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

The Amazing Pudding

Thursday, October 23 2014

Match & Fuse Festival: 3 October 2014 - London (Photos)

Did I know the No Hay Banda Trio before I stepped into Rich Mix in sadly up-and-coming Shoreditch? Yes. Was I at all aware that Clare Savage and Bellatrix were hiding a monstrous talent in their minute figures? I do now


Jazz May Be Reeling in Terms of Record Sales, But It’s Thriving As an Art Form

What if today’s jazz is a little bit Bill Frisell and a little bit Ornette Coleman?


Subverting the Rules: An Interview with Cory Branan

Cory Branan's brand of rocking country doesn't fit very well into music industry slots, but the Nashville-based songwriter is carving an idiosyncratic niche for himself regardless.


‘Gorky Park’ Is a Cold War Film that Avoids National Stereotypes

This violent murder mystery is atypical among Cold War era films and stands up well today, but this Blu-ray could use a little more "special" in its "features".


Allo Darlin’: We Come From the Same Place

On their third album, Allo Darlin’ turn down the twee ever-so-slightly to craft a less precious, more grown-up version of that at which they’ve excelled over their previous releases.


‘Books That Cook’ Is for the Literary Foodie Whose Reading Tastes Are of a Scholarly Bent

As food studies enters academia, texts are required to populate the curricula. That doesn't mean lay readers can't enjoy them, too.


Primus: And the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble

Primus covers Willy Wonka, playing up your fuzzy memories of the film's dark heart while subverting the original arrangements.


Gary Clark Jr.: Live

This disc marks the official arrival of a major talent: clearly steeped in the blues tradition who can shift seamlessly between feedback-frenzied rawness and cool, old school soul and funk.


CAVE: Release

This collection of the Chicago psych rock band's previously released non-album tracks adds up to more than the usual rarities compilation.


Sam Amidon: Lily-O

Singer, guitarist, fiddler, banjo player, Sam Amidon's sixth album is a patchwork of delights.


Walter Salas-Humara: Curve and Shake

Another collection of evocative songs, deceptive in their carefully woven simplicity.


Wednesday, October 22 2014

‘Cosmochoria’: The Good Kind of Grind

The game fails to properly equip the player for the challenges in the game. That sounds like a criticism, but it really works in its favor.


“Music Requires a Journey Out of You”: An Interview with John Cowan

New Grass Revival frontman John Cowan talks to PopMatters about the tricks of being a singing bass player, the new developments in folk music, and the career-spanning feel of his latest record, Sixty.


The Power of the Reader in ‘A History of Reading’

Alberto Manguel takes a thematic rather than linear approach to a history of reading, offering an entertaining and impassioned account of reading practices and readers' agency.


Funny Faces on the Telly: Whose to Watch

Every few years there's a new batch of funny faces making the rounds on Britain's television panel shows. Here are a few faces worth watching.


The Voyage Impulse in the Music of Sting

No matter what hat he wears as an artist, the impulse to voyage beyond defines Sting, as do the impulses that compel him to stay.


‘Ghost in the Shell 25th Anniversary Edition’ Is a Classic Anime Given Paltry Extras Treatment

Ghost in the Shell remains an excellent milestone in anime, but this barebones release is devoid of the extras that would truly make this edition special.


Jessie Ware: Tough Love

Jessie Ware supplies more late-night soul on her sophomore effort, an album that finds her subtly expanding her much-lauded R&B sound.


Stars: No One Is Lost

No One Is Lost is undoubtedly a fun album, but it very much gets lost in its own narrative.


‘The Mathematician’s Shiva’ Is Classically Middlebrow

There are secret plots, geopolitical rumblings, high-math technical language, and a parrot of interest, but as often as not these things wanly colorize an otherwise monochromatic narrative.


Diana Krall: Wallflower

The jazz singer tackles a set of boomer pop "standards", kind of like she was the Perry Como of her generation, and sounds plastic doing it.


Inter Arma: The Cavern EP

“The Cavern”, the one 45-minute song that makes up this EP, is truly worthy of the word “epic” and is a welcome addition to the pantheon of metal music.


Julian Casablancas + The Voidz: Tyranny

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz get weird on Tyranny, but weird doesn't automatically mean quality.


Weedeater: ...And Justice for Y’all

Thirteen years on this seemingly-derivative piece of sludge metal differentiates itself from less interesting acts with one thing: pure sonic filth.


Tuesday, October 21 2014

A Parable of Faith on a Desert Planet

As in Faber's previous fiction, the situation the protagonist meets in The Book of Strange New Things appears to be more complex than what this idealistic but flawed Everyman can fully comprehend.


It All Comes Back to Haunt You: “Cutter #3”

Artist Christian DiBari's black-and-white panels feel more than a little like a woodcut – roughly done with a pocket knife, all slash marks and scars, as if the killer herself is carving out this story with her bloody blade.


‘The World Atlas of Street Photography’ Is a Commanding Overview

Readers familiar with these artists will be happy with this representative selection, while newcomers such as myself will find much to pore over, much to enjoy and much to provoke thought.


What He Has Sown: A Conversation With Bruce Soord of the Pineapple Thief

The Pineapple Thief mastermind delves into the making of Magnolia, the [un]fair criticisms of fans, and the joys of modern Opeth, among many other topics.


The Tyranny of Aspiration Culture

Without room for doubt, uncertainty, and even self-hatred, the tyranny of Aspiration Culture prevails, and meaningful defiance is thrown out the window.


‘Queen: Live at the Rainbow ‘74’: Still Killer Queen, After All These Years

Live at the Rainbow '74 doesn't contain all of Queen's biggest commercial hits, but features some of their heaviest rock from their amazing early days.


Mark Lanegan Band: Phantom Radio

Phantom Radio is the quintessential Mark Lanegan album, both a great starting point for those uninitiated to his world and a document that the most devoted members of his cult fanbase will cherish as one of his best.


Thurston Moore: The Best Day

Thurston Moore's most ambitious solo album and possibly the best Sonic Youth-related release since 2004's Sonic Nurse.


Oh Susanna: Namedropper

American-Canadian singer-songwriter Suzie Ungerleider ropes in other Canadian musicians to write songs for her to wildly varying results.


ABBA: Live at Wembley Arena

On Live at Wembley Arena, ABBA deliver a tightly choreographed and wildly enjoyable performance during the height of their powers.


Pinkcourtesyphone: Description of Problem

Richard Chartier returns with another exploration of post-modernist exploration in detached existence of suburban pink-hued glamour.


Rowland S Howard: Pop Crimes

Reissue of the final solo album by the hugely overlooked Australian post-punk hero, Rowland S Howard.


Monday, October 20 2014

A Fitting (But Incomplete) End: “Death of Wolverine #4”

Wolverine's demise had just enough substance and not nearly enough style.


‘Neverending Nightmares’ Is More Tedious Than Terrifying

While it looks quite amazing, the problem with Neverending Nightmares is that there is a real lack of a bigger picture, either strategically or narratively, to motivate the play itself.


‘Watchers of the Sky’ and the Full Cruelty of Consciousness

Brutality can take many forms, from war making to banking.


‘The Vincent Price Collection II’ Is a B-Movie Lover’s Dream

Vincent Price brought class to everything he did, a quality evident even in the B-movies of The Vincent Price Collection II.


It’s Back to the Future with William Gibson’s ‘The Peripheral’

When Flynne Fisher witnesses a murder, a contract is taken on her life. The contract holders are from the future.


‘The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume One’ Attests to Risk-Taking in Creativity and Innovation

This collection of films is significant in illustrating the development of Mack Sennett's contributions to early film comedy and the lasting effects of Sennett and his troupe.


Waiting for the Rails to Rumble: The Cycles of Rock Music

The romantic sentiment that rock was better in the past and has, as they say, given up the ghost, is a charming but misguided notion.


The Waters Aren’t Choppy Enough in ‘Killer Fish’

There's hardly enough killer fish action in Killer Fish to keep the film afloat.


Scott Walker and Sunn O))): Soused

Twin titans of the underground come together to craft essentially what you'd expect a collaboration of this nature to sound like, for better or worse.


‘Voyaging in Strange Seas’ Tells of the Deep, Wide Roots of Modern Science

The history of the Scientific Revolution, retold: Clear, detailed, and as overwhelming as drinking from a fire hose.


Jukebox the Ghost: Jukebox the Ghost

In overemphasizing the pure pop side of its style, Jukebox the Ghost oversimplifies and dumbs down its songwriting smarts.


Jess Reimer: The Nightjar and the Garden

The Nightjar and the Garden is a highly literary effort, a testament to a woman's trying faith in a time and place where it is a commodity that is being continuously challenged.


Guilty Simpson: The Simpson Tape

Simpson's grumbling's gotten boring, but Oh-No's beats are as fresh as they've ever been (straight off the farm, we're talking).


Queen: Live at the Rainbow ‘74

This lost live record captures one of rock’s most unassailable giants, right when it was discovering how to really belt out its “fee-fi-fo-fums”.


Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen: Cold Spell

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen are poised to become a lasting force in bluegrass and also demonstrate the potential for broader success.


Friday, October 17 2014

‘The Book of Life’ Is a Boy-Band Approach to Moviemaking

The commercial approach of The Book of Life is to draw on a wide range of celebrities to craft an entertainment that just about anyone could like.


Michael Keaton and Edward Norton Square Off in ‘Birdman’

A onetime Hollywood superhero takes a stab at respectability by adapting Raymond Carver’s writings to Broadway in Iñárritu's hallucinogenic satire of the entertainment industry.


There’s No Beginning, There Be No End: The Last of the Greats

The Last of the Greats was published by Image in 2011-12, a five-issue mini-series that received deserved critical acclaim but ultimately flew under the radar, popularity-wise.


Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan

Ian Bell explores Dylan's unparalleled second act in a quintessentially American career. It's a tale of redemption, of an act of creative will against the odds, and of a writer who refused to fade away.


The Persistence of Mockery: Garfield and Surrealism

Goofing around with Garfield on The Garfield Randomiser and Garfield Minus Garfield evokes the poetic Surrealism that arose from Dadism.


“We Just Kinda Broke All the Rules”: An Interview with Lucinda Williams

Throughout her long and legendary career, Lucinda Williams has garnered a reputation for dismissing any notions of rules, expectations, or boundaries.


Ry Cooder: Soundtracks

Rhino’s seven CD retrospective box set Soundtracks covers off the bulk of Ry Cooder’s ‘80s film work. Interesting and varied, this is a worthy re-issue.


The Aislers Set: How I Learned to Write Backwards

Even though How I Learned to Write Backwards is arguably the band's darkest hour, it's still affirming and affecting, the final piece in a wonderful trilogy of albums.


‘Into the War’ Is Introspective, Poignant,  and Moralistic in All the Right Ways

Italo Calvino offers a rarely personal, and deeply insightful, glimpse of the adolescent experience of war.


Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Worker

The constantly morphing new jazz trio moves into deeply atmospheric, electronic territory and dares you to follow.


Pig Destroyer: Mass and Volume EP

This EP bears the mark of idle hands merely wanting to keep busy.


Hiss Golden Messenger: Lateness of Dancers

The latest from M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch's country-leaning band serves as an re-introduction and a rebirth for their signature sound.


Noel Torres: La Balanza

When playing corridos, one must be absolutely modern. If you play them as hard as possible, that helps.


Thursday, October 16 2014

‘Lilting’ Is About the Ways We Assimilate

Lilting challenges what it means to assimilate into a culture, suggesting that blending in isn't necessary for shared experience.


Soap, Candles, and Even the Humble Ice Cube Make Appearances in ‘How We Got to Now’

From the first selfie to the importance of jazz musicians, Steven Johnson puts a few surprises into How We Got To Now.


More Boy Than Witch: “Klarion #1”

Just keep moving, folks. There is nothing to see here, especially nothing scary. This Klarion, this Witch Boy, is a lot more boy than witch.


‘The Essential Jacques Demy’ Captures the Director’s Breezy, Bluesy World

The Essential Jacques Demy provides an insightful look inside an auteur who may finally be getting the recognition he deserves.


‘Surgeon General’s Warning’ Provides a Fascinating History on a Controversial Position

Written in vivid detail and expertly researched, Mike Stobbe's chronicle of the office of the Surgeon General parts the curtains on some surprising heroes and brings us to a surprising conclusion.


Mount Eerie: New York - 24 September 2014

Phil Elverum brought minimalist arrangements of songs from upcoming Mount Eerie release Sauna to NYC's Le Poisson Rouge, along with plenty of mystery and endearing stage banter.


Lucifer Is Free to Roam: (In)Justice and Retribution in ‘Hannibal’

Hannibal, unlike much-hyped pulp revival shows like True Detective and Fargo, refuses to give its audience neat answers on matters of right and wrong.


A Dark Rapture: The Rise of Punk in Spain

Spanish punkers came swinging harder than ever, screaming not for the sake of inducing change, but screaming for the sake of screaming – because now they could.


El May Reclaims Her Confidence on the Introspective ‘The Other Person Is You’

Lara Meyerratken, the Los Angeles-by way of-Australia indie pop musician, returns with her first new album in four years.


‘Revenge: The Complete Third Season’ Is Too Convoluted for Its Own Good

In its third season, Revenge jumps the shark and drowns slowly afterwards.


Kele: Trick

From the club to the bedroom, the Bloc Party frontman explores the empty sensuality of sleeping with complete strangers.


Johnny Marr: Playland

Johnny Marr's second solo album suggests a consummate musician becoming more comfortable with his solo status.


Lars Iyers’ ‘Wittgenstein Jr’ Is a Portrait of the Genius as a Tortured Thinker

Lars Iyer's latest novel explores sadness and genius while contemplating the end of philosophy.


Pharmakon: Bestial Burden

Bestial Burden really knows how to work a mood, and beat that sense of claustrophobic misery right into the ground.


JAWS: Be Slowly

These Birmingham lads mine their musical past to create a sound in keeping with their influences without straying too far from established templates, finding comfort in familiarity.


Billy Thermal: Billy Thermal

A long-shelved power pop gem gets its chance to shine.


Trigger Hippy: Trigger Hippy

Trigger Hippy's roots run deep and the down-and-dirty, soul-tinged blues they rock is the real deal.


Wednesday, October 15 2014

Pixies May Have Changed, But Their Energy Is Still Strong

The revamped Pixies prove there's plenty of fuel left in the tank yet.


In ‘The Zero Theorem’, Terry Gilliam Is Still Looking for the Meaning of Life

Terry Gilliam's quest for life's biggest answers finds a new formulation in The Zero Theorem: perhaps, the film suggests, there is no meaning to it all.


A (Not Quite) Epic Onslaught: “Avengers and X-men: AXIS #1”

A high concept that's high on potential and low on refinement.


Tim & Eric with Dr. Steve Brule: Boston - 4 October 2014

Tim & Eric, with Dr. Steve Brule in tow, shared their brand of entrancingly preposterous, thoroughly sweet comedy during an extended set in Boston's Back Bay.


‘The End of Absence’ Is an Argument to Turn Off and Tune In

These days there's so much technodread floating around that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a thinkpiece about how smartphones are ruining our minds.


Katie Kate: Nation

Nation isn't an opus. It's a warning.


Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles

Sarah Silverman's second HBO special/comedy album gives us another healthy helping of rape, incest, oral sex, profanity and jokes about Jews. In other words, Sarah Silverman being herself.


Sweetback in the Cosmos: An Interview with Melvin Van Peebles

He's almost single-handedly invented the Blaxploitation film genre, but as his recent collaboration with Heliocentrics proves, Melvin Van Peebles is so much more than simply a filmmaker in command of his craft.


Vashti Bunyan: Heartleap

Vashti Bunyan is given the final word on a sporadic yet influential career with the organic swan song Heartleap.


Dads: I’ll Be the Tornado

I’ll Be the Tornado is an enrapturing album, and one that you simply must hear with your mind and your heart.


The Magical Presence of Anna Karina: More Than Godard’s Muse

It’s not that Anna Karina couldn’t act, but that she didn’t have to. Her physical presence was the art, and her beauty, in and of itself, was a significant contribution to the culture.


Will We Ever Come First? ‘Vampire Academy’ and Female (Mis)Representation

Though a surface reading of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy suggests compelling depiction of women, underneath lies ages-old patriarchal myths.


‘Million Dollar Arm’ Is a Million Dollar Idea With a Ten-Cent Film Plot

Million Dollar Arm is a film that picked the wrong protagonist.


Foxygen: ...And Star Power

Try as you might to take Foxygen's ...And Star Power at face value, it's hard to because the mischievous duo does everything but play it straight on the 82-minute double LP.


The Acacia Strain: Coma Witch

Coma Witch is a bracing, unapologetic, mesmerizing album. And it could very well be easily one of the best metal albums of the year.


‘The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace’ Will Make You Think

This real-world account of an ill-fated Yale student's life will be haunting me for many months.


Tuesday, October 14 2014

What More Is Mankind Than Nature’s Parasite? Reflections on ‘Herzog: The Collection’

For Werner Herzog, man’s tug-of-war with nature is not a present imbalance but a lost cause, the barbarous beauty of nature made mere barbarism by humankind.


Pearl Jam: 3 October 2014 - St. Louis (Photos)

Pearl Jam's shows are more and more memorable for hardcore fans but they still remain approachable for everyone as they pulled from their earliest releases in St. Louis.


Mainstream Economists Are Leading America to Ruin

The challenges for Americans and other countries to grapple with are not economic ones, and they are not narrow, technically ‘scientific’ ones. They are moral and philosophical ones.


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