Top 10 Albums 2016

2016 has been a great year for new talent, as well as music veterans coming back with some of their best work to date.

Note: Honourable mentions go to DMA’S – Hills End, Parquet Courts – Human Performance, Savages – Adore Life, Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition and Blossoms – Self Titled. Lets get into the top 10…

10. Iggy Pop – Post Pop DepressioniggypopppdIggy Pop joins forces with members of Queens of the Stone Age and the Arctic Monkeys for what is a killer comeback.

9. Slaves – Take Control
slavestcThis fantastic punk rock record sees Slaves experiment with their sound, whilst maintaining their usual intensity.

8. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
rhcptgCollaborating with producer Danger Mouse, this different approach really works after their disappointing I’m With You.

7. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
nickcavestDepressing subject matters are expressed poetically, making for a beautiful, dark emotionally potent album.

6. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here…
atribecalledquestwgifhThis successful comeback brings great instrumentals and thoughtful verses to an amazing jazz rap album.

5. Preoccupations – Self Titled
preoccupationsstThis post punk release is refreshing with its moody vocals and guitar riffs contrasted with its upbeat synth leads.

4. Marsheaux – Ath.Lon
MarsheauxAth.LonGreek duo Marsheaux one-upped last year’s Depeche Mode covers album A Broken Frame with a retro synthwave effort.

3. Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi
avecsanshhLondon duo Avec Sans’ debut is electropop perfection. Great songwriting and catchy choruses reminiscent of Chvrches.

2. Vile Electrodes – In the Shadows of Monuments
vileelectrodesitsomEngland’s Vile Electrodes came out with a great blend of energetic and brooding electro-existential music.

1. David Bowie – Blackstar
davidbowiebsDavid Bowie leaves us with an intense experimental masterpiece, reflecting on death, his stardom and relevancy.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) Album Review

The Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard (who are promising to release five albums this year) have come out with an interesting mix of eastern influences as well as an apocalyptic feel, after their previous album Nonagon Infinity was more of a lighthearted garage punk album which introduced me to the band.

Flying Microtonal Banana takes the concept of using microtonalised instruments to give off a very middle eastern sound, conjuring up images of snake charming (as the music has a very similar rhythm and almost out of tune sound at times) which makes sense given the cover art for the album features someone charming a snake with their guitar, so I think they are definitely playing into that field (as well as their opening track being named Rattlesnake).

Also on the cover art, there are toxic fumes escaping the barrel the snake is situated in and the charmer is wearing a gas mask, giving connotations of a toxic wasteland – supported by the apocalyptic vibe of the song Nuclear Fusion with its hypnotic guitar rhythms and echoing deep vocals book-ending the track.

With this song as well as throughout the album, this eastern influenced/Indian inspired groove fits very well to King Gizzard’s alternative sound, giving it a different flavour adding something new to their music on top of the style they have established through their first seven albums where I believe they fully realised in Nonagon Infinity. I think this however may be their magnum opus, they have tapped into something special with this album, opening themselves up to new possibilities, with each song sounding different whilst incorporating this over arching theme.

This gives a new spin to songs like Billabong Valley, which sonically has a classic rock ‘n’ roll feel to it but the microtonal tuning makes it sound very idiosyncratic, as with the blues inspired Doom City, which has a quite peculiar yet original style because of the microtonalised instruments.

Overall, Flying Microtonal Banana is a fun experimentation that has worked incredibly well for a psychedelic garage album, which I believe has given it the edge over their previous record Nonagon Infinity where I had previously thought they had reached their peak with, but it took a bold and creative decision to beat that and I hope they make more creative decisions like this with their other four albums coming out later this year, so they can keep pushing the boundaries and constantly improving their material.

Favourite Songs: Billabong Valley, Nuclear Fusion, Doom City
Least Favourite: Anoxia

Rating: 4/6

Top 20 Shows 2016

  1.  Black Mirror – Charlie Brooker
  2.  Stranger Things – The Duffers’
  3.  Search Party – Sarah-Violet Bliss
  4.  Fleabag – Phoebe Waller-Bridge
  5.  3% – Pedro Aguilera
  6.  Crashing – Phoebe Waller-Bridge
  7.  Orphan Black – John Fawcett, Graeme Manson
  8.  Happy Valley – Sally Wainwright
  9.  Regular Show – J.G. Quintel
  10.  House of Cards – Beau Willimon
  11.  Hunter x Hunter – Yoshihiro Togashi
  12.  Ash vs Evil Dead – Sam Raimi
  13.  The Walking Dead – Frank Darabont
  14.  South Park – Trey Parker, Matt Stone
  15.  The Grand Tour – Andy Wilman
  16.  My Hero Academia – Kenji Nagasaki
  17.  Bnei Aruba – Omri Givon, Rotem Shamir
  18.  The Night Of – Richard Price, Steven Zaillian
  19.  Atlanta – Donald Glover
  20.  The X-Files – Chris Carter

Search Party (2016) TV Review

searchparty

I stumbled upon a show on TBS which stared Alia Shawkat who I saw in a film I thoroughly enjoyed from earlier in the year called Green Room. Because of this, I decided to watch the show and also from discovering one of my favourite artists Purity Ring were one of the groups featured in the soundtrack.

Search Party is a dark comedy/ thriller set in New York about four self-absorbed twenty somethings who become involved in a mystery when a former college acquaintance called Chantal goes missing.

This is a show that features very strongly written and memorable characters, a compelling mystery and great comedy. The four main leads are very well established. Alia Shawkat as Dory is the straight woman of the show who at times reacts to the other characters being crazy with her dead pan delivery and excellent comic timing, which makes the comedy work especially well. John Reynolds as her boyfriend Drew is also great. I first saw him in a minor role as a cop in Stranger Things where he was quite funny, but this I feel is his breakout role. The way his character acts in a pathetic way to when anyone is mean to him brings great comedic moments.

John Early as Elliott is really good as Dory’s really narcissistic friend who finds it easy to lie to people and does everything for himself rather than others, he is particularly funny in the show. Meredith Hagner as Portia is great as a spacey actress who is very insecure, caring about what others think of her, due to her mother not really being there for her. These characters therefore feel really fleshed out and lived in.

The mystery is there to show the different aspects of millennial life in New York. The satirising of this hipster lifestyle in New York is done very well. The writing in general is really funny and well done. The set design is great and very well utilised in the show, having many steadicam shots and long takes. The cinematography is extremely cool, having a dark noirish look at times, parodying itself as some kind of detective story specifically Dory thinks she is in. The creators clearly wanted shots that are visually stimulating that you can get something from.

The comedy of Search Party is very self aware in a way where it is mocking the narcissism of the characters and also in a way where it is making a statement on today’s culture. Dory’s character begins not knowing her purpose in life, cut off from the world around her, due to the vanity from those around her she hangs out with. All that gives Dory a sense of purpose is the search for Chantal, as it makes her feel as if it gives her a higher purpose, drawing parallels to the character of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.

The soundtrack really plays into this, featuring mostly electronic music which connects to the social media culture these characters are trapped in. A lot of the music has a very airy, ethereal and echoey sound to it that accompanies the vanity that exudes from the characters who, are presented as pretty and elegant on the outside, but vapid and hollow on the inside. I have to say that on the whole, this is one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard.

Overall, Search Party is a complex and thought provoking show that aims to satirise today’s culture through the eyes of a relatable character who you find to be just as detached from the world around her as the other characters with whom she is surrounded by. Dory therefore finds no meaning or purpose to her life, and the viewers get no answer or solution for what she needs to do, as she does not know either – leading you to wonder whether this is just another exercise in vanity or a profound, objective look at what her purpose truly is.

Rating: 6/6

Black Mirror (2011-) TV Review

blackmirror

When I first saw this show, it had no attention and I hoped it would get a following because of how good it was. Then, last month Netflix decided to put the show on their platform in the US/Canada. The show got some recognition finally and they decided to then put it on UK Netflix and other countries. All of a sudden, people were talking about the show and so Netflix decided to make a brand new third season of it. Now it had a higher budget and they filmed it in America with bigger stars. This show has reached massive popularity and now it is a cult hit!

British comedian/broadcaster Charlie Brooker created this anthology series Black Mirror, which is an analysis of man-kind’s relationship with technology and it is soul crushing. It is a terrifying glimpse into a depressingly possible future and when it is not filling our minds with terrifying scenarios, it is breaking our hearts with incredibly touching and often devastating stories of love, loss and grief.

What makes Black Mirror truly special is its emphasis on social commentary – covering everything from social media, interactive gaming, reality TV, modern warfare, politics and so much more. But Black Mirror is not the rantings of a technophobic luddite, far from it in fact. Technology is never demonised, it is seldomly made to cause pain and suffering. It is the humans who take that technology and use it for their own malicious purposes.

In episodes like San Junipero, technology can bring joy giving two lovers eternal life, whilst the White Bear episode shows how a single piece of technology can trap someone in an endless cycle of pain, suffering and torment. In the episode Hated in the Nation, the robotic bees were created to pollinate flowers after the bee population diminished (not to kill people) and in The National Anthem, technology did not force almost the entire population of the UK to watch the Prime Minister have sex with a pig. The technology is not solely responsible for the horrifying situations presented in the show’s dystopian worlds, it is the humans who inhabit them.

Overall, Black Mirror is the best TV show I have ever seen as it is not just a show, it is a warning about what could happen if we don’t use technology for the right reasons and that is what makes it not only terrifying and great TV, but a crucial part of the future we are currently creating.

Rating: 6/6

Happy New Year!! (Update)

I hope you all had a great 2016, I certainly have with this blog and I could not have done it without your support! It did help that we have had some of the best films to come out in a long time. It has been tragic for blockbusters and a lot of mainstream films, but it has been more than made up for with a wide range of indie films that have excited and emotionally challenged us, taking cinema in new and different directions many of us could not have possibly imagined!

I won’t do a top ten or twenty of the year, as I wish to do that later on when I am confident enough that the list is correct and I have thought about it for enough time. What I will do right now is recommend a few films that stuck out for me this year and also some films that stuck out for the wrong reasons that I did not like so much and would rather I avoided seeing.

First of all, here are some films I did like that I thought were a bit different from the usual crop of films that come out (no particular order)…

  1.  The Love Witch

the-love-witch

This tribute to 1960s pulp novels and Technicolor melodramas is a marvel to watch and quite a fun treat that manages to be unintentionally feminist. Definitely a surprise as it went under my radar until recently so I am glad I caught it as it is one of my favourites of the year.

  2.  White Girl

white-girl
This is a film I did not see until it came on to Netflix and I stumbled onto it and thought I would just give it a watch, not knowing what I was getting into. What it ended up being was a fantastic, topical drama about a hard-living teenager – and it has an amazing soundtrack!

   3.  Swiss Army Man

swiss_army_man_0
Describing this film is difficult, describing why it is as good as it is is even harder. The Daniels’ surreal masterpiece tackles themes of self acceptance, depression and mortality through the power of farts. It has to be seen to be believed, “The first fart will make you laugh and the last fart will make you cry” The Daniels.

   4.  The Neon Demon

The-Neon-Demon.jpg
Though this may not be for everyone, Nicolas Winding Refn’s spiritual successor to 2013’s equally controversial Only God Forgives is a visually stunning, excellently written mystery horror character study that can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. Watching this repeatedly and peeling back the layers made for more than simply an entertaining movie, but something that earned re-watches with its complex levels of mystery and symbolism – plus the score by Cliff Martinez is addictively haunting yet magical.

Now for some of the more regrettable films I chose to see last year. Some of these I should have seen coming, but others I was highly surprised at how they turned out…

    1.  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

bvs.jpg

This is straight-up the worst film I have ever seen. The script is a mess having no plot, only subplots that are left dangling. Superman’s moral objections against Batman’s methods are never resolved, instead forgetting about it so they can team up and start the Justice League movies. Luther’s views against Superman and Batman are never resolved either. Nothing is resolved and nothing makes sense, yet it’s pretentiousness is so insulting – also the two main characters are fully CGI for the fight scenes with each other (as you can see in the picture above). *Honourable mention to Suicide Squad for also being a catastrophic mess.

     2.  Ghostbusters

ghostbusters2016.jpg
This is a Ghostbusters remake, yet it is more concerned about showing how it hates the original film (they literally fight the ghostbusters logo) and also, they flipped the genders of the characters. Does that make it interesting because they take it into different directions? No, they just copy the original beat for beat whilst also promoting this narcissistic radical feminist angle that ranges from shooting the villain in his private parts to having all the male characters being either stupid, cowardly or horrible.

     3.  X-Men: Apocalypse

xmenapocalypse2-0-0
How do you make two of the best actors of our generation give two of the worst performances put to film? Some how X-Men: Apocalypse managed to do just that with Michael Fassbender and Oscar Isaac, with Isaac especially having the most embarrassing performance I have ever seen. With lesser actors, this would have killed their careers and definitely destroyed their credibility! There is not one redeeming quality in this film. Terrible script, terrible direction, performances, effects. Very rarely can I ever say there is nothing good in a movie, but with this I can. Everything is horrifically bad!

*Update* From this year forward, I plan to expand my blog to covering more than just films (while not as frequently) I wish to talk about and review music and TV. I am very passionate about these subjects and now that I have been doing the blog for a few months, I feel confident in being able to review what I want without the possibility of it being crap/ or at least there is less of a possibility of it being rubbish now. The first review will be of my favourite show Black Mirror. I hope you enjoy it and have a great 2017!!

Swiss Army Man (2016) Review

I recently got the chance to see the feature length debut film from directors The Daniels. This film (as well as having two directors with Dan in their name) star Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. I could just tell this was going to be a cookie film, but I had no idea on how good it would be.

Swiss Army Man is the story of Hank played by Paul Dano who is stranded on a beach and suddenly finds a corpse that starts farting and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.

This film was incredibly directed and even more incredibly edited, having beautiful long takes inter cut with quick, montage-like shots that start to blend into each other. The script is one of the most unique I have ever witnessed; dealing with dark subject matter whilst presenting it in a humorous fashion. This dark subject matter of death and acceptance is deeply emotional and heart-wrenching but the humour this is presented through makes these dark emotional subjects easier to ingest.

The performances in this movie are great, Paul Dano unsurprisingly is fantastic. The best performance is from Daniel Radcliffe who plays a corpse and in my opinion, gives one of the toughest, emotional yet endearing performances I have ever seen.

The soundtrack is breathtaking, not just being great sonically, but being used creatively to: narrate what is happening in the film, have the characters sing the soundtrack whilst it not feeling out of place in this otherwise non-musical and it still making sense as to why this is happening, and also making you believe the more surreal elements of the film that the soundtrack completely elevates and engrosses you in. This is without a doubt one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard.

Overall, Swiss Army Man is a life changing movie to watch. It is shot in such a unique way stylistically, whilst having such a strange story that will resonate with all different walks of life. This may be one of the most unique films I have ever seen!

Rating: 6/6