Sunday, 23 August 2009

Mew - Secret 'reverse' track. Proper Genius.

Mew are an experimental 3 piece prog-pop band from Denmark. (Don't stop reading). Their third major album is soon to be officially released in the UK and is entitled No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away. As you can tell, Mew aren't really fans of convention. Many of their songs evolve through tricky and sometimes seemingly impossible time signatures with discordant guitars underpinned by layered harmonies and glorious pop melodies, delivered by the falsetto vocals of lead singer Jonas Bjerre.

I have been eagerly anticipating their latest release for over 3 years since their last opus '...and the glass handed kites' was on constant rotation in my student den (yes, I still bought lots of CDs back then). The new album has leaked along with the discovery that the first track 'New Terrain' is also a secret track when played backwards. The secret track not only has a title - 'Nervous' - but lyrics too. It's a great idea that really works. It takes a couple of listens through both tracks to really get into them and decipher the lyrics but it's highly rewarding. I've posted both tracks below with respective lyrics.


New Terrain (As it sounds on the album)



Lyrics
Soft sheets
What's this about?
Inside your mahogany Cyprus
As long as we're me and you
We should not lose terrain
We were young, we got seasick
On your seven
Get off cheap
That sits with her
And the warmth of it splatters
We all can wring her neck
First we gain new terrain
When we're young, we get seasick
On your seven
We're upset, real tush
Ooh, why I sneeze like no-one
Like most, you snip
Soft sheets
What's this about?
Inside your mahogany Cyprus
As long as we're me and you
We should not lose terrain
Wild and young, we got seasick
On your seven
Get off cheap
That sits with her
And the warmth of it splatters
We all can wring her neck
First we gain new terrain
When we're young, we get seasick
On your seven
Soft sheets
What's this about?
Inside your mahogany Cyprus
As long as we're me and you
We should not lose terrain
Wild and young, we got seasick
On your seven
Get off cheap
That sits with her
And the warmth of it splatters
We all can wring her neck


Nervous (New Terrain reversed)



Lyrics
Nervous, I know
(and I saw you running)
It seems everywhere you go
(to the wooden floors of my house)
They're out to get you
(in a way I couldn't see you)
And then you regret
(and they're not safe buildings)
Should have stayed at home in bed
(where the walls are out of focus)
Nervous instead
(and I wish that I could save you)
Each time

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Movie Monster Comparison Chart

Everyone enjoys a good chart, right? Well this one's good so enjoy it.





Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Shacklewell

A little bit of writing so I can still lay claim to being an 'active blogger'.

I was on the 243 to Waterloo the other day and as we approached a stop, the lovely speaking lady person let us all know that we were approaching 'Shacklewell Lane'. A few seconds later I heard a boy who sounded no older than about 7 shout "You're a Shacklewell".

"You're a Shacklewell". That is brilliant.

end.

This is good. Trust me.

You can't do this on a Blackberry

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

'Lungs' by Florence and The Machine

The path to surefire success has well and truly been laid out for Florence and the Machine. A path that so far includes prizes, plaudits and praise in the form of a Critic’s Choice BRIT Award, 3rd place in the BBC’s Sound of 2009 poll as well as the coveted opening slot on this year’s NME Awards Tour. The weight of expectation to deliver upon early promise and repay the support (plus the financial outgoings) of her label is undoubtedly heavy for a young lady barely out of her teens. If she is affected however, Florence Welch isn’t showing it – confidently seeming to take it all in her stride. A beguiling songstress playing the lead in her own fairy tale complete with moniker and replete with theatrical romanticism. Like all fairy tales, ‘Lungs’ explores the dark sides of human nature too, repelling as well as attracting. But does it have a happy ending?

Emerging at the same time as La Roux and Little Boots, Florence has somewhat misguidedly been pigeonholed into the ‘Nu-British-Female-Scene’ or whatever you want to call it. Unlike the aforementioned acts however, she seems more concerned with making music to break hearts rather than the charts. Resisting the temptation to tack on 80’s synths or squelchy bass riffs to her piano-driven arias, even with uber-trendy producers Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Maximo Park), James Ford (SMD, Arctic Monkeys) and Steve Mackay (M.I.A) at the helm. Instead the production is lush and full of atmosphere driven by an urgent bass track and punctuated by huge, echoing drums. Moving from soulful folk through the ‘White Stripes’ garage blues of ‘Kiss With a Fist’, yearning surf rock of ‘Girl With One Eye’ and back again, Florence’s captivating vocals are rightly pushed to the fore and allowed to soar centre-stage at all times.

Tousled of hair and possessing a penchant for the theatrical, Florence clearly drew much from rummaging through her parents’ Kate Bush records. The comparisons also extend to the singer’s powerful, versatile and unmistakable voice. Naming the album ‘Lungs’ was no happy coincidence given the innate ability she possesses. This is a record that boldly explores broad areas of the musical and emotional spectrum to fully showcase the singing talent of one of the UK’s brightest and most credible young acts. From the breathy drawls accompanying delicate harp at the start of album opener ‘Dog Days Are Over’ to the driving drums and cacophonous multi-tracked choral climax of ‘Drumming’, Florence delivers confident, characterful performances packed full of swoops, howls, cracks and growls. The yearning tone and strained upper reaches sometimes verge on becoming overbearing but are often reined in before the balance is tipped.

It’s all too easy to get lost in the musicality of Florence’s vocals and overlook what is being expressed lyrically. The dramatic romanticism of the music is matched in the narrative as Miss Welch takes us on fanciful journeys ‘Between Two Lungs’ where amidst the delicate sound of harps and bells, the most engaging theme is death. It is explored over a number of tracks such as on the skewed folk of ‘I’m Not Calling You a Liar’, “Just stop haunting me and I'll love you so much, I'm gonna let you, kill me”, the catchy pop of ‘Hurricane Drunk’, "I'm going out, I'm going to drink myself to death... I brace myself because I know it's going to hurt" and most conspicuously with ‘My Boy Builds Coffins’. Such dark lyrical content is another feature that sets Florence apart from her peers. La Roux may have been ‘In For The Kill’, but set to bouncing drums and synthesizers, it just sounded like an idle threat. It’s hard to imagine the line “I took a knife and cut out her eye, I took it home and watched it wither and die” (Girl With One Eye) featuring on the next Little Boots single either.

‘Lungs’ perhaps lacks a real ‘album closer’ as a cover of The Source’s ‘You’ve Got to Love’ feels a little tacked on, but this doesn’t detract from what goes before it. This is a mature, inventive and captivating debut that rewards immediately and continues to reveal itself upon repeated listening. Amidst the pressures of delivering upon early promise, ‘Lungs’ is most certainly a triumph and all concerned can breathe easy.

8/10

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

CS3 Coasters

These aren't the most amazing things in the world and have probably been blogged about to death but are pretty clever in a "that's so obvious - why didn't I think of that" kind of way. I don't think I'd really want them though. Serving as a constant reminder of my inability to use After Effects, Flash and Dreamweaver. The London Lite makes a pretty effective coaster anyway.


Smiley Ballons

Just a little something I came across on Wikipedia that amused me. I LOL inside my head but I don't know why.



'Smiley balloons are widely popular with hospitals and are given as get-well gifts.'

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Terminator Salvation Review

It’s not often that a film or indeed any artwork/entertainment/entertainer fills me with such ferocious indignation as to beg friends to completely shun it/them before allowing impartial opinions to be drawn first. However on 3rd June 2009 I sat through ‘Terminator Salvation’.

I wasn’t expecting much after the third instalment took the franchise in a completely new direction, most commonly referred to as “popcorn fodder”. I’m not an elitist moviegoer and don’t have “a thing” against summer blockbusters. ‘Transformers’, for example, has been described as exactly that and was a film I thoroughly enjoyed on a number of levels. The new ‘Star Trek’ movie was also a prime example of how to trade-off action with characterization and story, as well as satisfying fans of a huge franchise, reinvigorating it and winning new fans at the same time. Could the fourth Terminator film follow suit?

Murmurs of a darker, more character-driven plotline gave me renewed hope that my £9 would be money well spent. This was proven unfounded very early on when the only apparent “darkness” seemed to be coming from an overly dark film grade, the surroundings of the cinema itself and the literal murmurs of Christian Bale, who now appears to growl huskily in order to create a sense of quiet foreboding at every opportunity. This can be partially forgiven in ‘The Dark Knight’ where his character utilized the technique to protect a secret identity. It would be very unfortunate for the future career of Christian if his vocal chords have been permanently damaged by his role as Batman, though judging by his infamous leaked outburst, that doesn’t seem to be the case and the gruff “macho” utterances – usually over a handheld radio- as ‘John Connor: Leader of The Resistance’ simply become tiresome and clich├ęd. It is ironically fortunate then that Bale’s character is massively underused. If the audience were to close their eyes (which is an all too likely scenario) they might not know he was starring in this film at all. Even with your eyes open you are hard pressed to pinpoint any truly standout or memorable moments. Sam Worthington fares slightly better (though he only has to portray a robot), but for a film which is supposedly character-driven, it’s the CGI Terminators that offer the most impressive performances. The rest of the movie is filled with incessant explosions that become so interminable that I found myself nodding off and then waking up at the shock of brief moments of dialogue. Dialogue which included “I’ll be back” and other nods to the previous movies that feel so incredibly forced and out of place in a film which otherwise takes itself far too seriously. It’s also now been four days since I viewed ‘Terminator Salvation’ and I still can’t fathom why it has been given that title.

So save your £9 for the ‘Transformers’ sequel which is coming out in a few weeks, or if you must satisfy your cravings for ‘popcorn fodder’ now, buy a packet of Butterkist and throw it at a line of toy soldiers. As a mini-game maybe try and hit the colonel with your kernels. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Be a Daft Punk robot (sort of)

Long time no type. I'll keep it brief and to the point.

This is brilliant...

http://www.najle.com/idaft/

Thursday, 2 April 2009

New Work Wednesday

Okay, so it's technically Thursday but I woke up on the morning of Wednesday 01/04/09 (on a sofa very kindly provided by Mr Thomas Matuszewski) and haven't slept since, which in my book makes it a bloody Wednesday...well actually I dozed off for three hours due to a slight hangover but anyhow.






This week saw the launch of the new England football kit which has gained much attention for it's retro styling and it's unveiling during the National anthem. This probably seemed a genius idea in the office, but less so in front of a 90,000 strong crowd made up of a high percentage of Daily Mail and Express readers. This much exposure would usually be welcomed by kit makers Umbro and the Football Association (FA), but reactions have been extremely mixed. Not so good for the pockets of Umbro and the FA.


The YouTube promo video only had a star rating of two stars out of five when I checked on Monday. Though this may be due to the fact that users have expressed their displeasure/confusion over a video which features close-ups of sewing machines carefully constructing the three lions badge as well as tailor's drawings to highlight the "Tailored by England" tagline. The whole kit is on screen for a very brief amount of time and probably features the ONLY existing garments that will actually be tailored in England instead of some warehouse in Bangladesh.
This video must have come as quite a shock to a section of the target market who have, in the past, been spoon-fed promotional material with fast paced, over edited, endlessly zooming imagery of celebrity footballers and irrelevant sound effects which sound like they've been taken from a science fiction movie. These are also likely to be the same fans who dislike the new kit and wear sportswear at weekends, regardless of whether they are playing sport or not. "It's all just white.", "It's got no lines on it or nuffin", "It's well plain. Boring!" you hear them cry. Visiting the website of Umbro at www.umbro.com, you can tell that such fans have been very much in the thoughts of the marketing team, with gimmicky titles for the collar, badge and sleeves etc to try and sell the shirt as being "cutting edge" and more importantly, worth £49.99. For example small holes under the sleeve are entitled "The Underarm Ventilation Zone: reducing excess temperature and improves thermal regulation". I strongly recommend a visit to the site. It's quite hilarious.


If the fans are divided about the new kit, then it looks as though the players are too. Do you wear the collar up or down, with a shirt underneath or without? A couple of the players have taken to playing with the collar, or "Motion Control Collar" as Umbro would have you call it, up like Danny from Grease (if Danny from Grease were an overweight English football thug). Wayne Rooney has led the way with this and it will be interesting to see if others - and the nation - follow suit.


For all this though, Umbro and the FA have taken a brave step in producing a kit that is restrained and something approaching "stylish". This is the first kit in years that I might actually consider buying (if it retailed at around £15 perhaps). I would, of course, wear it with the collar down. It's refreshing also that even though Umbro is owned by Nike, England can lay claim to a kit with a hint of individuality at a time when most International teams have a standardised uniform emblazoned with the three stripes of Adidas or a Nike tick, which has just been altered by changing the colours on it to match the colours of the nation's flag.


On the pitch, England now have five wins out of five under their belt in this qualifying campaign and look a much improved side under the guidance of Italian manager Fabio Capello. With this in mind I propose a new England team badge...



Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Beardyman

This is a video highlighting the incredible skills of 2 times UK Beatbox Champion... BEARDYMAN. His beatboxing is very impressive (not that I claim to know much about it) but what really makes him stand out is the addition of a mixer and a Korg Kaoss pad. This allows him to create, mix and produce whole songs live using only his mouth.

The video below was shot in one take giving a good overview of of his talent and the variety of sounds he can produce, but if his appearance on Radio 1's Colin Murray show was anything to go by, it's only the tip of the iceberg.





This video proves that he can pull it off live too, performing his version of 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

New Work Wednesday

Haven't done one of these for a while but the term "New Work Wednesday" now has a double meaning now that I sign on every other Wednesday: Dalston JobCentre-Plus at 2 o'clock on the dot (or more appropriately, dotted line). Anyway, I will attempt to be as punctual with posting new work as I will have to be with my benefit claims.

The piece below is my response to a brief set by a friend in Brighton to create a logo for an alternative online magazine in the same vei
n as 'Dazed and Confused" and 'Vice'. Being Brighton-based, they came up with the clever name of 'Groyne'. For those of you who didn't take GCSE Geography, groynes are those long structures on beaches that stretch out to sea in order to stop LSD (Long Shore Drift). I'm not going to explain LSD. Wikipedia has a very good explanation I'm sure both for the drug and the geographical term.

Anyway, here's the logo in all its black and white glory.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Voadafone Grand Prix Viral

I haven't posted on here for over a month, mostly due to slackness and also because of dealings with the lovely but occasionally incompetent people at the JobCentre and Hackney Benefits Castle. Yes I am now a sponge of society. This video really is too good to ignore though.

The new Formula One season starts in under two weeks and this is a viral for Vodafone that ties up with that and their sponsorship of the McLaren team. Enjoy...



Monday, 9 February 2009

Top 20 Albums of the Year Countdown (part VI)

I've noticed that many of my musings begin with an apology of some sorts, usually relating to the punctuality of my posting, or lack thereof. I am sorry for this (there I go again) but I'm afraid while I'm still searching for work, posts won't be quite as regular as I would like.

So here are numbers six to three in my 'Albums of the (last) Year Countdown'. That's FOUR, yes FOUR albums to celebrate and dissect. Some may argue that this is all a bit pointless now that we are into February 2009 and to a large extent I would agree. However, in true 'Mastermind' fashion; "I've started so I'll finish".


6. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

An interesting one this. Upon first listen, you’re slightly taken aback by the African influences. Not in a “this is incredible” kind of way but more like “this is different”. It’s pretty catchy too. You look down to find your foot tapping uncontrollably. Before you know it you’ve listened to the record four times back to back and are now whistling every impulsive melody, “la-la-ing” each hook and drumming along jauntily to the tricky rhythms on the nearest desk or knee. It’s an album so addictive, it must have been smuggled in through customs. Released in February 2008, it also set the bar very high for debut releases. A bar that was very rarely reached throughout a year in which few new acts “crossed-over” into the UK mainstream. Vampire Weekend’s blend of cheery, catchy indie-pop and the fact that they looked like they just stepped off the set of a teen college drama, meant they built a large fan-base in 2008. All the more encouraging for “the state of modern music” when you consider that this is a band that isn’t afraid to pack diverse instrumentation such as harpsichords, brass, strings, steel guitars and rock drums into a four-minute pop song.
Listen to: Walcott






5. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

Whilst most bands are currently referencing ‘The Guide To Making Successful Indie Music In 2008’ that clearly states “artists must be influenced by one or more of the following; Joy Division, Pixies, Sonic Youth and The Velvet Underground”, The Raconteurs here concern themselves with resurrecting sounds from times when the term ‘art-rock’ was most likely used in reference to a material from which sculptures could be made. The Raconteurs’ first album “Broken Boy Soldiers” was a hit, not least because of the presence of a certain Mr Jack White, but it also contained an abundance of joyous classic rock riffs as well as showcasing the hugely underrated talent of Brendan Benson. ‘Consolers of the Lonely’ ups the ante by taking their debut as a staring point and pumping it with steroids to create a muscular and theatrical sound that in parts wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tenacious D record. The drums in particular sound cavernous, possibly out of necessity in order to compete with the fearsome, crunching guitars. Restraint was a word obviously outlawed by the foursome early in the recording, but the result is a collection of loud, thrilling and fun power pop and retro rock anthems that will cause even the coolest of art-school zealots to whip out their air guitars in a fit of frenzied posturing.
Listen to: Salute Your Solution






4. Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim

Delicately beautiful, graceful and captivating, but that’s enough about Miss Marling herself. Folk made a big impact on alternative music in 2008 and in ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’, Laura Marling showed that age is no barrier to writing emotionally charged tales of love and loss, sung with a heartfelt sincerity that could shatter even the hardest of hearts. Marling’s trembling, slight, breathy vocal style is utterly beguiling, whilst lyrically the record treads some pretty dark territory in places. The album benefits from being listened to from start to finish and sounds as good on a balmy summer's evening, accompanied by a glass of wine, as it does on a cold winter’s night, warmed by blankets and a hot chocolate.
Listen to: The Captain and Hourglass






3. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?

Booted up with eight feet firmly entrenched in the soil of idiosyncrasy, but with arms fully outstretched to embrace a wider audience, on ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’ British Sea Power created a larger, more confident sound than was present on their first two offerings. There is an undoubted sense of increased accessibility that might in some circles have supposed ‘aficionados’ muttering the words 'sold' and 'out' in hushed tones. A brave decision then for a band widely respected for their indie credentials. But also one that pays off, by helping to sculpt a record with great focus and purpose, without sacrificing originality or a sense of identity. Although the overall sound may have a bias towards cavernous outdoor stages and festival fields, lyrically BSP stayed faithful to their renowned leftfield approach to song writing. Songs such as ‘Canvey Island’ talk of bird flu and floods in 1953, whilst ‘Waving Flags’ speaks directly to European immigrants with supportive refrains of “Don’t be scared” and “Welcome in”. Having delivered on the promise of their debut and in doing so changing course slightly, it will be interesting to see where the good ship Sea Power sails next.
Listen to: Waving Flags


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

New Work Wednesday

A bit of a cheat this week as I'm not strictly posting "new" work, and as the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed, its not actually "Wednesday" either. However I've been busy beavering away on my website and have finally finished it so in honour of that I'm posting a jpeg and the link below. Comments would be very welcome.


www.jamesjamesjames.co.uk

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

New Work Wednesday


Liverpool v Everton 19.01.09

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Adam Buxton (and Joe Cornish)

I just wanted to draw attention to the oft-forgotten genius of Adam Buxton. For those who don't know, Adam is one half of comedy duo Adam and Joe (he is the Adam half) who have provided hours of innovative, offbeat and generally bloody hilarious comedy since the mid nineties with their low budget parodies of pop culture.

Joe Cornish is an underrated comedy hero too but he didn't have a funny photo to put on here.



You can tune into Adam and Joe on Radio 6 every Saturday from 9am til 12pm through Digital Radio or on the web. You can also download show highlights each week for free with 'The Adam and Joe Podcast' available through the iTunes store.

STEPHEN!......................just coming.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

New Work Wednesday

Today is a historical day. It is a day when regardless of colour, creed or faith, the people of our United States Of Webdom can gaze in wonder and amazement at the work of one young man. Every Wednesday hence, this blog will be the locale to gain inspiration, spit ridicule and feel indifference towards the work of James Hobson. This is New Work Wednesday!
(It's also the first day in Office for Barack Obama)


Click on today's piece for a larger version:

Top 20 Albums of the Year Countdown (part V)

9. Late of the Pier – Fantasy Black Channel

Late of the Pier are alternative music’s answer to celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal. Skilfully mixing disparate genres and styles to create delicious dishes of aural alchemy so achingly hip, it may leave you needing a Stenna StairLift (other makes and brands of stair lift are available). If you were to blend glam rock, R&B, dance, pop, prog and “nu-rave” with a dollop of electronic noodling, you would end up with a broken blender and a collection of very scratched records. Stick ‘Fantasy Black Channel’ into your CD player however and you’ve got yourself a party soundtrack to rival anything the trendiest nightclubs of Shoreditch can offer. And all this from a band who have a combined age less than that of a Gallagher brother. Probably.
Listen to: Focker






8. Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night

Kings Of Leon are hardly recognisable as the band who appeared five years ago with hair, a stripped down album, plaid shirts, hair, cowboy boots, ‘Molly’s Chambers’ and more hair. It’s amazing what a trim and a shave can do for record sales, although writing a song so universally celebratory as ‘Sex on Fire’ also helps. Despite not bettering their superb previous album ‘Because of the Times’, the band managed to follow up their -at the time- somewhat disputable headlining slot at Glastonbury with a record that sounds as large as the festival site itself. This, of course, was entirely the point, with the emphasis firmly placed on making the band as big as possible. It worked. ‘Only By The Night’ ended the year as one of 2008’s biggest selling records. Track two ‘Crawl’ is justification for this alone. A song so dirty it makes me want to grind up against a pole and then perform a version of ‘Flashdance’ every time I hear it.
Listen to: Crawl






7. Glasvegas – Glasvegas

Massively hyped at the end of 2007, Glasvegas didn’t quite capture the ears and souls of Britain as predicted in a year where very few alternative acts crossed over into the mainstream. In fact the Glaswegian purveyors of “reverb-drenched-gloom-rock” ™ rather polarised opinion, particularly surprising when their passionately delivered, everyman anthems seemed tailor-made for a country gripped in the early stages of a recession. For those who are firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp, songs such as the aching ‘Daddy’s Gone’ and rousing ‘Geraldine’, with their “me against the world” lyrical proclamations backed by soaring guitars and pounding drums serve as both solace and stirring inspiration in troubled times.
Listen to: It’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry

Monday, 19 January 2009

Top 20 Albums of the Year Countdown (part IV)

I shall be adding new albums to the list every couple of days this week until we reach number 1. Exciting? Yes/No (delete as applicable).

12. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

After their festival-stealing performance at SXSW, big things were expected of Fleet Foxes’ debut, and mostly they delivered. Many critics hailed this album as an instant classic, with one publication labelling it a “landmark in American music”. It is very good but not deserving of the incredible media hyperbole bestowed upon it. If only the breathtaking warmth and fervour of hook-laden tracks like ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and ‘Your Protector’ were replicated on parts of the album where there is an over reliance on repeating choral harmonies and overusing reverb to create ambience, then differentiating between songs would be easier and such hype would have been almost justified.

For all this though, the album is cathartic, addictive and powerfully evocative both lyrically ("You would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime") and in its nostalgic musicality. For 39 minutes the listener is transported to a dimly lit porch out in the balmy American wilderness, slumped in a rocking chair, rocking slowly backing and forth and warmed by a roaring campfire. A superb album then for pure escapism. Oh, plus final track ‘Oliver James’ is also one of the best album closers of the year.
Listen to: White Winter Hymnal






11. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

Billing themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement have gained a cult following through their own BBC radio shows and HBO TV series. Some might argue that an album by a fictional band has no place on an “end of year” list but when their playfully respectful parodies of well-known artists are every bit as good as those they are mimicking, exclusion would be wholly unfair. The quick-witted, exquisitely observational lyrics of songs such as ‘Business Time’ and ‘Inner City Pressure’ lodge themselves deeply in your brain courtesy of the pair’s keen ear for melody. Even after heavy rotation both on DVD and CD the tracks have yet to become tiresome, surely the ultimate accolade for a comedy album and a testament to the duo’s song writing abilities.
Listen to: Inner City Pressure






10. Bloc Party – Intimacy

You could almost be forgiven for not knowing that Bloc Party had released an album this year following a messy promotional campaign involving a digital release with exclusive mp3 bonus tracks followed by a physical release with extra songs a few months later. So which is the definitive version? You get the impression that only lead singer Kele knows, which is fitting as this sounds very much like HIS album. Vocal effects are pushed to the fore with drum loops and production tricks bringing a touch of Timbaland to the (Bloc) party. It’s certainly more of a return to the dancefloor after ‘A Weekend In The City’ with the pounding ‘Ares’, ‘Mercury’ and ‘One Month Off’’ finely tuned for shaking asses across student unions nationwide, as well as recalling the sound of their stunning debut on ‘Halo’.

In truth though, the impressive musicianship on display and the skill shown in pulling off so many varied musical styles also means it lacks cohesion and at times the electronic trickery can overwhelm the sound of the band themselves. ‘Intimacy’s’ major problem compared to the band’s previous output lies in its inconsistency, perhaps a reason as to why tracks were added and taken away from various releases. It will be interesting to see which direction Bloc Party and their increasingly omnipotent lead singer will head next.
Listen to: Ion Square

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Bunny Pictures

This past week has seen a big increase in productivity as I come to terms with my website and its smelly HTML codes and such, but I've still found time for procrastination. This led me to the website of fellow Brighton graduate Francesca 'Bunny' Williams.

Francesca inhabits a vibrant world entirely of her own, making a cornucopia of quasi-retro images and objects that both repel and attract in equal measure. She works with textiles, illustration, film and photography. It is the latter that particularly caught my attention, reminding me of one of my favourite photographers - Martin Parr.

Here are some of my favourite shots:











































To see more of Francesca's work visit w
ww.wonderleague.co.uk where you can also browse (and purchase items from) the stupendous Wonderleague Shoppe, home to an incredible array of pop culture memorabilia that has to be seen to be believed.

Top 20 Albums of the Year Countdown (part III)

An update! Yes! You're eyes do not deceive you!

Nearly three weeks since my last ramblings, I have decided to post three more of my favourite albums of last year. Even though it is very much out of date, with it being 2009 and all, some of the albums listed are now currently available at very cheap (1970's) prices. If you have a quick scavenge in skips near Woolworths and Zavvi stores you might even find some for free!



15. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago


Written and created on basic equipment, alone in a Wisconsin log cabin over a period of three months, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ is a recording which only reveals it’s true mastery when listened to with undivided attention and concentration. An album made in complete isolation for times of isolation. Bon Iver is the pseudonym of folk singer-songwriter Justin Vernon whose falsetto vocals swell and wane with an individuality not heard since Anthony Hegarty first spread his wings. The voice is undoubtedly the most expressive instrument utilized on this record and is made even more so by the use of double tracking and layering to create rich, resonant textures whilst maintaining a sense of intimacy.

Many critics have cited this as the “album of the year”, although I personally have a few gripes with it. Firstly, at only 37 minutes and 9 tracks long, it passes by far too quickly. Secondly, going back to my first point, if not listened to in seclusion, this is an album that can easily pass you by. And finally sometimes it is hard to make out the lyrics. A minor grumble really and an acceptable trade off when the voice is so often used purely sonically to deliver such raw emotion. This is an album you really have to live with for a while, but in return will be a source of solace for years to come.

Listen to: Flume






14. Blood Red Shoes – Box Of Secrets

Blood Red Shoes are Steven Ansell (drums) and Laura-Mary Carter (guitar). Highly regarded for their DIY credentials, their passionate, frenzied live performances and an undercurrent of sexual tension, their debut album managed to capture all this and more. Adding a slightly more polished sheen to their previously grungy sound allows the captivating split-vocal dynamic between the pair to come to the fore to an even greater degree. They play off of one another at times with the seductive and teasing tone of flirting teenagers and at others with the venom of a warring couple, taking out their frustrations not only on each other, but on their instruments too. Both drums and guitar take a battering over the course of the album with no real let up in velocity or volume. This is particularly effective in a live situation but can become a little tiresome over 42 minutes on record. However the sheer confidence and visceral energy on display here outweighs any negativity. And I didn’t mention the White Stripes once. Damn.
Listen to: It’s Getting Boring By The Sea






13. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Weekend Wars’, ‘The Youth’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Kids’. Five of the most exuberant and life-affirming pop songs released all year. They are the first five songs on an album that, if it were a seesaw, would cause one child to plummet towards the ground whilst the other soared upwards, helplessly trying to equal the weight of their companion on the other side. You see the first half of Oracular Spectacular is, for want of a better word, spectacular. The second half however pales in comparison, feeling somewhat sluggish, self indulgent and overly sentimental. This is exactly the kind of album that the ‘shuffle’ function was made for. The progressive, psychedelic space-rock of latter tracks fails to fully engage with the listener to the extent that their poppier moments manage with such vigour. The cartoonish bouncing synths of ‘Time To Pretend’ and fuzzy electro-funk of ‘Kids’ perfectly capture the mood of a contemporary youth-culture that is brimming with creativity. If MGMT can maintain a degree of consistency over the length of their next LP, then the world will be their playground.
Listen to: Time To Pretend (in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past year)