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Monday, February 9 2015

A Colorful Cosmic Convergence: “Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Alpha #1”

The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy come together again in a story that's as volatile as it is fun.


‘Citizens of Earth’ Falls in Line with traditional Japanese RPGs

Several jokes in Citizens of Earth expose the Vice President of the Worlds’s exaggerated love of bureaucracy. Too bad the game is sometimes as much fun as cutting through red tape.


The Comedy Is Bittersweet in ‘Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic’

The focus on the dark side of Pryor's life gives this documentary the feel of an epitaph rather than a celebration.


Do iPhones Dream of Boxcars? Joe Ely and Sci-Fi Country

In 1983, road-weary Texan Joe Ely hovers over gadgets and wires, entering a brave new world of technology. Is he creating science-fiction country music?


Cayamo 2015 Is a True Journey Through Song

The start of 2015 found a bevy of roots music's best artists taking to the open ocean for a week of concerts, social gatherings, and hi-jinks. (Spoiler: watch out for Kacey Musgraves if she's on a scooter.)


In Conversational Orbit of ‘God’s Planet’ With Owen Gingerich

Religion and science, two of the great cathedrals of knowledge, are often perceived as being in a state of conflict with one another. Gingerich is of the mind that the two cannot be separated.


‘Nightcrawler’ Reminds Us That Capitalism and the Media Have Gotten Worse

As Nightcrawler compellingly depicts, every member of society is one rent payment away from tapping into their dark side.


Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Josh Tillman leaves the depression that triggered his beloved debut behind. In its place is the subject of love in all its beauty and messiness.


Wardell: Love / Idleness

Just because their dad produced Transformers, it doesn't make Wardell bad people.


Rez Abassi Acoustic Quartet: Intents and Purposes

The guitarist takes his acoustic band (guitar trio plus vibes) for a spin on some classic fusion tunes from the 1970s.


The Notwist: The Messier Objects

The Notwist follow up last year's Close to the Glass with this collection of unreleased instrumental material.


Gov’t Mule: Dark Side of the Mule

With Dark Side of the Mule, Haynes and company’s faithful recitations do little to breathe life into already tired songs for those new to the Mule.


Friday, February 6 2015

Greyboy Allstars Kick Out the Jams in San Diego

There was a bit of cognitive dissonance in the air with the concept of Denson being 58 years old, because onlookers would be hard pressed to make such a guess.


‘Seventh Son’ Asks How Evil You Must Be to Fight Evil

Jeff Bridges, being very Dude-like, summarizes the motto of Seventh Son: "When you deal with dark, dark gets in you."


‘The SpongeBob Movie’ Works for the Five Year Old and the 55 Year Old

There's little subtext in this tale of the pineapple under the sea, but there is plenty of clever humor and scenery-chewing to rile up audiences of all ages.


The Wachowski Siblings Repeat Themselves in ‘Jupiter Ascending’

At this point in the Wachowskis’ career, another hyped-up science-fiction saga about fate and humanity-as-cattle feels like less of a recurring theme and more like a lack of imagination.


The Ghost of Spectres Past

On the cusp of “Convergence”, which ties together all DC comics ever published, have Fawkes and Templesmith finally found the character’s quintessential magic?


‘Satellina’: Is a Quintessential Example of Mobile Gaming

While it's definitely a bit more difficult than I was expecting, the difficulty of Satellina is fair when the game is behaving itself.


‘Dear White People’ Untangles Complicated Relations of Racism and Identity

This film's ability to balance character-driven stories with didactic critiques against the racist practices that haunt our daily lives speaks to a sophisticated outlook rare among first-time directors.


‘The Secret History of Wonder Woman’ Also Reveals a Great Deal About Our Own Social History

Jill Lepore's hit new book on Wonder Woman sheds light not only on the astonishing origins of this iconic character, but also on the fascinating social and political strands of history which gave rise to her.


A Portrait of the Boss As a Young Man: On Bruce Springsteen’s First Seven Albums

The go-for-broke inspiration Bruce Springsteen became legendary for providing in his songs initially sprang from the most authentic source: himself.


‘Left Behind’ Would Have Been Better Left Behind

This Christian "blockbuster" thriller is a movie that looks and sounds significantly lower-rent than even the other low-rent thrillers Nicolas Cage has been doing lately.


Lupe Fiasco: Tetsuo & Youth

Lupe Fiasco ends his troubled relationship with Atlantic Records with a thrillingly ambitious sendoff.


John Carpenter: Lost Themes

John Carpenter's non-soundtrack album is engrossing and dark, bringing to mind images from his best works both audio and visual.


1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music

The year 1965 saw many musical developments, a significant one of which is Brian Wilson's development from poet laureate of high school to baroque visionary.


Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It

Part of this Dogg's appeal always could be found in his strange sense of humor and gritty look at reality. He's not above being vulgar or afraid to be saintly.


Whitey Morgan & the 78’s: Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint

Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint is a primer on how honky tonk’s done, demonstrating no new spin is required.


Thursday, February 5 2015

Diana Ross: 3 February 2015 - Brooklyn, New York

Diana Ross inaugurated the historic reopening of Kings Theatre in Brooklyn with a dazzling lesson in longevity.


The “Change” You Want to See

What really pops out and smacks you in the face about Change is the art by Morgan Jeske and Sloane Leong.


Funny, Filthy, and Free: The ‘Do The Right Thing’ Podcast

Fancy being entertained, enlightened or offended, but not willing to pay for the privilege? Then you need the Do The Right Thing podcast in your life.


A Clunky Conclusion Prevents ‘John Wick’ From Being a Minor Classic

This straightforward revenge flick doesn't quite nail its blood-soaked final bow, but it nonetheless provides far more thrills than your typical run 'n' gun film.


Punch Brothers: The Phosphorescent Blues

This is another triumph for Punch Brothers, who continue to find a balance between catchiness and esoteria.


John Tejada: Signs Under Test

L.A.-based electronic musician John Tejada keeps on picking the locks where we were unaware of the doors in the first place.


‘The Never-Open Desert Diner’ Is Beautifully Written With a Delicate Sense of Humor

A book with this kind of subtly, lyricism, and quiet intensity isn’t just appreciated—it’s restorative.


Robert Lester Folsom: Music and Dreams and Robert Lester Folsom: Ode to a Rainy Day

A cherished self-released slice of 1970’s mellow gold gets a welcome digital reissue. It's accompanied by a second, previously unavailable set of formative home recordings certain to satisfy excavators of that decade’s lost sounds.


Gene Clark: Two Sides to Every Story

During a time when country was serious, large and in charge, Clark jokingly thumbed his nose at the appearance of genuine. Or not.


Wednesday, February 4 2015

‘Nashville’ Is No Conventional Melodrama

Forget the chit-chat about Nashville being a "sudsy" soap; as season three continues to show, this is a complex, feminist show that forges a new sort of sincerity.


It Should Have Been a Joke: “Zombies vs. Robots #1”

The robots are fierce and out of control. The zombies are hungry, rapacious, rattleboned and desperate.


The Programmer as Author in ‘If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript’

This inventive and engaging book imagines what JavaScript might look like in the hands of 25 writers, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Tupac Shakur, and J.K. Rowling.


Bligg Up!: The Bizarre Swiss Hip-Hop of Rapper Bligg

Swiss rapper Bligg, hip-hop's resident weirdo, reinvents the genre through subversion and humour -- and an alphorn's load of smart, catchy tunes.


“Leave the F-Bombs In”: An Interview With Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller

You may not know his name. You may not even know Daytrotter. But Sean Moeller has played an indispensable role in snatching many of your favorite groups from the clutches of obscurity.


Roman Polanski’s ‘Macbeth’ Is Sinister Jazz

Like a jazz performer playing a classic tune, Roman Polanski takes Shakespeare's classic text and offers slight but crucial emphases, inspired no doubt by his own personal turmoils.


Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan doesn’t try to compete with Sinatra -- he knows better than that. Shadows in the Night is clearly an act of love and honor.


Twerps: Range Anxiety

The Australian rock band's second album is a reverential throwback to the glory days of iconoclastic jangle pop. It's nostalgia done right.


The Characters in ‘The Half Brother’ Are Formulaic, at Times Startlingly So

Charles Spooner Garrett, Harvard English degree in hand, has no particular talents, ambitions, or goals when he lands a teaching position at the Abbott School, in Abbottsford, Massachusetts.


Chadwick Stokes: The Horse Comanche

With songs that literally seem to go from a whisper to a roar, Chadwick Stokes’ melodies inhabit a kind of netherworld where it’s never a certainty where they’ll end up next.


Loscil: Sea Island

Sea Island offers some surprises, but also maintains the serene identity that Loscil has been sculpting like a bonsai tree for 15 years.


Hozier: Hozier

On his rich debut album, Hozier blends deep South R&B with mythical Celtic folk, slipping in a lick of Motown heartache when least expected.


Tuesday, February 3 2015

We All Got Drawn Here: “The Multiversity: Guidebook #1”

This book is a wonder. Oh boy, is it a wonder.


Dr. Who Becomes da Vinci in ‘Inside the Mind of Leonardo’

Peter Capaldi, the current Dr. Who, delivers an avant-garde bit of performance art that should be deconstructed just like da Vinci's notebooks.


The Fluke That Wasn’t: Reconsidering the Success of Ray Charles’s Country Music Landmark

It's no accident that country is considered a white genre; it became white over time, and minimizing issues of race has been a key component of maintaining this whiteness.


Does the Title of the Bollywood Blockbuster, ‘PK’, Actually Stand for Performing Kulturkampf?

In the kulturkampf between India’s intelligentsia decrying the ‘cultural terrorism’ of extremists, a film like PK has me wondering, how long can secular liberals retain the moral high ground?


In ‘The Boxtrolls’, the Adult Authorities Are Corrupt

In the good-but-not-great Boxtrolls, it falls to the young characters to take care of business and save the day themselves.


Mount Eerie: Sauna

From beginning to end, Sauna reads its map upside down, but finds the destination all the same.


Various Artists: When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel, 1926-1936

Tompkins Square’s third major anthology of African-American gospel draws from the genre's earliest recorded sources to offer listeners evocative echoes of the nineteenth century.


‘Scarcity’ Suffers From Trying to Cram Too Much Into One Box

Although the interesting model of Scarcity makes it worth a read, like too many behavioral economics texts, it tries to cram too many global phenomena under its framework.


American Aquarium: Wolves

Still trying to find purpose after surviving the suicidal Flame.Flicker.Die., American Aquarium deliver a confused and confusing album.


Glenn Branca: The Ascension

A pioneer of massed-guitar music still worth listening to.


Monday, February 2 2015

The Ties That No Longer Bind: “Uncanny Avengers #1”

The aftermath of a major retcon can't be ignored, but it can't be rushed either.


Discovering the Essence of Fiction With ‘Timbuktu’ Director Abderrahmane Sissako

Academy Award for Best Foreign Film nominee director Abderrahmane Sissako discusses working with non-professional actors, difficult technical shots, and the meaning of receiving Mauitania's first-ever Oscar nomination.


Heaven Don’t Call Me Home: An Interview With the Lone Bellow

Rewriting the rules of Americana, the Lone Bellow are ready for their mainstream moment, working with Aaron Dessner of the National and releasing one of 2015's most anticipated albums.


The Visual Enchantment of Music Photography

Sometimes photographs tell stories that music cannot fully articulate, carrying in their grain long-gone atmospheres.


‘A Life in Dirty Movies’ Is a Touching Documentary That Isn’t About What You Think

With a title like A Life in Dirty Movies you might not expect a love story, but that's what you get.


Murder By Death: Big Dark Love

Love may be a many-splendored thing, but in the hands of Murder By Death, it’s also an instigator of pain and horror.


Ricked Wicky: I Sell the Circus

I Sell the Circus, Robert Pollard's first album with his new band, makes a convincing argument for Ricked Wicky as a powerful rock band.


‘The Struggle for Pakistan’ Masterfully Summarizes a Country’s Troubled History

Dr. Ayesha Jalal's thorough survey will remain the definitive history of Pakistan for decades to come.


Young Ejecta: The Planet

Leanne Macomber and Joel Ford's second release as Young Ejecta is too morose and humorless to be really good pop music, and too upbeat and cheap to be taken very seriously.


Guster: Evermotion

Guster takes a decided turn in direction with Evermotion, due mainly to the album’s softer sound and songs that evoke gentler, less complicated constraints.


Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses

This time out, saxophonist Paul Shapiro refracts his Jewish heritage not only through jazz but also through raw rock sounds, with guitarist Marc Ribot utterly riveting throughout.


Friday, January 30 2015

‘Project Almanac’ Can’t Time Travel Away From Formula

With underdeveloped female characters and an emotional generic backstory, Project Almanac is trapped too much in formula for the youthful energy of its cast to rise to the fore.


‘Black or White’ Doesn’t Explore Gray Areas

In reducing the complexity of its characters, Black or White boils down complex racial dynamics to worn-out tropes, like the "well-meaning white guy".


Legacy v. Statement: Talking with Goon Creator Eric Powell

Today the Iconographies proudly presents the magic of Eric Powell’s the Goon as it draws to a close. Maybe.


Perilous Discoveries: The Feminist Murder-Mysteries of Charlotte Armstrong

Armstrong's women opened the same forbidden doors as Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth's, but her characters also opened those doors for other, more pressing, reasons.


Listening Ahead: Upcoming Music Releases for February 2015

Get a sneak peek of some of February's most intriguing releases, including albums by Father John Misty, José Gonzaléz, and Dan Deacon.


‘Kroll Show: Seasons One and Two’ Feels Like a Collection of Inside Jokes

Nick Kroll and his gaggle of comedian friends clearly think themselves hilarious; from a viewer's perspective, however, that judgment is usually questionable in Kroll Show.


Jessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again

Grief, upheaval, and a creative exile serve as the backdrop for the latest from rising California singer-songwriter.


Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band: Take It Like a Man

Following the conceit of the “versus” listed in the artists’ category (“Jim White vs. Packway Handle Band”) title, on Take It Like a Man, White and the band alternately offer songs with just one co-written between them.


These Protestant Communities Understood Persecution Firsthand, and the Nazi Agenda Horrified Them

The remote mountain villages of le Chambon and the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon were Protestant havens that opened their homes to shelter countless Jewish children during WWII.


Karen O: Crush Songs

Not only are these songs about crushes, they feel just like one: emotionally intense, completely beautiful, and above all, fleeting.


Nico & Vinz: Black Star Elephant

Black Star Elephant proves to be a pleasant, uplifting album, though by no means earth shattering.


Thursday, January 29 2015

CEO Supervillains: Toyo Harada & Dario Agger

The businessman bad guy is nothing new. Lex Luthor and Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin) both come to mind immediately as classic comicbook villains whose main source of power is their wealth. And they’re not the only examples…


What Does a Mexican Comic Hero and a Citizens’ War Crimes Tribunal Have to Do With Each Other?

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires is a blend of narrative genius with deep political philosophical significance, couched in a surreal blend of comic and prose.


Metaphor in a Time of Ebola

The more closely I followed the Ebola coverage, the more the simulacra of contagion in fiction, film, and games seemed inextricably woven into the mainstream media.


Back to What We Really Were All Along: An Interview with the Dodos

Individ, the latest by this San Francisco duo, finds them coming back to the same place they started: two "total nerds just being excited" as a duo.


‘Legends of the Knight’ Is a Little Too Reverent About the Dark Knight

Legends of the Knight takes the cultural impact of Batman seriously by highlighting a few of his biggest fans, even though the hero worship gets a little redundant by its conclusion.


Bettye LaVette: Worthy

More than 50 years into her career, Bettye LaVette still has a voice for the ages.


The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies (Legacy Edition)

Like that lady who dreams of an Oklahoma where Shirley Jones and Gordon McCrea dwell, we can fantasize of an England where our neighbors lead rich and eccentric lives and invite us over for a friendly spot of tea.


John Carpenter and His Works, in Still Life

Gazing upon this vast collection of images with an abundance of rare and previously unseen stills, one cannot help but feel that Gottlieb-Walker captures the films' ontological identity.


Branford Marsalis: In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

If you like the sound of a saxophone flying solo, just wait until you hear it in a big-ass church.


Vance Joy: Dream Your Life Away

The pop veins that Vance Joy mines so beautifully are unrequited and disbelieving love, and the songs’ appeal lie primarily in Joy’s voice, a voice that projects tremendous yearning.


Wednesday, January 28 2015

Sundance Film Festival 2015: ‘Princess’ and ‘The Wolfpack’

In the fictional film Princess and the documentary The Wolfpack, a child's resilience might thwart even the most determined of boogey men.


A Royal Struggle: “Wonder Woman #38”

Wonder Woman is the ultimate feminine ideal, but even she deals with her share of insecurities.


Reality, One Grain at a Time

There’s more of value in one Calvino essay about Roman pig sties than there is in a week’s worth of slop from the Huffington Post.


A Song Can Be About Anything: An Interview with Dan Wilson

In 2014, former Semisonic frontman and "Someone Like You" scribe Dan Wilson released a solo album, re-released his pre-Semisonic band Trip Shakespeare's albums, and challenged his fans about the fact that a song, in fact, can be about anything.


Tom Cruise: Hollywood’s Last Great Movie Star

Tom Cruise is the most consistent movie star Hollywood has, and when he stops making films, his absence will signify the end of an era.


There’s a Real Warmth Beneath the Cold Exterior of ‘Ida’

Pawel Pawlikowski's frosty drama, although perhaps too simple for its own good, elevates strong emotional connections from an entirely chilly exterior.


The Lone Bellow: Then Came the Morning

The Lone Bellow knows how to nail a crescendo. The problem with Then Came the Morning is that it makes it seem like the band is only good at that.


Having Trouble Sleeping? Relax, It’s All in Your Mind

Funny and direct, as well as useful and nurturing, Sane New World is a must read for anyone who has been up at night worrying about the future or regretting the past.


Björk: Biophilia Live

As Björk’s live shows become increasingly sprawling in their design and execution, less attention seems to be paid on the arrangements and the dynamics of her songs – or rather, their potential to be reworked into something entirely new onstage.


The House of Love: Live at the Lexington 13.11.13

Live at the Lexington 13.11.13 documents a return and pulverizes a myth. This album proves that the band is terribly alive. But it shows at the same time how mortal they are.


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