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Posts Tagged ‘plan b’

I don’t get the hype over Animal Collective, considering their status quo as the indie darlings of 2009. Their album Merriweather Post Pavilion has topped many lists made over the past few weeks. It has critics dangling on its every hook and every lyric, and bloggers gushing over it, talking about it how is the best pop album since Beach Boys dropped Pet Sounds on the late Sixties. Like I said, I don’t get it. Animal Collective is too cutesy for me. Their orchestrated mess of melodies seems contrived and sometimes too lost in its own complexities. Sort of like indifferent people who make it a point to make others fully understand the extent to which they don’t give a fuck. Of course, there is that song No More Runnin. Probably the only song of their 2009 album that doesn’t turn me off. It moves effortlessly and strangely, daring you to move along with it. Like a mad, mad breeze.

*****

You should pay more attention to women like Neko Case, Regina Spektor and Cara Beth Satalino. Achingly delicate vocals and dreamy notes that would have your toes twitching in pleasure. Cara Beth is so conventionally unpopular that Google only has precious little information about her. She doesn’t dramatically croon. She doesn’t over accentuate monosyllables. She sure as hell doesn’t have one of her songs remixed by a member of her boyfriend’s posse. She sings, plays the piano, strums the guitar and probably yawns a lot after sex. Whatever. After listening to her sultry single Bizzaro, I say, shame on Google.

*****

Dance Punk. Electro Pop. Indie Disco. Irregardless of how you want pigeonhole MGMT, the bottom line is that they make incredibly catchy music. Their sophomoric album Oracular Spectacular lives up to the hype that preceded it. Chockfull of colourful guitar melodies and synthesized beats that wash over them, it rightfully should have invaded every dancefloor, along with Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion, in 2007. The track The Youth has MGMT dreaming a dream that could make hippies collectively sob for three days. Even as they sing “this is a call of arms to live and love and sleep together, we could flood the streets with love or light or heat whatever,” you feel no anger. Only the strange sensation of music bringing out the optimist inside you.

*****

Mika is a cocktail of synth pop, cough syrup and Freddie Mercury. Some have compared him to Lady Gaga, but I can only see similar intentions. See, she fails where Mika succeeds – making ridiculously fun music that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence. If only Star World didn’t incessantly playing the chorus of Love Today to introduce every one of their dam sitcoms, it would sound infinitely more refreshing than it does. Grace Kelly is pitch perfect and if you haven’t shaken a hip to it, do it before life sucks all the fun out of you. Relax (Take It Easy) should be given an international bravery award. From the stupid song title and the sampling of a horrible 80s pop rock song (Cutting Crew’s I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight) to the infusion of techno and a chorus that goes “relax, take it easy for there is nothing that we can do”, it boldly goes to strange places and comes out sounding good. I’d totally go gaga over the prospect of him recording a Freddie Mercury tribute album.

*****

Israel-based Panic Ensemble, comprising Feldman, Kraus, Yarkoni, Golandsky and Yarkoni, is an art rock cabaret group that makes wonderfully whimsical music. Sometimes folkish, sometimes jazzy and always tight. “Spring From Your Heart” from their self-titled debut is one of my favourite discoveries of this year. There is something so very sensual about a delicate voice singing, “I’m closing down on you my butterfly, dance…so the stars will remember” as the rest of the band gently launches into an orchestral folk section. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Panic Ensemble!

*****

I loved the hell out of French indie band Phoenix when I first heard them on their fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix a few months ago. Their brand of shiny electronica rock music gave me sugary goosebumps then, but now they all seem so suddenly ordinary. And then I stumbled upon their epic Love Like a Sunset. Over seven minutes of beautiful post-rock riffing drenched in glossy reverb and shimmering acoustics. One of those songs that make me go “ahhh”.

*****

Who’d have thought the coming together of the discreetly Christian pop rock band (Coldplay) and an evidently mediocre East Coast rapper (Rick Ross) would make for such a spectacular mashup? More props to Plan B and his Paint It Blacker mixtape. If only he got someone else to write his lyrics, I’d hardly have to take him off my daily playlist.

*****

In 2007, The Hoosiers released The Trick to Life – one of the best modern garage pop albums since Blur’s Think Tank. These lads from Sweden sound notoriously drunk on coffee and high on the visceral energy of music. You might mistake them for White Stripes rip off # 23, but that’s only because bouncy garage riffs kickstart a few of their songs. The single Cops and Robbers struts around the speakers, with the swagger of garage rock and roll and a hint of the low-brow eccentricity that made bands such as Madness and Mighty Mighty Bosstones irresistibly likeable during the early Nineties. Stay tuned to their sophomore Album Deux.

Watch / Listen

Animal Collective – No More Runnin

Cara Beth Satalino – Bizzaro

MGMT – The Youth

Mika – Grace Kelly, Relax (Take It Easy)

Panic Ensemble – Spring From Your Heart

Phoenix – Love Like A Sunset

Plan B, Rick Ross and Coldplay – Hustling

The Hoosiers – Cops And Robbers

Buy

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion

Cara Beth Satalino’s Crowded Mouth

MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular

Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much

Panic Ensemble’s Self-Titled

Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The Hoosiers’ The Trick to Life

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Gritty films are like fine Yak cheese. Tough to chew on and harder to digest. They make you phsyically react. You flinch, make silly faces, bite your fingernails and queasily throw away the popcorn. You indulge in grand soliloquies about how depraved society has become and worse, the extent to which art has become immune to it. Of course, once we are done being assholes, we realize how much we actually enjoyed the stark realism portrayed. Granted that Hollywood is adverse to such when they aren’t generously sprinkled with kitschy emotions, I get my fix from British films. Now maybe I don’t know better, but fewer lands have been prone to cultural nihilism than England. Call it a subconscious colonial hangover, but I’d rather kick a pimp in the groin in Brooklyn without provocation than ask someone for the time in a London subway (unless I’m in Larry Clark’s version of America). Their Punks, Mod-heads, Skinheads and generic beer guzzlers over the decades have seemed much more imposing than their American counterparts. Recently, word is that a new species of juvenile criminals – the hoodies – have been spreading a culture of mindless violence in the night streets of London; so much so that Guardian has written a very nervous article about their impact on British cinema.

Daniel Barber’s Harry Brown brings the sights, sounds and smell of this hoodie culture. Kids in jumper suits do the darndest things in this film. When night draws its curtains, they lurk the subway and desolate streets, knifing elder citizens, throwing flaming dog shit, and purging on drugs, sexual contact and random acts of violence. Michael Caine (Harry Brown) plays a widowed ex-marine at odds with these hoodies. A quiet old man who wants little else in life than a game of chess, a few pints and the memory of his daughter. However, a senseless act of violence against his best mate drives him over the edge as Mr Brown turns into a lone vigilante seeking vengeance against the psychopathic delinquents.

Truth be told, the film takes a turn for the worse from then on. Predictability looms large in the name of street justice and a tiny bit of melodrama seeps in the form of Detective Frampton played by Emily Mortimer. Hell, I didn’t even sit through the end credits, which personally for me, is a litmus test. Still, Harry Brown is going to end up on my list of the best films of 2009.

It’s simple, really. Michael fucking Caine. From channeling his character’s graceful sorrow in the first half and seething rage in the second, the man hasn’t looked this good since Get Carter. Even more fantastic is the transition that takes place midway. Only a truly gifted actor could pull off a Steven Seagal-like Judo move during a pivotal moment in the film and not look like a total jackass.

The other actors also do their bit to save the film’s descent into predictability. Ben Drew (Plan B) and the other hoodies are mean as hell and make you flinch with their lack of sympathy. I’d totally expect the little psychos in Eden Lake to grown into these types. David Bradley is brilliant as Len Atwell, Brown’s best mate, with his doleful grandfather eyes perfectly capturing the fear and loathing that decent folks might feel in a dystopian environment. Only the last few minutes of the film has the actors messing around with cliches as though they have been given clear instructions to make sure that the we reach for the tissue papers. Even then, Michael Caine pulls it off and spouts obligatory one-liners with such dignified grace.

Now look, unless the universe is sucked into a black hole and spat out inexplicably before the Oscar nominees are announced for 2010, the Academy would, in all likeliness, ignore Caine’s performance and instead choose James Cameron in the Best Actor category for having meticulously played “film directors” for over a decade. So to hell with them, Harry ol’ boy…grab a rocking chair, and sit your ass next to Walt Kowalski.

When Cameron thanks his mom and God for creating a film that technically requires no acting whatsoever, lower your shotguns.

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With the exception of the Revolver album, British pop psychedelia, in typical English whimsy, kept to itself for most part of the Sixties.  The 23rd Turnoff, led by Liverpool songwriter Jimmy Campbell, were just one of those bands way ahead of their time. In fact, most pop psychedelic bands were, with their beautiful distortions of popular music.  The 23rd Turnoff’s Michael Angelo is a perfect example of that evolved sound. Dreamily twirling around Jimmy’s vocal harmonies, it takes us on a kaleidoscopic ride to the future of captivating pop music. I’m telling you…Air’s Moon Safari, Brian Wilson’s Smile, and The Divine Comedy’s Absent Friends …it’s all in there.

*****

Lupe Fiasco is thankfully several shades from going Kanye West on us. He is immensely talented and he knows it. Unlike Georgia’s biggest joke since Jermaine Dupri, he doesn’t fawn over the supposed miracle that he is. Instead he goes delightfully cuckoo on us, rapping about video gamers, cheeseburgers and Third World child soldiers. The music behind his words is what takes Lupe Fiasco’s appeal to another level. Some of the beats in his The Cool album released in 2008 are so futuristic that he probably should visit Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire where Stanley Kubrick was buried. A quiet moment between two artists ahead of their times.

*****

Looks like Plan B hasn’t grown up lyrically since I last heard from him. He’s still rapping about the tragedy of being poor and very pissed off. Hard to take him seriously about the poverty bit, considering he was raised in Forest Gate, a residential area in London and had the privilege of a decent education. So rest assured he is just 24 and really really pissed off. For those who are already into the urban British hip hop scene in all its sleazy realism and stark imagery, Plan B could make your heads spin in delight. Alongside Slug, Sage Francis and Mike Skinner, he’s giving whiteboy rappers a good name. In his new mixtape Paint It Blacker he brilliantly uses Radiohead’s eerie piano ballad – Pyramid Song – to lay his rhymes down. I promise, hearing him rap “I aint no stranger to drugs I’ve had my fair share, had my head up in the clouds like a fucking care bear” won’t take away the awesomeness of the Radiohead sample. Like I said, pretty fly for a white guy.

*****

Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife gave Britpop lovers a reason to feel cool again during the mid-Nineties. Also, you have got to love Blur for helping the world pay less attention to the criminally-overrated Oasis. They had a nice little formula working for them during that period. Damon Albarn did his ‘eccentric wounded chap at the pub’ vocals that wander hither thither, holding on dearly to Graham Coxon’s electric noodling and Alex James’ bassline, with Dave Rowntree’s organic percussions holding the lot together. Their sixth album 13 had them scurrying away from Britpop and becoming notoriously indie, gathering gorgeous gospel and electronic influences along for the ride. Coffee and TV is like nothing I have heard from them before, with its twisted pop hooks and garage-y freakout towards the end, but for me the highlight of 13 is “Tender”. An aching gospel-laden chorus leads the way, singing, “come on come on get through it, come one come on come on, love’s the greatest thing we have” so convincingly that it just might have us skeptics throwing kitchenware to the floor, sulking and muttering “it is, isn’t it?”.

Download

Plan B’s Paint It Blacker mixtape

Lupe Fiasco’s Enemy Of The State mixtape

Watch

The 23 Turnoff – Michael Angelo

Lupe Fiasco – Paris, Tokyo

Plan B & Radiohead – Missing Links

Blur – Tender

Blur – End Of A Century

Buy

The 23rd Turnoff’s The Dream Of Michelangelo

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool

Plan B’s I Am The Captain, Where We Going?

Blur’s 13

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Plan B is East London’s very own Marshall Mathers, but only less cartoonish. He spins grim, menacing and often semi-fictional stories around acoustic guitar samples and velvet basslines. Sort of like Eminem meets Dizzee Rascal at a Tom Waits concert.

In “Sick 2 Def”, he castrates society for putting pedophiles on TV and for indulges in a bit of braggadocio about his foul-mouthed metaphors. Pretty standard stuff considering how far entertainment has strayed away from its once squeaky clean image. Hell, Larry Clark has created visuals that have been far more disturbing than Plan B’s words.

But the music, well the music is rather nice. In this song, the acoustic parts work wonderfully well with his cockney accent.

In “No More Eatin”, Plan B gets all emotional about youth gone wild and sounds like a teenage Gill Scott Heron on crack. Once again, the music behind these words saves the day, as we get one hell of a track that seems to pay homage to some of the finest works of Rage Against The Machine.

Try not to squirm while he raps about 15-year-old feigns committing murder, rape and general mayhem for money, food and Pokemen cards and I promise, you won’t feel a thing.

Music over matter, literally.

Download

Sick To Def – Plan B

No More Eatin’ – Plan B

Buy

Plan B’s Who Needs Actions When You Got Words

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