The Playlist: What I’ve Been Listening To

Lera Lynn – Lately

Arguably the breakout star of True Detective‘s underwhelming series was not an actor, but the crooning, country singer echoing from the back of the bar. That voice belongs to Lera Lynn, a Nashville-based songstress whose moody, melancholic vibes and soulful twang earned her the attention of legendary musician T Bone Burnett. My favourite track from those she penned for the second instalment of HBO’s noir-ish hit, is Lately. Stripped back and haunting, the melody has a gothic edge, whilst the almost guttural timbre of her voice reverberates with nostalgia. Lately is an utterly mesmeric lullaby and by the far the most captivating element of the show.

Jess Glynne – Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Best known for her distinctive vocals on Clean Bandit’s No.1 Rather Be, the copper-haired hit maker has just released her debut album I Cry When I Laugh, and its standout song for me, is the feel good anthem Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself.  This is the kind of sassy pop that will get you in the mood for a Saturday night.

Mac Demarco – Another One

Another One is Demarco’s self-recorded 8 track mini album that continues in the twangy, zany vein of Salad Days. He’s perfect the art of mellow melodies and whimsical vocals that make for something watery, reflective and joyfully simplistic. My favourite track is the upbeat, guitar-laced I’ve Been Waiting For Her.

Everything Everything – Regret

Slightly older, but no less magical than the other entries, this track from the band’s third album is pop perfection. With it’s effervescent percussion, throbbing drum beat and frenetic falsetto, Everything Everything have delivered something as dazzling as it is dizzying.

Chvrches – Never Ending Circles

The Glaswegian synth-pop trio return to fray with a glossy, whirlwind track from their upcoming sophomore album, Every Open Eye. It’s not a particularly noticeable departure from their debut material, and perhaps lacks the edge of Lies or Recover, but it’s beautifully produced and gets better with every listen.

Live Review: Kaiser Chiefs at Sandown

Kaiser Chiefs and horse-racing might seem like an obscure combination, but it made for an adrenalin-fuelled and energetic night of entertainment.

The Chiefs predominantly stuck to their roster of classics, belting out tunes such as Modern Way, Everyday I Love You Less and Less, and Ruby with the same vigour and enthusiasm as when they first graced the airwaves.


Newer material was also trialled out – a particular favourite of mine being their recently unveiled single ‘Falling Awake’, a teaser for their forthcoming album. And the titular song from their LP Education, Education and War also made an appearance, though the slightly older crowd seemed less receptive to this than the golden oldies.

Still, the Kaiser Chiefs proved – not like they have to – the enduring popularity and allure of their music. They’re a down-to-earth man-band of passionate musicians and theirs is brand of music characterised by accessibility, catchiness and political undercurrents. Like a lovechild of The Jam, Pulp and The Specials; they take all the good bits and make it their own. A special, pulpy jam that is chiefly the Kaisers if you will.

Indeed, their stage presence or more precisely, frontman Ricky Wilson’s is what really sets them apart. Wilson bounds around the stage like a puppy on steroids and knows how to entertain a crowd. Sure the band play the anthems, but it’s Wilson who gets you singing and clapping along.

In fact the jubilance with which he prances around and jumps on the sound equipment belies the bittersweet and brutally frank lyrics.

With swagger and satire they continue to march to the beat of their indie-rock drum, and do so somewhat under the radar.

They’re a sly band the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s easy to forget just how good they are.

The Playlist: What I’ve Been Listening To

Seinabo Sey – Hard Time

Electro-soul from a Swedish songstress being labelled as the next ‘Adele’. It’s assured, sultry and downright rhythmic. This is Sey’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’.

Azealia Banks – Idle Delilah

Catchy as fuck, this is breezy, Caribbean-flavoured hip-hop that oozes with effortlessness.  Hard not to enjoy.

Catfish & The Bottlemen – Homesick

Bubbling to a catchy, urgent crescendo; there’s something a little Imagine Dragons-by way of- Kings of Leon, about this gritty, growling tune. Listen out for the killer riff.

Palace – Veins

Low-key loveliness. Palace are a brooding quartet reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, and this slow-burner will hopefully become their trademark. That tinkly, guitar-strumming at the beginning is a sheer lullaby, and the bluesy blood pumping through their veins is nothing short of spiritual.

Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

A proper decent ballad like. Soulful, flawless and this week’s guilty pleasure. That pitch change gives me tingles every single time.

Happy listening. Have a good weekend.


52 Books in 52 Weeks

Like most university students, there was a great disparity between the academic reading list I was set and the list of books I actually managed to read. Ashamed as I am to admit it, there were days when catching up with Orange is the New Black took priority over devouring William Faulkner’s Light In August. But worry not, I am seeking to rectify this literary laziness.

I am constantly acquiring new additions to my ‘to-read list’ and pick up perused paperbacks in charity shops like the Kindle has issued an exile order of its print foes. And yet very rarely do I sit down and make time for reading. By the time I roll in to bed I can barely keep my eyes open and the only time I read consistently is when I’ve had the fortune of discovering a real page-turner. Or when the Wi-Fi is down.

So I’ve set myself a challenge. I’m never going to run the London Marathon, so this is my literary equivalent. Something that feels momentous and worthy, and won’t damage but knees, but nevertheless looks nigh on impossible. The risk of failing runs high, and no doubt there will be weekends when curling up with a box-set, or remembering what it feels like to have sun on my skin and frolic in the grass will usurp the quest to quench 52 pieces of literature.

But I’m setting myself the task nevertheless (to be honest I’ve never done much frolicking anyway). I may encounter perilous paper-cuts, magical-realist induced migraines and waves of self-doubt, yet power through I shall.

I’ve compiled the list below and will strike-through the ones I manage to complete. This is made up of the astonishing number of novels, memoirs and non-fiction fancies that I already own, but have stockpiled to be enjoyed at a later date. Some are titles I have claimed to have already read (three of which I already have, but would like to revisit), a couple are ones I’ve started but failed to finish and the rest are journeys I have yet to begin with charaters I have yet to encounter. I also own War and Peace, but that’s going to remain on the shelf in a decorative capacity only.

I’m aiming to jot a few thoughts down on each entry. The game-plan is to start a book each Monday and by Sunday be able to give a snippet review. This post is a bit belated as I’ve read the first five, but I wanted some assurance this was a project worth investing in/blogging about, before diving straight in, realising it was all too overwhelming (like this year’s journal-keeping aspiration – last entry dated January 24th) and retreating back to Netflix with my high-minded tail between my legs. That being said, I’m already lagging behind, as I finished no.5 on Tuesday and only picked up no.6 on Thursday, but hey, everyone loves an underdog. Here goes nothing…

  1. How To Be Alone – Jonathan Franzen
  2. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  3. Wild – Cheryl Strayed
  4. How Should A Person Be? – Sheila Heti
  5. The Colossus of New York – Colson Whitehead
  6. The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Steadman
  7. Pure – Andrew Miller
  8. This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein
  9. The Godfather – Mario Puzo
  10. One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  11. In The Lake In The Woods – Tim O’Brien
  12. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  13. How The French Invented Love – Marilyn Yalom
  14. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  15. I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
  16. Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
  17. The Engagements – J Courtney Sullivan
  18. American Tabloid – James Ellroy
  19. L.A. Confidential – James Ellroy
  20. Jazz – Toni Morrison
  21. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  22. American Rust – Phillip Meyer
  23. Americana – Don DeLillo
  24. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  25. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  26. The Wolf of Wall Street – Jordan Belfort
  27. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  28. The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson
  29. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  30. Restless – William Boyd
  31. Not That Kind Of Girl – Lena Dunham
  32. Wild Swans – Jung Chang
  33. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  34. Jude The Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  35. Wikileaks and The Age of Transparency – Micah L. Sifry
  36. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  37. The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy
  38. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  39. All The King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
  40. The Good German – Joseph Kanon
  41. The Last Tycoon – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  42. Why Nations Fail -Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson
  43. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  44. The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  45. Runaway Jury – John Grisham
  46. 1984 – George Orwell
  47. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
  48. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  49. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  50. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
  51. Mrs Dalloway – Virgina Woolf
  52. Yes Please – Amy Poehler

Album Review: The Bones Of What You Believe, Chvrches

Having “discovered” Chvrches back in January 2013 (when they placed fifth in the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2013’ poll, alongside a cluster of similarly talented breakthrough artists such as Haim and AlunaGeorge), trust me when I proclaim that the trio’s debut album has been long-awaited and much anticipated.

shareImageTeasing listeners with such vibrant releases as ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Recover’, Chvrches promised electro-pop at its finest: arousing, zingy and multi-faceted. And boy, have they made good on that promise: The Bones of What You Believe is alarmingly assured for a debut album. ’80s synth lines and infectious hooks are laced with the darker undertones of lyrics such as “I will be a gun / and it’s you I’ll come for”. Equally, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s voice perfectly accompanies this dichotomy: at once childlike and playful, yet hauntingly ethereal.

Each track defies and transcends one’s expectations, beginning as if building to a frenetic climax, before U-turning into something more restrained and introspective. Particularly notable in this regard is ‘Tether’, which swells and dips in volume and refrain in such dramatic fashion that one virtually has to check that the track is still playing. Similarly trance-like and pensive is ‘Night Sky’, which effervesces with a quiet intensity.

This makes for an interestingly diverse and re-playable album that suits a variety of moods and tones. I could just as easily find myself jumping up and down to ‘Lies’ at a festival or club, as I could let the atmospheric  and hypnotic ‘Under the Tide’ – in which Martin Doherty takes to the mike – nurture me through an essay.

Chvrches manage to pack a punch with a nuanced and textured listening experience, which could happily belong in any one of the past four decades.

There is a menace and emotional turmoil fuelling the appeal of each song: tapping into adolescent anxiety, but superseding some of the empty, effusive pop that the group’s peers have been guilty of. Reminiscent of Kate BushDepeche Mode, and – more recently – Purity RingChvrches manage to pack a punch with a nuanced and textured listening experience, which could happily belong in any one of the past four decades. And yet, there is something equally futuristic and forward-thinking about its aural appeal.

There’s room for development for the band to really mould or consolidate the slightly more experimental flavours at their disposal. ‘Science/Visions’ hints at a weak spot to rest on the laurels of the other songs, repeating some of the hooks previously heard and slightly less polished than its predecessors. But that’s a blip in an otherwise phenomenally phantasmagorical and accomplished album. Believe in these bones, because I suspect they’re something special.

Similar To: Purity Ring, Depeche Mode

MP3: ‘Lies’, ‘Gun’, ‘Recover’

Save The Bookstore. Save The World.

Unlike climate change, where the impact is still widely invisible (that is if you disregard the biting cold that has plagued us these last few weeks) – the disappearance of the bookstore is a phenomenon largely visible. Walking the high street in recent years and you’d often be confronted with a closing down sale sign in front of the likes of Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, et al. A sight that greatly saddened me.

The beloved bookstore! How could its popularity possibly be waning? With the glorious tangibility of hundreds of shelves stacked with stories and possibility and knowledge, waiting for potential perusal.

bookstore_outsideAs they currently stand, or perhaps fall, the bookstore is a relic. They possess nostalgic charm rather than a real sense of purpose or relevance in today’s society. The weight, cost and burden of actual books becomes more and more unreasonable, as our digitalised and mobile society continues to grow. I still like the idea of having a bookshelf and being able to capture and present your reading tastes, however, besides aesthetic reasons, the book is easily usurped by the practicality of the e-book.

Publishers are increasingly aware of this and look to promote their e-books across various social media platforms, equally, if not more so than books themselves. And so booksellers and shops, must too convert to this perspective. E-books should be made available in shops or perhaps like the Apple stores have devices that enable you to browse what’s in store digitally.

There needs to be enticement or encouragement for people to visit bookstores as well, the desire to buy books isn’t enough, as online giant Amazon and websites for bookshops themselves corner the market. People have access to books in a plethora of ways that practically negates the bookstore.

Forbes recently featured an article about a man who embraced the digitisation of content by investing in The Espresso Book Machine, “a compact digital press…[that]can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line” to rival Amazon.

Owners have to seek out creative ways to engage their buyers. Events or fairs held at bookstores, authors giving talks, even acoustic gigs – anything, whether literary related or not, that draws them into the venue and thus optimises the chances of a purchase.

I was in a Barnes and Nobles in New York recently, and as well as all the fiction best-sellers, autobiographies and cookbooks they had a whole warehouse round the back, stocked full with old textbooks, second-hand novels and non-fiction finds, as well as rare or 1st edition prints. It was an emporium of bookish delight. Whilst this may only appeal to real book lovers, it added another element to the stale surface of the book store and another 40 minutes to my visit to the store.

Other ideas thrown around that you’ll quickly discover if you browse the internet, may also serve to brighten up the bookstore and once again make it a place really worth visiting.

A concept known as product bundling, which may be familiar to economic students, has long been in practice in cinema chains, wherein exhibitors purchase a bundle of films off the distributors. More often than not this includes the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster, with a few lesser known or independent films. This marketing strategy could also incorporate books, and sometimes already does with 3 for 2 offers. The aim would be to get unknown or undiscovered books off the shelves along with the bestsellers. Or perhaps with an actual book, you get a digital version of another alongside it. It’s not about devaluing the book or suggesting the only way for it to be sold is if it sells its soul to the digital devil, but simply compromising to meet the demands of the readers.

Of course, discounts and sales always to help to catch the eye of the consumers, but book stores should also be filled with specialist knowledge and people that really know their stock. That way if you have question or need a really obscure title, you’re more likely to revisit the store, because the staff were able to help you find it.

The economic market doesn’t help, what with shop rental prices sky-rocketing. However, I strongly disagree that bookstores should be relegated to a thing of the past. I consider it an imperative to strive to maintain these cultural emporiums, before internet kills the book store, as video did the radio star. I don’t suggest we cling onto their current forms, but instead mould and tailor them to new demands.

Adaptation is after all the best form of survival.

Hollywood hitting a wall?


Once upon a time there existed such a thing – an institution, a marvel, an industry – as silent cinema. The transition from this mute art form to the sounds of actor’s voices that mark our movies today was supposedly characterised by chaos, upheaval, rapidity – the sudden realisation that sound was the way forward! (As depicted in the beloved film Singin’ in the Rain). Such is the film industry’s propensity for dramatization.

And now it appears that much the same rhetoric is being employed in regard to Hollywood. The glittering, gold-mine of movie stars and moguls, big budgets and even bigger egos, could potentially be usurped by a different system.

Indeed, legendary filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have recently diagnosed the terminal condition of this beloved filmmaking industry. (For a full interview, click here).


They speak about the ‘Going for the Gold’ gambling mentality (and reality) which will inevitably be its undoing. Hollywood are betting on a few large-scale $250-million blockbusters every year. Sooner or later, say the directing duo, the entire industry will go bust when those few large expensive feature films flop, and the entire industry will be re-defined.

“There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Such evidence can be found in massive flops like John Carter, Green Lantern or the 3D Mars Needs Moms which all lost something in the ballpark figure of $100million. This slew of un-savvy investments could certainly spell the death knell for the industry.

Spielberg points out the seemingly inevitable conservatism of the movie industry in the face of expanding content choices: “You’re at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal – and even maybe historical – projects that may get lost in the shuffle.”

He lamented that it’s becoming harder and harder for even brand-name filmmakers to get their projects into movie theatres. In fact Lincoln – you know, that Oscar-winning, $180million-making, historical biopic – was intended for HBO. And if Spielberg is having a hard-time convincing studios to get behind him, imagine how tough emerging talent will find it to break into the industry.

TV is fast becoming the way to go, with a recent glut of big name actors popping up in TV series; Claire Danes in Homeland, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, Laura Linney in The Big C, Diane Kruger in The Bridge, the list could go on.

It hardly seems surprisingly considering that TV shows are starting to exhibit a lot more integrity, variety and genius than the film studios, which have recently churned out duds like The Lone Ranger, After Earth, White House Down and Pacific Rim. The Lone Ranger costing Disney more than $200 million to produce and took in $29million on its opening weekend at the box office. 

Spielberg suggests that, soon, Hollywood’s rose-tinted glasses may take a turn for clarity, when it edges further and further toward bankruptcy. And will ultimately forced to change its corporate ways. That change might include: movie-going becoming a rarer, more special and more expensive occasion – likening itself to the theatre; movies being released in all formats, everywhere, at the same time; and most movies coming to us via online services. This, the pair suggest, will mean a bright future for movie-makers with a particular vision – they will be able to make a living out of globally aggregated niche audiences.

And whilst that may very well be the only way to sustain, or resuscitate a floundering business model, it seems somewhat poignant that such a favoured pastime will be reduced to a ‘birthday treat’, or to laptop screens only as more and more people undoubtedly revert to downloading their entertainment.

When this door closes, another one might open – independent films may rise in popularity – but if greed sends Hollywood to the grave, it should be a lesson to us all that mainstream isn’t always the way to go.



Touring since October, local Notts boy Jake Bugg has already had quite a year, with his appeal quickly gaining momentum after making appearances stateside and performing to sell-out crowds across England. As a result, his rescheduled show at Birmingham’s Institute was greeted with high expectations.

Opening for the eponymous eighteen-year-old were folky Dubliners Hudson Taylor. No doubt riding on the crest that is the ‘Mumford movement’, their acoustic riffs and harmonies were toe-tapplingly catchy. Their charming Irish lilts came through strongly on the vocals – especially on the likes of ‘Chasing Rubies’ – and each song of their set was pacy and passionate, interrupted only by their repeatedly thanking the audience.

Tennessee-born Valerie June then took to the stage, with her feisty presence usurped only by her eye-catching Medusa-like hair. That is, until she started singing. Her voice was magnificently distinctive, reaching a volume one could hardly have expected. Her Deep South accent and roots were wonderfully palpable throughout as she combined playing on acoustic and electric guitars, as well as her “baby” banjo, on which she performed melodic gospel song ‘Somebody to Love’. Finishing on ‘Pushing Against The Stone’, the bass line seared through the audience as her sultry, almost-piercing voice continued to captivate: a delight to behold.

Jake-Bugg-albumThen arrived the boy we’d all been waiting for. Jake Bugg hardly acknowledged the audience’s cheers and hoots, instead fiddling with his guitar and launching straight into ‘Fire’. With his vocals as raw and sublime as they sound on record, he switched between acoustic and electric instruments with astonishing efficiency (if anything, he could have lingered on each crowd’s enjoyment of each number). Mesmerised and occasionally rowdy, the audience (of a surprisingly mixed age) sang along with zeal; at one point, a small group broke out with what I assume was a local Nottingham chant.

The atmosphere changed with each new song: mellow, tender tunes such as ‘Trouble Town’, ‘Simple As This’ and ‘Someplace’ were stripped back and evocative, sung under an ethereal spotlight and with a poignancy that belies Bugg’s age. He too transformed as the set ensued. He began almost-taciturn, if not just shy, speaking very little between each song, but he gradually warmed up to compliment the audience on their accompanying vocals, also introducing new single ‘Seen It All’. Barely moving from his central spot on the stage, he managed to transfix nonetheless with his Dylan-esque troubadour image and gritty vocal style.

With a flawless and beguiling confidence, Bugg went on to flow from the bluesy ‘Ballad Of Mr. Jones’ to the hypnotic ‘Slide’. Both were consistently brilliant and magnetic, but the addictive riffs of ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Taste It’ found Bugg at his best. ‘Two Fingers’ in particular displayed his talent for complexity, opening with acoustic strumming before the tempo gradually kicked it up to a notch that saw the crowd dancing along enthusiastically.

What we’d really been waiting for, though, was the Olympic anthem that accompanied most of Usain’s triumphs in summer 2012: the utterly raucous ‘Lightning Bolt’, which Bugg rightly saved for last. This marked the only time that the crowd became particularly rowdy, and with riffs that electric, one could hardly blame them.

Bugg departed the stage to rapturous applause, quickly followed by chants for his return. Politely obliging, he returned to perform a mesmeric encore of ‘Broken’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, both of which showcased his country influences, as well as confirming that this young man is definitely a talent to watch

Review: Anna Karenina (2012)

 Anna Karenina
Players: Joe Wright (DIR), Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew McFayden, Kelly McDonald
Having proven skilled at adapting Austen and McEwan it appears Joe Wright wanted to tackle more tragic, epic and quite frankly longer material. Cue Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

 A beast of the literary world and a popular choice for cinematic adaptation, questions undoubtedly appeared as to the necessity of another. Clearly unperturbed, Wright not only delivers a mature and visually stunning interpretation of the classic, but one with a truly novel twist – its all set in a theatre.

 Whilst this may divide viewers it operates on two levels; as a metaphor for how society is constructed and all its inhabitants performing roles, as well as a visually impressive narrative segway during set changes. Thus the ideologies behind Tolstoy’s 500+ page lament for Russian society resonate well within the theatrical setting.

 The cast too are as exquisite as the setting. Keira Knightley as the seduced and thus condemned heroine is at her period drama best in her third pairing with Wright. A coquettish socialite beguiled by the attention lavished upon her by the handsome Count Vronsky (Johnson), she breaks free from the glacial restrictions of Russian aristocracy in rip-roaring, piston-pumping, passionate style with believability and ease. Something Wright forcefully emphasises with consistent train references.

 Not short of talented male support, Jude Law as bald, po-faced and tediously duty bound Karenin is almost unrecognisable. Whilst the charming Aaron Johnson as Vronsky displays all the swagger, charisma and boldness first seen in Nowhere Boy. Matthew MacFayden is also worth a mention on scene-stealing form as Anna’s pompous and avaricious brother Oblonsky.

 And yet for all its attention to detail, intensity and beautifully elegiac tone, one can’t help but sigh at the sheer length of it. Wright’s motivic repetitions; close-ups of character’s faces and coat-changing vignettes become somewhat tiresome. And ultimately the characters aren’t particularly sympathetic leaving you under-whelmed and perhaps as cold as the Russian landscape itself.

Verdict: Sprawling, slow-paced and slightly indulgent. Sumptuous settings, clever editing and terrific performances can’t quite match the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s novel.