In the context of U2’s career, which ranges from the monumental highs of Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree to the PR train wreck of Pop and the cringe-inducing disaster that is No Line on the Horizon, Songs of Innocence is more boring than it is embarrassing. And like, hey, “not the nadir of their career” is some kind of relief if you’re a long term fan. The embarrassing thing here is not the music so much as them feeling this need to force themselves into relevance, and to seize upon the “surprise album” tactic in a very “well, all the superstars are doing it now, and WE are superstars too” way. This is very much a record for hardcore U2 fans — it’s essentially a memoir of their early days set to music — and despite what Bono thinks, it wouldn’t be a disaster if it was only heard by people who are actually interested. U2 behaves as though they are “too big to fail,” but their notion of what failure entails has become so perverse that they’re willing to take a quite personal album and effectively make it little more than junk mail.
Before the “Don’t read the comments” era, Joan Rivers was there as a constant reminder not to worry what people say about you — it’s probably as bad as you fear, and so what? She was there to teach us not to take strangers’ opinions so seriously. Week after week, she gave living proof that the world is a shallow, stupid place, throwing bitch-fits all the time for no reason — so why take it personally? That was Joan’s gift to humanity: She helped us lower our expectations for the world, which made it more fun to live there.

The Greatest Hate of All: Farewell Joan Rivers | Rolling Stone]

I really love Rob Sheffield’s take on Joan Rivers.

The writer who reviewed Together for Pitchfork wrote on Twitter recently that his lukewarm review was one of his greatest professional regrets. And I thought, “How often does that happen?” How often does that happen that somebody who wrote a lukewarm review of your record actually apologizes and says, “I think I was wrong”? That is a rare and precious flower, that one.

The New Pornographers’ Carl Newman: The Brill Bruisers Interview – Flavorwire

He’s talking about me. I wrote that review and regret it. This retrospective on the New Pornos catalog is both my penance and a labor of love.

The New Pornographers
“Dancehall Domine”

I have listened to this song more than any other song over the past week. It has that mix of turbo-charged energy and subtle sophistication that made The New Pornographers really stand out as a special and exciting band back in the very early 00s, but it also feels very NOW in a way that I can’t really explicate. I really like the lyrics, which seem to be addressed to a newly famous person, and it made me realize just how many New Pornographers songs address the idea of fame and chasing status. “Dancehall Domine” works really well because it’s both skeptical of the social constructs of fame, but also really sympathetic to someone who may suddenly feel very overwhelmed and out of their depth.

I also need just to go on record here and say (1) the worst ten minutes of Hannibal display more tonal control and visual imagination than the best hour of almost any other drama you can name, even the great ones; and (2) it should have been nominated here; and (3) it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t nominated because 20 or 30 years down the road, young students of cinema and television will ask their elders if they watched Hannibal during its first run, and they’ll all lie and claim they watched every second, like people do today when young viewers ask about Twin Peaks.

Seitz: Let’s Talk About the Emmy Snubs — Vulture

Matt Seitz isn’t always right about stuff, but he’s very very right about this.

This is an internal memo ranking the full line of Marvel Comics titles in 1985 by subscription numbers. This would only be a small fraction of overall sales, which at this time would mainly be newsstand sales and a relatively small but growing chunk of direct market comic shop sales. This is interesting to me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that this is what Marvel was publishing when I first started reading comics when I was five years old. It’s worth noting that when faced with the spinner rack at the drug store, I naturally gravitated to Star Wars and X-Men, which were the #3 and #4 titles here. Some thoughts/obvservations:
• Licensed properties accounted for a large chunk of the Marvel line, and even more of it if you factor in the unlisted Star Comics imprint, which included kids stuff like Care Bears, Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Muppet Babies, et al. These are all licensed: G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Conan, Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the King, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Crystar, Doctor Who, Red Sonja.
• Note that Conan has three titles, and four if you count the related Red Sonja. That is unfathomable in today’s market. He was basically neck and neck with Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman in terms of market saturation.
• When I shared this on Twitter earlier some people were confused by the high numbers for Alpha Flight, which is understandable as that’s basically been a D-list property for Marvel since the late ’80s. But at this point in time, it’s one of two titles – Fantastic Four being the other – written and illustrated by John Byrne, and he was one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time. A year later, he’d bail on Marvel to go completely revamp Superman for DC Comics after Crisis On Infinite Earths.
• It’s probably also a bit “WTF” that Dr. Strange was in the top 20, but the series was illustrated mainly by Paul Smith in that year, not long after his brief but iconic run on Uncanny X-Men.
• In addition to Byrne being on Fantastic Four, there’s a few other classic runs going on at this moment: Walt Simonson is midway through his long run on Thor, Mark Gruenwald is writing Captain America, Denny O’Neil and David Mazzuchelli are on Daredevil, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is on Hulk at a fairly early point in his career.

• And of course, Uncanny X-Men is by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, and New Mutants is Claremont with Bill Sienkiewicz, who was a particularly radical and inventive artist. This is also the year in which Claremont did the classic Asgard story with Art Adams in the New Mutants special and X-Men annual. Barry Windsor-Smith also drew some X-Men, including the famous “Lifedeath” story where Storm deals with the loss of her powers.

• Parts of Secret Wars I and II were published in 1985 too, but weren’t available for subscriptions.

• Around this time, one of the higher-ups at Warner Communications approached Marvel about licensing the DC Universe characters because DC was struggling so much with sales. If you look at what DC is publishing at this time, it’s easy to see why – aside from the Paul Levitz/Steve Lightle run on Legion of Super Heroes, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans, the DC line is just really lame and old-fashioned compared to what Marvel was doing. (Of course, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns was just around the corner.)

This is an internal memo ranking the full line of Marvel Comics titles in 1985 by subscription numbers. This would only be a small fraction of overall sales, which at this time would mainly be newsstand sales and a relatively small but growing chunk of direct market comic shop sales. This is interesting to me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that this is what Marvel was publishing when I first started reading comics when I was five years old. It’s worth noting that when faced with the spinner rack at the drug store, I naturally gravitated to Star Wars and X-Men, which were the #3 and #4 titles here.

Some thoughts/obvservations:

• Licensed properties accounted for a large chunk of the Marvel line, and even more of it if you factor in the unlisted Star Comics imprint, which included kids stuff like Care Bears, Fraggle Rock, Heathcliff, Muppet Babies, et al. These are all licensed: G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Conan, Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the King, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Crystar, Doctor Who, Red Sonja.

• Note that Conan has three titles, and four if you count the related Red Sonja. That is unfathomable in today’s market. He was basically neck and neck with Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman in terms of market saturation.

• When I shared this on Twitter earlier some people were confused by the high numbers for Alpha Flight, which is understandable as that’s basically been a D-list property for Marvel since the late ’80s. But at this point in time, it’s one of two titles – Fantastic Four being the other – written and illustrated by John Byrne, and he was one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time. A year later, he’d bail on Marvel to go completely revamp Superman for DC Comics after Crisis On Infinite Earths.

• It’s probably also a bit “WTF” that Dr. Strange was in the top 20, but the series was illustrated mainly by Paul Smith in that year, not long after his brief but iconic run on Uncanny X-Men.

• In addition to Byrne being on Fantastic Four, there’s a few other classic runs going on at this moment: Walt Simonson is midway through his long run on Thor, Mark Gruenwald is writing Captain America, Denny O’Neil and David Mazzuchelli are on Daredevil, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is on Hulk at a fairly early point in his career.
• And of course, Uncanny X-Men is by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, and New Mutants is Claremont with Bill Sienkiewicz, who was a particularly radical and inventive artist. This is also the year in which Claremont did the classic Asgard story with Art Adams in the New Mutants special and X-Men annual. Barry Windsor-Smith also drew some X-Men, including the famous “Lifedeath” story where Storm deals with the loss of her powers.
• Parts of Secret Wars I and II were published in 1985 too, but weren’t available for subscriptions.
• Around this time, one of the higher-ups at Warner Communications approached Marvel about licensing the DC Universe characters because DC was struggling so much with sales. If you look at what DC is publishing at this time, it’s easy to see why – aside from the Paul Levitz/Steve Lightle run on Legion of Super Heroes, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans, the DC line is just really lame and old-fashioned compared to what Marvel was doing. (Of course, Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns was just around the corner.)
In this way, she actually has a lot in common with Thom Yorke from Radiohead. Both artists have very specific sets of personal iconography – hers is like a Pinterest board full of glamorous images from fashion magazines and old movies; his is more like a wall full of paranoia-inducing news clippings. For both, evocative imagery and vaguely triggering language orbit expressions of raw, distressed emotion. Del Rey’s debut was uneven in quality partly because she overwhelmed her songs with signifiers, but she’s become a more sophisticated songwriter over time. Ultraviolence has more or less the same ideas and aesthetics as Born to Die, but the emphasis has shifted from setting a scene to conveying an air of exquisite, seductive sadness.

Lana Del Rey’s Truth Is In Her Music, Not Her Life Story

I wrote about Lana Del Rey’s new album.