Archives for June 2014

First Aid Kit’s lush, plush new album “Stay Gold”.

First Aid Kit's Stay Gold.

First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold.

Swedish sis­ters Johan­na and Klara’s third album as First Aid Kit is as warm and sun­ny as its title Stay Gold would sug­gest. But it’s the gold of the sun­set. There’s that sense of sub­tle trans­for­ma­tion as the bright cer­tain­ties of youth become tinged by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of future dis­ap­point­ment and disillusion.

As they did with their sec­ond album The Lion’s Roar, reviewed ear­li­er here, they’ve trav­elled to Oma­ha to hook up once more with Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes who takes up pro­duc­tion duties again. But there’s a big­ger, more expan­sive sound to the album this time around.

The bench mark for the two sis­ters is still the plain­tive har­monies of Emmy­lou Har­ris and Gram Par­sons. But like Par­sons before them, they’ve moved on from the sounds of Nashville to embrace a wider, unashamed­ly Amer­i­can panora­ma. As with Sharon Van Etten (reviewed ear­li­er here) we’re back with Fleet­wood Mac. But again, on the best of the latter’s very best days.

Johanna and Klara

Johan­na and Klara Soderberg.

The boys from Pitch­fork give Stay Gold an approv­ing 7.3 here. You can get a taster with the video from the open­ing track from the album My Sil­ver Lin­ing here.

But best of all, if you want to under­stand, or at least eaves­drop on the sorts of har­monies pro­duced by that sixth sense unique to sib­lings, then have a look at the acoustic ver­sion of Fleet Fox­esTiger Moun­tain Peas­ant Song that they record­ed in a wood here. It’s from all the way back in 2008 when the pair were about, oh, I’d say around sev­en years old.

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New Jack White Album “Lazaretto” Kicks.

Jack White's "Lazaretto".

Jack White’s “Lazaret­to”.

It’s hard to believe that this is only Jack White’s sec­ond solo album. True, the White Stripes only offi­cial­ly dis­band­ed in 2011, but their last album, Icky Thump was way back in 2007.

It’s hard to believe because in the inter­im he seems to have become a one man music mak­ing machine.

There was The Racon­teurs, the band he formed with Bren­dan Ben­son and co. The Dead Weath­er, the one he put togeth­er with Ali­son Mosshart from the Kills and Dean Fer­ti­ta from Queens of The Stone Age. The won­der­ful­ly atmos­pher­ic album Rome, pro­duced by the sim­i­lar­ly ubiq­ui­tous Dan­ger Mouse and Daniele Lup­pi (reviewed ear­li­er here). Plus the small mat­ter of Third Man Records, the record label he formed and runs seem­ing­ly entire­ly on his own.

So far his Nashville stu­dio has played host to Wan­da Jack­son, Lau­ra Mar­ling, Loret­ta Lynn, First Aid Kit (reviewed ear­li­er here), Dri­ve By Truck­ers and Beck as well as pro­duc­ing reis­sues of Char­lie Pat­ton, Blind Willie McTell and Rufus Thomas. Oh, and his crack­ing first solo effort, Blun­der­buss from 2012, reviewed ear­li­er here.

The White Stripes in all their pomp with "Elephant".

The White Stripes in all their pomp with “Ele­phant”.

Lazaret­to his sec­ond is, in the best pos­si­ble sense, a great­est hits com­pi­la­tion of the many dif­fer­ent musi­cal moods and gen­res that he’s drawn to.

There’s the aus­ter­i­ty and rigour of the White Stripes, the more expan­sive and relaxed coun­try rock of the Racon­teurs, and that con­stant pur­suit and explo­ration of the roots and rhythms of his Amer­i­can musi­cal her­itage that’s becom­ing increas­ing­ly cen­tral to every­thing he does.

In this, and in his con­stant rest­less­ness, that sense of being for­ev­er dri­ven to gaze ever fur­ther afield, and ever more deep­er with­in, we final­ly have a musi­cian gen­uine­ly capa­ble of pick­ing up the man­tle of his friend and musi­cal men­tor Bob Dylan.

White’s the real deal. And Lazaret­to, as you’d expect, is gold.

You can see the title track­’s video Lazaret­to here.

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Omar” a Return to Form for Star Palestinian Film Maker.

Hany Abu-Assad's "Omar".

Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar”.

Hany Abu-Assad’s third film Par­adise Now (’06) was one of the films of the last decade. Detail­ing the lives of a pair of sui­cide bombers from Nablus as they pre­pare for their mis­sion on Tel Aviv, it man­aged to be impas­sioned and yet some­how rel­a­tive­ly impartial.

Or at the very least, as impar­tial as it can ever be for a Pales­tin­ian film mak­er born in Israel to make a film about what life is like for those con­demned to live in the Levant.

He was lured to the States for The Couri­er in 2012, which went straight to video, but he is back on home ground for this his fifth film, Omar.

Adam Bakri and Leem Lubani in Omar.

Adam Bakri and Leem Lubani in Omar.

Omar is one of a trio of young men, friends since child­hood, whose sole aim is their oppo­si­tion to Israel. But they do what they do un-think­ing­ly, auto­mat­i­cal­ly, in much the same way that monks attend to their dai­ly prayers. It’s just what they do. And in between, they live their lives as any­body else does.

Except of course, that what they do rad­i­cal­ly colours and irrev­o­ca­bly trans­forms every oth­er ele­ment of those lives that they are try­ing to live. Fam­i­ly, careers, plan­ning for the future and most of all love, are all giv­en a hope­less­ly dra­mat­ic edge because of the back­drop against which they must all be enacted.

Omar is a less polit­i­cal and a much more per­son­al dra­ma than Par­adise Now was. But it is every bit as pow­er­ful. And what it does demon­strate, is that Abu-Assad has learnt to par­cel out his dra­mat­ic twists and turns almost as impres­sive­ly as the mod­ern mas­ter of per­son­al dra­ma, Iran’s Asghar Farha­di (reviewed ear­li­er here). The ways in which Omar’s life, both his pri­vate and his pub­lic ones, unrav­el is painful to behold.

The Lev­ant is a won­der­ful cor­ner of the world to have to go dig­ging for dra­ma in. But it’s almost incon­ceiv­able that that dra­ma should be found on the sur­face of real people’s actu­al lives. And not in the fiendish­ly depraved depths of an unho­lily imag­ined Hell.

You can see the Omar trail­er here. And the Par­adise Now trail­er here.

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Tom Cruise in the Superior “Edge Of Tomorrow”.

Cruise control.

Cruise con­trol.

Tom Cruise, in a one day to save the uni­verse, alien inva­sion, CGI sat­u­rat­ed, 3D extrav­a­gan­za block­buster. I was real­ly look­ing for­ward to stamp­ing all over this, and kick­ing it uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly about the place. But lo and behold, it’s actu­al­ly rather good.

When we first meet Cruise as William Cage, he’s nom­i­nal­ly a Major in the US army. In real­i­ty though, he’s just their spin doc­tor. A soul­less PR guru who takes great pride in his abil­i­ty to judge a book by its cov­er with­out ever hav­ing to actu­al­ly read it.

That Cruise should make his char­ac­ter so ini­tial­ly unlik­able is, as the say­ing goes, a smart move. And whilst you’re nev­er in any doubt that by the end of the film, he’ll have been trans­formed into the kind of hero that sav­ing the uni­verse demands, it’s a clever way to begin a con­ven­tion­al blockbuster.

Basi­cal­ly, the less you know about this in advance, the more you’re like­ly to enjoy it. So you should prob­a­bly try to avoid watch­ing the trail­er, as, as usu­al, prac­ti­cal­ly all of the plot is giv­en away in it.

Emily Blunt on the edge.

Emi­ly Blunt in “Edge Of Tomorrow”.

Edge Of Tomor­row is essen­tial­ly Ground­hog Day meets Juras­sic Park via Alien. But in a good way. Like all half decent sci­ence fic­tion, it is less con­cerned with the future than it is with the present. And Einstein’s famous line, that while he didn’t know about world war 3, but world war 4 would be fought with sticks and stones very much hangs over the film. So most of its bat­tle sequences take place on Nor­mandy Beach, so piv­otal in the 2nd WW, and Emi­ly Blunt plays the hero­ic Angel of Ver­dun, a key bat­tle in the 1st.

Blunt by the way, who is every bit as impres­sive as her illus­tri­ous co-star, told the Dai­ly Tele­graph in 2005 that she’d rather spend her life doing poor­ly paid the­atre than end up play­ing a spear car­ri­er oppo­site Tom Cruise! Ah, God bless the Internet.

This is a sur­pris­ing­ly smart, con­sis­tent­ly thrilling ride. It’s a long way from being in any way ter­ri­bly mem­o­rable, nev­er mind good. But com­pared to the kind of brain­less dross peo­pled by one dimen­sion­al card­board cut-outs that pass­es for most con­ven­tion­al block­busters, this is pos­i­tive­ly a breath of fresh air. And there are a cou­ple of nice touch­es too.

Brendan Gleeson.

Bren­dan Gleeson.

At one point, Bren­dan Glee­son has the line “Russ­ian and Chi­nese troops are mak­ing their way across Europe, unop­posed.” The joke is, he says it not in fear, but with huge relief! Though quite how the joke will play if you’re watch­ing the film in, say Ukraine, or Poland I’m not so sure.

The whole thing hinges on a) how seri­ous­ly its stars are pre­pared to take a sto­ry like this. After all, if nobody on screen treats the threat as cred­i­ble, why should we? And b) whether or not there’s any on-screen chem­istry between the two leads. Hap­pi­ly, Cruise and Blunt deliv­er on both counts. And the direc­tor Doug Liman pro­vides the sort of ener­gy that gave the Bourne films such vital­i­ty, direct­ing the first, and pro­duc­ing two and three.

Not a mas­ter­piece then by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. But a decid­ed­ly supe­ri­or way to enjoy an over­sized bag of popcorn.

You can see the trail­er (if you insist) here.

This review also appears on here, which you should read almost as avid­ly as you do this.

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