Monthly Archives: May 2015

Sunday Poem

This week’s “poem” is actually several, since haiku are so short. These are taken from Lips Too Chilled, a selection of the work of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) taken from the anthology On Love and Barley, which was translated by Lucien Stryk and published in 1985 by Penguin. Basho is thought to be the originator of this meticulous and pristine form. A haiku simply has three lines of 7, 5 and 7 syllables, although the translation into English often means this structure is lost. However, the vivid tableaux of life in 17th century Japan are not.

1.

Year by year,

the monkey’s mask

reveals the monkey.

2.

Waterfall garlands –

tell

that to revellers.

3.

Cormorant fishing:

how stirring,

how saddening.

4.

Skylark sings all

day, and day

not long enough.

5.

Moonlit plum tree –

wait,

spring will come.

6.

Come, see real

flowers

of this painful world.

7.

Birth or art –

song of rice planters,

chorus from nowhere.

8.

From moon-wreathed

bamboo grove,

cuckoo song.

9.

Violets –

how precious on

a mountain path.

10.

Wake, butterfly –

it’s late, we’ve miles

to go together.

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This Week’s Spotlist

The second Spotlist is a rangy and in-your-face affair. We have the Chemical Brother’s signature metallic dance on new track Sometimes I Feel So Deserted. There is dark trance from fellow EDM Grandads Leftfield on Bilocation. We have the mournful oriental sound of Major Lazer; jazz I could actually get on board with from Ninja Tune’s Jaga Jazzist; delicate guitar from Toro Y Moi; the freak-out of Holly Herndon; the jumping sound of Sylvan Esso; beauty from teenager Billie Marten; laconic reverb from Willie J Healey; plus tracks from Paul Weller’s and Hot Chip’s new albums; and a bit of Ravel. Enjoy!

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New Feature: Albums of the Week

A new feature which ideally belongs on a Monday but has had its inaugural publication pushed back due to the fact it takes a while to listen to a crop of albums enough to give any sort of valid opinion on them! Next week should see the feature nestling into a more appropriate publication day.

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Holly Herndon – Platform

A producer hailing from Tennessee and based in San Francisco, Herndon makes music that would make a Coldplay fan shit their pants. It has more in common with unpredictable sonic art than a sing-along such as Come on Eileen, say. The album features Arca-like swoops and jerks – basically it sounds like the future. Sometimes it is heart-clingingly beautiful, sometimes it sounds like a vocoder and a shredder making unholy love. The tracks with talking through them are not really for me but you cannot deny the invention and I respect that she is the auteur of her own sound – it is her vocals she’s mashing up. She’s her own FKA Twigs and Arca in one. This is for those who like their music to function as a cheap and legal way to alter their consciousness.

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Hot Chip – Why Make Sense

The sixth album from the sunny dance pioneers. They don’t seem to have tickled the mainstream much but for urbanites with discernment they are the go-to band for dance music with a heart. Alexis Taylor’s fragile, smitten falsetto imbues their sound with a charming warmth but they also know their way round a tune – single Need You Now is infectious throwback house. The album closes with the urgent title track asking “why make sense when the world around refuses?” Indeed.

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Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern

Weller shows that success and advancing age needn’t mean flabby complacence, as his 12th solo album finds him in a pleasingly experimental mood. That title is a massive fuck you to grammatical pedants, mind.

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Snoop Dogg – Bush

Does Snoop like to smoke weed? I never knew, he’s so tight-lipped about it. I jest, of course, he never bloody shuts up about it. The new album is slinky and star-studded. Pharell produced, Stevie Wonder inflected Bush may not offer much in the way of musical or lyrical invention but the Dogg’s rapping is as hypnotic as ever.

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Tove Lo – Queen of the Clouds

The Swedish hot mess produces a 21- track epic of a debut. It is a masterful and beguiling collection of confessionals about being a hedonistic disaster area. Never has being drunk and heartbroken looked so perversely appealing.

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Maurice Ravel – Daphnis et Chloe, La Valse 

We are not restricted to one genre here and classical music can be just as fresh and inventive as any other type, especially to the uninitiated. The lack of lyrics mean that it is a good choice for concentration. Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) was a French composer associated with impressionism and Daphnis et Chloe, composed for a Michel Fokine ballet debuted in 1912, is his longest work. Performed by the Paris Opera orchestra, conducted by Philippe Jordan, this new release is a swirling, immersive piece with lush arrangements, glimmers of harp and wordless vocals that sound almost sci-fi. Its tone constantly varies, swooping from crescendos to hush and back again. I gave it a listen on an off-chance and it has quickly insinuated itself into my affections and garnered repeated listens. Listening feels like more than just passive consumption.

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iPlayer gems

Sticking to the topic of TV, there are two shows on iPlayer at the moment that I strongly recommend checking out. The first is Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy, filmed at Wilton’s Music Hall with analytic/comedic help from guests Katherine Ryan and Sara Pascoe. To my friends reading outside the UK: Boyle is a divisive figure, his comedy is dark and uncompromising, cynical and challenging but he is also very funny and incisive, especially to those with a liberal/libertarian bent. Let me put it this way: if you have ever voluntarily listened to a Michael Buble album and haven’t vomited up your spleen, his comedy is probably not for you. If you find the world an often bewildering, hypocritical and ailing place he may be for you. His is dark lampooning for dark, bizarre times. Watch for the closing diatribe on Tory voters that leaves the audience unsure and uncomfortable.

On a lighter note, Murder in Successville is one of the silliest and therefore funniest things I have ever seen on TV. It is the surreal brainchild of 6’7″ comic hulk Tom Davis, a man reminiscent of Matt Berry blown up to 200% scale. Davis plays DI Sleet, a hard-boiled if hapless detective in Successville, a fictional metropolis populated by twisted versions of celebrities played by impressionist comic actors (Sleet’s boss is a whiny, petulant take on Gordon Ramsey). Each week, a celebrity is immersed in this world to solve a murder of a “celebrity”. They have no idea what to expect and their reactions to the bonkers world Davis has concocted is where a lot of the comedy comes from. The first episode featured Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing and made me weak in the belly with laughter. It would be pointless to try and describe it – I attempted with a friend who usually has a similar sense of humour to me only to be met with a look of bemusement bordering on alarm. I expect she thought I’d finally lost it when I tried to paint the scene of Davis and Laing tied together on chairs attempting to get to a plate of cheese.

The latest episode featured Dragon Deborah Meaden, who was surprisingly hilarious. Despite a gigantic disparity in stature, Meaden immediately took control and treated Davis like an errant buffoon with impressive deadpanning. Basically, please watch this. Davis is a comic colossus.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02qs82x/frankie-boyles-election-autopsy

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05vr5f3/murder-in-successville-3-dead-rich-and-famous

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TFI Friday’s back!

Back when cigarettes were about £2, having bushy eyebrows and a big arse were – unbelievably – undesirable and a spoiler alert was something that you really didn’t want to hear on a plane, there was a show that was famed for it chaotic energy. I loved TFI Friday – I loved the music, the excitement of it, the fact that it had a bar! I was about 11 when it started and I watched it with greedy eyes, looking forward to being an adult and getting tips on that world – before I discovered that maturity mainly consisted of beaurocracy and broken dreams. The 90s were fun and simple, before a deluge of cynicism and dreadful karaoke changed the TV landscape and made everything a tedious competition and journey. If The Word aired now Twitter would implode in a mushroom cloud of its own disapprobation. TV land seems to have sensed feeling of nostalgia and keeps resurrecting shows from my childhood – from the worthy (Rab C Nesbitt) to the dreary (Birds of a Feather), but now the mother of Friday night chat shows is back on the 12th of June for a 90-minute special to celebrate 20 years since it started (although it is actually 19, maths fans). I heard the music on an ad last night and got excited, that music always made me feel like something big was about to happen. I’m not a particular Chris Evans fan – being that he plays into every stereotype of an annoying ginger – but I loved the format, the studio and the silliness of the show. I liked the items he came up with – gems like suspending a ping pong ball in the stream of an aerosol. I hope this special maintains some of that anarchic spirit and doesn’t ruin the memory of a seminal show for me.

Cannes Style

Who got dressed the best in the South of France? In my opinion – Diane Kruger, naturally, with her dinky quirkiness.

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Salma Hayek in Gucci. Impeccable cleavage.

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Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Alexander McQueen, modelling looks from the A/W 15 collection.

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Sienna Miller in a Valentino kite.

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Rachel Weisz in Narciso Rodriguez. An uninspiring outfit but she’s just so beautiful.

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Karlie Kloss in Atelier Versace. In the future we’ll all be wearing a dress/trouser combination – a drouser?

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Diane Kruger in Valentino. I love everything about this outfit from the suede colour pop pumps to the sunglasses.

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Natalie Portman in Dior. Plain but with a deliciously spiky neckline.

Renegade Mistress

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Disco bobbles

Let us celebrate the release of Roisin Murphy’s new album by admiring some of her most appealingly edgy looks from over the years. The powerhouse of glacial disco appeared on Sunday Brunch this weekend to promote her album in a joyously kitsch dress and a vicious necklace, with which I quickly became mesmerised. Unfortunately, you cannot see the necklace in the photo of this appearance but I was struck enough for this to be the start of a quest to find its provenance. It also lead me to look back over Roisin’s sartorial archive and, boy, did it not disappoint. The problem was narrowing it down to only the 26 pictures I’ve included here.

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In Gareth Pugh at the Dior S/S 2009 show in Paris

LONDON - NOVEMBER 25:  Singer Roisin Murphy attends the British Fashion Awards 2008 held at The Lawrence Hall on November 25, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

LONDON – NOVEMBER 25: Singer Roisin Murphy attends the British Fashion Awards 2008 held at The Lawrence Hall on November 25, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

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Dolce & Gabbana dress at the Serpentine Gallery party, 2009

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Seven months’ pregnant in a Viktor & Rolf tutu jacket at their show in Paris, 2009

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2010 – Modelling her Linda Farrow Vintage golden frames.

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Elle Style Awards, 2008

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young / Rex Features ( 766542E ) Roisin Murphy Jake and Dinos Chapman 'If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be' exhibition, White Cube, London, Britain - 29 May 2008

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young / Rex Features ( 766542E )
Roisin Murphy
Jake and Dinos Chapman ‘If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be’ exhibition, White Cube, London, Britain – 29 May 2008

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Sunday Brunch

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Retro Flourish

Retro style doesn’t have to be old-fashioned – sometimes a nod to a different era can propel a design into unexplored territory. See how contemporary designers reference ages through style.

Victoriana

celine earrings  lanvin skirt

Lanvin Embellished duchesse-satin maxi skirt £1,870

http://www.net-a-porter.com/product/504443/Lanvin/embellished-duchesse-satin-maxi-skirt

Evoke a bygone era with this voluminous satin maxi-skirt. Pair with dramatic yet directional earrings and a simple silk camisole for romance with an edge.
1940s
christopher kane
Christopher Kane Silk-chiffon blouse £495
Christopher Kane Chiffon-paneled satin skirt £995
The master of the sharpest design surprises with a sweet blouse and skirt combo that could complement even Katherine Hepburn with its patrician grace.

1950s

Miu Miu Reversible shearling coat £5,235
Kenneth Jay Lane Gold-plated faux pearl ring £65
Luxuriate in the role of 1960s sex kitten with a decadent candy-coloured shearling coat – perfect matched with a figure-hugging jumper dress, minxish heels and a pearl ring.
1960s
acnedress
Acne Studios Silk-blend organza mini dress £950
Directional structuring creates a stunning take on the A-line dress. Wear with dinky flats and the oversized Celine earrings from above for a truly hip update on Edie Sedgwick’s “Factory Girl” style.
 1970s

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Alexander McQueen Crepe jacket £2,075

Acne Studios Luisa I shiny grass green trousers £1600
Finds + Catherine Prevost 18-karat gold nugget ring
The crepe jacket has padded shoulders and fierce tailoring for a 1970s-by-way-of-1930s look. Combine with a neutral chiffon blouse, Acne’s vibrant flares and sharp mules for a daytime look worthy of Anita Pallenburg herself. The organic, mineral shape of the ring adds a hippy touch.
1980s
Asymmetric leather skirt £1,215

Ippolita Gelato 18-karat gold, topaz and diamond ring£3,200

A metallic vest crafted to look like chainmail, worn with a white vest, asymmetric leather and a delicate ring and necklace is an instant update on Sloaney 1980s glamour.
1990s
metallic dress
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Alexander McQueen Metallic jacquard mini dress£3,165
Miu Miu Bow-embellished leather and patent-leather mules £515
All the anarchic, playful spice of the 1990s are conjured by this striking dress and the flirtatious shoes.
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This week’s Spotlist

The songs I’m listening to this week on – old and new – collected on a handy playlist, should you want to do the same.

The Prodigy – Warrior’s Dance 

Because, why not?

The Gap Band – Burn Rubber On Me 

For those feeling let down by the election results, feel hard done by in a funky way with this irresistible classic about being hurt and disappointed.

Snoop Dogg – Awake 

The Lion is dead, long live the Dogg. The laconic rapper ditches reggae and returns with an album of slinky rap tunes in Bush, produced by Pharrell and featuring Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamarr and Rick Ross, amongst others. This track features the Dogg in particularly slinky mood.

Tink – Ratchet Commandments 

The 20-year-old rapper hooks up with Timbaland for this brutal sermon announcing her arrival in the big leagues. Expect a debut album this year.

Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High) 

Raw, bruised electro-pop from the Swede’s debut Queen of the Clouds. Her explicit and honest lyrics and husky voice straddle this 21-track opus, making an addictive, huge album. As she sings, “sometimes I’m charming as f***.”

Roisin Murphy – Uninvited Guest 

Glassy, languid, slightly menacing disco from the queen of such. On her new album, Hairless Toys.

Susanne Sundfor – Insects 

More Scandiness in this psychedelic closer to the singer’s latest album, Ten Love Songs, which provides what it says on the tin with innovation and Beethoven.

Rozi Plain – Friend City 

A cheery, chirpy song, from the London based singer-songwriter’s album Friend.

Nancy Sinatra – Lady Bird

Dark blue treasure from the iconic 60s singer.

Bop English – Falling at Your Feet 

James Petralli, the lead singer of White Denim, unleashes his debut solo album as alter ego Bop English. Fans of the band will like this, though it is a looser, more experimental take on his usual style.

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Don’t despair: Another five years of the Tories may well incite a revolution

WARNING: The following post contains excessive use of capitals and more expletives than usual

The country has spoken and the consensus is that the last five years were fine and we’d like five more of them please (I use the “we” loosely). Never mind that the country burned with unrest and discontent in 2011; that unemployment is still very high, that there is an entire generation leading to nothing as there are no opportunities for them; that zero-hours contracts create instability and a lack of dignity for many workers; no matter that MPs are now earning more than they did at the height of the expenses scandal; never mind the brutal, deep and far-reaching benefit cuts which will have an impact long into the future.  Because, deep down, most Britons still believe that a haughty ex-Etonian is meant to rule over us. It’s just how things are meant to be.

So, Ed Miliband was disastrous. The defeat was unprecedented: the Tories gained more of a majority than five years ago and Labour lost more seats. I admit – I voted for Labour and I liked him, mainly for how harsh the media was on him. It made me think, what are they so afraid of? I won’t rescind my support like weaselly Victorian turn-coat Russell Brand. I think he seemed a genuine guy. I found David Cameron’s disingenuousness far more irksome and cringeworthy than any of Miliband’s awkwardness. No man who supports football forgets their team, it’s ingrained into their tribal DNA and to pretend you support a team is an insult to the men who really put their heart and soul into doing so. I wonder how much The Sun would have picked up on that, had it been “Red Ed” who made the blunder? I really thought that the British electorate would see through The Sun and Daily Mail’s smear campaign, which mainly revolved around the ungainly eating of a bacon sandwich. Cameron ate a hot dog with a KNIFE AND FORK. This, to me, is far more disturbing than eating a sandwich, it is the sign of a madman. He’s trying to be an everyman when we all know he’s not. I would respect him far more if he were just honest: “I don’t like your proletariat games and food but I’m a polished, articulate and forceful speaker, therefore you will feel I’m trustworthy.”

I gave the British public too much credit. I thought they would ask the same question I did, namely, WHY is the right-wing and/or Rupert Murdoch owned-media going at Miliband with such ferocity? Life has taught me that mysteriously ferocious cruelty is always to be questioned and mistrusted.

I think the Tories won because we (again the “we” is loose) fetishize extreme wealth. It fascinates, enchants, motivates us. You only need to look at the number of documentaries on TV about the Billion pound this…, the Billionaire that… to know that. The latest, airing next week, being about the world’s most expensive food – including salmon that has jazz played to it. We don’t go “who are these fucking idiots, can we go and burn their houses down?” We chuckle indulgently and shake our heads and say that’s the rich for you. We should be enraged by ostentatious, flagrant, ludicrous wealth like that but we’re not, because we like to imagine that we could someday be in that position. We feel that extreme wealth has to exist, at least for someone, because if it’s there, we can fantasise that one day we could have it. That is the greatest confidence trick the wealthy and the Tories ever pulled off, for it is this feeling that ensures their continued survival and leads to the bizarre situation of people protecting those who take from them. The truth is that for 99.9% of people that wealth is not attainable; and that supermassive black hole wealth doesn’t HAVE to exist. We could take a relatively small amount from those oligarchs and such and make a demonstrable, long-term difference to the most deprived. But no, the dreamers want to protect their dream wealth, in case they ever get in that position. Spoiler alert: you won’t. Look after yourself in the now.

Britain is an increasingly unequal society. Nowhere is this shown more starkly than in life expectancy – it was reported recently that life expectancy in the richest borough of Britain (Belgravia) is now 91 years, while in the poorest (Stockton on Tees) it is 67. The poor are taxed with 24 YEARS OF THEIR LIVES. We are on target for life expectancy to go down for the first time in 1000 YEARS because we are so fucking fat. I could analyse other areas, but life is the biggest and most important to us all.

I don’t know whether most people who voted for them realise what the Tories might do. They’ve been tempered by the Lib Dems for the past five years but now they can push through a more radical agenda. They are already looking at making £12bn in welfare cuts. It’s the cutting of social and community services, libraries and health services that worry me most. I don’t want to live in a country where being poor precludes you from having access to literature. Art is for everyone. I also don’t want to live in a country where children’s heart services are cut before MP’s or banker’s salaries. In my old job, I had to read every few days of the proposed closing of the cardiac services at Leeds General Infirmary. Stopping sick kids from getting the help they need is TEXTBOOK VILLAINY. Eventually the proposal to “reorganise” these services was quashed by the High Court after campaigning to save the department. Do you not find it worrying that the High Court had to step in to stop the government form carrying out what it wanted to do? Now, there are worries of a slightly elevated mortality rate in the department, which is perhaps unsurprising given the upheaval it has had in the last five years and the fight it had to put up.

Britain has shown itself to be ignorant, gullible, selfish, misguided and plain stupid. And also very masochistic. The thought that cheers me is that a good ol’ villainous Tory government does tend to galvanize people and inspire action and protest art. It’s more inspiring to have something to rail against. As the tenure wears on, I think we may also see more direct political engagement from disenfranchised youth. And by that I mean: throwing missiles through the windows of JD Sports to procure the shaped, coloured bits of leather that make them feel worthwhile in the absence of opportunity.

You asked for it Britain, you fat Tory bastards.