J Mascis – Tied to a Star

Walking to work on a cold morning Mascis’ second solo album was perfect for warming me up mentally if not physically, ten short but sweet song that showcase the Dinosaur Jnr frontman’s writing skills. Just like in his band he knows how to write a catchy melody and a simple killer riff or two and while sounding nothing like his band there are similarities. But whereas his band is a fuzz driven rock outfit, solo Mascis is beautiful and subtle with acoustic guitar the most prevalent instrument. Drums, bass and other guitars take a back seat until needed on say like a great bit of lead or an eastern coda. But the main thing here is Mascis voice which is so distinctive and while it sounds great over rock, as we all know, it also lends itself to this softer acoustic side perfectly. With guest spots from Ken Maiuri (Young@Heart Chorus), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion) and Chan Marshall (Cat Power) this short but sweet album is a must for fans not just of Mascis but of great song writing.

j mascis

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Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

Shovels & Rope, married couple Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, are it would seem the real deal and here on their kickstarter funded 3rd album prove that they have the chops to cut it with the best of them. If you have never heard them think a mix of swampy blues and alt-country, The Civil Wars meets Tom Waits via Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. A lot of the magic happens in the vocal play between their two voices, his gruff and low hers high and flighty, but also in the lyrics that sit over the simple but catchy compositions. ‘Evil’, fast becoming a favourite song of the year, is a good example ‘Every now and then I get evil, I’m ashamed in the shadow of a steeple, I’m a lunatic looking through a keyhole, I hit my kids but I don’t mean to, I’m a dead dog lying on the sidewalk, another victim of the mortgage bubble pop, waiting for the other shoe to drop’ it stomps its way over five minutes of pure dirty blues and it’s a belter. ‘After The Storm’ another highlight clocks in at over six minutes and shows that the band can do heartfelt ballads just as well as a memorable shanty. Across 13 tracks the band, both multi-instrumentalists, create a sound that while somewhat familiar feels all their own.


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Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

From the opening ‘Head Underwater’ to the closing title track Jenny Lewis has written 10 insanely catchy tunes. Lead single ‘Just One Of The Guys’ is a perfect example of her style that washes over this record in various forms. Acoustic guitars and layered vocals are the main stay with Lewis’ soft voice floating along with the melodies. Mixing themes like being on tour, insomnia and heartbreak Lewis leans towards the quirky and while some of the lyrics are a tad naïve the majority are well written. ‘Slippery Slopes’ is a particular favourite as is closer ‘The Voyager’ where Lewis sings ‘The voyagers in every boy and girl, if you want to get to heaven get out of this world’. Not dissimilar to her previous solo work and that of former band Rilo Kiley ‘The Voyager’ though goes someway to cement Lewis as a leading indie chanteuse.



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As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below has the premise to be a great horror film on paper but sadly on the screen just signals the death of a genre made popular by ‘The Blair Witch Project’  some 15 years ago. Do you want to make a film but can’t be arsed? Then make a shaky-cam film as there is little or no skill required to produce an hour and a half of headache inducing wobbly action. Starting in Iran before moving to the catacombs of Paris the camera work is so frenetic that I couldn’t make out what the hell I was looking at most of the time it certainly didn’t deliver on the promise of the great setting as this could have been any old cave by the time they finally get round to going there, and that’s the films main problem it’s just dull and drawn out. I’ve been to the catacombs (one of the reasons I went to see this film) and it is a quite scary place, the person I was with had a panic attack and yet none of this comes across in the film and this is before it spirals down into a mess of supernatural mumbo jumbo which just makes the last portion of the movie laughable. Plucky brit Lara wannabe Scarlett leads her team in to the caves like a poor man’s Descent, two of her party are clearly only there to be killed off and may as well of worn a red Star Trek top each from the outset. Once inside they quest for a magic stone that has the ability to heal you if you get hurt therefore removing any suspense that might have been left in this vacuous borefest. All it took to make this film is any old cave, a group of models and a handful of Go-Pros and a way of reducing the majesty and history of the Paris catacombs into nothing more than a gimmicky footnote to get people in to the cinema.


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Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

Did you like Sin City? Then chances are you will like Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For because, well really it’s more of the same. Back are some of the old characters like Nancy, Marv and Gail, there are new ones like Johnny (written specially for the film) and a few small cameos including a ghostly Bruce Willis and Christopher Lloyd. Nearly 10 years after the original film the name of the game is to bring Frank Miller’s graphic novels about a corrupt city to the big screen and just like the original this sequel is beautiful to look at even if the script isn’t as strong. There are four stories on offer here and three come before the first film making the timeline a tad hard to follow at times and also creating a huge plot hole (probably only spottable if you have read the novel) , it also doesn’t help that the film contains two of the same characters but played by different actors. But that aside let’s not forget what we are watching here, this isn’t supposed to be highbrow, its pulp noir, comic book violence, mobsters, dames and guns and you get plenty of it all. If ever you have wanted to see more of Eva Green then this is your film as she spends most of it completely naked swathed in various shadows and light while her eyes positively glow green and if you can take your eyes of her body for long enough you will realise that she, once again, steals the show with her portrayal of the femme fatale. Elsewhere Marv (Rourke) pounds people for fun while always keeping one eye on Nancy (Alba) and Dwight’s (Brolin) story unfolds in a way that brings back some of old towns familiar faces while setting up some for maybe another outing?. Retro meets sleek in this visual eye-catching slice of uber violence and while films like Guardian of the Galaxy are aimed at the younger audience it’s nice to see that Sin City 2 is definitely for the adult comic nerd in us all.




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Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin

Bob Mould has had a great musical career firstly in Husker Du then Sugar before going solo but of all his material ‘Beauty & Ruin’ has to be up there in the top. Straight to the point no messing about 36 minutes and twelve tunes that showcase just how good a songwriter Mould is. Signature chord changes, choruses, harmonies each one an earworm, ‘I Don’t Know You Anymore’ an fine example a song so instantly recognisable you can be fooled into thinking it has been in existence longer than it actually has. Opener ‘Low Season’ contains the Sugar trick of having just enough fuzzy guitar work but not so much as to distance itself from being a cracking rock song. There are a few songs that are a bit more punky but they still retain the element that makes them incredibly catchy. Also Mould shows off his softer side with the more acoustic ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Fix It’. Beauty & Ruin is an album that since I got it I have been returning too quite frequently because I just find myself singing and missing the songs when they are not in my ears. If you like any of his earlier work or indie pop punk than give it a go you won’t regret it.


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Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

From the opening title track of ‘It’s Album Time’ through to 2012 hit ‘Inspector Norse’ Todd Terje’s debut album is great fun. A curious mix of Daft Punk synths and cocktail lounge it’s a real toe tapper all the way through, with the only exception being the cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny And Mary’ featuring vocals from Bryan Ferry which is amazing in its own way. Norwegian producer, DJ and songwriter Terje is clearly influenced by Giorgio Moroder and the funkier side of Europe disco but here blends in swing and electronica to create a summery groove you can’t help but fall in love with.


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