Friday, 26 March 2010

Single review - Dreaming, Allo Darlin'

Published online at the 405, here.

Elizabeth Morris’s sickly sweet vocals and lyrics come together to make yet another perfect pop tune.

Joined by Monster Bobby from The Pipettes, and his extreme baritone, the duo make an unlikely couple but this all just adds to the charm of this thoroughly enchanting song.

You could say this latest offering is very much in a similar vein to last year’s 'Henry Rollins Don't Dance' and 'The Polaroid Song', but we’re certainly not tired of these yet so if you liked them you’re sure as hell going to like ‘Dreaming’.

The runaway bass line and layers and layers of pretty instrumentation from ukuleles, drums and dreamy guitars stop this track turning into a boring old ballad. And all with the sort of cutesy lyrics that any romantic city dweller will relate to: “Take the night bus with me tonight, frost on the window. It’s freezing out here on the pavement, but here in your arms it’s heaven.”

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Recent Discoveries

I don't know an awful lot about any of these artists other than the fact that I fudging love them and have been alternating between listening to all four on repeat over the last couple of weeks.

The Middle East really intrigue me, firstly because they are described as a 'musical collective' and not just a 'band' like everyone else and secondly because like many amazing bands I love - they really should be bigger than they are. The only album they have released, the imaginatively named 'The Recordings of the Middle East', is absolutely beautiful. Grizzly Bear obviously realised this because they got The Middle East on as support early in their most recent tour. Plus this music video is so lovely, so so lovely...

And I am totally sold on this particular track by Dan Auerbach but then I was always a bit partial to the musical stylings of Ray Lamontagne - to which this particular song sounds very similar. Having checked out his myspace, however, this is definitely a stand out track - eerie and pretty at the same time and even more so because of its simplicity.

First Aid Kit must be destined for great things, at least in the UK anyway. They manage to marry the female singer/songwriter thing with the folky thing - surely the holy grail of current popular music outfits?

Probably don't need to say much about Broken Bells, the pairing up of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The was always going to be this good wasn't it?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Single Review - Religious, Gloria Cycles

Now published at The 405, here.

Gloria Cycles latest single ‘Religious’ is unashamed upbeat indie pop and what’s wrong with that.

Including the Jack Penate-esque vocal stylings of Kenny McCracken – an imposing chap, with his waxed ginger moustache and waistcoat he looks like he’d be happier perched on top of a penny-farthing than holding an electric guitar.

It’s a song about proving to a lover and perhaps yourself that you’re in love with them. Nothing unusual there. The feel-good raucous chorus states: “Do I need ya? Yes I need you here my love. I’ll try to never leave ya, never make you get up and run”. And it will be in your head for days.

But there’s nothing wrong with this track, even if it is just a slightly new slant on a very well gone over theme.

The Brighton-based band have managed to provide us with little piece of musical sunshine in ‘Religious’ during what must be the longest winter on record.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Your work can be copied

Published online, here.

One independent illustrator made the news recently when she accused stationery giants Paperchase of copying one of her designs.

The illustrator, who goes by the name of Hidden Eloise, draws and creates a range of items that are sold online via the craft site Etsy.

In November 2009 a buyer informed Hidden Eloise that Paperchase were using a design almost identical to one of hers on a range of their products. 

The image of a dark-haired girl leaning against a mushroom appeared to be an exact copy of her original illustration of a girl leaning on a large brown bear titled, “He says he can hear the forest whisper” (see video).

Despite the obvious similarities between the works, Paperchase denied the design had been copied. The company said it had bought the print from an agency called Gather No Moss who claimed one of their designers had created it.

Hidden Eloise maintained that she had created the design in March 2008 and put together some very strong evidence, which demonstrated Paperchase’s version was indeed, a copy.

Hidden Eloise told artsLONDON news: “Sadly there is not much one can do to protect from copying itself. However, it’s a good idea to have public records of when you created your art so you can fight plagiarism.”

Then, on February 11 this year, the story unexpectedly began to receive global attention after Hidden Eloise's fans began to twitter about Paperchase’s treatment of the case. And it was reported that Paperchase and the agency received thousands of complaints.

Later that same day, Paperchase's blatant plagiarism made it on to The Guardian’s website. Pressure was clearly mounting on the stationery company and they finally released a statement admitting they were “not without blame” for the situation.

A statement from Paperchase was released alongside apologies from the agency. The freelance designer admitted: “I copied the outline pose of the Hidden Eloise character called – “He says he can hear the Forest Whisper” to create a new pose for my character. 

I did not intend to copy the girl but use her pose to create a new design for my own character, I now realise it was wrong to do this.“

Hidden Eloise has decided not to pursue the case into the courtroom and has returned the cheque for £350 that Gather No Moss sent — the fee, which they claim, was paid for the design in the first place.

Hidden Eloise had no reason to expect her work would be copied; she was careful to present her work alongside the copyright symbol and always signed and dated it.

She told artsLONDON news that the situation would not change how she publishes her work: “The internet is a great way to have your work recorded, through an online shop or just flickr and so on.

“And that way you can show dates if you need to fight for your intellectual property. I have always used Creative Commons for all the content in my blog. Making it easy for people to talk about your art is very important.”

Visit Hidden Eloise's blog to see more of her work and read more about her story.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Single Review - Body - Thao with The Get Down

Published over at The 405, here.

With all the ska influence and swagger – not to mention strong female vocal, of an early No Doubt, ‘Body’ is a brazen return to the sort of ‘90s pop rock sound long forgotten under a barrage of indie.

Just as easy is imagining The Zuton’s Dave McCabe belting this out or even The Coral, if switching our aural attention to this side of the Atlantic for some comparison.

“What am I just a body in your bed? You are a dead man. I just have to shoot the gun.” Thao questions with serious attitude, and you can’t help but believe her.

It’s a classic angsty study on the “why don’t you love me” theme but this band delivers it with so much punch and exuberance that it feels totally new.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Album Review - Everybody Knows It's Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight - The Go Find

Published over at The 405, here.

The latest offering from Belgian group, The Go Find is the incongruously named ‘Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight’ and it happens to sound a lot like, well, a lot of other bands.

The similarities and influences are just too obvious to omit, these include Kings of Convenience, Peter Bjorn and John, a rather large dose of Phoenix and even Royksopp.

The lyrics on title track 'Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight’ sets the theme of wistfulness and nostalgia, “Let me take you back, back to the 90s, when we were teens…with secret desires”. They are pretty but again are reminiscent of a number of The Go Behind’s predecessors.

And unfortunately when you start comparing one band to another or others, it’s very difficult to stop and this album seems to positively egg you on in doing so. It continues with ‘Automatic’, which injects a welcome dose of energy into the mix using one of pop music’s most favoured devices, the days of the week.

Perhaps channeling The Cure - the song opens, “Monday morning, I’m not able. I don’t think it’s gonna work. Friday evening, I am ready. But sleepy I’m not going out”, but of course, it reminds without being as good as Robert Smith’s 'Friday I’m In Love’.

Then there’s ‘Cherry Pie’ and ‘One Hundred Percent’ which demonstrate that The Go Find can produce as decent an indie pop tune as Peter Bjorn and John, and although pleasant enough to listen to, it’s still nothing new.

The album finishes on pop-ballad ‘Heart of Gold’. Starting promisingly enough, ‘Heart’ boasts electric guitars, big drums and key changes – all of which appear to have been transported into your ears via 1983 and with the quiet whispered singing of front man, Dieter Sermeus, this is quite a beautiful track. But without a big chorus ‘Heart of Gold’ ends up feeling a bit like the over-emotional noise playing over the credits of a Hollywood flop.

All in all The Go Find do dreamy electro pop pretty well, but this album evokes so many comparisons with bands that actually do it better that you might be better off listening to them instead.

Theatre Review - Little Fish

Published on Running In Heels, here.

Sarah-Lisa Wilkinson's new play at The Space, shortlisted for the Old Vic New Voices Award last year, depicts a young family trying to come to terms with their tragic family history.

Cici (Helen Clapp) and Jamie (Damian Cooper) are twins who live together in the family home. Their mother has passed away some months before.

They are joined one stormy night by older sister Claire (Lucy Laing) who they have not seen since she became famous after having sex on a Big Brother-type television show.

Drunk and high on drugs, Claire is the definitive celebrity gone bad and her presence disturbs the twins. Particularly troubling is that although she has spilled her out to gossip magazines, she refuses to talk to her sister about her feelings so instead they fizz just beneath the surface.

As a member of the audience sitting in the Round, you feel drawn into the lives of the three siblings to an almost unbearable degree.

 The tension is palpable. So much so that when Jamie throws a fit of rage throwing sheets of paper around, it feels almost paranormal. 

Just like the dark fairy tales Cici makes up, what is really going on in this multi-layered plot is revealed gradually, until you realise - this play is fundamentally about grief.

Grief haunts each sister. One turns in on herself, finding refuge in her imagination and the family home. The other turns to the outside world and seeks comfort within the confines of an altogether different house.

With fantastic performances from the young cast, this is a story that captivates you from beginning to end.

Little Fish is an intriguing play, simple on the surface but touching on big and thought provoking themes. (Photo: White With Two Sugars)

Friday, 5 March 2010

Film Review - Exit Through The Gift Shop

Now published over at Running In Heels.

I wish all cinema experiences were like the one I enjoyed at Banksy’s advanced screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop yesterday.

Under the railway arches on Leake Street by Waterloo station Banksy had converted a large, dark and dank space into his cinema, the ironically nicknamed Lambeth Palace. Not usually somewhere I would choose to spend a sunny afternoon, there was a hushed anticipation as us lucky selection of arts students queued outside a small door barely visible under the graffiti covered walls. To get a taste look here.

Inside we were invited to look round some examples of the work that has catapulted Banksy to international fame. A fake bonfire ‘burned’ in one room — fuelled by replicas of great works of art, among them portraits of Elizabeth I and Napoleon.

One piece showed a smiling Queen and Prince Phillip unveiling a piece of graffiti reading ‘Die Nazis’ and we picked up some popcorn from the bashed up ice cream van which had previously been parked at Banksy’s extremely successful and free exhibition in Bristol last year.

The documentary itself was as surprising as the venue, brilliantly pieced together and really funny — the rowdy student audience was laughing out loud throughout.

Banksy who appears on screen as a grim reaper figure with his black hoodie and face obscured by shadow, speaks with a strong Bristol accent despite the voice distortion, only adding to the comic effect - see below.

In fact throughout the documentary I frequently questioned whether we were perhaps all the butt of a particularly elaborate joke from the mysterious street artist — brilliantly executed but a joke all the same.

And indeed, stealer of the show, Frenchman Thierry Guetta, seems too good to be true — as Banksy says drolly “he’s more interesting than me”. Guetta, a compulsive and obsessive character, he could have walked straight out of a story imagined by fellow Frenchman and director Michel Gondry. He films absolutely everything and takes his video camera everywhere but locks away his tapes without cataloguing or any desire to watch them back.

Thankfully Guetta’s obsessive need to film is put to use as he finds himself at the fore of an exploding trend in street art. He becomes an unlikely friend and documenter of some of the movement’s biggest stars, including the illusive Banksy.

I recommend wholeheartedly going to watch Exit Through the Gift Shop to see how the story pans out, unfortunately for you it will probably be in the regulation settings of a chain-owned cinema. You may miss out on some of the atmosphere provided by the trains rattling overhead and our battered up seats but the charm of this low budget documentary will not be diminished, offering a very enjoyable 90 minutes to everyone, anywhere.