Monthly Archives: August 2014

New stuff for your ears

Simian Mobile Disco – Tangents

Feeling a bit frazzled by the inclement weather? Take a break with this pretty little bit of ambience.

Scott Matthews – Sunlight

Sometimes an artist you really loved can disappear under the radar and out of your consciousness only to pop up again years later with something that makes you go, “oh yeah THAT’S why I loved them.” That is what happened when I heard this song over the weekend – the understated, complex melody and heart-breaking voice reminding why Matthews is a little bit special and deserves exponentially more views for this song. Taken from Matthews’ fifth album Home (part 1), available now.

Broken Bells – Control

A memorable slice of melancholic funk-pop from the second album “After the Disco” by the American indie rock duo. This tune is my ear worm of the moment.

Benjamin Booker – Violent Shiver

The 25 year old, New Orleans based singer-songwriter makes an impactful introduction with his debut single. Raw guitar and rawer vocals force this old fashioned rock blues to be listened to. His eponymous debut album (which shares the producer of Alabama Shakes’ debut) is out tomorrow on ATO/Rough Trade.

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How amazing does Julianne Moore look?

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Not many words needed, just enjoy how ferociously stunning the 53 year old actress looks in a cover story for Beach magazine, in Tom Ford and Lanvin, respectively. One of the most beautiful women in the world.

This week’s TV

The BBC continues its campaign to give the nation diabetes with the return of The Great British Bake Off (Wednesday, 8pm, BBC One) and the start of Sweets Made Simple (Friday, 8.30pm, BBC Two). Both shows featured a lot of sugar in many different guises and some quirky facial hair. I would say of GBBO’s return that the bakes looked as spectacular as ever but I never want to hear on “ooh matron mention” of Mary Berry’s cherry ever again. Some things should be impervious to innuendo.

Sweets Made Simple was presented with cheerful gluttony by a couple of confectioners: Kitty Hope and Mark Greenwood (of aforementioned quirky facial hair). She did the majority of the work while he sat about spouting facts. I liked the idea of the gin and lime truffles, but raspberry marshmallow served as a dessert? It contained sugar, glucose and icing sugar – it made my teeth hurt just watching it.

Aside from confectionary endeavours, the BBC Three treated us to two new comedies from ten on Thursday night: Cuckoo and Siblings, which were both pretty good but almost as many laughs could be had from new docusoap Scrappers. Over on One on Friday at 8.30pm, it followed the tribulations of a northern scrap metal yard. Every character was good value: from hapless but loveable imbecile Boyle (let loose in Gloria the grabber while other staff lurked nervously out of harm’s way), to buxom on-site café owner Deb to boss with a heart Terry. It was a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

Last night, BBC One introduced a new big Saturday night entertainment show in the form of Tumble where celebrities attempt gymnastics. TOWIE’s Lucy Mecklenburgh proved her movement is just as vacant as her eyes with a surprisingly ungainly performance from a woman who looks like she works out so much. Boxer Carl Froch significantly improved my enjoyment of the show by ripping off his shirt and pouring a bottle of water over himself. I’ll come back for him just to see him again.

Eagulls, Visions Festival, Saturday 2nd August

Showing the diversity of entertainment we Londoners enjoy, now is a belated write up of something which could not be more different from the Mariinsky Ballet. Visions Festival in East London may have been the most disastrous first date I’ve ever had the misfortune to attend, but it did mean I got to see post punk dystopian band Eagulls do their thing. They inspired some hipster crowd surfing, one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. You haven’t experienced all London has to offer until you’ve seen a man in square, probably lenseless glasses look bemused as he tries to surf forward only to be transported back to presumably be dropped off the end of the crowd. I can’t understand a single word the lead singer sings, but it doesn’t really matter I still thought they rocked: a pulsating, sweaty, immediate vibe. The lack of discernible words does make it hard when the surprisingly catchy songs are stuck in your head and to sing it you can merely make like the singer and yelp.

The Mariinsky Ballet: Swan Lake, Wednesday 6th August

Thanks to a  very generous present from my grandmother, myself and a friend enjoyed a highly cultural trip to the Royal Opera House to enjoy the incomparable Mariinsky Ballet (previously the Kirov) perform the classic of the art form: Swan Lake. As you might expect, it was impeccable and magical. Never have you seen such stately tight buns prancing around or such phenomenally lithe bodies make acrobatics look easy. If there is one thing the Russians do like no one else, it’s ballet. The melodrama, the athleticism, the costumes, the set design, the resplendent yet somehow snug environment for the ROH, there is nothing I don’t like about ballet. Oksana Skorik put in a virtuoso performance as Odette/Odile, all chaste gentle arms as virginal Odette and spiky “evil arms” as dark imposter Odile. I definitely preferred the bad swan, infer from tat what you will, but she had the more striking costume and more impressive dance. Bad sure looks good.

Also worth a mention is the Jester, who my friend described as looking as though he was made of rubber. He was satisfyingly leapy. It’s a long ballet but I enjoyed every moment and left feeling elated. My friend, who had never seen a Russian ballet before, was left wide-eyed and beaming with exhilaration and even indulged in a “Bravo!” or two. Next time they visit, hopefully I’ll be of means to get a box (ha!).

In praise of the weird #2: The Bees

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The Bees is the debut novel by playwright Laline Paull. It is set in a beehive and, quite naturally, features a bee as its protagonist. It is a bold and detailed feat of imagination, completely different from anything I’ve read before. So much so that, at halfway through, I can’t tell you even if I like it or not, only that I am marvelling at the literary braggadocio of setting a novel in such an alien environment. Flora 717 is a mere sanitation worker, hatched in the hive to a life of servility in the lowliest echelon of her society. However an enigmatic “Sister Sage” marks her out after finding she can “talk”, a trait unusual in her kind. Flora’s bravery, devotion and diligence see her being allowed into areas and walks of life normally closed to her kin; even being granted an audience with the Queen after she taps in to the hive mind to defeat a wasp. It is a thriller about an individual in a totalitarian state, exploring thoughts on everything from pollution to tribal rites and urges along the way. Everything is as richly detailed and assured as honeycomb itself: from how the bees communicate to all the different kins of sisters to the honking, hilarious drones. The cover is also very cool. Recommended.

In praise of the weird: FKA Twigs

I’ve seen this artist pop up on YouTube but didn’t check her out as I didn’t like the name. Which teaches me for pre-judging, as after reading a glowing recommendation from Alexis Petridis in Friday’s Guardian, I found her to be mesmerising, the most exciting thing I’ve heard in a while. FKA Twigs is 26 year old former dancer Tahliah Barnett from Cheltenham, her stage name coming from the way the twigs in her joints snapped. Her debut album Lp1 is an arresting, sometimes jarring, listen – with vocals draped in so much effect as to render a lot of them indecipherable over skittering, unpredictable beats which lead to a hallucinatory feeling. Lead single from the album, “Two Weeks”,  sees Twigs channelling Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned with a disturbingly sweet vocal of disconcertingly visceral lyrics. “Hours” lends the lyric “I could kiss you for hours” a threatening, obsessive aspect with its disorientating beat and downbeat vocal. “Video Girl” injects a maudlin authenticity to a hyper pastiche of conventional pop/rnb. Her image plays with her slightly unreal beauty by twisting the traditional glossy diva cliché. Weird yet beautiful.

Summerytimee playlist

One of the best new tunes of the moment belongs to a sultry diva, which suits this hot, languorous weather well. Jessie Ware returns with the delectable “Tough Love” (out yesterday), pre-cursor to forthcoming album of the same name. It’s classy and features an irresitsbly sweet vocal.

La Roux is back on town with a new crop of catchy tunes and a lower register. New album, Trouble in Paradise, is as good as everyone says. Check out “Tropical Chancer”, which owes a debt to Carly Simon’s lovely “Why”.

Jamie xx returns with a new(ish) track “All Under One Roof Raving” with a Burial vibe which is suitably consciousness altering. It features some mournful steel drums and an evil dolphin, which is how I like my dance music: vaguely threatening.

For more adventurous listeners, I stumbled across a delightful little oddity in Hollywood golden era hell raiser Robert Mitchum’s recording of a Calypso tune “Tic Tic Tic” from 1957 collection Calypso is Like So. Bizarre and yet charming.

Alternative behemoths Alt J are gearing up for the launch of the much anticipated follow up to debut An Awesome Wave, which is an epic debut to follow. The first two tracks released have caused murmurings of dissent among fans. “Hunger of the Pine” features a sample of Miley Cyrus which left some bemused and betrayed. “Left Hand Free” sees lead singer Joe Newman abandoning his favoured “goat on a power plate” vocal stylings for something which sounds more like the Black Keys. Fans have been even less sure about that. It was apparently written in ten minutes as a musical riposte to record company execs demanding something more radio friendly and concerns masturbation. Oooh, Alt J getting a bit cheeky and biting. It’s still a lacklustre song though no matter its genesis. However, “Hunger of the Pine” is as intriguing, propulsive and addictive as the best of their stuff.