Monday, 27 July 2009
As the new television season approaches, the hype gradually builds for the new shows that the networks hope will become the 'next big thing'. This year there are few shows generating as much buzz as Flashforward.
Coming to the ABC network just as mega hit tv show Lost is coming to an end, Flashforward tells the story of a mysterious global event that causes everyone to simultaneously experience, for two minutes and seventeen seconds, his or her life six months in the future. When it is over, many are dead in accidents involving vehicles, aircraft, and any other device needing human control. Everyone who survived is left wondering if what they saw will actually happen.
With Lost coming to an end, it is hoped that this show will take its place. Big names you may recognize in the cast include Joseph Fiennes, of Shakespeare in Love fame, John Cho, from the recent Star Trek movie, and Dominic Monaghan, who played Charlie in Lost.
The show starts this September, and hopes are high, keep an eye on this one.
Label Moshi Moshi
Producer Thom Monahan
This New York girl band of synthpoppers have had a decent following for a couple of years and three studio albums now, but are yet to really break into the mainstream. That may be about to change now.
Not to be sexist, but it is very rare these days to see female musicians who are actually good. Usually they opt for the much easier and far more lucrative path of stripping half naked and singing ridiculous, lowest common denominator, commercially produced crap. Occasionally, however, you find a band of ladies who actually put the music first, and Au Revoir Simone is one of those bands.
Still Night, Still Light has that quality that most albums lack, but the best ones have, a consistently high quality throughout. It's not that the band have done anything especially different to their old albums here, it's just that it's better. The production values are high, and the tracks manage to reach a wide variety of tones whilst still maintaining the band's signature sound, ie soft vocals, rich harmonies and warm, fuzzy synths.
The quality is consistently high in this album, from the uplifting groove of Shadows to the disco funk of Another Likely Story, from the epic electrostorm of Only You Can Make You Happy to the artful simplicity of Take Me As I Am, and from the uptempo body mover of Anywhere You Looked to the powerfully gloomy Organized Scenery.
These six songs are the highlights, but it does a disservice to the rest of the album which is still of a high quality.
This album is elegantly introspective and carries a sweet melody throughout that will charm most listeners. Aside from being Au Revoir Simone's best album, this is one of the better albums of the year.
Take Me As I Am (Live)
Another Likely Story
Anywhere you looked
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten
Release date(s) July 10th
Running time 81 minutes
Sacha Baron Cohen achieved world fame in 2006 with his movie Borat, but before that he had his own awesome tv show, as any Brit like myself knows. In this show he performed as three characters, Ali G, Borat and Brüno. Borat has his own movie, as does Ali G (to a lesser extent), now its Brüno's turn.
I had a few concerns before going in to this film. For starters, I feared that the outrageous and controversial Borat would be a very hard act to follow in terms of content, not to mention the fact that by now there must be very few people who don't know who Cohen is.
The other main concern was that many of the major scenes in Brüno had already (supposedly) been leaked in detail online, so strong was the media presence following him around as he attempted to make this film. As such there was a question over whether there would be anything left for the movie to surprise us with.
Fortunately Cohen has proven me (mostly) wrong.
Brüno follows Cohen's gay Austrian tv host, a shrewd parody of modern celebrity and fashion culture, as he tries to become the biggest star in the world. But of course that's not really what this movie is about, it's about the reactions of real people to the absurd actions of these characters, and what it says about our homophobic attitude, much in the way that Borat was a commentary on the xenophobic nature of people.
What ensues is undeniably hilarious. Impressively the aforementioned 'leaked' scenes are not even the best bits of the film, as good as they are (particularly the wrestling scene at the end of the film). Rather there is such a sharp wit evident through the film, and well scripted dialogue and hilarious jokes and references, the likes of which I won't spoil here.
However, there is validity in my earlier concern that Borat would be very hard to follow. Brüno involves graphic sex, both of the hetero and homosexual kind, gratuitous full frontal male nudity, and a scene in which Cohen vividly pretends to give a blow job to an invisible man, and it all seems like it's just trying too hard to be 'edgy'. Ultimately Brüno crosses a line in its efforts to escape the shadow of Borat, and the film turns out to be hilarious and unnecessarily cringeworthy in equal measures.
That being said, this increased edginess occasionally pays off, and at the end of the film you can't help but be amazed at the guts Cohen and his production team have shown in certain scenes, some of which even seem like they could have been life threatening to those involved. This includes SPOILER trips to the middle east to interview terrorist cells and make fun of them, and two men making out and stripping in the middle of a cage fight, surrounded by angry, drunk rednecks (and at one point a steel chair is flung just centimeters from one of the actor's heads. END SPOILER.
In the end, Brüno is not as good as Borat, nor is it as fresh. It feels very over the top and unnecessarily edgy to the point of being vulgar. However despite this there is a large amount of hilarity in this film, and you will find yourself laughing for much of it, even while you cringe.
song of the day: Carol Brown - Flight of the Conchords
thing that makes me smile today: 15 minutes of free imax footage of James Cameron's Avatar, coming this August.
pic of the day:
Chelsea's tour in USA
Flight of the Conchords
Man Utd's tour of Malaysia
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Genre Experimental Rock
Producer Nicolas Vernhes
Release date(s) Out Now
Untamed, erratic genius is a funny thing. Sometimes you see a great movie that's clearly genius, but just so fucking weird, like Darren Aronofsky's early works, sometimes you see it in music, like the old albums from Animal Collective before they decided to make more commercial sounding music.
Dave Longstreth, frontman of Dirty Projectors, is one of these people. The constantly rotating lineup of musicians that constitute his band have amassed a cult following from their early, fairly inaccessible work. However, with their new album Bitte Orca, they are aiming for something a little more enjoyable, whilst retaining plenty of the crazy offbeat eccentricities that filled their previous albums.
As one would expect, it works better in some parts than others. Unfortunately with most of the album the result is a bad case of 'close but not quite'. Cannibal Resource opens the album with some of the most lush guitar chords you'll ever here, before devolving into something thats undeniably interesting, but a bit of a mess of discordant falsettos and sound effects to be really quite right, still a half decent effort though.
Elsewhere, Stillness is the Move achieves greater success with a catchy number, despite not being my cup of tea, and a little bit repetitive if we're being honest.
Instead, the strongest point on the album comes from Useful Chamber, and this is a really fantastic song. At over 6 minutes long, this epic number builds with subtle and silky smooth vocals and backing strings before hitting its chaotic climax. Genius, more like this next time please.
I'll be the first to admit that I was late getting in to this tv show. I'm sure you've noticed how every so often you get these brilliant, top notch shows popping up and then not receiving the attention they deserve.
Remember when all your friends were telling you to watch the likes of Arrested Development and Entourage? Well this is the next heir to that throne, Flight of the Conchords is bloody brilliant.
Until now have suggested that this second season was to be the last ever, could it be that we've seen the last of these offbeat New Zealand Rockers? Here's the latest:
Despite an abundance of critical acclaim and nominations at both the Emmy and Grammy awards (winning the latter), comedians/rockers Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie commented that although they enjoyed doing the show, having to script the episodes and write a lineup of new songs each season was far too much of a strain on the two of them, which is fair enough really.
However, it has emerged that the improved ratings of their second season, on top of the many nominations they have received for it, including one for Best Actor for Jermaine, might be changing their mind. This according to Bret McKenzie's mom:
She told Sunday News:
“I think they will go on.
“Would you stop this while it is still on this sort sort of a roll?
“We want them to be there. They are really excited about the nominations.”
Sounds good to me, fingers crossed boys and girls. Frankly, people love the show, they should keep writing it. I understand fully the strain of having to write new songs for the episodes, but I really don't mind waiting a year or two for the next season, shows like Entourage have done that before. They could also consider doing fewer songs, maybe 1 per episode, if that makes it easier. But either way the show deserves to go on.
Source: Accidental Sexiness
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Producer Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
Release date(s) 2009
Those in the know when it comes to music will recognize the name Danger Mouse. This man rose to fame in the wake of his mash up masterpiece the Grey Album, mixing together the Beatles White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album. It was deemed highly illegal and could only be obtained by download on the internet, but this success allowed him to go on to produce albums for Gorillaz and the Shortwave set, as well as his own studio albums under the name Gnarls Barkley, for which he is better known.
Now he has returned along with Sparklehorse and actor David Lynch to produce a compilation of original songs, featuring vocals from a variety of well known artists (who also helped compose the songs). These artists include the Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, the Pixies, Iggy Pop, James Mercer of the Shins, and Nina Persson of the Cardigans.
In addition to this, David Lynch has produced a book of photography designed to serve as a narrative for the album. Unfortunately, in classic Danger Mouse tradition, someone has seen fit to take legal issue with the release of this album, and now it may never see the light of day as a legal purchase. Instead one can purchase the book of photos (limited to 5000 copies) off the website along with a blank CD-R containing the message "For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will." And it doesn't take a genius to figure out what you're supposed to do with that.
Of course this could all just be a clever marketing ploy. The fact that such a star studded album has been deemed 'illegal' and can only be obtained in such a sneaky "up yours RIAA" manner is seriously badass, and ultimately will probably help sell records.
So here I am halfway through a review without even mentioning the music. Normally that wouldn't bode well for an album, but in this case that is neither unjustified, nor does it detract from the end product.
The album opens on a suitably dark tone with Revenge, featuring the Flaming Lips and follows strongly with Just War from Gruff Rhys, which can best be described as 'Strawberry Fields meets Fallout 3', giving this war torn, post apocalyptic picture a sound of rainbows and psychedelia. Jaykub is a dreamy number, and one that I don't much care for, continuing the psychedelic nature of the opening tracks.
The tempo then changes drastically as the album enters it's next phase, with Little Girl, by Julian Casablancas of the Strokes. Indeed this number sounds throughly strokes-like, albeit with a noticeable electronic twist, and Casablancas' smooth, nonchalant vocals exerting a calming influence on the album, one of my favorite tracks.
The next two songs are ones I don't particularly care for, though I can imagine that someone who likes either the Pixies or Iggy Pop might like them. But I don't, so I don't. Incidentally I was one of those types who didn't like Lost & Damned, the add-on for GTA, so go figure.
However the album then takes another drastic turn back into the realm of dreamy psychedelia, and my favorite song on the album, David Lynch's Star Eyes, featuring the vocals of The Shins' James Mercer. Heavy on the vocoder and strings, this is a song to zone out to while looking at the stars at night.
James Mercer returns in another strong track, Insane Lullaby, a wonderful symphony of distortion, strings and bells, warmly surrounded by Mercer's typically confused-but-excited vocals. Further decent tracks include Daddy's Gone as sung by Nina Persson and The Man Who Played God, which ends up being one of the strongest points of the album, with its effervescent crunchy guitars and radio ready pop stylings. However special note goes to the wonderful, so dark light can not escape its surface, finale Dark Night of the Soul. A tune that really warrants the name.
Ultimately this album is a fantastically diverse piece of work, featuring a song list from some extremely talented musicians and one of the top producers in the world. Forget about all the irrelevant drama and court cases and do yourself a favor by seeking this one out... somehow.
The Man Who Played God
song of the day: Useful Chamber - Dirty Projectors
thing that makes me grimace today: As if you need another reason to despise FOX, the cheap bastards who cancelled Futurama, Arrested Development and Family Guy are actually bringing Futurama back... but they're too cheap to pay the voice actors, so they're slashing the budget and recasting. Boycott that mofo.
pic of the day:
St Mary's Hospital
West Middlesex Hospital
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
The newest version of iFooty is now available on the iTunes app store for use on any iPhone or iPod Touch.
This update brings over the amazing chat features from iFooty World, further refined to the point of being even better than it was before. In addition, the Blue Square Premier League is now supported, allowing you to follow your favorite Blue Square Premier League teams and chat with other like-minded fans.
In addition, iFooty Plus has now been released with a low introductory sale, 30% off.
This premium version of iFooty removes all ads, includes an archive of past match updates and statistics for every match of the season, and also adds a special 'Plus Only' chat room.
However the big addition with iFooty Plus is the addition of push notifications for users who have iPhone OS 3.0. Now you can choose any number of teams you desire and have instant goal notifications pushed to your iPhone or iPod Touch even when the app is closed.
More updates coming soon.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Passion Pit's debut album Manners is probably the best album of the year so far, having managed to be one of the few bands in the history of music that no only lives up to hype, but exceeds it. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to go see them live at the intimate Vibe Bar in London as part of the Levi: Ones to Watch season.
The evening got off to an interesting start as I ended up getting there several hours earlier than I was supposed to. Long story short, avoid GetMeIn.com for all your ticketing needs. Mind you it was pretty cool being their early enough to see the bands chilling out front.
So we hung out in Vibe Bar for a while, which is not a problem as it is a kick ass place (after all, they have Cusqueña). Any wait was proven completely worthwhile when the concert began however.
First up were two bands I had never heard of before. Apples sounded decent enough, but honestly until their final song Reason 45, which will probably be next week's song of the week here. Unbelievably catchy, great tune.
The next support act, Fanfarlo, while perhaps not having any song quite as good as Reason 45, have bags of potential and frankly, more talent, as detailed in today's One to Watch article.
Then finally we had the main act, Passion Pit. Going into this concert I was expecting the band to come out and pretty much just play their album from back to front, neglecting the EP which had spread around the internet like wildfire, making them famous. However I was pleasantly surprised, and someone thrown aback when the band opened with the deliriously catch Better Things from their EP, before launching into a setlist which mixed tracks from both their EP and their album, hitting most of the essential tracks, with the exception, perhaps of Eyes as Candles.
What was particularly delightful was to see how they've developed their old EP songs, which as you will recall were basically just amateur demos made on frontman Michael Angelakos' laptop, with the full band backing. These songs now sound far better, with the extra sheen and quality that was present in the album and it's a shame we won't get to own thee improved versions.
As you know, I revel in finding the hot new bands out there and spreading the good word around. Well today I want to bring another of these bands to your attention, certainly one to watch for the future.
Recently I attended a concert at Vibe Bar in London. The main act was Passion Pit, who I was understandably very excited to see. However what I was not expecting to see were two impressive support acts featuring the bands Apples and Fanfarlo. Of these, the latter in particular caught my attention.
The first thing you notice as these London based indie rockers take stage is that these guys are young, really just kids. And yet someone had the foresight to sign these guys up years ago, and when you see them play it's easy to see why.
This is one seriously talented band, utilizing a wide range of instruments and sounds such as the violin, trumpet and mandolin giving us a fantastic and diverse auditory experience with each song. The closest comparison to an existing band I can think of is Arcade Fire, and even though this is no bad thing, this comparison does them a disservice as they have a long time to refine their sound into something fantastic and unique.
In the meantime however, and I am being perhaps a bit harsh here because I see much bigger things coming from this band, I find that while most of their songs are decent enough tracks, with a couple that stand out in particular, I can't say that these guys are the finished product yet. I am still waiting for that one truly amazing, mind blowing song that a band of their talent will inevitably produce, and when they do, you'll be able to read about it right here at The Ephemeric.
Harold T. Wilkins
You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us
Sunday, 12 July 2009
We now have our own youtube channel here for your pleasure. Not much there at the moment, but random cool stuff will be added periodically so keep checking.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
It's that time of year again, where I report back on my findings from that most wonderful of French regions, Champagne.
A good few days were spent around Épernay and Rheims involving much drinking, a few business meetings, and a whole lot of fun. I expanded my knowledge of Champagne to even more Champagne houses that I hadn't been to in previous years, and revisited a few old favorites.
As such I have decided to run the rule over the various champagne houses I visited during my stay and tell you whether or not they're worth your time and money. Enjoy!
1. Veuve Clicquot
A big, commercial, name in the champagne industry, and one that is known worldwide. Typically this is one of those champagnes that is simply not as good as you think it's going to be. This is not worth the amount they charge for it, but being a famous name, this is one of those champagnes that the eurotrash are always going to love picking up when they want to celebrate. I'm always skeptical when I see a factory with such an absurd abundance of merchandise, though the cufflinks were pretty cool.
However, at the end of a lackluster and boring tour, and a decent if not remarkable brut, I decided to splash out on the Grand Dame. This is an absolutely fantastic champagne, one of those wines that gets the balance between sweet and dry, acidity, and fruitiness just right, and very fine bubbles. Ultimately this particular champagne is up there with the very best, although at 100 euros per bottle (at the factory, not even in a shop or restaurant) it is definitely priced well above other champagnes of a similar quality.
I visited these guys last year, but for those of you who didn't read the article from back then:
A small family business, this factory really has a very special personal touch and homemade feeling. We were given a tour of the place and enjoyed an overview of the bottling floor and the cellars underneath. Personally I enjoyed the tasting of freshly squeezed grape juice, as anyone who knows me knows i adore the stuff, only wish champagne companies would start selling it!
Very good value. Prevoteau is very affordable and also very good quality. The brut is decent as is the rosé and milleseme, but the highlight is the Adrienne, a sweet and very easy drinking champagne named after a local french actress.
Another big name, one that is very popular amongst the clubbing crowd. Entering the factory was an unusual experience, for as I would later find out on the tour, there was some form of art exhibition going on. So as we entered, the gates were wrapped in coloured paper and bars replaced with neon lights, looking like some mix between the Wizard of Oz and the Candyland board game. The grounds were filled with various modern art sculptures, and the main hall contained bright lights, disco balls and coloured windows.
This type of glitz pretty much sums up Pommery for me. Much of the tour was spent looking at these installations, the most interesting of which was a room full of electric guitars and finches, where the birds would land on the guitar strings and play a note, it was pretty awesome. It's a shame then, that the champagne was really quite mediocre. The best one I tasted was the Apanage, a very buttery and smooth tasting champagne.
However, what is worthy of note is the POP line of champagne, as featured in the picture for this article. I have yet to taste this, and I don't expect anything special, but this is just genius branding, small, brightly coloured bottles designed to look like 50s style soda pop bottles complete with straws. It's just cool enough to try once, even if it ends up not being much.
Verdict: Moët-Chandon't, but do checkout the POP
4. Champagne Mailly
Another small company that I had not tried before. Located on the edges of a small village in the hills that took us a good long time to find, but was worth the trip.
What stands out about this place is the friendly service, they even helped us with our car afterwards. For the most part the champagne is decent here without being spectacular, but makes up for it by being much more affordable than many bigger companies. However the highlight here is le Feu, a distinctly fruity champagne with a wonderful aroma, you won't taste many champagnes quite like this. Not necessarily better than other champagnes, just different.
Debbie award for Best Bottle of Champagne: Veuve Clicquot "la Grande Dame"
Runner Up: Champagne Mailly "le Feu"
song of the day: Impossibly Beautiful - Julie Feeney
thing that makes me smile today: Obama's approval remaining so high in face of all the crises he has inherited.
pic of the day:
The Outer Limits
Dark Night of the Soul
Monday, 6 July 2009
Developed by Terminal Reality
Genre 3rd Person Shooter
Platform Xbox360, PS3, PC, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS
Release date(s) 4th November 2008 (download), 23rd January 2009 (retail)
First a disclaimer, there are different versions of this game available. The 'high end' systems (xbox 360, PC, PS3) get one version, the best version and the one I tested for this review, and the other low end systems get different versions. So don't go get this game for the Wii or PS2 and expect to get the same experience I am describing here.
Now that that's over with, let's not beat around the bush here. Licensed games invariably suck, and generally the better the franchise, the suckier the game. As such any fan of the legendary Ghostbusters franchise, like myself, buys a game like this with a fair degree of pessimism. It would have been so easy for them to take these iconic characters, locations and stories and just churn out a mediocre money making piece of crap, but in this case we might just have the greatest licensed game of all time.
The key here is authenticity. At some point Terminal Reality decided that the way this game would succeed is if it became more like the third film to the series, rather than simply a cheap game adaption. Looking at the results it's hard to disagree.
The first master stroke was hiring all the actors from the original movies to voice these characters. Dan Aykroyd is here, Harold Ramis is here, Ernie Hudson is here, and of course Bill Murray is here. But on top of that you also have some of the less known actors reprising their roles from the films. Annie Potts returns as the secretary of the Ghostbusters, as does William Atherton, who portrayed Walter Peck, possibly the biggest douchebag ever see in cinema, in the first Ghostbusters film.
But that's not where it ends. The full soundtrack from the first film is in this game, from the iconic theme song to the full score. Classically recognizable tunes are integrated into the cutscenes and the gameplay itself to fully evoke the drama and atmosphere of the films, and it is all done so excellently that it really feels like you're playing a new Ghostbusters film. I defy any fan of the films not to smile when the opening cutscene plays, giving way to a proper opening credits sequence complete with Ray Parker Jr.'s classic, or when the game's main menu opens, with the score playing in the background, sheer awesomeness.
The script is also penned by the original scribes to ensure that the game maintains the humor and feel of the films. All of this is polished to such a fine sheen that it's simply impossible as a fan to play through this game without a big grin on your face.
But of course the gameplay is what really determines whether a game succeeds or flops. Fortunately they have not slacked off here either. Using the signature proton pack to wrangle a ghost down into the trap is as addictive and satisfying as you'd expect, and accompanied by one of the more spectacular video game light shows you will see.
Then, to spice things up a little bit, the developers have added in a few weapon upgrades of their own. These are mostly well done, and the look and feel certainly is in keeping with the geekiness and aesthetic of Ghostbusters. Most notable is the slime tether, which allows you to attach one object to another with a shrinking tether, giving way to a variety of interesting physics puzzles.
And speaking of the physics engine, it is really fantastic in this game. Pretty much every object in the game world can be tossed around or blown to pieces, and it is immensely satisfying after an epic battle with some bastard of a ghost to look around the room and the complete devastation you have caused with your mighty ray gun. Sweet.
However, probably my favorite additions to this game are the little in-jokes and easter eggs for players to find. To begin with, all the achievements in this game are lovingly named after classic Ghostbusters quotes. For example, capturing Slimer gives you the 'the flowers are still standing' achievement, and crossing the streams gives you the 'total protonic reversal' achievement. Further more, there are various artifacts in the game for people to discover using the PKE meter. These include things like a Stay Puft doll and various other items all with humorous descriptions. These also appear in the Ghostbusters headquarters in between missions once you have found them. It all makes for a very complete and rewarding Ghostbusters experience.
This game is top notch, however it is nowhere near perfect. First of all the game is very linear and basic compared to the norm for games today. The 'career' mode is deceptively named. It brings to mind images of games where you design and customize a unique character and guide him or her through an open world of ongoing missions. This is, of course, not what you get here. You just get a handful of very linear levels with only one path through each of them, and with a standard cookie cutter, voiceless, protagonist, it probably would have been simpler just to let us play as one of the main guys.
There are also issues in the storytelling. Even though this is scripted by the original Ghostbusters writers, the jokes feel watered down, as if to avoid offending anyone. While this is understandable considering the notoriously picky censors in some coutnries, it is still a shame. Further more Bill Murray is woefully underused in this game. Pretty much every mission starts with him running off to hide and be lazy somewhere, meaning that he is only ever a part of the game during cutscenes and a few select parts of missions. I don't know if he would have cost them too much but it's silly anyway.
More worryingly, however, is the occasional erratic difficulty level in this game. Occasionally you will hit a segment where it is either seriously confusing with what you have to do to get to the next part of the game, or when you will simply be overwhelmed by an absurd number of ghosts/monsters. I'm not normally one who baulks at a challenge, but your character has a nasty habit of falling over at the slightest push, so when you're surrounded, very suddenly by 50 badguys, all of which are trying to push you flat on your ass, there are times when literally you have no control over the game because your character is stuck on the floor or in various tedious animation loops.
However, ultimately this is a very decent game, and an absolute necessity for any fan of the series.
The Voice Acting
The attention to detail
An overly 'PC' Ghostbusters
Shallow gameplay mode