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Monday, 29 December 2008

"yes man" (2008) / cineworld unlimited

Went to see the new Jim Carrey / Zooey Deschanel film "Yes Man", based on the Danny Wallace book of the same name, tonight. The premise of the story is that Carrey playes Carl Allen, whose life is going nowhere until he attends a seminar and agrees to say "yes" to everything and start living his life - something Wallace actually spent six months doing in real life.

It's definitely a feel-good film, pretty much everything he says yes to has positive consequences, other than the necessary "plot-twist" near the end. I found it quite enjoyable, but it really didn't require any thought. My main reservation is the casting of Jim Carrey in the lead role - although he's not overly zany, there's still a little too much of his trademark mugging for my liking, especially as the film does not call for it in the slightest - in fact it probably turns the viewer against his character a little. I think someone like Steve Carell may have been a better choice. Zooey Deschanel is lovely as Allison, and some of the songs by her in-film band Munchausen by Proxy are quite amusing.

All the same, it's a reasonable distraction for a couple of hours. What an in-depth review.

Trailer is here.

I've been going to see as many films as possible lately using my Cineworld Unlimited card. I got it as a way of filling in time when I'm not on shift, but it was starting to look like a bad deicision when there was barely anything I wanted to see all summer. Think I'm beginning to break even on it now. For my own reference, here is a list of the films I've been to see using it (they've not all been classics, I have to say):

01. Hancock
02. Tropic Thunder
03. Step Brothers
04. Taken
05. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
06. Burn After Reading
07. The Rocker
08. Quantum of Solace
09. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
10. Four Christmasses
11. Body of Lies
12. What Just Happened?
13. Yes Man

I don't think I've forgotten any.

Monday, 22 December 2008

top 10 albums of 2008

Was going to try and write a full Top 20, but not been feeling well and I've found the first ten hard enough! May pad out the twenty later in the week, without write-ups.

10 | FM Belfast | How to Make Friends

Icelandic electro party funtimes. One of the musical highlights of my trip to Stockholm, left me grinning from ear to ear with fun covers, daft interludes and general good vibes. Check out "Lotus", from the album.

09 |
Cut Copy | In Ghost Colours

I have to admit I feel this has less standout tracks than their debut, 'Bright Like Neon Love', but I think it benefits from being a bit more consistent. "Hearts on Fire", "Feel The Love" and "Lights and Music" are all on their Myspace and worth a listen.

08 |
Mystery Jets | Twenty One

Slightly surprising change in style from their James-go-prog debut, 'Making Dens', to day-glo '80s pop. Contains two of the finest singles of the year in "Young Love" and "Two Doors Down".

07 |
Lykke Li | Youth Novels

I find this a little hard to describe, Latin influenced Swedish indie-pop? Produced by Bjorn of Peter Bjorn and John. Possibly a female Jens Lekman? Definitely a little twee. I don't know. I'm mostly obsessed with "Little Bit".

06 |
Neon Neon | Stainless Style

This was one of the records I was most looking forward to this year, and it didn't disappoint - not that I really ever knew what to expect. Nothing like the Super Furries, or Boom Bip, or the previous Boom Bip/Gruff Rhys collaboration at all. If the Mystery Jets dived in to the ocean of 80s pop, Neon Neon bought a submarine and stayed down there. 'Stainless Style' is a concept album about the life of playboy car designer John Delorean, he of the "Back to the Future" car. It does dip a little in the middle (especially "Sweatshop"), but "I Told Her on Alderaan", "Steel Your Girl" and "I Lust U" are amazing.

05 |
Friendly Fires | Friendly Fires

A grower, but it definitely paid off. I have to admit that I'd initially written it off as two excellent singles ("Paris" and "Jump In the Pool") plus 8 other songs, but repeated listens in the car revealed their charms. Quite a few of the tracks start off a little un-promisingly, before veering off into another direction. Probably best to listen to it, i've already started exhausting my vocabulary.

04 |
Hot Chip | Made In The Dark

Took a while to grow on me, but this turned out to be excellent. I think it's a good mix of the first two albums, a little less electronic than 'The Warning', but a little more polished than 'Coming On Strong'. Some of the songs are actually really, really lovely - the title track and "In The Privacy of our Love" in particular. Plus they were excellent at ATP, and exceptionally good humoured about my heckles during their DJ set.

03 |
Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight

I loved Frightened Rabbit's first album, 'Sing The Greys', and this was a worthy follow-up, taking the sound of their debut and expanding it. Lyrically, it details a break-up, with no blushes spared. So it's sometimes awkward listening, but much of it is actually quite funny and clever. The only let down for me has been the two times I've seen them live.

02 |
Los Campesinos! | Hold On Now, Youngster... / We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Two records in one year, nothing if not prolific - even if 'We Are Beautiful...' is not to be considered an album. Old-school indie-pop like the stuff I've always liked, with extra violins and keyboards and more amusingly angsty lyrics. 'Hold On Now, Yougster' finally clicked after seeing them at ATP, I think it just came accross better live, and then found itself a firm in-car favourite. 'We Are Beautiful' is excellent, especially for what started out as a stop-gap EP.

01 |
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago

This record is absolutely beautiful. There's not much more to say about it than that. I first saw him/them play at ATP, after a hungover morning on the beach in the blazing sunshine and was blown away. Hung about afterwards to buy the CD and listened to it constantly for the rest of the summer, and have never got sick of it. Here's a link to the Daytrotter session, but the album is even better.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

the a forest: early demos, rambling

Amongst our friends, the as-yet unreleased The A Forest album has started to take on "Chinese Democracy" style mythical status. At least for the 2 or 3 people still waiting... We started on it in 2005, ditched the original recordings and have very slowly been piecing it together since 2006. We thought that at one point last year that it was finished, we had it mixed...then realised we still needed to tidy a few things up. There's still a couple of vocals that Cat wants to re-do, but hopefully it should see a release in some form next year.

I've been listening to the tracks that are likely to make up the album today, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of them. I've had my doubts at times, but I think a little bit of distance from the writing and recording has put it all into perspective. There are faults, but they don't upset me like they used to. One thing that struck me was that when it does come out, it will be 5 years since our split single with Mercury Tilt Switch, a re-recorded version of which will appear on the album. That's got to be a bit of a record delay between the release of a single and its appearance on a (non-compilation) album?

As well as the album tracks, I've been listening to other early demos and songs we recorded for the album, but discarded along the way for various reasons. The early instrumental demos have a certain charm, especially as they were recorded live in a practice room with a couple of mics and an 8-track. They are surprisingly good considering we've not always been the strongest live band. The album offcuts include songs that we played live quite a bit, but that just never translated too well into recordings.

In the spirit of the season, I've uploaded a few things. They're a bit rough around the edges and hopefully no-one else in the band will mind me doing this! You can listen to five songs from the album over at our myspace.

[MP3] The A Forest - Nursery
[MP3] The A Forest - Kids Jumping Off the Bridge

Two instrumentals from our first set of demos, before Cat joined. We definitely played "Nursery" at quite a few shows, always as an instrumental. This involved the peak of our instrument swapping, with me taking a shot on drums. The instrument swapping was something I was keen on early on, but we calmed down on it after a while. I don't think we ever played "Kids Jumping Off the Bridge" live, but may be wrong - we did play one gig without a singer before Cat joined. The title comes from the Perth tradition of kids in the summer jumping into the Tay from one of the bridges. I never did it, the idea terrifies me. Both tracks recorded live onto Chris' 8-track at Stage 2000 during September 2003.

[MP3] The A Forest - Waves

This has been available before but I took it down from the website, though it ended up on some playlist on a blog and turns up on, scrobbled from far flung corners of the world. It's based around a chord progression I'd had kicking around since school, having recorded a version of it myself at one point. The cello sounds pretty out of tune, and my guitar is probably knackered, so forgive us. We recorded parts of it ourselves at Stage and one of the sound rooms at Duncan of Jordanstone but got Robin Sutherland to do the final overdubs and mix it for us, the start of a beautiful relationship. Recorded spring/summer 2004, at the same time as "Dans L'aide du Levrier Retraite".

[MP3] The A Forest - There Is No Love Between Pigeons

This is an abandoned recording from the album sessions, recorded in 2006/2007. It sounds better than I remember, but definitely not good enough for the album. This was what we ended our set with for quite some time, often ending in some rather pathetic guitar abuse from me, a little over-excited. That poor guitar was kicked around the floor, thrown at walls, strings snapped and often knuckles bleeding... The title was inspired by the sight of some rather one-sided courting between two pigeons in Dundee city centre.

Hope there's something to enjoy there, for fun more than anything else.

Monday, 1 December 2008

broughty ferry beach: november 30th 2008

Went for a walk on the beach at Broughty Ferry on Sunday and took the camera along. Despite the cold (and my hangover), I think I eventually got some good shots. There's a lot of duplicates from trying out different settings. It was a nice, clear, day and the light was excellent, even as it got dark.