Saturday, 29 October 2011
As Active Child, former choirboy Pat Grossi exploits his God-given pipes to striking effect. His Marmite falsetto will split listeners, but the thumbs-up camp will praise it loudly. Ariel Rechtshaid’s sumptuous production treads carefully (but confidently) across an area of influence in danger of being over-exposed of late – a glossy synth-pop concoction of stuttering electronic snare and Blue Nile-esque atmospherics.
While sequenced with laser-focus, You Are All I See’s alluring hall of mirrors amalgamates multiple styles, any one of which could have potentially sustained an entire album by a less confident artist: the title track enters on twinkling harp; a guesting Tom Krell (How To Dress Well) goes full R Kelly on Playing House; while the instrumental Ivy provides a well-timed break from Grossi’s divisive vocals. Its chilliness may initially resist being taken to heart, but once you melt into its shimmering waters you won’t want to surface.Out Now
With each album, Johnny Foreigner seem to find it harder and harder to relinquish material: their thirteen-track debut seemed the optimum length for such high energy tumultu-pop, whereas its fifteen-track follow-up felt comparatively swollen. Unfortunately, the seventeen-track Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything suffers the same ailment as its predecessor, only more acutely.Parcelling the material into smaller portions does wonders, since nothing here is wholly disposable (though twin concrète interludes would be first for paring were it given a proper filleting). Taken together, however, the flow is damaged by frequent tempo swerves – take, for instance, the transition from Hulk Hoegaarden, Gin Kinsella, David Duvodkany, etc’s punky swish (they still christen their songs with expert irreverence) to the bland sorbet of Johnny Foreigner Vs. You. Interpreted more favourably, the preponderance of slower tracks suggests a band midst-metamorphosis; an exciting proposition, as when they get the balance right – see 200X’s sensitive breather – they triumph.
Out 7th November
In the Mountain, In the Cloud is Portugal. The Man’s sixth album in six years (seventh if you count acoustic miniature Majestic Majesty), and though their punctuation remains annoyingly wayward, their retro-style is gaining traction with each venture. Here, their stalwart Americana-based sound is tarted up with glam tinsel and enough old-fashioned rock n roll heart to have Almost Famous-er Cameron Crowe weeping clichés of appreciation.
The immediate reference points are either decades old (Elton John, David Bowie) or styled that way (with hints of Scissor Sisters – in a good sense – in Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)’s falsetto pomp, and Oasis – in a slightly less good sense – on Beatlesy closer Sleep Forever), yet they always sound fresh. The parenthesising continues with Everything You See (Kids Count Hallalujahs)’s summer jam and Head is a Flame (Cool with It)’s sauntering space-walk, accumulating track-by-track into their finest full-length to date.
Out 14th November
Friday, 28 October 2011
When recently asked by Time ‘what are the best and worst things about being one of the US’s nearest neighbours’, Mexican President Felipe Calderon was clear regarding the negatives. ‘The biggest problem is drugs,’ Calderon stated. ‘We live in a building in which my neighbour is the largest consumer of drugs in the world and everybody wants to sell him drugs through my window. At the same time, he is the largest exporter of weapons in the world. It's very difficult to live with such a neighbour.” In Calderon’s analogy, Tijuana is one such window: lying close to the border, the state capital of Baja California (Miss Bala is a pun on the Spanish word for ‘bullet’) has long suffered at the hands of powerful drug cartels. In 2008 alone, 844 people were murdered.
This sort of ‘big-picture’ information is deliberately absent from Miss Bala, with director Gerardo Naranjo choosing to focus on the fear, tension and paranoia of daily life amidst such vice. Naranjo based the script partly on Laura Zúñiga, stripped of her Miss Sinaloa title following her 2008 arrest; the SUVs in which she and several known gang members were travelling contained large amounts of US bank notes and a small arsenal of weapons. The beauty-and-the-beast contrast between demure pageant queen and base criminality had obvious tabloid appeal, but for Naranjo it also exemplifies the extent to which violence and corruption can infiltrate even the most incongruous of arenas. Miss Bala’s protagonist is also called Laura (played with deliberate passivity by Stephanie Sigman in her feature film debut), but rather than adapt Zúñiga’s story directly, Naranjo uses it as a starting point for something broader: ‘In the film I wanted to show the point of view of common citizens, explaining how they are shocked by the violence and their lives suffocated by it.’ By turns naïve and resourceful, Laura is the film’s common-citizen delegate; in this sense, her express dream to ‘represent the beautiful women of my state’ acquires a dual meaning.
Following a brutal club shoot-out that counts her friend amongst its victims, Laura is coerced into acting as mule and driver for the narco-gang responsible, presenting a sympathetic point of entry to Tijuana’s criminal underbelly. The gunfight is terrifying and disorientating, with the camera’s perspective tethered tightly to Laura’s point of view. The assault is also an early indicator of the sheer scale on which the gangs operate: it resembles a full-on military assault, with automatic weapons and walkie-talkie coordination. Their frighteningly-wide sphere of influence is brought into startling focus when Laura subsequently approaches a traffic cop for help, only to be driven straight back to the gang (though the corrupt policeman’s hesitation suggests that he is a somewhat reluctant participant). Their influence extends to fixing the results of the pageant so as to ensure Laura’s coronation, their strong-arm manipulation of the beauty contest producing a striking dichotomy between the primped contestants’ express wish for peace and harmony, and the uncontainable carnage erupting on the streets. At one point, splattered blood is dabbed from Laura’s face by attendant hair and make-up artists, a beautification that does little to address the underlying trauma. Elsewhere, the duality is literally represented by a folded newspaper reporting her pageant win on one side, and the grisly aftermath of the club shooting on the other.
The close alignment with Laura’s point of view is achieved via lengthy takes that map her movements in near real-time, and a mobile camera that is responsive to her actions; when gang leader Lino Valdez (Noe Hernandez) orders Laura to duck down in the back seat of a car so as to obscure her field of vision, the camera (and therefore the audience’s line of sight) stays down with her. We are deprived of information: while sounds and shifts in weight make it apparent that something is being loaded into the car’s boot, we only learn the true nature of her cargo much later through a television news report. ‘We decided to betray the thriller,’ says Naranjo of this restriction, ‘in the sense that the audience wouldn’t have more information than the character. The power of the movie has to come from the ignorance of the character and the ignorance of the audience. Even if there’s a logic behind it all, I hope people don’t understand it very well. I had the ambition of leaving people as confused as I am as a Mexican reading the news.’ This aim is borne out in the plot’s breathless twists and turns, all filtered through Laura’s personal experience: a subsequent street-based fire-fight appears to explode out of nowhere, Laura’s panic accentuated by its suddenness and incoherence; later still, an assassination attempt in a hotel bedroom is filmed from beneath the bed where Laura cowers, the bloodshed taking place predominantly off-screen. The only time our perspective is distanced from Laura is when she is raped by Valdez in the front seat of his car; the camera recoils behind the glass, a subjectively-realist retreat that seems to echo Laura’s own mental withdrawal from the attack.
Miss Bala’s most crucial contribution to the debate surrounding Mexico’s drug wars is ensuring the staggering statistics don’t overwhelm an awareness of individual suffering. As the closing credits begin – arranged like names on a memorial – we are told the twin costs of the drug trade between the US and Mexico ($20 billion and 36,000 dead), but it is the haunted and abandoned Laura who supplies the data with its visceral punch.
Dr. Christopher Buckle
Researcher and freelance writer
 Belinda Luscombe (2011), ’10 Questions: Felipe Calderón’ Time 178.15, p. 60
 Lizbeth Diaz (2011), ‘Tijuana violence slows as one cartel takes control’, Reuters, accessed at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/05/us-mexico-drugs-tijuana-idUSTRE7844EX20110905
 Ioan Grillo (2011) ‘Mexico’s drug war shoots to silver screen’, Tucson Sentinel, accessed at: http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/arts/report/100211_mexico_drugwar_movies/mexicos-drug-war-shoots-silver-screen/
 Dennis Lim (2011) ‘Cannes Q. and A.: Gerardo Naranjo and Mexico’s State of Fear’, The New York Times, accessed at: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/21/cannes-q-and-a-gerardo-naranjo-and-mexicos-state-of-fear/
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Should anyone still be attending Yann Tiersen shows solely on the back of the Amelie soundtrack that broke his name outside France, the absence of an accordion from the instrument-strewn stage will be a disappointment. For such (possibly fictional) demi-fans, the disappointment surely doesn’t last beyond the opening pair of Dust Lane tracks: Till The End soars on its breathily-sung refrain and gently-epic expanse, while Palestine sees Tiersen and band tense into layers of vocoder and motorik drums. Together, the six bodies on stage possess a formidable collective talent: the biggest cheers accompany Tiersen’s bow-shredding violin technique, but the surrounding multi-instrumentalists are none too shabby. In The Gutter alone, their multitasking is impressive: acoustic guitar swapped for electric, ukulele for glockenspiel, synths for cymbals, brass for bass. A dilute audience robs the evening of a little magic, but with highlights like Esther’s melodica-infused dream-dirge, Tiersen’s got plenty to go around.
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Friday, 21 October 2011
In recent months, Jon Hamm, a blue yeti, and a Spanish lager endorsement have proffered two versions of the perfect Herman Dune show. The Hamm-and-furball-starring promo for Tell me Something I Don’t Know culminates in an enchanted grotto-full of fans bopping to the French-Swiss act’s latest finger-clicker; meanwhile, the Estrella campaign sees the band’s core duo serenading on golden sands. Herman Dune, these clips emphatically suggest, will make your life better.
Though it takes place in a less inspiring locale, from tonight’s show we draw much the same conclusion. David-Ivar recalls Jonathan Richman in both lyrical style and behaviour: whether leading sing-alongs or posing for photographs, his charisma and warmth supports the set whenever it threatens to sag. Musically, minor facelifts (particularly a noisy coda to When the Water Gets Cold…) revitalise older material, but, as an unplugged banjolele Not On Top proves, stripping things down is an equally effective invigorator.
Monday, 17 October 2011
1. 65 days of static - come to me
2. casiokids - det haster
3. depeche mode - dreaming of me
4. when saints go machine - kelly
5. debbie harry and franz ferdinand - i live alone
6. veronica falls - right side of my brain
7. mclusky - alan is a cowboy killer
8. we were promised jetpacks - medicine
9. superchunk - yeah, it's beautiful here too
10. danananaykroyd - think and feel
11. david bowie - china girl
12. the go-betweens - spring rain
13. joy division - warsaw
14. sambassadeur - kate
15. lush - 500 (shake baby shake)
16. neutral milk hotel - holland 1945
17. the human league - sound of the crowd
18. spandau ballet - to cut a long a story short
19. the fall - victoria
20. xtc - statue of liberty
21. idlewild - when i argue i see shapes
22. wugazi - sweet release
23. run dmc - it's tricky
24. m83 - midnight city
25. cyndi lauper - she bop
26. talking heads - life during wartime
27. pavement - debris slide
28. archers of loaf - web in front
29. ash - goldfinger
30. desmond dekker - israelites
31. prince - u got the look
32. sparks - reinforcement
33. beat happening -
34. the b-52s -
35. the crystals - da doo ron ron
36. kirsty maccoll - they don't know
37. amen corner - our love (is in the pocket)
38. madonna - borderline
39. associates - party fears two
40. eurythmics - love is a stranger
41. talk talk - talk talk
42. feargal sharkey - you little thief
43. r kelly - ignition (remix)
44. weezer - hash pipe
45. au pairs - we're so cool
46. bruce springsteen - badlands
47. elvis presley - burning love
48. chuck berry - roll over beethoven
49. ronettes - you bet i would
50. blondie - hanging on the telephone
51. abba - does your mother know
52. the ramones - i wanna be sedated
53. belle and sebastian - legal man
54. ike and tina turner - nutbush city limits
55. the smiths - you just haven't earned it yet baby
57. the police - message in a bottle
58. sly and the family stone - everyday people
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Friday, 14 October 2011
*yes, yes it was coincidence.
On Burning, director Vincent Moon worked with Mogwai; on A Skin, A Night, he worked with The National; for La Blogothèque’s Take-Away Shows, he worked with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. Now, he (in conjunction with Warp Films and All Tomorrow's Parties) wants to work with you.
For over a decade, All Tomorrow’s Parties’ holiday camp weekenders have delighted and damaged the ears of scores of discerning music lovers (on cold days, our lugs still ring from Boris…), and for several of those years, Moon has been there with camera in hand. Raw footage for four short films is in the can, but to complete them, Moon needs moolah – which is where you (potentially) come in.
Contributions are being sought via crowdfunding site Kickstarter, but with just over a day to go before the deadline, the pot’s short. Should a last-minute surge push the total over the line, Moon promises an intriguing quartet of flicks, plus you'll receive 'rewards' in the form of CDs, DVDs, posters, film credits, festival tickets, or even a personal film to you from the man himself (nothing sexy, mind).
Each short will feature a different guest narrator’s thoughts on ATP, the universe and everything – the Portishead-curated event seen through the eyes of Damo Suzuki; the Explosions in the Sky festival brought to you by Saul Williams; The Melvins/Mike Patton double header via Lydia Lunch; and ATP’s tenth birthday celebrations filtered through party-starter extraordinaire Josh T. Pearson. If any/all of those sound like your cup of tea, hot-foot it to the pledge site via the link on the right post haste – the clock’s ticking.
Pledge before 18.29 GMT on Saturday, 14 October www.kickstarter.com/projects/613961261/from-atp-four-short-films-by-vincent-moon
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Friday, 7 October 2011
However if there are TWO things Bottle Rocket prizes more than shoehorning tenuous puns into its missives, the second is surely playing songs that make people stop and go, "ah, I used to like that song once", before continuing the conversation they were having in the first place.
If this appeals to you, why not head to Sleazy's on Saturday 15 October? There you can hear all manner of indiepop, new wave, soul and post-punk and the like. Hell, you can even have a boogie.
SATURDAY 15TH OCTOBER!
NICE N SLEAZY!
11:30PM - 3AM!
Please do utilise the facebook wall for any requests. Or should that be ROCKquests? NO.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
Stephin Merritt has described curating Obscurities an ‘agonising’ and ‘depressing’ experience, with most candidate tracks decreed obscure for good reason. As always, his dour demeanour is best served salted; there’s certainly nothing dispensable about the songs that made the final cut. The collection’s miscellany stands out in a discography known for cohesive artistic statements, but this affects the quality not one iota; peeking through his songbook’s neglected appendices is a delight.The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, The Gothic Archies and fabled unfinished musical The Song from Venus all make appearances, but it’s an eye-moistening version of Plant White Roses from pre-Magnetic Fields project Buffalo Rome that will have you wishing Merritt had added a second disc, meticulous quality control be damned. Few songwriters could hope to pen a magnum opus as interesting as this, let alone an off-cuts collection, making this essential listening for dabblers and obsessive fans alike.
Deskjob is not, Jonnie Common has been keen to stress, a remix album. There’s no chopping and screwing here: instead, consider his role akin to Phil Spector, pre-spherical hair and murder conviction. As curator/producer, Common respectfully decorates bare-bones tracks from friends and contemporaries, capping his idiosyncrasies for the most part (for those craving undiluted Common, try recently-released solo debut Master of None).
Since his stated intention was simply to get “loads of people who I think are immensely talented onto a release together”, it’s appropriate to focus on who he’s producing, rather than how he’s doing it. Highlights include Meursault’s tempting new track And Butter Would Not Melt and Conquering Animal Sound’s Maschine, as resplendent in this guise as on Kammerspeil. Every invitee – from The Oates Field’s deadpan Nae Luck to Eagleowl’s drifting Sorry I Spoke – sounds wholly simpatico with every other, guided into the Common aesthetic gracefully.
Exitmusic - From Silence EP (***)
Until Boardwalk Empire, Alleksa Palladino had a pretty patchy acting CV, sprinkled with direct-to-DVD horror sequels and minor bit parts. Now, HBO and Martin Scorsese have added a more illustrious credit to a fifteen-year screen career perpetually one step away from its big break. On the strength of From Silence, Palladino seems likely to establish herself in the music world far more efficiently, with Exitmusic already signed to Secretly Canadian and turning heads in all the important places. Together with husband Devon Church, the EP offers four promising examples of their faintly familiar but well-executed schtick, a kind of ghostly electronica existing somewhere between Zola Jesus and Austra; if they continue in this mould, there’ll be no need for leg-ups.