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Friday, August 22 2014

Jenny Hval and Susanna: Meshes of Voice

With Meshes of Voice, Norwegians Jenny Hval and Susanna Wallumrød come together to craft an avant garde masterpiece.


Literature: Chorus

This is a huge step forward for the band, while preserving all of the most attractive qualities of the debut.


Richard Thompson: Acoustic Classics

Folk troubadour Richard Thompson commits an intimate solo studio performance of his classics to tape, highlighting both his skills as a guitarist and exceptional songwriter.


Bishop Allen: Lights Out

At their best, Bishop Allen develop a time and a place through memorable hooks and high craft, but they just can't sustain it for the whole album.


Plastikman: Ex: Performed Live at the Guggenheim NYC

Richie Hawtin returns to the name that made him a godfather of minimal techno.


Rathborne: Soft

Soft is the opposite to what the title suggests. Instead this is an album of quick, jagged rock and roll, New York style. Take it or leave it.


Thursday, August 21 2014

‘Expedition to the End of the World’: Scientists and Artists Find Beginnings

Daniel Dencik's film helps you to look at the Earth, so majestic, so superb, and to want more than ever to be aware.


‘Transcendence’ Is a High-Tech Mess of Subplots

Like Dr. Caster's (Johnny Depp) experiments, Transcendence is much smarter in theory than it is in practice.


‘The Answer to Everything’ Questions the Veracity of Truth

If this doesn’t get shortlisted for the Giller Prize, well, that would be just proof that the world is an unjust place.


From the Soul to the Hills: The Music of the Caucasus

The music of the Caucasus is powered by national ardour and ritual. All that's needed is an open and willing audience to accept the undisclosed gifts it brings.


‘I’m Not a Teacher, But I Play One in the Movies’: The Movie Teacher Myths

Movies create iconic, mythical teacher figures who, in two or so hours, do both more harm and more good than any actual human could achieve in a lifetime.


‘Ginger Snaps’ Is Freshly Female-Centric Horror

Watching the movie now, it seems to anticipate its own cult.


Roddy Frame: Seven Dials

There's much to like about Roddy Frame, and much to admire about this album. Shame it lacks a killer tune.


Connections: Into Sixes

Connections' Into Sixes is the band truly hitting its stride while also testing its limits in exciting ways.


Jon Gnarr Is Changing the World One Laugh at a Time

The unlikely, improbable, unbelievable – and totally true – story of Iceland’s anarchist comedian turned politician.


Ruthie Foster: Promise of a Brand New Day

They say that misery loves company, which is why blues music remains so popular.


Chris Smither: Still on the Levee

It all comes down to the songs, and that weathered 'n' warm voice and guitar.


Paloma Faith: A Perfect Contradiction

Throwback chameleon Paloma Faith changes skin again, appointing herself the Queen of Retro Soul Disco and infusing every track with her irrepressible melodrama and charm.


Wednesday, August 20 2014

Hello, New World (#Ferguson): “Batgirl #34”

In her final issue, writer Gail Simone provides the space for Batgirl to start over in a new world.


‘Falling Out of Time’ Is a Profound Dissection of Grief

Woven like a colorful tapestry of many characters, all of whom share the misfortune of having lost a child, this is structured like an epic poem which, despite its short length, feels fully realized.


‘Toy Story of Terror!’ Delivers on Halloween and the Toy Story Name

This holiday special perfectly balances the recognizable elements found in horror movies and the elements of the Toy Story universe.


Philip K. Dick’s ‘Radio Free Albemuth’ Finally Reaches the Silver Screen

Like the book that inspired it, Radio Free Albemuth works as a vindicating love letter to spiritual seekers who feel that humanity is capable of more than the Orwellian rat race.


In Defense Of ... A Second Season for ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

Women are the alpha-characters in Halt and Catch Fire. There may be no better dynamic duo of smart leading females on TV today than Donna and Cameron.


Deeper, Not Softer: An Interview with Princess Superstar

She influenced too many off-beat divas to count, but was struggling for her own record deal. Now, Princess Superstar is back, and she means business.


A Small Sampling of Disney: ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad’ and ‘Fun and Fancy Free’

For the most part, the shorts are some of Disney's strongest, and taken as a whole they offer a variety of animation styles, characters and tones.


Kimbra: The Golden Echo

With the help of Gotye, you can't help but feel like Kimbra's follow up to her magnificent debut squanders her undeniable talent.


What’s Happening to College Education in the Digital Era?

From MOOCs to Second Life to chairs that move, Elizabeth Losh discusses all things technological in The War on Learning.


Cory Branan: The No-Hit Wonder

Like all good country music, Cory Branan is hard, if not impossible, to define.


Castanets: Decimation Blues

On Ray Raposa's first Castanets record in five years, the elements of the formula haven't changed very much, though the album works best when the balance between those elements shift in fresh ways.


Mark Lanegan Band: No Bells on Sunday EP

The Mark Lanegan Band's first official release since 2012 is, unfortunately, a lackluster and unfocused affair.


The Who: Quadrophenia Live in London

The Who, however it survives, repeats that that youthful concerns and ideals matter, no matter how long the band or we endure.


Tuesday, August 19 2014

‘The Expendables 3’: More Action, Less Sequence

As a movie, The Expendables 3 is kind of a shambles. As part of a never-ending retirement party, it's kind of a gas.


Sex Police Future: “Sex Criminals 7”

Not many readers have put themselves in the headspace of a caped vigilante, but Jon and Suzie, the dynamic duo of deviant thoughts and sexcapades, embody our deepest desires, shame, regrets, and fears.


Johnnyswim Love Their Place in the World

The duo Amber Sudano Ramirez and Abner Ramirez live, die, and make music with the overarching theme of gratefulness.


Arguable Merits: Young Adult Fiction and Its Rabid Discontents

The YA crowd is full of articulate, well-read, hungry hyenas. They'll rip my lungs out for this. They'll crucify me. They'll leave my corpse in a ditch.


The Blissful Simplicity of Indie Rock

The goal of indie rock is to make something real, even at the expense of decades of music tradition.


‘Hercules’ Lives in the Netherworld of Good Enough

Hercules is a Disney animated film that shows the studio riding the wave of its '90's renaissance, but not reaching the heights of earlier classics.


Pallbearer: Foundations of Burden

Little Rock's Pallbearer add some studio sheen with their sophomore release while maintaining the mudslide-like heaviness of their acclaimed debut.


The Impossible Reach of History Is Made Possible in ‘The Hundred Year House’

In one of the best books of 2014, Rebecca Makkai tells a story of time, ghosts, fate, unrequited love, requited love unconsummated, and art.


Paul Thorn: Too Blessed to Be Stressed

Thorn appreciates the little things in life one takes for granted: family, love, a good rock beat, etc.


The Provincial Archive: It’s All Shaken Wonder

The Provincial Archive makes a wonderful folksy racket, and, should you saunter down to your local record store and pick this up, you’ll be more than glad that you did.


Elephant Wrecking Ball: Barren Serenade

We hear about wrecking balls as a musical metaphor all the time. But what happens when you hand the controls over to an elephant?


Dead Stars: Slumber

Dead Stars do an effective job of mimicking a mid-'90s alt-rock one-hit wonder. Right down to having only two good songs on the album.


Monday, August 18 2014

Oribtal Gear

Orbital Gear is missing an important label that would allow me to forgive its flaws: the "Early Access" label.


‘Dallas’ Season 3 Is Rich with Reincarnations and Recycled Plots

The real pleasures of the new Dallas involve engaging with repetition in all its forms and taking melodrama seriously.


Making Progress Fun: “All-New X-men #30”

Character development doesn't need killer robots or time-traveling enemies. It just needs to be fun.


Sarah Waters’ New Novel May Not Inspire a Thousand Worldwide Celebrations, but It Should

The Paying Guests is a skillful work of genuinely entertaining literary fiction.


Tori Amos: Unrepentant Geraldines Tour - 14 August 2014

Tori Amos's recent performance at New York City's Beacon Theatre was simply spellbinding and quite possibly one of the best concerts in recent memory.


The Sonny Rollins / ‘New Yorker’ Controversy and Jazz’s Image Problem

Why do jazz folks always sound so defensive about the music they love? Why can’t they take a pie in the face from Django Gold?


Wig in a Nutshell: An Interview with Stephen Trask Co-Creator of ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’

Hedwig and the Angry Inch co-creator and songwriter Stephen Trask animatedly answers questions about the production’s success on Broadway and more.


‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ Is a Restored Classic Ready to Be Rediscovered

This film is entertaining and fun, while maintaining an emotional component throughout, making it a classic Disney film rightfully getting its due in this restored master.


Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas: Secret Evil

The Detroit songstress and her Deltas take queasy carnival music, hoodoo blues stomps, country waltz ballads, primitive rock and jazzy inflections to craft a evocative realm in one of 2014's strongest releases.


‘Console Wars’ Is a Deeply Flawed Telling of a Great Story about Videogames

A book on the origins of Sega, a gaming industry giant of great historical importance, could have been great.


Fat White Family: Champagne Holocaust

One critic tries to figure out why everyone loves Fat White Family and she doesn't.


Smoke Dawson: Fiddle

A worthwhile collection for anyone interested in the American folk revival and particularly for those who enjoy its outsider elements.


Sean Watkins: All I Do is Lie

A timely reminder that Nickel Creek's often lowest profile member is a talented songwriter in his own right.


Eyehategod: Eyehategod

After a 14-year absence, New Orleans sludge-metal outfit Eyehategod return with their most brutal and best record yet.


Friday, August 15 2014

‘Dinosaur 13’: Finding and Losing the World’s Most Complete T-Rex

Dinosaur 13 traces the emotional and legal dilemmas emerging with the discovery of a T-Rex called Sue.


‘A Five Star Life’: Finding Beauty in Hotels and Homes

A Five Star Life challenges the dichotomies of stasis and movement, and of mobility and being tethered down.


‘The Giver’: Another Day, Another YA Dystopia

The Giver is too much like today's other YA dystopias, but without a cool girl at its center.


The Silver Surfer Spectrum

We didn’t see Marvel’s iconic Surfer of the Cosmic skyways in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy, but iwe should have.


Slightly Stoopid + NOFX + Stephen Marley: San Diego - 26 July 2014

Few bands dare to incorporate such wide-ranging sounds and Slightly Stoopid’s ability to mix rock and reggae with dub, grunge and hip-hop is a large part of how they appeal to such a broad fanbase.


‘The Mad and the Bad’ Is One Helluva Ride

You'll want to investigate some of Jean-Patrick Manchette's zany work before the Colin Firth and Sean Penn "Manchette adaptations" hit the big screen.


Producing Country: The Inside Story of the Great Recordings

The story of country music told through hit records by Hank Williams, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and many others.


The Eyes Have It: An Interview with LP

Equal parts swagger and sway, LP is a rock star, in the truest sense.... like the love child of David Bowie and Patti Smith.


Love Is Fetishistic in ‘The Face of Love’

The Face of Love is a case of a compelling story that ended up in the wrong movie.


Manic Street Preachers: Futurology

After taking a brief pause to survey the past, the Manic Street Preachers lunge back into the future.


Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: The Classic Albums Box

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are the missing link between Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen. Rhino has released almost 18 hours of the act's best material


Sinéad O’Connor: I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss

For Sinéad O'Connor, the personal and the political are one and the same. She makes no distinction, and always, always allows the two to join forces in her music.


Thursday, August 14 2014

Think College Sports Fans are Crazy? Watch ‘SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned’

The stars' descriptions of game day rituals suggest that what looks crazy to a non-fan is utterly acceptable, non-news, to fans. And they know who they are.


The Religion of the Dark Knight

While we can’t always relate entirely to DC’s superheroes, we continue to remain fascinated by them because like “The Sons of the Batman” we too desire to be empowered or shaped by something bigger than ourselves.


Is Sex Evil?

Megan Abbott's The Fever gives a lot to chew on, with its subject of female sexuality. You might just wind up crossing your legs, when reading this book.


From Nietzsche to Hegel: Perspectives on Humanity in ‘Dark Souls’

Despite putting on display both the virtues and vices of man, Dark Souls does not make a judgment call about humanity, but rather leaves that up to the player.


Bruce Cockburn’s 1968: Electrocution to Revolution

Being in the orbit of a group of eccentric artists helped to create a transformative year for Cockburn that would further his path toward becoming a world renowned solo artist.


‘Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers’ Is a Flat Reimagining

Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers tries to do too much, and in its efforts to be action-packed, funny, contemporary, and still tell a classic story, it becomes muddled.


FKA twigs: LP1

FKA twigs releases one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory, positioning herself as a next generation pop star.


Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth

The man warbles and slides around the words and delivers them with pizzazz. He always sounds like he’s singing right from the heart. Even when he’s joking, Shaver’s serious.


Penn Penitentiary, Where Converts Dwell Among Convicts

In Down in the Chapel, Joshua Dubler reports on the tensions of the body and the spirit, the restless minds and the stifled desires.


Trey Songz: Trigga

Trey Songz's latest is successful not because it takes a fresh approach or carries an important message, but rather because it so effortlessly epitomizes the modern R&B genre as it currently exists.


The Raveonettes: Pe’ahi

Garage-rockers no longer, Danish duo add a variety of unexpected elements


Various Artists: The Best of Blue Note

Here's another one of those groovy, swingin', melodic and enjoyable exercises in futility.


Wednesday, August 13 2014

‘The Knick’: Clive Owen in 1900s New York City

Again and again, The Knick makes visible the traumas suffered by bodies, at risk, unequal by law, and struggling to survive.


In ‘The Blazing World’, a Lifetime of Smothered Rage Blossoms into an Ingenious Plan

A serious examination of what female artists continue to endure, this is unquestionably one of the year’s finest novels.


Everything You Think You Know About Human Rights Is Wrong

Human rights movements, says Samuel Moyn, have done a poor job protecting and fighting for social and economic rights.


“You Should Have to Make Your Case with Comedy”: An Interview with MST3K’s Michael J. Nelson

He has been the host and head writer of both Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, and now takes on his biggest comedy challenge yet: riffing 1998's Godzilla in front of a live audience.


‘Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series’: Maybe It Needs to Burn

Low Winter Sun tries to stand out as a refreshing take on the cop drama formula, but it's far too preoccupied with the shows that it knows audiences will compare it to.


Bear in Heaven: Time Is Over One Day Old

On Time Is Over One Day Old, there’s always something missing, a mystery hanging in the air, yet it’s the band’s most satisfying album yet.


You Blew It!: You Blue It

Rising emo band tackles an iconic set of songs from Weezer's "Blue Album" a bit too gently.


Steve Wynn: Sketches in Spain

Steve Wynn continues to follow his muse, this time to Spain, for a couple of reinvigorating albums released on these shores for the first time.


Anders Parker: There’s a Blue Bird in My Heart

There’s a Blue Bird in My Heart is packed with sucker punches and subtle jabs. Filled with sound and fury, no final blow is ever delivered, but, nonetheless, Parker has created a knockout.


Officer!: Dead Unique

Carnivalesque pop music filtered through an eccentric lineage that defies categorization and transcends time. A good thing since it was recorded 20 years ago and is only just now seeing the light of day.


Tuesday, August 12 2014

Brendan Gleeson Plays a Sort of Johnny Cash of the Soul in ‘Calvary’

John Michael McDonagh’s caustic passion play pits one stolid cleric against the whole filthy universe of base humanity, which demands he atone for the sins of the Catholic Church.


Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1

An epic struggle that has all the right ingredients, but not enough of the most important one.


‘Fifi Howls from Happiness’: In Thrall to Iranian Artist Bahman Mohassess

Brilliant, loving, and as intensely political as any of Bahman Mohassess' works, this film celebrates connection as much as it reveals isolation, dedication and outrage.


‘The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit’ and Graham Joyce’s Slipstream Writing

A bit unusual for Joyce, this book mutes the fantastical elements and reads more like a straight-up coming of age story.


In the Shadow of the Shadow of the Bat

It's common knowledge that the 'best' superhero is the one in cape and cowl. And that's true. It's just not the one you think.


What Is and What Will Always Be: A Fresh Look at Led Zeppelin’s Familiar Masterpieces

With the exception of the Beatles, no other band has loomed quite so large as Led Zeppelin, to the extent that we’ll never run out of things to say: good, bad and great.


‘Amen’ Is What Political Cinema Is All About

Troublesome though the implications of Amen are, it is nonetheless a fine example of Costa-Gavras at his most incendiary.


Dilated Peoples: Directors of Photography

After an eight-year gap, Dilated Peoples are back and picking up right where they left off.


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