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Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Raven in the Grave", The Raveonettes in gloom

Raven in the Grave- The Raveonettes

"In and Out of Control" was an album capable of summarizing the career of the Danish duo while offering their strongest collection of tunes, offering so much to enjoy that is hard not to consider it their best effort. So what to expect after reaching (arguably) your peak as musician? "In and Out of Control 2"? No, Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner chose the hard way.

While you wouldn't call The Raveonettes music as "sunny" or "happy" their previous album was upbeat and it was full of singalong ("Last Dance" or "Bang!"), moments. Say farewell to that, as "Raven in the Grave", replaces the fizzy and sweetness with darkness and gloom. But don't be scared, we still have melodies, harmonies and excellent songs. They are just hiding, shadowed on a cold mist.

The start is terrific. "Recharge and Revolt" is anthemic and impassioned, even without a traditional chorus. "War in Heaven" is a true gem, atmospheric and delicate, with Sharin Foo delivering her most haunting singing to date. And closing the winning trio, "Forget that You're Young", another irresistible melody

Unfortunately, the middle section of the album is not as remarkable. "Apparitions" is a valuable attempt to make a departure from their sound, with its intrincated and tortured rhythm recalling Warpaint, but "Summer Moon" and "Let Me On Out", a ballad and a short midtempo song, although cute and wonderfully crafted, don't deliver or add anything substantial to the record.

Luckily, the rescue comes in the form with the last batch of songs. "Ignite", is traditional Raveonettes, unforgettable chorus, vocal harmonies intertwined from Wagner and Foo and chiming guitars. A much needed injection of effervescence. And then we find "Evil Seeds", with its somber introduction, then turning into a pummelling beat as the skeleton of a melody that plays, gracefully, the loud/quiet strategy, before exploding into a wall of guitars that dies on an acoustic and compelling note. Superb song, that impacts you enough to make you go through the final song, "My Times's Up" almost without make you wonder why it sounds so similar to "Summer Moon".
Overall, I have to praise The Raveonettes from making the brave movement of moving from the successful path of their previous record and present us something more concerned on creating a mood, and atmosphere, on capturing and provoking emotions than on commercial results. It doesn't have as many brilliant songs as "In and Out of Control" had, but it shows a band seeking for creativity and challenges, and when they hit the target, they create some wonderful (and deeper) songs.

SCORE: 7/10

The link to my article (in Spanish) reviewing the record, from the website I collaborate with:
"Raven in the Grave", el invierno en primavera de The Raveonettes

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Hoping and Praying", The School gives another pop lesson

With the excuse of having listened the "Hoping and Praying" digital only (that's a shame) single, what this post really intends is to make you realize there's an incredible band from Wales that you shouldn't miss. Their name? The School. The reason you should look after them? They have a ridiculous talent to create indie pop gems.

If you haven't done yet, you must check "Loveless Unbeliever", their debut album, released on 2010, without a doubt one of the best records from past years. Led by Liz Hunt, the album is an undisputed succession of perfect tunes, mixing the best of the 60's girl bands (Ronettes, Shirelles, Shangrila's) with the touch of their older brothers, Camera Obscura (can you imagine a duet between Tracyanne Campbell and Liz?) and Belle and Sebastian.

"Hoping and Praying” is the last single taken from “Loveless Unbeliever”, and next to the song, irresistibly addictive, colourful and fun, you'll find 3 more gems to add to The School immaculate collection. “Can You Feel It?”, a previously unreleased track from the album sessions, accelerated pop with a superb chorus. "And Suddenly”, a cover of The Left Banke song, is so gorgeous it seems the perfect song for this spring season. Finally, the EP closes with “Let Me Be The Fairy on Your Christmas Tree Tonight”, taken from the compilation “A Very Cherry Christmas Volume 5” (Cherryade Records) having the quality of making not just a Christmas song worth the listening, but a guilty pleasure too. Overall, enchanting. Come to Barcelona soon!!

Check the single on the following SPOTIFY link
And listen to the full album on this SPOTIFY link

Need more? Check the video!!

The pre-The National days: Nancy and Project Nim

A very curious, "archeological" indie post today.

You might have the notion I like The National by now. You are wrong. I completely ADORE them (surprised right? I know, I have my ironic mode on, sorry). So much, I try to collect everything from the band. But today, and thanks to the great The National Forum (allthewine, the official one) I could, finally, get my hands (virtually of course) over some music and information from the pre-The National days. 

"Bryan, my brother and I have been in bands since we were like 13," says guitarist Bryce Dessner from his Brooklyn apartment. "I'll be totally embarrassed if anybody digs it up, but our high school band was called Equinox -basically a party band- and the other band was called Project Nim. And Scott and Matt had a band called Nancy when they were at (the University of Cincinnati) that some people in Cincinnati seem to know about. Bryan and Scott were also in a band called the Flaming Intestines, which was a Punk band in the late '80s. "

Curious to listen? Eager to know? Here's the link to two albums from Project Nim: "A Tower of Babel" and "Where The Nothings Live. And, following this other link, you can find five songs from the first and only album from the lo-fi garage band Nancy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"The King's Speech", a very conventional message

The King's Speech

Best movie of the year? Well, I couldn't find a better argument to demonstrate how low is the quality of cinema nowadays that the “King’s Speech” obtaining 4 of the “biggest” awards at the latest Oscar's ceremony, arguably  (really?) the most important recognisement a movie could achieve.

Not saying the movie is bad. It is entertaining, and pleasant, fundamentally because of the chemistry between Colin Firth (King George VI) and Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue, his speech therapist). The scenes in which they are together are the only ones remarkable, where something genuine goes on. Both actors are the pillars of the film, although in the case of Firth I would say his best interpretation, one that could seriously deserve an Oscar, can be seen in “A Single Man”.

But aside from that, the “King’s Speech” is quite mediocre. There are many sides that are hidden or that the director avoids to treat. It’s quite disappointing to see how George's brother abdicates from the throne just because of “love” when among the reasons, there was one very transcendent and not very admirable, and linked with that, the almost inexistent role prime ministers Baldwin and Chamberlain (or Churchill) have. In general, the lack of history in the film, when surely the most attractive thing about George’s period (Hitler's rising in Europe, the start of Second World War) weren’t his speeches, but the times when these speeches have to be delivered, is frustrating.

The script is predictable and conservative (jokes about saying "shit, fuck, etc." or "funny" situations based on the fact the Royal family is at Logue's house doing normal things, something that made me recall films like "Notting Hill") and it has that tone of a commercial biopic where the hero succeeds and becomes a "better man". Let’s be honest, the movie is a conventional hagiography. Nice and pleasant, but very far from a film that deserves to be recognised, or simply remembered.

SCORE: 5,25/10

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Black Swan", the darkest of fairy tales

Black Swan

It was hard to put myself in front of this film. To all the Oscar's "white noise" about Portman's tour de force (with the usual physical effort included) I was adding the two previous films from director Darren Aronofsky: the horrible "The Fountain" (among the worst movies of the last 10 years, no question about it) and the spectacular amount of clichés that "The Wrestler" is. So, to say it politely, I was quite reluctant to see "Black Swan". But after I finally did, I can say it was worth it.

Two major factors are the reasons for the overall positive consideration. First, the stunning visual conception of the film, the weight of the details (Nina's toys in her bedroom, her skin, the objects from the almost unrecognisable Wynona Ryder as Beth, to name a few), its gothic and disturbing imagery and the strikingly dreamy, dark and absorbing atmosphere. And second, Natalie Portman's performance, not only because her tortured impersonation of Nina, but also for being capable of showing a childish, immature (to the point of getting you nervous) and extremely fragile character.

Having said that, "Black Swan" has also some important question marks. The main one being, again (sorry to insist with the comparison with "The Fountain") is about the strength of the script. We get attracted to the feverish obsession/dream/descent into hell of Nina, so we know that what we are seeing is her subjective and distorted vision. But the few points of "reality", responsible of providing us with the much needed information to go through the story are either weak or clearly insufficient, so the psycho thriller part is not very strong. The best examples of these could be the roles of the artistic director, Thomas, and Nina's mother, Erica, strongly portrayed by Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey. While they serve the purpose of adding more creepiness to the dark and twisted fairy tale, but they don't help to the coherency of the plot, as we know little about their motivations behind their actions.

And linked with that, one cannot avoid wondering if the amount of complexity in Nina's paranoia deserved something more than the simple "Swan Lake" black/white duplicity, developed into the topical part of the film where Nina learns about evil (the "Odile/Black Swan") or in practical terms, lust. My doubt about "Black Swan can be epitomized in the sentence "I just want to be perfect" that Nina repeats a couple of times during the film. Is that genuine innocence or a serious failure of the script, making a mighty powerful character so disappointingly empty? The movie impacts, disturbs and grabs you, but is that a lasting impression? 

SCORE: 6,75/10

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Discoverer 8: new indie findings

As I won't be able to post this Sunday and I have many interesting bands to introduce you, here's the advanced next round of indie proposals!

The Head and the Heart. Coming together in the summer of 2009, the 6 members of this Seattle band self-released their album in 2010, but luckily their music gained fans and enough attention to make them sign with Sub Pop Records past November, re-releasing the album this year. Folk with tones of soul, melancholic pop, glimpses of americana, full of harmonies (watch the hyperlinked video please), and with a distinct, beautifully crafted and warmly honest, sound. 

Youngteam. Shoegazer lovers, this one is for you. This musical collective from Stockholm, Sweden, started their career in 2006, became a real band in 2008 and early this year presented "Daydreamer" a stunning collection of epic and slightly psychodelic pop tunes, recalling big names such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Velocity Girl, and especially, Ride. Great references for a very strong album. One to get lost into, like on the amazing "Your Love", featuring Anna Järvinen on vocals, or the title track, "Daydreamer".
Youngteam - Your Love

Xylos. Indiepop with litlle hints of electronic from this young Brooklyn band who debuted this April with its self-titled album. Catchy and a bit reminiscent of the 80s synth-pop, Monika Heidemann's voice (Tracey Thorn anyone?) is the trump card of this very remarkable group, making you feel the aching inside despite all the sweetness in the tune's melodies.

The National unveil new song, "Exile Vilify"

Caught by surprise...another new song from The National!! Released today on itunes, the tune is taken from the game "Portal 2".

The National's music publisher Bug Music went on to explain that the US band's sound "fit beautifully" in the game world. "After I met with Valve and learned about the intricacies and story line of the first Portal game, I knew The National's music would fit beautifully in the sequel," said spokesperson Julia Betley. "The National's raw and emotive music evokes the same visceral reactions from its listeners that Portal does from its players. It was exciting and a privilege to bring together two exceedingly talented creative teams to create something special for Portal 2. We’re entering different emotional terrain than “Pac-Man Fever”.

Don't have a clue about the game itself, but all I know is that we desperately NEED another physical release in the form of an EP or something similar. "You Were a Kindness", "Think You Can Wait" and now this one. Too many good songs to release them only digitally.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Discoverer 7: new indie findings

Back to Sunday's new proposals!

Cults. Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin met in 2010 in San Diego, and after moving to NYC for film school, they started to make music, releasing a free EP (available on their bandcamp space). The reception in the blogosphere was impressive, signing with Columbia for their forthcoming debut album (next month) and firing up the expectations for every movement they have done since then. And with a reason. Initially included into the  lo-fi pop movement (if that's a movement), after hearing "Abducted", "You Know What I Mean", the sublime "Go Outside" (oh glockenspiels!) or the single "Oh My God", one just wonder how long it will take for them to conquer the indiepop throne.

Abducted by cultscultscults
Cults - You Know What I Mean by cultscultscults

Grandfather Birds. Discovered thanks to my beloved Let's Buy Happiness (who I fervently praised on the first "Discoverer" I wrote) this band from Newcastle are a mixture between epic and pop, between atmospherics and rockier sounds, full of subtleties and rich sounding. But the best recommendation I can give to you is to check the following 4 tunes (especially "Higher Bridges" and "Grandfather's Bones") and judge by yourself. You won't regret it.

Boca Chica. More pop, this time from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and discovered thanks to the initiative of the amazing EardrumsPop, who periodically releases free digital singles of the artists under their catalogue, each single including 2 original songs and a cover from an underrated artist. Led by songwriter and singer Hallie Pritts, Boca Chica songs are mellow and catchy, at times closer to americana sound, but mostly in the realm of pure pop gems, like in the great " For Jacob with Malaria".

Boca Chica - For Jacob with Malaria by EardrumsPop
Boca Chica - Afternoon Tea by EardrumsPop

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Radiohead songs for the Record Store Day

Today is the Record Store Day.

The original idea of the Record Store Day was created in 2007 to celebrate the unique culture of the then 700 indie store records that were listed in the United States and hundreds more internationally. Indie store owners and artists gathers to present special and promotional releases as well as live concerts. Although not very remarkable in Spain yet, just the first time is being held, 19 countries celebrate the 16th of April as a day for music. And that's important.

Among the most remarkable releases of the day we have special single editions from The White Stripes (sic), Arctic Monkeys, Warpaint, Suede, Joy Division, Grinderman (featuring The National's Matt Berninger) and very curious EP from Franz Ferdinand or Nirvana, just to name a few. But one of the most expected releases is the limited (just 2000 copies) new single from Radiohead, "Supercollider"/"The Butcher". "Supercollider" (heard a few times live during the "In Rainbows" tour but never released) is superb. Collectors and music lovers, enjoy the day!!

Radiohead "Supercollider + The Butcher" (link to the Soundcloud stream)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Portraits and Encounters", when journalism was art

The Gay Talese Reader. Portraits and Encounters- Gay Talese

Long long time ago, becoming a journalist was an admirable purpose. Before transforming in a corrupted and vile beast (quoting Norman Mailer, "the press is like a donkey you can feed with garbage") journalism was a noble profession, full of responsibilities and values towards society. Now that that's ancient history, regrettably, this anthology of magazine articles from Gay Talese reminds us how delightful and absorbing an article could be. This collection is his masterful lesson:
  • A lesson of style. Talese writing is one of the most striking beautiful I ever read. His elegant prose never gets pedantic (sorry Tom Wolfe) and is always precise. His dialogues and ability to construct the article "scene-by-scene", like on the best short fiction, is unparalleled.
  • A lesson of, in his own words, "hanging out". To be a good journalist you had to be a good listener and a good observer. Talese is simply superb, with an unerring eye for capturing the detail.
  • A lesson of commitment for the story. Exhaustive research, zero ego. Wether the writing is about a city  ("New York City Is a City of Things Unnoticed"), a period in time ("Looking for Hemingway"), a celebrity (Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, etc.) or a "common" person ("Mr. Bad News"), what matters is capturing something, a place, a human being, and the story behind the story. Take "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", for instance, and you'll have not only a wonderful piece about one of the greatest American heroes in modern history, but also the best insight on popular culture, fame, family, gender relations, politics of the country. Take "The Loser" and behind the boxer, you will find a tremendous dissection on fear, guilt, isolation...a terrific essay on human condition.
  • A lesson of passion towards a profession. He affirms "I was always proud to tell the stories as they were, without exaggerating them". With that premise, the sum of the previous factors, creativity and an enormous talent, Talese is capable of making something way more interesting and profound than the material he initially had, creating not just articles, but brilliant pieces of "fiction with real names".
An absolute must. He should be a compulsory read in every single faculty of journalism. And it should have a reserved place in every library that wants to include one of the best North-American writers.

SCORE: 9,25/10

My (first) FIB (Benicassim Festival) so far

Since my last post about the Festival, more than a month ago, FIB has announced a few new acts, the latest bunch of them, today. I'm not going to insist/pledge for the lack of names from my wishlist, because I'm not really counting I'll get one of them* (sadly).

Anyway, adding today's acts to the previous bunch of names announced in the last couple of months, this is how "my" FIB looks now. Hoping for more though, especially on Thursday, still a day in need of a vast improvement!

+ The Streets + Paolo Nutini + Pendulum +Plan B + Chase & Status + Congotronics Vs Rockers + Crystal Fighters + Dorian + Julieta Venegas + Aldo Linares + Anna Calvi + Grupo Salvaje + Henry Saiz + Jack Beats +Layabouts + Violens +

The Strokes + Brandon Flowers + Elbow +James Murphy + Friendly Fires + The Stranglers + Atom Rhumba + Herman Dune +The Juan MacLean + nudozurdo + The 1945 +Ainara LeGardon + The Marzipan Man + The Morning Benders + O Emperor + The Paris Riots + Zombie Zombie +

Arctic Monkeys + Mumford & Sons + Primal Scream + Beirut + Big Audio Dynamite +Bombay Bicycle Club + Amable + Astrud & Col·lectiu Brossa + Lori Meyers + Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club + Logo + McEnroe +Nadadora + Smile + Spectrals + Tame Impala +

+ Arcade Fire + Portishead + Tinie Tempah +Noah & The Whale + Professor Green +Antònia Font + CatPeople + The Go! Team +The Joy Formidable + And So I Watch You From Afar + Anika + The Coronas from Ireland + Indienella + Hidrogenesse +Veronica Falls

Green- Definetely seeing them. Absolute must
Orange- If there are no overlaps (in particular with the green ones), I'll be there for sure
Yellow- Curious about it/"on research mode"

*Happy note: I'm going to see The Pains of Being Pure at Heart anyway this June in Barcelona, so I can cross off that name from the list 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Motorama, "One Moment" with the best Russian band

And from a personal soft spot, Nat Johnson, to another: Motorama. Let me introduce you briefly the best music from Russia ...Well, I admit I don't have a clue about Russian indie scene, but I can recognise a good band when I hear it, and Motorama are astounding.

This five-piece band comes from Rostov-on-Don (Southern Russia, in their own words, "a really peaceful boring place with some weird features") and started their career in 2005. But I discover them with "Alps" a formidable debut album and one of the best records from 2010. 80's post-punk and, new wave style that will immediately think about Joy Division (oh, that deep voice and persistent bass lines) but some sunny arrangements and dreamy sounds will let you realize quickly there's something different in here. Ian Curtis meets pop and melodramatic soviet books about adventures and travelling. Weird definition I know, but truly wonderful music.

So, do yourself a favour and watch/hear their latest release, "One Moment". And as you will ask for more, you can check their website or the links below to download more from them, as the band share their music free of cost. As great as they are, I have two demands to make: I want physical releases and to see them live!

Warm Eyelids by motorama
Alps by motorama
Ship by motorama

Links to all their releases (from their official website):

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nat Johnson and "What the Heart Pours Into"

I was tempted to include Nat Johnson and the Figureheads on the next Discoverer round of proposals, but that would have been cheating. She is not a new finding. On the contrary. She's one of my most beloved singer/songwriters since I discovered the adorable "The Bright Carvings" one of the best indiepop records I ever heard. Sadly, Monkey Swallows the Universe, her previous band, disbanded in 2008, but Nat has been active, recording solo and then assembling a new backing band, The Figureheads.

After the recommendable "Roman Radio", their 2009 debut album as her new incarnation, she's back with 'What the Heart Pours Into' EP, released on 7th March 2011. Three wonderful songs, that you can listen here, setting the bar really high for a -hopefully soon- second album. Acoustic beauty with little glimpses of electricity, haunting melodies, engaging songwriting and of course, the melancholic/sad and sweet voice of Nat directly pointing to your heart (don't care if it's sounds corny, she does that). Hearing the mesmerizing "Margot", expectations couldn't be better. Would be too much to ask for an European tour with a most-desired stop in Barcelona? Please discover her.

Latest tracks by NatJohnsonband

Monday, April 11, 2011

Playlisting: C'MUN 2011 Farewell Dinner Session

Back after C'MUN 2011. Tired to death, but a huge success, meeting many many amazing people and having some wonderful moments. Together with long time friend and ANUE staff member Pablo, we prepared and compiled the farewell dinner music. Here's what was heard on Saturday. If you were there, hope you enjoyed!!

  1. Pythagoras's Trousers/Bittersweet Simphony- Penguin Cafe Orchestra/The Verve
  2. Strawberry Skies- Ford & Lopatin (former known as Games)
  3. Thieves- She & Him
  4. In Between Days- The Cure
  5. Zebra- Beach House
  6. Northern Seaside- Motorama
  7. At the Indie Disco- The Divine Comedy 
  8. Bigmouth Strikes Again- The Smiths
  9. Close to You- Tiësto
  10. Crystalised- The XX
  11. Cherry Blossom Girl- Air
  12. Don't Look in Anger- Oasis
  13. F.E.A.R.- Ian Brown
  14. God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)- El Perro del Mar
  15. My Friend- Groove Armada
  16. I Like- The Divine Comedy
  17. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For- U2
  18. In and Out of Love- Armin Van Buuren feat. Sharon Den Adel
  19. Colours- Kordan
  20. Sour Times- Portishead
  21. Kusmi- Minks
  22. Natural Blues- Moby
  23. Sexy Boy- Air
  24. She's Losing It- Belle & Sebastian
  25. The Universal- Blur
  26. Suburban War- Arcade Fire
  27. Sweet Darlin'- She & Him
  28. Too Young- Phoenix
  29. Let's Go Surfing- The Drums
  30. Twenty Four Hours- Joy Division
  31. Bizarre Love Triangle- New Order
  32. Bloodbuzz Ohio- The National
Thanks to everyone that made C'MUN 2011 possible!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

C'MUN 2011 Original Soundtrack

Tomorrow, the sixth edition of C'MUN 2011, our Model United Nations starts. Being my main responsibility, this humble writer will be off until next week, because we have to take care of the UN (at least a bit). New adventures, new friends and little sleep awaits....And of course music.

Every important event has a song. And of course, despite not many people knows it, C'MUN is no exception. For your listening pleasure, here it is. Let me introduce you The Housemartins, with "Caravan of Love". Oh, so many memories....

"Are you ready for the time of your life/It's time to stand up and fight/It's alright/It's alright"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spanish indie. New releases from some of the best national acts

A return from a very special friend made me think about this post. So here you have, some recommendations of Spanish indie bands for your listening  pleasure:

Sr Chinarro. Antonio Luque deserves a unique place among the Spanish indiepop scene. The Andalusian artist has been around since 1990, although his first release dates from 1993 and he gained notoriety in 1997 with "El porqué de mis Peinados". A incredibly solid career of 11 albums contemplates one of the most intriguing and peculiar lyricists (and a idiosyncratic writer) of our country, which has just returned with "Presidente", released today, perhaps his lightest and open record to date.

La Bien Querida. "Romancero" was a huge success at the national level, propelling the career of Ana Fernández-Villaverde to an unexpected indie stardom, with awards, unanimous praise from critics and a collaboration with Los Planetas (probably the most famous Spanish alternative band). Now Ana is back with "Fiesta", her second album, and judging from the first single, "Hoy", seems we are in front of a huge step forward in her career towards being the "Spanish indie pop queen".

The New Raemon. Although preferring his previous two records and being disappointed by the quite radical drift of the third album, "Libre Asociación", the credit of Ramón Rodríguez is still intact. He has been brave enough to do what he felt it was right to do, despite changing a style, the acoustic songwriter approach, that gave him a lot of success. A superb lyricist, the new record finds him on a sombre mood, where introspection and electric guitars seems closer to Madee than to The New Raemon. Or better said, to the former The New Raemon, one of the most exciting artists of the country.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Spectator Bird", beware of "high literature"

The Spectator Bird- Wallace Stegner

I was eager to read more from Wallace Stegner after enjoying quite a lot "Crossing to Safety". In that book, although the "scent" was that of what is called "high literature" (something that one seeks to avoid at all costs) existed, the characters were really human, credible, and their evolution through life was compelling, making you feel part of an intimate history. But sadly, its not the case of "The Spectator Bird".

Again a book about memories, this time from a retired literary agent Joe Allston, who, after receiving a postcard from an old friend, goes back to his diary, where the story of his trip (together with his wife Ruth) through Denmark is narrated. A journey that was really special.

Stegner builds the novel mixing in a succession of flashbacks, where the Danish affair is slowly explained, and Joe's struggles with the fears and turmoil of becoming an older age...but the book never delivers, at least for me. I simply found myself bored with Allston's unavoidable speeches (too many during the book), and the aristocratic world of Astrid. That part of the plot looks like a bad movie to me (there's an ugly secret going on in that family...just wait a bit more until we reveal it... well sorry, it was obvious there was something going on) and the unresolved feelings issue... well, pretty pointless.

The most interesting part of the book is the meditation on marriage and the struggles of age. Allston, with his curmudgeon attitude, could have been a very attractive character pointing out what fails in a system that seems to "exclude" ageing people. But sadly again, Stegner goes into the pedantic territory of "high literature", and ruins it. Huge disappointment.

SCORE: 2,75/10

Discoverer 6: new indie findings

Sunday morning= new indie proposals. Here we go!

Cascadeur. Behind this artistic name and his masked face hides Alex Longo, a singular vocalist and songwriter. With three self-produced albums, he won the 2008 prestigious "CQFD" Prize awarded by French indie magazine Les Inrockuptibles, receiving a lot of attention since then in France. Music that recalls Antony and the Johnsons or the intensity of Jeff Buckley, that has an official debut album nowadays, with "The Human Octopus", ten songs, reworked and polished, from his first three albums and 18 new ones.

The Hi-Life Companion. This Bristol indiepop band debuted with a quickly sold out single in Cloudberry Records on 2008. Since then you can find them crafting gorgeous music. From The Beach Boys to Pavement, from Felt to the Velvet Underground, from Belle and Sebastian to The Go Betweens... harmonies, hand-clapping, jangling guitars, wonderful and dreamy instrumentals.... The DNA of perfect pop music flourishes on the diverse and  rich "Say Yes", their debut album, released last year. A record that should be in every shelf of all good music collector.

The Girl In The Gorilla Suit by The Hi-Life Companion

Night Comes Down by The Hi-Life Companion

The Ambience Affair. This Irish duo of vocalist/guitarist Jamie Clarke and drummer Marc Gallagher are responsible of a couple of great EPs, "Fragile Things" and "Patterns". Their music mixes some kind of dreamy landscapes, atmospheric textures with fierce playing and vocals, creating truly exceptional songs. After being mesmerized by "Patterns",  I was impatiently looking for more songs, and growing in frustration due to the lack of news. But now they are back, and after hearing "Weeds", the first taste of their debut album, with the help of a stomping cello and trumpets, it is going to be worth the waiting.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Map of Music

A very curious proposal today. Do you think there's no connection between Lady Gaga and Radiohead? Not so fast, my friend. This analytical map of music shows relations between musicians/groups, creating a landscape of interconnected musicians. It's all about algorithms, it seems. You can navigate like if you were checking google maps, approaching the zoom to see plenty of bands and their "neighbourhoods". And if you arrive to the last level (popup), you'll see the clicked  musician at Very original.
The link:

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Belong", The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and all the bands we love

Belong- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Before starting this review, let's admit something. One can't be fair judging the Pains. They are called "indie pop revivalists" and they might be right. Because "Belong" is an ode to early Smashing Pumpkins, "The Body" sounds indeed like New Order, "My Terrible Friend" steals a dream melody from The Cure, or "Strange" blissfully evokes My Bloody Valentine. But wait a second: these are all bands we love (or that we use to love). So, for starters, if The Pains can be accused of mimicking other indie bands, at least give them the credit for the damn fine taste they have.

A lot has been said about the fact of superproducers Flood and Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails) teaming with the band on their sophomore effort. But let all the "polished/bigger/selling out vs. low-fi/honesty/indie attitude" discussion apart. "Belong" sounds terrific. So when the tune is good, the improvement in sounding propulses the songs to new levels for the band, in particular for lead singer Kip Berman, now much higher in the mix.

And for the majority of the record, it does it, indeed. The first trio of tracks, "Belong", "Heaven's Gonna Happen Now", and "Heart in Your Heartbreak" are enough to justify buying the album. Dream pop full of hooks and perfect choruses, melancholy and lyrics about coming of age are again trademarks of the band, as it was their debut. But the new album also presents a louder, edgier sound, and a more diverse approach to the songs, giving the impression the album is less immediate, or that is not the exuberant collection of songs the first one was. But tracks like "Too Tough" or "Girls Of 100 Dreams" are livelier than anything they recorded before, and reverb brings you the feeling you are listening to a wonderful hidden track from one of your favourite bands of the early 90s. So "Belong" could be a brave step towards a more defined and confident band.

Lets face it. Loving The Pains of Being Pure at Heart might be a guilty pleasure. But also a very logical one. At the end, what matters is if a song sticks with you. And The Pains are masters in that genre.

SCORE: 7,25/10