Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

So this week saw the release of Lana Del Rey’s debut album.  The haters continue to hate but frankly it’s a brilliant album. And here’s the bonkers video for the title song Born to Die. It’s ludicrously brilliant and very kitsch. But I think that might be the point. Buy the album – she’s definitely earned the moniker of a “Gangster Nancy Sinatra”. It’s a decadent slice of pop.

Buy it from amazon here

Birdy – Comforting Sounds

Jasmine Van den Bogaerde, known as Birdy, had a top 20 hit earlier this year with a wonderful cover version of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love. Last week she released her debut album and it’s absolutely gorgeous. All but one of the tracks are, like her earlier single, cover versions. It’s an exquisite set; her voice is incredibly evocative and, whilst it’s an overworn cliché (but there really is no other word to describe it better) deeply haunting.

There are two versions of the album (of course) and I really think you should seek out the deluxe edition. Because it has this string-drenched track of wonder that makes the extra effort in finding it well worth it. Go buy it, it’s beautiful music.

Sigur Rós – INNI has arrived

Goodness – it’s been ages since I last posted. No excuse other than that it’s been so very busy. So busy that my head has been a bit of a whirlwind of late and in the evenings I’ve been coming home and making starfish shapes on the sofa until it’s time to haul myself into sleep.

But not this evening. For today, Inni arrived. As some of you will know, Inni is the latest release from Sigur Rós. I blogged about it a month or so back. It’s their first live album and second live film (although the first film, Heima featured live footage with a few talking heads here and there). Inni, on the other hand, is a full on concert film. But one that is unlike any other – it is, quite simply, magnificent.  The director, Vincent Morisset, has created an intensely personal experience by removing almost all sense of place and any awareness of the crowd from the film. And the result is utterly breathtaking, indeed I’ve sat here with an almost ridiculous sense of wonder.  Music and images combine to create an extraordinarily emotional experience.
Apparently ‘Inni’ means ‘inside’ and, as you see and hear this mesmerising film, you understand why they’ve named it so because it really is as though you are being drawn into the music itself.

Ah – I could wax lyrical all night. You just need to watch it (preferably on a big screen and very loudly). Here’s a taste of what to expect…

Wintermusik

Can you believe it’s nearly winter. How time flies by. So, whilst we’re on the cusp of ever darker and colder evenings it seemed fitting to revisit one of my favourite winter albums, which is called (rather fittingly) Wintermusik. It’s by the contemporary composer Nils Frahm. The songs were originally a Christmas present for friends but it was then put out in a limited edition on CD. It’s a beautiful record –  uplifting, yet with a tinge of sorrow. And it’s perfect for a Sunday evening as the dark creeps in and the temperature drops. Here is one of the 3 tracks. It is well worth finding a copy if you can – there are 5 copies left on amazon at the time of writing this, which you can find by clicking: here

Frahm has also just released a new album called Felt, which The Hype Machine is streaming in its entirety. It ‘s much more minimalistic than Wintermusik but there are some lovely moments. I can’t seem to embed the stream here but you can find it by clicking:
The Hype Machine – Nils Frahm: Felt

The Magical World of the Strands

The Guardian is running a brilliant column in their music section. Each week one of their writers picks their favourite album and this week’s choice is particularly good.

Journalist, Andy Capper has chosen The Magical World of the Strands by Michael Head and the Strands. It’s a great record and I couldn’t do it any more justice than he does in his brilliant write-up, which you can read by clicking here

So, why am I blogging about it here? Well, because the CD of the album is long out of print and two of the key tracks (especially Something Like You, which Capper talks about so poignantly in the column) deserve to be heard (right now!) So here they are. Hope you enjoy them.

Lana Del Rey – Video Games

Lana Del Rey – quite a buzz has been generated about her online already with an inevitable backlash (is she a manufactured starlet rather than the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” her PR people are touting, are her lips surgically enhanced, does the fact that she’s the daughter of a millionaire mean she’s somehow less relevant, less “authentic” etc etc etc). And all before she’s even released her debut single. There’s bound to be a backlash against the backlash because the song, Video Games is utterly brilliant. As you can hear (and see) here:

Video Games is released on 16th October on Stranger Records

Ólafur Arnalds – Living Room Songs



The brilliant Icelandic musician/composer Ólafur Arnalds is creating and releasing a new song each day for a week starting on Monday. As the name suggests, these songs will be filmed and recorded in his living room and then made available for free as downloadable MP3’s and streamed videos.

Now I grant you, the prospect of someone releasing songs from their living room doesn’t necessarily fill one with anticipation and wonder but this is no ordinary musician we’re talking about here. The last time he did something similar was in 2008 when he composed, recorded and released a song a day for a week as part of a project called Found Songs. The result of that project was a brilliant album and one of my all time favourite songs, which inspired an equally amazing video.  I blogged about the video back in December 2009 and you can click here to watch it if you like. It’s pretty beautiful.

To watch the videos and download the songs just go to the Living Room Songs project website. Despite the rather stilted intro video that’s up at the moment, from Monday there should be some magic…

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

It’s been a “bookish” day today. I sped up to town when I found out that Foyles in London had some work in stock by a poet I’ve been wanting to read for some time. I want to blog about her later this weekend, once I’ve had a chance to actually read some of her work in depth. But browsing amongst the books today got me thinking about those that have really had an impact and whose words have stayed with me, echoing inside. There are, as you can imagine, quite a few. And yet I’ve been a little reticent to mention books on my blog. And I’m not sure why. So perhaps that’s something I should remedy.

One of the books that really slammed into me (metaphorically speaking) was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It wasn’t simply the harrowing story of a post-apocalyptic world that stirred the emotions but the central relationship at the heart of the story – that between a father and son. I’m a sucker (as they say) for anything remotely connected to fathers and sons. And The Road is a particularly moving account of a deep and abiding love; one which is surprisingly tender despite the savagery of the bleak and desolate landscape in which the father and son journey across.

If you’ve only heard of or seen the film I urge you to try the book. As is often the case, watching the film isn’t a patch on reading the book. McCarthy’s prose is nearly radically minimalist – even the dialogue is almost desperately sparse:

“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, don’t you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”

Yet because of their brevity every sentence seems to count. It’s this minimalism and the intensity of the images that the author paints in your mind that are almost impossible to translate to a screen and much of the quiet, contained power of those swift sentences is lost in the translation.

Where that power, intensity and tenderness have translated well though has been into the incredible sore for the film. Composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis the music is really quite beautiful and is almost a perfect evocation of the soul-stirring words contained within the book. Below are two of the standout tracks. And as for the book? It may sound utterly depressing and it’s true that it’s no easy read in terms of tone but it’s very far from maudlin or morbid and for something to tug at the heart-strings it’s very hard to beat…

Play track: The Road

Play track: The Beach

Sigur Rós – INNI: Festival

The band’s forthcoming live DVD and double album is now available to pre-order from the official website. There are about 4 different versions (of course) including the obligatory Limited Edition. As a taster of what’s to come a clip from the film (of the song, Festival) has been put out, which I’ve embedded below.

I’ve ordered my set. All that remains is for you to decide which one you’re going for because this looks like an essential release…