Monday, 31 January 2011

DVD & Blu-ray Round Up: Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

Popsiculture's release of the week has to go to Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. The follow up to his legendary 1987 polemic against the excesses and shady dealings of the American banking industry, Money Never Sleeps could not have had a better real-life backdrop or it's release last year. Following the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, and subsequent worldwide economic crisis, surely Gordon Gekko's mantra that 'Greed is good' has never been more contentious.

So the iconic Gekko being released from prison for his former indiscretions, and returning to his old ways is an interesting and timely subject for Stone to explore. Unfortunately though, the resulting film fails to hold interest as it should.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Singles Round Up: Jessie J and B.o.B

A bit of a new feature for Popsiculture today as Bobble and I cast our eyes (and more importantly our ears) over the single releases for the week. Our single of the week to be released on 30th January 2011 is Price Tag, the new track from hot properties Jessie J and B.o.B.

Jessie J and B.o.B - Price Tag
Bobble: The BBC's Sound of 2011 winner (as predicted by POPSICULTURE's Dansquad) teams up with B.o.B on a near-anthemic track that's both laid back and kinda sweet. Not my genre of choice but I like to think that makes it mean all the more when I actually like a song - and I do like this one. Looks like the Beeb got it right this time around.
>> Jessie J on iTunes

Enrique Iglesias ft. Ludacris - Tonight
Dan: That old romantic Enrique Iglesias has fallen in with the wrong crowd on this new collaboration with Ludacris. An otherwise forgettable club track is only given interest by the Andy Gray-esque chorus of "Please excuse me I don't mean to be rude, but tonight I'm fucking you". The Single includes Tonight (I'm Fucking You) and the radio edit Tonight (I'm Loving You).
>> Enrique Iglesias ft Ludacris - Tonight on iTunes

Barbarellas - Body Rock
Bobble: I loved B*Witched and it's great to see the girls releasing new material - even if it is only Edele and Keavy. Sadly I don't think this has the same distinctive personality that B*Witched always had - hopefully their next effort will be better. The video's kinda cool though.
>> Barbarellas - Body Rock on iTunes

B.o.B. - I'll Be In the Sky
Dan: Okay, I'm biased, I didn't particularly expect to, or want to like this, but B.o.B. certainly has a sort of madcap, cartoonish charm about him, and this re-release of one of his back catalogue shows him on good form. Not as commercial as his first few mega-hits, I'll Be In The Sky is a song to chill to.
>> B.o.B. - I'll Be In the Sky on iTunes

The Streets - Going Through Hell
Dan: Mike Skinner jumped the shark a long time back as far as I'm concerned, after building up a massive following and a degree of critical success on his first two albums, he is now largely ignored in favour of the Tinie Tempahs and Chipmunks of this world. For good reason too, Skinner is annoying, his material is dated, and ultimately a bit shit.
>> The Streets - Going Through Hell EP on iTunes

Friday, 28 January 2011

She & Him - Don't Look Back

A video this time, and it's the new single release of Don't Look Back from She & Him, who are of course Zooey Deschanel (pause to sigh...) and Matt Ward for the ladies. He's not bad, I guess.

This is the latest track to come from Volume Two, which was first released in spring 2010 and is still going strong. I actually really like this song, so it's great to see it get its own release - and the video's a lot of fun, too.

Clinic - Bubblegum

If you haven't yet heard Bubblegum by Clinic - the album, that is - then the single release of the titular track is the perfect excuse to familiarise yourself with their work.

Out on January 31st as a digital bundle and 12" vinyl EP, the song and its remixes offer a variety of takes on the track that gives the album Bubblegum its name - a lofty position for any one song to occupy, but one that Bubblegum carries off reasonably well. Read on for a preview of all five tracks and a free download of the Pional "Jump The Gun" bonus mix.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

Texas-based singer-songwriter type Iron & Wine, aka Samuel Beam, is known for his melodic, country-tinged Americana style. Kiss Each Other Clean is his fourth release under this moniker, and first for a major label, and continues the journey from lo-fi experimentalist to something more mainstream. The sound on this album is deeper, more textural, and by extension, somehow more affecting than previous works.

There's a kind of hipster hokey spiritualism about this album, and Iron & Wine in general that can be cloying, but if you just go with it, it can also be strangely rewarding. From the album cover, a technicolour line drawing of the artist waist-deep in a river with peacocks milling around behind, down through every track, there is an overriding theme of closeness to nature.

Love Inks - Blackeye

Fresh in from our friends at Work It Media, we have a preview of upcoming Austin, Texas exports Love Inks and their album track Blackeye. It's not due out for a while - the record doesn't have a confirmed release date yet, but is expected some time in the summer on the Hell, Yes! label.

For now that's about all the information there is, other than the song itself. You can listen to it below (click 'Read more' if you can't see the player) and I really suggest you give it a couple of play-throughs. It won't take long - the track's only 1:54 (although there seems to be a bonus second on the embedded player below) - but you'll find it soon starts to get inside your head like that girl you saw on the train this morning with the slightly wonky mouth but a cute smile. Or is that just me...?

Monday, 24 January 2011

DVD & Blu-ray Round Up: Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol

We're nothing if not predictable here at Popsiculture, so the with the release of the Doctor Who Christmas special today there are no prizes for guessing our DVD and Blu-ray release of the week. A Christmas Carol was a particularly strong festive outing for the Doctor, a time-travelling twist on the Dickens classic.

Michael Gambon gives a strong performance as the miserly Scrooge character, and Katherine Jenkins is good as the love interest, while Matt Smith continues to make the role of the Doctor his own. If there was one (predictable) complaint from me it would be the lack of screen time for the delectable Amy Pond, but you can't have everything.

Friday, 21 January 2011

10 O'Clock Live

10 O'Clock Live is an attempt by Channel 4 to give the nation a new flagship topical satire show. It continues in the grand tradition of British political satire (think That Was The Week That Was, Spitting Image or Have I Got News For You), but it is much closer to current American market-leader The Daily Show in format. Filmed live in front of an often vocal audience, last night's debut combined stand-up, sketches, interviews and round-table 'debates' of a sort between the four hosts.

And they are good hosts too; Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr (in order of personal preference, sorry Jimmy) are all intelligent, well-informed and amusing in more or less equal measure. I did sometimes wonder if they were too much of a 'right-on' liberal bunch though, as they were at pains to show off their lefty credentials in front of a partisan audience. Maybe that's inevitable when you're satirising a Conservative (sorry, Conservative-led) government though, and certainly a show like this needs time to bed in and find its own voice.

31 North 62 East

31 North 62 East was released in selected cinemas in 2009 and made it to DVD in September 2010 - I got it for Christmas purely because it features former Quizmania presenter Debbie King as a newsreader in one scene, and I'm a fan.

Now, it's worth being honest about the reasons why 31 North 62 East is what it is. It's an independent movie, so it didn't have the weight of the major studios behind it. Its budget was little more than $3 million, if Wikipedia is accurate. But operating on a shoestring, you get a decent amount in terms of plot and production. Filming was spread across the UK and Jordan, while there are plenty of familiar faces - even if some of them are not quite perfect for the parts they play. The plot itself has quite a few phases to it, which keep the pace up in the absence of any proper Hollywood money shots - the big action is always tantalisingly off-screen, obviously for budgetary reasons.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall

British Sea Power have come a long way since their inception a decade ago, albeit in small steps from album to album. New release Valhalla Dancehall, their fourth album proper, continues the trend; it's evolution not revolution for this band of indie rockers. Theirs a lush, often orchestral brand of indie, bringing to mind Arcade Fire and at times Guillemots' first album. That's not to say BSP don't have a harder, rockier side too though.

On Valhalla Dancehall, fans will find the familiar mixture of intelligent, literary lyricism and broad anthemic indie-rock, but there is more of an edge to this release. British Sea Power don't sound proud to be British any more, and there is more of a politicised feel in their music as a result.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Carter Burwell - True Grit OST

Carter Burwell's True Grit is the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' latest film of the same name, depending how you look at it either a remake of the 1969 John Wayne western, or an adaptation of Charles Portis' original novel.

The film follows the story of Mattie Ross, who sets out to avenge the murder of her father, a remarkable mission for a 14 year-old girl and a crotchety one-eyed US Marshal (Geoff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn)to embark on .

Arguing that only the church could give a 14 year-old girl the sheer temerity to confront a bunch of armed outlaws, Burwell decided he must look to 19th-century protestant hymns to find inspiration for his original score, "the songs Mattie would sing if she had time for such frivolity". The result is a beautifully paced melodic score that starts out with simple church piano pieces, and builds to fuller, fleshed out orchestral pieces as the story reaches its conclusion.

TRON: Legacy

TRON: Legacy needs little introduction; if you didn't see the original TRON movie, you must have picked up on the hysteria surrounding this one. I'm not always one to buy into sequels, especially after a long delay, but recent years have delivered Terminator: Salvation, Predators, and now TRON: Legacy - and all have done justice to their lineage.

It's great to see Jeff Bridges back as Kevin Flynn - rest assured this is more than a cameo appearance and Bridges hasn't lost it, 30 years on from the first film. But Garrett Hedlund also does a fine job of taking the mantle as this instalment's lead character, Flynn's son Sam. An almost unrecognisable Olivia Wilde adds the main female presence as Quora, with Beau Garrett appearing as Jem - both characters providing beauty and strength in equal measures in a film where nobody is there purely to look at.

Tu Fawning - Hearts On Hold

Tu Fawning's new album Hearts On Hold is an atmospheric and adventurous tour of music that harks back to the days of Hawkwind and Billy Cobham, but with a modern-day lyrical focus that adds pleasing depth.

Layers of percussion, keys, backing and lead vocals produce a genuine three-dimensional sound that gives the ear a choice of elements to focus on - this is the musical equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Corrina Repp's vocals catch the attention while remaining unobtrusive enough that the intricate and intriguing musical accompaniment can be enjoyed in its own right, with lengthy instrumental interludes ensuring all areas of the performance receive their moment in the limelight.


Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year's Honours - Trevor Horn, Richard Thompson, Annie Lennox

Each year, some of the most well-deserving individuals across the UK are recognised with New Year's Honours. They might be long-serving teachers, or fundraisers, or philanthropists, or successful figures in the world of business. But there are also those who are recognised for their services to entertainment - for creating the film, music and television that shapes our childhood and keeps us from getting bored as we grow older.

The 2011 list is no different, with seven per cent of the honours going to figures from the world of art and the media. We've picked out just a few of the most notable music personalities below to profile - just in case you didn't already know who they are. Click the link to read more.