Hovvdy Sadly Succumb To The Sophomore Curse On ‘Cranberry’

ALBUM REVIEW

By Dominic V. Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Following up on their debut 2016 record Taster, the Texas lo-fi duo Hovvdy return with a refinement of their established sound on the 2018 sophomore effort Cranberry. The pillow core band’s soft tones take a chill acoustic sound to the absolute nth degree on this LP, really hammering it down with dreamy guitars characteristic of the genre. These guitars, coupled with the vocals (which are sometimes excessively muffled), really lull the listener into being swept away into the pleasantness of the music.

The band returns to and builds on some of the ideas from Taster here on Cranberry: the music is more polished, and the band seems like it has a more focused direction with where it is going musically. There is an undeniable calmness to the album, which really bespeaks the name of its genre, but this isn’t to say that it doesn’t go above and beyond the easy listening trappings of the pillow core genre.

While as a kind of ultra chill lullaby, the album is just fantastic and it’s something you can kind of breeze in and out of leisurely. But as the group’s melodies cycle through their respective songs with little change, a lack of diversity in the music becomes insurmountable. This results in many of the songs sounding overly similar and consequently unremarkable. This same issue plagued Taster at times, and the monotony of Cranberry affirms that it has not been rectified by the band; though this might be a stylistic choice for the band – given how “easy listening” it is – Hovvdy lose a crucial sense of direction and point, at times feeling irredeemably drone-y, no matter how melodic the songs.

Along with the music sounding fairly similar throughout, the intense muffling of the lyrics (due, no doubt, to the low fidelity recording practices the band favors) fade into the background of the song far too often. And while this technique isn’t without its charm and benefits, it does leave the album lacking, taking away any pleasure that would be discerned from repeated listens.

The album is not without its positives, however. There are tracks on this record that show just a little more polish than their predecessors on Taster and come across much better. One of the best examples of this is the track Truck. The song starts slowly, with a cloud of nice acoustic sounds and little else, and it has a real melancholy vibe to it that begs the listener to feel a bit blue. It’s got a whole story that kind of ebbs on the fringes on the song, passing the tale slowly to the listener: “I won’t come home tonight if you’re going through with it, if there is trouble I will run from it all the time,”. The song gives off a whole rudimentary story telling feel, or maybe a new school story telling. It just does so in a really interesting slow-release way.

But the album does, sadly, fall short quite often. For instance, on tracks like Late, which is certainly good musically, but isn’t anything new or even that easy to listen to. It has an almost pop punk crossed with shoe gaze vibe to it. The vocals in this song take the lo-fi sound entirely too far, with the lyrics being somewhat difficult to make out in the track. For much of the album, one tries to enjoy the music, but when a song is this difficult to understand, it does substantially detract from the listening pleasure.

All in all, Cranberry is a difficult album to consider as anything other than a decent second record. The sound of the album is totally there, yet the production and vocals, however, are severely lacking. And while this can be construed as a part of the whole DIY lo-fi genre, it also heavily detracts from the music and holds it back from being a great sophomore effort.

rating 5

It’s not the best superhero movie ever made but Black Panther is one of Marvel’s most ambitious films to date

FILM REVIEW

by dominic v. cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Black Panther – the latest film from Marvel Studios – is finally out, after being rescheduled to fit in with Marvel’s Nostradamus-esque phased plans. With a star-studded cast, in addition to Ryan Coogler of Fruitville Station and Creed fame being at the helm of the operation, it’s no surprise that the last inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also one of its most ambitious.

It may stick true to the usual globetrotting shenanigans that we’ve come to expect from Marvel, everything about this film feels somewhat smaller in scale, ultimately feeling more introspective. Sure, there are colossal threats aimed at the head of the world but the way the story is told seems to take into consideration how what is happening, well, happened and the chain of destruction that could come from a bad decision.

Considering that this take isn’t the norm at this point in the series, or the action genre in general, the plot can feel slightly muddier as a result and arguably less clear though it doesn’t detract from it being interesting. There’s a repeated complaint about these superhero films and how we’re on the umpteenth one (realistically we’re only at number 18 which is admittedly still bizarre) but Black Panther makes sure that viewers question what they’re watching and taking in, resulting in a movie that ultimately deals with mortality, loyalty and how far is too far in order for the greater good.

Considering Black Panther is a superhero movie some thought should be paid to the action scenes which just drip cool. There are a few fantastic fight scenes throughout the movie, some of which are aided by CGI, but it is at the set pieces where these moments shine, the audience chiming to themselves “cool”, or “wow”, or “holy shit”. They make excellent use of space and camera angles, as well as going in a completely different direction from where an action fan might think they would go, resulting in this aspect being equally as interesting as the story itself.

The easiest thing to praise in the film is by far the acting; where maybe the tension falls short, or some of the story just loops forward, the acting is consistently worth being commended. Chadwick Boseman gives a really nice performance as the warrior king T’Challa and in the moments where he’s not panthering around, you kinda just want to be his pal. With a cast as impressive as this movie has, a lot of the actors do just run away with the scenes, one of these guilty thespians being Letitia Wright, who plays the new king’s kooky scientist/younger sister. Wright absolutely commands every scene she’s in, being equal parts sincere and heartfelt, as well as absolutely hilarious which really brightens what can be quite a dark film. Someone else who deserves praise for their performance would be Danai Gurira who plays the proud warrior part very well, acting as a large strong figure on the screen.

To conclude while Black Panther is by no means the best superhero movie of all time, it is at its core an oddly thought-provoking movie, with more depth than a regular spandex clad romp, and so full of talking points it permeates the movie. With smashing set pieces and great performances put in by the cast this movie is well worth a watch, regardless (or especially) if you want to catch Infinity War in just a few months.

rating 7

Gig Review: The Front Bottoms @ The Barras, Glasgow

words + photos by dominic cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

The Front Bottoms were back in Glasgow, on tour for their latest album: Going Grey. After the unconventionalness of their fourth LP, I was stressing to see what their show would be like – but thankfully they did not disappoint.

Preceding them were a set of solid support acts: psychedelic American outfit Brick + Mortar were the first to get the crowd prepped for the New Jersey rock boys who exploded onto the stage in ecstatic weirdness – and immediately pulled the crowd into their set. The main support for the night was Aussie lo-fi rockers the Smith Street Band – whose chill noises grooved over the crowd, sounding quite like old school Front Bottoms and setting up perfectly for the top billing.

The Front Bottoms, shrouded in shadow, kicked off the night, being met with ravenous applause from the Barrowlands crowd. The band opened with You Used To Say (Holy Fuck) to an explosive response. It really shows the band at their best – turning a song with electro inflections – and from an album that didn’t receive the most positive reviews – into a stripped down, absolutely interstellar opening for their set.

The band hit out with Help and Vacation Town next. These tracks with very little input from the band, turned the audience into a swirling mess of mosh pits and lyrics being thrown up to the band. I think this really speaks to the whole vibe of The Front Bottoms, being able to make songs with such affecting and often dour lyrics so relatable that the audience knows them verbatim.

As the show went on, the band hit some of the older tracks out with the likes of Swimming Pool and Be Nice To Me, among others. The band then finished off their set with Twin Size Mattress. It was these tracks that really showed the real vibe of the band – hitting out with music that they know the fans love. And in saying that, this comfort really lends itself to the band, you can see on stage how happy they are to be there.

After the wee “that’s us done” walk-off, the band were immediately called back for one more tune. Frontman Brian Sella monologued for a bit, talking to the crowd, and about Scotland – before getting right into it with 12 Feet Deep; with which the rest of the band faded back in, transitioning from Sella playing solo to the full band back on stage together. After this the ever fantastic Skeleton was wheeled out, followed by the last track of the night, Oceans. It seems like it gave some sense of narrative to the night as the band had opened with the first track off Going Grey. However it does seem like a kinda funny choice to make for the last track of the night – and even more, for the encore songs. Despite this, it still delivered a great performance for the crowd, showing off really well what the band can do.

The Front Bottoms is a band which easily inspire a sense of chillness as well as a sense of togetherness – encouraging you to rock out to a cracking band in a room full of people that are doing the same. Plain and simple: it’s just pretty cool.

The 10 Best Gorillaz Songs

Right – so we’ve had a breather from the Gorillaz for a hot minute now, we’ve had Humanz, and we’ve had a rather amazing tour, and now it feels high time to put into print the top 10 tracks Damon Albarn’s animated super group have put out, in there nearly 20 year history.

With every release of the Gorillaz, there is a decidedly different sound, from a range of noises, like old school blues to punk infused naughtiness in the self-titled debut, to the electro daydream of Plastic Beach, and most recently to the rocky dance hits of Humanz.

So here we have it, the top ten tracks from the Gorillaz.


10. Momentz

So at the start of the list we have this chronic-concerned track from Humanz, called Momentz, by the Gorillaz (I couldn’t help myself sue me). The track itself features the fantastic De La Soul, who appeared on Demon Days, and Plastic Beach, in the tracks Feel Good Inc. and Superfast Jellyfish respectively; and this Gorillaz veteran really hits it out of the park on this track, with verses that easily electrify the listener, and move perfectly in time with the fun, rock tunes going through behind the lyrics.

Coming very early in the album, it is part of the tour de force that, regardless of your views on the band’s latest release, is a perfect start to the album. It is beautifully geared towards a dance heavy sound to fantastic effect and including a frequent collaborator was a smart move; serving as a safe space for long term fans who may be hesitant of the old dogs trying some new tricks, Murdoc and the gang prove they’re more than up to the task and the results are proof the venture is worth it.


9. Tomorrow Comes Today

Jumping from the present, back to the band’s debut LP, we have Tomorrow Comes Today, which embodies a sense of cool, grim melancholy. This is communicated in the droning, off sounding guitars, and the slow, chilled out vocals.


8. Rockit

From the album D-Sides, we are gifted this funky, albeit dark, track, which comes across as a kinda satirical look at pop music, and the kinda lad culture that goes with it sometimes. It starts with a simple sounding drum-bass combo, and eventually spirals into a really dark horror sounding electro vibe, while constantly whittling on with nonsense lyrics (I’m walking to the something,Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, Collapse, I’m drinking too much bla bla, Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla“) – it’s just utterly mad.

The weird lyrics, and the very prog rock sounding sounds, leaves us with this very catchy, ultra groovy bop that is one of the Gorillaz weirdest hits. The band smack together nothingness and some groovy noises to give us a fucking fantastic track, from an album filled with B-sides and cut content from Demon Days


7. 5/4

Right, we’ve had three tracks which are very electronic sounding, it’s time for something a bit different: 5/4.

This track (again from their self titled debut), is a very guitar heavy track, until the very end. It has a slightly odd sound, like how Blur might sound if they were in a universe where everything was more or less the same but three seconds of industrial dub was required in all music; it plays like your normal rock song, with solid vocals and lyrics, and a great backing vocalist, as well as great rhythm guitars and drums.

The way the song takes all its relatively simple pieces and puts them together, enticing the listener more and more with each passing second, in addition to the brief industrial sounding moments of electronica near the end really summed up what Gorillaz would be as a project: doing varying genres of music, doing them really well, and more often than not turning them into completely different things in the process.


6. Feel Good Inc.

Right, nae shouting, I am fully aware that this is probably the most popular Gorillaz track, and not undeservedly so: the track is fucking legit. It was indicative of what would become the Gorillaz sound. They have the powerful electronic sound as well as mighty swells from just guitars and unaltered vocals – as well as a wee feature from an absolutely fantastic featuring artist in the form of De La Soul.

The hot single, off the band’s second proper album Demon Days, has a very poppy feel to it, being very clearly structured, and a whole kinda sing songy vibe to it, which is not a sound heard often from the band: a somewhat welcomed change of pace.


5. Punk

BOOF WE’RE HERE! We’ve cracked the top five and this first spot in it happily goes to the joyous, clappy, energetic Punk which – as I’ve already said – creates a almost textbook expression for the kind of genre it wants to be, and this time it’s on the tin: punk.

Punk kind of stirs in lots of classic punk influences, from the Pistols, The Clash, and – to me anyway – mostly the Ramones. It starts with a shedding of the electronic sounds, having them in there but giving way for the perfect sounding drums and claps exchange. It is then followed by vocals from Albarn, which sound just perfectly punk, kind of moany at the start, getting angrier and angrier. This track is just fab and could start a party wherever ye liked.


4. Stylo

Up next is the automotive Stylo, off 2012’s Plastic Beach, a very electronic, featured artist heavy album. This track packs in Bobby Womack and Mos Def, both of whom have fantastic little bits in the track that would make perfect title and intro credits music to a weird 80’s B-Movie.

It has a constant RnB vibe to it, communicated in really lovely beats, and delightful vocals from Albarn/2D. It’s all of this and more than results in one of the band’s most amazing tracks.


3. Rhinestone Eyes

Oh, another track from Plastic Beach!!? Madness. No but for real, this songs haunting, prophetic, maddening vibe is really something to marvel over; the vocals are convincing, and emotional through voice alterations, and constant impossible-not-to-groove-to-tunes and then spiraling into rabid chanting choruses.

Popping early up in the album, it was imperative that Gorillaz impressed and they really fucking blew the roof off with Rhinestone Eyes. The track’s mish mash of different sounds and different tempo for the music is just, to put it simply, utterly pleasant.


2. Fire Coming Out of The Monkey’s Head

The Penultimate track. The Silver medal. Fire Coming Out of The Monkeys Head. This track (also off the fantastic Demon Days) has a kind of radio play/ radio news report vibe – this is owed greatly to top quality narration by actor Dennis Hopper.

The track, which consists mostly of this narration and smooth beats bounce in the background, has an unknowable Lovecraftian sorta feel to it and things narration wise get suitably dark to suit this eerie palette. Damon Albarn comes back with audibly sweet lyrics, though continuing the dreary tone with some apt negative lyrics, backed by accoustic guitars. It’s hard to describe this song: it’s a wee story, but also such a conventional song, probably the most odd track the band have put out.


1.Clint Eastwood

Spot number one, after much deliberation, goes to Clint Eastwood. The Gorillaz are no the kind of band that have one track which is definitively the best, they have a couple to be honest, and deciding on the el honcho was hard. However, Clint Eastwood blends fantastically vocals from Albarn and the rap feature from Del the Funky Homosapien , all backed by a cracking electronic tune, reminiscent of the theme from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

But what really sets this song apart is the kind of honesty of this track: it is a culmination of music with obvious rock and pop influences, as well as hip hop, and electro. For many it was the jumping off point for their enjoyment of the Gorillaz, and for an equally great number, the first few notes will let them know they’ll enjoy the next three or so minutes, as they will do the rest of their catalogue.

meta-chart

check out the above tracks in this handy playlist

Gig Review: The Vegan Leather & SWAY @ The Bungalow

by Dominic V. Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

As part of Independent Venue Week, Paisley venue The Bungalow’s stage was graced by the electric disco rockers The Vegan Leather, supported by SWAY, and put on a cracking late-night gig at the wee musical abode.

Before we get into it, I’d like to mention that SWAY, who I must say I haven’t seen before, totally knocked it out the park. They were really putting it out with a kinda rocky punky sound, I totally got crazy Germs vibes, with sick guitars and fucking amazing drums; To Be A Man being the standout track.

The headliner of the night however, the ever fantastic The Vegan Leather, came bounding onto the stage and were greeted by sheer joy from the crowd. Not one to fluff things out, the band jumped into the music right away, pumping electricity into the crowd. The band kept this tempo up throughout the night, wacking out banger after banger, aside from a brief wee break to hunt down a capo. As for in between songs, the band showed a real chillness with the crowd – they really knew their fans. The obvious friendship in the band itself also helped to put the crowd really at ease.

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After hitting out with dance hall bangers like The Knife, Man Dies, and the very, very good ShakeIt, the band really turned it down a notch with Rosie Goes – a super slow track, that was honestly just quite a bit emotionally destructive, but bloody beautiful at the same time. Thank god the quartet played Bottom of the Ocean, which is easily the most disco track from the band, and reinvigorated the morale up in the room. It is a track that is just sheer boogie inducing pleasure, near infectious in the way that bouncy happiness sweeps through the crowd.

The band then had the mandatory, “Thank you guys, we’ve been XXX, goodnight” walk off and came back on for a couple of tracks, and boy oh boy were they good; hitting out with Days Go By and This House, fan favourites. It was now that the audiences appreciation for the band really shone, there was a great deal of jostling and two (TWO) people on shoulders – it was a really gnarly vibe. When the show finally ended, it was with a bang and certainly not a whimper; it was really sad. It was the kinda gig that coulda, and probably should’ve gone on all night.

While the band have yet to release an album, they have released a couple of singles and a few songs have shown up online. For the meantime, the best way to get yer fix of TheVeganLeather, is live and on stage – and for a band with very little material behind them, they play fairly often. If you’re looking for a boogie, a wee da shuffle or just a good night out, find out whereabouts the bands playing next and get yer arse along.

Album Review: Egg on face. Foot in mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. by Crywank

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)rating 8

Crywank, Manchester’s stoner anti-folk punk outfit, consisting of James Clayton on vocals and guitar, and Dan Watson on drums, released their early Christmas present of a new album Egg on face. Foot in mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. and it is a doozey. With much more prevalent punk influences than previously seen by the band, and lyrics utterly bizarre and absolutely delightful in equal measure, it’s not just business as per usual.

This is the band’s eighth album, coming off the back of 2016’s Don’t Piss on Me I’m Already Dead; and with such a regular release schedule one might expect to see a slip in quality though this is hardly the case for Crywank as with every new release, the band gets braver collectively: James’s song writing is becoming more diverse, both in terms of lyrics and playing style, and from the time Dan joined the band, the effect his drums have had on the band have changed intensely; to the point where it is now with riotous heavy hard drums.

To the point however; this album is chock full of music that anyone ought to find appealing. The band has really pulled together everything that has been developing throughout their career which has culminated in this piece of work, offering up something that, while different from some of the bands earlier work, is wholly fantastic and staggeringly thoughtful.

One of the best tracks on the album is When You Eat Yourself, First Start With Your Head Up Your Arse – it’s one of the slower cuts off the album and sounds utterly menacing, in no small part due to the lyrics running together like one big sentence and creating quite the sense of anxiety. Once this is done, there is a small break in the constant noise, boosting the tempo of the music. “So I bathe myself in a bath of scum I found it fun, covering clean in the sticky obscene, did a nightmare just turn you on? It’s hard not to feel wrong” lending the songs heartbreak over one’s self in a full self-depreciating manner; it’ll no send long-term listeners back to music from the Langdon Alger album.

Another exceptionally notable track on the album is An Academics Lament On Barbie, telling the tale of a student writing an essay on the problematic-ness of Barbie; and using this as a means to an end, James manages to sing about feminism, mental health, and what Barbie says to kids. The song also hits out with a perfectly balanced screaming, a hardcore-esque bit that just works so well with the repressed vibes in the song.

A song that was released with a music video (and a super secret Nyla split SHHH), Part 2, resurfaces on this album, re-recorded, however, now being called Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, lending a fast-paced punky vibe to what was previously quite a melancholy song; but it does not detract from the real sadness in the song, just disguises it a bit.

While there are not many weak tracks on the album, there are a couple that do not quite hold up as much as others, one of those being (Onion) Garden Fart (Onion); not necessarily a poor song but not as strong as some of the genuine fucking bops of this album. It definitely has a very floaty light vibe and is very very chill so it’s not without its merits.

One of the things that this album does that has been missing from most of the new Crywank albums is the wee mini-vignettes that pop up between some tracks, usually going on for about 30 – 40 seconds, previously leaning towards the more irreverent humorous side than the bands other tracks, and they gave us great moments like the mythical Paperclips. It’s wee breaks like Who Am I???1, Colm Hindsight, and Don’t Forget to Like Share and Subscribe that show the band’s growth and hark back to earlier days though don’t have quite the same comedic impact.

Finally, it would be impossible to talk about this album without mentioning the last track of the album, Story of The Lizard and the Sock; which, very contradictory to the previous paragraph just there (sorry but I canny be the first person to lead you astray in life), is a kinda funny song, but mostly sweet, about a love story revolving around a lizard who falls for a sock after a poorly thought out prank. “You say lizards and socks should never be together, but the lizard said this is forever, this is forever“. And no matter how wacky and straight up bizarre this may be, it exemplifies what Crywank are: they are fun and bizarre, and more often than not quite sad, and this is the track that exemplifies this perfectly.

No beating around the bush here, Crywank’s latest album Egg on face. Foot in mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. is fucking amazing; sure it has some weaker tracks, though only when compared to the colossi on this LP, but it has some really different sounding tracks with more punk and hardcore influences, resulting in every risk taken pays off quite well and shows off the confidence of a band willing to take big strides.

Highlights: When You Eat Yourself First Start With Your Head Up Your Arse, An Academics Lament On Barbie, Part 2: Electric BoogalooColm Hindsight
Lowlights: (Onion) Garden Fart (Onion) and Anti-Capitalism is a Great Marketing Technique

 

Is Thor: Ragnarok The Most Fun Marvel Film Yet?

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Ragnarok, the third in the solo Thor movies, is by far the best. With What We Do in the Shadows actor and director Taika Waititi at the helm, the movie benefits from having an experienced funny man in charge of things, as aside from being good (thoroughly quite excellent) it is fun. It is the only adjective that comes to mind; the movie is funny, smart and uses the actors to fantastic lengths.

To say the previous Thor films have come short is putting it lightly: the first one was kind of nondescript, feeling really small scale and The Dark World felt too overtly serious a solo romp for a character that is the real comic relief in the Avengers movies. Thankfully, Ragnarok gives the viewer no fear that there will be much in the way of Schindler’s List level seriousness.

The tone of the movie is absolutely perfect throughout, adjusting just enough to fit, while keeping a comfortable goofiness. In this sense, the set design is really just perfect, especially in some of the more exotic locations. It really harks back to the whole 80’s marvel celestials stuff, mad bright colours and random circuits drawn on things, makes the movie just so pretty that you’d be hard-pressed to take your eyes off it.

Story-wise, Ragnarok isn’t anything super unique or that deep but without the pressure of being final or important (i.e Avengers), it definitely had a more, setting up vibe, like a comic book getting ready to go into a big series wide event; which on the way to Infinity War’s release is really refreshing.

One thing that ought to be commended for the movie is the actors: Chris Hemsworth absolutely nails the boisterous thunder god and seems really relaxed in the role, just having fun with it. It did feel at points uncomfortable to be seeing Loki on screen again, but Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the trickster god really makes you forgot misgivings as he and his onscreen brother bounce off one another so well.

As always, Jeff Goldblum is absolutely fantastic as the eccentric Grandmaster, bringing a kind of Ralph Fiennes M. Gustave panache to the roll. It would have been nice however to see more development with Cate Blanchett’s Hela as sadly, she just comes across as a nondescript big bad.

Being a superhero movie, the action scenes are fantastic, off the cuff, using CGI very well, and while it may not be photorealistic, it does lend to the very comic book style the movie seems to have, and moves away from something that has plagued the bigger Marvel movies – a problem of being too serious at times, and giving the fight scenes interesting venues.

Finally, while the move is nothing new, the sheer sense of fun at play here definitely makes it one of the better Marvel movies. With the main cast bouncing off of one another so well, it is just sad this sort of thing couldn’t have been carved out for the Norse hero sooner. Hopefully, after the unprecedented success of the more comedic ventures like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ragnarok, this fun practice becomes more of the norm from the folk at Marvel.

rating 7

Gig Review: The Mountain Goats at The Art School

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

The Mountain Goats are awaited by the crowd with bated breath and I’d be lying if I said I was not amongst their number, in terms of the mob or the state of breath. North Carolina based folk rockers The Mountain Goats – consisting of the ever present singer-songwriter John Darnielle and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – ascend to the stage accompanied by cries of devotion from the loving Glasgow crowd. Opening with Have to Explode, the cheers and whooping give way to absolute silence. When the song ends so does the hush, the hanging silence expelled with thankful applause.

It becomes clear almost immediately that The Goats will not be playing the greatest hits from their latest album, Goths: instead, this is a show for the super fans, as hit after ancient hit blasts from the speakers. In between hitting out with the band’s classics as well as newer material, Darnielle rambles with an intelligence and conversational ease seldom seen by crowds, but almost expected from one who has been making music for 20 plus years; and, honestly, the experience shows. Tracks wise, the stand outs from the night were Until I Am Whole, You or Your Memory, We Do It Different on the West Coast, the beautifully quiet Get Lonely, and the ever fantastic No Children.

There were very different vibes from the crowd throughout the gig. Songs like No Children were belted out word for word with ferocity, whereas during Get Lonely the crowd stood like a forest at night, but so much more silent; people asking to get by did so whispering.

Honestly, for me the gig was a beautiful exhibition of long-crafted skill and art, showing how well playing to the crowd can be done. The innate crowd interaction from John Darnielle who was loving the little stand up bits, made the night all the more special. If you have not seen The Mountain Goats live, I can recommend nothing more, and if you have never heard them, I would start now; on The Sunset TreeTallahassee, or Beat the Champ.

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Album Review: I Tell a Fly by Benjamin Clementine

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)rating 8

In his sophomore album, I Tell a Fly, avant-garde maestro, Benjamin Clementine delivers an instantly arresting, heartbreakingly sweet album which furthers him on the tracks to being a generational superstar.

I Tell a Fly provides grandiose music and heartfelt lyrics, combining social issues and personal plights, with ethereal execution. Following his debut album At Least For Now which saw release in 2016, he has quickly returned with an album which, in some respects is the superior of the two. At Least For Now focused heavily on a very pure musical sound, but the music played second fiddle in many respects to Clementine‘s lyricism, shining the light to his poetic thoughtfulness and timeless vocals. And while I Tell a Fly is different, it is only for the better, adding in more electronic and more modern musical influences.

Standout tracks in this album are aplenty, but there are some diamonds in the crown. Track one side Farewell Sonata is the song which ought to convince anyone, absolutely anyone with a care for beauty; it is almost four minutes of a beautiful instrumental, which further greater care afforded to the music on this album.

Another song that is an absolute bop is Paris Cor Blimey which focuses heavily on wordplay and the actual words; “They say life’s not worth a penny, so what if you lose your pen, eh?” giving a comedic spin on quite a morose song, which without it could have caused a dip in the energy for the album, but the slight bursts of humour and wordplay do cause a bittersweet air to wash over the listener.

While the album is absolutely beautiful, it isn’t perfect, and while there are songs that don’t hit the mark, the songs in and of themselves are perfectly fine. Jupiter is one song, the sixth song of the album, which creates a sci-fi focused dreamscape, about Ben, an alien who has time warping abilities. And while the song contains very sweet somber lyrics, like “Wishing Americana happy, wishing Americana free, Ben’s an alien passing by, wishing everyone be, back home in Jupiter, things are getting hard”, and does take away from the theatricality of the album, with one really stand out track which isn’t bad, but probably more out of place.

Finally, I Tell a Fly is a beautiful, long looping album, which is such a joy to listen to, feeling a debt of thanks to the London born singer-songwriter, who seems either incapable or dissatisfied with being caged in one genre alone. After the release of At Least for Now and the recent release of I Tell a Fly, Mr. Clementine locks down the fact that he is now on his way to being a fantastic singer-songwriter, and with such a tight production schedule, it shouldn’t be long before the public are faced with the next, predictably brilliant LP from the so far ever fantastic Benjamin Clementine. 

8/10 

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

By Dominic V Cassidy (@Lyre_of_Apollo)

Atomic Blonde is the latest project courtesy of director and stuntman David Leitch, who’s directing Deadpool 2, and gave an uncredited directorial assist on the kinetic John Wick.  With this in mind, and the fact the unequivocally bad-ass Charlize Theron is playing the titular yellow haired spy, the viewer best have their seat belt at the ready for the sheer roller-coaster of fucking insanity that comes after the funky (and perfectly violent) set up, the tempo and energy just keep going up and up and up and so on.

Mentioned above, Charlize Theron takes the lead as the MI6 intelligence officer Lorraine Broughton, who heads to Berlin during the cold war to track down the usual “fate of the world” sort of classic spy McGuffin, seen in Bond movies for decades. It is to this effect that the story of Atomic Blonde is not anything special, it is however a thrilling, action packed, carnage ride; filled to the brim with excellent set pieces, it feels like the story is really going out of its way to create these opportunities.

The characters, while somewhat playing into classic archetypes, do flip roles quite a bit creating a sense of dread and excitement. There is a plot thread that, if you are keen on problem solving or spy flicks, you might see coming, but the sheer insanity of it makes for brilliant viewing.

There must be a loud round of applause for the cast which does feel slightly ensemble – there’s never a face on screen you don’t recognize, with John Goodman and Toby Jones making great wee appearances on the fringes of the story. Charlize Theron, while not delivering a career defining performance in the action film, does play her part extremely well, showing great devotion to the role, especially in the physical sense, doing many of her own stunts. The way she plays her character shows a femme fatale style character as the protagonist, which is refreshing giving a nice edge to the movie.

However, James McAvoy steals the screen whenever the camera mans no looking. His portrayal of a more morally ambiguous station manager in Berlin, again for MI6, is spot on. His slow burning menace is definitely reminiscent of Split, and honestly, after showcasing his darker side, it’s nice to see more of it, and his acting ability is very much welcomed in this already star studded cast.

Now this is one of the most crucial points to be made on Atomic Blonde: it is a fucking gorgeous movie. There. The cinematography is perfectly thought out, giving it an edge on the other movies of its kind. Where Bourne’s camera is shaky in fight scenes, Atomic Blonde’s is steady and tracking the point and punctuation of each movement perfectly, where it could be argued Wick was neon in its colour scheme, the use of colours in Atomic Blonde, is so smooth, so subtle, that if it wasn’t so delightful the viewer would hardly notice. The colours are something that really catch the eye, and should be looked out for in the movie.

Image result for atomic blonde cinematography

And where would an action movie be without the actual action? A completely different destination from where Atomic Blonde has ended up, the action, and fight choreography in this movie really is of the highest calibre. Including one fight scene towards the climax of the feature which is honestly quite fantastic to behold, the seemingly realistic way blows are exchanged and the absolute lethality of Theron in her movements is reminiscent of the hallway hammer brawl of Oldboy, and really puts this as a rival to some of the fight movies like The Raid, or the Bourne movies fight scenes. The music as well is perfectly pitched for the movie, tunes like 99 Red Luftballoons, Blue Monday, and various other 80’s bangers are out in full force, and make this seem much more light hearted an experience than it is and has any right being.

While Atomic Blondes story is by no means Shakespearean, it gets the job done; but while you are experiencing a somewhat commonplace spy thriller, you won’t care. You’ll be watching a beautiful movie, with perfect fight scenes, amazing use of colour, and a fantastic sound track. The film does nothing especially new, but what does, it does with the care and utmost precision of a master. A strong contender for the best recent Bond movie.

8/10

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