Tuesday, September 28

Say "Astronaut" #18

From 'The Stranded' (S3E10)

The Cooper Temple Clause 'Waiting Game'

Tuesday, September 21

Empire State Of HBO

This year I did something I never thought I'd do. And you know the craziest thing? I don't even regret doing it. Rather than keep you in suspense for another few sentences, I'm just gonna let it out there and say it. OK. Right. Here we go. This year I broke my 2007-born Watch-HBO-Only rule. But before you come at me with your venom, let me just say it was for an extremely worthy cause. 'Mad Men'. Exactly. One of the best shows ever and even well into its fourth season, there is absolutely no sight of it letting down. I will not, however, go to AMC for any more of their HBO rejections. Mad Men is where it starts and ends.

And now, thanks to the brilliance of former 'Sopranos' (and 'Sister, Sister' for that matter) writer Terence Winter, the network of networks is back. Back, back, back. Boardwalk Empire, if you've not already seen the MARTIN SCORSESE-directed first ep, it looks like it's about to retain HBO all the glory it found during 'The Sopranos' and 'SATC' and 'Six Feet Under'. 'True Blood' is a fantastic show, but it's become too distinct to paint the flag of the network. 'Boardwalk Empire' feels like 'The Sopranos', but there's a whole host of amazing new characters and stories to come.

Look, there's a lemon chicken and mayo sandwich with my name on it in about fifteen minutes' time. So I'm not about to go into some deeeeep piece parading 'Boardwalk Empire', though believe me when I say I would. But we've Steve Buscemi starring, Scorsese producing and directing, Winter creating, Michael Pitt starring (he who Kurt Cobain'd Gus Van Sant's 'Last Days' - I know it was blah for GVS, but Pitt was good), Michael Stuhlberg (the lead Jew from 'A Serious Man'), obviously loads of other fine actors, some incredible takes of 1920s Atlantic City and stories, much like 'The Sopranos', that are really not that hard to figure out once you're past the colloquialisms.

My sandwich is probably really cold now. But that's what microwaves are for. And your computer/TV/watching TV device, that's what 'Boardwalk Empire's for.

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys 'Empire State Of Mind'

Say "Astronaut" #17

From 'The Calzone' (S7E20)

Bruce Springsteen 'Hungry Heart'

Thursday, September 16

California Dreaming

When I journeyed to Los Angeles in the summer of 2008, I didn't rent a car so had merely the city's bus service and some risibly comfy Adidas trainers to get around. One place I chanced upon was called Laurel Canyon, which I passed on my way to visiting the Hollywood sign. It's a very nice place I hope to return to one day, all peace-and-quiet, bushy trees, exactly the kind of area you'd anticipate a bloody murder to go down.

And according to Dawes' Wikipedia page, they're "part of the Laurel Canyon sound". These four-piece Cali dream-folkers only got going/noticed about a year or so ago, and they're still to make waves outside of their native land it seems. But listening to 'When My Time Comes', I actually kinda get this whole "Laurel Canyon sound" thing. Airy harmonies, a doughy aura, a sweet polyphony - Bon Iver in about three albums' time. And the song, oh man the song - it's so fucking good. I'm gonna go listen to their debut album 'North Hills' (named after where they're from I believe), but you? You go DL yourself 'When My Time Comes'.

Dawes 'When My Time Comes'

Tuesday, September 14

Simon Amstell Pretty Much Didn't Let Me Down!

Simon: "I just wanna find some joy in my life."
Simon's mum: "Then be friends with James Cordon."

Look, I'm not suggesting for one New York minute that Simon Amstell's initial stab at sitcom-writing/starring, otherwise known as Grandma's House, was masterly. Or even that funny, for that matter. But all in all, taking every episode into account, on the whole, giving thought to every scene, generally speaking, it was, well, sort of funny.

Bits of it were atrocious, for sure. Simon's aunt's overacting. Simon's nephew's semi-acting. Simon's grandma's overacting... Though not Simon's acting, his deliciously antsy Jewrosis shtick was as endearing on telly as it is in his stand-up - and his life, no doubt, hence the stagecraft's persuasion. 'The British Larry David' is waaaaay undue a title, but there were modest hints of such irritable artistry honed within Grandma's House, at least to conclude, 'One day, maybe...'

The plots were mostly decent as well; Simon's almost-stepdad having once run over a tramp, Simon's nephew joking that he impregnated a schoolgirl, Simon smugging up to hide his nerves when meeting his biggest crush. It could have lost the making-up of band names and TV shows, even if the notion of Simon embarking on an African balloon expedition with Wyclef Jean for ITV2 is pretty rib-tickling... I just prefer my shows to be as true as can be.

"Is this what I am now? Some guy who used to be on TV who's now opening some media wing in Barkingside?" There were constant, scintillating castbacks to Amstell's post-Buzzcocks vocation, something which Grandma's House's six episodes should now have put paid to for real. The finale itself was perhaps its best episode, too. The scene in which Simon's almost-stepdad by and large attacked Simon in some alcohol-fuelled rage threw light on all that is needed to be said about the really-quite-shamefulness of British culture.

But see, we need Simon Amstell on telly. And though Grandma's House wasn't brilliant, there's enough there for BBC Two to make the right decision and recommission it (though it'll have to come back without the late Geoffrey Hutchings, aka Simon's grandpa). And it's still far more stimulating than most British comedy at this point in time, or even a long time. Plus practically every sitcom that's turned out to be great has always had a wobbly start. So yeah, a second six-parter would be just, but someone tell his family how to act...

The Streets 'Let's Push Things Forward'

Monday, September 13

Two Song Cinema Club

Two days ago I watched a movie called Cyrus. It stars Jonah Hill (meh), John C. Reilly (meh) and Marisa Tomei (yum). For a comedy it wasn't very funny, it was alright at the most. I've also seen it described as a dramedy, which makes more sense but again, really no need for the "edy".

Couple things happened. One, a set of about eight youths stumbled into the cinema thinking they were about to get Step Brothers 2 after seeing both Reilly and Hill (I know he wasn't in Step Brothers but you know what I mean) attached to the cast. Thank fuck they didn't, and the eight youths left before the end. Like, who does that? To be fair both actors strutted the dramatic line pretty well, Hill so much I wanted to choke his fucked-up, evil character by the end. If I was one of those eight youths I probably wudda.

But the other thing, the reason I'm blogging this, was the soundtrack. Man, were there some beaus. Blind Pilot's 'I Buried A Bone' closed it and Charlie Wadhams' 'My Love' was somewhere in the middle. Both run that shmoochy acoustic track us sensitive types dig so much. DL 'em up below. Oh, Blind Pilot are the pic at the very top, Charlie's underneath. Obvs.

Blind Pilot 'I Buried A Bone'
Charlie Wadhams 'My Love'

Sunday, September 12

Say "Astronaut" #16

From 'The Soup Nazi' (S7E6)

Kate Nash 'Pumpkin Soup'

Friday, September 10


Today marks the end of the greatest reality TV series ever. It was so far above anything else because of its testing of characters, acceptance of faults and just downright classic moments. The notion that millions of people would vote for a winner who's gay, Indian or suffers a mental disability, it's unmatched and I like to think in its own way has pushed forward society. Today really is a sad day. I know it'll get picked up again but I'd rather it not, those best bits will never be beaten.

My Chemical Romance 'The End.'

Tuesday, September 7

The King Of Indie Pop

Brandon Flowers is a better hitmaker than Michael Jackson, but more on that next month (hint hint). Performing for Zane Lowe's radio show last night, he whipped out an acoustic rendition of Killers' 'When You Were Young'.

I don't have to tell you how phenomenal it sounded. Download, sit back, close your eyes, take it in. And your life will feel a hundred times better.

Brandon Flowers 'When You Were Young'

Sunday, September 5


There may well exist a line between a football player and a man, but it's nowhere near as thick as it once was. Post-David Beckham, footballers are no longer footballers. Successful ones, anyway. They're now celebrities, responsible for a whole lot more than just ensuring their team picks up three points every week. John Terry lost the England captaincy over his private conduct, and since we've had Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch humiliating themselves via plots of the same adulterous theme.

And now ultimately the biggest of them all has come to pass. Last December whilst at Manchester United's Carrington training base, a photographer informed me that she'd witnessed Wayne Rooney frequent the city's Lowry Hotel with a prostitute on more than one occasion, as his then-pregnant wife remained at home. Given his imbecilic previous, I bought it, but with a slight sense of doubt in the hope that he'd matured. Ten months later, said-prostitute has sold her story to the Sunday Mirror - and there's no question as to how big this is.

Of course I want all the United members to love each other dearly and have joyous, unruffled family lives. But that wouldn't reflect reality. I do still think that most footballers, perhaps like most men, treat their loved ones with decency and respect. It's just that real villains like Terry, Cole, Crouch and now Rooney tarnish the perception.

"The lifestyle I lead as a footballer means I am always in the spotlight," Rooney said earlier this year. I mean, the inanity of his actions is almost amusing, but certainly not for the people he's hurt. Don't get me wrong, I'll cheer Wayne Rooney the goal scorer. But never ever the man.

Nirvana 'Dumb'

Wednesday, September 1

Album Of Last Month

Arcade Fire 'The Suburbs' (Mercury)

Anybody who has ever suggested that Arcade Fire have made a 'great' album was lying. Lying to the world. Lying to whoever it was they were attempting to convince. Lying to themselves. Songs, yes. 'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)', 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)' and 'Rebellion (Lies)' of 'Funeral' were illustrious each in their own spectacles. And 'Intervention' and 'No Cars Go' from 'Neon Bible' the same. But to allege that the Montreal seven-piece have actually fashioned a consistently end-to-end piece of baroque pop'd beauty is unjust. Until now, that is - Apologies for the cliché turnabout but it's so fucking true, nothing else would better justify the ruling.
Anything over 11, 12 tracks is more often than not a hamstring for the inventor (see under the too-stubborn Sufjan Stevens and Adam Green). Here, though, it just not once lets down, and if it does faintly veer off into a dicey alleyway by way of a steadfast-but-dreary riff (cough, 'Month Of May', cough - Oh, and whose lamebrain idea was it to hype the album with that? Talk about misrepresentation!), you know there's a cloying minute of resplendence right around the corner. 16 songs, p'haps for the first time since Blur's 'Parklife', seems about the perfect amount.
It too finishes where it commences, with that buoyed, abstruse line of "Sometimes I can't believe it, I'm moving past the feeling again" resonating like all the middle has been some unforgettable daydream. Plus, for such an exceptional piece of pop music, it's not even dribbling with the same unrestrained hope and impassion that garnered them those Grammy noms in the first place. It's the less-is-more approach that is 'The Suburbs's driving force, and the indistinct overtones within tracks like 'Ready To Start' and 'Suburban War' stuffing the horsepower. Of course the mettlesome nature is still there, but it works because husband Win Butler and wife Régine Chassagne are perpetually gushing out an insightful, sentimental and personal bedrock.
'Modern Man', for example, contemplates the confusion of modernity and that sometimes twitchy wait for the end. "How come you can't sleep at night? In line for a number but you don't understand," Butler declares of the unknowing, all the while there's an amicable drift of braiding noise thrilling below.
Naturally, the phenomenon of self-discovery is covered, as "the night tears us loose and in the half light we're free" in 'Half Light I', only "we knew this day would come, still it took us by surprise; In this town where I was born, I now see through a dead man's eyes," he casts back in 'Half Light II (No Celebration)'. This longing for youth and former memories comes both forlorn and familiar, as an all-out chorus of, "One day they will see it's long gone," carries heady keys and some semi-jungle rhythm. Jason Reitman could make a movie franchise out of 'Half Light' parts I and II alone.
'Suburban War' is the best of a brilliant bunch, however. It plays on the risk of recollection ("They keep erasing all the streets we grew up in") but ends with the maturation of finding one's own path ("You choose your side, I'll choose mine; All my old friends, they don't know me now").
One line in 'Month Of May' so characteristic of modern-day West goes, "Well, I know it's heavy, I know it ain't light; But how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?" It leaps out like a fitting dressing-down to the carefree do-nothings of society... You know who you are! Or you don't, that's kinda the point.
And 'Sprawl I (Flatland)' - a graceful, reflective build-up to its even-better sequel 'Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)' - is where you assume there to exist a happy ending. "Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small, that we can never get away from the sprawl, living in the sprawl; Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains, and there's no end in sight, I need the darkness someone please cut the lights," trills Chassagne, aka old suburbia can be suffocating, but anything else is after all delusional. Depressing for sure, but about as real and ingenuous as they come.
'The Suburbs', quite frankly, is crucial, and the great Arcade Fire record we've been lingering for all along. The truth has never come so sweet...

Best Track
Suburban War