"Moments of love, hate, poetry, frustration, action, surrender, delight, humiliation, justice, cruelty, resignation, surprise, disgust, resentment, self-loathing, pity, fury, peace of mind - those tiny epiphanies, in which the absolute possibilities and temporal limits of anyone's existance were revealed."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blogging masterclass...

Stephen Fry on fame from the other side of the lens...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

100 Word LP Reviews

I've been writing album reviews for syndication for a while, for various places including the "This Is..." regional websites, Metro, Pipex and Virgin. Here are the ones that I can find online, in their sub-edited form (I wouldn't use the word "sweet" with such profusion!). The idea is that they're no more than 100 words long and fairly positive with a score out of 5. I get to choose what I write about so there aren't any records I completely hate...

PJ Harvey - White Chalk: The singular Polly Jean Harvey continues to outwit her imitators by returning to her Dorset roots and her frequent collaborators, Flood and John Parish. Guitars are relinquished in favour of the piano, which Harvey plays like a beginner in thrall to the instrument, indeed, a standout song is simple titled Piano.
She sings in a higher register than previously and there is a childlike naivety to the lyrics and the playing. A stark, disquieting record full of spectral presences and elemental images, brittle vocals and emotional lacunas, this is worlds away from Stories From The City..., her poppiest album, but White Chalk is all the more interesting for it. Rating 4/5

Emma Pollock - Watch The Fireworks: The former member of the under appreciated Delgados releases her solo debut.
Her sweet, yet slightly off-kilter vocals mark her out from the acoustic singer-songwriter herd. She utilises the full band sound and her new confidence as a vocalist to good effect on the piano-driven single Adrenaline and This Rope's Getting Tighter.
Several tracks are reminiscent not only of her former band, but also of the jangly melodies of bands like Belly and Throwing Muses.
Producer Victor Van Vugt, who's worked with Athlete and Nick Cave, adds polish and brings out the pop potential of these simple yet affecting songs. Rating 4/5

King Creosote - Bombshell:
Kenny Anderson's second release on the Names label is outwardly his most commercial to date, but it's not the departure that the title seems to suggest. More a crisper, more radio friendly evolution of his earlier homemade output.
KC's beautiful and distinctively Scottish voice remains to the fore, with sincere lyrics that never become angsty.
The rockier impulses of the well-toured band, comprising members of The Earlies and The Fence Collective, are tempered by the folk influence of traditional instruments. Moments are sweet but never twee.
This album lacks the familiar rough edges of KC's Fence releases, but retains his essential charm. Rating 4/5

M.I.A - Kala: The Anglo-Sri Lankan's second album develops the Day-glo multi-ethnic genre-raiding crash of styles established on her debut Arular. The Brazilian Baile Funk heard on that record, popularised since by CSS And Bonde de Role, is thrown into the mix with everything from disco-era Bollywood to Pixies lyrics.
Mango Pickle Down River's Didgeridoo beats and raps from Aboriginal kid's crew The Wilcannia Mob might be a novelty too far, but Boyz comes on like Missy Elliot's Get Ur Freak On, and sampling The Clash's Straight To Hell on Paper Planes is inspired. The much vaunted extra track produced by Timbaland pales in comparison. Rating 3/5

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky:
Jeff Tweedy's mature alt-rockers return with their fifth studio album (not counting their Mermaid Avenue collaborations with Billy Bragg). There is a gentle country influence, redolent of their earliest work, dropping the experimentalism of their biggest seller, 2002's Yankee Foxtrot Hotel.
Songs like the single Impossible Germany burn slowly with soft guitars in a spacious Neil Young style. Loose melodies and domestic motifs in the lyrics (Hate It Here is a litany of household chores) give the impression that the band has become more laid-back. The crisp production doesn't disguise their occasional ELO tendencies but with bands like Midlake making 1972 a musical bench mark, this uncontemporary feel fits in. Rating: 3/5

Bjork - Volta:
Bjork has her pick of collaborators for her latest LP - regular Mark Bell is joined by the ubiquitous Timbaland and Antony And The Johnsons' Anthony Hegarty plus Konono No 1, the Congolese analogue trance collective who use car parts and likembé thumb pianos to create astonishing walls of sound.
Earth Intruders combines these various elements to greatest effect starting with a rhythmic trudging through mud and lyrics that reference the tsunami over a percussive storm. Wanderlust is a symphony of fog horns merging into an Icelandic choir.
Beyond dance music or anything so mundane as "pop", this is a global, experimental enterprise as one has come to expect from a Bjork record. Rating: 4/5

Gruff Rhys - Candylion:
The latest solo offering from the Super Furry Animals front-man comes with a cute cartoonish character on the cover, and, true enough, the whole thing is like an imaginary soundtrack for an off kilter foreign language (in this case Welsh and ungrammatical Patagonian Spanish) children's TV programme (the vinyl version comes with a flat-pack kit to build your own Candylion).
There's a 1970s feel in the music too. The mix of acoustic melodies and psychedelic orchestrations from the High Llamas juxtaposes with Rhys's distinctively sleepy multilingual lyrics. Production from the Beastie Boy's Mario Caldato Jr ensures that things never get too twee and are always rather warmly nostalgic. Rating: 4/5

Jeremy Warmsley - The Art Of Fiction:
This collection of awkward electronica songs rises from the mire of bland indie pop. Warmsley's literate, angular music often makes for an uncomfortable listen, though sometimes this hybrid of traditional instruments and off kilter beats is a success - the clever lyrics of Modern Children or the storytelling of 5 Verses.
But sometimes it's not, with melodies sacrificed to words, and rhythms jumping out at strange angles. Guest musicians from Hoxton's Betsy Trotwood, like Emmy the Great and Simon Mastrantone, add texture, but the ideas come in swoops and bursts rather than resembling catchy melodies.
It seems unfair to criticise an album for having too much going on, but this busy, brittle production feels very crowded. Rating: 3/5

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Guilty Pleasure" or Alternate Universe?

I seem to have wandered into an alternate universe where Clive Owen (The Chancer.. come on, you remember! And he still can't help ending up as some sort of Athena Man always holding the baby... is the man's whole career some sort of in-joke?) is a proper movie star and John Cusack still dresses like he did when he was 19 (combats, hawaiian shirt, boots)....but it's real!

I saw Shoot 'Em Up and 1408 this week.. and although neither will be queuing up for Oscars any time soon.. I have to say that I had a good time watching them.
I'm not ready with some complex deconstruction of either (this is the internet, someone else will have done it already), as it seem to be the way that all the film studies grads are directors these days, this is already done for you. And don't despair, I have also seen Atonement, Hallam Foe and Two Days In Paris in the last fortnight, so it's not all wham bam instant-grat schlock. But one does notice something watching serveral "actor-led" movies in a short space of time, screen acting is all in the eyes...I shan't start rhapsodising (and oh how I could about Cusack's pools of coca cola and Owen's grey eyes that flicker with humour one moment and menace the next, and not to mention James McAvoy's blue headlamps that turn a small guy into someone who can fill the screen...)

Something I missed while I was away, John Cusack on his "ten good films".

Friday, September 07, 2007

Paris, Je t'aime

Not the short films, but the real thing. I visited the African and North American art at Musee De Quai Branly,which is a very cool building with plants growing all over it, had coffee and watched the skateboarders at
Palais De Tokyo. Another nice cafe is Georges at the Centre Pompidou, where I saw the 20th century art. There was an excelent exhibition on the history of Rock 'n'Roll 1939-59, with some great music at the Cartier Foundation, and then we went a bit more up to date and saw Micky Green.
The following day I had a look around the 20th century art at Musee D'Art Moderne de la Ville as well.
I follwed the route mentioned in this article on the Passages and Arcades at the back of the Louvre, there's more pictures here of the Passages Couvert
Later on we sat on the Pont des Arts and had a picnic. Trés Bo Bo...
My favourite art museum is probably Musee D'Orsay, I like Manet's Olympia best of all, it's still a pretty jaw dropping painting, it must have been awesome at the time. Later we wound up on the Rive Gauche and I had a look at the books in Shakespeare & Company, it's no longer the same shop mentioned in
Hemingway's Moveable Feast but I bought a copy and started reading it.. only to find that the place where we had dinner was just by where he used to live on the rue de Cardinal Lemoine.
Finally, we checked out The Ninja Tune Festival at Le Batofar, just hanging out while some DJs played, sitting in the deck chairs, enjoying the nice weather. More photos in this Flickr Set.

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