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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bloodbuzzed interviews The Very Most!

Today's post is a very special one. The (very) most special of this adventure named "Bloodbuzzed". When I started this blog, interviewing musicians was just a dream, a possibility that looked as exciting as impossible. I didn't know that a musician I admire, Jeremy Jensen from The Very Most (also Baffin Island) was going to approach this humble blogger and music lover and become what I'm proud to call a virtual (hope to solve that sooner or later) friend.

So, at the beginning of the year we planned this interview. When thinking on the questions to make him, I wanted to cover as many sides as possible: the musician of course, but also the citizen and the person. Little I knew his replies were going to be so interesting and open, and that he was going to do such an effort and answer my questions with this wonderful video.

You can listen to the gorgeous "When Summer Finally Dies", TVM's song Jeremy chose below. I hope you like the interview as much as I do! Thanks Jeremy, thanks The Very Most!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Discoverer 53: new indie findings

New band proposals in this freezing Sunday, enjoy!

Concrete Knives. Coming from Caen, France, this young quintet started making music together at high school. On April 2011 they released their first EP, "You Can't Blame the Youth", and thanks to the buzz created by their tunes and their praised live shows, they signed with Bella Union on 2012. Their debut album, "Be Your Own King", was out in October in France, and this month arrived its worldwide release. Incredibly catchy songs, danceable, full of upbeat rhythms, infallible pop hooks, vocal harmonies... Think on bands like Lacrosse, Fanfarlo, Shout Out Louds, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Talking Heads, Arcade Fire... Impressive sound shaker. Irresistible.

Dick Diver. Off to Melbourne, Australia, to meet this Fitzgerald's fourpiece. Started as the project of guitarists Alastair McKay and Rupert Edwards, it quickly turned into a collaborative full band. They debuted in 2009 with EP "Arks Up", very successful  in Australia. Album "New Start Again" came out in late 2011, with digital EP "Alice" following in 2012, announcing the arrival of "Calendar Days", second LP coming this March, propelled with single "Water Damage". Jangle pop that flirts with punk, rock or blissful pop, packed with a distinct, unique vibe... like I have been hearing them from a decade now. Amazing expectations. What a discovery!
The Babies. We end this week's proposals in Brooklyn, NYC, to meet a band originated in 2009 from the friendship of Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone and Woods' Kevin Morby. Although not conceived as a serious affair initially, with the addition of another friend, drummer Justin Sullivan plus Brian Schleyer, they evolved into a proper group with tours and releases: some singles in 2010 and their s/t debut on 2011. A rarities/demos collection followed shortly, and by the end of 2012 came "Our House On the Hill", their second album. Carefree, straightforward lo-fi indie-rock with joyous girl-boy vocals. Light-hearted and contagious music.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"On the Yard", every prison's blues

On the Yard- Malcolm Braly

Spanish literature lovers: we should all celebrate the existence of this refreshing and flourishing small editorials like Libros del Asteroide, Blackie Books, Libros del Silencio or Sajalín, to name a few, who are giving us the chance of discovering modern and classic authors that were neglected by the majors, who prefer to keep with their regular publishing of all kinds of rubbish instead.

This time Sajalín bring us a major American novel, praised by totems like Kurt Vonnegut as "surely the great American prison novel". Originally published in 1967 and recently back in print (with the inclusion of an epilogue by the mesmerizing author Jonathan Lethem), "On the Yard" is a unique take, surprisingly penetrating and deep on psychology, of the penitentiary world. A microcosm of their own.

Author Malcolm Braly knew what he was writing about. He spent more than twenty years in prison, and wrote the book while spending his days in San Quentin. That personal experience explains his ability to go further that usual in this quite familiar ground. Books and cinema of the life in jail abound, but very very few with that level of insight on the prison's dynamics and foremost, on the minds of the prisoners. Linked with that comes my only real concern on the book: the omniscient narrator has no limits to write how each prisoner or worker feels, but the voice that tells the stories is frequently much more cultivated, miles away, than his characters. To me, in such a realist piece of work, it seems a considerable flaw.

Anyway, let's continue with its many virtues. We are used to prison tales about heroes and villains, violence and redemption. "On the Yard" shift the focus to complex human beings who have/try to carry on with their ordinary lives inside the walls of the prison. Its a place of desperation, depression and survival. Braly's prose is masterful in recreating a vibe, an atmosphere, even a rhythm in what refers to the prisoner's dialogues. The reader could say there are moments where he/she feels part of it. Thanks that's not the case.

The whole picture of the prison is a very discouraging one. There's a lot of fear inside, and violence seems the only resource it can be used to confront it. The structure of the book intertwines the stories of a dozen of prisoners all around Chilly Willy, unarguably the self-proclaimed "boss", the head of the prison, responsible black market and corruption that seems to give him and his core virtual immunity. But we soon realise that's not the real centerpiece of "On the Yard". Braly uses ambivalence and distance, even some peculiar irony, a humour that is part of the exclusive logic of the prison to reduce the dose of desolation, despair and traumatised minds that conform the real truth of the small universe. It's raw, but there are occasional moments of tenderness. It's crude, but you can laugh. It has its own rules and logic. And Malcolm Braly is capable of showing everything all to us.

SCORE: 7/10

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Erasure" post-modern anger in the ghetto

Erasure: A Novel- Percival Everett
   
If you have read some of the book reviews of the blog, you should now by now I'm not much of a fan of post-modernist or vanguard tendencies that some critics/editorials try to sell as the "next best thing". No way. But I'm more than glad to find an exception. And in the case of this vitriolic  "Erasure", a great one!

Because Percival Everett's novel is quite a devastating read. Audacious and risky in its structure, allusive and bleak in his prose, sardonic and angry in what it wants to say. Merciless in the portray of hypocrisy in our society (particularly in the world of culture) but also able to include a moving look to a son trying to deal with the aging of her mother.

"Erasure" is a fierce kick in the b_ _ s to the sanctimonious, politically correct. Also to the "academia" of literature for its narrow definition of what's black literature and what blackness entails: an abuse of cliches, that are the argument among which the cultural establishment decides whether what book will be successful or not. It's all summarized in that sort of brutal coda that novel's protagonist, black writer Thelonious Ellison, Monk, systematically gets when his experimental (unreadable) novels are rejected: "It's not black enough".

Everett plays with prejudice shockingly, revealing our miseries. Monk's fathers were doctors, like his sister and brother. He was a brilliant Harvard student, he's not into hip-hop or rap or doesn't play basketball. And he writes about Euripides, so how can we consider him black enough? Our self-conscious writer will throw his frustrations and rage in a new novel. Vengeance is the word.

And we are invited to read that "novel inside the novel", an irate, presumably ironic in its aim to mock and reveal how pathetic are books like Juanita Mae Jenkins's best-seller, "We's Lives in Da Ghetto", unanimously celebrated for its "haunting verisimilitude" by critics. Under a pseudonym (and a further new impersonation of what a black ghetto writer should be), he offers a parody of a "ghetto novel", "Ma Pafology". In not even 100 pages Everett constructs a highly addictive tale of violence, crime, lack of hope and that sort of "ghetto fate", that works as a knock-out diatribe against the cliches on "black literature". But his idea will turn against him, on a ridiculous and threatening downward spiral.
 
"Erasure" also finds time to talk about family. Monk's isolation and frustration has, thanks to illness, disgrace and time, to be confronted with the "obligation" to help his mother. It's another kind of shock on the novel, adding complexity but foremost humanity and a touching side on Monk. That mixture makes the secondary layers of footnotes and imaginary dialogues between painters, philosophers, famous writers, etc... forgivable and even likable in their eccentricity. Same goes with the TV script or the unique imitation of an academics CV. As you can see, a lot to offer (better said to read).

A box of surprises, a fierce statement, a peculiar comedy that won't make you laugh but think instead. Percival Everett is a writer to discover (thanks to Blackie Books for that).

SCORE: 7,75/10

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spanish Indie 10: suggesting the best national acts

It's been ages since I wrote the last chapter of this section devoted to the alternative music made in Spain. Luckily, I have been receiving/checking several new bands that deserve to be discovered. Hope you enjoy them!

When Nalda Became Punk. Started in 2006 as the solo project of Galician (Vigo) Elena Sestelo, under the name of Nalda, but after a first demo came a long break, until summer of 2010. A second demo, “Time to meet your family”, followed by the arrival of Roberto Cibeira in 2011 certified that When Nalda Became Punk was a reality. A 7” single out on Pebble Records on August anticipated, thanks to the infallible Shelflife Records, their debut album out now, "A Farewell To Youth". Fresh but instantly classic C-86, jangle-pop...pure pop joy. Think of Heavenly, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Helen Love... Yes, that good, just follow Nalda!

Coffee&wine. Ana Franco, the modest artist behind that (why?) lower case nickname, hails from Madrid. Creator of Manderley, a company provider/promoter of cultural services, in 2004 started her own music career. After a first single in 2009, a proper debut arrived with the self-produced EP "From the Roofs", out in August 2010. Past October she presented her first album "From The Ground", wonderful collection of folk and americana tunes with a melodic, pop taste. Like a crossover of Gillian Welch with Aimee Mann, Ms. Franco is a refreshing voice on Spanish scene. Looking forward to her gig at Minifestival de Música Independent!

Stand Up Against Heart Crime. This was pending since December, when I discovered them at Primavera Club. The once struggling project of Josep Xorto and Arnau Obiols finally took form in 2010 when they came up with “A Hundred Lovers”, a song selected for an ad campaign. The buzz had started. After an EP came their homonym full-length debut, last year, receiving the unanimous critics praise. And deservedly so, because their synth-pop, post-punk, or as they self-define, kraut-wave is shining despite its glooming touches, swooning despite the threatening atmospheres, and addictive as only good music can be.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bloodbuzzed joins Indienauta!

Great news today! Bloodbuzzed has now the pleasure to announce I have started a collaboration with one of the best Spanish indie websites: Indienauta. I'll be writing (in Spanish) regularly on everything indie there too. You can already check my first article here, on the promising Minifestival de Música Independent de Barcelona. Very exciting times!

There's only one possible song to celebrate this announcement. We're out looking for Indienauts, looking for Indienauts....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Discoverer 52: new indie findings

Back with our regular dose of new proposals, enjoy!

Born Ruffians. We begin our discoveries with this Canadian band from Midland, Ontario, but based in Toronto since 2004, when after some local gigs they signed to the UK electronic label Warp Records. Their self-titled debut EP came in 2006, followed by the successful single "Hummingbird", in anticipation of the LP, Red, Yellow & Blue. The second album, "Say It", arrived in 2010. Now they have announced their comeback with "With Her Shadow" and "Needle" both included on the forthcoming album "Birthmarks" out in April. Quirky, joyful and smoothly anthemic indierock. Very special.

Pins. We move to Manchester, UK to meet an all-female quartet with  a very short story behind them, as they've only been a full band since summer 2012. A double A-side, "Eleventh Hour/Shoot You" and the live EP "LuvU4Lyf" are the only releases so far, but are more than enough to get us excited. Like the missing link between Warpaint (these tribal cymbals) and the Dum Dum Girls, this is hyper addictive indierock with one foot on the C-86 style and the other on Phil Spector and the "droning 70s". Irresistible combination of fuzz, echoes, reverbs and pop melodies. Band to watch.

Khushi. Our third proposal comes thanks to the good indiespot website, who at the beginning of the week discovered this mysterious artist/band. After tracing the few information available thanks to social networks, it seems that behind Khushi (which means happiness in Hindi) there's an unsigned guy from Hackney, London with four spectacular tunes on his soundcloud. As indiespot says, you can hear the echoes of Bon Iver, The National, Local Natives or The Antlers. Impressive references for this amazing little collection of slow burning songs, full of intensity, delicacy and fire that captures real emotion. Judge yourself and let's expect for more.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"2 Days in New York", funny or irritating?

2 Days in New York

I wouldn't say that "2 Days in Paris" was a masterpiece or an unforgettable movie, but it was enjoyable, and what matters in a comedy, it had quite a bunch of funny moments. Unfortunately, this sequel in NYC seems to have lost all the charms of its predecessor.   

A clear attempt to follow Woody Allen's path, "2 Days in New York" aims to be a lightweight comedy about a smart, intellectual couple (he's a hip talk-radio host and journalist and she's a photographer/conceptual artist) that receives the visit of her French family, provoking all sort the disasters and impossible situations. Like "2 Days in Paris" the majority of gags are based on the possibilities of French-American culture clashes, plus a few neurotic behaviours (Chris Rock's obsession with Obama might be the funniest of the film). But with frustrating results.

Director and leading actress Julie Delpy (dying to see her again on Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight"), really fuels the film with a beating, energetic pace. Dialogues and chaos (the NYC apartment really looks like an invaded and devastated place once the French arrives) are two basic elements that provide some kind of realism to the whole movie premise. But while Chris Rock, his boyfriend on the film, opts for a more stark, straight performance that gives a much needed balance in front of the crazy visitors, Delpy decides to drawn her character amidst the disaster. In my opinion, with that decision she completely ruins the story tension and as a consequence, the film has no drive

It's quite sad, but without room for contrast (as I said, the only exception being Chris Rock) most of the gags, the farcical humour is doomed. To the point of being unnerving for the audience. Most of the "French family" is just insufferable, exhausting. But is Delpy's character who takes the cake. To me, she was annoying, irritating (and I can't buy the film's ending, that justifies her behaviour) and the major factor there's little fun on "2 Days in New York". The dynamic path, the chemistry between Delpy and Rock as a couple and a pair of gags make the movie watchable, but that's not enough. 

SCORE: 4,5/10

Friday, February 15, 2013

You Are the Everything

OMG! What and incredible music moment. One of my all-time favourite songs, unexpectedly performed by The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and on the mandolin... the man itself, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. What a performance! I just had to share the video with you. Goosebumps, on emotional mode since I watched it....


You Are the Everything

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Video Playlist!

Romantic hearts, here's a quick (just a few) indie video playlist for you, "curated" by girlfriend & me (of course). The ones we agree on...

I’d Rather Dance with You - Kings of Convenience

 
R.E.M.- You Are the Everything

First Day of my Life - Bright Eyes
 

You Are My Joy- The Reindeer Section

Anyone Else but You - The Moldy Peaches

Tonight We Fly - The Divine Comedy

 
Sea of Love- Cat Power

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"The Runaways", girls who play electric guitars

The Runaways

Hush, hurry, do it quick, make it bigger, be the coolest... and leave a beautiful corpse. That could be the slogan of many bands over the course of rock'n'roll's history, and would be an appropriate subtitle for "The Runaways", a movie telling the story of the 70s all-girl rock band of the same name. 

The tale could have been disastrous, as the threat of being ruined by cliches is ever-present. Screenwriter and director Floria Sigismondi "paints" her movie in brush strokes, making the real story of The Runaways a burst, high on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll out of control moments. But the film resists its ups and downs thanks to a constant vibe and energy, and the excellent performances from their main cast.
 
"The Runaways" is based on the book "Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway", wrote by the band's lead singer Cherie Currie, fantastically played by a surprising Dakota Fanning, who gives her extremely difficult role, sexually charged, fragile and confused rockstar' Lolita, a stunning strength. Same praise has to go also for Kristen Stewart as guitarist and future rock icon Joan Jett, more constrained, but also posed by a inner fire that drives her throughout the whole film. Their solid work is the main foundation of the film, fuelled by a third actor, Michael Shannon as the eccentric, overbearing and abusive manager/band creator Kim Fowley. He offers the contrast and one of the most suggestive ideas/contradictions on the film: rock'n'roll as a manufactured product, revolt or sexually open lyrics that are designed to "sell" (the magazine issue), aggressive attitudes and looks on a female band that are tailored to detail. Does it sound familiar to you?

Unfortunately, the brush strokes among which "The Runaways" is built leaves the spectator with too many questions unanswered. In my opinion Sigismondi is more focused on giving her two young female stars a vehicle to shine. They do, and their relationship is quite absorbing and complex (I wish the end of the film had had a bit more substance, though). But we miss the evolution/contradictions of the band. The music part is consciously left (the rest of the band is barely testimonial, there's zero talk on influences or music direction except references to Bowie and the glam era on which the band was created). Jett's moving on and starting her own solo career is also skipped. Things get out of control, there's a final burst, and then it's over. That's enough to make you watch with interest, but also leaves you wondering what it could have been with a bit more of ambition and will to talk about music.

SCORE: 6,25/10

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Discoverer 51: new indie findings

Sunday again, time for new music discoveries, enjoy!

Savages. Checking the Primavera Sound 2013 line-up I discovered this all-female band from London. Despite formed in October 2011 and just active live since January 2012 they are already quite a hype, with NME saluting them as the "next big thing", so question marks quickly raised. But after checking their June 2012 first release, the double A-side "Flying To Berlin" and "Husbands", doubts vanished. Post-punk that breathes and beats, menacing, angular, challenging, anthemic, fire powered by singer Jehnny Beth (Ian Curtis meeting Siouxsie Sioux). A live EP, "I Am Here", followed past autumn, adding more munition for a band that sounds fated for very big things. What a wild ride is expecting us!  

The Rosie Taylor Project. Change of style, on a discovery made after checking the line-up of the Madrid PopFest.  Coming from Leeds but now based in London, the sextet origins' date back from 2007, when, after signing with Bad Sneakers Records (label now defuncted) they released a first single, followed by their debut min-album, "This City Draws Maps" a year later. Many shows followed until their sophomore release "Twin Beds" on Oddbox Recordings appeared in February 2012. Sophisticated and mature chamber pop with different sides and high caliber gems, a band not to miss.

Weird. And with our third proposal we return to more obscure sounds. A trio born in Rome in the second half of 2011, they spent 2012 in the studio, which resulted in the band’s first album “Desert Love For Lonely Graves” out since January 15 (that you can download for free here). Seven gloomy tracks, between dreampop and experimental rock, singular, moody and strangely fascinating. Music with a cinematic quality, that evokes impossible landscapes and unravels buried emotions on each song. Slow-burning tunes that sounds ridiculously cohesive for such a young band. Hear & have on eye on them.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"The Master", under the auteur cult

The Master

Another example, perhaps one of the finest to add to my recurrent debate on the purpose of cinema and the concept of auteur. Paul Thomas Anderson has, in my opinion, three extraordinary films in his, to date, great career: "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia" and "Punch-Drunk Love". An ok debut with "Hard Eight", and then two movies where everything has become too "intellectual": "There Will Be Blood" and now, "The Master". I think I will call it the "Malick's syndrome", or the "Dude, where's my movie syndrome?". 

Perfectionism and ambition should be considered virtues on a filmmaker. Also being a polariser of audiences isn't bad per se (probably producers won't agree), as it usually means the director takes risks and wants to leave the mainstream pattern. Anderson, like Malick, have been following their own path since they decided to put themselves behind a camera. But rejecting commercial success doesn't automatically mean making great movies.

Anderson's way of filming is pure perfection. It's pointless to waste time trying to find something to criticiseize in what regards to technical aspects, so critics, you can sharp your pens here and look for the most bombastic praise: it will be more than deserved. On the other hand, I don't agree with the annoying score of Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, who repeats all the tricks we heard on "There Will Be Blood".

As a matter of fact, "There Will Be Blood" and "The Master" seems to be connected. Both are epic, reflective depictions of human behaviour in heavy turmoil. Both are spectacular, uncomfortable and absorbing study-characters. And both have deep resonances with the country in which they both take place: the United States. But for me the difference lies on what Anderson cares about their stories. While on "There Will Be Blood", the "superficial" story, the oil prospection, was the solid pillar among the film evolved, on "The Master" there's not much for the audience to keep them focused on.
 
Indeed, the main attraction on "The Master" comes from the mind-blowing performances of two gigantic actors, Joaquim Phoenix as the tortured Freddie Quell and the infallible Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a peculiar cult named The Cause in post-WWII America, plus the more subtle but equally powerful work of Amy Adams as Hoffman's wife. Their relationships and attitudes are what keeps the viewer connected with the film. But unfortunately that means "The Master" works better as a collection of distorted scenes that will blow your mind, not really as cohesive unit. Each time Hoffman and Phoenix share screen the film ignites, but the narrative structure doesn't allow that intensity to last. Anderson trio of characters should be included among the most-complex, fascinating and absorbing that have been ever written in cinema. But even the best characters need a story in which they evolve.

My concern is that I'm sure Anderson made his film less straightforward, more oblique, on purpose, convinced that credits him as a better auteur. The superficial story of the cult, on which the clash and connection of the two leading roles arise, had an incredible potential in its own. Fanaticism, religion, loyalty and belief, with the Scientology clearly on the background... But Anderson doesn't care about telling us a story, abandoning the cult subject and letting his film sinking into a regrettable chaos. Yes, at times its a highly and perversely attractive chaos, thanks to his filmmaking talents and propelled by the amazing actors. But the lack of cohesion and direction results into a frustrating and forgettable film as a whole, once finished.  

Powerful, masterfully filmed, with a superb trio of actors ready to knock you out with their performances... but at the same time little direction, resulting on, for me, a failed film.

SCORE: 5,75/10

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Morrissey & Marr", The Smiths' obsessions & miseries

Morrissey & Marr: the Severed Alliance- Johnny Rogan

It's my fault. I read almost everything that is related with music. I have all sort of lists of "best books about music", and when I see over one of them, I always end grabbing the book. "The Severed Alliance" was labelled as one of the most insightful and powerful music books ever written. Add the (as usual) vitriolic comments from Morrissey towards Johnny Rogan, and my perennial love/hate story with The Smiths, and the conclusion was obvious: it was about time I was going to get my hands over the book.

Someone should had warned me. First, because this book ends in 1992. More than 20 years have passed now since Rogan's work was published, so it now looks like a very concrete but also very incomplete account of the lives of Morrissey and Johnny Marr. Yes, The Smiths period is related with careful, extreme detail. But the fundamental pillars of the band were this two pop icons, who have had, better said are having, long careers after the seminal band called a day. Simply said, this book need and updated version (I believe there's one?). And second, and even more important, because "The Severed Alliance" is a book for obsessive Smiths fans, done by someone who is, no doubt about it, obsessed with The Smiths. Unfortunately, that's not my case, particularly not about Morrissey, a rockstar whom I have very mixed feelings, as an artist and person.

There's no better example than the first half of the book to prove my point. The Spanish version of this book has more than 330 pages. But the first 150 are wasted on the most detailed account on the childhood, teenage years and adulthood of Morrissey, with a little bit of Marr too. The research done by Rogan is impressive, but what's the point of it? Do we need to know what the yet-to-be singer and composer dreamt, thought or wore when he was 16? It is necessary to resume the history of Ireland's independence and political turmoils in such detail just to have a historical background? The answer is no. And I hate to say this, but what I will recommend you is to mostly skip this first part. It can only bore you (almost to death). If not, congratulations, you are the quintessential Morrissey's fan.

It all turns much better once The Smiths story arise. Then all the detail, opinions gathered and author's point of view converge, providing a seriously complete picture of the beginnings, evolution, triumphs, miseries and death of the band. There's also space and time to analyse every song, and Morrissey's lyrics. A clinical dissection of the band. As much as I criticised the previous part, the rest of the book make me eager to go back checking the band's albums, which in my opinion is one of the best compliments you can say of a book on a music group. And all this praise comes from someone who has never been a fan of The Smiths, and has never been affected for their myth.

And yes, as I expected, Morrissey is scary. A really scary character.  

SCORE: 5,75/10

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive", dirty surrealism

I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive- Steve Earle

I know nothing about Steve Earle and his music, but the comments/reviews on his first novel (seems it has a collection of short stories out there too) made me very curious about it. This time opinions were mostly right. It's quite a special book. There's isolation, desperate medicine, drugs, miracles and ghosts. Well, not any ghost. The ghost of country legend Hank Williams.

This book is about haunting and being haunted. Earle has a remarkable ability combining a more traditional narrative with the "ghost" passages, making his work a fascinating piece of "dirty surrealism". If you think about it, there are so many different narrative elements that the mixture could have resulted very indigestible. We have a crude depiction of South Presa, a black hole in San Antonio, where Doc Ebersole, our protagonist, practises medicine illegally in order to finance his drug addiction. We have Graciela, an abandoned girl who does miracles and changes people's life. We have demented priests. We have John F. Kennedy and his wife. And his assassination. And of course, the ghost of Hank Williams pursuing Doc...

But somehow Earle is capable of assembling all the pieces and creating a unique tale of redemption, violence, miracles and... ghosts. I have read reviews that mention the obvious connections with Williams mysterious death and his drug addiction, plus the mere fact the book title is borrowed from the country singer posthumous release. Others go even further, defining "I'll Never Get..." as an explanation for the appeal of country music, where lyrics are "capable of absorbing any amount of misery before pouring it all back". But whether Ebersole is a fictionalised character based on the real doctor who gave the musician his fatal dose in 1952 would make this read even more absorbing for the fan of this music genre. But (luckily) you don't need that knowledge/appreciation to enjoy the book.

Like a Gothic tale, obscure and hallucinatory, the balance between grotesque, metaphysical, sardonic and realism has to be praised. And despite I would have loved the book to really explode when it has the chance, becoming cathartic or really ground-shaking, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" is a peculiar, and highly recommendable work. Like a ballad, not a bland and annoying one, but a powerful, oblique and darkly suggestive tune on regret and redemption.

SCORE: 6,75/10

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Little Treasure: The Very Most

Look what I finally received yesterday at my mailbox! The Very Most latest EP, "Ununiversalizable Us" courtesy of Little Treasure Records. Beautiful, isn't it?



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Discoverer 50: new indie findings

It's Sunday, time for new band proposals, enjoy!

Torres. Music has to express feelings, provoke emotions. Has to beat life. Sometimes, not many, an artist is capable of capturing intimate feelings, and make them universal, speaking to everyone. Like Mackenzie Scott's, a 22-year-old woman from Nashville, that under the nickname of Torres now debuts with a same-titled album. Recorded with very little resources, the album is a stark collection of Scott's incredible talents. 10 mind-blowing songs, musically between indie rock and minimalistic folk, propelled by her powerful and mutable voice, often subtle, others desperate, always unique. Add striking lyrics, like Flannery O'Connor colliding with Raymond Carver and resolve the equation. Haunting, extraordinary

Pia Fraus. More Estonians, yes! Formed in Tallinn in 1998 by six art-school students that self-released their debut album in 2001. Some changes on the line-up, three more records, EPs, singles & remixes, works with Norman Blake and many gigs complete their story... until this January Shelflife Records has released "Silmi Island", a compilation of their best tracks from 1998-2008, allowing new fans like me approaching their sound. A delicate, vibrant mix of shoegaze and dreampop that creates a unique atmosphere, an environment of their own, where vocal harmonies, reverb, layers and organs fit together gracefully. Can we hope for more?

Bored Spies. And our last proposal is a pretty risky one. They come from a very peculiar trio formed last year. Coming from Singapore, Seoul and Arizona. With only two songs available from their debut single "Summer 720", backed with B-side "‘沙鼠E'", and a promising double announcement: they are on the pre-production stage of its first full-length album, due later this year, and they will be in Barcelona at Primavera Sound Festival 2013 this May. I know that with just two songs including them as a band to follow might be premature. But judge by both tunes quality, sophisticated indiepop with traces of experimental rock wrapping the disarming voice of Cherie ko, and tell me it doesn't look exciting... 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"The Other Dream Team", basketball and freedom

The Other Dream Team

Indie music, movies, literature... but there's a fourth passion of mine that I have never written about on this blog: basketball. I'm a devoted fan of this sport since I was a little kid. NBA (way less now), European and national basketball. I can almost watch and enjoy any kind of basketball game. And aside from Barça, my other favourite team will always be the Lithuanian National team. If I name my all-time three favourite players, Arturas Karnisovas, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Arvydas Sabonis, I think what I want to say is quite obvious. "The Other Dream Team" had all the ingredients to be a very special film for me.

What I had no idea was that this documentary was going to be so rewarding and absorbing. "The Other Dream Team" is a surprisingly powerful look into what means basketball for Lithuania, what role this sport had in the country's fight for its Independence from the USSR, and how its (arguably?) best basketball generation lived and struggled under the previous regime to then became symbols and most recognisable faces of the new, free Lithuania.

Director Marius A. Markevicius took the conventional approach with little, if not zero, flashy or original structure, just archive footage combined with the opinions of the people interviewed. But please don't understand this as a criticism. Markevicius knows he has an incredible, true story to show here, and who's better to tell it than the people who were part of it? That's what matters, after all.

And what story this is. For basketball fans like me, to listen & see myths like Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Valdemaras Homicius and Rimas Kurtinaitis, is just precious (also add Vladas Garastas, Bill Walton, Chris Mullin, and Arturas Karnisovas, yes!!!, among others). But their opinions are not meaningful just for basketball fans. No, they are even more relevant because they show the human beings behind the stars.

The legendary players talk openly about their extremely humble beginnings and what their family suffered with the Soviet Union's invasion. They show how tough and conflicting times (Marciulionis' face when talking about his speech says it all) they had representing the USSR national team in the 80s, beating the USA on the Seoul Olympics, while at the national league the fights between Zalgiris Kaunas and CSKA Moscow were more than just games. How their careers were on the verge of collapsing due to the Soviet barriers against their players going overseas. And of course how they lived the revolt and freedom of their country, finally representing, and winning bronze medal at Barcelona 1992 Olympics, beating the Unified team on the final match. They gave the reborn Lithuania an outstanding athletic achievement that served to commemorate their independence worldwide. Yes that tournament will be always remembered as the one that gathered the most impressive basketball team ever: the USA's Dream Team. But it should be remembered too for the unbelievable triumph of the Lithuanian team, and for what it represented for a whole nation in such a crucial moment of its history. Besides, the funny note of the film, this was the most improbable, cool and music related basket squad ever, thanks to The Grateful Dead (no spoiling).

Lithuania is a country that breathes basketball, the only European country I know where football (maybe Slovenia too?) is not number one sport (please resist that way). Thanks to this documentary I understand some of the reasons why. This sport gave them strength and a distraction to keep surviving while they were living under an extremely long dictatorial regime, and gave them inspiration and pride to finally free themselves. The filmmakers brilliantly understood that behind this feel-good-sports tale there was a highly interesting political/historical story to explain, not shy of including also the opinions and views of Lithuanian political leaders (even to an arguably excess, would have been interesting to count with "the other side" perspective). Seeing and hearing what the Lithuanian players went through we realise what every citizen was suffering, understanding why basketball means so much for this little country. The parallel story of Jonas Valanciunas towards his inclusion of 2011 NBA draft completes the picture with grace.

A moving, very special film. For basketball and non-basketball fans

SCORE: 7,75/10

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hipsters, sound issues & Veronica Falls' vital indiepop

Veronica Falls (+ Univers). Sala BeCool, January 31st

Indiepop action. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
The first concert attended on this 2013 was to see Veronica Falls debuting its new album, "Waiting for Something to Happen", in Barcelona. It's quite shocking to realise it's my fourth time watching the band in not even two years, but at the same time, quite understandable: their songs are among the most recognisable, enjoyable and playful that has been released in the last couple of years. Their music is contagious, vital.

The whole night started unpromising. A notorious delay, several hipster-cliches, with a new "annoying factor": the wannabe-photographers who doesn't give a damn of the people ahead of them, just for the sake of taking picture 1.000.001 in order to add another folder to store (in their ultra expensive MacBook Pro of course)... Ahem.... let's just focus on the music.

Univers at BeCool. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
The support act was a very good choice, not very far from the London combo in terms of style, and also a very young band. Univers, with just a proper EP released, has enough to show a lot of promise. Like a poppier, less "in-your-face" version of Mujeres (the lead singer and guitarist is a member of that band), this is garage-pop with a serious hint for melodies that invite you to shake your body. I know that mumbling vocals is part of their style, but unfortunately sounding was average at best, at least from the front row, and you could only hear guitars and drums. In any case, an interesting discovery. Pretty sure won't be the last time I write about them.
Roxanne Clifford. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

After a not very exciting last-minute soundcheck, it was finally the time for Veronica Falls. From the very beginning, with "Right Side of My Brain", it was obvious something wasn't quite right. Too much volume on the bass, not a lot of space for vocals to shine, when they are a fundamental part of the band's sound, quickly revealed as a problem to solve. Roxanne in particular suffered from that situation, trying to arise her voice among the noise, singing quite a few false notes as a consequence. But she managed (she wasn't shy to ask for changes to the sound engineers either) to improve the sound quality of the gig as it developed.

The setlist. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
What about the new songs? As expected, Veronica Falls mixed their "young classics" with many of the tunes that comprise "Waiting for Something to Happen". "My Heart Beats" and "Broken Toy" suffered from the aforementioned "sound issues" but even despite that fact, we were listening perfect indiepop pills. The single "Teenage", played on the last section of the gig shone with pop grace. The same applies to the sweet "Buried Alive", reserved for the encore. But there were three new songs that, for me, were the stand-outs of the night. "Tell Me", with these chiming guitars, "Waiting for Something to Happen", the tune, and the mesmerizing "If You Still Want Me" (very careful with this song folks, very careful). So eager to listen fully and review the album.

The band in BCN. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Alongside newbies, the Londoners provided the audience the majority of winning cards they have (missed "The Fountain", personal favourite), like "Found Love in a Graveyard", "Bad Feeling", "Beachy Head", "Come On Over" or "Starry Eyes", that closed the gig. Overall, it wasn't the best of the live performances I have seen from them, but still. Seems that something, extremely good, is going to happen, with the new album from Veronica Falls. Again.