james debate
james debate

Thursday 27 January 2011

Genre Indie electro-pop
Label RCA Sony
Producer Dave Fridmann
Release Date TBA (US)

gilgamesh gypsy and the cat

Lately the Australasia music scene has become one of the hottest in the world, with bands like Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy and the Temper Trap achieving major worldwide success, and some of the hottest upcoming artists hailing from the region.

The newest and possibly one of the most promising examples is Gypsy & the Cat, a band from Melbourne consisting of DJs Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers. Preaching a similar brand of energised electro-pop that has become so fashionable among their ilk, Gypsy has already achieved quite considerable recognition in their homeland in the past year and it is considered to be only a matter of time before they break through elsewhere.

While it does a disservice to try to describe a band's sound through simile, try to picture an amalgamation of the serene melodic stylings of the Temper Trap and the delirious euphoria of Passion Pit, with a twist of 80s as garnish. The result is an extremely strong debut effort, ethereal and refreshing to listen to and brimming with quality. It's easy to listen to and unlike much of the genre it's not at all on the nose, overbearing or in your face, it's just a really good listen. Meanwhile producer Dave Fridmann, who has previously worked with the likes of MGMT, Muse and Mogwai brings a level of polish and consistency that most debut albums find elusive.

The first song Time to Wander leaps out immediately with airy synth, dreamy Cocteau Twins-like vocals and a spacious hook. The dance drums and retro vibe are easily recognisable, easily infectious, and a top notch start to the album.

Any good band knows to take things up a notch with the album's second track, this album follows with Gypsy & the Cat's biggest single to date The Piper's Song. An uplifting wall of indie pop, replete with 70s harmonies. This isn't a lyrical masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but it is a finely crafted pop song, the kind that is put together by artists who truly understand why a melody stays in your head. With a drumbeat and bass line in tandem with countermelodies of the chorus, and a catchy effervescence that's difficult not to dance to, there is little doubt that the song succeeds.

We continue with the funky and danceable Jona Vark which could easily pass for a lost Empire of the Sun track, followed by the album's namesakeGilgamesh which is a decent slice of 80s nostalgia.

Sight of a Tear takes the tone down a bit and rounds off a strong first half of the album with its smooth vocals and infectious groove. Synth piano and clever modulation between high and mid pitch vocals make the chorus of this song one of the musically strongest moments of the album.

A more pedestrian second half is highlighted nonetheless by catchy number Breakaway, downbeat and soulful tune Watching me, Watching you, and most significantly by the infectious Beach Boys-infused track Running Romeo. The album finishes with an acoustic/folk departure from the norm in A Perfect 2.

Gilgamesh might not be lyrically the best album you will hear this year, but the music and vocals are consistently excellent with some memorable songs and unusually tight production for a debut effort. In the end what we have here is the first must buy album of 2011, and an early serious contender for the best debut band of the year.

Must Listen
Time to Wander

The Piper's Song

Sight of a Tear

No link yet.

Monday 24 January 2011

Following last week's preview of 2011 in music, it is now time to turn our attention to the cinema. What follows is a quick rundown of the most exciting films due to hit the big screen in the next year, from the big blockbusters to lesser known gems. It's time to start getting excited about 2011 in film.

new films 2011 ephemeric

We're still in the midst of the 2010/11 Oscar season, the peak of cinema for a given year. Nevertheless, while the likes of the Black Swan and King's Speech continue to draw in the crowds and receive acclaim, already some of us are looking forward to the big cinematic events in the coming year.

So behold, here is the top ten list of key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 10:

10. Source Code

source code film
To call director Duncan Jones' (also known as Zowie Bowie, David Bowie's son) debut film Moon an underrated piece of work would not be entirely accurate. After all it received unanimous critical acclaim and appreciation from film goers as the so called saviour of intelligent sci-fi, and yet as an indie production it never really reached the kind of mass audience that a film of that quality truly deserves.

Now Jones is back with the backing of a studio and an entirely unrelated project, despite much speculation that his follow up would be loosely linked to Moon. He brings with him the always charming Jake Gyllenhaal and a talented cast featuring the likes of Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan.

However while I feature this on the list because of the strong pedigree involved and the quality of Jones's debut, I can't help but worry that lightning might not strike twice, especially in the wake of Inception which appears at first glance to bear many similar themes.

Release Date: April 1st 2011

9. Margin Call

margin call
This is a very interesting looking one. J. C. Chandor makes his debut as both the writer and director of this film, and has a fantastic cast to work with including the unparalleled Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto and Stanley Tucci.

Filmed in the Manhattan financial district, the film itself taks place over a 24 hour period at a large investment bank during the recent financial crisis and follows the actions of group of employees during the collapse.

Promising a raw and personal insight into one of the defining events of our generation, it's a great concept, based on a poignant subject and featuring a terrific cast, I think this one could be pretty special. It's a dream project for a debut director, one which if handled right could demand the attention of critics come awards season. My only note of caution would be that as a rule one should always be skeptical of films released in the Spring time.

Release Date: April 15th 2011

8. Battle: Los Angeles

battle los angeles
Heavily influenced by District 9 and its penchant for shaky cam, gritty realism and tastefully low (relatively) budget special effects, Battle: Los Angeles is inspired by the real life Battle of Los Angeles of 1942 which turned out to be a false alarm.

This time set in present day Los Angeles, this film follows a group of marines and airmen during a global alien invasion and features a cast which includes Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez. Meanwhile if you needed any more reason for a District 9 comparison, the director is none other than fellow Johannesburg native Jonathan Liebesman.

This is a film that promises action, I'd bet my house that at least one helicopter will explode in slow motion before the credits roll, but hopefully it will take more than just stylistic effects from the likes of District 9 and afford a modicum of lasting potential.

If it does, then this is definitely going to be one to see in the cinemas.

Release Date: March 11th 2011

7. A Dangerous Method

Little has been seen of this film yet, but what we do know is that it is an historical biopic based on the turbulent relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and the woman who comes between them.

So far this sounds mildly interesting, but the clincher is that this film is directed by seasoned pro David Cronenberg, written by academy award winning Chris Hampton and stars Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley. This film would be even higher up my list had Christoph Waltz been cast as was originally intended, but Mortensen is hardly a poor substitute as anyone who ever saw Eastern Promises can attest.

Meanwhile this will be the third collaboration between Mortensen and Cronenberg.

Release Date: TBA 2011

6. Scream 4

scream 4
Nowadays, being described as a "slasher film" is the ultimate insult for any peddler of the horror genre. But it is easy for us to forget that there was a reason why these types of movies became all the rage back in the 90s.

Scream was the film which brought the genre to the mainstream, and you might just be surprised to re-watch it and remember just how good it is. The secret, it turns out, is that there is more to succeeding with this type of movie than just gratuitous gore and people jumping out of closets and shouting "boo"; Scream was as much a comedy as a horror film, with irony, deft social commentary and a wry wit about it.

For this reason we should all be very excited that the masters are returning with the hopes of once again revitalizing the genre. Wes Craven returns, Neve Campbell returns (I know, I'm surprised that she's still alive too) and David Arquette returns along with Courteney Cox. I personally await this one with some anticipation, and I know I'm not the only one.

Release Date: April 15th 2011

5. War Horse

war horse spielberg
Alright top 5, now we're talking. Steven Spielberg is back and he brings with him rising stars Jeremy Irvine and Benedict Cumberbatch and seasoned actress Emily Watson.

The project is an adaption of the play of the book of the same name, which tells the story of a war horse during world war 1 and his owner who embarks on a dangerous journey to find him.

The book and play both received much critical acclaim, and the film adaption comes with a stage experience cast and one of the most legendary film makers of all time. Frankly there's no way this one will miss, definitely a film to keep an eye on come the awards season.

Release Date: December 28th 2011

4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

tinker tailor soldier spy film 2011
Another safe bet for success, the infallible Peter Morgan scribes this adaption of the classic Le Carré novel. Directing the project is one of the hottest properties in Hollywood right now, Tomas Alfredson, whose film "Let the Right One in" was an breakout success and earned him a BAFTA nomination. The cast is an equally all-star affair, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes and Tom Hardy all attached to the project.

The story is well known by this point. In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

It remains to be seen how they'll be able to squeeze the narrative, which was adapted previously into a seven part television mini-series, into an appropriate running time for a film, but early word suggests the final script is excellent and with the talent involved it's hard to see how this could fail to be good. The only question that remains is can they meet deadlines to get the film released this year.

Release Date: TBA 2011

3. Super 8

super 8 jj abrams
JJ Abrams is at it again; the man who brought us Lost, Cloverfield and the acclaimed Star Trek reboot returns with yet another mysterious project and plenty of his famous viral marketing.

Little is known of this project so far aside from the teaser trailer above, but Abrams describes the film as a kind of tribute to the classic Spielberg sci-fi from the 70s and 80s like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a claim that is lent credence by the fact that Steven Spielberg himself is attached as producer. Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning star, but beyond that your guess is as good as mine. Abrams is keeping this one close to his chest, as he does with all his projects.

Nevertheless, Abrams has established himself as one of the hottest directors at the moment and a reliable draw for both box office success as well as critical approval. Seeing this one in the cinema promises to be a real experience.

Release Date: June 10th 2011

2. Hugo Cabret

hugo cabret
An absolute sure thing for contention in the next awards season, Hugo Cabret is an adaption of the bestselling book by Brian Selznick and stars Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen.

So it's a good cast, but the important thing here is that none other than Martin Scorsese is directing the project, marking a departure from his usual film genre and also his first foray into 3d film making.

The film tells the tale of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station. When Hugo encounters a broken automaton, an eccentric girl, and the cold, reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy.

Great director, great cast, and a great sounding, awards friendly, plot make this film one which is difficult to see not being a hit. Get ready for the hype train... in about 10 months time.

Release Date: December 9th 2011

1. The Tree of Life

the tree of life
Somewhat less of a known quantity than some of the other films mentioned, and less of a safe bet come awards season. Still, this film is in my mind the most exciting of the bunch.

Starring the formidable talents of two of Hollywood's finest actors in Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, little is known about the film yet except that it tells the tale of a Texan boy's journey from the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as a "lost soul in the modern world", and his quest to regain meaning in life. Throughout the story we follow a narrative which weaves in and out of the present day and the entire epoch of time on this planet.

It's all very ambitious sounding from writer/director Terrence Malick, and it carries more than a whiff of Aronofsky's great catastrophe the Fountain, but I like ambition, I like the talent involved, and frankly the trailer looks great. This film will either be a masterpiece or an absolute mess, but there's not a cinephile alive who isn't eager to find out which.

Release Date: May 27th 2011

So this is my top 10 selection, the real crème de la crème of 2011 cinema, but there are other films that will undoubtedly be huge and mostly worth watching. We have a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (mercifully with no more Bloom or Knightley, and plenty of Geoffrey Rush), Daniel Craig's new crazy bit of fun Cowboys and Aliens which will probably be terrible, and Hugh Jackman's Real Steel (think The Fighter crossed with Robot Wars).

That'll about do it, if you want more films than that then you're an even bigger cinema addict than I am, but do feel free to ask or suggest, as always.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by David Seidler
Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Release date(s) Out Now
Running time 118 minutes

The King's Speech tells the story of Australian therapist Lionel Logue who tries to help King George the VI conquer his stutter at a time when the country badly needs an inspiring leader. Colin Firth stars as the aforementioned king, while Geoffrey Rush takes on the role of Logue.

king's speech

A typical Oscar movie on the surface, the King's Speech is at heart a buddy picture with a regal twist. Logue and George play the proverbial odd couple, a fastidious and repressed King intellectually jousting with a brash common person from "the colonies". The film also offers a nostalgic and patriotic look at Britain in war time, drawing parallels between the King's triumph against adversity and the nation's own stoicism during the war.

Indeed the overall production is slick and stylish throughout, with finely honed cinematography doing wonders to bring alive early 20th century Britain, and impressive work done on the set and costumes in order to create the appropriate sense of place.

The real selling point of this film, though, is the acting, particularly with the two stars of the film. Geoffrey Rush is always excellent to watch and seemingly never puts in a bad shift. He doesn't disappoint here and gives a memorably funny and enthusiastic performance here.

But of course the main billing goes to Colin Firth, who has produced something of a masterful performance here. This is a difficult role for any actor, internalizing the tension and angst whilst maintaing a stiff upper lip façcade, and Firth absolutely nails it. This is a personal and nuanced performance, and one which makes Firth a safe bet to finally collect his Oscar.

Special note deserves to be made for the rest of this impressive cast as well, which includes Helena Bonham Carter in her best performance to date as the Queen mother, as well as the likes of Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon and Timothy Spall. It's a fine ensemble cast.

So it's a slick production, wonderfully acted and well scripted. Really there is little at all to fault with this film. But this is the problem; it's finely polished and honed and a perfected craft, but that's exactly what we expected. There is little here that is fresh or original or daring, it's just all so predictable. It's a small complaint to have, but it's clear that no one here has tried to reinvent the wheel, but rather just produce a very fine and polished wheel indeed.

From the first scene onwards, it's clear that the King's Speech is set to be a contender at this year's Oscars, but will it's lack of ambition mar what is otherwise a thoroughly entertaining and fine production?

Picture perfect production
Top acting

Somewhat predictable

song of the week: "Wild Thing" by "Noah and the Whale"

thing that makes me smile today: Finally getting around to watching season 3 of Fringe.

pic of the day
drunken clamIN:
High neck sweaters
Brad Pitt
Chelsea youth

Turtle neck sweaters
Johnny Depp
Arsenal youth

Tuesday 11 January 2011

The time has finally come for me to reveal the "next big thing" for 2011, the big acts and/or products that are becoming widely known among the cognoscenti as soon-to-be household names. This year I am going to break with tradition and divide this list into multiple posts, starting with my preview of the best new music coming out in the near future.

new music 2011 ephemeric

Next year's music scene is starting to look quite exciting as we get January underway. There seems to be a little bit of something for everyone as old favorites return with new albums, forgotten names angle for a comeback, and of course the usual influx of promising new talent.

We'll begin with some of the more exciting upcoming albums from established bands and old favorites before I preview some of the hottest new bands in 2011.

Returning Favorites

(Untitled 2nd Album) - Fleet Foxes

fleet foxes

One of the more successful new bands from the last few years, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who didn't appreciate their eponymous debut album, highlighted by their key single White Winter Hymnal (above).

Now the Seattle-based group are preparing to release their much anticipated, as yet unnamed, follow up album. Little is known about it right now, except that it's due for an early spring release. Supposedly the band is going for a less poppy, more "groove based" sound. If the end result is as good as the first album, then this is definitely one to look out for in 2011.

Zonoscope - Cut Copy

cut copy zonoscope

Australian electropop band Cut Copy have yet to really hit the big time with two studio albums already to their name, but their cv already includes a number of memorable tracks like A Dream and Going Nowhere.

Their third album is due for release next month, and so far only two songs have been revealed: the Beach Boys tinged Where I'm Going (above) and Take Me Over, a track which carries more than a hint of the 80s about it. They're both pretty good. After a somewhat lacklustre second album, Zonoscope could be something pretty special, keep an eye out.

(Untitled 8th Album) - Radiohead


The Ephemeric is pretty excited about the prospects of Radiohead releasing a new album, and I dare say we're not the only ones. As one of the most enduring bands of the past 20 years, Radiohead have achieved a standing that few other bands will ever do.

Nothing is known about their upcoming album, except that it will contain 10 tracks and will probably be released in 2011. Questions remain over how it will be released, following the unusual precedent set by In Rainbows, but ultimately what we look forward to most is the music. Anything as good as classic tune No Surprises will have me in a tizzy.

(Untitled 2nd Album) - Passion Pit

passion pit

Another one of the best new bands in recent years. Again, no name yet for this follow up to Passion Pit's stunning debut album Manners. All that is known is that a spring release is likely, hopefully this year.

Hard to pick out a best song from an album that was full of excellent music, but if they can follow up with more songs with the quality of To Kingdom Come (above), Sleepyhead, Moth's Wings and Eyes as Candles, then we have an early frontrunner for album of the year.

In addition to these highlights, we await with interest for the rumored new album from Coldplay, said to be taking a more acoustic and intimate approach (good move), and the upcoming REM album Collapse into Now. Here's hoping that the latter can dismiss bad memories of their last, substandard album.

Some fantastic lesser known bands are reportedly coming out with new albums as well, including the Shins and M83. Nothing is known about either releases right now, but rest assured the Ephemeric is extremely excited about the prospect, and so should you be.

Other albums which will no doubt have a big impact in the upcoming year should you be so inclined include new releases from the likes of Lady Gaga and Kanye West's upcoming collaboration with Jay-Z. Now onto the new bands!

Debut Artists

Passive me, Aggressive you - The Naked and Famous

the naked and famous

This New Zealand alternative band achieved recognition by being named in the BBC's sound of 2011 poll and have already received a series of awards for Young Blood (above). That's all well and good until you realise how damn catchy their other single Punching in a Dream is. We recognise potential when we see it, and this band has it in spades.

Their debut album, Passive Me, Agressive You has yet to reach these shores following a successful stint at the top of the New Zealand charts at the end of last year, but with a tentative release scheduled in for March of this year, you can be sure that we will be waiting anxiously for that.

Different Gear, Still Speeding - Beady Eye

beady eye

The splitting of iconic British grungers Oasis may have been a blessing in disguise. It's no secret that the band had been stalling for a number of years, lacking in the creativity and quality that we all remember from the 90s. Now Liam Gallagher has started his own offshoot band, Beady Eye, and early signs suggest that this upheaval might just have been the kick he needed.

First single Bring the Light (above) introduces us to an entirely new sound from Liam, almost a modern twist of 50s rockabilly, something I frankly didn't know he had in him. In short, it rocks, and as someone who has heard previews of the rest of the album I can tell you that it's no fluke. This could be a triumphant return to form, Britain holds its breath.

(Untitled debut album) - The Knocks

the knocks

Based out of the lower east side of Manhattan, this electronic production duo developed a reputation for producing some awesome mashups, but have gone on to release their own originals, along with some eye-meltingly beautiful retro album art to go with it.

Debut single Make it Better is a playfully dancey number, but they one upped themselves with follow up Dancing with the DJ (above), which is an instant feel-good classic. These two are only a taste of what's to come. Surely an album will not be far behind.

(Untitled debut album) - Van Go Lion

van go lion ephemeric

One of the more exciting upcoming bands, Van Go Lion is generating a healthy amount of buzz on the internet. Their self titled EP gave us a taste of what's to come, soaring 80s influenced electro-anthems, but beyond this not much is known about what to expect in the way of a full debut or when to expect it.

Catchy single Convenience Stores and Parking Lots (above) seems destined for chart success, but their EP hints at enough variety to keep punters coming back for more. Still a long way to go for a band that's only just starting to make the rounds, but the course seems clear for this duo.

Gilgamesh - Gypsy & the Cat

gypsy & the cat ephemeric

Yet another Oceanic band being tipped for glory. It's definitely a great time for music from that region. A sound that melds the choral 80s goodness of Fleetwood Mac with the electro-pop of fellow Aussies Empire of the Sun, this could be the best debut yet.

With their debut album released in the dying embers of December 2010, this is a band many are tipping for glory in 2011. Single The Piper's Song (above) is an extremely catchy, radio friendly track, but the entirety of the debut album is full of quality and deserves a listen, full review coming soon.

So there you have a quick run down of the most exciting musical releases coming up this year. Keep an eye out for them, post a few tips of your own in the comments section, let 2011 begin!

Sunday 9 January 2011

I was going to post my first entry in the hotly tipped for 2011 series today, but I feel in light of yesterday's horrific events it is appropriate for me to delay that and instead take a moment to express my disgust and contempt for what has happened.

gabrielle giffords

I hope I speak for every American when I say that our thoughts are with the victims of this sickening crime and their families. But I feel that this is also a moment of deepest tragedy and shame for the entire country. Our way of life and Government is based around the ability for the people to openly and comfortably engage in the process of running the country, to connect with their elected officials and become involved in this fashion. This callous and indiscriminate (a 9 year old girl is among the dead) attack at a political event is an indelible stain on the ideals we purport to uphold and the principles of Democracy and liberty that we stand for, and one which it seems was sadly inevitable given the current state of our political discourse.

It is not yet known what was going through the mind of the gunman, but what is clear is that there is no possible motivation, no possible explanation for what has happened. By all accounts Gabrielle Giffords was among the most positive and charming individuals you could ever meet, a shining up and comer in the political world and popular despite serving a state that typically doesn't look too kindly toward Democrats. If as many now seem to believe this crime was politically motivated, a crime of hatred and anger, then it was not Gabby he was shooting but a caricature of her, a demonised figure as painted by unscrupulous political opponents.

Unfortunately this is all too typical of politics in America right now, but what is most worrying is how explicit these incitements have been. Republican favorite Sharon Angle recently called on the Tea Party to "use 2nd amendment (right to own guns) remedies" should they fail to get what they want at the ballots. Sarah Palin followed this up by sending conservatives a map with gun crosshairs aimed at specific Democratic politicians, urging her supporters to "reload" and use whatever means necessary to remove them from power. Possibly the most distressing of these deplorable acts came from Giffords' general election opponent Jesse Kelly who advertised campaign events to "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly."

Anyone with a shred of common sense can see that when you combine this quasi-violent hate speech with the cartoonish demonisation of public figures that has become commonplace something like this was bound to happen eventually.

So it came as no surprise when a gun turned up at one of Giffords' health care reform town hall meetings as a warning, and then after she voted to pass the Patient Protection Act her office was ransacked and smashed to pieces. Two days ago she voted against repealing the same legislation, and the very next day she was shot by a man whose youtube and myspace pages were awash with libertarian and devoutly anti-government propaganda.

At this stage it can't be ruled out that this is all a coincidence, but the sheer volume and regularity of violent acts perpetrated by extremists paints a very clear picture. Whether it's vandalism, knife attacks, or possible attempted murder, the last two years have been disgracefully chock full of politically motivated violence, largely in the wake of inflammatory rhetoric, and almost completely ignored.

Well I think it's clear that we can no longer ignore what's going on in our country. How many more people need to get hurt or die before we take this seriously and adopt a stronger stance against the dangerous and frankly irresponsible hate mongering that is all too prevalent? America is better than this, this tragedy needs to be the wake up call.

I hope everyone will join me in wishing a successful recovery for Gabby and the other victims and that this is the last we see of such violence.

Saturday 8 January 2011

song of the week: "The Piper's Song" by "Gypsy and the Cat"

thing that makes me smile today: My birthday a few days back, nice. Also I have pretty awesome friends.

pic of the day
kneel before zodIN:
Anthony Weiner
Fable 3

David Dreier
Fallout New Vegas

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