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Friday, October 25 2013

The Trouble with Fandom and ‘The Elizabethans’

A.N Wilson's The Elizabethans is a very readable history, despite the author's inability to get out of his own way.


Monday, September 22 2014

‘Scorpion’: Planes, Cars, and Nerds

It's no coincidence that Scorpion closely follows The Big Bang Theory on Mondays, a show that loves it nerds.


‘Gotham’ Is No Place for Nice Guys

Gotham is off to a good start, so good that it's possible to watch the entire premiere without missing Batman one bit.


Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition

You say schlock like it's a bad thing.


‘Cesar Chavez’ Deifies Instead of Humanizes Its Hero

Too reverential for its own good, this film feels like a social studies class instead of a work of art.


War, Peace, and Hope: “Wonder Woman: Futures End #1”

When a proud warrior becomes hardened by war, and it reveals her true strength.


‘Madam Secretary’: Téa Leoni Goes Global

Madam Secretary has more on its mind than entertainment, taking on intercultural conflicts and ethical dilemmas without obvious solutions.


The Rainmakers Find Heaven and Hell in the Heartland

Since the early '80s, The Rainmakers have been among the best bands to emerge from the Heartland Rock boom of that decade. They may be the best that's still at it.


Jazz of the ‘00s: Jumping Past the Great Divide

The jazz of the '00s jumped past the great divide of earlier years, obliterating the distinction between tradition and avant-garde, jazz and pop, letting the genre blossom.


‘All That Jazz’ Is Bob Fosse’s Cinematic Self-Flagellation

This excellent, entertaining, and accurate bio-pic of Bob Fosse's life and death was actually co-written and directed by Bob Fosse eight years before he died.


Alt-J: This Is All Yours

The contradiction of all second records but especially this one: Be what people expect when people want something unexpected.


Where Are AC/DC’s the Youngs in ‘The Youngs’?

I loved AC/DC as much as the next lunkheaded longhaired headbanger. But I don't know them any better than Jesse Fink does.


Celebrating the Art and Spirit of Literary Translation, NEA Style

The translation of literature is equal parts art, psychology, technical skill and spirituality – and it brings humanity closer together.


Robert Plant: Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar

You have to respect Robert Plant's desire to take the crowd-pleasing, Grammy-approved formula of his last few records into wilder, hazier places. But the results don’t always reach their intended target.


Steph Cameron: Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady

Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady is the kind of platter that, if all goes to plan, is going to make Steph Cameron a little less sad-eyed and lonesome when she takes the stage at a concert hall near you.


Flowers: Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do

This is a fresh, young band, attractive in sound and approach, playing music with echoes of many great indie-pop bands of the past.


Black State Highway: Black State Highway

Black State Highway's high quality throwback hard rock might have found a place on the charts in 1990 next to The Black Crowes and "Thunderstruck"-era AC/DC.


The Flesh Eaters: A Minute to Pray a Second to Die

Classic L.A. punk album back on vinyl for the first time in 30 years.


Friday, September 19 2014

In ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’, Liam Neeson Finds Another Way to Surprise You

This latest Liam Neeson vehicle isn't just another vengeance movie; it's about what you expect and about how movies create what you expect.


‘Quench Your Thirst with Salt’ Will Make You Look at the World a Bit Differently

“How literally can you take the metaphor between land and the body?” Nicole Walker asks. The answer isn't as simple as it might seem.


Can You Survive if You’re Not a Monster in ‘Hannibal: The Complete Second Season’?

The landmark horror series steps away from crime procedurals and deeper into its inimitable sense of style in a triumphant sophomore year.


Is the Past Merely Epilogue?: Nostalgia, After “The Fox”

What writer-artist Dean Haspiel and co-plotter Mark Waid achieve with Red Circle’s The Fox: Freak Magnet is nothing short of amazing—the simultaneous dismantling and honoring of the golden age of pulp.


How About Some Unironic Love for Emerson, Lake & Palmer?

Love them or loathe them, Emerson, Lake & Palmer wore immoderation like a badge of courage.


‘Sarah and Duck: Doubles (Vol. 2)’ Is a Whimsical Throwback to the ‘70s

Sarah and Duck finds the fantastic in the mundane in this fine reminder of the joys of the British kids' TV of yesteryear.


Sondre Lerche: Please

Prior to Please, it was fair to say that Sondre Lerche could make a great record. With Please, however, he's one-upped himself and made a masterpiece.


‘Producing Country’ Is Great Oral History

This is an exceptional read on how records get made. We learn how producers coaxed great performances, made power deals, and generally had a good time.


Earth: Primitive and Deadly

Primitive and Deadly may be the dawning of another new era for the Seattle legends.


Nils Lofgren: Face the Music

Possibly the mother of all box sets, Nils Lofgren’s Face the Music contains 169 tracks, 20 video clips, and a 136-page book, covering a big talent’s long career.


Ballet School: The Dew Lasts an Hour

Ballet School is an indelible entry into the synth pop genre, and are at least taking the approach somewhat differently by using guitars.


Ann Hampton Callaway: From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughn Project

Ann Hampton Callaway covers the late, great Sarah Vaughan incredibly on From Sassy to Divine.


Homeboy Sandman: White Sands

Queens' militant pedagogue teams up with one of London's weirder producers.


Thursday, September 18 2014

Jonathan Demme Takes on Henrik Ibsen in ‘A Master Builder’

The crux of the plot lies in Solness’ state of mind, bothered by a material abundance he fears is unearned, and thus infinitely fragile, liable to be withdrawn as arbitrarily as it was given.


Transmissions in Blue and Yellow from Comic-Con 2014

This summer gone, it’s Daniel’s first time at Comic-Con. But it’s beginning to feel like all our first times, again…


Frenetic and Scatter-Brained, ‘Preparing the Ghost’ Is Still an Infuriatingly Good Read

If one is looking for something more 21st century than beat poetry and new journalism to challenge your mind and thrill your heart, this is it, whatever this is.


In ‘The Galapagos Affair’, Paradise Remains Stubbornly Absent

In this gripping true-crime story, an absurdist stew of petty tensions and quasi-Nietzschean dynamics rip apart the tiny colony of Europeans who settled one of the Galapagos islands in the '30s.


Mr. Mencken Went to Dayton and the Culture Wars Began

Long before Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher, H.L. Mencken was America's most notorious satirist of religion. And thus began the battle for the soul of America.


Us in Their Land: An Interview with Mike Watt

Mike Watt has been in so many iconic bands that it's sometimes easy to lose count, but now, with a stripped-down Italian trio called il sogno del marinaio, Watt is doing his most daring work yet ...


Mysterious Forces and Femme Fatales: ‘Out of the Past’

In Torneur's classic film, the femme fatale knows she's an object in a world of violent men she has no reason to respect.


The Juan MacLean: In a Dream

DFA greats the Juan MacLean sound out of their element on their new album, a collection of stripped down pop and '70s rock-flavored electro.


Moonface: City Wrecker

For all his worry over moving around, Spencer Krug's latest Moonface release makes it clear that behind the piano Krug sounds at home, rooted, in a place he's been found and a place he belongs.


Iron Reagan: The Tyranny of Will

A group of metal guys take a break and form an '80s-style hardcore band. A good time is had by all.


Farmers by Nature: Love and Ghosts

The third release from a free jazz cooperative piano trio featuring Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver and William Parker


Ben Glover: Atlantic

On Atlantic, redemption awaits in the cleansing waters of the river, if not in the chorus of the songs or the hallowed memory of Robert Johnson that Ben Glover invokes.


Wednesday, September 17 2014

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue + Galactic

New Orleans musicians rarely disappoint. They come from a world where music is practically akin to religion, and they always seem to know how to rise to the occasion.


‘Runers’: What’s My Motivation?

Shoot better and better and better. Then, shoot some more.


‘Red Band Society’: Life is Full of Black Holes, Honey

It's hard to overstate the overstatement in Red Band Society.


Brave New Values: “Super Secret Crisis War: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”

Cohen elevates the all ages genre by tackling '90s generational creep with latent themes in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.


Stylish and Dramatic, ‘Breathless’ Delivers

Breathless is an entertaining glimpse into a time period both dominated by men and also on the cusp of great change.


Soul Murder and Dreams in ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’

Like the cobwebs and spider webs that colonize a neglected basement, Haruki Murakami’s filamentous plot threads trail uncannily across our psyches.


From Outer Space to the Bowels of Planet Earth, This Is the Stuff We’re Made Of

In Stuff Matters, Mark Miodownik, a quirky science writer, shares his love and knowledge of the materials that shape our world.


Possessed by ‘Wild Palms’: How Far Will You Go to Feel Connected?

Have listeners of the Danish ambient electronic outfit, Croatian Amor, given more of themselves than the musician ever would?


Formerly Poor Old Shine

Following its name change, Parsonsfield, New England's most exciting folk band, is letting its music speak for itself.


‘Queen Margot’ Is a History That Only Goes Downhill

Patrice Chéreau's multiple César winning film receives a lavish 20th anniversary edition from Cohen.


Banks: Goddess

If you happen to be in the market for a new, hyper-hip iteration of slow-burning electronica, then Jillian Banks is your girl.


GRMLN: Soon Away

On his third release as GRMLN, Yoodoo Park expands and explores pop-punk's roots.


‘Walt Before Skeezix’ Captures a Slice of American Life just After World War I

'Walt Before Skeezix' offers an in-depth look at the early days of 'Gasoline Alley' in a beautifully-presented volume.


The Wilderness of Manitoba: Between Colours

Between Colours reaches for the sun and the stars, not to mention the backs of the bleachers.


Sarah Jaffe: Don’t Disconnect

Sarah Jaffe speaks volumes while singing very little on Don't Disconnect's futuristic indictment against modernity.


David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights: End Times Undone

Similar to albums by Kilgour's band the Clean, End Times Undone feels longer than it is, in a good way.


Die Antwoord: Donker Mag

Die Antwoord have described their work as "exaggerated experience", and that's apt. Anger, lust, passion, violence - all things through the lens of Die Antwoord become amplified to the point of deafening.


Tuesday, September 16 2014

‘This Is Where I Leave You’: Family Dramedy Revisited

This, of course, is how such concoctions work: all supporting players tell you something about the original squabbling family members, and each of these tells you something about the primary family member.


Juliette of the Spirits: An Interview with Kelly & Cal’s Leading Lady Juliette Lewis

Despite years of wonderful work, it’s taken Juliette Lewis almost two decades to land her first flat-out great leading role: Kelly & Cal.


This Issue Has Harold H. Harold!: “Hawkeye #20”

Matt Fraction is leaving Hawkeye. It's just never gonna be the same.


“I’ve Seen the Future and It’s Hungry”

The Bone Clocks merges set-scenes of imaginative showdowns with intellectual reflection, which will reward the keen and alert reader.


More Than Bjork: A Journey Through Iceland’s Pop Music History

Blue Eyed Pop includes a trove of candid band shots, live performance photos and more that would otherwise go unseen by anyone outside of Iceland.


The Power of Body Language: Michelle Yeoh, Action Cinema’s First Lady

Watching Michelle Yeoh fight on screen is like watching Fred Astaire dance: simply beautiful.


Silly Sexual Politics Undermine ‘Operation Petticoat’

Silly sexual politics prevent this film from being a bona fide classic.


An Artist Capable of Making Something Magnetic: Matt Johnson on Jeff Buckley

Drummer Matt Johnson shares his reflections 20 years later on working with Jeff Buckley and recording what turned out to be a masterpiece, 1994's Grace.


‘Circle the Wagen’ Prefers a Predetermined Map

Circle the Wagen begins with the end in mind, and suffers as a result.


Death From Above 1979: The Physical World

Ten years on, Death from Above 1979 kicks just as much ass.


‘SMiLE’ Left Me Terribly Unhappy

Labored and unfocused, the study that Luis Sanchez attempts with SMiLE is a poor fit for the 33 1/3 format.


My Brightest Diamond: This Is My Hand

By time a song ends, one has undergone the journey from ignorance to familiarity accompanied by a sense of Déjà vu as if one already knew what one never has known.


Zeus: Classic Zeus

Classic Zeus is sturdy and stormproof, and has enough memorable hooky hooks to make your head spin.


Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch

Not all the guest artists fit, and sometimes the connection to Satchmo seems tenuous indeed. But when it works, as it mostly does, the album delivers much pleasure and pleasant surprises.


Electric Würms: Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk

The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd's new project is a solid attempt at arty prog-rock, but in the end, they just can't shake sounding like the Flaming Lips.


Monday, September 15 2014

A Girl, Her Dog, and So Much More: “Ms. Marvel #8”

A loveable girl and a loveable dog team up to create a world of entertaining complications.


Martha Davis and the Motels: 25 August 2014 - New York

Five years in the making, Martha Davis & the Motels made a triumphant return to New York City.


‘Last Days of Vietnam’ Reveals the Lessons Still Unlearned

In Last Days in Vietnam, archival footage is both thrilling and heartbreaking, at once emblematic of the broader saga of so many mistakes set against so many heroic efforts.


There Is an Unwritten and Unfilmed Core to ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them’

This is a movie about hearts and selves, bodies and trusts, and most importantly how people deal (or don't deal) with loss.


Eimear McBride’s Debut Novel Is a Polarizing Experience

I found A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing to be the literary equivalent of a shot of blackest espresso: sharp, jolting, and acidic.


Stream of (Music) Consciousness

The 'Marshall McLuhan' message borne by the MP3 revolution is clear: music is endlessly plentiful and entirely disposable. So what's the message of streaming?


Kind of, Kind of Blue: A Conversation with Mostly Other People Do the Killing

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have taken on an ambitious task: recreate Miles Davis' landmark Kind of Blue note for note. Except, as bassist Moppa Elliott notes, note-for-note might just be impossible.


The Road to ‘Grace’: How Jeff Buckley’s Debut Album Remains Timeless 20 Years Later

Drawing from 20 years worth of reviews and books, in addition to new interviews with those involved in Jeff Buckley's music, David Chiu looks back on Grace, which two decades later remains just as impactful.


‘Godzilla’ Is Paint-By-Numbers Monster Movie Making

This reboot is a pretty pedestrian affair, managing to pull out all the tropes you've come to expect from monster movies without offering anything new.


U2: Songs of Innocence

It's hard to fault a lot of young people for are asking the question of "Who is U2?", because after listening to Songs of Innocence, this is a question that not even the band themselves could answer.


Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, Mike Auldridge: Three Bells

Mike Auldridge is joined on this, his final recording, by fellow dobro masters Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes. A fitting capstone to a legendary career.


‘Flirting with French’ Reminds One of That Unrequited Love We’ve All Experienced

William Alexander's cardiologist asks about any new stress in his life. "Well, I am studying French," he answers.


Sinkane: Mean Love

To a large degree, the last year in music has been about the triumph of the smooth.


Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

There are different ways to experience and to express joy. It can be celebratory, or quiet and introspective. Joy in Spite of Everything balances those poles of sound and style on what is one of the most successful jazz releases of the year.


Mick Jenkins: The Water(s)

Saying that The Water(s) shows potential would be unfair. Mick Jenkins has already arrived.


The New Mastersounds: Therapy

Some of these experiments are more successful than others, but it is that basic uptempo, wah-wah inflected, bass-heavy, organ-choogling funk that makes the strongest impression here.


Friday, September 12 2014

Timeless Resonance: An Interview with Luluc

Australian songwriter Zoë Randall of Luluc has been listening to her favorite albums, over and over, for decades. Her own new one Passerby is so effortlessly lovely that you can likewise imagine yourself putting it on again this year and next year and the one after that.


‘The Trip to Bountiful’ Is a Reminder of Why We Go to the Theater

This television version directed by Michael Wilson is lacking in the same of urgency that made the Broadway show such a sensation.


The “Going Out of Business” Sale for the 20th Century

This is a story about the distribution model of comics and why I want to see it evolve to the same levels comics storytelling did in the ‘90s. And this story begins with two vignettes…


‘What We See When We Read’: Covers, Imagination, and Everything in Between

"When we discuss the feeling of reading we are really talking about the memory of having read," says Peter Mendelsund, "and this memory of reading is a false memory."


Riley Rossmo’s Eclectic Signature

“Momentum” is a good word for Rossmo’s work in general. If there’s one thing that ties together his eclectically vast projects, it’s the kinetic energy his art contains.


The Defiant New Postmodern Tamil Cinema

Fed up with the empty rhetoric of utopian ideology and highfalutin discourse, the new generation of filmmakers take their frustrations out on the grand narratives of Tamil cinema.


More Than Just LOLCats and Finger-Chomping Babies, Memes Are a Window Into Contemporary Culture

Thought not always humorous, memes demonstrate the power of whimsical humour to undermine the legitimacy of the most laboriously manufactured control structures.


The Guggenheim’s Latin American Survey Reveals Something New Under the Sun

Categorizing the world we live in may be one of the most primal of human appetites.This exhibit challenges how we do that.


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