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Friday, August 31, 2012

"Your Sister's Sister", relationships & talks

Your Sister's Sister

Something had gone really wrong with cinema if an audacious, brave and laudable idea is a film where all that matters are dialogues and actors. These are the pivotal elements over which "Your Sister's Sister" is built upon to develop a tale of human relationships that, for almost all its length, looks natural and refreshing.  Let's say it clear: this is an indie film (loved the Fleet Foxes/Band of Horses reference) to make the ever-present Hollywood romantic comedies pale in their dumbness. So, sorry blockbuster's lovers, never-ending action scenes' fans, digital/animation's hooligans. Nothing much for you to watch here, I'm afraid.

Unless you like stories about people behaving like people, instead of wearing strange outfits, masks and capes, that is. That's what director Lynn Shelton wrote for "Your Sister's Sister", with a quite simple premise, and filmed in only 12 days, with almost no funding. A house on an island, almost hidden in the woods by a lake, where Iris suggests Jack, her best friend, to go for some time to "reboot" from his stuck life, as he's still paralysed because of his brother's death, a year ago. There he will met Hannah, Iris' sister.

A couple of scenes aside, there are only three characters with screen presence. The lack of external factors (no phones, internet, work issues), and the peculiar, isolated environment in which the film develops helps putting the absolute focus on the trio, their behaviours, talks, connections, and the emotions that they bring as well as they hide from the table. Some feelings are as secluded as the island where they located, ready to burst. Love, friendship, sex, family ties (magnificent pillow talks between the sisters), pasts, all around tables and beds. Shelton revealed the script had only 70 pages, so around 75% of the dialogue was improvised together with the cast. I'm seriously impressed by that. The biggest triumph of the film is building such a solid trio of characters, making them credible, likeable despite its flaws, and understandable, despite their actions. The bonds and boundaries of their relations are brilliantly and naturally exposed.

Of course, to achieve such mesmerizing and engaging results, you need a formidable trio of actors.The three performances, Mark Duplass as Jack, Rosemarie DeWitt as Hannah, and (the gorgeous) Emily Blunt as Iris are excellent, individually and collectively. They are fun, fragile and touching. All in a natural way, instead of much drama or exaggerations they are capable of condensing their emotional and revealing "voyage" in their chats, gestures and facial/physical expressions. Bravo.

With so much praise from my side, you might be thinking "Your Sister's Sister" is going to be considered as a masterpiece on this review. Unfortunately not. When tensions and revelations finally explode (as I said, kudos for not being melodramatic), the film chooses a much more predictable path. Not to say disappointing, but conventional (despite its peculiarity) and pleasing one. There's too much exposed and needed to assume to accept that end in such a little time, in my opinion. It is wonderful that love between humans can overcome everything, but with characters so well constructed, some more time for their evolution would have been recommendable. Otherwise, its final part looks like a sitcom, and the film didn't deserve that resolution.

Overall, a really remarkable, fun, refreshing and charming film, with three actors excelling in their performances, that misses a bit of their potential to be unforgettable towards the end. But nevertheless, this is an admirable  proof that all that matters in cinema is having a good story to be told, and having the courage of telling it.

SCORE: 7,25/10

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Autumn 2012: agenda of concerts

September is just around the corner. So, in order to avoid the inevitable depression, and the huge VAT increase (courtesy of our beloved government who doesn't consider music as culture) in two days, is a good occasion to take a look to the forthcoming concerts that I hope to attend until the end of the year. Our provisional agenda so far (hope it grows)!

8. Paul Heaton at Music Hall (really hoping to go, but it is a bit expensive)
23. Los Punsetes at Plaça dels Àngels (as part of BAM Festival). More to see that night, to decide...
29. Sharon Van Etten at La [2] de Apolo. My dear Sharon again...

5. The Tallest Man On Earth at Casino l'Aliança del Poblenou
6. Veronica Falls at BeCool
14. Fanfarlo at Apolo. Yeah! Finally!
16. The Wedding Present at Sidecar

2. The Divine Comedy (An Evening with Neil Hannon) at Auditori de Girona
7. The Walkmen at Bikini or
    Allo Darlin' (supporting The Wave Pictures) at Sidecar
20. The Chameleons at Sidecar

5 to 9. Primavera Club
10. Father John Misty at Sala Apolo

Many are still pending, due to "calendar issues", and the majority, due to "economic issues", but green means
confirmed: already got the tickets!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Time Relentless EP", pop feast with The Hermit Crabs

Time Relentless EP
Each time there's an email from Matinée Recordings reaching my inbox I smile. I assume, and it's almost infallible, their music proposal is going to be great. But this time the announcement was the long awaited comeback from beloved Glaswegian band The Hermit Crabs, so I yelled (I was at work at the office, luckily quite alone, as my colleagues are still on holidays). A yelling of happiness an excitement, that is.

It had been a long time indeed, although Melanie Whittle offered a dose of her talents thanks to Baffin Island, joining forces with members of another favourite band on this site, The Very Most. But three years had passed since the glorious "Correspondence Course EP" without new songs from The Hermits, so there were questions about how the band will sound after these hiatus.

But they quickly showed there was no reason to panic. This band has always showed their cards from the very beginning, without chances for "second thoughts". With them, beauty comes straightforwardly to the ears of the listener. And their new work is no different. "On the Spectrum" is a stunning opener, a strong statement saying the world "we are back", with a mesmerizing GUITAR work (written on capital letters because they deserve it, it's that big) and a killer chorus. Mel might be talking about the blues, but the feeling the song produces are the very opposite. A jangle-pop feast

"Time Relentless" slows the tempo with the band's trademark orchestrations and the addition of subtle keyboards. The visual lyrics are taken from a poem, suiting the contemplative mood of the piece. All seems to flow towards the wonderful chorus were Mel's adorable voice shines, acquiring an epic nuance while guitars arise in the mix, providing the tune a fantastic climax.

"Stop This Now" is a much more joyous affair in terms of melody, upbeat and contagious. Drums splashes and guitars flourishes, sparking the tune. After the instrumental section, vocal harmonies appear and you are expecting a longer-than-life finale. But it ends abruptly, leaving you wonder for me. A perfect pop pill of two minutes!

And finally "So Blue" concludes the EP with a mid-tempo that recalls their previous releases and their similarities with Camera Obscura (will you return soon too, Tracyanne?). Fortunately, the instrumentation steps up, helping the song to grow and closing the release on a high note.

If you didn't know The Hermit Crabs (very soon we'll have a band's retrospective on the blog), this EP is a great introduction into their music. And for us, fans, is a wonderful return to form. Jangle-pop, twee-pop and indiepop lovers, we are in luck. Welcome back Hermits!

SCORE: 8/10

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"The Skylab", pleasant family memories

The Skylab (Le Skylab, French original title)

All families are quite similar, and all family gatherings are horri.... just kidding. "The Skylab" uses that simple and recognisable plot to gather an impressive and diverse French Cinema cast, celebrating a family meeting in the summer of 1979, to build a comedy, with several hints of drama, that works also as a personal homage from writer, director and actress Julie Delpy to her family (in particular her mother).

"The Skylab" is built upon a flashback, so these are supposed to be the memories of the adult Albertine, remembering those days when she was 11-year-old and took part of a familiar get-together, celebrating the 67th birthday of her grandmother, matriarch of the clan. Getting picky, from a technical point of view, either the initial/closing scene and the whole premise are quite loose and obviously erroneous (young Albertine wasn't in every scene, so how can she remember them?).

But anyway, that's not really important for the film, who has one of its strongest points in the lack of pretensions and the aim to focus in a nostalgic, mostly kind and warm, take on those familiar days in the French Brittany. Delpy wants to portray her own family memories with affection, care, and a very natural sense of humour. She, thanks to the help of the ensemble cast and her talent for dialogues achieves that goal for almost the entirety of the film.

We all have been part of one of these never-ending get-together reunions, so it's no surprise to see silly/ridiculous situations, even sillier conversations (the one that involves NASA's Skylab space station that was going to fall somewhere that night gives the name of the film), some sex remarks, very different characters dealing with their own stories and trying to catch-up with the other quickly, many communication breakdowns, and the inevitable tensions, all while drinks and food are constantly served, even despite the capricious (and very funny) weather.

As this are Albertine's memories, childhood is a pivotal focus of the film, and Delpy proves she's got a very remarkable talent to recreate with artlessness that age, its revelations and traumas as well it provides several moments of laughs. First love (although she seems quite precocious for her age), death, arts (thanks to her bohemian parents), the transition from childhood to teenager period in particular mark Albertine's evolution throughout the movie. No, she's not a young female version of Woody Allen, although that wouldn't be the first time Delpy has the New Yorker director as a reference.

But I couldn't help thinking "The Skylab" has a couple of "issues" that harm its overall enjoyment as a whole. First, and a common one nowadays, its lack of balance, and directly linked with that, the excessive length: two hours might be necessary to present and expose such a long family and the developing situations, but there are some scenes clearly overlong (and not all of them can be justified as the film is the flashback of one person, therefore completely subjective) while other "matters" are presented just to disappear immediately. And second, when drama appears, in some selected scenes, the tone of the film gets really dark. Political discussions that could end heating-up too much are usual among families. But there's more than that here. These scenes are awkward considering the movie flows as a comedy, and with the aforementioned lack of balance, look also strangely isolated and disconnected from the rest. Maybe Delpy wanted to include too much.

Overall, a lightweight and quite pleasant film, one that you try to be even more indulgent with its flaws thanks to its undeniable charm, that works quite nicely as a nostalgic comedy.

SCORE: 6,25/10

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Indie Anthology 19: essential songs

The next song of our particular Anthology is the perfect tune for the days ahead. September is coming, so a new "natural year" arrives. It's time to think, evaluate what we have done and start again. It's it much better doing so with the help of one of the best Spanish indie bands. Hope you like it!

Song: Mi Año Natural
Artist: La Buena Vida
Year: 2006

I got angry easily when someone tries to convince lyrics don't matter. No, it's not necessary to make "high literature" references in every single verse, or to create a conceptual and dense album just for the sake of being interesting. But I do demand for lyrics that mean something, that can relate with people and people can relate with, and more specifically, to their feelings or/and state of mind. La Buena Vida were/are (it's hard to know whether the band is still active after the tragic death of Pedro San Martín) masters on that particular art. Condensing our thoughts, moods and feelings (some questions too) in the format of 3/4 minutes of  contemplative, delicate and beautiful indiepop/twee-pop. "Mi Año Natural" had all their trademarks: the whispering, sweet voice of Irantzu Valencia, gentle guitars, subtle brass and wind sections, with the accent put on the simplicity and disarming purity of an unforgettable melody. And a lyric capable of saying so much with so little. With the end of August, the time to think over, get up and mature, learning from our mistakes, has arrived...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Discoverer 38: new indie findings

New trio of wonderful bands discovered for you. Enjoy!

Echo Lake. Some hypes deserve the buzz. Formed in London only two years ago, Thom Hill and Linda Jarvis are the duo (amplified to a five piece live) responsible of the praised debut "Young Silence EP", drawing comparisons to indie totems My Bloody Valentine. Now they return with "Wild Peace", debut album out on Slumberland/No Pain in Pop since June, bound to be included among the best-of-year-lists. More polished and diverse, sometimes closer to guitar indiepop, others to Beach House's ethereal dreampop, always with Jarvis voice shining among the layers and the wall of sound Hill builds around her. The result: "Wild Peace" is a gift for the listener, moody, sonically rich, atmospheric and captivating.
  'Wild Peace' LP (No Pain In Pop/Slumberland, 2012) by Echo Lake

Anaesthetics. I usually ask for more than a couple of songs before including a band on the Discoverer series. But there are times the songs are so great that you need to share them with the world immediately. "Slow Trains/Pulse" is the debut A side single from this Mancunian quartet and both are irresistible indiepop gems. "Slow Trains" being an ultra-catchy tune full of lovely guitar lines and one chorus to die for, all with the A+++ of the boy/girl vocals, while "Pulse" is a more uptempo and rockier number, with the nice addition of an organ beat, and a knock-out closure. Already in love with the band. Want more, more, more!

slow trains by Anaesthetics pulse by Anaesthetics
The History of Apple Pie. Fuzzy, hyper-vitaminated and highly addictive noise pop is what this very young band from London offers us. Two wonderful double sided singles released on 2011, "You're So Cool" and "Mallory" plus the stunning new release of "Do It Wrong/Long Way To Go", out now, are enough to show the promise of band that could blend the best from the American college rock and the C86's spirit: crunching guitars with dazzling pop vocals (careful with the combination of  Stephanie Min and Kelly Lee Owens voices, creates addiction). Eagerly awaiting their next step.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fountains, amazing new band to follow

Double review of the so far fantastic releases from Fountains, one of the most celebrated discoveries of 2012 on Bloodbuzzed!

No Sleep EP
Discovered them on March, and their debut EP has been on repeat mode since then at home and on my Mp3, being also featured on the playlist of best songs of the year so far. All this praise is well deserved, as the London group is capable of doing something really remarkable, and quite unusual nowadays: they really blow you out.

The EP opens with the slow-burner title track "No Sleep", that from the very first second carries you away to a very special place. It's a cold & grey place, but there are still glimpses of hope (careful listen to the wonderful backing vocals from Bex). The music soars, guitars and drums find their way to scatter the clouds and Jonathan voice rises like a mantra. Epic five minutes. I remember writing that it sounded to me like The Wild Swans meeting Joy Division. What an opener.

"Insecure" offers a different side: an uptempo melody, in which guitars take more prominence, delivering raw lines that share the anger and desperation of Jonathan's tone and lyrics. And explodes, and leaves the listener longing for more.

And it does come. "You're Not Welcome" begins like "No Sleep", the guitar intro suggesting a rumbling number that turns into an abrasive mist of sound. Jonathan spokes among celestial guitar and drum melodies. The tempo accelerates, the lyrics hurt. But Fountains decide to hide their final ace with a radical change in the melody, before the concluding, relentless assault to your ears. And you don't want the song to end. 

You can download the EP right now for FREE via bandcamp. RUN and do it!!!! Amazing debut.
SCORE: 8,25/10

Easy Led
If that isn't enough, since the end of July Fountains have a new single for you to enjoy. And what a single (you can order it here)! "Easily Led" is mesmerizing. It sounds like a proper companion of the "No Sleep EP": cascades of guitars, a majestic wall of sound, gloom and light. But the combination of Jonathan and Bex singing propels the tune to another dimension. I have to hear this song live, in particular it's last minute.

Second song of the single is "Repetition". Quite a slow intro that radically drifts into a song that recalls vividly to Interpol (from the good times) or another beloved band of this blog, Motorama. Atmospheric, opressive... Another impressive tune.
Fountains - Easily Led by Beautiful Strange

SCORE: 8,5/10

5 songs so far, 5 masterpieces. Needles to say, Fountains are a band to follow closely.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises", Batman needs holidays

The Dark Knight Rises
Hollywood's machinery, as well as the critics' unbalanced massive reviews on the grandeur of "The Dark Knight", the second part of Christopher's Nolan trilogy on Batman, are probably the ones to the blame. Indeed, the film easily ranks among the best ever made based on a superhero. And agreed, it was not only a bombastic, spectacular action hero film, but a more complex and dark, and therefore endurable entertainment, miles away from the average blockbuster. But many made quite pedantic references to Dostoevsky, philosophy, theory of chaos, existentialism, democracy and political theory when valuing its virtues. It's always exciting to speculate/discuss around motivations on cinema and they succeeded giving another, more prestigious dimension to the film, but they went too far.

So, probably as a consequence, the announced end of the trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises", had to be even better: bigger, bolder, more spectacular, more epic (careful with the thunderous, repetitive soundtrack) more complex and profound. But it is not. Nolan tries, too hard in my opinion, with unsatisfactory results.

I'm a script moviegoer. It's the most important part of a film to me. I need stories, and they have to grab and keep my attention. The script gives complexity and richness to the situations and characters, allowing the actors to show their abilities. "Batman Begins" had an interesting focus on the reconstruction of Bruce Wayne's complex and tortured character, letting us know his pretty obscure and mundane motivations. The "The Dark Knight" an even more intriguing, even sophisticated confrontation between Batman and Joker (brilliantly played by Heath Ledger), so the distance between the hero and the villain wasn't that far away, plus a fantastic end in which the hero has to be defeated, blamed, to "save" the city. "The Dark Knight Rises" doesn't have such an "anchor", such a story. The plot is seriously lame by comparison.

And linked with the script weakness, the other major factor. A terrible management of time. "The Dark Knight Rises" begins eight years after Batman's takes the blame for Harvey Dent's death in order to put in practice the "Dent's Law" (quite similar to the ultraconservative Patriot Act it seems?) against crime in Gotham, but time has only taken its toll on Bruce Wayne (solved with a good shave and a couple of beatings), not in Alfred, Comissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, the major, etc... Anyway, Bruce doesn't want to go back to his Batman's job: he's bitter, reclusive, heartbroken, but he will "have to", desperately, after he's informed of the apparation of the super-villain Bane, while he deals with the sexy thief Selina Kyle and tries to decide what to do with his failing business empire, which involves the also sensual Miranda Tate.

So, there's when time management really fails. On a double level. First, on the length of the film itself, extremely long, with many situations/scenes that after presented, are poorly developed or left behind, while others consume a considerable amount of time being, with the Bane's and Bruce's common origin and the escaping from the hole/prison on top, quite dull and unnecessary. Second, and as I saw on "Inception", Nolan might have a problem of megalomania, a tendency to excess. He wants to film a "race against time" thriller with an unexpected twist, but also aims to give a political background to it, with Bane's artificial revolution (a pure dictatorial regime), while he shows how far Batman has to dig inside himself to find the way to defeat the monster. He tries to include a social comment, the downturn of economy, the people's discontent, romance (wait, wasn't Bruce too devastated?, wasn't that bad then, I guess), a noble young policeman who knows his secret identity and has a common background with Batman., a visit from a "ghost", lots of spectacular gadgets, thousands of extras, the destruction of Gotham (a more recognisable NY than ever).... Time shifts brutally, five months turn into 23 days, next scene into hours... I could go on and on, pointing the amount of unresolved or incongruent missing little pieces of this puzzle, but I guess you get the idea. "The Dark Knight Rises" is chaotic.

Then it's probably better to review "Batman III" as a mere entertainment, so there's plenty to praise. The action scenes are pretty spectacular: the stock exchange, the bridges collapsing, the implosion of the tunnels and the stadium are stunning ones. Bane, played by Tom Hardy, might not be as memorable as the Joker, but is a very remarkable villain, with a powerful screen presence (wasted in my opinion). Christian Bale does all he can with such a tortuous script for him, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman are solid as expected as the "good cops", while Michael Caine excels again in his few but emotional scenes (he might be the only character with credible human feelings). But the two girls, Anne Hathaway as an irresistible, "down to earth" Catwoman, and the always magnetic Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, are the ones who steal all the scenes in where they take part. I didn't like the flying Batmobile, but the Batbike looks great with Catwoman's on it.

As a mere entertainment, a superhero action film, if we compare it with "Thor", "Iron Man" or "Captain America", "The Dark Knight Rises" is still far superior and more enjoyable. But it is also a disappointing last chapter of Nolan’s trilogy, with its length and lack of measure resulting in a seriously unbalanced film. It's probably time for the holidays, Batman.

SCORE: 5,5/10

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Reheated Cabbage", fun tales from the wild side

Reheated Cabbage: Tales of Chemical Degeneration- Irwine Welsh

As many people from my generation, "Trainspotting" was among my favourite films when I was a teenager. But even more than the movie (or the soundtrack) I loved Irvine Welsh's book, an incredibly addictive trip, an awesome burst of energy translated into paper. But I admit that after "Trainspotting" I refused to read anything else from him, suspecting his books were going to be too similar, so the magic would eventually dissappear. Many years have passed now, so I thought it was safe to reintroduce myself into the "Welsh territory".

Because that's what "Reheated Cabbage" is: pure Irvine Welsh from the "Trainspotting" era, with one stunning exception. This miscellaneous collection of seven old, out-of-print stories from 1994 to 2000, and just one new tale brings us back to that wild, grey, suburban and desolated Edimburgh. Welsh himself warns the reader in his acknowledgements that this is "one of those toe-curling Scotsploitation or drugsploitation anthologies that prevailed in the nineties, for which I have to assume at least some culpability. Sorry about that." He's right, but there's no need to apologise.

Drugs, violence, football scumbags (hooligans), music, rough sex, ruined & hopeless young (European white trash) and not so young adults and even more drugs, that's the world recreated in this stories. After many years, I was again impressed by the dynamism of Welsh's writing. What he says is brutal, insane and cruel, yet there's no time for depression here: something is always going on, his narrative grabs you... and well.. kicks your lazy ass. His prose is vital, amazingly vital.

Therefore, his characters are very much alive, viscerally alive. They are driven by rampage, addictions, frustration, lack of direction or just rage. Sometimes Welsh goes to the very extreme, like on "A Fault on the Line", presenting us a sociopath who has to confront a brutal situation affecting his wife. The author crosses the line, arriving to the (amusing) caricature, but he's still capable of convincingly dissecting the despicable mind of that human being. On "The Rosewell Incident", he "crosses" another line, entering sci-fi territory, probably being the less significant piece of the lot (despite being quite hilarious).

Because let's face it, Welsh has an ability to expose violence and inacceptable behaviours in ways that will make you laugh. In "Elspeth's Boyfriend", one of the best tales of this collection, he does so recovering the "Trainspotting" character of Begbie on a family dinner for Christmas. The common, easily recognisable scenario, turns to a "Cold War" battlefied where the reader is expecting the beginning of the war. And when it arrives, it is hilarious, but also revealling. Like in "Victor Spoils" where the combination of drugs, alcohol and a peculiar sense of friendship will matter more than the love for the same woman.

But there's more than Welsh-by-numbers here. On "The State of the Party", under the background of Primal Scream, house & britpop scene, tones of acids, wild parties, unsubstantial sex and surreal and dangerous situations there's a character trying to deal with the death of a mate, probably realising, for the first time, there has to be something more. From crazy fun to a moving comedown that insinuates the "end of the party". And there's the aforementioned exception, the last and only new story, "I am Miami". Welsh confronts his trademark's world (Terry Lawson character included) with the abysmal feelings of guilt, self-repression, religious fanatism and desperation of Albert Black, a retired schoolteacher destroyed by the death of his wife. The mix could have been a disaster, but Welsh turns it into a fierce, strangely charming and life-affirming tale. The stand-out of "Reheated Cabbage".

Overall a fun, highly absorbing, vital and very recommendable collection.

SCORE: 7/10

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back with the best music!

All good things come to an end. My holidays are over, and despite going back to work, the neverending heatwave in Spain, our corrupted politicians and the despicable Republicans on the American campaign, and the unacceptable Pussy Riot imprisonment in Russia (what a dictatorial regime) are enough to depress everyone, but at least not today. We still have many songs on the agenda to enjoy.

My beloved Beth Orton is showing us bits of her new album, "Sugaring Season", out in October 2nd. Hear her below, playing three tunes "Dawn Chorus", "Candles", and "Poison Tree" plus personal favourite "Sweetest Decline" on acoustic, stripped down versions. Magic.

I'm pretty sure you want more, so here's "Magpie", gorgeous first song of the album (you can download it too). Can't wait for the record!
Beth Orton - Magpie

I already told you to keep an eye on the Swedish band Alpaca Sports. Here are two superb recent tunes to prove it, "She'll Come Back for Indian Summer" and the irresistible "I Was Running", new single to be released at the end of August. Fantastic indie-pop, among the best of the year so far!
Alpaca Sports - She'll come back for Indian summer by Alpaca Sports
I was running by Alpaca Sports

And another blog discovery to end the post. Post-punk/shoegaze band Fountains latest single is "Easily Led" and is spectacular. Do this guys now they have penned an instant classic? Please have a listen! Review coming shortly!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My People's List: Best Albums 1996-2011

Pitchfork is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a participative proposal: a top albums' list, from 1996 to 2011, but made by us. It has been a really really hard & challenging (therefore interesting) thing to do, so here's Bloodbuzzed's contribution. See you all next week (off for holidays until Sunday!!).

High Violet
The National

  • 2
    The National

  • 3
    If You're Feeling Sinister
    Belle And Sebastian

4. Trailer Park- Beth Orton
5. The Bright Carvings- Monkey Swallows the Universe
6. The Back Room- Editors
7. Alligator- The National
8. Let England Shake- PJ Harvey
9. You Are Free- Cat Power
10. OK Computer- Radiohead
    11. This Has Been the Death Of Us- Saint Judes Infirmary 
    12. Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea- PJ Harvey
    13. The Last Broadcast- Doves
    14. Central Reservation- Beth Orton
    15. Antics- Interpol
    16. Teen Dream- Beach House
    17. All That You Can't Leave Behind- U2
    18. Reservoir- Fanfarlo
    19. While You Were Sleeping- Angelou
    20. In Colour- The Concretes
    21. What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood- The Mynabirds
    22. Turn On the Bright Lights- Interpol
    23. Underachievers Please Try Harder- Camera Obscura
    24. Hopeless Unbeliever- The School
    25. It's Never Been Like That- Phoenix
    26. The Suburbs- Arcade Fire
    27. Happy Healthy Lucky Month- Saint Judes Infirmary
    28. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
    29. A Rush of Blood to the Head- Coldplay
    30. Lost Souls- Doves
    31. An End Has a Start- Editors
    32. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- Phoenix
    33. This Is Hardcore - Pulp
    34. The Seldom Seen Kid- Elbow
    35. Transatlanticism- Death Cab for Cutie
    36. Deserter's Songs- Mercury Rev
    37. No Shouts, No Calls- Electrelane
    38. Suck It and See- Arctic Monkeys
    39. Show Your Bones- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    40. Coming Up- Suede
    41. Days- Real Estate
    42. Collapse Into Now- R.E.M.
    43. Heart of My Own- Basia Bulat
    44. Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi- Camera Obscura
    45. 1972- Josh Rouse
    46. To Be Still- Alela Diane
    47. Grab That Gun- The Organ
    48. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not- Arctic Monkeys
    49. Befriended- The Innocence Mission
    50. Submarine OST- Alex Turner
    51. Funeral- Arcade Fire
    52. Nashville- Josh Rouse
    53. Motherland- Natalie Merchant
    54. Cast of Thousands- Elbow
    55. Up- R.E.M.
    56. Seven Swans- Sufjan Stevens
    57. Lisbon- The Walkmen
    58. Holiday in Rhode Island- The Softies
    59. Veronica Falls- Veronica Falls
    60. Volume Two- She & Him
    61. Reveal- R.E.M.
    62. Daybreaker- Beth Orton
    63. Songs About You- Language of Flowers
    64. Loss- Mull Historical Society
    65. The King Is Dead- The Decemberists
    66. Scottish Fiction: The Best of Idlewild, 1997-2007- Idlewild
    67. Blue Is the Colour- The Beautiful South
    68. Dear Catastrophe Waitress- Belle and Sebastian
    69. A Year With The Very Most- The Very Most
    70. Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
    71. Say Yes!- The Hi-Life Companion
    72. Different Stars- Trespassers William
    73. Some Cities- Doves
    74. It's Blitz!- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    75. Bang Goes the Knighthood- The Divine Comedy
    76. Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times A Day?- Hello Saferide
    77. Dirty Birds- Kat Flint
    78. Broken Record Prayers- Comet Gain
    79. The Casket Letters- Monkey Swallows the Universe
    80. In and Out of Control- The Raveonettes
    81. Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Vol. I- Eels
    82. Gulag Orkestar- Beirut
    83. I Will Be- Dum Dum Girls
    84. Wild Flag- Wild Flag
    85. A Temporary Dive- Ane Brun
    86. Saltbreakers- Laura Veirs
    87. Volume One- She & Him
    88. Our Earthly Pleasures- Maximo Park
    89. Night On My Side- Gemma Hayes
    90. Pretty in Black- The Raveonettes
    91. Ongiara- Great Lake Swimmers
    92. Neptune- The Duke Spirit
    93. Challengers- The New Pornographers
    94. The Crane Wife- The Decemberists
    95. Oh, My Darling- Basia Bulat
    96. The Fool- Warpaint
    97. I Am Kloot- I Am Kloot
    98. Absent Friends- The Divine Comedy
    99. OH (ohio)- Lambchop
    100. Criminal Art Lovers- Northern Portrait

    Check the full list, with all the Pitchfork's visuals/format at
And have your say!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Everyone Loves You When You're Dead", inside celebrities' mind

Everyone Loves You When You're Dead:  Journeys into Fame and Madness- Neil Strauss

Can you imagine? Having the chance of interviewing every major star of the music industry, among many other celebrities. Writing articles/critics/reviews on music and being read by milions and respected by thousands. I would love to have Neil Strauss' job. I would kill for it. That was my thought... until I read this book.

"Everyone Loves You..." is a collection of snippets from Strauss' most significant interviews (up to 228), to an impressive amount of music superstars from all times, other icons of popular culture and some other people, in one way or another related with them. This book might be then, although heavily deconstructed (again, this are just parts of interviews) one of the most amazing works of modern journalism. It is.

But even despite the numbers of surreal conversations, unbeliavable situations, unexpected adventures or grotesque, absurd moments Strauss' witnessees or takes part on it justifies the reading,  as it is amusing and immensely entertaining book, that wouldn't do complete justice to "Everyone Loves You...". This work offers a lot more.

Strauss' work is even more significant as an outstanding, gigantic task, on deconstructing the minds of celebrities. In his interviews, the author is not behaving just as a journalist, but more like a psychologist. And what he shows is basically, that fame and happiness are not synonymous. At all. As a matter of fact, the majority of celebrities on the book are suffering the consequences of their fame. Some (many) are "spoiled brats", pretentious and, quite frankly, unbearable. A few are directly stupid (look among the younger stars, wannabe celebrities or gangstas). Some built themselves an "Ivory Tower" from where nobody can disturb them (sometimes seems to work). But many are heavily traumatised people, with huge inner conflicts derived from a difficult past, familiar troubles, drugs, alcohol, etc. In a vast amount of these situations, fame didn't help a bit to deal with their issues. With the few exceptions of musicians that were capable to deal with their demons and now are looking fine, I would say the regular trend is the contrary: troubled person + fame= utter chaos. Among this "madness parade", the few "sane" celebrities interviewed on the book, happy people at control of their life, are wonderful and interesting counterpoints. Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Springsteen, Bono, Sacha Baron Cohen or Jay Leno were among this "category".

Several interviews were just amazing (hilarious, compelling, moving, deep, shocking...). The level of intimacy that Strauss' achieves with his counterpart, or just the genuine interest of the conversation will blow your mind. The ones with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum (desperate loneliness of the two), Marilyn Manson, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, John Hartford, the aforementioned Baron Cohen, Slipknot, Curtis Mayfield, Herny Grimes. I could go on and on... If I had to make a little complaint, is that there were too many hip-hop/artists (the gangstas) and a couple of weird coverages, the one about the wax figures in particular, that could have been dropped from the compilation, so the reading would have been even more vivid with less pages. But I do understand why are they included and that this is just my opinion.

In the other hand, there's the end of the book. I'm still mesmerized by the story of Paul Nelson (looking for his biography right away). That and the epilogue summarizes the brilliance of this book. Must-read, for music lovers, celebrity lovers, celebrities and wannabes. For anyone.

SCORE: 8,75/10

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Indie Anthology 18: essential songs

Next chapter of the Anthology, with a fantastic band from Scotland, one of the most "prestigious" world indie "factories" (I know, still have pending the blog's tribute to the country), who, among their line-up, included a very special singer for me. Hope you like it!

Song: Coming In From the Cold
Artist: The Delgados
Year: 2002

It took me a while, honestly. At the beginning of 2000 I was introducing myself into Belle & Sebastian, so the Motherwell band was quickly overlooked (never got into "The Great Eastern"). But a couple of years after, "Coming In From the Cold" appeared. Yeah, let's admit that's when I really discovered Emma Pollock's voice, in my opinion an unbelievably underrated singer. Her, and of course the spectacular hook of the tune, anthem-calibre, breathtaking indiepop. Some more great songs followed (although their albums as a whole have never reached yet) always with Emma taking leading vocals or in her solo career. What a superb, affecting singer, at least for me, she is.   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"I Was Bono's Doppelgänger", music, pain and U2

I Was Bono's Doppelgänger- Neil McCormick
After the amusing and very original "Killing Bono" it was a matter of time I would put my hands over the book on which the film is based, "I Was Bono's Doppelgänger". And as the topic says: the book is more satisfying than the film. Or better said, is even more rewarding.

The thing that has surprised me is the amount of differences with the screen adaptation and the book. Director Nick Hamm took some less relevant/secondary or anecdotal facts and built several scenes on their own, allowing the film to flow as a surreal comedy with a few dark twists and a crazy plot, in which U2 are the recurring element of frustration, as their worlds are more and more extreme: U2 achieving stardom, while his school pal only a series of let-downs in their attempt to music success.

But the book is very different. Essentially, this is Neil McCormick's biography, covering an incredibly intense period of his life, in which he will struggle, again and again, to achieve his desire/obsession of being a rock star. Its a personal ride towards Dublin and London, in a cruel clash trying to make it in the music industry, in which the writer cannot help but add an increasingly excruciating note of comparison with his friend Paul Hewson, commonly known around the world as Bono, leader of U2.

I loved McCormick's writing skills. He's clear, direct, funny and extraordinarily frank in his narration, even when that honesty doesn't show the best portrait of himself. He makes the reader feels very close to his frustrations and stubborn behaviour, even despite his, sometimes pretty huge, ego. The failures of his bands, in particular Shook Up! are revealed with rage and pain in this pages, and offers a quite depressing look of the music business. From someone who has made his living on this industry nevertheless, not as musician, but as well-known pop-rock journalist and writer, its refreshing to read such open comments.

But don't get me wrong, this is not a rant against music industry. McCormick balances his tone with hilarious situations and anecdotes, and a witty, self-deprecating humour, so when the climax almost approaches and he lets his envy on U2's worldwide success explode in front of his friend Bono, it is clear this is written from the perspective of a mature person, who has grown and learnt from that experience.

"I Was Bono's Doppelgänger" also offers a much more insightful look to U2's evolution, that will please fans of the Irish band (as myself), as the band has a more active role in the book. In particular Bono becomes a very important character. The connection with the author is very intense, providing the reader with several amusing (some late parties too!) and intimate moments of friendship between the two, as well as pretty interesting conversations on music, religion and fame, revealing the good spirit of the Irish singer and political activist.

I assume I was particularly engaged with the book for personal reasons. As a person who dreams having McCormick's job, but has always been incapable of playing any instrument due to a sort of reverential fear to kill the magic of music, but also as someone with a brother pretty gifted that is striving against the difficulties of having a music career on his own but refusing to give up, I felt close to the story. I guess that by now you'll imagine I would highly recommend this reading. Without a doubt.

SCORE: 7,5/10

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Discoverer 37: new indie findings

New bands for your enjoyment this Sunday!

Wild Nothing. Being a hype has a very negative, even unfair effect, sometimes. "Gemini" the spectacularly praised 2010 debut album of the young Jack Tatum, the man behind Wild Nothing passed almost unnoticed for me. Just another record among the excessive amount of lo-fi releases. But two years after, the American "one man pop band" (not anymore live) returns with "Nocturne", and this time I have paid attention. And the reward has arrived. Subtle and rich indiepop, gorgeously crafted (hear the harmonies and the haunting guitars please), dreamy, more diverse and enduring.
  Wild Nothing "Shadow" (NEW SONG) by capturedtracks Wild Nothing - Nocturne

The Garlands. The wonderful facebook page Indie Pop Saved My Life is an unmissable reference for any indiepop lover. Thanks to their neverending good taste I have discovered this Swedish band made up in 2007 by Christin Wolderth and Roger Roger Gunnarsson (Free Loan Investments, Happy Birthdays, Nixon, Cloetta Paris). A different line-up live and several releases since 2008 followed, proving their shared passion for bands like Heavenly, Go Sailor! and Talulah Gosh, can bring us joyous moments of vibrant indiepop, like their latest "Open Arms", out (and free) on Shelflife Records, anticipating their forthcoming album.
All We Are. Our third proposal comes from Liverpool, with a trio of musicians who formed this unusual band just a year ago, with a self-released debut EP, and a follow-up, "We Hunt EP" since April 2012, out on Payper Tiger Records. I said unusual group because of their strangely hypnotic sounds, a kaleidoscope of styles, from folk to psychodelia, from minimalistic pop in the vein of XX to the dark, electric dreampop of Warpaint, or the cinematic landscapes of Sigur Ros propelled by the combined vocal harmonies of the three. Fascinating music.
All We Are - We Hunt by All We Are

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Love Anniversary Playlist

Today is a very special day, me and my girlfriend are celebrating our second anniversary together. So I hope you allow us this playlist, largely discussed and analysed, that is a compendium of the 24 songs/bands (one for each month being together) that have been/are important in our relationship. Needless to say, it is a extremely personal playlist, listed in some sort of chronological order regarding our relation, with a few of my favourites, few of hers, and many others that can't only be understood for us. But anyway, is the nicest excuse to put some music on!!

1. Editors - Munich

2. The Strokes - Someday
3. Kaiser Chiefs - Never Miss a Beat
4. Franz Ferdinand - Michael
5. Nirvana - The Man Who Sold the World
6. R. E. M. - You Are The Everything
7. The Divine Comedy - I Like 
If we had to choose just one band/artist as "Our" soundtrack, it would be him, so Neil, be "warned" that at the November gig in Barcelona you'll have two ardent fans on the front rows 
8. Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own 
First gig together
The Love Anniversary by Raul on Grooveshark9.  Eels - Hey Man (Now You're Really Living) 
10. The Decemberists - Don't Carry It All
11. Beirut - Nantes
12. Arctic Monkeys - She's Thunderstorms
13. Arcade Fire - We Used to Wait
14. Russian Red - The Sun The Trees
15. The Bright - Your Private Garden 
Most followed band together, so far
16. Kings of Leon - Talihina Sky
17. Miles Kane - Come Closer
18. The Vaccines - If You Wanna
19. Dum Dum Girls - Bedroom Eyes
20. Manos de Topo - Animal de Compañía 
Like them, we have a particular sense of humour
21. Ramones - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
22. Wild Flag - Romance 
23. The Walkmen - Song for Leigh
24. Cat Power - Sea of Love 
Perfect end of the playlist, don't you think?

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Tramp", the triumph of Sharon Van Etten


I relentlessly encouraged people to check out the music of Sharon Van Etten, even more after watching her live. Following the recommendation, I really wanted to review "Tramp", because is one of these rare albums that endures, sticks with you in a very special way. It gets inside, on a very intimate level. It is hard to define in words, but almost all of this tracks are the vehicle of expression of an artist reaching the audience with her talent, tunes and a brutal honesty, perhaps also exorcising her demons in the process too (you can search for her personal story around). As an obsessed music lover, few records are capable of reaching through your ears, your stomach, you mind and your soul. "Tramp" does.

It all begins when the drums arrive on "Warsaw", inoculating an unexpected vigour to the tune, wrapping Sharon's gorgeous voice, announcing "I want to show you". Indeed she will. Immediately, as a matter of fact, as "Give Out" quickly shows this is going to be an intense  ride. By the time the disarming couplet "You're the reason why I'll move to the city/you're why I'll need to leave" arrives for the second time, anyone listening to "Tramp" should experiment goosebumps (if you are human, that is). I assure you it won't be the last time.

Because then comes "Serpents", all tension, urgency, fire. Unresolved anger and a mesmerizing work where lyrics and sounds (I clearly hear the echoes of The National here, Aaron Dessner has been a major factor producing the record) bite at the same time. With such a powerful opener trio, its understandable the melancholic "Kevin's" might not as remarkable, although being a strung-out number where Sharon allows her voice to shine, works in a probably needed lighter affair within a heavily-charged record. Anyway, it serves well its purpose of anticipating "Leonard", the next and astonishing song. The combination of, I dare to say, a happy melody, with such a poignant lyric is breathtaking. How can someone put such tenderness and emotion into a song? The chorus is among the most beautiful things I have heard in my entire life.

"In Line", despite the compelling of its slow-burning crescendo with Sharon repeating those two words like a desperate mantra, might be the less memorable song of the lot. But like "Kevin's" before, it provides a shelter before the storm of "All I Can". Van Etten’s voice again rising while the music grows and grows, building an epic number (hear that brass section), in which the singer-songwriter delivers some of the most striking lines of her career. What an mind-blowing, compelling tune.

With the help of Beirut's Zach Condon "We Are Fine", follows on an apparently brighter way, at least musically speaking. It gives a refreshing sense of relief to the album, as well as shows another side of Van Etten's way of approaching the songs. "Magic Chords" also succeeds in providing "Tramp" some diversity in its style and tone. With its jazzy/waltsy vibe, it looks, smells and feels like a nocturnal affair full of emotional turmoil and possibility. Impossible no to fall in love with Sharon's voice right with this one.

"Ask" repeats the formula of "All I Can" with equally moving results, hitting the listener hard with the mixture of moving lyrics and bursting sounds. And its followed by "I'm Wrong", another epic number, that hides all its eloquence on a powerful and shocking droning sound. After the final track "Joke Or A Lie" concludes, sparse, breathy and unexpectedly (in my opinion) hopeful despite the final sentence "Believe me, I tried", you might as well try to dry your eyes, sigh and treasure "Tramp" among the most precious "properties" of your record collection. Here's a total triumph of an album, an incredibly powerful one, rich, disarming, fragile and intense as very few. The perfect demonstration of the immense talent and personality of Sharon Van Etten.

SCORE: 8,75/10