Monthly Archives: January 2012

Album: Kate Bush – “Lionheart” (1978)

Onto Kate’s second album now, and after The Kick Inside I was a little reluctant to say the least. I mean this album was wheeled out less than a year after TKI which isn’t usually a hallmark of a classic album.

BUT after a sluggish start, I really rather got into this album. It’s obviously not a big leap sonically but for some reason I warmed a lot to it. Partly it could be down to my listening to it on headphones in bed. I wonder if TKI would have benefitted from it.

(Originally posted March 2010)

08 Symphony in Blue: I find this rather sweet, I can imagine her usual flouncing around waving her arms. Quite easy listening, reminds me of the band “The Feeling” in an odd way (that’s a good thing). Rather mixed tempo, love the little waltzy bits.

09 In Search of Peter Pan: God I love this intro, very melancholy despite the chirping. I really love the production, her voice is just gorgeous too. I’m totally RAPT until she starts going on about being an ASTRONAUUUUT, I think I lose the plot a bit. Doesn’t really go anywhere, just repeats the first half… but still, there are worse songs to do that to. Then the rather screechy outro!

10 Wow: LOVE the intro, there’s such a chill in the air, I love the atmosphere. Then that bridge leads into THAT CHORUS WOOWOOOWOOOWOOOW-OH! With that lovely end-of-70s synth flourish. GORGEOUS. Gives me chills, the whole thing.

09 Don’t push your foot on the heartbrake: What a title! … hmm well again she totally sucks me in with a car accident story, into that DA-DA-DAAAAH bridge that I love. The chorus is a bit ‘hmm’ but it snaps out of it, sadly into a rather plain second verse. I just love that bridge though. I am being very forgiving so far, that last mental chorus is irresistible though.

08 Oh England my Lionheart: Now I have the benefit of knowing what this one is about. I actually quite like it, the imagery is good. She managed to steer away from tedious ballad just about, with some real Tori-foreshadowing again. Very medieval-sounding, in a good way (no, I don’t know either). That “I don’t want to go” reminds me of the end of Catatonia’s Mulder and Scully in a weird way… I realise it’s stupid to say that THIS reminds me of things that were recorded afterwards, but you know what I mean.

07 Fullhouse: I’ll continue the descending scores I think. She tries for the storytelling again, I like the manic piano but I’m not quite feeling this. Reminds me of a song from War of the Worlds, very musical theatre-sounding. I don’t hate it, but I’m not really quite there, despite that infectious squawk of “YOU’VE got a fullhouse in your HEAD TONIGHT”.

07 In the warm room: OK, I was tipped off that this is about vaginas, and even with that knowledge it’s not that bad. I admit I’m lost with some of the metaphor (as I probably would be with an actual vagina). It’s quite a nice gentle melody though, I’m pleased I’m not sick of her voice by now.

07 Kashka from Baghdad: Social commentary time, but I love this story. Scandalicious and I love the vocals. Not mad on the chorus apart from the big note – I do hate that Be-e-e-e-e thing too that sounds like a penguin swallowing a herring. Doesn’t quite live up to its initial promise though, shame.

10 Coffee homeground: OMG this is right off the insanity Richter scale in places. From the rather jarring Wallace and Gromit intro, I love this bizarre vocal style. I can imagine Stoofah from Harry Hill singing this “Ooooffer me a choocolaaate, no thanks you’ll SPOIL my DIET”. “You smell of beeeter aaalMONNDD”. It’s like she’s had some sort of a mental episode. The chorus doesn’t let off, I always smile at the very least at the squeaky backing “AND A COFFEE!! AND A POT OF TEEEEAAA!!!!” then bizarre Russian grunting la-las. AMAZING. Please tell me she made a video of this with her singing in Blackface makeup! Schnitzel, WUNDERBAR!

07 Hammer Horror: Should really have stopped it before this… the only thing more bizarre than the previous track is choosing this as the lead single. I don’t hate it, to be fair, but that chorus really is pretty crummy. I DO remember it, and I have a fondness for a bizarre Hammer movie I saw once (that’s another story). A bit of a damp squib to end on but it’s not the worst I’ve ever heard. What a depressing bong at the end too :(.

So! A marked improvement there, with my first 10s too. I should probably revise Wuthering Heights to a 10 in hindsight, but whatever. A much more enjoyable album in totality I think, even the worse songs have features that I like. I’m not expecting everyone to agree with my Coffee Homeground praise though!

You know, I find the album a bit like Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance floor (just bear with me on this), insomuch as it’s an album of moments. The songs might not all be incredible but they all have at a defining moment at the very least, which I was quite surprised with. I had the impression this album was thrown together, and it possibly was to a degree, but it doesn’t sound like a rushed album to me.

That’s just MY opinion though, I await the firing squad…

Keepers for the iPod: Symphony in Blue, In search of Peter Pan, Wow, Don’t put your foot on the heartbrake, Oh England my Lionheart, Coffee Homeground.

I really must add this parody from “Not the Nine O’Clock news” though… totally nailed it!

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Movie: The Iron Lady (2012)

Don’t seem to get out to the films these days do I? Actually it’s only been a week since Mission Impossible, but let’s overlook that shall we? I’ve been coaxed out of my comfort zone of blockbusters and fluffy romcoms and into the terribly earnest group of “Oscar hopefuls”.

It happens from time to time, but I really can’t miss a biopic, particularly if I actually KNOW about the person they are … biopiccing (?). By “KNOW”, I mean “heard of”. Of course it would have been difficult not to know who Thatcher is, even being born three years into her epic term as the UK’s Prime Minister such as I was.

Someone mused a month ago when Kim Jong-Il died that there’s a generation to whom the most enduring image of him was as a puppet in “Team America: World Police”. A little worried, I realised that I mostly remembered Thatcher by her portrayal as a puppet in “Spitting Image”. But I was only 9 when she left office, and puppets are just more fun at that age.

I wondered if Meryl would be able to crack through that caricature, and avoid making this look like a spoof. The look, the voice and the mannerisms were all there, but there were several points when she got through to the human underneath. Those prosthetics in the “old Maggie” sections really were amazingly real (aside from a few moments towards the end when she looked a bit like Catherine Tate’s foul-mouthed “Nan” character).

But I think this fell down on the story. I imagine it’s hard to make a biopic on one person’s life; lives aren’t scripted, and rarely fall into the usual cinematic storytelling structures. They tried to combat this by angling this film as the memories of an elderly Thatcher. This is where it gets tricky. I think the scenes with Thatcher struggling to deal with dementia, and hallucinating her dead husband Denis were played very well for the most part, I was really drawn in. Some scenes dragged on, admittedly, and the “closure” at the end felt very peculiar. But as a film about a strong-willed woman trying to keep a grip, it was wonderfully done.

Similarly the historical parts were competently handled, if a little briefly. They really needed to focus more on some of these parts than racing through her history in order to cover the key points. It’s not supposed to be a revision guide, or a Rocky montage. The Falklands War was pretty solid stuff on its own. I think perhaps the brief to make a biopic was taken too literally. We ended up with a rather schizophrenic mash of two good films edited together with some confusion.

Meryl (+makeup) really did make this film, as did Olivia Colman in her brief appearances as daughter Carol. Jim Broadbent was being the character he often plays in films, for better or worse. Young Thatcher hit the mark well, and Young Denis (played by him off thing … you know, Game of Thrones) was very charming.

As a biopic, I don’t think it serves as much more than a Beginner’s Guide to Thatcher. There were plenty of Thatcher one-liners, delivered brilliantly, and the later years (just as older Thatcher was portrayed) were a little muddled but often very powerful. It might not have worked as a good biopic, but I liked whatever we ended up with.

(Though I think this trailer doesn’t really sum up the film particularly well at ALL)

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Album: Marie Serneholt – “Enjoy the ride” (2006)

As I clear out the seemingly bottomless pit of Swedish pop album I’ve accumulated over the years, I now arrive at the first (and so far only) solo effort from former A*Teen Marie Serneholt. I did enjoy what I heard of the A*Teens, though I wish they didn’t occupy the first slots of my iTunes library (seriously, what comes before A*?) out of a misplaced sense of musical dignity (seriously, who am I kidding?). I originally got this because of a super pair of lead singles, but never really got motivated to listen to the rest. UNTIL TODAY!

08 Enjoy the ride – A faux-Arabian twang to start off, with some serious-sounding vocals from singing Barbie that don’t really convince me. I can’t even bring myself to snigger to potentially suggestible lyrics about riding, straddling, making her sweat etc. I somehow think she’s probably talking about an actual horse ride or something. The chorus has a nice melody and it’s a fluffily easy listen. There’s a brief flirtation with a dance breakdown and then a KEY CHAAAANGE! Enjoying it so far!

07 Wasted Love – What are all these pseudo-Egyptian noises doing on this album? (I want to describe something as “quasi-” something, let’s hope they do it again). It’s a bit of a downbeat midtempo about being disappointed by some waste-of-space boy. The rather clumsy melody helps to stand this one out, but she doesn’t really sound THAT sad. COMMIT TO THE ROLE MARIE. At least it’s a change from what I feel will be a series of perky pop songs.

10 That’s the way my heart goes – YAY I love this, the lead single that perked my ears up in the first place. A mixed bag of strange effects, the sneaky twanging accompaniment to the verses, the infectious “dum di dum” hook, but it’s all good. The bridge and chorus really are solid gold pop. This is nearly 7 years old now and still feels fresh. Well maybe it sounds a bit like a Rachel Stevens single, but she was always pretty good value wasn’t she? (poor cow). The middle-eight doesn’t let up, and we get the classic old “quiet bit before the last big chorus”. Perhaps I feel sold a bit short without a key change, but this is still a delight.

10 I need a house – Second single now, and she’s a very demanding woman isn’t she? Maybe that cheap shot of a Barbie comparison wasn’t that far off, she needs a house, a car etc (sold separately). The verses are nice and sweetly delivered, but it’s really the choruses that shine, they’ve really got a good ear for a hook haven’t they? Totally adorable and relatable (ish). The vocals aren’t exactly stretching her but it’s really gorgeously delivered, perfect for her.

07 Beyond tonight – So far I’d remembered all these tracks from earlier listens, but not this one. Starts off as a timidly solemn little ballad, all airy and cold. Doesn’t really go anywhere though, the chorus wafts into my ears without any beats kicking in. It’s a pretty little soundscape, I can imagine some cheapo staging, a sparkly star backdrop, lots of white outfits and dry ice. A bit like that palace in Neverending Story. Am I rambling? Well the song has let my mind wander a bit. A beat does kick in about 2 minutes too late, and it does build to quite a nice climax, but it’s too little too late.

09 I love making love in the morning – Oh well no two ways about it, this one IS supposed to be about shagging, the dirty mare. Oh how could I say something so wicked? Barbie has found her Ken, and now she wants to get busy. This is done via a day-glo cousin of an early Kylie song, it’s infectiously happy, which lets me give them the benefit of the doubt on some of the ropier aspects of this (lyrics, verses, all minor issues I’m sure you’ll agree). Does fit her voice totally, but it’s so devoid of sexiness that she might as well be making pancakes in the morning. I bet they’d be really nice though.

08 The boy I used to know – That sneaky beat is back from “That’s the way my heart goes”, but sadly we aren’t approaching such a treat. Marie needs some closure on a failed relationship, was it her or him? Actually this chorus is pretty tight, and she does add a faint sliver of ferocity to her vocal delivery. The harmonies on the chorus really make this though. That middle-eight isn’t half bad either, well done everyone.

06 Calling all detectives – Oh with a name like that it’s sure to be good. We’ve got police siren effects, overheard phonecalls, it’s like being in Sin City! (or more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit). The chorus is unusually delivered in some breathy whisper that doesn’t really add any weight to things at all, apart from maybe appreciate her vocals elsewhere. For a midtempo it relies on this lyrical gimmick (criminal justice slang all over the place) and as such it falls a bit flat. That middle-eight perks things up, but then “case closed”, it’s back to more of the same. Objection!

07 Can’t be loved – Some quasi-1920s (yay I did it!) schtick propping this one up, and it’s a nice refresh of that period with a few modern-day effects. Not sure why it’s there but why does anyone do anything? The verses are a bit flat really, but the chorus gets things going (again). It’s not her best hook really, but it’s enjoyable, and those vaguely seductive bridges sounds as good as they could sound really. Sorry if that’s faint praise, it’s a decent song, just nothing special.

07 Oxygen – This was going to be the third single? I can’t see it really but I suppose it would have been a change of pace. Looks like they got cold feet with the release. It’s a bit of a slowie too, and her vocals are a bit too exposed on these sorts of tracks. It does build up a bit, some nice little “huh-huh-hah” backing vocals and a gradual climax. Just doesn’t really reach any big finale, it’s nice enough for a made-for-TV Disney movie but not something I’d be in a rush to keep forever.

All in all, it’s difficult to get too bored by a 36-minute album, so that forgives the few moments when my attention really drifted. Generally it’s a strong pop album, with two pretty solidly amazing tracks, which is more than a lot of albums get I suppose. This doesn’t feel like much of a progression from the A*Teens’ music, but I’m sure she’s doing what she’s comfortable with. At times her vocals come off as a bit insubstantial, even if they are sweet as honey.

Perhaps her upcoming return to Melodifestivalen this year might show us what she’s made of these days. But she seems to have carved a niche as a popular personality in Sweden, so maybe she doesn’t need a big comeback these days.

Keepers for the iPod: Enjoy the ride, That’s the way my heart goes, I need a house, I love making love in the morning

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Album: ABBA – “Arrival” (1976)

Album number four now, and the ABBA juggernaut was really roaring into gear by this point, reaching No.1 in several territories including the UK where it was the bestselling album of 1977. Saying that, it’s a bit light on mega hits aside from THE biggie.

(originally posted April 2011)

10 When I kissed the teacher – SMUT! OK not really that bad, but a lovely perky opening (if you’ll pardon the phrase). We’ve all had dirty feelings about people in positions of power haven’t we? I can’t believe I haven’t heard this song before, it’s really a gorgeously rich pop song, the layered harmonies just raise it so high and the tempo is just irresistible. That’s before the climactic “I wanna… huh huh huh” stuff, AMAZING.

10 Dancing Queen – No introduction needed here of course, and I’ll stick my neck out and call this their signature hit amongst a group of hugely well-known smashes. As a result it does suffer a little, but it really is just one of those timeless songs. A lot of my memories of this are rather off-topic, that Brits Medley, Muriel’s Wedding, terrible office parties, I genuinely believe this will be a song that people will remember a hundred years from now.

07 My love, my life – A gorgeous ethereal intro to another female-vocalled track (a trend I’m enjoying). It’s a bit of a drippy one though, but still quite sweet and it’s not overlong. I suppose those first two tracks are a hard act to follow, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Passable.

08 Dum dum diddle – Spazzy synths from the get-go now, I really love that. Nonsense chorus though, is she really imagining how it would be to be his violin just to get a good PLUCKING? A bit too abstract for me really, I was on sturdier ground with songs about getting bummed in the tits by a maths teacher. Still a bit sad that this guy is only happy when he’s FIDDLING, I think she needs to look for someone a bit less deficient. Chorus doesn’t quite hit the heights of other nonsense hits, but pleasant.

09 Knowing me knowing you – They weren’t getting divorces yet were they? I guess there’s always space for a bit of heartbreak in pop music, and this is another famous smash. To be honest, Steve Coogan poisoned this one forever for me, so it’s difficult to not think of that when I listen. I love the bridges so much though, so dramatic. I’m glad they’ve found a way to incorporate the guitars they seem to subject me to every album, without it being too rock’n’roll. Very good but I suspect this is one I’m only going to grow to love later on.

08 Money Money Money – Another one ruined by TV, seemingly used on any magazine show segment on personal finance since the year DOT. As a result I only really knew the chorus it turns out, I thought I knew the bridge but I think I’m thinking of the Oompa Loompa song (“I don’t like the look of this”). I love how genuinely irritated the ladies sound, it’s quite bitter, especially the bits like “and win a fortune in a GAME” almost SNEERED out. KEY CHAAAANGE!! Well it’s still a good pop song, I won’t pretend to rever it just for being one of the well-known ones, I think I’ve just heard it too many times out of context to love this.

07 That’s me – I love the tempo to this one, even if the song doesn’t quite measure up. The instrumentation is very zippy, I like it. Not sure about the song as a whole though, it’s like a paler shadow of When I Kissed The Teacher somehow. They don’t sound like each other, I think I mean just the general feel of it. Not really that catchy, probably the track I always forget about. Lovely layered sound, but that’s not enough.

06 Why did it have to be me – Ugh, well at least we’re down to one track per album for the “tedious boys rocking out” moment. This is just like the most generic 50s-sounding dross… that said, I have a bit of a soft spot for that because my parents played a lot of that, but still, it just doesn’t stand up to the amazing opening tracks. This sounds like Status Quo or something dreadful, please TAKE IT AWAY.

09 Tiger – Oh this is more like it. I love the drums, and the manic lyrics. Not sure what this is about, is she a femme fatale, or is it some metaphor for city living? Or femmes fatales who live there? Those little asides about the perils of cities are strange but great, “the city is a NIGHTMARE, a HORRIBLE DREAM”. And then the bonechilling “I am a tiger Tiger TIGER TIIGEERRRRRRRRR!!”

07 Arrival – An instrumental outro now, and I’m not quite sure I get it. As you may remember I LOVED Intermezzo No.1, but that was a standalone max track. This comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to tie anything together from the album, no common themes or anything? It’s very nice though, but just a bit wishywashy. And why is a track called Arrival at the end?? If it was the first track and bookended by some “departure” track, maybe it would make more sense.

So, in closing, it might seem like I was a bit bemused by the album as a whole, but I found it a very pleasant listen. Sure, there are a few places where my attention started to wander, but as a short album it never outstays its welcome. I would say that I did prefer “ABBA” to this, but it’s not a let-down by any means. Not quite sure why some people hold this in such high regard compared to their other albums.

Keepers for the iPod: When I kissed the teacher, Dancing Queen, Knowing me knowing you, Tiger

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Single: Alicia Keys – “Try sleeping with a broken heart” (2010)

I’m not really what you could call a big fan of R’n’B/soul/urban whatever. Sure, I love some of the more mainstream efforts by many, and the occasional diva like Brandy or Mariah, but it’s often an uphill struggle. Against this I’ve watched Alicia’s now decade-long career with some interest.

While I experimented with her first two albums “Songs in A Minor” and “The Diary of Alicia Keys”, aside from some great singles I didn’t really get on board. This trend continued with her fourth studio album “The Element of Freedom”, though it seemed to be a commerical peak for her in the UK (countering her slipping sales in the US).

The album didn’t quite hit its stride with UK lead single “Doesn’t mean anything”, but this track along with radio favourite (even today) “Empire State of Mind Pt II”, things got rolling again. I think this really is one of her better singles, perhaps even challenging for my favourite.

That creeping dark effect at the start, with that solid beat doesn’t feel at odds with the light and delicate vocals on this track. It’s uncharacteristically high-pitched for her, I’m used to her deep tones. Her speaking voice is so gorgeous, as a side note. That rapid-fire delivery of verses (“evenifyouwereamillionmilesaway”) really works for me, and the light electro tones to the song keep it modern but somehow evoke thoughts of some 90s singer-songwriters like Sophie B Hawkins. I know that probably sounds like nonsense, perhaps it’s a melodic hook that’s drawn that comparison in my mind.

I think “U don’t know my name” might just pip this for my favourite Keys track, but this really is special, even with a partly-gorgeous, partly naff “Hancock” ripoff video

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