Archives for December 2012

5 Best Albums of 2012.

first-aid-kit-lions-roar5. First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar. The sec­ond album from Swedish sis­ters Klara and Johan­na Söder­berg, bare­ly into their 20s, arrived at the begin­ning of the year. Reviewed by me ear­li­er here, it’s a pitch-per­fect con­coc­tion of dreamy Amer­i­cana, draped, care­ful­ly, in the cloak of melancholia.

4. Metz, Metz. The talk of the town at this year’s CMJ – see my review ear­li­er here – the trio from Toron­to pro­duce a tor­rent of vis­cer­al noise fuelled by the adren­a­lin of undi­lut­ed but care­ful­ly chan­neled youth.

Soar3. Dexys, One Day I’m Going To Soar. News that Kevin Row­land and Dexys were about to resur­face with a new album and an accom­pa­ny­ing tour was met, under­stand­ably, with skep­ti­cism and trep­i­da­tion. Remark­ably, as I report­ed ear­li­er here, both were a minor sen­sa­tion. A glo­ri­ous and painful­ly hon­est album that con­tin­ues to glow.

2. Frank Ocean, Chan­nel Orange. In an ever so slight­ly dis­ap­point­ing year, this is the one album on every­one’s end of year list. Reviewed by me ear­li­er here, this is as lyri­cal­ly com­plex as it is musi­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed. And its genre-hop­ping con­fi­dence sug­gests that an heir to the regal Prince might final­ly have emerged.

Katie Kim "Cover & FLood"1. Katie Kim, Cov­er & Flood. When this album came out last Feb­ru­ary it some­what slipped under the radar. Which is most unfair as, as I wrote in my ear­li­er review here, Katie Kim pulls off the sig­nif­i­cant feat of being as remark­able in the stu­dio as she is on stage. And this, her sec­ond album, is a haunt­ing­ly evoca­tive work that con­jures up an impres­sive­ly moody dreamscape.

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5 Best TV Programmes this Christmas.

ss-tdy-120313-marilyn-16.ss_full5.  Sat 22nd, 7pm BBC4. Lawrence Olivi­er directs and stars in The Prince and The Show­girl, togeth­er, some­what incon­gru­ous­ly with Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Fright­ful­ly sil­ly, but both are end­less­ly watchable.

And it’s fol­lowed at 9pm, still on BBC4, by Screen Goddesses:Arena, which is and remains the best arts strand any­where on television.

4.  St. Stephen’s Day, 2:40 BBC2. Vin­cente Min­nel­li directs Gene Kel­ly and the arche­typ­al gamine Leslie Car­ron in Gersh­win’s 1951 musi­cal An Amer­i­can In Paris. This terp­si­chore­an and Tech­ni­col­or MGM clas­sic is prob­a­bly one of the very few films screened this Christ­mas that many peo­ple won’t already have seen.

Silvano_Nano_Campeggi_An_American_in_Paris_1228_333.  Christ­mas Eve, 11:55pm BBC4; and Thurs­day Dec 27th,11:10pm RTE2. Are­na: Amy Wine­house – The Day She Came To Din­gle. This qui­et­ly mov­ing and thought­ful­ly put togeth­er pro­gramme shows the singer in dis­arm­ing­ly relaxed form as she chats acces­si­bly before tak­ing to the stage for RTE’s Oth­er Voic­es in 2006.

2.  St. Stephen’s Day, 7pm BBC4. The Two-Thou­sand Year old Com­put­er. For those of you who haven’t already seen it, here’s a chance to savour once more this qui­et­ly told and end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry, which I reviewed more ful­ly here. It’s absolute­ly riv­et­ing and is not to be missed.

1.  Sun­day 23rd, 11:25pm BBC1. The Gra­ham Nor­ton Show. Our own Gra­ham Nor­ton, from Ban­don where, we were always told, even the pigs are Protes­tant, has become the bright­est star on British tele­vi­sion. Iron­i­cal­ly, he’s done it by adopt­ing the quin­tes­sen­tial­ly British cloak of irony-clad self-dep­re­ca­tion. By pre­sent­ing him­self as a bit of a fool, he effort­less­ly pro­duces a bril­liant­ly intel­li­gent and con­sis­tent­ly riv­et­ing talk show.

tom-cruise-tom-cruise-18576293-1280-9601Tonight’s guests are Dustin Hoff­man and Jen­nifer Saun­ders, and are joined by Bil­ly Con­nol­ly. Sure­ly even he’ll seem fun­ny in this company?

And Gra­ham’s back again on New Year’s Eve on BBC1 at 10:35pm. His guests tonight include Tom Cruise and Bil­ly Crystal.

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Is Seven Psychopaths the Greatest Irish Film of the Century?

SevenPsychopaths2012MovieTitleBannerMar­tin McDon­agh has done a brave thing here. He’s made a film that looks for all the world like a real­ly lazy, sub-Taran­ti­no Hol­ly­wood B movie, peo­pled by ris­i­bly sub-one-dimen­sion­al card­board cut-outs in a mes­mer­i­cal­ly unfun­ny so say pastiche.

But what he’s actu­al­ly pro­duced is a bril­liant­ly can­did por­trait of a writer par­a­lyzed by fear, who spends his days in an alco­holic haze pet­ri­fied that he has noth­ing to say.

Instead of fol­low­ing the writer in a con­ven­tion­al way though, what he’s done is to show us the kind of film that a writer like that would pro­duce if he real­ly was as untal­ent­ed as he secret­ly fears. And he were to insist on writ­ing a screen­play any­way, despite being per­ma­nent­ly inebriated.

Hence those tedious­ly clichéd char­ac­ters wan­der­ing around LA, spout­ing all that pseu­do-Taran­ti­no, wannabe Mamet dia­logue that the writer clear­ly thinks will sud­den­ly gain weight sim­ply by being con­stant­ly repeated.

Occa­sion­al­ly, the writer will com­ment on his fail­ings as a writer, as if by talk­ing about them he might be able to fix them. Which, need­less to say, is grat­ing­ly Cal­i­forn­ian, and is exact­ly the kind of thing a writer like that would think.

seven-psychopaths-walkenSome­how, despite being asked to wade through all this swill, Christo­pher Walken man­ages the remark­able feat of con­jur­ing up a per­for­mance of gen­uine charm. And Col­in Far­rell sim­i­lar­ly suc­ceeds in occa­sion­al­ly mak­ing you actu­al­ly feel for the writer. But then he’s forced to emit more of that drea­ry dia­logue. Which he then has to repeat. Again.

Of course there’ll be the less cineas­t­i­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed who’ll no doubt claim that McDon­agh has gone from writ­ing plays that read like real­ly long episodes of Father Ted but with­out any of the jokes, to a sub-Taran­ti­no (did you get the ref­er­ence yet?) Hol­ly­wood pas­tiche with­out any of its jokes. And any­one who’s seen all six hours of Kill Bill will know what that feels like.

No way — I’m look­ing for a wit­ty, po-mo meta-rhyme, there it is — José. Sev­en Psy­chopaths is so much more than that.

Despite what it looks like, this is in fact a bril­liant dis­til­la­tion of the kind of unspeak­able script a writer might pro­duce, if he spent his every wak­ing hour doused in a ster­ile sea of cheap alco­hol that ren­dered his imag­i­na­tion com­plete­ly impo­tent. And as such, it’s a dev­as­tat­ing indict­ment of the demon drink. Oh the hor­ror. The hor­ror.

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Metz’ Debut Album is a Power Punk Hymn to the Art of Noise.

New York’s CMJ Music Marathon is fast becom­ing this decade’s SXSW. It is in oth­er words where the future sounds of those who have yet to hap­pen are first spot­ted and duly noted.

Sit­u­at­ed around the Low­er East side of Man­hat­tan, it inevitably drifts over the bridge and into Brook­lyn where so many of today’s most excit­ing bands seem to be born and bred. And the one that made the biggest noise at this year’s CMJ was Metz, an arrest­ing trio from Toronto.

As the review from the boys from Pitch­fork not­ed, where they got an impressed 8.5 here, the band first sur­faced way back in 2007. But it’s only now that they’ve got­ten around to releas­ing their debut album. 

And, as their review notes, the time they’ve spent hon­ing their craft and pair­ing down their sound between then and now is a les­son that all aspir­ing musos should take heed of. 

Metz deliv­er raw, undi­lut­ed noise. Too dis­ci­plined to be called met­al, but far too loud to fall into pop, they’ve the ambi­tion and dri­ve of ear­ly Nir­vana but with­out any of the lat­ter’s need to please. The result is an explo­sion of pure adrenalin. 

You can see the suit­ably angst-rid­den video for their hymn to urban alien­ation “Wet Blan­ket” here.

And you can hear the All Songs Con­sid­ered pod­cast (which you should be lis­ten­ing to every week, and was reviewed by me here) on this year’s CMJ here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I’ll keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in FIlm, Tele­vi­sion and Music.