Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sounding like the bastard offspring of Beck and "Tender"-era Blur, the growls and scuzzy charms of London's Eyes on Film have me hooked!
The urbane Earl Brutus? Maybe.
This is a surging, churning slice of post-rock. I dig this!
Eyes on Film are playing a gig with Carl Barat (The Libertines).
Find the details of that gig on their Facebook page:
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Gwenno Saunders of The Pipettes is about to release a self-produced EP on Peski Records. A woman of many talents, the EP reveals yet another side of the Cardiff-born singer. She's released music in Welsh before -- see this earlier post by me for a few MP3s -- but this new EP is an altogether more accomplished release. It really is a sort of revelation, especially for fans who know the singer from (admittedly sublime) Pipettes tracks like "Guess Who Ran Off With The Milkman?"
Here's my track-by-track review of the Ymbelydredd EP by Gwenno.
"Ymbelydredd" rides in on a One Dove-dance beat but the song never quite surrenders itself completely to the worlds of trip hop or dance music. Instead, the nostalgic tune coasts along on Gwenno's warm vocals and the subtle electronic backing track.
"50c" has a slight Human League vibe to it, thanks to the percussion and the keyboard riff, and the song lightly bounces forward on more lovely Gwenno vocals. The mix here is quite nice with some moments of multi-tracking that really remind a listener of what a beautiful voice Gwenno Saunders has.
"Astoria" is light and airy, a near late-period Cocteau Twins bit of musical business.
"Ti Yw Madonna" arrives on a strong melody line and Gwenno's voice here sounds more familiar. While the style is a universe apart from The Pipettes, astute fans can hear that Gwenno sound in the vocal work here. A hint of O.M.D. in the keyboard line is another nice touch -- think that band's "Souvenir" being covered by Altered Images.
"Despenser St." is my favorite cut on the EP. This song, about the street in Gwenno's hometown of Cardiff, has a vocal line that recalls -- in some weird way -- early Super Furry Animals even if the style of the track does not. (What is in the water over there in Wales?) Gwenno's voice, alternately tender and emotional here, makes "Despenser St." a charming and affecting tune. I don't have to speak Welsh to get the feeling of noslagia in this tune as Gwenno's voice conveys that sentiment perfectly. The instrumentation here is light and deft. The high keyboard figure is simple and effective while the percussive elements recall the best electronic bands of the late 1980s, as well as the more experimental early work from Wales' SFA.
Gwenno Saunders has really turned in a stunning and surprising bit of work here. Directly emotional and still otherworldly, the tunes on the Ymbelydredd EP reveal another side of Gwenno. Where The Pipettes were direct, witty, and concise, the material here is mysterious, spacious, and moody.
This is a lovely little record that recalls a slew of influences -- all great ones. Fans of Altered Images, Dot Allison, and Saint Etienne -- and The Pipettes -- are advised to check out this release as soon as possible.
Here's looking forward to more work like this from Gwenno.
For now, follow Gwenno on her Facebook page:
Or on her Tumblr page:
Or on the Peski Records Facebook page:
It could be because I didn't keep up with the Dark Reign event in the Marvel Universe, or it could be because it's sort of weak, but I didn't enjoy Dark Reign: Fantastic Four. Compiling 5 issues of the title, the events of the book find some of the Four lost in time, for lack of a better description, and Reed alone in the lab. The Franklin kids attempt to hold off the Osborn forces but that's really not enough to sustain interest.
The best moment in the volume was the Elizabethan (?) Ben Grimm uttering his famous line.
The art by Sean Chen was nice in spots but it wasn't enough to save this book for me.
An added feature in the trade, "The Cabal", was a good deal more interesting. A few lines of choice dialogue between Doctor Doom and Namor brought a smile to my face.
Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Adi Granov really bring a cinematic feel to these few pages. There's more drama and wit -- see below -- here than in the previous 5 issues with the Fantastic Four.
There was so much potential here.
In 1999, based on some mention in the NME, my friend and I found a few singles by The Young Offenders in the bins in England on our first trip there.
The singles -- in particular "Science Fiction" and "Pink and Blue" -- were just magnificent slices of T.Rex-inspired pop. Add in a few hints of early Suede -- that guitar work worthy of Bernard Butler comparisons -- and the songs really seemed hints of future greatness.
And flip-side "Get Laid With The Young Offenders" married ideas of sexual liberation to the sound of a Slade stomp to create a song that should have come from the mouths of one of those fake bands in 1998's Velvet Goldmine.
Unfortunately, the Irish band split up with wonderfully-named frontman Ciaran McFeely going on to perform as Simple Kid.
I found this video of The Young Offenders on YouTube and it's a great piece of footage of the band doing "Science Fiction" at T in the Park. I'm guessing that this is 1998 or 1999.
Enjoy and spread the word.
Friday, July 27, 2012
The band's new album will be out in late August on the same label as Razika.
For now, follow the guys on their Facebook page.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
It's hard to believe that not only did we get a fairly decent Avengers film this year, but now we're going to see The Falcon in the Captain America (2012) sequel.
The only way this could be better is if the film was going to be set in the 1970s.
As I grew up on that Jack Kirby run near the Bicentennial, it's hard for me to think of The Falcon and not think of that era
Still, Anthony Mackie looks like he could make a decent modern-day Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and I'm optimistic that this will be handled correctly.
Apart from Halle Berry's sometimes-dreadful Storm in the X-Men films, this is, quite possibly, the highest profile black superhero to hit the screen so far.
I'm still waiting for the Black Panther to join the on-screen Marvel Universe.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Gwenno of The Pipettes is back with a new Welsh language EP Ymbelydredd on Peski Records.
The title track sounds remarkably like early Saint Etienne -- think "You're In A Bad Way" stretched out into a trip-hop remix. And sung in Welsh. There's a hint of Dot Allison here as well but how many of you remember that underrated singer?
This sort of material really suits Gwenno's clear voice and I'm looking forward to hearing and reviewing the new EP.
For now, groove on the expertly edited video to "Ymbelydredd" below and follow Gwenno online:
On tour, releasing acclaimed records, London's 2:54 is a busy band at the moment.
On 10 September, the band will be releasing a new single, "Sugar", on Fiction Records.
You can play the tune below now.
It's snarling and seductive. It sounds like Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes wrestling with a bunch of old New Order records.
I dig it.
Follow 2:54 on their website:
Or on Facebook:
Monday, July 23, 2012
I always preferred the second line-up of Sugababes when Heidi Range joined the group. Still, that first album is remarkably accomplished. Listen to any "American Idol" hellspawn's record and then listen to One Touch.
See the difference?
Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan, and Siobhan Donaghy are back as, naturally, Mutya Keisha Siobhan -- I always fancied Mutya the best! -- and they're working on a new record.
In the meantime, read the Pop Justice interview.
Then head over to the new website for the gals: http://www.mutyakeishasiobhan.com/
Or check out their Facebook page:
And, finally, remind yourself of the talents of these pop babes by replaying "Soul Sound" below.
Play a new single "Moonlight Mile" -- not the Rolling Stones jam! -- here!
Follow The Babies on Facebook here.
Or on the band's official website: http://thebabiesband.tumblr.com/.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Has it really been 2 years since the first solo album from Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier? Readers will recall that I quite liked 2010's The Trip and I can say that I like the new Silencio even more.
Like The Trip, Silencio, out on 24 July on Drag City, sounds enough like Stereolab to please old fans and different enough to make it obvious why there was a need for the singer to do a solo record in the first place.
That said, there are moments on Silencio that sound very much like Stereolab, especially the sort of thing the band was doing on 1997's Dots and Loops, for example.
Where The Trip seemed -- in some moments, at least -- to focus on a kind of rarefied Europop, a blissed-out spin on late era disco, maybe, Silencio is more expansive, with soundscapes unfurling out behind Sadier's wonderful voice.
Dare I use the word "soaring" to describe her voice at some points here?
"The Rules of the Game" -- Yes, it's inspired by the Jean Renoir film! -- opens things with a languid and space-y stroll through familiar territory. Like an old McCarthy cut slowed down, Laetitia's thoughts on the "ruling class" are spoken over lovely backing vocals and a hint of an organ. Love the ending workout here!
"Find Me The Pulse Of The Universe" is an ascending riff-rocker in the mold of those 'Lab cuts. Clear vocals dominate and the gently percolating backing track gallops forward.
"Silent Spot" contains one of Laetitia's loveliest vocal performances to date. A near Jobim-like melody underpins this soaring song. It's wistful in a way but not sickeningly so.
"Auscultation to the Nation" rocks out with Laetitia's dissection of the world's financial situation. Radical and still lovely, Sadier rattles off a litany against the so-called "elites" of the world. The song descends into Throbbing Gristle-like noise near the end -- the sound of the financial markets crashing?
The magnificent "There Is A Price To Pay For Freedom (And It Isn't Security)" charms just as much on the album as it did as an advance free MP3. Just a lovely tune. The equal of any of the cuts on the last few Stereolab records, this song, with its post-9/11 era title, is clearly the highlight of Silencio. The production here -- the otherworldly bits, the Mellotron -- are used expertly and when Sadier's voice hits that bridge it's like the Andrea True Connection meeting a Philip Glass instrumental line.
"Moi Sans Zach" echoes the discofied cuts on The Trip not so much in a dance beat but in an attitude. The spoken French makes this sound like some lost Eurotrash flipside, the sort of thing Gainsbourg would spin when he was trying to woo Whitney Houston after that infamous TV show.
(Needless to say, my French is so rusty that I couldn't make out more than one or two words -- "des sandwich" -- here!)
"Between Earth and Heaven" is a push-and-pull between two styles. The song revs up and then slows down. There's a vaguely Brazilian touch to the guitar figure and some of the percussive elements. This is the cut on the record that doesn't sound very much like Stereolab. This cut pairs up smoothly with the following "Lightning Thunderbolt", a similar song.
"Fragment pour le future de l'homme" is a downright funky song that sounds a bit like Curtis Mayfield with Laetitia's (English) vocals purring over the cut. The blaxploitation guitar contrasts nicely with Sadier's chiming vocals. The organ here is a nice bit of Innervisions business.
"Merci de m'avoir donné la vie" is a gently chiming, slightly sinister stroll -- think Tindersticks.
"Next Time You See Me" finds Sadier back with Stereolab partner Tim Gane and the track sounds like a lost gem from Sound-Dust (2001). The duo's vocals blend effortlessly and it's the sound of a million indie kids swooning to the familiar sounds of another era.
"Invitation Au Silence" closes things off with a spoken word piece.
Silencio should please fans of Laetitia's first solo record and fans of her work in Stereolab, especially the mid-1990s stuff.
Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake shows up here as well. Nothing here is going to probably please diehard fans of "Revox", for instance. But the work that Laetitia is doing on Silencio is more mature and more nuanced. Her vocals now embrace more of a jazz style. And she seems to have more range now.
Silenceio is out 24 July on Drag City.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I have never felt more like a lazy American at work here in Hong Kong than I have this week during the 2012 Hong Kong Book Fair.
See, I don't read Chinese, or speak it either, so there's really not much for me to do at the Hong Kong Book Fair. For my coworkers, this is a crazy time of year, especially for my colleagues in the other parts of the company I work for.
The English-language economic and history titles that we crank out in my department are too price-y and too academic -- they're almost niche titles -- for the Hong Kong Book Fair crowd.
Still, I wanted to see the fair for myself so I went to Wan Chai today.
I did attend one of the only English language seminars -- a forum on international publishing. As the topics all related to children's books, there wasn't much for me to take away to use at my job. Still, some of the presentations were interesting.
Beautiful view of the Hong Kong skyline outside the conference room...
More views of the crowds and exhibition halls...
I saw Cap and Superman and decided to stop!
I flipped through these trade paperbacks like a madman. The prices were decent compared to what these editions would cost in America. AND it's not like it's easy to find comic books and graphic novels here in Hong Kong...
This film series from Hong Kong University Press is quite popular with some of my friends. I would like to read some of these one day...
In the stacks of cheap English classics, I spied 2 of my very favorite novels of all time...
Nice Star Wars books...
An encyclopedia of the Marvel universe unceremoniously resting near a Miley Cyrus book!!!
You can even buy maps at the Hong Kong Book Fair!
Andy Lau makes an appearance at the TVB booth!
And Miriam Yeung makes an appearance on a mag cover at the South China Media Group booth...
Sinking afternoon sun behind some weary reader-shoppers...
Looking for an exit -- the kid-stormtroopers did a good job of herding people around; it's far easier to get into the fair than it is to get out.
I loved that old pic of the Hong Kong skyline with very nearly the same skyline right behind me...
This weary reader/observer/shopper needed some food. I hit one of my favorite restaurants for some dinner as I hoofed it through Wan Chai and back to the MTR...
My usual beef steak and menudo plus a new dish for me: Bicol express! Salty and spicy goodness!
I splurged and got 3 trade paperbacks. I've read some of the Hickman run on the Fantastic Four already -- that's good stuff...and the Sean Chen art in the other FF book caught my eye. As for the Brubaker run on Captain America: I can't say that I'm a huge fan of the guy's highly rated work on the title but seeing as how the 2014 Captain America sequel film will be about the Winter Soldier, I thought I better get caught up now...