All Sort of Fun New Music

I adore a blog call Popservations (http://www.popservations.com/) , which showcases all sorts of cutting edge, cool music, and being the music junkie that I am, I naturally spend an inordinate amount of time there sampling the music, dreaming of iTunes downloading (it does make for odd heavily melodic dreams that involve much abuse of my over used credit card), and enjoying wave after wave of brilliant music recommendations. What I love most is that the author of the blog, Jonathan Pop, loves his music, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He wants you to discover the music, love it, adore it, and have fun discovering even more. Not wanting to disappoint someone I don’t even know, I naturally join in wholeheartedly, listening, downloading and wallowing in sonic fun till my ears bleed (happily), my wallet wonders what hit it (virtually of course), and I want to dance around and around my bedroom till the carpet has a ring worn into it.


So, in the spirit of manic music acquisition, here’s some music I have discovered from Johnathan’s fabulous blog. Enjoy and be sonically thrilled….

“I’m Still Hot” – Luciana / Betty White

Is there anything this comic icon cannot do? She’s 89, back on the cultural radar like nobody’s business, and now she’s hitting the dance floor with an enormously catchy song that could have sounded like a cheap novelty song if the beat wasn’t so catchy, and Luciana wasn’t such a talented singer. Betty manages to sound sassy and very much a woman who believes she’s still hot, all the while surfing the zeitgeist to hit another crest of relevance. I am impressed Betty and Luciana, mightily impressed and dancing like a manic monkey just off Mogadon!

“Eyes” – Kaskade feat. Mindy Gledhill
What sets this song apart is Mindy Gledhill’s breathlessly ethereal vocal that soar and duck and weave with each melodic turn. The music is irrestibly catchy and euphoric, and builds to a gorgeous climax, but it’s her vocals that define and create that all too elusive goosebumps on the back of the neck feeling. Beautiful, danceable joy.
“Make a Scene” – Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Dance music is often seen by its detractors as mindlessly easy to make with one track interchangeable with another. It’s an easy accusation to level if you haven’t given much thought to what makes a track catchy, and oh-so-irrestable, and if you have forgotten that the simplest sounding music is often the most complex to construct. Right ABBA?
 This album hasn’t garnered the most positive of reviews which strikes me as odd, and somewhat snobby on the part of music reviewers. Sophie is variously described by her critics as a follower, playing catch up to the likes of Kylie Minogue and yes even Britney Spears, or as a second tier player incapable of real originality or enduring creative output. What seems to be missed is that she creates with her collaborators very catchy electropop, that is placed into a class all its own by her voice, which enunciates beautifully, and has a one-of-akind- melodic trill to it that is as distinctive as any pop singers voice.
She bursts out of the gates with confidence, nailing three great tracks, Revolution, Bittersweet (which didn’t perform as well as a single as hoped) and Off & On in quick succession before a recycled track, Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer), courtesy of the Freemasons production team, bursts through, reminding me why it is Sophie is not second tier at all. They capture the dynamic emotiveness in her voice beautifully and the track charges through at full pace from start to finish, daring you to sit still and not join in the pell mell sonic rush.
From there things get  a little more formulaic although tracks like Can’t Fight the Feeling, Starlight and the closing ballad, Straight to the Heart, stand out, and make this album her strongest effort to date and the sort of catchy electropop that many others wish they’d made.

A Different Kind of Fix – Bombay Bicycle Club

 This is one of the best albums I have listened to in a while.

Not necessarily because it’s one of the best albums ever recorded and has awed me speechless (a feat of epic proportions that seldom few attempt) with its originality, creativity and depth. Although it is far more original than many of the indie pop rock efforts I have listened to lately which can’t decide if they are Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Mumford & Sons, or an awkward combination of all three.

No, what I love about this album is the sheer joy of songs like the upbeat bounce of Shuffle, or the emotive beauty of tracks like Your Eyes and How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep which soar and float in equal measure, which show a band that is in touch with great emotive depth but doesn’t succumb to twee melodies, or trite lyrics to convey it. Instead they rely on sweet lilting melodies,  brighty bouncy guitar romps occasionally, and a happy reliance on lyrics that actually say something and meld seamlessly with the music.

In a crowded field of indie pop rock aspirants, and after three albums in as many years, Bombay Bicycle Club (a band name that I love for it’s sheer quirky sense of fun), are making their own way, and joining luminaries such as Arcade Fire in the indie firmament as they craft albums worth listening to many times over.

Music Week – Coldplay exclusive: band talk to MW about new album

A brilliant rundown of Coldplay’s upcoming new album, which is being heralded as their best body of work since my favourite Coldplay CD, A Rush of Blood to the Head. To say I am excited would be understating it – I will be poised at the doors of my favourite music store on October 24, waiting to get this! I can’t wait!

Music Week – Coldplay exclusive: band talk to MW about new album

The Big C

The Big C is one of the standouts in that relatively new crop of HBO-quality shows – even when the shows aren’t from that stable of quality, they are invariably tagged as such – which also includes Hung, Breaking Bad,  United States of Tara, and the much longer running Weeds, which feature a protagonist from the squeaky clean side of the street who is forced by dire circumstance of one kind or another, into making compromises and decisions that lead far across the lines onto the wrong side of the tracks, or at least into almost unrecognisable territory where few in society wish to tread. While they are shocked at first at the things they say and do in the interests of survival, they reach an accommodation of sorts with their new life because they usually have no choice but to do so. They could rail and rant, and scream about their misfortune, but in a society like America, with it’s less than generous welfare net, and resulting dog-eat-dog survival mentality, especially for the lower socio-economic classes, this achieves nothing, and the first of order of the day, of each and every day, is simply to do what it takes to survive.

In the case of the Big C, which stars the supremely talented Laura Linney as Cathy Jamison, a middle class teacher with stage 4 cancer, this means doing whatever it takes to ensure she survives her battle with melanoma in the midst of a broken medical system that too often penalises the very people it is supposed to be helping. She does have allies in her fight – among them, her loving husband Paul (played by the awesomely good, Oliver Platt, who has yet, I suspect, to ever find a role that doesn’t agree with him), and her son, Adam (Gabriel Basso), who plays a teenager torn by wanting to spend time with his mum, but simultaneously wanting to fleeing the reality of her possible death, and a high school student in her class, Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe of Precious) who is perhaps the only person she knows, besides her husband, who doesn’t try to sugar coat the harsh reality of Cathy’s present situation.

Oliver Platt and Laura Linney as Paul and Cathy Jamison
Gabriel Basso as Adam

Gabourey Sidibe as Andrea Jackson

But many of the people who should be a source of support end up being very much more than hindrances. Her mentally ill brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) who veers between support and antagonism, his girlfriend, Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon, late of Sex in the City) who styles herself as Cathy’s very best friend but often doesn’t have a clue what’s required to be supportive, and her neighbour, Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), who’s dementia-fuelled acerbic observations of life ultimately lead her to kill herself with a bullet to the brain, which doesn’t end her role in the show at all – she appears thereafter to Cathy as an apparition, usually at the worst possible times.

John Benjamin Hickey and Cynthia Nixon as Sean Tolkey, Cathy’s brother, and Rebecca respectively

Phyllis Somerville as Marlene

But despite all this, Cathy battles on, doing what she must to get appointments with specialists – leading to an hilarious scene where she sneaks into an elite oncologist’s surgery as a saleswoman from a drug company and makes a scene demanding an appointment just as the receptionist is calling her to confirm one – battling everyone’s well intentioned but suffocating sympathy, and trying to hold on to a semblance of a normal life while it breaks apart with gusto around her. 

What is wonderfully refreshing is that she manages to create a new life, full of contradictions, and breaks with her well ordered previous middle class existence, and make it work with a mix of saintliness, screaming frustration, and a heapin’ helpin’ dose of black humour laden one-liners. Her life may have changed beyond all recognition but it is her life, and she will fight to retain it with everything she has in her arsenal, regardless of where it takes her, and for the audience at least, discomforting though it may be at times, where her unexpected journey takes us is entertaining indeed.

I Love the Emmys

I am a TV junkie.

I could say I have tried 12 step programs, detox units, and literary clubs to wean me off my habit but to no avail, and frankly I am not even slightly disappointed. Mainly because, these days, and it is increasingly so, TV is where all the real visual creativity is happening; it’s where many of the true visionaries are plying their trade and creating TV so powerful, clever or funny that you wonder why the movies, now reduced largely to remaking the same tired, dumb movies over and over, don’t just give up, hand their big screens over to TV, and let us all move in and watch wall to wall true creativity writ large. (Of course trying to clean up in of those cineplex bathrooms would require the patience of a saint, and the dexterity of a gymnast, but you get the idea.)




Jane Lynch hits the stage at The Emmys after her opening previously filmed piece of liquid crystal fabulousness.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7C50iY04M8 (such a fun opening piece!)

So what is any TV junkie worth his or her remote doing tonight? Well they’re glued to their set watched TV’s night of nights unfold. Well, truth be told, as I write this, the Emmys have ended, the red carpet has been trod, surprise guests unleashed (no more so than Charlie Sheen popping up to present Best Actor in a Comedy Series), and Jane Lynch has performed her magic, managing to be oh-so-clever and funny all at the same time, and having a bundle of fun with an opening piece that features hilarious interactions with the cast of Big Bang Theory and Mad Men, among others, all based on the conceit that all the characters in every TV show live in the same building. What follows is not an exhaustive roll call of winners but rather my run down of what matters to me and a few choice photos to make it all visual and pretty (even so, a full list of winners and losers follows at the end of the blog since I am nothing if not a completist…. at times.)


First up, I am thrilled that Jim Parsons aka Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory has won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. He is such a supremely talented actor, and while BBT is a true ensemble relying on all its characters to bring on the laughs, it is Jim Parsons gift for comic timing and nuance that holds it all together, and is the focal point for the show. Well done Jim!

Keeping in the comedy vein, and who wouldn’t want to in a world as grim as ours is at the moment, Modern Family got the gong for Best Comedy Series (second win for them in this category), and it is richly deserved too. What could have been just another family-based sitcom, is instead richly nuanced, an accurate reflection of family life, and society generally in the 21st Century, and agent for social change – two gay fathers? Will civilisation survive this?! Of course it will, dear right wing poppets – all wrapped up in a heartwarming (but thankfully for those wanting to avoid pixal-caused pop culture diabetes, not corny) hilarious half hour that is a treat to watch each and every week.

They also walked away with wins for Julie Bowen, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy (with a dress that must have drawn the heterosexual male demographic to the screen like moths to the proverbial) and TyBurrell, Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy (who wowed the crowd with a very funny stand up routine in lieu of thanking everyone, and his dog.)


And finally in amongst Martin Scorsese deservedly winning for directing Boardwalk Empire, and my one of my favourite comediennes around, Melissa McCarthy, who I have loved and adored since her days on The Gilmore Girls, winning for Outstanding Lead Actress, comedy in Mike and Molly, the English period soap, Downton Abbey with it’s exquisite portrayal of British aristocracy just prior to World War 1 when everything changed forever, romped home with four awards and proved that quality everything can triumph in a sea of mediocre reality TV shows, and poorly written scripted shows. 



I wouldn’t call this year’s ceremony a massive surprise, especially with shows like Amazing Race winning the Reality Show category again (less an indictment on the show itself, which I love, but more a reflection of the paucity of true genius in the category generally) and  Daily Show winning for the ninth straight year (mainly because it is awesomely fantastically hilarious and deserves to just be automatically given the Emmy for as long as it’s on air), but Jane Lynch was fun and refreshing, the genuine joy of many of the winners contagious (Melissa McCarthy’s teary speech was touching), and it managed to celebrate all that’s good about TV without overstaying it’s welcome. 

Melissa McCarthy holding her Emmy statuette aloft

Here are the night’s winners:

Outstanding comedy series: Modern Family
Outstanding drama series: Mad Men
Outstanding miniseries or movie: 
Downton Abbey
Outstanding lead actress, miniseries or movie: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
Outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie: 
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Outstanding directing for a miniseries, movie or dramatic special: Brian Percival, Downton Abbey
Outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie: 
Barry Pepper, The Kennedys
Outstanding supporting actress, miniseries or movie: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Outstanding writing for a miniseries or movie: 
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey
Outstanding lead actor, drama: 
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Outstanding lead actress, drama: 
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Outstanding supporting actor, drama: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Outstanding directing, drama: 
Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire 
Outstanding supporting actress, drama: 
Margo Martindale, Justified
Outstanding writing, drama series: 
Jason Katims, Friday Night Lights
Outstanding variety, music or comedy series: 
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Outstanding directing for a variety, music or comedy series: Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live (host: Justin Timberlake)
Outstanding writing for a variety, music or comedy series: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Outstanding reality competition: The Amazing Race
Outstanding lead actress, comedy: 
Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Outstanding lead actor, comedy series: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding writing for a comedy: Steve Levitan, Jeffrey Richman (“Caught in the Act”), Modern Family
Outstanding director, comedy: 
Michael Alan Spiller (“Halloween”),  Modern Family
Outstanding supporting actor, comedy:
 
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Outstanding supporting actress, comedy: Julie Bowen (Modern Family)

Beginners

What would you do if your 75 year old father, just one week after the death of his wife, and your mother, announced to you, and the world that he was gay, always had been, and wanted to explore as fully and richly as he could before he too slipped off this mortal coil?

If you’re Mike Mills, who lived through exactly this scenario, you write a powerful yet quirky script, get Ewan McGregor to play a fictionalised version of you called Oliver Fields, entrust the talented Christopher Plummer (Hal Fields) with the role of your father, throw in an unconventional love affair between the movie version of you and a left of centre Frenchwoman, Anna (played by the lovely Melanie Laurent), and set everyone off on a voyage of discovery the likes of which you never foresaw being taken when life was ordered, and unsurprising. What the movie explores, in a less than conventional but ultimately rewarding narrative, that picks up after his father’s death from cancer five years after his coming out, is what happens when the life you thought you were leading is not at all the life you actually had.

Oliver and Hal exploring a father and son relationship that grew into being just before it was too late

In short order, Oliver’s safe but dissatisfying existence, is shaken up by his father’s coming out, his new life as a gay man (which includes a passionate open relationship with the somewhat juvenile and emotionally stunted Andy, played by Goran Visnjic) which actually draws father and son closer together in ways Oliver never would have imagined growing up as the parents of two people who knew the marriage was a well-meaning sham but played along anyway, and the events following his father’s death when Oliver realises that he must let go of what he knew and plunge into the terrifying, but far more satisfying unknown. 

Andy (Goran Visnjic) and Hal enjoy an unusual open relationship that somehow works

Anna, Oliver and the adorable Arthur

It moves back and forth between the past and the present, uses conversations Oliver has with his father’s terrier Arthur who comes to live with Oliver post his father’s death and can’t bear being left alone, and flashbacks to Oliver’s childhood with his utterly unconventional mother, and his distant father. Through it all, we see Oliver gradually come to terms with the effects his growing up had on him, and the realisation that if he is to ever have a life of any note, that it must be lived with the same joie de vivre and passion that his father displayed in his new life as a gay man. 

Though it is not the conventional movie the trailer would have you believe, it is one of those wonderful movies that moves effortlessly between quirky, funny and moving, with characters you grow to care deeply about it, who reinforce the notion, without hammering you over the head with it, that life must be lived with authenticity, richness and passion if it is to have any real worth at all.

Community season 3 On its Way…

Season 3 kicks off in the USA on September 22 and it looks awesome. All the crazy off-the-wall humour looks to be there in abundance, and plus John Goodman is in the mix! While we have a while to wait for it’s arrival in Australia – please don’t sit on this for 6 months whichever channel is lucky enough to have the rights – I have no doubt it will be worth it!

http://community101.tumblr.com/post/9644715597/community-is-back-check-out-a-sneak-peek-of-the

Muppet-ationally Inspirationally Awesome!

 

Muppets Green Album MAIN

In the lead up to the release of the new Muppets movie (a major event to eclipse all others for a guy like me who grew up watching the Muppets, on both TV and at the movies) in November, a number of musicians including Rachel Yamagata, OK Go and Weezer have recorded covers of Muppets songs, which is being released as, what else, The Green Album.

 

In this case, I think being green will be easy indeed for once, with even Kermit no doubt thrilled to be back front and centre in the pop culture firmament, as he and all the others so rightly should be! Miss Piggy naturally would expect nothing less.

This clip for the OK Go cover of The Muppet Show theme is fabulous – it captures the fun and irreverence of The Muppets so perfectly that I instantly felt like I was back in the, ahem, 1970s, watching the Muppets doing their thing, which if nothing else, is testament to their timeless appeal.

 

Rock on Kermy, Fozzie, Gonzo and the gang!