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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

the horrors - "sea within a sea"

Rather surprisingly, this is quite good. I never took to anything I heard from the first album at all, but "Sea Within A Sea" is really promising - the band seem to have moved on from scratchy garage rock to krautrock, early electronica and maybe a touch of shoegaze. The synth appregios that kick in around the halfway mark are quite lovely, though they do possibly betray the involvement of Geoff Barrow of Portishead on production duties (see also "The Rip" by Portishead). "SWaS" also reminds me a little of Echoboy's "Kit and Holly" at the start, but I'm sure that too was referencing something much cooler and older than I realise...

[MP3] The Horrors - "A Sea Within A Sea" (requires sign-up)

cineworld unlimited: year one

I can't quite remember exactly when I got my Cineworld Unlimited card, but I'm pretty sure that it's been a year now. So taking today as the last day of year one, here's the final reckoning:

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
14. Slumdog Millionaire
15. The Wrestler
16. Frost/Nixon
17. Milk
18. Watchmen
19. Gran Torino
20. Lesbian Vampire Killers

To make it worthwhile financially I needed to see 25 films over the year, which I didn't quite manage. However, I did lose the card a couple of times and ended up paying to see a couple of films that I'd otherwise have seen using the card.

Although not all of the films were great, it was good to be able to just go and see things knowing that they were already paid for. I'm going to continue for a second year, but with the price going up to £13.50/month I'm going to have to see at least 28 films over the year. Might be a push based on this year, but I fancy a challenge.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

northern alliance - "when the clocks go forward"

A seasonally-appropriate old favourite from Fence-affiliate Edinburgh 3-piece Northern Alliance. "When The Clocks Go Forward" is a lovely piece of Sparklehorse/Low-style melancholy from their first mini-album 'Hope In Little Things' (2003). If you like it, all of their subsequent releases are highly recommended. I was trying to get them to play in Dundee with The A Forest for a while, but it never worked out. The (admittedly terrible) picture is from Homegame V.

Outside of the band, singer/guitarist/gentleman Doug Johnstone is a nuclear physicist-turned writer, with two excellent novels published ('Tombstoning' and 'The Ossians') alongside journalistic work - in the latter capacity he made our split 7" with Mercury Tilt Switch "Single of the Week" in The List, obviously a man of taste. The books are highly recommended too.

[MP3] Northern Alliance - "When The Clocks Go Forward"

Monday, 23 March 2009


From yesterday's trip to Anstruther for the second Fence Homegame Pre-Season Friendly. Full write up of that later. Wish I'd taken my tripod.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

super furry animals - "inaugral trams" / placebo - "battle for the sun"

It's retro night! Two previews of the new albums from bands I was big on in the last couple of years of school, though only one of whom I still hold dear to my heart (and no, it's not Placebo).

I've probably regarded the Super Furries as one of my favourite bands consistently over the last ten years, even if I've not been an avid listener I have still been an avid follower. Despite 2007's 'Hey Venus!' being somewhat of a return to early form, I've probably been more taken with Gruff Rhys' extra-curricular activities in the wake of the forgettable 'Love Kraft' (2005) - the Neon Neon album is a phenomenal piece of work, and 'Candylion' had some lovely moments. "Inaugral Trams" feels a bit slight on first listen, a jaunty glam/krautrock/electro-pop hybrid about the completion of a public transport system, complete with a "rap" in German from Franz Ferdinand's Nick McCarthy. It's since revealed itself to be a little gem, and at least it sounds like the band are still enjoying what they do - not an easy feat nine albums in! I still anticipate new SFA albums because they are still not entirely predictable. The album 'Dark Days / Light Years' is available now to download/pre-order from their website, and once that's been purchased I'll be following up with an orderly run-through the back catalogue. They need to get Pete Fowler back on the artwork though, currently it looks like we're getting another 'Hey Venus!'-style shocker!

The Placebo track, "Battle For The Sun" is dreary, going-through-the-motions "alternative rock". Not particularly offensive or awful, and not that different to some of the first album material, but just lacking much of a spark to it. Placebo have never really shown much musical adventurism beyond trying to sound a bit more like The Cure, and that's fine, but at the same time I've clearly not missed out on much since I stopped paying attention.

[MP3] Super Furry Animals - "Inaugral Trams"
[MP3] Placebo - "Battle For The Sun" (requires sign up)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

sky rat

From yesterday's trip to Broughty Ferry beach. I found a second hand Tamron 55-200mm lens for £37 and wanted to try it out. It's manual focus only on the D40x, but I'm happy to adjust the focus myself. There's a strange mark in the top right-hand corner of each photo (edited out above) that I need to get to the bottom of. I have a suspicion it's on the sensor itself, as it appears on photos taken with both lenses.
Broughty Ferry Beach (II)

avast! + popolo + andrew mitchell at dexters, sat 14 mar 2009

Some photos taken at the Avast! et al gig last night at Dexters. Still getting to grips with the D40x so they're not amazing, but I think I'm maybe getting somewhere with it. Only managed to get one vaguely salvageable shot of Andrew, which is a bit of a shame. All shots taken without a flash - general light levels were pretty low so they are all quite dark. Tips, comments, etc all welcome.

The gig itself was really good. Andrew Mitchell from the Hazey Janes opened up with a solo set on electric guitar, with some nice looped elements and drums from Donald from Avast! later on. Not sure if the songs were new Hazeys ones or something seperate, but they were quite lovely, slow, coutry tinged efforts. There was even a touch of Codeine or Low to them at points.

Popolo continue to be generally awesome. Something I've liked about them right from the start has been their ability to keep things nice and concise - generally, instrumental math-rock tends to be a bit over indulgent for me, but one of Popolo's strengths is to keep things nice and short, and not let an idea overstay it's welcome. Most importantly, they are fun and you can dance to them.

Avast! were mostly playing new songs from their forthcoming (I assume!) second album, and it was the second time I'd seen them with their new guitarist Graham. The extra guitar fills out the sound nicely, and most of the new material sits well against the 'Faultlines' stuff, I just wish there were more vocals on a lot of it. Just a minor gripe, I guess, they were on great form last night. It's a shame I couldn't get any clear shots of Donald, the man put in a good shift behind the kit.

Avast! + Popolo + Andrew Mitchell, Dexters, Dundee

Thursday, 12 March 2009

dananananaykroyd - "black wax"

In order to counter the grumpiness of the last post, here's the video for Dananananaykroyd's great new single, "Black Wax". It's all about the Byker Grove "Woo!"s. I missed them due to work that time they actually made it to Dundee, and it looks like work will again stop me from going to either of the Edinburgh or Glasgow dates on the forthcoming tour. Maybe one day!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

animal collective / la roux / skint & demoralised

Over the last few years, I've become a lot more relaxed about music. I like to think that I've shed the skin of the youthful indie snob, and instead defined myself more by what I like that what I don't. I don't really pay attention Pop Idol, or Britain's Got Talent, and I'm not upset by "manufactured pop" - at the very least it's honest about what it really is in a way that most landfill indie acts could never comprehend. Predictably, I am very fond of Girls Aloud, occasionally admiring of Sugababes, end even warming to the Saturdays - well, thery're better than the Kooks, aren't they?

In fact, the only two records that have really irked me this year have come from "credible" quarters. First was Animal Collective's Emperor's-New-Clothes magnum opus 'Merriweather Post Pavillion' - sheer, abject boredom given a sound. I like repetition, I like Steve Reich and I like the idea of what Animal Collective might sound like based on much of what's been written about them. I just can't get any enjoyment out of the reality.

All of which brings me on to the start of the post, La Roux. Widely hailed as part of the Female Electro Pop Class of 2009 in all the start of year round ups, La Roux (Elly Jackson) is about to unleash her first full single release, "In For The Kill", on Polydor after an introductory release last year on trendy French electro label Kitsune. I've not yet explored Microsoft's Songsmith software, but can only assume that Jackson has and quickly found the "techno" setting and bashed forward. Vocally, it sounds like she's well above her natural range, and the phrasing is awkward - though I don't think the lyrics help with that. The whole thing is just completely unappealing, and no matter how good any of the rest of her material is (reportedly consisting of another 5 completed songs!), it just doesn't seem good enough to justify any of the hype. The Skream remix is a slight improvement though, even if it doesn't really go anywhere until right at the end.

I'm still undecided on Skint & Demoralised. For starters, it's a pretty awful name for a band, and the spoken word vocals don't always work. I heard their debut single "The Thrill of Thirty Seconds" a few times on BBC 6music and was fairly unimpressed, sounding as it did like a polished demo by a bunch of Arctic Monkeys loving kids who had missed their mark and ended up somewhere around One Night Only. Second single "This Song Is Definitely Not About You" is a vast improvement, coming on like a laddish take on Spearmint, with touches of The Boy Least Likely To. The fact that the album was recorded with The Dap Kings at least bodes well. Reserving judgement until I've heard that, at least.

I think that's enough negativity for one night.

[Stream] Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion (via Spotify)
[Video] La Roux - "In For The Kill" (while it lasts!)
[MP3] La Roux - "In For The Kill (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix)"
[Video] Skint & Demoralised - "This Song Is Definitely Not About You" (while it lasts!)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

holga photos on flickr

In my final year at school I saw a segment on BBC Breakfast News about Lomography, and was instantly fascinated. A couple of years later, after getting internet access, I stumbled accross it again and got the DCA Shop to order in a Holga for me, one of the cheaper cameras on offer - certainly cheaper than a proper Lomo. I've only ever shot a few of rolls of film on it, as 120 format film isn't easy to get processed - Jessops can still do it, but it has to be sent away and takes around a fortnight. Part of the appeal is not knowing what you're going to get until the photos come back - for a start the casing is prone to light leakage, though this can creat interesting effects. Overall, I've found the results to be best when used on a clear, sunny, day.

I've had a Flickr account for a while, but never used it as I find Picasa easy to use, especially with the uploader. For a change, I've put these photos on Flickr as a set which you can view here. View other Holga photos here.