Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Play New Gruff Rhys Track Here!

I feel like an old man when I remember that I've been listening to Super Furry Animals for 16 years now.

(Hell, I made a visit to Wolverhampton just to see SFA -- with Clinic opening -- in 1999!)

SFA frontman Gruff Rhys is released a split-single with Welsh lass Cate Le Bon on Record Store Day (21 April 2012).

The split-single will be released via Turnstile Music.

Follow Gruff Rhys here:

Play the Jobim-meets-Elvis Costello glorious "Gold Medal Winner" from Gruff Rhys below:

Gruff Rhys - Gold Medal Winner by Turnstile London

Sunday, March 25, 2012

La Sera Sees The Light (And So Do I): A Review Of The New Album

On her new record, Sees The Light, out 27 March on the Hardly Art label, La Sera (a.k.a. Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls) delivers a thoroughly listenable collection of fuzzy pop songs; quite simply: if you can't find something on this record to love, maybe you should give up on indie pop.

It's really hard to write about this one. Suitably retro, with nods to all the usual influences -- that same set that spawned a whole generation of bands on Slumberland Records -- La Sera's Sees The Light sounds like a lot of stuff you grew up on and a whole lot of other stuff you have to go find again in your collection.

That said, it's not just a lot of C86-inspired strum-and-coo here; this is a collection of solidly constructed Pop Songs.

It's a bonus that Katy Goodman has a lovely voice. But what makes this record a triumph is her sense of melody; she's got a way with a tune, as they say.

A song like "Please Be My Third Eye" would work without the furious churning going on underneath the lovely vocals. The effects here are in service of the tune and I really appreciated that as a listener.

And while "Break My Heart" may owe a huge debt to both The Primitives and The Jesus and Mary Chain, it's certainly more than a homage to those two acts. The song surges and soars and swoons, and by the time the xylophone (?) kicks in, it's already firmly embedded in your brain.

A listener may have heard these pieces before in the music of other bands but Katy Goodman as La Sera makes something new out of them. It's not like those American indie acts trying to ape the Btits. No, this sounds very American in some odd way.

I think there's a confidence here -- a near-swagger, really -- that sets this apart from about a dozen other records I can think of from a few years ago.

Listen to "I Can't Keep You in Mind" with its girl group drum stomp and slow-burn build-up. When the guitars crash in a wave, Katy's voice drops back and gets a bit delightfully lost in the mix. The effect is one of lovely vulnerability. The combination of the force of the verses with the practically lush chorus sections delivers a sort of musical magic here.

Sounding like Julie Cruise, La Sera sings the mournful "It's Over Now" and I have to ask: Why is Lana Del Rey all the rage when La Sera is making music like this?

And, hey, they're both redheads!

"I'm Alone" owes a debt to Black Tambourine's Pam Berry. And those Left Banke-style keyboards add a bit of nuance to this track. La Sera's voice is a thing of beauty here.

"Real Boy" is a lilting-and-swaying song that is the sort of thing the Pipettes were doing on their early singles.

"Drive On", with its nods to Link Wray in the guitar line, is a tiny bit sinister. Like ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall, La Sera here is using familiar elements from past pop to create something fresh and haunting.

The story of Sees The Light is La Sera makes a few nods -- subtle ones -- to the past and then pulls her influences together to make something fresh.

"How Far We've Come Now" is like early Ride. Not quite shoegaze-y, but in debt to that wall of noise. La Sera's voice is far back in the mix and the double-tracking in some spots add a cool vibe to this cut. Is it 1991 again?

Album closer "Don't Stay" is delightful, both old-fashioned girl group pop -- equal parts late 1960s Lesley Gore and Laura Nyro -- but also a sort of spin on Mazzy Star, with the neo-psychedelic bits reined-in and refined, sharpened and not so hazy anymore.

Sees The Light is a surprisingly focused and sharp take on a set of influences that lend themselves to musical laziness.

Katy Goodman as La Sera has really done something new with those pieces.

Carefully crafted pop and easily one of the best American rock records of the year, grab Sees The Light on the format of your choice on 27 March 2012 from Hardly Art.

Follow La Sera on the web:

official site
Facebook page
Tumblr site
her label page

"You Were Ice Cream For Freaks!": George Clooney in Out of Sight (1998)

Every time I watch Out of Sight (1998) I try to find something wrong with it. And every time, I come up empty-handed.

Tightly paced, funny, dramatic, romantic, and downright exhilarating (in a sly, charming way), Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's book is, quite possibly, one of the very best films of the 1990s.

Out of Sight (1998) is one of the very rare Hollywood films that doesn't insult one's intelligence. Sure, it's a glossy piece of product, but it's a smart one.

And, unlike the disposable products of Tarantino's factory of gimmicks, Soderbergh plays with the narrative here to serve a larger narrative purpose. The flash-backs actually matter here; no Pulp Fiction (1994)-style jerking the viewer around.

No, Soderbergh is interested in the characters first and the situation second. If sex or violence occur in the world of Out of Sight (1998) those actions have consequences for the characters. The sexual tension between the characters of Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney feels real and believable, not because they are both beautiful creatures but because we get to know the characters first. They are vulnerable souls on opposite sides of the law in this modern bit of real pulp fiction. And when someone gets shot, or seduced, it changes the course of the story.

The title of this blog post comes from the scene where Clooney tries to fly right post-prison and gets the shaft and shown the door from Albert Brooks' Dick Ripley and his goons...

Every member of the cast is uniformly excellent. Steve Zahn actually adds depth to a routine sort of stoner role; watch his face in that scene after he's forced to off the tranny with Cheadle and his thugs.

And Don Cheadle? Man, oh, man, do I love that guy. As Snoopy Miller, he's alternately hilarious and terrifying here. Cheadle is clearly having fun with the role and it shows -- "Reading is fundamental and shit." -- but he never quite turns the guy into a sympathethic figure. Snoopy is a monster and he's got a bunch of monsters in his gang with even less charm.

Kudos also to Ving Rhames clearly cast against type -- I think I read somewhere that Buddy was supposed to be an older white guy -- Rhames plays it low-key here, not quite so menacing as he was in Tarantino's film. He's the conscience of Clooney's Foley as well.

The always excellent Dennis Farina and Michael Keaton make appearances. And there's a nice cameo at the end of the film as well.

But Clooney scores for the win here. Cocky but inept -- dig that cheap suit in the Ripley scene which leads back into the film's opening scene -- and he's one of those cons with a heart of gold but he makes a believable one.

What makes him a thrilling actor here is that, despite being a thief, he's the voice of morality in this film, less interested in the loot than he is in having a way out of his current life.

Jennifer Lopez is pretty good here. As Karen Sisco, she's the right degree of bad-ass even if she seems a bit hesitant in this early starring role.

But Clooney owns Out of Sight (1998). No mean feat to outshine Cheadle, Rhames, Brooks, Keaton, and so on.

Clooney's Foley is a guy whose swagger has been depleted. He's had his ass kicked by life a few times and his cons are not working anymore.

He's the guy who's seen the end of the road and it's looking more and more like a life behind bars for him -- dig that early scene of Foley scoping out the lifers in the prison.

He's the guy who wants a better life but doesn't quite know how to get it.

Clooney's Foley is the moral man in a world of immorality.

No wonder he was an awful bank-robber.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blues Control To Release Album on Drag City - Listen To Snow Day Here!

Their new album won't be out for a few months but I'm already excited about Blues Control.

The reason why is because I played -- about a dozen times -- "Snow Day", which I've embedded below.

Somewhere between Broadcast and Durutti Column and John Barry, this song haunts me in a fantastic way.

Valley Tangents will be out on 19 June via Drag City and I am very much looking forward to hearing this record.

Check for more details.

Follow Blues Control on their Facebook page:

Snow Day 7" (2008) by Blues Control

More Of The Evening Commute (For The Folks Back Home)

I decided to stop and shoot a few ordinary pics on my commute home tonight. If I leave the office at 6:45, I usually make it to the IFC mall near the pier in time to grab a quick dinner and make the 8:00 PM ferry. So I usually walk in my door at 8:45.

This is in Kwun Tong, near the beginning of my march to the MTR (subway) station up in the distance.  This station is largely above-ground.

Waiting on the platform for my first quick ride -- just 2 stops...

The North Point Shuffle.  I never run for the train.  There will always be another one in 2 minutes.  This is the 2nd line switch.  I ride the Island line from North Point to Central...

This is at Central.  These people are waiting to go the direction I just came from on the same line.  The lines are due to the time of day -- and it's Friday -- but also to the fact that this route has only had one stop prior to this one.  A lot of these people will take the train up to Admiralty just to make the transfer there...

Going from Central Station to Hong Kong Station under the watchful eyes of Emma Watson...

Godiva or McDonald's?  Guess which one I picked!  This is in IFC, my final stop before the pier.  I have been eating at McDonald's to save time and money.  I can usually eat here in the 10 or 15 minutes I have before the 8:00 PM ferry.  Besides, I had a big sushi lunch today so there was no need to eat a big din-din...

Near the walkway to the pier.  City Super is an upscale supermaket chain with a lot of Western products.  So far, I've been too lazy to buy anything at this one on my way home.  Don't want to carry anything home that badly.  Though the hot food bar does look good.  One night I'll get something decent there...

Walkway from IFC to the ferry terminals...

Scenic?  Yes!

Looking across the harbour.  That ferry is going to the other end of Lamma...

10 minutes to spare?  I made it!

This guy was carrying a sleeping bag and a beer.  Got to love the Brits!

I usually sit in the back...

Blurry and too much glare...

Pier at Lamma.  It was windy tonight.  And tonight's docking was one of the worst I've ever experienced.  Not sure if that was due to the wind and waves or general incompetence...

This pic is for a friend back home.  The last time I had waffles here in HK in 2009, I had one of the worst asthma attacks I've ever had here...

I get my Pepsi Lights from that place on the left from the outdoor rack.  3 cans for $10HKD = 3 cans for about $1.28USD.  I cannot find Pepsi Light in a bottle anywhere in HK.  I will suffer with the cans as I get sick of Coke Light sometimes...

Ladies selling off the last of the day's fruit.  I think they were there when I walked past them at 7:15 AM, some 13 hours earlier...

The kebab place is up on the left.  Those dudes in blue are a few of the many Mitsubishi workers from Japan who run the power station here.  Either that or they have a Mysterians-style fortress on the other side of the island and are planning an invasion of Earth...

I had to pick up my laundry at the place on the left.  I usually go twice a week.  It's rough carrying laundry home from here so smaller bundles are the answer...

I took the short-cut tonight.  Since I'm typing this now, I guess that answers the question of whether I could make it up those 16 steps carrying a bag of laundry and a book-bag with 6 cans of soda in it.  My road is at the top of the steps and I walk right across to my place, more or less...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Into The Future Mixtape from Little Boots

Here's a new 40-minute mixtape from Little Boots. Dig it here and be sure to follow Little Boots on her website and Facebook page as well.

For details on Little Boots, follow on the official website.

Or follow Little Boots on the Facebook page:

You can play a 40-minute mixtape from Little Boots below. Check out the "Into The Future" mix from Little Boots now.
INTO THE FUTURE mixtape by LittleBoots

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Standard Fare - New Single For Singles Club!

The indie label Wiaiwya has a singles club-thing and Standard Fare are participating. 7777777 is the name of the Singles Club and you can find details on their blog -- link below.

Standard Fare are contributing the excellent "Girlfriend" and you can play that below.

Here's another link to my review of Out of Sight, Out of Town from back in January.

Follow Standard Fare on their website:

Or on their Facebook page:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free MP3 From San Francisco's Grass Widow

This is cool!

Part postpunk, part shoegaze, and part art rock, Grass Widow's music soars and rattles in equal measures.

The trio is set to release their third album, Internal Logic, on their own label on 22 May.

For now, dig this free MP3 of "Goldilocks Zone" and then check out the band on the web:

Goldilocks Zone by Grass Widow

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Standard Fare Video

Back in January, I gushed about the new album from Sheffield's Standard Fare. Out of Sight, Out of Town is really a great record and I urge you to buy it.

One of the better songs on the album now has a video. You can watch the video for "051107" below.

Also, please visit the band at their official website:

And on their Facebook page:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's A Beautiful Sunny Day In Hong Kong And I'm Sitting In A Theater Watching A Wong Jing Movie!?! (Plus More Avengers Nonsense)

More of that Avengers hype in a bit. First, some Wong Jing.

Yeah, as I got off the ferry in Central this afternoon, I asked myself why I was sacrificing a lovely Sunday afternoon for Wong Jing? Well, I wasn't, really. It's more a sense of duty. And The Gang of Film are a fun bunch so I always look forward to seeing a film with them.

Especially if the film is at The Grand as that theater can make garbage seem wonderful. Almost.

Well, The Gang of Film -- minus the female members -- gathered and we had an honorary female guest join us today: Valerie Soe from

Marrying Mr. Perfect (2012) was not horrible. I actually let a few genuine laughs slip out during the first half. But, the second half was just boring. Chapman To was funny in most of his scenes. And Ronald Cheng tried. But poor Gigi Leung looked half-asleep through most of this flick. She bore the signs of someone who hates her job and is just looking at the clock and waiting for quitting time.

Or in this case, just waiting for Wong Jing to yell "Cut!"

Okay, now about The Avengers (2012).

This shopping arcade in Causeway Bay had a ton of Avengers promo posters and standees up everywhere. I went through the whole building. They even had mini-mobiles hanging from the ceiling.

I ran through crazy scenarios in my mind of how I could sneak in after-hours and kidnap the standee, shove it into the back of a taxi, and get it on the ferry to Lamma; what better decoration for my barren apartment than a life-size Captain America and crew?

In the picture below, it says something about the Twins Pop-Up Store. I went there. Ah Sa and Ah Gil did not pop-up and greet me. It was just a bunch of clothes in a badly-lit room.

Twins + Marvel superheroes = fanboy joy!

I ambled home and got my ferry back to Lamma. As most restaurants in Causeway Bay were crowded, I had dinner at the kebab place here. That's the Turkish lamb pizza and some pickles.