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Cultural Update: Bumper Summer Edition

August 20, 2010

Hello all,

Long time no type. Apologies for my extended absence from the blog, but most of my time over the last few months has been going into either my new job or summer holiday.

I finally got my proper journalism break, courtesy of the nice people at Euromoney Institutional Investor, who have employed me as a reporter on their IISearches database and quarterly e-magazine Global Money Management. Given the content of this blog and my previous journalistic endeavours, this foray into financial journalism may seem like a bit of an odd tangent, but unlike the sometimes spurious and sycophantic world of music journalism, it actually involves the real news writing and reporting that I spent four years training for; which is a healthy challenge.

So between the day job and a hectic holiday inter-railing from the Croatian coast up to Berlin via the EXIT Festival, Budapest, Vienna and Prague, hopefully you can forgive my lack of blogging. Anyway, enough of the personal guff, we’ve got lots of lovely culture catch-up to get through.

First up are a couple of summer blockbusters. As they say in the biz, if you see one film this summer, see Inception. If you see two films this summer, see Toy Story 3, and if you really have an aversion to the outdoors, then how about this guilty pleasure?.

Bobbing round in the seemingly endless sea of unnecessary sequels and remakes is the final part of the Toy Story trilogy, and the geniuses at Pixar have saved the best for last with one of the least intrusive 3D films so far combined with their typically brilliant story-telling. I’m inclined to agree with Mark Lamar‘s assertion that this trilogy may well be the best ever, beating even the Godfather in terms of consistency, as well as sharing Kevin Smith‘s  delight at the genuinely poignant scene in the rubbish incinerator where the toy’s stoically accept their fate. High praise and powerful stuff, especially for what is essentially a children’s cartoon franchise.

PS – How good was this:

I finally got myself along to the BFI Imax at Waterloo (the biggest screen in the UK as they keep on reminding you) to see Inception, and I’m glad I paid the extra fiver, as this film is the true successor to things like Blade Runner, the Matrix and Nolan’s own Memento. Visually stunning and the perfect amount of complicated to keep you acutely involved but not completely mystified, it perfectly combines the best of big budget action and intelligent thriller. Almost lost amongst the levels of plot and spectacle is the excellent soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, which is well worth a listen for big cinematic pieces like Time and chase-scene intensifiers like Mombasa.

Away from the more obvious films, there have been several intriguing documentaries to catch my eye in the last few months, most of them thanks to Channel 4’s brilliant True Stories series (We Live In Public, StarSuckers, Love the Beast, etc) as well as the ‘didn’t see that coming’ Chris Rock doc about the world of African American hair extensions, Good Hair, and Oliver Stone‘s investigation of the various South American ‘dictators’, South Of the Border.

From the big screen to the small screen, and while the World Cup has rightfully taken up most of my telly viewing this summer, the BBC have been making some rather amusing things recently. Amongst them is the almost reality sitcom from Simon Amstell, Grandma’s House, and an exciting new venture from Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom, entitled The Trip.

All my walking to and from work, as well as the intercontinental travel, has meant that I have been doing more listening than watching of late however. So it’s probably about time for an update on the exciting albums of 2010 posts.

No new album quite yet from DJ Shadow, but if you buy something from his online shop then he’ll send you a copy of the album that came from his Soundcloud remix competition. To be honest, with the quality of most of the original work, most of it feels a tad unnecessary, but there are a few cuts which bring new life to some of the back catalogue. RJD2 hasn’t taken long to cash in on the last album, with his instrumental/exclusive extras follow up; Inversions of the Colossus. There were quite a few decent tracks ruined by Jon Krohn’s rubbishy vocals, so this is the opposite to Shadow’s effort in that it’s largely better than the original work. Finally, while we’re on a hip hop tip, El-P has released a mixtape, the incomprehensible Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3. This third installment is the first to get a proper release and it deftly displays his skills for beats as well as raps, although I’d prefer a new album of his own stuff.

Moving from hip hop to hip pop, it’s nice to see Mark Ronson back with another happy hit to prolong the summer. The infectious Bang Bang Bang with his new band, the Business International, features the dulcet tones of Q-Tip and also has a great little video. Talking of super-producers, two of them have teamed up with unsurprisingly pleasing results. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse‘s Dark Night of the Soul features the usual bunch of vocalists for hire and broad musical remit, but is worth a listen for gems like Little Girl with The Strokes‘ Julian Casablancas.

On the more electronic side of trendy music we have new albums from DFA stalwart, Shit Robot, and Aussie synth-pop favourites, The Midnight Juggernauts. Named From the Cradle to the Rave and Crystal Axis respectively, they are both fine albums of disco tinged, spangly electro, which ladies like dancing to (and men when nobody’s watching). FYI – Shit Robot also did a rather good podcast for XLR8R and gave away this nice album track too. Talking of Aussies, Modular men Cut Copy have finished their third album and have a new track up on their website to download should you be so inclined.

Possibly my favourite record of the summer though has been from those crazy Californians, !!!, who have been good enough to put Strange Weather Isn’t It up to stream in its entirety on their Myspace. For a taster here’s one of the best tracks, complete with a suitably psychedellic video:

For those who like their dance music a bit more meaty, the latest album by the Glitch Mob is pretty decent, if a little lacking in ideas. I encountered the opening track, Animus Vox, on the super-sick (a bit of new school lingo for you there) trailer for the new Poor Boyz ski movie, and their bass heavy, break-step style is perfect for stomping – whether on ski’s or the dance-floor – shame the album doesn’t really get much better from there.

RIP CR Johnson.

More house music news comes in the form of a couple of exciting looking/sounding compilations. Simian Mobile Disco will release SMD Is Fixed on October 12th, and expect the kind of nasty electro and techno that they’ve been playing at the New York club residency of the same name (check out their equally dirty new track on their site as well). Friendly Fires have mixed the latest edition of Bugged Out‘s Suck My Deck series, out September 27th, the tracklist looks full of fun. Whilst I’ve decided to go to London’s LED Festival rather than SW4 this year, I’m always intrigued to see if Fatboy Slim‘s still got the goods. But rather than get squished up against thousands of other swaety punters, or pay £20 for his new mixtape-on-a-memorystick that he’s hawking, if you give him your email address via his website you can get a mixtape for free.

I’m amazed I’ve got this far with the blog and not mentioned my friends – and sort of employers – at Mixcloud yet. Well, their current campaign, A Celebration of Curation, is definitely worth a maiden mention. Bringing together all the biggest and bestist publications and websites on the site to make a mix a day for the month of August, there are some truly superb hour’s of music to choose from. Whether it be Who Sampled’s hip hop and funk megamix, Dazed and Confused’s movie mix, Radio Magnetic’s collection of Glasgoweigan greatness, or the fantastic FACT Mag’s eclectic cloudcast, it’s all good. I’d love to include one of their wonderful widgets, but sadly I’m too technically challenged to switch from a wordpress.com to .org blog and I can’t seem to get it to work; any advice is more than welcome.

Other predictions from earlier in the year that have come to fruition include a fine third album from the Arcade Fire, called Suburbs, and Royksopp‘s logical follow up to Junior; Senior (deek the uber-odd video introduction). However there doesn’t seem to be much happening with the new Radiohead album, and there’s no sign of the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2 either (although Alex Metric‘s new mix of Sabotage will make the wait a bit easier). Finally, the much fabled second Avalanches record seems another step closer to completion after a message from their webmaster read, “I hear Ariel Pink is recording some guest vocals for it and once those are done, the album will be finished”, rumours suggest it will be with us before Christmas!

PS – for a mix of my favourite songs of the summer, get your ears round my 8tracks mixtape here. Alternatively I’ve also just put the finishing touches on another mix of songs for the far reaches of the darkest, sweatiest, druggiest dancefloors; Fucked at 4am.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 8:53 pm

    This amazing is 1 of the most suitable article that My partner and i have read till date on this particular theme. Totally complete yet to the point without the need for any specific nonsense.

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