The cultured teenager

the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes

Category Archives: music

April’s music reviewed

These are the artists and albums that I have given a listen to in the last month, bands I know and love, bands I’d never heard of before and stuff, because i just always feel like listening to something; Please enjoy,

Jack White: Blunderbuss Probably the album I have been most anticipating of any of this years releases, partly because I love everything jack White seems to produce, but also because of the knowledge that this was going to be different. And Jack White has done me proud. The tone is set by the woozy yet simplistic ‘Missing Pieces’, showing straight from the offing the emotive integrity of the album, allowing obvious references to Jack White III’s relationships, and divorce prior to the albums release. It is therefore clear why, although the album sounds like that of a band, it is a solo piece, laying himself bare, being personal and more candid than anything by his three previous bands. Where other artists pick a style and stick to it, this possibly explains the vast variety of ‘projects’ he undertakes, due to his undeniable talent for making genre crossing music which is fascinating and charming; this is prevalent in Blunderbuss, moving from woozy and soothing to abrasive and raw in a number of chords. Contrasting to a lot of the album, my personal favourite track is Sixteen Saltines, with a riff reminiscent of Blue Orchid or Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground, from the squeal at the beginning I can’t help but be consumed by the harsh bluesy hues. I think this is an album however which I need to listen to a lot more, as upon first hearing it was sometimes almost trying hard to be different to his other stuff but nonetheless is a brilliant album. 9/10

Brendan Benson: What Kind Of World An artist who I will always closely link to the man whose album I have reviewed above, but is now starting to come out of his shell. Not that he hasn’t already produced solo material, and bloody good independent work at that, but just as his classic album Lapalco worked perfect stylistically, What Kind Of World has done the same. Maybe, it is somewhat less accessible in some manners, being slightly more hazed and brooding, but nevertheless stays true to Benson’s formula, without trying too hard, making music that sounds simple and good simultaneously. It is gloomy without beingsombre and could easily be thrown into the ‘background music’ catalogue, but in no way deserves this; the piano-backed radio rock track ‘Bad for me’ is the perfect example of this and can only really be understood through a quick listen. Definitely worth a listen, whatever sort of music you usually listen to. 8/10

Pond: Beard Wives Denim My first introduction to this band was via their brother band, the much hyped (suitably so) Tame Impala, whose last two albums have both been brilliant to listen to. Containing some members of Tame Impala I was hoping that this musically gifted gene pool would spout some more glorious, guitar induced enjoyment. Boy heck was I proven correct. Merely watching the video for ‘Fantastic Explosion Of time’ is enough to leave me aghast at the creativity which would obviously feel more at home in 1968, taking psychedelia to a new level, making me presume that the band were taking some really interesting substances in the albums production. This isn’t just, however, lots of spinning colours and lyrics about sunshine, birds and free love, but hardened and edgy; it is the sort of music I want to think I would make in order to be adored. And this is the thing, a band playing this sort of music, unsurprisingly has an obsessive collective of fans. The album progresses onwards with gems such as ‘Eye Pattern Baldness’ which I originally thought could have come off an average Lou Reed album, suddenly turns into soothing lyricism and then plunges into a pool of darkness and twisting riffs. Just bliss to the ears 9/10

Please at least contemplate listening to anything here that sounds decent because I seriously doubt you’ll regret it considering how brilliant some of April’s music has been. Regards 🙂

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2011’s Best Songs

The end is nigh for a year which has been interesting in every aspect musically. A year of brilliant festivals, the sad passing of Amy Whinehouse and the emergence of brilliant young prospects with brilliant unique music, not that we haven’t heard some great stuff from established artists. These are my 10 favourite tunes of the year, and I’m hoping I haven’t missed out any amazing tracks, such was the vast array of talent on show. Please enjoy…

10.)Battles – Ice Cream. Battles seem to go the hard way around making brilliant music. Separately, every part of ‘Ice Cream’ and also on the album (gloss drop) makes utterly no sense, with bumping sounds and an intro which consists of someone hyperventilating. However, and don’t ask me how, they create wonderful tunes, although it seems to originate from the Steve Jobs school of music.

9.) Miles Kane – Inhaler. He will always be known as ‘Alex Turner’s Mate’, but he has some obvious musical talent of his own. ‘Inhaler’ has roots from classic sixties music where all you need is great riff and wonders can be built upon it. This riff however packs a huge punch and Kane’s howling cries are truly his own creation and intoxicating. 

8.) Dry The River – No Rest. Here is a band I have already mentioned on a couple of different occasions, such is the influence of this brilliant, sharp folk. They are the folk equivalent of The Ramones, the dark, tattooed underbelly of the genre. 2011 has seen big folk artists maintaining their success, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, as well as young talent arriving, Ben Howard, Benjamin Francis Leftwitch, and this band. This song builds intensity like a Hitchcock film, and by the end you are left in awe by the cooing of lead singer Peter Liddle.   

7.) Yuck – Get Away. They weren’t exactly the biggest band of year, but they brought about a brilliant, beautiful ugliness with their fuzzed-up grunge. The bad-haired, denim-wearing weirdos came up trumps with their debut album and particularly with this track. This is the sort of track I wish grunge icons, such as the Smashing Pumpkins, had been able to create with snarling guitars and baffling intensity.

6.) Arctic Monkeys – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair. Anyone with a back-catalogue with as many great tracks as the Arctics would have trouble living up to previous material, but no such problem occurs with Alex Turner at the helm. Turner has reprised his role as the orator of such lyrical masterpieces as “Run with scissors through a chip pan firefight… Wear your shellsuit on bonfire night… Go into business with a grizzly bear… but just don’t sit down ’cause I’ve moved your chair”. Clever, clever music.

5.) Howler – I Told You Once. This is reminiscent of a happy incarnation of The Strokes, brought by Rough Trades most recent signings who have brought great, simple indie music out of Minneapolis. ‘I Told You Once’ proves that music does have to be clever or particularly refined in order to be good, and remaining with the ethos of the band, it is buoyant but also nonchalant.

4.) The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness. I wouldn’t call them the best band of year, with ‘Angles’ being a pretty disappointing album, but nonetheless they are still The Strokes and therefore still have the ability to produce great songs (if slightly more sparsely). From the moment it begins it opens with a spine-tingling riff and then Casablancas’ moody groans, complementing each other perfectly in a way only The Strokes know how.

3.) The Black Keys – Gold on the Ceiling. Another example of old-fashioned rock based on a punchy riff that convinces me I accidentally put on a Cream record. Moreover, this isn’t just the earthy blues-rock we’re used to being heralded by The Black Keys, but a sound culminating in replacing The White Stripes as one of the world’s best garage rock bands. 

2.) The Vaccines – Norgaard. The Vaccines gave easily one of the best live performances I saw this year, the highlight of which being ‘Norgaard’ and its inconceivable energy. The song resonates the sanguine vivacity when they are playing live through its bouncy hyperactive riff and sheer pace. Too often good music is a bit dull, and The Vaccines make great music through just having a bit of fun. 

1.) The Horrors – Still Life. I could listen to this over and over and over again, as I say this from past experience, explaining the imprint of a replay button buried into my thumb. Never has such brilliance emerged from the one-handed use of synths and the psychedelia of gnarling guitars, synth and Faris Badwan’s gloomy groans creates a euphoric, smooth sound. At first I thought it was a bit like Echo and the Bunnymen, but it is now clear that this is a completely unique sound to The Horrors, which has been refined and perfected. 

Well done for those who have reached the end of this post and I hope you have enjoyed the years musical offerings as much as I. Hopefully next year will provide with as much great music to talk about, regards 🙂

5 great new songs

Its time for one of these again. Hope you actually find something you like. I’m slightly reducing my number of posts for the meantime as I am far too busy with school work and university application. Hopefully you’re not quite as stressed out as me, maybe this music will relax you, but probably not. Cheers 🙂

Tribes- When My Day Comes A rather riveting, dramatic tune from an up-and-coming Camden band, whose other stuff is slightly wannabe-Nirvana, yet this has a similar sort of tune without the harshness. Easy to listen to and easy to enjoy.

The Horrors- I Can See Through You This my favourite song of The Horrors amazing third album, if not quite up to the heights of Primary Colours, but this track is certainly brilliant. Fast drums, euphoric synth and slurring vocals mixed to perfection.

DZ Deathrays- Gebbie St Every bone in my body tells me I shouldn’t like this, but, its great, because it so unrefined, with edgy guitars and semi-shouting, it leaves me in a state of puzzled amazement.

The Black Keys- Lonely Boy This is the first track of their eagerly awaited El Camino album and it doesn’t disappoint. The riff growls and the man in the video looks a bit like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which must be good thing.

Cage The Elephant- Aberdeen Fun intellectual rock which is sublimely weird but with a mess of noise and melody.

All these songs are brilliant. I hope you agree slightly with this statement. Regards 🙂

The Folk Revolution

Folk music has always confused me, most of the bad stuff is overrated, whilst the good stuff is underrated. In my eyes there isn’t usually much in the way of good stuff, yet recently I have been bombarded with folk songs that are outstanding. Popularity for the genre has monumentally increased over recent years by a youthful wave of stylish, attractive and clever songwriters writing music for young people with sensitive ears and for middle-class thirty-something’s. Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver and Laura Marling are three of the most successful folk artists to gain folk stardom, and now are being preceded by the next wave of this revolution.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: A York singer-songwriter with dreamy tunes that make your heart skip a beat (Oh god, I sound so pathetic). He wistfully coos some of the best folk songs I’ve ever heard; lyrics of twisted love combated by soft, whispering vocals and flutters of guitar. Sehr gut. 

Dry The River: Definitely my favourite of the folk renegade, is an atypical folk band, not elder country folk in the attire of gypsies, but folk with a harsh, almost punk mentality. Folk with tattoos. As you will hear, from this utterly brilliant song, their lead singer, Peter Liddle has a harrowingly gorgeous voice, contrasting with the bands rock-influenced guitars. This song is a slow-burner, but amazing never-the-less. 

Ben Howard: Ben conforms more to the stereotypical folk singer, Devonian heritage etc, but why should it matter when he has such good songs. It may be stereotypical, but is there is nothing fey about his folk, it has backing harmonies and guitar pluckage (a very technical term), but is pacey and bounces along with beef.

Boy and Bear: Quite a lot of Mumfordness about their style but it’s good, so here you go.

I hope some of this was of interests, if not tell me what genres you want me to scrutinize next. Regards 🙂

5 BEST MUSIC VIDEOS EVER!

How I have narrowed it down to five I have no idea. These are just some of my favourites, so if have missed any of your preferences please moan, they don’t include some you may expect, such as ‘Thriller’ but they are all brilliant none-the-less. Although it is obvious in this case that the video itself is more important than the song, I would not be willing to put forward songs I dislike, a reason behind ignoring ‘Thriller’. So the countdown begins…

5.): Crystal Fighters – Follow

I don’t really need to say particularly much because, well, you just saw it, but I think its brilliance is how the video is just as erratic and vibrant as the music itself.

4.): The White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl

Wow, it’s lego!

3.): OK GO – Here It Goes Again

I don’t have any idea how someone could have possibly thought this video up, but my immediate reaction is that I really want to have a go. Its not a bad song either, but it is merely a soundtrack for the video.

2.): Radiohead – Just

In this instance the song is of more importance, though probably just because I really like it. This is more like a film than a short visual spectacle as the others are, but is utterly harrowing and confusing at the same time.

1.): Fatboy Slim – Weapon Of Choice 

This is much more appreciated if you are into movies, as not only is it a cool man dancing, but it’s CHRISTOPHER WALKEN! One of coolest men ever to exist has some really raunchy moves, and, unsurprisingly, can fly.

If I have missed out your favourite please give me the appropriate hate-mail, otherwise I hope some of these amused you. Regards 🙂

Must see film #1: Control

I’ve decided I’ll start this piece, as this is how I would describe most films I am rambling about anyway. The first film I am writing about is one I saw the first time only recently though instantly was in awe. Just brilliant. One of the key reasons for my satisfaction from this film was because of it’s musical element, so please listen to this whilst reading my review. Here is “Love will tear us apart” by Joy Division.

I knew I’d love this from the moment I find out about its existence; its morose and sardonic, but mostly because its main premise revolves around quality music. I was unsure of how the film would appear though, as biopics should be cast well or not be made at all; Sam Riley in the role of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis is brilliantly cast as not only does he brilliantly display the side of Curtis I was aware of, i.e. some wonderfully erratic dancing, but also has a skillfully emotive performance when showing Curtis’s epilepsy, depression and his damaged mental state leading to his untimely death. Anton Corbijn has thoughtfully considered every aspect of this, as it as much a film of Deborah Curtis’ story as it is a biopic of Ian Curtis, Corbijn basing this on her book rather than the public side of the singer. Slightly ironically, Corbijn gives this film a freshness through the use of black-and-white, moving from the expected vivid, psychedelic images of the tormented artist, this therefore showing Manchester as one of the world’s most depressing places, showing Curtis’ view of the world as drug-hazed rather than ‘rock-and-roll’. The story envelopes the short life of Curtis and Joy Division, but also, as it is based on Touching from a Distance, narrates through the rocky relationship between Ian and Deborah, and her sorrow before and after his death. The situation is made all the more difficult due to Ian’s affair with Belgian writer Annik; Curtis chose to escape his own personal turmoil, and as is so often with musicians, his work has lived on, however short-lived his life was. This film is a stylistic triumph, obviously aided by the striking black-and-white, but also through the use of Joy Division’s depressing and harrowing soundtrack. There are numerous effortlessly perfect performances which make this film truly great, Sam Riley who mirrors the exact mannerisms and demeanor astoundingly well, Samantha Morton is almost unrecognisable early on and shows the turmoil Curtis’ implosion caused upon the people he loves, with skill. My personal favourite performance and character is Rob Gretton, played by Toby Kebbell, who is witty and sardonic, and stresses on how few other laughs come from this achingly depressing, yet also great film, coming out with such wit as, after Curtis has an epileptic fit on stage, “It could be worse. You could be in The Fall”. I really cannot converse how brilliant this film is, so please watch it and enjoy. Regards 🙂

10 years later

Unfortunately for you lot, tonight I will be embarking on the arduous journey to France for my summer hols, so therefore I’m going to cram quite a lot of different stuff into this post. As the name suggests, this will be a cultural leap back 10 years, giving an example of may favourite forms of culture which were born in the year of 2001.

Film- Monsters Inc. : This choice brings me back to my child at heart; in 2001 I was seven and of what I remember of the time, I remember fondly, particularly my love of Pixar films. When I was smaller my favourite, unsurprisingly, was Toy Story, however as an elder of the children, my film favourites have undergone numerous transformations, with ‘Monsters Inc.’ now most-loved animated film. You will have watched it and know what it’s about so rather than telling the narrative I will focus on why I still love to watch it, being the cool teenager I am. If films are designed to entertain then there can be no better animated film; it’s fast-paced, witty and has numerous loveable and slightly bizarre characters, which is expected considering the strange scenario in which the film is set. Not only do I find it quite witty how the writers satirize modern working life, particularly through Mike and Sulley, but also find the industrial nature of scaring children an unusual setting for a children’s film, causing humanity to ooze from the adventure which ensues through Sulley’s attachment to Boo. My favourite character though is Randall, as one weird recurring theme in Pixar films is that they have excellent and evil villains, who many would assume quite scary for small children, examples being, Hopper in ‘A Bug’s Life’, Sid in ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Syndrome’ in ‘The Incredibles’ to name a few. This film is adorable, witty and modest, but one of my favourite parts is the excellent casting, particularly Billy Crystal’s Mike who I would argue as being one of best animated characters ever.

Training Day: This film is intense. It is what earlier police drama/action films such as ‘The French Connection’ ought to have been. Not an incredibly clever film at first look but it must be somewhat clever in order to give a film this level of panache and verve, keeping it fresh and effortlessly stylish. It is this therefore which makes it surprisingly watchable and timeless, not that it is a film that will be ever-remembered but keeps to the traditional good cop/bad cop format and could be therefore be watched in many years to come. This format is only as tense and lucid as it is though because of star turns from Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington in the lead roles, Hawke perfectly cast to effortlessly show the transformation from rabbit-in-the-headlights to a hardened individual, making it compelling and realistic. Washington compliments this with his gritty, morally confused performance, asking both the audience and Hawke whether his techniques are ones of selfish gain or in order to get results. Yes, the ending is cliched and the bizarre coincidence that could only happen in a film, but this takes nothing from the tense script, the terrific performances and what overall is an intelligent and intense film.

Literature- The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre: As I mentioned I am leaving for holiday later today, and am therefore packing, but in my eyes clothes packing isn’t the most important thing, rather the ‘summer read’ I’ll take for when I’m sat in a deck chair somewhere in central France. One the books I will be taking this year will be ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ if I can find it, Le Carre giving his take on the cold war; however for this novel he moves his focus to Northern Kenya and Sudan, bringing up the dangers of humanitarian aid. Many in damaged countries deserve it but the savages who caused the initial problems have a way of disruption to humanitarian efforts, not surprising really considering how little humanity these people have. I am saying this because the novel is from the view of First Secretary at the High Commission, Justin who in the opening pages has to identify the severed head of his wife, who had been butchered in Northern Kenya. This a harsh and slow novel, dragging along the story of Justin’s journey for answers taking him back to Britain but also, Le Carre paints an image of Africa and the bleeding of society that walks parallel to it. Realistic, sharp, but also beautifully harrowing literature.

Music- White Blood Cells by The White Stripes: Ten years old yet hasn’t aged. It sounds like it should be a debut album, fresh vibrant and with the a buzzing naivety that culminates in their own, slightly cheery version of garage rock. It was this album that started to establish the White Stripes name, proving themselves to be an excellent proto-rocker duo, a superb mix of Meg White’s simple and thudding drumming, and the intense blues style guitar from Jack White. However, blues guitar is far more simple than the superb riffs that help to sculpt the album. On some levels, there is a superb economy to the music, giving no more than is needed giving it a simplicity and striking sound, that is the musical meat-and-two-veg meal. One of the best examples of this is the punchy ‘Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground’, and although at times it is no more than a riff, it still gives thrills, as does my favourite track, ‘Fell in love with a girl’, which reminds me of early Beatles, keeping up the momentum and infectious riff. You will like this album; well, you ought to like this album. This is ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’, enjoy the also brilliant video. 

I could write more but I will just leave it that. I will spend my holiday working at what to write about next and hopefully will write something enjoyable for you. I hope you check out what you’ve read about, assuming you read it, because if you do, you will definitely enjoy it. Please comment about anything, regards 🙂     

Modern Classic; The XX by The XX

We often hear people with a good taste in music having a good old moan (I am often in this category myself) about how rubbish modern music is; however, once you sieve out all the undeservedly popular music (Chipmunk, N-Dubs, Jason Derulo and basically anyone-else who plays T4 on the Beach), it’s not that hard to find a gem. My personal marker for good music is when they are highly rated by NME, one of the few places where actually good music is recognised, and this is therefore the first place I notice many of my favourite bands, an example of which being The XX. But, this isn’t about The XX, rather their self-titled debut album, which of such elegant beauty you could find yourself crying and smiling simultaneously, making morose stories of heartbreak with heavy, gloomy beats seem somehow adorable and beautiful. I shouldn’t really like it; if it was in the hands of EMI or some other record company colossus, this could have been given a pop-music production and its beautiful melodies could have devolved to melodies that would appear as Children’s TV background music, it’s choruses and bass-lines far too addictive for the style of music it is. I shouldn’t even like music in it’s category, a sort-of younger brother to dubstep; the much smarter, better looking and adorable younger brother.

A gentle, innocent collection of great song after great song, but still with enough stand-out tracks that allow you to be the irritating person who hums the same tune for 2 hours on the train. The best example of this is the delicious ‘Crystalised’ that sounds so clever and so simple at the same time, with a gentle, echoing duet giving an intimacy and warmth that’s rare within modern music. Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim trading gorgeous coos like tropical birds, cultivate a delightful dubstep love song with husky vocals that can be barely heard over the infectious guitar and bass-line. It is also this echoing, moody guitar which pulls on your heartstrings, particularly on ‘Intro’ which has no vocals but still coos and calls like the song is mating. There are numerous other songs strong enough to hammer there way into your memory, but delicate enough to be elemental, dark and therefore infectious, such as the naturally intimate ‘VCR’, and ‘Islands’, an achingly beautiful song perfect for aimless strolls in misty cities.

I would say that words couldn’t describe the longing elegance of this music, however their lyrics portray exactly that, so I will leave you with a quotation from ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’; “Its been a while and you’ve found someone better, but I’ve been waiting too long to give this up. The more I see I understand, but sometimes I still need you”. Regards 🙂 Please listen VCR by The XX