Saturday, 31 March 2007

Nathaniel Rogers...where does he find the time???

I ask this because not only does he give us multiple daily updates on the world of cinema on his blog, but he also does one of the best Oscar website/predictors out there, and then he finds the time to do this. A little silliness to enjoy on your Saturday, plus I know my very good mates Dean 'Knicker Rat' Powell and Lee 'Lady Garden' Hyett will get a kick out of this.

Worth getting out of bed for: Arcade Fire

One of the most anticipated releases of 2007 is this second album from Montreal's Arcade Fire, the Win Butler- and Regine Chassagne-led band that won over bloggers, critics, and, ultimately, fans with their 2004 debut 'Funeral.' Packed full of wonderous melodies serve with a heavy dose of drama, ‘Funeral’ was one of those albums you discover without a lot of wild crazy “These guys are the best thing since seared tuna” fan fare. And you can still feel smug and pretentious about liking them still because most of the constant radio listening population will not have yet discovered them. The ‘COOL’ factor is still in tacked. Their follow up ‘Neon Bible’ looks to follow, if not best it’s predecessor.

Here are a selection of tracks from ‘Funeral’ (Jeremy, you will like the last one)
Rebellion (Lies)
Wake Up
Neighborhood No. 1 (Tunnels)
Neighborhood No. 3 (Power Out)

Here is track from ‘Neon Bible’

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Battlestar Galactica 4EVER!!!!

With the final episode of Battlestar Galactica ‘Crossroads parts 1 & 2’ just been watched and aired all I can say is this: I do not think I can physically go on for four whole months of mystery. I need to know what happens and I need to know now.
What makes this the best show currently on television is the fact that every character is painted in shades of grey. Everyone is flawed and everyone is human, even the Cylons. The writers need to be commended for the way they continually bring up moral issues in very surprising and sensitive ways. You think you stand on one side of the fence until you see another point of view, and then you are no longer sure of your stance.
The actors cannot be commended more highly. Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Katee Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, Aaron Douglas, James Callis and Jamie Bamber all deserve accolades for their brave and fearless performances. Never before I have seen such a strong ensemble gathered together on television, and that is a direct reflection on the strong material as every actor (in interviews) as stated their love for the show.

Sunday nights finale answered so many questions but asked so many more.
Here come some spoilers - if you want to know, highlight this section.
President Laura Roslin's cancer is back, former president and human outcast Gaius Baltar is not guilty of treason, and four of the final five Cylons are: Chief Galen Tyrol, former lover of known Cylon Sharon Valeri; Samuel Anders, Starbuck's widowed husband; Tory Foster, President Roslin's right-hand woman and Anders' recent lover; and Colonel Saul Tigh, the hard-scrabble Galatica XO and the most rabid Cylon-hater this side of New Caprica. They all realized they were Cylons after each hearing a mysterious song no human could hear, a song Chief Tyrol likened to something from childhood; a song revealed to be, of all things, Bob Dylan's ''All Along the Watchtower.''
Plus Starbuck is alive. Maybe. Or she could be a Cylon. Perhaps. But apparently she's seen Earth. Or, at least, that's what Starbuck told Apollo. Or what something that looks like her told Apollo. My personal take is that all the new four Cylons are in positions where they could have done a lot of damage, but hadn’t. I think they are actually there to protect the fleet, just look at what their jobs/positions within the fleet are. Had the Cylons wanted to destroy the fleet it would have been so easy, especially with Tigh and Tyrol in the positions they were in. My thought is that the final 5 Cylons are, in fact, protectors of the human race. Perhaps they realise the benefits of a cross species mating, or discovering that they are not so different from humans.
Also look how out of the 7 Cylons we know about, three of them have crossed over or had different ideals based on discovering their own humanity. These three are Sharon Valeri, D’Anna and Caprica 6…all women…is this a coincidence? I am fairly certain that Starbuck will be the final Cylon, sent to make sure the Human race gets to Earth before the evil 6. I have not yet had time to figure out why there is a Cylon divide, but I am sure it will be explained.
All I can say to the creators until then is "Frick Frack, Paddy Whack, Give my blog a bone and give me some teasers!!!"

Panty Slang

Two of my best friends in the world, Robyn and Dean each have a part in these two lovely terms for the centre of all that is feminine. Robyn told me all excited after watching The L Word and had me in hysterics with it, and when telling Dean about it he just had to go down that dark and dirty road and better it with vulgarity. So without any more hesitation here's your new panty slang.

Robyn's Panty Hampster

eg: I need to trim my Panty Hampster.

Dean's Knicker Rat

eg: Lindsey Lohan needs to wash her knicker rat.

Just to let those who are expecting the #1 Madonna album to be announced soon, I may actually wait a week or so before completion. I need to take a little break and regroup so I can separate it from the others.
Also I need to have a look at the year coming in film, and perhaps talk a little bit about Battlestar Galactica. That season finale was awesome!!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

I LOVE Madonna (part 6 section f)

Number 2: Ray of Light - released March 2nd 1998.

By the time 1998 came around, it has been a long time since we had gotten a full-length studio album from Madonna. 1994's Bedtime Stories was her last effort plus a greatest ballads package. Since then Madonna went to vocal training to play Eva Peron in Evita, and won a Golden Globe for her efforts,
and more importantly, she gave birth to her daughter and discovered Kabbalah and yoga.
With her new found spirituality and love and care for her young child, Madonna began to shift. She began to look inward, examining not only her self, but her fame and the world around her. She had done this many times before, as early as 1986's True Blue in fact, but this was the first time she sought out to make a truly coherent album both with the lyrics, and it's musical structure.
To help her out with her song writing she enlisted the help of long term collaborator Patrick Leonard, and she paired up with William Orbit for production duties. Madonna fans will know that this was not the first time Madonna had worked with Orbit, as he had done remixing duties on 'Justify My Love', 'Erotica' and 'Bedtime Story'. This was the first time, however, that they had collaborated on original material.

Water was a huge inspiration with this new album as a metaphor for cleansing and life, eclipsing Madonna’s own spiritual re-birth. This is apparent with the first song in which we are introduced, right away, to this new sounding Madonna. ‘Drowned World/Substitute for Love’ takes it’s title from J. G. Ballard’s apocalyptic novel and lyrically ponders the price of fame “I got exactly what I asked for/Wanted it so badly/Running, rushing back for more/I suffered fools so gladly." Orbit’s ambient production reminds of an electronic stream flowing along towards rapids as the pace builds and her voice transforms from crystal clear, and light as air to full throated power as she sings “No one-night stand, no far-off land, no fire that I can spark.” A meditative opening to rival that of it's bookend.
When I was living in Bermuda one of my very favourite things to do was to swim out to the reefs and then dive down as deep as I could. Using a rock shelf to hold me down I would sit and find such comfort in the silence of the ocean and escape the noise of the surface. In ‘Swim’ Madonna explores this idea, but sings of the burden of the sins of the world and perhaps herself “I'm gonna carry this train off the track/I'm gonna swim to the ocean floor”. The electronic sound-scape inter-spliced with electric guitar aurally replicates the tumultuous ebb and flow of the ocean to great effect, however the lyrics can at times be too heavy handed and dark to truly make you think outside of the world she describes.

‘Ray of Light’ begins with a lovely melody strummed on guitar, but before you settle in for another mid tempo ballad you are launched full throttle into the light speed celebration. When she sings “Quicker than a ray of light!!” you will almost believe that you can fly. Her vocals scale the tallest building with pure elation as she sings about the speed her daughter is growing, not wanting to let go, but excited about the prospects. Not surprisingly was one of the biggest commercial hits from the album and, over eight years later, has stood the test of time. Surprisingly so has the next track. At first I was very hesitant upon the first listen, but ‘Candy Perfume Girl’ has grown to be one of my essential tracks. With it’s hard guitar and bubbling throbbing sexual beats reminiscent of Portishead, to the provocatively surreal lyrics, “Moist, warm desire/Fly to me,” the song evokes raw, dark imagery. My only complaint is that pre Evita she had a raw voice that crackled and strained with passion, a voice that would have perfectly suited this.
The next three tracks has Madonna moving more to the dance floor with a darker, more underground trance sound than her previous club friendly offerings. ‘Skin’ with its random percussion and come hither vocals would had been a massive D.J. track had it been released. The lighter, radio friendly ‘Nothing Really Matters’ sneaks up with a slow cosmic intro before cementing itself in your memory with it’s catchy chorus and foot stomping beats. The last of the big dance numbers is the stonking powerhouse ‘Sky Fits Heaven’. With its effervescent electronical rumblings of the dark hard house meats trance beats to the sing-a-long chorus (“Travelling down this road/Watching the signs as I go/I think I’ll follow the sun/Isn’t everyone?”) Madonna has rarely sounded more serious about making you dance.
Following this small dance-a-thon, the dark beats continue this time interspersed with a Eastern melody with Madonna grinding down the vibe on the sung in Sanskrit track ‘Shanti-Ashtangi”. Inspired by her yoga practice and her growing interest in Kabbalah Madonna reaches in and brings the sexiness out.

The first single released from the album was ‘Frozen’. Madonna, Leonard and Orbit crafted the comeback song to get your attention. Its lyrics are uncomplicated but its statement powerful: "You only see what your eyes want to see/How can life be what you want it to be?" The song's bewitching melody and cinematic string arrangement is pumped up with Orbit's tingling drums and pulsating electronic chirps The sweeping strings, yet mellow synths of ‘Power of Goodbye’ just sends chills down my spine.. Madonna’s voice almost sounds like she is choking as she sings the sorrow filled lyrics “Your heart is not open/So I must go.’
‘To Have And Not To Hold’ is the one place Madonna and Orbit stumble. As the album approaches this place, you begin to wonder if perhaps the magic has run out on this dynamic team. The song is so quiet and ambient that it totally gets lost. the silent subtle production does nothing to enhance the heartbreaking lyrics "My heart is in your hand/And yet you never stand/Close enough for me to have my way."
Her ode to her daughter ‘Little Star’ is a sweet sentiment with a lovely lullaby sound and sweet words of devotion over a drum and base inspired beat. One however has to wonder, with the lyrics “Never forget who you are Little Star”, if the daughter of one of the most famous and sexually provocative celebrities of recent times will spend her life trying to do just that.

Having a child can bring immeasurable joy and, to some, a deep feeling of sorrow. Madonna lost her mother early on in life, and has been candid about her struggle to find who she is as a women without that matriarchal guidance in her life, especially now that she was a mother herself. She has covered her feelings about her mothers death in song before, but never has she sung about the critical way it has effected her like she does in ‘Mer Girl’. This is probably the best Madonna song you have never heard. It begins with a simple, plodding, funeral march of a chord as she begins to sing “I ran from my house/That cannot contain me.” Lyrically this is Madonna at her most honest, introspective and moving. She famously sung this song out in one take in the studio, and you get goose bumps from the emotional quivers in her breath. Exploring the lost and confused state of a person still in morning she sings “I smelt her burning flesh/Her rotting bones/Her decay. I ran and I ran/I’m still running away.” Filled with truth and pain, this is an emotional haunting closer to one of her best creations.

What Ray of Light did was not only inspire and please her old fans, but also garnered her a whole new slew of them. This was the first time she was taken seriously as an artist by not only the public, but also the music industry. She went on to collect an armful of Grammy awards (she has never previously won or been nominated for one before) and cemented herself as an icon. All of the critical and public respect aside, this was the dawning of a more thoughtful and caring Madonna. Her new incarnation was described as 'Earth Mother' but that was not really true, she had just finally grown up.

Monday, 26 March 2007

I LOVE Madonna (part 6 section e)

Number 3: Music – released September 18th, 2000
In 2000, we all hotly anticipated the 9th studio album from Madonna. After the huge success that was ‘Ray of Light’ all eyes were on her to see what she would do next.
The major problem with Music is also it’s major strength, it is one of her least coherent albums to date. What it sounds like is Madonna, and her new musical producing partner Mirwais Ahmadzai locked themselves up in the studio and had a hell of a time experimenting with how far they could push musical landscapes. This is where the album works so well, and you can almost forgive the total lack of narrative flow because what you are hearing is new Madonna. The album stumbles because Madonna is a loyal woman. She collaborates again with William Orbit who expertly guided ‘Ray of Light’, but he seems to have completely run out of tricks this time around, and the few tracks he is mainly responsible for sound repetitive and cluncky in comparison.
“Hey Mr D.J. put a record on. I wanna dance with my baby.” And so the album begins with Mirwais’s quirky Daft Punk sounding slice of French electro reworked with enough Madonna sass and a reworked hip hop vibe to gain high radio airplay in the U.S. This turned out to be a giant dance-floor filler. Containing a swirling electronic pop-funk vibe, Madonna’s playful delivery gives startling ignition to this slick offering that caught onto the public like a magnet. Unsurprisingly and very deservedly, Music became a massive cross-Atlantic hit. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the next track which sees Madonna fully embracing the underground dance floor sound with a bass-heavy giant of a floor-filler with guttural synths, robotic voices and sexy cosmic whispers. It also contains the fun line "I like to singy singy singy, like a bird on the wingy wingy wingy". This eye popping and hypnotic tune flies with its strikingly synthesized effects and driving grooves. This would have made a perfect choice for release as a single however her record company refused thinking it was too unconventional to be a hit…..FOOLS!!!!
Then comes the first of the William Orbit collaborations with ‘Runaway Lover’. Although it has a dark and dirty bass-line, after a few seconds it becomes clear that Orbit does not fit with the new sound. Coming off as more of a ‘Ray of Light’ reject than anything fresh and new. All the electro effects are lost and it sounds like a jumbled mess of leftovers.
With three dance grooves in a row ‘I Deserve It’ is a refreshing and beautiful ballad, with its strum-a-long acoustic guitar and electro chirps, bleeps and chord heavy groans that amazingly mesh together. A synthesized folk tune with Madonna singing about the love for her new husband “Not running from the past, I tried to do what's best. I know that I deserve it” and so she should.
She collaborates with Orbit again on the ‘Beautiful Stranger’ rehash of the energetic if slight ‘Amazing’. This is a pure pop number that could have been a huge hit had it not been for the fact this sound has been done by her before, and instead of flowing this stands out as being very dated. Thankfully from here on in, we are exposed to come of her most inventive and lest commercial music. With her voice twisted up with the vocoder, the melancholy ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ could have come off as over produced with the synth heavy/acoustic mix had it not been for the intoxicating staggered beat, and whistful way she sings how “I feel bad. What I did wasn’t right. I feel so bad, and I must say to you…..sorry, but…Nobody’s perfect.”
‘Don't Tell Me’, offers a neatly gelled mixture of Dance/Country and delivers it with a vengeance. It is an outstanding piece, an infectious acoutstic guitar riff is chopped up, stuttering and starting all over the place, while Madonna sings the regreshingly strange lyrics written by her brother-in-law Joe Henry. The song ends with a gorgeous string arrangement, that will make your heart soar.
‘What It Feels Like For a Girl’ is the song to make the Britney’s and Christina’s of the world have pause. Beginning with the spoken dialogue of Charlotte Gainsbourg from the film ‘The Cement Garden’, the song bubbles with seduction at first with the Sapphic sounding lyrics “Silky smooth, lips as sweet as candy, baby”. Before you know it , however, Madonna launches into a tender examination of how difficult it still is for girls growing up to find a voice, especially through the eyes of men. The song hits a painful note with the lyric “When you’re trying hard to be your best, could you be a little less?” Her voice contains undercurrents of sorrow as she sings about the place woman are asked to live in a sexist world. Compelling stuff.
After that slice of nostalgia we are greeted to an six in a half minute epic of a tune reminiscent of Air with its swirling lush string arrangement. Proving that technology can have soul, Madonna again explores her creativity by giving one of her most emotional and sexually filled vocal performances even through the vocal manipulation of the vocoder. Lyrically she is again reflecting on fame and how she is seen, but without her obvious agenda “I was so blind, I could not see, your paradise is not for me”
And that takes us down to what I think is Madonna at her best. In ‘Gone’ she sings about why she continues to push herself to evolve artistically “Turn to stone. Lose my faith. I'll be gone before it happens” She sings over a slow plodding drum loop and more of that acoustic guitar as slowly the sound-scape changes. Swirls and bleeps dance as the synthesized chords take on epic urgency.

With Mirwais, Madonna found a new, less obvious way to express herself as a singer and musician. The end product is a wondrous mixture of the familiar and the audaciously new proving that Madonna is way ahead of the pack. Although the signature pop friendly diva was still there, she seemed more concerned with seeing in which new and exciting directions her creativity could take if given the outlet, and with Mirwais she found that. If all pop music was this well thought out and structured the radio would be a much more interesting place to dwell.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

MAFFE Awards..........the final!!

Finally finished my MAFFE awards. My good friend Dean sent a text bitching about all the Madonna love on my blog. He is not a fan of hers, but he does love The Nolans and is hoping for a comeback.
Any day Dean, it will happen any day!!
So a little break from the five best Madonna albums, and back to awards, specifically mine.