Seth Colter

Stories by Seth Colter Walls

  • pj-harvey-CU06-tease

    P. J. Harvey Declines to Bring Sexy Back

    The first-person characters in P. J. Harvey’s early songs never thought twice about oversharing. “I wanna bathe in milk, eat grapes,” she declared in the fuzzed-out opening of 1993’s “Reeling,” before howling: “Robert De Niro, sit on my face.”
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    Nixon Returns—and Hits the High Notes

    Picture this on an opera stage: President Richard Nixon lands in Beijing to deliver an aria about the mystery of the news industry beaming his story back to the West. Then he receives a philosophical lecture from his host about Confucius—after which Madame Mao enters and promptly freaks everyone out by putting on a violent agitprop play that insults Henry Kissinger. No grand breakthrough comes of the heavily symbolic meeting, and so the main characters all retreat to their bedrooms and wonder whether their efforts to make the world anew amount to anything but a poetic failure. Curtain.
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    The MacArthur Genius Who Won't Sell Out

    Jason Moran realizes his being named a MacArthur grant “genius” isn’t necessarily going to make you sit up and pay attention to him if you hadn’t already.
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    Superchunk's Super Indie Cred

    Last month, Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" handed 21-year-old Merge Records its first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. This was the cause of some high-fiving on the network of indie rock-centric blogs and Web sites, though it wasn't the first time this year that one of the label's releases made the top 10. The band's recent history.
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    Joaquin Phoenix Does Not Rise Again

    The problem isn't that Casey Affleck's movie is gross, but that every part of it recalls smarter, dirtier provocations.
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    Q&A: National Jazz Museum Director on the Newly Discovered Trove of Jazz Greats

    When the National Jazz Museum in Harlem announced last week that it had acquired approximately 100 hours of high-quality live radio broadcasts by giants from the swing era, something rare happened: a moment of complete accord. The museum’s executive director talks about the recordings and shares eight exclusive, never-before-heard clips from the collection.
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    Can a Marching Band Pull Off Björk?

    Last summer, the 12 members of Asphalt Orchestra—a marching band of highly skilled musicians from the jazz and classical worlds—started stomping and oompahing up a reputation not just for playing tunes by Frank Zappa and Charles Mingus in public, but also for daring to make their musical alchemy seem natural. Can a chamber-size marching band really pull off Björk?
  • Bun B's 'Trill O.G.' Inspires a Hip-Hop Debate

    It's been five years since The Source, the magazine that proclaims itself the "bible of hip-hop," has awarded a perfect "5 mic" rating to an album. But when Trill O.G., the third solo album from stalwart Houston rapper Bun B, debuted this month and received the long-dormant designation, we got ourselves a good, old-fashioned hip-hop debate.
  • The Luke Wilson Movie About Online Porn Wants To Have It Three Ways

    The new movie “Middle Men” is a based-on-real-life story of one businessman (played by Luke Wilson), who labors mightily in order to remain of several minds about the porn business for an impressive length of time. That is to say, he would like to be a key economic player at the beginning of its mid-’90s online distribution model (only a “middle man” on the credit-card side, thus the title), while remaining a blushing innocent when it comes to the nitty-gritty grind of smut’s production.
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    Arcade Fire's Recession-Proof Rock

    Arcade Fire’s new album, "The Suburbs," has attributes that seem to be in small supply among bands right now: emotional heft, an affinity for more than one type of tune. But chief among them has to be its solution for a puzzle surely plaguing hundreds of musicians: how to translate the malaise of this recession into rock that can move you.
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    All the Sad Old Literary Artifacts of David Markson

    The late author of "Wittgenstein’s Mistress" was a postmodern giant, praised during his life by David Foster Wallace and now mourned in literary circles. So why is his personal library on sale at a discount used-book store?
  • No-Fault Unemployment

    Over the course of its six seasons, the professional skills of Denis Leary’s character on ‘Rescue Me’ have never been in doubt. And yet, he’s getting sacked. Why TV can’t get over the recession as inspiration.
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    R.E.M.'s Shiny, Semi-Happy Remaster

    New CD issues of classic albums often help us hear them louder and better than before. But what about those that never wanted to be loud in the first place?
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    In Defense of M.I.A.

    The raft of critical consensus about her new album, "Maya," is largely correct when it notes that this thing is a mess. But that's different from saying that M.I.A. doesn't know what she's doing.
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    Big Boi's Excellent New Album, 'Sir Lucious'

    Sometimes all-star artists who let years elapse between their albums find it hard to recoup the love of their fans. With Big Boi’s new effort, it shouldn’t be a problem.
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    PBS's Less-Than-Great Performance

    Despite its reputation for being as cutting edge as a fine pearl, Lincoln Center was sort of badass this season. The Metropolitan Opera scored a global coup with its debut production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s wild 1930 work The Nose—directed with multimedia panache courtesy of South African artist William Kentridge.
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    Laurie Anderson Gets Mad

    “I am pretty angry,” says Laurie Anderson, whose new album, "Homeland," emerged from her political frustrations of the past decade. “As we sort of segued into the Obama [presidency], I thought: I’m going to see what would happen if we just started again in this way. But it's even darker today." On her new album she's quite specific about what's wrong in the world today.
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    The Gospel According to ?uestlove

    Few celebrities today are as cross-platform enjoyable as The Roots' drummer ?uestlove, and yet even fewer are possessed of such a contemplative--even sad--streak. "I tend to wonder if I'm running away from the human experience and using entertainment as a means not to deal with regular life."
  • Is Gustavo Dudamel's Star Falling?

    It is not always advisable to believe the hype. Or we should at least be on guard for hype to be proved insufficient. In the case of Gustavo Dudamel—the 29-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind who took over the Los Angeles Philharmonic this season—it’s a lesson that has been largely forgotten.
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    Film: The Problem With 'Breathless'

    Every cinephile knows to at least pretend to like Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless," which turns 50 this year. But I’ll come right out and say it: it's not his best work.
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    Janelle Monáe: A Singing, Dancing, Art-Making Machine

    Her new record presents Monáe as an android from the future, traveling back in time to prepare us for the vast technological changes ahead. If this all seems loopy or overwrought for the dance floor, you needn't worry.
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    All I Wanna Do Is Tweet, Tweet Your Phone Number

    The singer-rapper-provocateur M.I.A. has had one of the rarest commodities in the splintering music marketplace of late: an unassailable brand. But how quickly all that can start to come unraveled.
  • Once More Into the Elena Kagan Thesis Frenzy!

    Last week, I read Elena Kagan's Princeton thesis—the whole document, not just the oft-quoted personal soundbites from her preface and conclusion—and found it to be an evenhanded assessment of the Socialist Party's brief window of effective politicking in New York during the early 20th century. In fact, the bulk of her academic work paints a picture of radicals demanding more change than the American system wants to handle, which in turn causes leftist infighting that frustrates the progress of even moderate liberal goals. It's easy enough to read Kagan's work, and look at her mostly cautious demeanor in the years since, and surmise that her takeaway from the project had as much to do with radicalism's practical drawbacks as anything else. But then RedState.com put the whole thing online, declaring it her love letter to the Third International. Next, Princeton demanded that RedState pull it down (citing copyright), and now the White House is promising to...

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