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

The Amazing Pudding

Wednesday, March 4 2015

From Tehran to Tel Aviv: Of Crime and the Cities

Akashic Noir series continues to serve up delightful and disturbing gems that offer remarkable insights into the world’s great (and not-so-great) cities.


Learning to Relax: An Interview with Dan Deacon

The world's most popular Wham City wonk who transcended his viral video notoriety to make transcendent pop music loves Less Than Jake. He also has a stress addiction, and his new album Gliss Riffer all stems from, of all things, a mixtape.


‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ Fails to Rise Above Mere Bodice-Ripping

Like all adaptations of this classic work of erotic literature, this film misses the mark in capturing any of the poignancy of the novel's fluid and lyrical prose.


Of Montreal: Aureate Gloom (take 1)

Aureate Gloom is a soliloquy to anyone willing to listen, an intense affirmation of the confusion that comes with change, and of the uncertainty that comes with difficult choices.


Of Montreal: Aureate Gloom (take 2)

Aureate Gloom is momentarily great, but it becomes infuriating in a instant.


Parquet Courts: Live at Third Man Records

What is essentially a live-version of Sunbathing Animal takes the hardest working group of lazy-bones in music to places new and exciting... just before it heads back to places familiar and boring.


Charlie Winston: Curio City

The chromatic wash of a futuristic energy glistens over the Brit's latest offering, but stirring beneath are the time-honored signatures of classic pop music.


Capsule: Waverunner

Waverunner provides a definitive answer to the question "what would it sound like if a veteran Japanese pop producer made an EDM album?"


Christian Lee Hutson: Yeah Okay, I Know

Christian Lee Hutson stretches his songwriting muscle on Yeah Okay, I Know, but gets bogged down by a dreary overall delivery.


Tuesday, March 3 2015

“Spider-Gwen #1” Grants a True Second Life

Gwen Stacy takes on a new role and crafts a new legacy for Spider-Men and Spider-Women alike.


In ‘Ghettoside’ Murder Isn’t Just a Crime, It’s a Disease

Reporter Jill Leovy’s intimate and intricate story of murder in Los Angeles is part crime epic and part call to arms about a crisis decades in the making.


Everything Has Changed, Nothing Has Changed: Music in a Post-9/11 World

The attacks of 9/11 may have caused a noticeable shift in the lyrical content of musicians and even sonic changes in the short term, but, in the end, normalcy finds a way to settle in.


Like Gangbusters!: An Interview with S

Jenn Ghetto is well known for co-founding Carissa’s Wierd. Now as 'S', Ghetto has crafted an indie heartbreak record inspired by Katy Perry.


The Upside of No-See Me: Invisibility and ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’

For Buffy, turning invisible allows her to indulge all her worst impulses; but in doing so, she realizes that she is not embracing life, but fleeing it.


Women Run the Street Showdowns in ‘Woman They Almost Lynched’

This woman-centric western isn't a lost masterpiece, but rather an entertaining and sometimes fascinating pleasantry.


Purity Ring: Another Eternity

Purity Ring reinforce their pop charms by tightening their formula on their sophomore album, moving one step closer to pop perfection.


Moon Duo: Shadow of the Sun

Shadow of the Sun’s fondness for repetition doesn’t come at the sacrifice of the element of surprise.


Amy Speace: That Kind of Girl

Amy Speace’s latest album is one that has the potential to take her over the top.


Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls

A hard-edged evocation of the free blues spirit of Charlie Parker by a modern saxophonist with the spirit to get Bird right.


Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Psychedelic India

Bollywood takes an acid trip in The Rough Guide to Psychedelic India.


Monday, March 2 2015

Love and Claustrophobia in ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant’

Fassbinder's stifling drama about the sufferings of dependence is high camp, where the sparks fly with radiant colours.


Robin Wright Makes ‘House of Cards: Season Three’ Shine

Its plotholes are not as obvious as they were in Season Two, but Season Three's real strength lies in Clarie Underwood, and her journey makes the best case for House of Cards' staying power yet.


In ‘John Carter, Warlord of Mars #4’ a Warrior may Change His Metal

Marz and Malsuni manage the difficult task of remaining true to the legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs while producing a story that seems fresh and new.


Animal Liberation Orchestra + T Sisters: 13 February 2015 - Solana Beach, CA

ALO won’t likely be skipping San Diego again any time soon if the crowd reaction on this night was any indication.


‘The Guilt and the Shadow’: Very Dark Fluff

The Guilt and the Shadow is more of a tone poem than a puzzle game.


‘The Devil Wins’ Gives Us the Honest Truth About Lies

This is an interesting historical survey of how Christian theologians have handled the thorny issue of truth and lies.


‘Who We Be’ and the Optics of Culture, in Living Colors

Jeff Chang's cultural history tackles how race has played out across the last 50 years, and counting, of American culture.


Coming Back to ‘Coming Home’: An Interview with Johnny Mathis and Thom Bell

PopMatters' exclusive interview with Johnny Mathis and Thom Bell celebrates the legacy of a pop music masterpiece, I'm Coming Home (1973).


Kelly Clarkson: Piece By Piece

With her latest, Kelly Clarkson proves that what doesn't kill her (and that voice) only makes her (and that voice) stronger.


Marc Almond: The Velvet Trail

The former Soft Cell frontman's latest rejects pop convention for an album-length singer/songwriter collaboration


Ryan Culwell: Flatlands

If Flatlands was a movie, it would have better been entitled Badlands given its barren settings and austere atmosphere.


Grooms: Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair

Although Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair has a fairly distinct color scheme, it deviates enough to resist the pastel end of the indie rock rainbow.


Doomtree: All Hands

For all the lip-service they pay cooperation, Doomtree's members fight against nobody so much as each other on this dilute offering.


Friday, February 27 2015

‘The Lazarus Effect’ Is an 88 Minute Excuse for Exposition

Because The Lazarus Effect takes so long getting to the supposedly scary stuff, we have to stay focused on either the characters or the content, and both fail.


‘Focus’ Is a Romantic Comedy With Dimension

This Will Smith vehicle is witty, brash Hollywood entertainment that's sexy, smart, and on the whole, successful.


Jeff Lemire on the Coming-Through-Slaughter of ‘Descender’

The interview with creator Jeff Lemire on his newest book Descender, which releases in March.


‘Maps to the Stars’ Brings Back Some Classic Cronenberg Horror

While not in the vein of Cronenberg's classic body horror thrillers, the bleak showbiz satire Maps to the Stars could well be a horror film after all.


The Hays Code Nightmare Has Come True. Ain’t That Grand?

The '30s era Hays Code limited significantly what artists could express and what audiences could see. Today's LGBT media has blasted through all that.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Music Releases for March 2015

Get a sneak peek of some of March's most compelling new releases, including albums from Courtney Barnett, Purity Ring, and Lightning Bolt.


Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Ethel Payne's gripping accounts of black life in post-World War II America provided critical information that was largely missing from mainstream journalism.


‘Lucy’ Entertains Despite Its Stupid Science

Lucy's idea of science is akin to a stoner complaining about how math doesn't really exist, but it does have an audacity that many sci-fi thrillers in the present day lack.


Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (Deluxe Edition)

Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin's first last album, represents the most grandiose expression of these Brits at the height of their powers.


Steve Gunn and Black Twig Pickers: Seasonal Hire

The rough carpentry of these songs lets the dust fly, lets the grain show, but the songs are all the purer, all the sweeter, for their scuffs.


Sonny & the Sunsets: Talent Night at the Ashram

This noble experiment often overextends its reach, but does so with such charming confidence you can’t help but enjoy its ramshackle pop confections.


Jellyfish: Bellybutton / Spilt Milk

Expanded re-mastered releases of Bellybutton and Spilt Milk with live cuts and demos from power pop cult band Jellyfish.


Universal Togetherness Band: Universal Togetherness Band

From 1979 to 1982, Andre Gibson's band recorded countless tunes with audio engineering students at Columbia College. Universal Togetherness Band compiles a tight cross-section of those recordings, showing the band's tight chops and expansive taste.


Thursday, February 26 2015

‘Bluebird’ Makes for a Thoughtful Examination of Distraction

Every character in Bluebird reminds us of how we might deliberately distract ourselves, in ways that simultaneously buffer and generate pain.


Don’t Want to Miss This Thing: An Interview with Aerosmith

Aerosmith has released concert DVDs before, but with Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014, they are on the silver screen for one night only. Tom Hamilton tells us about the hits, the fits, and the pursuit of naughty bits.


How ‘Descender’ Draws a Map of All of Sci-Fi

Released next Wednesday, Descender's a game-changer. Here's why.


Two Troubled People = Explosive Chemistry

Along the way to Preparation for the Next Life's dramatic conclusion, there's a good deal of lovely, Nabokovian-like descriptive writing.


Weapons Drawn! Perspectives on Charlie Hebdo

Questioning cartoons, satire, and the role of the media after the Charlie Hebdo assassinations.


Death and Childhood Hover Over Guy Maddin’s ‘My Winnipeg’

The comic mythologizing of Winnipeg becomes conflated with an urge for Maddin to mythologize himself.


Drake: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

At the peak of his game, Drake has begun to embrace the darker sides of success.


The Pop Group: Citizen Zombie

In an age of band reunions where anything is possible, we now have the Pop Group’s first album in 35 years.


Vijay Iyer Trio: Break Stuff

Iyer’s trio returns for its ECM debut, a sharp rhythmic workout that continues this musician’s brilliant run.


Elana James: Black Beauty

The Hot Club of Cowtown fiddler Elana James makes it a point to let her folk flag shine high and mightily on Black Beauty.


Louise Goffin: Songs From The Mine

Goffin understands the importance of keeping everything simple, from the music to the sentiments expressed.


Wednesday, February 25 2015

Beyond Good and Evil: “Multiversity: Mastermen #1”

Mastermen is a masterwork. A perfect 10. The greatest issue yet in this stunningly good series. Bravo, Mr. Morrision! Bravo!


Minae Mizumura’s ‘A True Novel’ Makes for a Truly Engrossing Tale

This deeply engrossing and sophisticated Japanese novel unpeels itself in multiple nested narratives over its 855 page length.


Songs of Imploration and Love: The Music of Tajikistan

For centuries, Tajikistan has seen just about every monarchy, kingdom, religious faith and culture sweep through its land, leaving an indelible impression on its people and music.


“Songs I Can Sing Ya”: An Interview with Andy Kim and Kevin Drew

He was the man behind hits like "Sugar Sugar" and "Rock Me Gently", but Andy Kim discovered something about himself in the creation of It's Decided, his emotional new album created with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew.


‘Más Negro Que La Noche’ Is the Rare Remake That Trounces the Original

This Mexican horror remake evokes the mood, atmosphere and acting of the classic era of horror.


Torche: Restarter

On Restarter, Torche delivers the smoothest sludge.


Sam Prekop: The Republic

The second instrumental adventure in the land of modular synthesizer from the golden voice of the Sea and Cake.


The Balkan Clarinet Summit: Many Languages, One Soul

The Balkan Clarinet Summit has produced one of the most soulful, enjoyable, and diverse collaborative albums in some time.


Hypercolor: Hypercolor

Hypercolor is a New York trio, an absolute mess of influences that can't help but play around with a blender.


Blackberry Smoke: Holding All the Roses

Blackberry Smoke's fourth studio album is appropriately named after an analogy meaning "you're the winner".


Tuesday, February 24 2015

A Shot Across the Bow: “Hawkeye #21”

This penultimate issue is essentially Home Alone, if Macaulay Culkin was an Avenger and the Sticky Bandits were a bunch of Eastern European mobsters in tracksuits and armed with machine guns.


Life Is Strange, Episode 1: Chrysalis

Max wants to make friends, survive high school, and impress her famous photography teacher to jump start her art career, the kinds of human and relatable stories not often seen in video games.


The Dead Talk in Maírtín Ó Cadhain’s ‘The Dirty Dust’

This novel's recurring themes of discontent and rivalry dominate whatever moments of tenderness and solidarity remain after Irish village life has given way to common death.


Finding Hope in the Horror: An Interview with Director Bernard Rose of ‘sx_tape’

Fresh off of last year's divisive sx_tape and with the classic Candyman to his credit, director Bernard Rose talks horror's past and present, as well as his own forthcoming take on Frankenstein.


‘The Jimmy Stewart Show’ Emerges from TV’s Never-Never Land

This is a traditional family sitcom, which means it's not funny.


Is All the World Really a Stage in ‘Birdman’?

Is Birdman's metacommentary the theatre within cinema that it appears to be?


‘Big Hero 6’ Bursts at the Seams With Emotion

Big Hero 6 demonstrates how Disney does animated storytelling like no other.


Dan Deacon: Gliss Riffer

Gliss Riffer is by far Deacon's most successful and accessible full-length thus far, but it's just shy of being a masterpiece.


Mahalia Barnes & The Soul Mates Featuring Joe Bonamassa: Ooh Yea! The Betty Davis Songbook

Australia's soul wunderkind Mahalia Barnes crosses her T's and dots her Betty Davis I's as she pays tribute to an artist who was too much, too soon.


Pelican: The Cliff EP

With this EP, Pelican don’t seem to understand that promised tension that never delivers can be as frustrating as tension that never finds release.


Jorma Kaukonen: Ain’t in No Hurry

This is feel-good music, played by a seasoned and assured troubadour equally at home on a spotlit stage or a front porch.


Kevin Drumm: Everything’s Going Along As Usual and Then All Shit Breaks Loose

Kevin Drumm traffics in static, both the noun and the adjective.


Paul Kelly: Paul Kelly Presents the Merri Soul Sessions (take 2)

The Merri Soul Sessions may be Kelly's most daring effort yet.


Monday, February 23 2015

Weaving A New Web: “Silk #1”

Cindy Moon's story is just beginning, but her potential is still growing.


“This Is a Cautionary Tale”: An Interview With Dan Gilroy of ‘Nightcrawler’

PopMatters speaks with Nightcrawler writer/director and Academy Award nominee Dan Gilroy about writing antiheroes, watching local television news, and questioning the pervasiveness of fear mongering media.


‘Blackguards 2’: A Good Kind of Evil

Blackguards 2 makes it feel good to be bad, but being bad also comes with a lot of responsibility.


Let’s Make Childhood Savage, Again

A growing movement says we ought to help our kids lead riskier lives with the intent of improving society.


Wikipedia, Controversy, and the Myth of Neutrality

As the Gamergate controversy illustrates, Wikipedia’s call for unbiased writing is really a euphemism for the privileging of certain ideologies.


Ringo Starr Becomes a Stoner Cro-Magnon in ‘Caveman’

There are many surprises to be found in Caveman, not the least of which is that it is not a complete waste of time.


Gang of Four: What Happens Next

Never so pretty as Content or as clinical as their earliest efforts, this latest album from Gang of Four marks an ugly and interesting new era for the band.


The Woman Who Had the Front-Row Seat to the Height of Basquiat’s Career

The story of Jean-Michel Basquiat's longtime companion lets us see him as more than merely a brilliant artist.


Romare: Projections

How many modern electronic/downtempo acts take their primary inspiration from the Afrocentric American painter Romare Bearden? At least one.


Doe: First Four

London-based Doe resurrects '90s punk with a compilation of their First Four EPs.


Duane Eubanks Quintet: Things of That Particular Nature

The trumpeter, brother of guitarists Kevin and trombonist Robin, leads a sharp band of top players, and the result is a gem.


DMX: Redemption of the Beast

This year is barely eight weeks old, but Redemption of the Beast will likely be the worst rap album of the year.


Friday, February 20 2015

In ‘McFarland, USA’, Sports Victory Vanquishes Prejudice

Although the "Great White Hope" overtones are troubling, McFarland, USA trumps the racism of its antagonists with sports team-building.


‘Still Alice’ Is the Story of a Mind in Search for Words and Self

Julianne Moore's luminous performance as a woman with early onset Alzheimer's reveals how the disease makes it difficult to find oneself.


‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’ Is an Exercise in Stunted Scatology

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will be clever only to those who never outgrew hearing their first dirty joke at summer camp.


Crashed Saucers and Contactees: UFOs and the Secret Origin of the Green Lantern

From Roswell to Aztec to Oa. The secret origin of Green Lantern, DC's science fiction superhero, is found among the crashed saucers and contactees of the 1950's UFO movement.


‘Dying Light’: The Terror and Triumph of Nightfall

The zombies here aren't monsters, they're just another kind of terrorist.


That’s Entertainment? Sold Into Bondage for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Network and cable programming both demonstrate overwhelming irresponsibility and contradiction concerning depictions of sexual violence and abuse.


Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor

Performing in a country rife with racism and segregation, the tenor Roland Hayes was the first African-American man to reach international fame as a concert performer.


‘The Palm Beach Story’ and the Comedy of Patriarchy

In pure madcap fashion, Preston Sturges' wartime comedy depicts just how absurd the constraints on women are in a patriarchal society.


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