Thursday, December 11 2014
Meet the new Smashing Pumpkins, gradually distancing themselves from the old Smashing Pumpkins.
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.
Kathryn Harrison's longtime fascination with the Catholic Church finds its ultimate expression, and biggest challenge, in this biography of Joan of Arc.
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.
In a historical sweep of trans-Atlantic arguments over copyright law, some surprising shifts and patterns emerge, but the key, centuries-long battles remain.
With no small amount of soul and passion, the best R&B records of 2014 will make you feel the power of love.
The Paradise lights a slow fuse that burns brighter than its ITV rivals. Too bad low viewership has brought the series to an end.
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
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.
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.
Trumpeter Igmar Thomas and his haunting tune, "The Hunted", sums up the most difficult lesson 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.
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.
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 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’s Standards is literate and engaging, with pop music hooks deserving of attention.
This reissue of Robbie Bahso's 1979 album feels more like a conversation between him and his guitar about larger Western spaces.
Though she doesn’t break new ground, Teyana Taylor delivers an enjoyable contemporary R&B album capturing the ups and downs of love.
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.
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
Don't let God read God Hates Astronauts. He would hate it even more than he hates astronauts.
Waiting for the Man is a beautiful read, fluid like a long conversation with a friend in your favourite coffee shop.
Unrest is The Wire, but set in an ancient, mythical India.
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 an honest but dull book that embraces the politics, and thereby the problems, of white liberal feminism.
The finest of the unsung in 2014 remind us of the power of experimentation and tradition, energy and intricacy, discovery and getting lost.
Alejandro Amenábar’s suspense-drama Tesis is a fairly predictable, American-influenced thriller, but its stellar performances, particularly from Ana Torrent, are all aces.
The stylish conceptual double album Berkeley to Bakersfield travels fast across California, spanning garage rock to Americana.
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.
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.
Noise rockers explore a more varied palette with mixed results, admirable progress.
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.
For their second collaboration of 2014, these two artists remain frustratingly close to making the great album this one hints they're capable of.
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
Angela is now a part of the Marvel Universe. This is a story of how she stakes her claim in it.
Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace offers a thoughtful and stunning visual and oral history of '80s postpunk and goth.
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.
An illuminating, queer theory-influenced study of the work of one of Britain's most distinctive filmmakers.
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.
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.
Where does minimalism end and ambient begin?
Former folkie Frazey Ford returns with a set of exceptional Memphis soul.
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's apprehensions about taking his trio back into the studio are for naught.
Sunday, December 7 2014
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 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 suggests new ways of looking at how we fit in as individuals with the rapid evolution of time and technology.
Friday, December 5 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.
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.
This year, Alfred E. Neuman puts his hands up against the pure Dumb of racism, football field not included.
This War of Mine is a great game about survival, hope, loss, despair, companionship... but oddly enough not about war.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no possible way you can go wrong with these voluminous reissues of some of Brian Eno's best work.
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.
After 20 years of steady releases and catalog development, the rest of the country has finally caught up to the vision of Bloodshot Records.
This is pretty damn indispensable listening, and somewhere down below the man with the horns and cape is grinning in wild approval.
Stalley serves up more intelligent trunk music on his major-label debut.
What started as an ambient horror film soundtrack took on a life of its own as Last Ex.
As with most copies of copies, the quality degenerates with each generation. Kids these days indeed.
Thursday, December 4 2014
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.
Captain America is black. Of course he is. Perhaps he always was.
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’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.
Anita Diamant’s storytelling is exceptional. There’s something here for everyone in a work which is an unquestioned masterpiece of historical fiction.
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 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.
Behold, the largest compilation of music by UK heavyweights the Levellers or, Just Let the Band Do the Singing.
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.
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.
An engrossing biographical travelogue that provides a unique perspective on both Woody Guthrie and a long lost New York City
The Fall appear to be enjoying themselves now. But what about the rest of us?
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
This excellent collection, expertly curated by Amelia Jones, brings together the core ideas that inform the relationship between contemporary art and human sexuality.
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.
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.
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.
If Blood Canticle was meant to be the farewell book to the Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat is its funeral.
Genuine artistic growth or a cheap ploy to adhere to popular culture's latest trend in music?
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 have released their best studio album in possibly three decades, striking a beautiful balance of pop radiance and musical delicacy.
Gay Dog Food is a bold statement without a lot of substance, one that isn't even sure of its own meaning.
Mute Records continues to surprise with the latest signing of the Acid, a genre-bending super sound.
Tuesday, December 2 2014
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.
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.
Superman faces a daunting challenge to his principles and ideals, but he ends up not having to confront it.
The audience hears wonderfully evocative global music between Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré as they collaborate unrehearsed on stage.
Someone is among this risk-taking writer's very best books.
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.
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.
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.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnificent drama The Conformist bridges the supreme elegance of the jazz age with Euro mod-chic.
More hard rock from those kings of heavy riffs, AC/DC; big on chorus, short on verse.
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.
Foulbrood adeptly welds together Two Inch Astronaut's DC influences into ingenious structures.
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' 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.
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 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.