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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"From the Sky Down", failed film on U2's rebirth

From the Sky Down

Being a die-hard U2 fan, I would choose “Achtung Baby” if I had to pick only one album. It’s not just the incredible songs, but also the amount of ideas behind it. After consulting a lot of material (mainly books, aside the massive amount of unofficial and live recordings) analysing that period in their career, the announcement the band was including a full documentary together with the 20th anniversary reissue of “Achtung Baby” were unbeatable news for me. Then I knew the director was Davis Guggenheim, famous for “An Inconvenient Truth” but also responsible of the outstanding “It Might Get Loud”, adding another factor to be enthusiastic for. I was wrong. Allow me to go part by part to explain myself.

Guggenheim initially puts “Achtung Baby” in context, something that takes him quite a lot of the length of the film. But honestly, its a good recap, reaching back to where U2 were coming from before working on the album, using the band members opinions on an appealing insight. The worldwide breakthrough of “The Joshua Tree” and the frustrating adjustment from playing arenas to stadiums are vividly portrayed (Bono’s anger backstage is particularly revealing). So it is the clash provoked by "Rattle & Hum", their crucified and misinterpreted attempt to explore American roots, putting them on the verge of self-consumption. Quoting Bono, it was time to “go away and dream it all up again”. The next chapter would be “the sound of four men cutting down The Joshua Tree”. The rebirth of U2.

After almost 45 interesting minutes, “From the Sky Down” finally settles in Berlin, where the troubled musical and per­sonal journey of the band was going to take place, being the found­a­tion of what would become “Achtung Baby”. There’s an interesting glimpse of what was going on there, the Berlin Wall coming down, grunge and electronic music was flourishing. The mythical Hansa Studios was the right place to be for a band willing to experiment and transform itself. Everything is ready for an absorbing deconstruction of the making of the album. We have the extensive one-on-one interviews with band members (well, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton in a more secondary role). We have producers Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and Flood. We have manager Paul McGuiness. We have photographer Anton Corbijn. Damn it, we even have the old DAT tapes from the rehearsals! But frustratingly enough, director David Guggenheim appears he simply ran out of time.

At Berlin’s Hansa Studios, creative frictions and roadblocks put the members of U2 on the verge of a confrontation of uncertain results. The documentary shows us that, but also how, thanks to the only songs that were completed in Germany, "Mysterious Ways" (originally titled "Sick Puppy") and of course, "One" (created out from a discarded bridge from the former). From the crisis, there was going to result their second masterpiece, “Achtung Baby”. A masterpiece the documentary, surprisingly, neglects. Here goes my list of grievances:
  1. "Achtung Baby" has twelve wonderful songs, not two. Aside from the already mentioned “Mysterious Ways” and “One”, only "The Fly", “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”, “Love is Blindness" and the horrible remixed version of "Even Better than the Real Thing" performed at Glastonbury, occupy some length of the rockumentary. Dublin, where the album was completed is almost ignored. Unjustified and unacceptable.
  2. Lyrics please. These songs are among the most strikingly beautiful and powerful Bono has penned, so why the lack of analysis on them? 
  3. How can you have all three producers of the record (Eno, Lanois and Flood) and not ask them about the construction of the new sound of the band? 
  4. The Fly, the character Bono created as a supposed parody of the frontman (Lou Reed's glasses, Jim Morrison's pants and Elvis' jacket, has a single scene. Mr. MacPhisto is not even mentioned.
  5. Same applies for the Zoo TV tour. All the visual imagery, the creativity of the videos, the live footage. All the ideas behind, zero mention.
  6. So you have Anton Corbijn, but nothing is said about the amazing artwork?
  7. Being an Anniversary celebration, it would have been interesting/appropriate to hear from fellow musicians about the influence/relevance of the album. 
  8. Last but not least, no Zooropa?
Not everything is bad on "From the Sky Down", mainly thanks to the "cast of actors". There are a few revealing and engaging interviews, in particular with Bono. We also have a couple of chances to see the band skills and how do they face the creative process, exposed with an unexpected openness in the rehearsing of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and the haunting, poignant performing of "Love is Blindness" by The Edge. That footage, along with the detail in which "Misterious Ways" and "One" are explained and some pre-Achtung Baby" material, makes the documentary worth the watching.

Bono says the album "is the reason we’re still here now” But that sense of dealing with such a crucial work and moment from the band is what we are missing in "From the Sky Down". Initially, after watching it, I thought it wasn't targeted to long-time U2 fans. The amount and seriousness of the misses, together with the few detail on the making of the record puts the film in the verge of irrelevance, at least to anyone who is more than a casual/new fan of the band. But the more I think about it, the more I see this can't be targeted to "newbies" (by the way, welcome to the U2 world, you're going to have a lot of fun) either. Because they won't understand why this album has to be heard, remembered, analysed and celebrated after watching this film. An ok music documentary? Maybe. But not for "Achtung Baby".

Sorry if the review has taken longer than usual. It was an important subject for the writer. 

SCORE: 5,75/10

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Discoverer 31: new indie findings

New bands for you!

Hospitality. You know when a song gets stucked in your head? That's what's happening to me with the chrous of "Friends of Friends". Or the "dadada" part of "The Birthday". Or the melody of "Betty Wang". I could go on for each one of the ten songs that conform "Hospitality", their debut album, out since January. This Brooklyn trio, leaded for the addictive voice of Amber Papini, formed in 2007. After releasing its well received first self-titled EP in 2008, they remained quiet for a while, but not anymore. Signed to Merge Records, this band is fated for greatness. Indie-pop at its best!

Hospitality - Betty Wang by MergeRecords Hospitality - Friends of Friends by MergeRecords
Persian Rugs. More recent obsessions. There's a  song that gives me goosebumps: "Always All" from Toronto’s Persian Rugs. Formed in 2009, they started recording in 2010 (demos available at their bandcamp), officially debuting with "Always All EP" on Cloudberry (again) the next year. Unstoppable, dreamy pop melodies, with shimmering guitars, hazy reverb and the intertwining voices of Ian Jackson and Kaye Hamilton (amazing) recalling Sarah Records, Comet Gain, Veronica Falls or a poppier Kids On A Crime Spree, bands which Persian Rugs have shared stage with. More please!

Novella. Ending this week recommendations, and thanks to the superb taste of the blog skatterbrain! I discovered this female trio from London, UK, set to release their self-titled first EP in mid-March, on Italian Beach Babes label, while they'll be touring UK alongside Veronica Falls (lukcy brits!). Recalling  another female band, Warpaint, Novella offer a powerful and hypnotic indie rock plenty of psychedelia and guitar riffs, naming Flying Nun or Brian Jonestown Massacre as influences. Check their available tunes on souncloud and, like me, you'll be eagerly awaiting for the forthcoming EP.
Don't Believe Ayn Rand by Novella.
The Things You Do by Novella.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", frozen Cold War film

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I'm starting to get a bit annoyed to this sort of tendency in cinema of recreating a movie genre, being it from the 60s, the 70s or the 80s, where the only concern seems to be the style. I was expecting quite a lot from "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", but honestly, this is just a mimicking recreation of the 70s spy-thriller genre, too focused in looking perfect on screen, and not caring of what really matters, the content.

I'm sorry, but if a spy-game film works its mainly because of the story. Sadly, that's the weakest point of "Tinker...". I've read some reviews where critics use expressions as "for mature audiences", "classy", "brainy", "adult viewing drama", etc. Elitist arguments anticipating the sense of confusion/boredom audience can have watching it. Or euphemisms to defend the indefensible.

This is a film portraying the small world of powerful men fighting, conspiring to be number one, with their personal world of traumas, relations, loyalties and sex. Its also a tale of the Cold War, and I use the word "tale" on purpose, because on the film (I don't know about John Le Carré's books) it looks like a separate, mythical, fantasy dimension. And finally, is a very British story, a grey Britain that seems slowly moving from past times into an uncertain future. Believe me: we get the idea. Can we include these interesting elements on an attractive story then?

Unfortunately, not. The problem with "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is not that is developed in a way that can only please "older generations". The problem is that for almost two slow paced hours, we are asked to assume something is actually going on, and that matters, at least to keep you watching. But at the same time we must believe all the "misteries" proposed, and all the inexplicable cuts on the key scenes. The result is a very high effort to get into the film for a very little reward in return. Director Tomas Alfredson pose a blurred bunch of ideas and situations without exploring any, offering zero suspense, in my opinion, and a serious problem of fluidity, the result of a very questionable editing. Its worse at the end (side note: what an unfortunate choice for the music, by the way), where everything is resolved in a matter of seconds, crossing the line of being ridicule.

But it is not just a matter of a confusing and unattractive plot. I simply didn't care. There is no emotional development of the characters. Gary Oldman, a terrific actor, is confined into a exaggeratedly still, pensive, underplaying role as Mr. Smiley. His forced retirement, his past and personal story, and his involvement with the characters he must investigate had a lot of potential, but  Alfredson didn't care about acting, reducing Oldman's work to a silent mannequin. The rest of a very impressive cast, including John Hurt, Toby Jones and Colin Firth is also wasted. Only Benedict Cumberbatch, who partners Smiley in his investigation, is able to bring some valuable emotions to his role. Some secondary actors, in particular Tom Hardy and Stephen Graham offer some very remarkable moments too. Them, the oppresive and bleak atmosphere and the aesthetics are the highlights of an unremarkable, extremely cold film. A huge dissapointment.

SCORE: 4,5/10

"Jerusalem", chronicles of the most absurd conflict

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
(Chroniques de Jérusalem, French original title)- Guy Delisle

"Jérusalem, un canadien errant dans la ville sainte", reads the banner of Guy Delisle's blog created during his stay in Jerusalem. A whole year joining his wife (and with their two little kids), a MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) worker, allowing the author to show a very personal and peculiar view of the conflict and how it affects the daily reality of the region.

As someone who has followed and enjoyed the previous works of Delisle, this structure is unsurprising, something that at first lessens the impact of "Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City". There's a "been there, seen that, did that" feeling. The mixture of quotidianity (he's a househusband with not many things to do aside from drawing and exploring the city/area), trivial situations and an initially naïveté is a bit frustating, considering how politicized and known is the Palestine-Israel conflict. Sure, Delisle doesn't pretend to be another Joe Sacco, but his lack of knowledge in the area is shocking, particularly considering the work of her wife.

But this unpromising start soon develops into something else. Delisle is building, slowly, with patience (a quality that seems much needed to live there), an unexpected adventure comic-book. It is not journalism, or the radiography of a conflict, but a ludicrous take, from an observer with talent to capture the detail on the (terryfing) number of absurd situations every person (well, I guess not really everyone) has to suffer living in Jerusalem.

Every country in this planet is based in fallacies. Nations, being concepts, have to been built upon, and that construction is, historically consolidated by violence (mainly wars, triumphs, conquers and defeats) and fuelled by the articulation of a speech designed to unify the community: a common enemy to fight against, a religion, a system of beliefs, a flag, a mission to be accomplished together, etc. There's no better example than Israel. And that's what Delisle, in a ligthweight, apolitical way, even with a subtle sense of humour, unveils.

The situation of the Occupied Territories, the settlements, the division of the city, the shameful absurdity of the Wall, the arbitrarities in which the Israeli authorities inccur everyday with the Palestine population, the deplorable restrictions of their freedoms and liberties, the ridiculous behaviour of the different communities, in particular the most religious ones ... everything is captured by Delisle pencil, having time (its his longest work to date) also to talk about drawing and how he creates to. By the time you reach the final pages of the book, you realize a complete portrait of the country's reality has been made. From the eyes of a tourist, build upon anechdotes and without allowing himself to provide a political opinion. But the complete, clear picture is there.

"Jersusalem Chronicles" probably lacks the impact of "Pyongyang", "Shenzen", or the "Burma Chronicles", mainly because these three locations are way more unknown that Jerusalem. But this is a refreshing and very recommendable take on the most contradictory place on Earth, and the most absurd conflict. Don't miss it.

SCORE: 7,25/10

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spanish indie 7: suggesting the best national acts

More proposals of Spanish alternative bands for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

La Habitación Roja. The release of their eighth album, "Fue Eléctrico", out now, gives me the perfect excuse/occasion to introduce this veteran band, formed in Valencia (yes, good things can come from there too), that are, simply, one of the best national groups. Inexplicably (and unfairly) underrated despite their solid career, started in 1995, LHR has been a reference when discussing about indie-pop/rock in Spain, something the new record proves again. Energy and melody, passion and honesty. The long distance runners of Spanish scene are back. A reason to celebrate.

Doble Pletina. Started in 2010 as a duet from the ashes of Abrevadero, a surreal combo that made peculiar versions of popular songs, Marc Ribera and Laura Antolín have created a lot of expectations with their few songs, in particular with the 2011 slow-burn hit "Música para cerrar las discotecas". Pure pop genious, where acoustic sounds meets a restrained epic, and where lyrics become pivotal. Hoping for more releases this year to confirm the promise, and to see them live at Primavera Sound. Keep an eye on them.

Thee Brandy Hips. Just confirmed among the Benicàssim Festival line-up, with their second album, “Raincoat”, released in early February, this five-member band from San Sebastian offers a much needed dose of fun and vitality. Addictive and sunny guitar-driven pop, where melody means everything. Between the noise-pop of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and lo-fi, between power-pop and The Bluetones playing on a beach, and with a DIY attitude, they might not be reinventing the wheel, but there's plenty to enjoy in their music.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Indie Anthology 5: essential songs

Back from a another work trip mixed with holidays. And we do it with our fifth "anthologic" tune, in this case another song that in barely 2 minutes, says it all. A personal favourite hailing from Sweden that I hope you enjoy.

SongThe Quiz
ArtistHello Saferide
Year: 2006

Annika Norlin is an incredible songwriter, and one of her finest moments is this little indie-pop wonder. Made with the intention of completing her live setlist, the tune became very popular and demanded among her fans, so she finally recorded it for the EP "Would You Let Me Play this EP 10 Times a Day?". This peculiar test is fun, witty, fragile, close and fully recognisable to anyone scared of starting a relationship, declaring herself. A phenomenal example of how sometimes "less is more", and how important are lyrics. Simple, concise, compelling, enduring, charming.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"The Quitter", Harvey Pekar's unexpected victory

The Quitter- Harvey Pekar, with Dean Haspiel

I don't believe Harvey Pekar needs to be introduced, at least to anyone with a little interest on comic books/graphic novels. After launching the series “American Splendor” in 1976, in collaboration with cartoonist Robert Crumb (among others) he became an underground celebrity. If you want to know more about it, I vividly recommend you to watch "American Splendor", the excellent 2005 movie with Paul Giamatti as Pekar.

Pekar became a reference in the comic books world with his biographic, realistic, everyday life stories. "The Quitter" follows that path. It's a personal trip to his childhood, adolescence, manhood, with glimpses of his later years, told by the older Pekar, narrator and interjecting presence.

Autobiographies could be very boring if they can't connect with the reader. But that is not the case with "The Quitter". First, because Harvey Pekar, if anything, should be remembered as a particularly good storyteller, making this memoir intriguing and attractive to read. Second, because of the excellent (especially with facial expressions, revealing so much) work of illustrator Dean Haspiel, who's remarkable and varied talent mixes wisely with the narration. And third, because the book might be an autobiography on the surface, but it is done through a very specific prism: failure and the fear it provokes.

As told by himself, Pekar's life can be resumed as a succession of activities and possibilities that turn wrong, the majority of them with our unlikely "hero" quitting when shortcomings have or might appear. Sports, the Navy, many part-time jobs, college... Everything turns into a failure, everything slips away. With that structure, it could have worked as an humorous (grim humour of course) novel, but the suffering, the anxiety confronting or advancing each situation is so real, that "The Quitter" quickly reveals itself as a dramatic and mundane tale of human condition. Pekar is a very contradictory character: full of ambition and ego, but frightened to death to do what it takes to achieve his goal because of the chance of failing. Aren't we all a bit like him (at least sometimes)?

Of course, we know the end of the story (jazz, meeting Robert Crumb, working together), and how his lack of persistence eventually gave Pekar finding the are where he could excel: the graphic novels world. But even then, when in the hands of another author that would become a succeeding example of finally finding what one has been looking for (sort of an "American dream" tale), Pekar manages to  bring doubt, uncertainty and fear for the future. Would the success last? For how long? What if...?

Don't have many complaints to point out to "The Quitter". Its an absorbing, vivid and direct portray of someone so recognisable as a person that immediately connects with you. If any, I would have liked a much longer story, developing much further his latest years. Or a more detailed account of the "pivotal persons" of his life, which are almost non-existent. But I guess that's another example of Harvey Pekar's unexpected victory. He managed to do what he wanted with his art, the same as he did with his life.

SCORE: 7,25/10

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"The Rum Diary", Depp's failed homage to Dr. Gonzo

The Rum Diary

I'm a devoted fan of Hunter S.Thompson, and therefore I loved "The Rum Diary", the novel. Knowing the friendship between Johnny Depp and the Dr. Gonzo, and the personal interest the box office star had on the project, I was really expecting to watch the film. Unfortunately, and although it might work as an entertaining movie, occasionally eccentric, doesn't meet the expectations.

To me it is hard to relate the majority of the film with the book Hunter wrote. It seems to me Johnny Depp's and director's Bruce Robinson main focus was to serve an homage to the writer and American counterculture icon. But I highly doubt the Dr. Gonzo would have liked a tribute that looks and has all elements of a Hollywood blockbuster. A bit of comedy, a romance, a serious plot taken in a very lightweight way, a hero (a bit unusual, but a hero nevertheless) and a happy ending.

If I remember correctly (and I'm pretty sure I do), "The Rum Diary" wasn't a romantic story, which makes the whole affair with Chénault (sorry to say, but Amber Heard role is completely empty) a bit...excessive. Quite frankly, to me the novel was a quite dark one, where drugs, booze, surreal and very dangerous situations gave the tone of an explosive dark comedy. But as I understand from Hunter's literature, behind the grotesque, there was a quite depressive vision of the world. Not to mention that Hunter's period in Puerto Rico was frustrating for him. Something the movie doesn't show at all.  

More worrying issues while watching the movie (comparing it to the book). The disappearing of Yemon's character. The almost irrelevant importance of the "San Juan Star" environment, in particular the local bar (Al's), which on the book was the place where all the newspaper staff gathered and wasted their time. And painfully, the end, miles away from the novel, and really really flat.

Ok, if obviously failed as and adaptation/homage, then let me try to review quickly  "The Rum Diary" just as a film, as if I didn't know anything about Hunter and his novel. Then this is sort of an adventure movie, with an unlikely hero, journalist Paul Kemp (Hunter's alter ego), played with Johnny Depp, who does an ok job, an  impressive cast to benefit from, but sadly not developed to their entire potential, something to regret having great actors as Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi, an awkward tone and a plot that weights, with serious problems of balancing, between a political/corruption case and a romance (with loads of alcohol), with director's Robinson deciding to go for the easy one. Did I say the end is flat and disappointing? 

Don't get me wrong. Overall, "The Rum Diary" is not a bad film, but it is unremarkable, and in my opinion, it is fair to say the potential of Hunter's story has been a bit too much for director's Robinson, resulting in a very far from the homage the Doctor Gonzo deserves.  

SCORE: 5,25/10

Discoverer 30: new indie findings

Town Hall. Thanks to (again) I discovered this indie-folk trio from NY City, who just released their debut-EP “Sticky Notes and Paper Scraps“, that you can get via bandcamp for the price you want. Do it, because it's hard to find a more haunting and loveable sound, a flawless collection of songs The wonderful vocals of Phoebe Ryan’s (strikingly beautiful when she is the lead singer) and Stefan Weiner, their harmonies, and the delicate and rich instrumentation adds an unusual depth to the EP. Gorgeous little work, that can only be praised. More soon please!

Cassolette. This 6-piece band come from Sarasota, FL. After a few demos, the great folks at Cloudberry Records, asked the band to contribute a song to a special 3-inch CD-R compilation that made some European twee labels, French's Anorak Records and Spanish's Little Treasure Records to release an EP. Three labels with a good ear to recognise the contagious music of Cassolette, upbeat and hyper-catchy twee-pop that recalls Go Sailor, propelled by singers (and band founders) Ciera Galbraith and Jesse Coleman. Quintessential jangly and  bouncy pop, for your listening pleasure.

Утро. I'm a bit dubious this can be technically considered a new discovery, because behind this Russian name (that seems to mean "morning") there's a well-known band, favourite of this blog: Motorama. The post-punk masters now have added side-project, Утро, in which they use their Russian language to become even more fascinating and powerfully mysterious to our ears (sorry I can't understand Russian). It's Joy Division's again the name that inevitably comes to mind, but in their darkest, abysmal and intriguing hour. As with Motorama, the album is available for free at their website. That is, if you are able to find it... But sometimes is worth getting completely lost.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Ms. Hempel Chronicles", teaching, learning, living

Ms. Hempel Chronicles- Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

As soon as you start reading "Talent", the first of the eight short stories of "Ms. Hempel Chronicles", you'll find yourself instantly engaged by the very peculiar voice of Beatrice Hempel, an unorthodox teacher still in her twenties, confused while she grows, as we all do, figuring out what she wants to do with her life, and longing for something, deep inside. The difference is while she tries  to discover what she's looking for, she's also a middle school literature teacher. 

Author's Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is a magnificient one. I'm impressed about the way she's capable of balancing tones without hurting the fluidity of the book. A dreamy paragraph might be followed by a lightweight one, but the next sentence can be a "heavy", dramatic one. It all sums to build a solid portray, and create a genuine and refreshing character. Ms. Hempel is a believable, complex character, and at at the same time, a quite charming women.

After "Talent", we reach the highest peak of the book with its second story, "Accomplice", a wonderful love letter to literature, with a sense of magic, wonder and hope. Holden Caulfield, Tobias Wolff, a father in the "shadows", the fear of of being using the kids to explore her longing to go further, to reach something she can't clearly define. As The National would say, "she waits for the click, she waits but it doesn't kick in". What a haunting story.

But "Accomplice" is also the curse for the book, as the next four stories are nowhere near these fabulous beginning. The school and Beatrice relation with her class is sacrificed for her family and personal life. Bynum is very good writer and her skilled but surprisingly natural prose keeps you reading. There's also a more bitter, personal grey zone, an anxiety for being "stucked" that is quite appealing, but the sense of the magic and wonder, of reading something special, is gone, replaced for a more unoriginal recreation of the past.

Luckily, Bynum rescues "Ms. Hempel Chronicles" with the two last stories, "Satellite" and "Bump", which are again superb. Contrary to the previous central chapters, in "Satellite", she doesn't explain the story of her family. Instead, what she explains reveals her famliar story. And "Bump" concentrates, in a unique way, "defying gravity", with a simple, unexpected encounter where past meets present, and what could have been meets the future. Thanks to that powerful end, once you close the book, although unbalanced and imperfect, it works as a whole. You won't forget Beatrice. And for sure, we shouldn't forget Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.

SCORE: 6,5/10

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Corruption 5- Justice 0: the game in Spain

This country it's becoming a very sad joke. Today Spain has decided to favour corruption instead of justice, as simple as that. The first person condemned as a result of the Gürtel case, one of the biggest (if not the most) cases of corruption in Spain, has been Baltasar Garzón, the judge who tried to investigate it, who has been disbarred for 11 years (virtually ending his career, as he is now 57). If you didn't know, the corrupted, Francesc Camps and co., were absolved. Of course.

Yes, he ordered the wiretaps of the conversations between the advocates and their impisoned clients (the corrupted ones). I do understand that this fact is, in principle, illegal, and also in principle, a reason to harm the legimitate defense right of any accused. But these orders to intervene the conversations were endorsed by the anti-corruption prosecutor, by the judge Antonio Pedreira, who took the case when Garzón was inhibited, and by judge José Manuel Suárez Robledano. And they have not been charged of prevarication. Nobody, while the open case was being developed warned Garzón that the practice of the wiretaps was illegal.  Not to mention these wiretaps, among many other findings, revealed that advocates and corrupted (with some precious help from politicians from a party with the absolute majority in Spain) were trying to get away with it. With the money, of course.  

Not my words, but the ones from Reed Brody, international observer from Human Rights Watch, to  resume the situation: "The enemies of Garzon achieved their goal. Given the simultaneous accumulation of charges, there remains the fear that has been subject to retaliation for his role in several controversial cases." "Unless there sufficiently clear and compelling circumstances, to prosecute a judge for his prosecution threatens judicial independence. Many undemocratic rulers would not let pass the opportunity to apply criminal sanctions to silence judges whose work is opposed to vested interests." Seems I don't live in a democracy. Nobody told me that. Oh, and the reference about totalitarism on the sentece says it all. Couldn't be a more biased justice?

As Javier Alvarez, Professor of Criminal Law at the University Carlos III of Madrid adds: "This sentence should be valued as a triptych, the three trials in which the sole objective is Baltasar Garzon. Today, drug traffickers, terrorists and the extreme right are celebrating. The Supreme Court has convicted the judge who has given the most prestige to the Spanish courts. The Government can not accept a sentence like that, it must act now with measures of grace." I'm sure he won't do that. They are celebrating too.

I'm fearing the worst is yet to come. The trial for judging Francoism. The labour reform... Urdangarín.... SPAIN, WHAT A SHAMEFUL COUNTRY!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Shins, Veronica Falls, Nat Johnson= great songs!

Three favourite bands of mine have showed new songs today. What a wonderful afternoon!

We were lucky to hear it first at the Primavera Club past November, but today London's Veronica Falls have "officially" showed the world a new tune: "My Heart Beats". Melody and rhythm, essential trademarks of the band, for another indie-pop perfection clocking in less than three minutes!

I told you before, we absolutely love Nat Johnson's music, and we are counting down the days to grab "I'm Across, I'm Asshore" their awaited new record. Here's another taste of the album, with a youtube video of "Your Majesty". Wonderful song. We salute you Queen Nat!

And finally, another music genius, James Mercer, coming back as The Shins with a highly anticipated new album, "Port of Morrow". After haunting us with the great new single "Simple Song", now he offers the video of its b-side, "September".

The Shins: “September” (b-side of “Simple Song” 7”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spanish indie 6: suggesting the best national acts

After a long hiatus with this section, we are back with new proposals. Enjoy!

Reina Republicana. Born in 2009, but really active in 2010, after two singles (one with Las Robertas) and several changes in the line-up (initially it was formed by members of Kokoshca, Tristessa and Half Foot Outside), by the end of 2011 they released their first, self-titled, LP. With the new voice of Maite Rodríguez, and the help from Banin Fraile, Florent (Los Planetas and Los Pilotos), Guille Mostaza (Ellos) y Paco Loco, the album flourishes as a wonderful collection of shiny indie-pop tunes. Here's great pop for everyone, from shoegazers to La Buena Vida fans or c86 lovers. Hail to the queen!.

Christina Rosenvinge. It was a matter of time Ms.Rosenvinge had a space here. Musically active since "la Movida Madrileña" (80s) she pursued a very personal career, working with Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) during the 90s-early 2000s. Back to Spain from NY and from English to Spanish, her latest albums, the excellent "Tu Labio Superior" (2008) and "La Joven Dolores" (2011), have consolidated her status as a national indie muse. My advice? Check the exhaustive boxset, just out now, "Un Caso Sin Resolver", and enter the world of this unique artist.
Christina Rosenvinge - Mi Vida Bajo el Agua

Cosmen Adelaida. You'll always find interesting groups on El Genio Equivocado's roster, a Spanish label with a special nose to detect and recruit talent. Like this band born in Madrid in 2007, that after two EPs, at the end of 2011 released "7 Picos" their mini-album debut, an impressive and highly addictive small collection of the most diverse indie-pop. Ranging from gorgeous twee-pop (irresistible girl-boy vocals) to creeping guitars on a grunge style, to synths and loops that recall names like Stereloab, Cosmen Adelaida has created a unique pop caleidoscope. Band to follow closely.

Discoverer 29: new indie findings

New indie proposals for you!

Lower Dens. Just when I heard "Brains", first song of their second album, "Nootropics", out this spring, the Primavera Sound announced them among the line-up. Baltimore based, this is the band of Jana Hunter, a great folk artist (and guitarist), that worked with Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic (Vetiver). After a hiatus, Hunter returned to "music" in 2009, releasing "Twin-Hand Movement", Lower Dens' debut LP, in 2010. And what a record this is. Atmospheric, epic yet introspective, misterious, colorful, dreamy, instrumental yet compelling when Hunter's soaring voice appears, tense but placid at the same time. Like a guitar-driven's "Teen Dream", ethereal, but a bit closer to you after each spin.

Summer Twins. Chelsea and Justine Brown are twin sisters in their (ridiculously early) twenties, that decided to form a band (they are four live) in 2008, inspired by 50s and 60s rock records. After an initial self-released EP, "The Good Things" in 2010, now they have just presented their first album, "Summer Twins", on Burger Records. A sun-baked collection of wonderfully catchy (check "I Don't Care" and tell me you don't like it) dreampop tunes. Think of Tennis with a little hint of retro garage rock, or Best Coast with a focus on vocal harmonies. Great expectations.
Lost Lander. Although a new band, behind Lost Lander there's the mastermind of Matt Sheehy, from the really recommendable group Ramona Falls. Besides, the just released debut album, "DRRT", has been produced by Brent Knopf, Ramona Falls frontman and former member of Menomena. The combination of both forces makes this album very special. Indie folk-pop are the barebones of the songs, embellished and propelled to something lush and atmospheric, with a mesmerizing production. The result is hypnotic, with many contenders for the best songs-of- the-year lists inside.