james debate
james debate

Saturday 31 March 2018

Donald Trump has been President for a little more than one year, and regardless of your political persuasion you would have to concede that it's been an eventful year. From Russia to infighting and porn star hush-money, this regime has been a constant swirl of scandal and melodrama. Pundits are falling over themselves to put out their first-year retrospectives, many of which read more like an Oliver Stone script than reality.

While The Ephemeric could devote an entire series of blog posts to scrutinising the scarcely believable happenings of the past twelve months, I have decided that sometimes images do speak louder than words. So rather than make you sit through an essay of analysis and opinion, The Ephemeric is documenting a year of President Trump in pictures, running through the most striking and iconic images that encapsulate the nation that we have become. We will let the images speak for themselves with only light captioning, so that you can form your own opinion on Trump's America.

trump inauguration small crowd obama spicer

Low attendance at Trump's inauguration (right) compared to Obama's eight years earlier (left). Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer would then inexplicably claim that Trump had "the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period".

trump travel ban crying child
A mother consoles her child as Trump's travel ban takes effect and leaves thousands unable to return home.

trump travel ban lawyers all night pro-bono free help assistance airports
Lawyers pull all-night shifts at the airport providing pro-bono assistance to stranded families.

fbi james comey trump loyalty pledge hiding blending curtains
FBI Director James Comey (back, centre) claims he was attempting to blend in with the curtains in order to avoid Trump following his demand for a "loyalty pledge".

trump sycophant cabinet meeting
In his first Cabinet meeting, Trump has his ministers go around the table heaping fawning praise upon him. Actual quotes include "We thank you for the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda".

trump drives a big truck
"I love trucks".

white supremacist terrorists charlottesville trump
Radical white supremacist extremists march on Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us". Trump would later praise them as "very fine people".

white supremacist terrorists charlottesville trump
A white supremacist drives his car into a group of peaceful protesters, killing Heather Heyer. Trump condemned "both sides" for the terror attack.

betsy devos students protest turn back
Students rise and turn their backs to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in protest. DeVos is a longtime Republican donor with no experience in education. She would later praise the concept of black-only schools.

trump saudi middle east glowing orb
Trump on a diplomatic mission to the Saudi royal family.

trump russian spymaster in oval office comey firing
The day after Trump fires FBI Director James Comey, in his own words to stop "The Russia thing" he invites Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, known as the "Spymaster" for a closed-doors meeting in the Oval Office. Only Russian state media are allowed entry.

jeff sessions attorney general russia questioning investigation perjury
A visibly flustered Jeff Sessions becomes the first sitting Attorney General to be questioned in a criminal investigation.

trump campaign chief paul manafort indicted conspiracy russia
Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort (left) attends hearing after being indicted for "Conspiracy against the United States".

melania trump creepy white house christmas decorations
Melania Trump brings the first year to a close by personally designing the White House Christmas decorations.

Thursday 8 March 2018

Genre Synth-pop
Label Columbia
Producers MGMT, Patrick Wimberly, Dave Fridmann

mgmt little dark age time to pretend kids electric feel

The story of MGMT is always an interesting one to tell. The band was thrust into overnight superstardom by their debut album Oracular Spectacular, and in particular by two iconic singles, Time to Pretend and Kids. Yet MGMT has never seemed comfortable with the weight of success.

By all accounts, the two band members Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser despise those hit singles and the superficial, casual fans they brought with them, to the point where they allegedly refuse to play them at their live shows, and mock the audience for wanting to hear them. There’s a line between retaining artistic integrity and selling out commercially, this seems way over that line. And so followed two albums filled with lyrics on the burden of expectation, the dilemma between artistic purpose and commercial success, and general ruminations about the death of creativity. Musically the albums became increasingly inaccessible and abstract, an apparently deliberate move away from the radio-friendly hits for which they had achieved unwelcome fame. Critical response has been mixed. Suffice it to say, the band seemed to be facing something of a crisis of direction.

Now before I make the band seem like pretentious so-and-so's, it is worth noting that they do put their money where their mouth is. Upon suing the French political party UMP for unauthorised use of Kids, citing in particular the party’s artist-antagonistic anti-piracy legislation, MGMT deemed to donate all the proceeds to artists’ rights organizations. MGMT does genuinely seem to be a band that cares about the sanctity of the creative process above all else, for better or worse.

However, five years on from their previous album, MGMT have returned with Little Dark Age, and it seems they have turned a corner. Little Dark Age marks a hard swing back towards more traditional pop; catchy hooks, classically structured melodies, and more varied lyrical subjects. But it would do a disservice to simply suggest that the album is a concerted move towards the mainstream appeal of their successful debut, it’s much better than that. In fact, this is the best album MGMT have yet produced. Oracular Spectacular was known for two excellent songs, but in all honesty is otherwise mostly forgettable. By contrast, Little Dark Age is excellent from start to finish.

The band describe this album as a reaction to the increasingly dark social and political state of the world, with particular reference to the election of Donald Trump. In their own words, “We were more inspired to write pop music after evil took over the world”. The music of Little Dark age strikes a more crowd-pleasing tone to bring a bit of “light” back into the world, but is appropriately permeated throughout by a delicious contrast of chaos and discord.

The album strikes this careful tone right from the start with opening track She Works Out Too Much, a twisted carnival of discordant notes and driving hooks through the dystopian world of modern dating. It’s simultaneously manic and emotionally draining. It’s MGMT at their barmy best.

The key song, however, is title track Little Dark Age. An excellent pop song which harkens back to their original hit Time to Pretend with it’s synth-laden soundscape, and adds a bit of a gothic twist that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Robert Smith album.

Other highlights include the irony-tinged When You Die, and nostalgic throwback Me and Michael. TSLAMP sees MGMT channel classic Pet Shop Boys, while One Thing Left to Try is a dizzying electro-odyssey in the style of Chvrches.

But perhaps the best of the bunch is wistful closer Hand itOver, a gorgeous slow-dancer of a track that puts a psychedelic turn on the kind of 60s pop of which the Beach Boys might have been proud.

Little Dark age is triumphant success then, and an early frontrunner for album of the year. It’s edgy and caustic enough to please MGMT fans, whilst still being packed with catchy and memorable tunes. While its singles are unlikely to achieve the kind of iconic status that Kids and Time to Pretend enjoy, in our view this is the most complete, most mature album the band has put together, and musically the best.

Must Listen :
Little Dark Age
Hand it Over
When You Die
One Thing Left to Try

Sunday 4 March 2018

oscars 86th academy awards 2014

This Sunday, Hollywood's famous Dolby Theatre will once again play host to the biggest day on the cinema calendar, the Oscars. People all over the world will tune in for that most tragically popular of pastimes, celebrity watching, followed by four hours of the film industry's traditionally self-congratulatory exercise in PR.

This year in particular a dour mood hangs over the industry in the wake of the litany of #metoo scandals. That being said, this year it's #metoo, last year it was #blacklivesmatter. If nothing else, this ceremony serves as a reminder of how much rich old white men care about social issues for one night a year.

In Jimmy Kimmel they have chosen well for host. Clever and charismatic under ordinary circumstances, but his recent turn as a spokesman for serious issues of our time makes him an especially appropriate pick in the current climate. Don't expect him to shy away from the tough statements.

Regardless, this evening is still mostly about the films. So for you, our loyal readers, please find below predictions for the big night. You may not have seen the big films this year, or be familiar with the latest hype tearing through tinseltown; if so consider the following a crib sheet for what lies ahead this weekend, and perhaps even a sneak peek at who might just be walking away with the big prize.

Best Picture


  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And the winner: The Shape of Water
Who should really win: The Shape of Water

Best Director

  • Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele – Get Out
  • Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
  • Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
And the winner: Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water
Who should really win: Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water

Best Actor

  • Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread 
  • Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out 
  • Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour 
  • Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.
And the winner: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour
Who should really win: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

Best Actress

  • Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water 
  • Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie – I, Tonya 
  • Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird 
  • Meryl Streep – The Post 
And the winner: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Who should really win: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project 
  • Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
  • Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water 
  • Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World 
  • Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
And the winnerSam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Who should really win: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Mary J. Blige – Mudbound 
  • Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread 
  • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird 
  • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water 
And the winnerAllison Janney - I, Tonya
Who should really win: Allison Janney - I, Tonya

Best Original Screenplay

  • The Big Sick – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
  • Get Out – Jordan Peele
  • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
  • The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro 
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh
And the winnerGet Out - Jordan Peele
Who should really win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Martin McDonagh

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory 
  • The Disaster Artist – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber 
  • Logan – Screenplay by Scott Frank
  • Molly's Game – Aaron Sorkin 
  • Mudbound – Virgil Williams and Dee Rees 
And the winner: Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory 
Who should really win: Molly's Game – Aaron Sorkin 

So there you have it, The Ephemeric's picks for the year. Enjoy the Oscars this weekend, and when the results go as predicted, remember that you heard it here first!

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