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 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)