Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sensory Overload #5


City Island

The Rizzos, a family who doesn't share their habits, aspirations, and careers with one another, find their delicate web of lies disturbed by the arrival of a young ex-con brought home by the patriarch of the family, who is a corrections officer in real life, and a hopeful actor in private.

Funny, well-written comedy drama. There should be more of these quirky gems and less films featuring Jennifer Aniston.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo / The Girl Who Played With Fire / The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest

Swedish thriller trilogy based on Stieg Larsson's novels about a journalist and a young female hacker.

Excellent trilogy and certainly worth tracking down before the Holywood remake due for release in 2012 which will surely remove the more brutal but somewhat essential scenes from the original and most likely better Swedish version.


Fang Island

Glorious self-titled second album from ex-Daughters guitarist Nicholas Sadler. Fang Island makes music that they describe as “everyone high-fiving everyone.” Put your hands up.

Video for Daisy.

Liars - Sisterworld

Surreal and engaging fifth album from New York three-piece as they continue to explore new avenues of textures and layers adding nicely to their already expansive and creative back catalogue.

Video for Scissor

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

Second and significantly more upbeat album from New Jersey rockers.

Video for Upon Viewing Bruegel's "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus"
(from first album The Airing of Grievances)


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Sensory Overload #4



Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Considering the material, this is one of Eastwood's least personal and unengaging films of late. Good performance by Matt Damon but Morgan Freeman's Mandela was underwhelming and rather one dimensional. If you haven't seen Gran Torino, rent that instead.

Never Back Down

At his new high school, a rebellious teen is lured into an underground fight club, where he finds a mentor in a mixed martial arts veteran.

The Karate Kid meets Fight Club. Strangely watchable despite the abundance of clichés, montages and poor dialogue.


Four friends fleeing a viral pandemic soon learn they are more dangerous than any virus.

Enjoyable slow paced action movie, getting back to basics with an enjoyable plot with character development over guns and explosions.


Field Music - Measure

Latest album from the Brewis brothers, following up on 2007's Tones of Town with complex and interesting arrangements.

Listen to Field Music here.

Video for Them That Do Nothing.

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

Great debut from local lads from Bangor. Hopefully they'll hit the big time this year.

Listen to Two Door Cinema Club here.

Video for Undercover Martyn.

A Farewell to Def Jux

Definitive Jux was an independent record label based in New York co-founded by El-P who announced last month that he was stepping down as artistic director and not be releasing any more products in the immediate future.

If you're a fan of Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, El-P or RJD2, then you'll love this compilation, A Farewell to Def Jux 1999-2010.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sensory Overload #3



A newbie guard for an armored truck company is coerced by his veteran coworkers to steal a truck containing $42 million. But a wrinkle in their supposedly foolproof plan divides the group, leading to a potentially deadly resolution.

Early contender for worst film of the year. Simple plot, simple acting, simply avoid.

The Blind Side

The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

Watch the trailer here.

Nominated for 2 Oscars including Best Picture. Great film but my money is on Hurt Locker.

Sherlock Holmes

Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.

Exceeded my expectations which weren't much to begin with but I couldn't resist the lure of Downey Jr goofing as the eponymous Holmes. About 30 minutes too long.


Midlake - The Courage of Others

Midlake take a change of direction from their fantastic previous album The Trials of Van Occupanther. By change of direction, I mean wrong turn. A snooze fest.

Listen to Midlake here.

Video for Young Bride here.

Spoon - Transference

Another great album following on from last album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Listen to Spoon here.

Video for I Turn My Camera On here.

The Magnetic Fields - Realism

Will they ever do better than their classic triple album 69 Love Songs? This album says no.

Listen to The Magnetic Fields here.

Video for All My Little Words here.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sensory Overload #2

This certainly seems the way forward for getting everything in so without further ado...


The Lovely Bones

Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from heaven.

Possibly the worst Peter Jackson film released to date (and that includes King Kong). The incumbent use of CG and terrible editing detracts from the story and even the acting talent on display can't save this film from being a complete let down. Stick with the book.


The story revolves around the passengers of a yachting trip in the Atlantic Ocean who, when struck by mysterious weather conditions, jump to another ship only to experience greater havoc on the open seas.

Here's something you don't see every day; a horror film with a semi-intelligent plot. More of a thriller to be honest but worth tracking down for rental. Greek myth and modern tragedy.


Heaps of new music this month continuing with:

Beach House - Teen Dream

3rd album from the Baltimore, Maryland pop group. Their best yet?

Listen to Beach House here.

Video for Heart of Chambers.

Four Tet - There Is Love In You

A return to form for Kieran Hebdon. Welcome back.

Listen to Four Tet here.

Video for Hands.

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

Debut album from a group in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Listen to Surfer Blood here.

Video for Neighbour Riffs.


Saw Bonobo last weekend. It was a DJ set in the Black Box. Mr Scruff is playing tonight but will be missing it heading out for shits and giggles with friends. He's worth checking out for sure.

See ya next time.

Coming next week: new albums from Midlake, Spoon and The Magnetic Fields.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sensory Overload #1

My New Years resolution for this blog is to try and post more often. Usually I want to review a film, album or gig and then never get around to it. Writing a review usually takes a good portion of my time and since I'm habitually lazy, most often I do not get around to doing anything.

So, in order to get everything in, I won't be writing a full scale review of anything unless it really excites me and I'm motivated to do so. Therefore it's my intention to start a new column as such and update you in a batch fashion. So, let's get on with it.


I've seen a few really good films this year, some of which I hope to see win an Oscar or get a nomination, others I'd ideally like my time back from wasting it.

A Prophet

A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin.

I would love to see this film win the Best Foreign Picture Oscar. Amazing performances and mesmerising from start to finish.

A Serious Man

A black comedy set in 1967 and centered on Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him because his inept brother won't move out of the house.

Latest from the Coen brothers. Beautifully shot with great performances but just didn't deliver for me.

The Road

A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.

Adapted from Cormac McCarthy's prize winning novel, Viggo turns in another fine turn as The Man. Slow moving and sometimes chilling, it's a shame that his son, The Boy, doesn't deliver but as entertaining as it is bleak.


2010 is off to a good start with the following albums worth a listen

Vampire Weekend - Contra

2nd album from Ezra Koenig and company, expanding on the sounds from their debut and taking a strange twist on their trademark sounds.

Listen to Vampire Weekend here.

Laura Veirs - July Flame

Several albums into her career and still making great music. Not as instantly accessable as Saltbreakers but I think this one will be a sleeper hit.

Listen to Laura Veirs here.

Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Great album and single of the month so far for One Life Stand.

Listen to Hot Chip here.


I saw Modest Mouse and Frightened Rabbit in December besides attending the ATP Nightmare Before Xmas in Minehead. My first gig of the year will be Bonobo at the Black Box on 23rd followed by Yeasayer and Jesca Hoop in February.

Well, I hope that's the first of many more frequent updates. Any recommendations greatly appreciated!


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Top 20 Films of 2009

I watch more films than listen to new albums and it's made even trickier because unlike music that I can look at and know what year it was released, I can't recall all the films I've seen in the last 12 months so if I have missed any great movies it's because I've simply forgotten them so please let me know if you've seen a great cinematic masterpiece that I haven't listed or you think should be in the Top 20.

Naturally, these are in no particular order and if you haven't seen them, check out the trailer and go rent it!

Let The Right One In

Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire


The story of notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine.


Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

A traveling theater company gives its audience much more than they were expecting.


A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.

The Hurt Locker

Iraq. Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.

Frozen River

Takes place in the days before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between New York State and Quebec. Here, the lure of fast money from smuggling presents a daily challenge to single moms who would otherwise be earning minimum wage.

The Hangover

A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.

Inglourious Basterds

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.

Gran Torino

Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.

District 9

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.


An adventurous girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.

Star Trek

A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members.

Terminator Salvation

After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.


The horror comedy Zombieland focuses on two men who have found a way to survive a world overrun by zombies...

Dead Snow

A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.


A teacher opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions -- some that have already occurred and others that are about to -- that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are about to unfold.


In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.


Four friends fleeing a viral pandemic soon learn they are more dangerous than any virus.


A comedy set in the summer of 1987 and centered around a recent college grad (Eisenberg) who takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park, only to find it's the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.

There's some great films lined up for 2010 and hopefully I'll get time to review more than I have this year. Have a great New Year and enjoy the popcorn!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Top 20 Albums of 2009

In retrospect this year has been fairly interesting with a varied mix and no consistent theme although quite a few coming from NYC.

This is my top 20 albums in no particular order. If you think I've missed a great album, please let me know.

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth

Bear in Heaven is a Brooklyn-based rock band formed by Jon Philpot. The sound of the band incorporates influences from psychedelic music, electronic music, krautrock.

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms

An elusive new project from composer Alan Palomo from Vega. Forged after a hazy winter gathering in Texas, this initial batch of tracks were the result of field recordings, record samples, a collection of bizarre synth sounds.

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

Wild Beasts are a 4 piece band from Kendal, United Kingdom now based in Leeds. Their second album, Two Dancers, was released on 3 August 2009 to widespread critical acclaim.

The Gasoline Brothers - Tsk

The Gasoline Brothers are utterly lazy. They’ve kept silent for two years and now they expect us to be in awe about their new album Tsk!?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

Yeah Yeah Yeahs is an alternative rock band formed in New York City, New York. Their music melds genres ranging from new wave to art punk and garage rock using heavy guitars, synthetic sounds, and screaming, erotic, bluesy vocals.

Isis - Wavering Radiant

Formed in Boston in 1997, Isis is a band that combines ambience, atmosphere, and aggression to form a unique style of metal music. Isis draws from post-rock, which leans away from the traditional elements of choruses, verses, repetitive vocals, or fast/repetitive riffs.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Dirty Projectors are an experimental pop group led by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dave Longstreth which formed in 2002 in Brooklyn, New York.

Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy

Built to Spill is an indie rock band based in Boise, Idaho, United States. The band is best known for its catchy guitar hooks and the unique voice of frontman Doug Martsch.

Atlas Sound - Logos

Atlas Sound is the name of a musical solo project of Bradford Cox, the lead singer of Atlanta five-piece Deerhunter.

The Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come

The Mountain Goats is the musical project of singer-songwriter and guitarist John Darnielle. The New Yorker magazine referred to him as “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist”. In its June 2006 issue, Paste magazine named Darnielle one of the “100 Best Living Songwriters”. Darnielle’s lyrics are literate and filled with imagery that reference classic literature, religion and mythologies, pop culture, art and history.

Tortoise - Beacons Of Ancestorship

Tortoise’s almost entirely instrumental music defies easy categorization, and the group gained significant attention from their early career. The members have roots in Chicago’s fertile music scene, playing in various indie rock and punk groups. Tortoise was among the first American indie rock bands to incorporate styles closer to krautrock, dub, minimalism, electronica and various jazz styles, rather than the standard rock and roll and punk that had dominated indie rock for years.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a New York four-piece who play dreamy shoegaze with boy/girl vocals, blissful melodies and blistering drums.

St Vincent - Actor

Annie Clark (born 28 September, 1982) is an American multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who performs under the moniker St. Vincent. She was a member of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ touring band. Her second album for Beggars Banquet, entitled “Actor”, was released on 5 May, 2009. It was written entirely by Clark and produced by Clark and John Congleton of The Paper Chase.

Patrick Wolf - The Bachelor

Patrick Wolf is an English singer-songwriter from London. Wolf mixes electronics and samples with a wide range of instruments including viola, keyboards, ukulele, and percussion, all of which he plays himself to form a fusion of jazz, folk and electronic music.

Florence and the Machine - Lungs

Florence + The Machine formed in 2007 in London, England. The band is the recording name of singer/songwriter Florence Welch and a collaboration of other artists who provide backing music for her voice; Florence Welch is the band’s only constant member.

Florence doesn't like having an embedded link on Youtube for public use and the video links here so I may aswell come out and I say that the album is great but I'm not a fan of You've Got The Love. Phew, off my chest.

Fever Ray - Fever Ray

Fever Ray is the solo project of Karin Dreijer Andersson, who is one half of the Swedish electro act The Knife (the other half is her brother Olof Dreijer).

Dan Deacon - Bromst

Dan Deacon is a Baltimore, Maryland-based electronic music composer/performer. He attended the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in Purchase, New York, where he played in many bands, including tuba for Langhorne Slim and guitar in the improvisational grindcore band Rated R. He completed his graduate studies in electro-acoustic and computer music composition.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

Cymbals Eat Guitars are an indie rock band from Staten Island, New York, United States. They consist of Joseph Ferocious (vocals, guitar), Matthew Whipple (bass, vocals), Brian Hamilton (keyboards, vocals) and Matthew Miller (drums). They have released one album, “Why There Are Mountains”, which has received glowing reviews since its January 2009 release.

Bibio - Ambivilance Avenue

Bibio is the recording name of British music producer Stephen Wilkinson. A resident of West Midlands, England, Stephen Wilkinson developed a passion for experimental music during his time at Middlesex University in London, where he studied “sonic arts”. He developed his own style of music, drawing from contemporary experimental electronica bands such as Boards of Canada, and incorporating field recordings and found sounds.

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

Bat for Lashes is the work of British singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist Natasha Khan.
Khan was born in Hertfordshire, England on 25 October 1979. Khan graduated in music and visual arts; while at university her experimental work was influenced by artists such as Steve Reich and Susan Hiller, and she produced multi-media work centred on sound installations, animations and performance.

Hilarious how my two 'mainstream' choices of Florence and the Machine and Bat for Lashes have restricted embedding the video which you will have to watch directly here.

Stay obscure folks!

I hope you enjoyed the Top 20 and checked out a few songs. See ya next year!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Imaganarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam films are never known for telling a straight story and his productions are no different. Often both are fraught with setbacks, doomed failure and last minute redemption. His 1999 production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was a spectacular disaster. On the second day of shooting, a flood ravaged the set causing $15 million in damages and was compounded days later when his lead actor, Jean Rochefort, sustained a slipped disc which forced the film to shut down. However, a second film crew was documenting the entire proceedings and produced the rather interesting documentary Lost In La Mancha.

His latest opus, The Imaganarium of Doctor Parnassus was no different. Starring the late Heath Ledger, whose sudden death caused production to grind to a halt having only filmed a third of his parts, it seemed that once again Gilliam's film would be destined for the cutting room floor.

With developments in technology, Gilliam initially planned to use computer generated effects to change Ledger's appearance akin to those used in The Curious Case of Banjamin Button and finish the film. However, the actors Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were eventually cast to portray alternative versions of Ledger and production resumed several months later.

The film itself concerns the travelling theatre troupe led by Doctor Parnassus who offers unsuspecting members of the public a chance to enter a magical mirror to unbeknown worlds of an almost hallucinatory nature. These worlds are classic Gilliam animations of a similar theme of those first espoused on Monty Python albeit using modern CGI to create an ethereal reality reflecting the subjects mindset. Those who enter the Imaginarium are manipulated by Dr Parnassus to offer them an experience of a lifetime.

The twist in Parnassus's ability, however, is that his powers were granted by the Devil for a ransom and now he is back to collect on the bargain, his daughter Valentia. The role of the devil is adeptly played by Tom Waits who plays his character as a reluctant anti-hero, seemingly willing Parnussus on whilst simultaneously mocking his ability to beat him at his own game. Indeed, the Devil can also change the landscape of the vision by those who enter the mirror giving him a somewhat unfair advantage.

It's true of Gilliam films that the plot is often muddled by the visuals employed to truncate or assist the narrative and certainly there are moments in The Imaginarium where it detracts from the storyline by an overambitious and needless set piece. Nevertheless, the visual effects are stunning at times and add to the grandeur of the moment.

It is also interesting to see how Gilliam has used the mirrors own powers to change Ledgers character as he enters successive times and how this allows other actors to take his place. It would certainly have been interesting to observe the original idea as subverting the plot to allow Farrell, Law and Depp would have seriously altered the concept of intent as initially conceived.

Ledger's own performance is satisfactory and it's a shame we do not get to see the change in his own character throughout the entirety of the film but which is adequately filled by the performance of his fellow stars.

Despite these setbacks and reworkings, the film succeeds in pulling the viewer into the story, despite how ridiculous it becomes at times. As the race reaches its climax for Parnassus to save what is dearest to him, the fragmented storyline pulls more or less neatly together and it is easily Gilliams best film in a decade although not without it's aforementioned detractions.

This will certainly please fans of his previous work and must have given the studios enough confidence to start production on the ill-fated Don Quixote project which is his next film. Let's hope this is a resurgence in Gilliams ability to match creativity with an ability to deliver a fully formed concept.

I wuld give this film 7.1 mirrors on the wall out of 10


Friday, October 09, 2009

Chicken With Grainy Mustard Sauce

This was one of the best home cooked meals lately and thouroughly recommended.


2 boneless chicken breasts
6 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon without rind
250g spinach (frozen or fresh)
60g goats cheese
200ml chicken stock
200ml dry white wine
200ml creme fraiche
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard


1. Flatten chicken breasts. Overlap and stretch 3 bacon rashers on a board. Lay breast on top and cover with spinach (serve spinach separately if frozen) and the cheese in the middle. Season with pepper. Roll up and secure. You can use cocktail sticks to keep in place if needed.
2. Heat olive oil in frying pan and coook chicken until bacon is golden on either side. Add stock and wine. Simmer for 20 minutes, turning chicken over half way.
3. Remove the chicken and stir in creme fraiche and mustard.
4. Serve with (roast) potatoes and sauce.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Roast Duck With Wine Sauce

Lou's made a few delicious dishes lately so thought I'd update the food side to the blog and recommend some great food to try.

This one is good for Sunday evening with a glass of wine since the recipe calls for a 1/4 bottle anyway!


2 duck legs
Rosemary sprigs
2 Garlic cloves
1/4 tsp five-spice powder
1/4 bottle of red wine
1 tbsp redcurrent jelly


1. Heat oven to 170c. Place duck legs on a bed of rosemary sprigs in a roasting tin. Sprinkle with slt and five-spice. Roast for 1 hour.
2. Bring the wine and jelly to a simmer and stir until dissolved.
3. Remove the duck from the oven and spoon off most of the fat (using it for the potatoes!) and then pour over the wine sauce and return to the oven for another 15 minutes to finish.

Easy and delicious!


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