Purity Ring – Shrines

Canadian duo Purity Ring’s highly anticipated new album is out tomorrow and it’s well worth seeking out. At first listen it’s all shimmering, dreamy electropop with some strong melodies, nice effects and singer Megan James’s highly distinctive voice cutting through the beats. Nice certainly but unremarkable. Listen closer however and what appears to be disarmingly innocent is anything but – the lyrics reveal a world of menace, of darkness nestling at the heart of this music. As the video that accompanies one of the album’s best tracks testifies…

You can buy a copy of the album here

Bon Iver at AIR Studios (4AD/Jagjaguwar Session)

This set, recorded at Air Studios by the band’s label, is Bon Iver stripped to the bare essentials:  two voices (Justin Vernon and his collaborator Sean Carey) and two grand pianos.  The result is 25-minutes of beautiful, fragile and gentle renditions of songs that have previously featured on Bon Iver’s albums and EPs. I found it absolutely captivating. I hope you do too.

For those with an eye on the detail, here’s the set list:
1. Hinnom, TX
2. Wash.
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Babys
5. Beth/Rest

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

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

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…

The Tyranny of Choice

One of my favourite books of last year was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I was in a bookshop yesterday and saw the paperback and it brought to mind the central theme of the book, which is beautifully encapsulated in a review by Philips Delves Broughton:

‘…This is the key theme of the book, and the reason for the title. We pampered creatures of the 21st century are ruined by our own freedom. Instead of bringing us happiness, it brings us only uncertainty. Having eschewed the certainties and disciplines of earlier generations, we find ourselves lost and adrift, propelled by the lingering emotions of childhood into futile searches for meaning.’

Questioning choice
Questioning freedom has become quite fashionable of late. But it’s the questioning of choice that interests me: the freedom and number of choices that we have, how we make them and the impact they have upon us. Can you have too much choice? Of course you can. More and more research is illustrating that, far from bringing us happiness and satisfaction, too much choice, too many options, can bring us deep unhappiness and dissatisfaction. It can depress us and even paralyse us. Faced with too many choices – we make none. Or in a panic to make what we think is the “right” one our mind becomes clouded and we choose poorly. When it comes to a spot of retail therapy poor choices no longer have the consequences they once did – you can pretty much return anything you want and make another choice or you can get a refund. The risk is negated. But there are many, many choices that we make in life for which there is no return policy. The paths we take, even though they may seem insignificant at the time, can have an indelible impact upon who we are and what we might become. Pretty obvious stuff really.

We tell ourselves stories
But what part does the culture in which we are brought up play in the choices we make? Or even how we come to approach and view them? Can examining how different cultures and people make their own and collective choices bring us greater wisdom and understanding? Well, yes – of course.

In her essay, The White Album, Joan Didion writes:

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ideas with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience’.

This passage forms a core part of a TED talk given by Pyscho-economist, Sheena Lyengar called: The Art of Choosing. It’s an outstanding and insightful  talk about the choices we make – both the trivial and the deeply profound and how we feel about them. Toward the end of the talk she says:

“No matter where we’re from and what your narrative is, we all have a responsibility to open ourselves up to a wider array of what choice can do, and what it can represent. And this does not lead to a paralyzing moral relativism. Rather, it teaches us when and how to act. It brings us that much closer to realizing the full potential of choice, to inspiring the hope and achieving the freedom that choice promises but doesn’t always deliver…”

Unreal expectations
As expectations of ourselves, each other and the world around us get ever higher – often reaching levels that are simply unachievable and unattainable, which leads only to disappointment, disillusion and, in the case of many relationships, to dissolution – it’s worth remembering that the freedom of choice can become a tyranny. Sometimes less really is more…

Sun’s Gone Dim and The Sky’s Turned Black

Here is the original video for the music I found whilst watching a trailer for a trashy Hollywood movie earlier this week. I’ll be posting about the album from which it’s taken soon.

The song is called, Sun’s Gone Dim and The Sky’s Turned Black. Director, Nikolai Galitzin was commissioned to make the video. Instead of creating a singular vision he asked four of his filmmaker friends to journey to Iceland and shoot five different stories, one story for each filmmaker. The five films were then combined into one, in a variation of the game of Cadavre Exquis.

On first viewing the result doesn’t quite seem to work – the disparate strands seem…well, just a little too disparate. But watch again and you start to see the connecting threads emerge. Whether you get the visuals or not, the music is undoubtedly powerful and the project as a whole brilliantly original. Take a look and see what you think…