Reviews
Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Recent
Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Books

'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

There Are No Slip-Ups on Badly Drawn Boy's 'Banana Skin Shoes'

After a ten-year hiatus, British pop master Badly Drawn Boy returns with a wonderful mix of cathartic quandaries and boisterous quirks on Banana Skin Shoes.

Music

The Dream Syndicate Spontaneously Combust on 'The Universe Inside'

The Universe Inside isn't a typical Dream Syndicate album. The verse/chorus structure has been neatly sidestepped in favor of a free-wheeling, improvised, truly experimental approach, and it's marvelous.

Music

Chatham County Line Drum Up Something New for 'Strange Fascination'

Bluegrassy Chatham County Line expand their sound into alternative country with a natural fluidity on Strange Fascination.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Music

Charli XCX Tells Us 'How I'm Feeling Now'

Charli XCX uses her isolation as inspiration for a brand new record conceived during the pandemic. How I'm Feeling Now captures the frustrations and pleasures of confinement with a feisty attitude.

Books

'Chasing Chopin' from the Concert Hall to the Jazz Club

Annik LaFarge's Chasing Chopin is a slim book but it stands out because it's a hybrid work—biography and journalism—with utterly lovely, vivid descriptions of Chopin's music.

Music

Revisiting the Beginnings of Progressive Metal Titan Between the Buried and Me

Between the Buried and Me's debut is a little weirder than expected, but not nearly as creative as they would become.

Music

Kurt Elling and Danilo Pérez Prove 'Secrets Are the Best Stories'

Kurt Elling's collaboration with pianist Danilo Pérez features impressionistic and daring playing and poetic lyrics, making it one of the highlights of a brilliant jazz vocal career.

Music

MetalMatters: April 2020 - Notes from the Quarantine

In times of quarantine we listen and we write, so here are 20 extreme (and some experimental) records to spin during these times.

Music

Nightwish Go in a Folk Direction on Their Double LP 'Human. :||: Nature.'

In the curious case of Nightwish's Human. :||: Nature., the whole is ultimately less compelling than the individual parts it comprises.

Books

Collaboration Is Fruitful in Graphic Novel 'Old Growth'

In their collaborative graphic fiction, Old Growth, Olivo and Bavarksy drew in tandem, trading the panels back and forth, each adding new details, both and neither taking the role of primary artist-writer.

Music

Lazerbeak and ICETEP Team As Night Stone for Dance Music Goodies

The new debut from producers Lazerbeak and ICETEP, Night Stone offers dance and electrosoul that harkens back to the depths of a club that, for now, is largely inaccessible.

Music

Jim White and Marisa Anderson's 'The Quickening' Takes an Experimental Journey

Avant-garde drummer Jim White and folk guitarist Marisa Anderson get together without rehearsing to see what happens on The Quickening.

Music

Composer Kosta Jevtić Offers 'Reflections on a Journey' to the Mediterranean

Serbian composer Kosta Jevtić evokes the clement Mediterranean in solo piano form on the brilliant new album, Reflections on a Journey.

Music

'Underground London' Dazzles with Its Scope and Anti-Establishment Music

Cherry Red issues a gargantuan collection of anti-establishment music associated with the 1960s London counterculture, a movement which challenged the norms and conventions of mainstream society by drinking from the well of psychedelia, free jazz, Beat poetry, musique concrete, electronics, and minimalism.

Music

Matthew Shipp's 'The Piano Equation' Will Stand the Test of Time

Matthew Shipp's The Piano Equation is a fully improvised solo piano recital to stand the test of time, sitting in the realm where mathematics and magic collide.

Reviews

Jarrod Dickenson's Country-Soul Wows on 'Ready the Horses'

Jarrod Dickenson's rootsy, broad-ranged Americana draws deeply from tradition while forging all-new sounds on Ready the Horses.

Reviews

Indie Rockers SAME Aim for the Stars on 'Plastic Western'

SAME's debut full-length, Plastic Western, flirts with everything from Pavement to post-rock.

Music

Steve Earle Finds Common Ground With 'Ghosts of West Virginia'

On Ghosts of West Virginia, Steve Earle chronicles the lives, hopes, dreams, and regrets of families who've lived for generations in coal country with a masterful song cycle that's long on empathy and short on judgment.

Books

Crapification Syndrome: When Hilarity Slides into Nausea

No one living in America today can escape the blast radius of the questions raised in Wendy A. Woloson's Crap.

Music

Kari Rueslåtten's Sublime Voice Powers Sørgekåpe's Best Moments

Norwegian singer Kari Rueslåtten swings between darkly atmospheric folk and overproduced pop on her new album Sørgekåpe.

Music

NIIKA Makes a Striking, Multifaceted Full-Length Debut with 'Close But Not Too Close'

The Uzbekistan-born, Chicago-raised NIIKA combines art-pop and exotic jazz stylings to create a deeply rewarding listening experience on Close But Not Too Close.

Music

Luke Schneider's 'Altar of Harmony' Hews Close to Ambient Tradition

Luke Schneider's Altar of Harmony often sounds eerily close to the Robert Fripp guitar of No Pussyfooting, only he trades in the old six-string for pedal steel.

Books

'Spring Rain' Is a Superb Graphic Memoir of the Vagaries of Mind and Memory

Andy Warner's style of narrative in Spring Rain is evocative of those visual puzzles that require the viewer to look beyond the image in front of them, letting their eyes relax into an indirect gaze, in order for the hidden picture to reveal itself.

Music

American Aquarium Offer 'Lamentations' on the American Dream

On Lamentations, Americana band American Aquarium address these hard times, the sins of the South, and those that want the band to just shut up and sing.

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