexuality.


The Politics of Performance: Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Like many avant-gardists before them, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping view their performances not as an artistic practice or profession, but as an orientation toward life.


The Best Indie Pop of 2014

It's hard to see how any lover of indie pop could find the field of choices lacking in 2014, a year when the top ten albums are just the tip of the iceberg.


Pixies: Doolittle 25

It's been 25 years sinceDoolittle first screamed about slicing up eyeballs and the numerical properties of deities. Now, we live in wake of its seismic impact.


In Anne Rice’s ‘Prince Lestat’, the Vampire Blood Is Thin

If Blood Canticle was meant to be the farewell book to the Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat is its funeral.


Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions

Genuine artistic growth or a cheap ploy to adhere to popular culture's latest trend in music?


Skydiggers: Angels

This Christmas album from a veteran Canadian roots rock group is not your standard album of holiday carols, which is a bold and courageous move.


Simple Minds: Big Music

Simple Minds have released their best studio album in possibly three decades, striking a beautiful balance of pop radiance and musical delicacy.


Mykki Blanco: Gay Dog Food

Gay Dog Food is a bold statement without a lot of substance, one that isn't even sure of its own meaning.


The Acid: Liminal

Mute Records continues to surprise with the latest signing of the Acid, a genre-bending super sound.


Tuesday, December 2 2014

‘The Babadook’ Is a Smart Reconsideration of Mothers and Monsters

The Babadook reveals that grief is a lot like a monster: even if you think you've killed it, it's never quite as killed as you would hope.


Marianne Faithfull: London - 29 November 2014

Despite ill health almost curtailing this series of shows, Marianne Faithfull proved to be in funny, fierce, formidable and fascinating form at her Royal Festival Hall concert in London, the only UK stop on her 50th Anniversary World Tour.


The (Lost) Promise of Paradise: “Superman #36”

Superman faces a daunting challenge to his principles and ideals, but he ends up not having to confront it.


The Touré-Raichel Collective: New York - 18 November 2014

The audience hears wonderfully evocative global music between Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré as they collaborate unrehearsed on stage.


Why Didn’t Alice McDermott’s ‘Someone’ Win the Pulitzer?

Someone is among this risk-taking writer's very best books.


20 Questions: Jen Wood

Jen Wood did a duet with the Postal Service, but has an amazing solo career all her own -- as well as an invisible Lasso of Truth, we're told.


Creepypasta Gaming: Where the Internet “Learns Our Fears”

When knowledge falls outside of that which is found on the Internet, it falls outside of modern understanding. Thus, games like these, which fall outside of the norm, become intensely compelling.


The Best Indie Rock of 2014

Some of the heavy hitters may not have made the cut for the best indie rock of 2014, but newer acts did more than just fill the vacuum left by the usual suspects.


‘The Conformist’ Is a Political Thriller Washed in the Hues of a Thousand Psychosexual Dreams

Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnificent drama The Conformist bridges the supreme elegance of the jazz age with Euro mod-chic.


AC/DC: Rock or Bust

More hard rock from those kings of heavy riffs, AC/DC; big on chorus, short on verse.


‘The Man From Essence’ Is the Inside Story of What Would Become the Pre-Eminent Black Women’s Brand

Essence magazine proved its founders’ bets were right: black women comprised a significant market with money to spend, and the right product with the right approach could virtually own it.


Two Inch Astronaut: Foulbrood

Foulbrood adeptly welds together Two Inch Astronaut's DC influences into ingenious structures.


Bette Midler: It’s the Girls!

With her latest release, the Divine Miss M takes on girl groups from the Andrews Sisters to TLC and a little bit of everything in between.


Jon Hopkins: Asleep Versions EP

Jon Hopkins' quasi-companion EP to last year's Mercury Prize-nominated Immunity is the audio equivalent of a warm blanket. Just in time for the Polar Vortex.


Peaking Lights: Cosmic Logic

The San Francisco duo imbue their lo-fi, psychedelic tendencies with pop songwriting and clearer production on the follow-up to 2012's Lucifer.


Haerts: Haerts

Haerts is an album, that although not awful, will have to find a way to stray a little bit from their tiresome formula to keep listeners interested.


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