Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lana Del Rey- 'National Anthem'- (music video)

“It’s a love story for the new age” Lana coos on 'National Anthem', her fifth official single from one of my favourite albums this year Born To Die. With Del Rey unveiling the clip for the standout track earlier today, the aforementioned lyric couldn’t be more apparent throughout its 7 minute 40 second star spangled love telling.

The video adopts the same style that the throwback starlet has let flow through her short-yet-controversial career; a sweet and sunny late 1950s/early 60s vibe with a tinge of 2012. In fact, it is filmed entirely to capture the feel of a short 'Super 8' home video. 'National Anthem' opens with Del Rey dressed in an evening gown approaching a podium to serenade the President in a very Monroe-esque manner (also used as the single artwork), possibly setting up that she will annoy everyone by portraying the role of the doomed actress throughout the video. Au contraire, as Lana chooses to emulate the classic first wife Jackie Onassis to 23-year old rapper A$AP Rocky’s President John F. Kennedy, who probably wouldn't be the first, or the 100th choice to play as such in a music video.
Del Rey as Jackie O. with Rocky portraying JFK

While interracial relationships are neither new or anything to bat an eyelid at, the depiction of such within music videos have been mostly absent, save a few that do so directly to make a point (such as ‘Un-Thinkable’ by Alicia Keys, or that Madonna video). Furthermore, even fewer depict a happily married interracial couple with children as this does. Over the course of the clip we see the family having breakfast, celebrating a birthday and frolicking about on the beach, while Del Rey and Rocky share tender moments on a sunbed.  As the video reaches it's climax, it ends in the same form as John and Jackie's did- with the assassination of the former. From here we are left with a monologue lead by Lana detailing her love for her dearly departed, ending a previously blissful romance into a frequently visited theme throughout Del Rey's career- death.

National Anthem is an entertainingly heart-warming video to watch, and while some will undoubtedly moan and roll their eyes at the fact that she has chosen to pose as a widely recognisable and celebrated recent historical figure, it turns out to be her most satisfying music video yet.

Oh by the way Lana, I'm still waiting for that 'Summertime Sadness' vid.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Chester French- 'Music 4 TNGRS' (album)

After waiting avidly for what felt like close to a decade, Chester French have returned and reunited, crafting a delectable sophomore slump-less outing for brand new album 'Music 4 TNGRS'. Chester French, consisting of ex-Harvard duo D.A Wallach and Max Drummey seemed to be absent from the reach of fans for an extended period in time as well as each other, as the two had been working on a number of separate projects; leading many (like me) to believe that an amicable announcement of a split was on the cards for the Pharrell and Jermaine Dupri endorsed pairing.

The title and theme of the album are an ode to the duo’s teen years, as the two wanted to create a sound that was very reminiscent of the music they loved during that time. The end result is an incredible melting pot of musical styles, which actually makes the album impossible to categorise into simply one genre. Lead single "Black Girls" is a great disorderly pop-rock song, while album opener "Next Big Thing" and "Just Another Guy" flirt heavily with synthesizers. However, D.A plays the nerdiest yet smoothest incarnation of R. Kelly type freak-ism, on album stand-out "Drop", a baby-making anthem for hipsters everywhere. The song in fact wouldn’t find itself out of place on a Lonely Island album, which is an entirely good thing.

D.A stated in an open letter addressed to fans that the two were keen to deliver “a pure, honest and creative body of work” and the album does just that. The amount of time between 'Music 4 TNGRS' and predecessor 'Love The Future' released in 2009 has turned out to be a blessing, as Chester French have found a comfortable musical niche in a different league to most other bands that are currently making music.

Thankfully, Chester French have chosen artistic integrity over an album full of mainstream radio-friendly "hits". I still have R. Kelly/Lonely Island infused 'Drop' on repeat, in which D.A tells his girl that he’ll “put on some Ren & Stimpy while you’re getting skimpy”. Easily the best line on the album.


Key Tracks: Next Big Thing, Drop, Maybe Next Time

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Mad Men- Season 5 (TV Series)

This season of 'Mad Men' has been one of the most potent since its inception, and for me, one of the most solid shows on television this year. AMC & Sky Atlantic’s stellar drama set in the mid-1960s has seen its fair share of chaotic moments this year, with sordid affairs, forced resignations, and the unexpected death of two characters.

l-r: Joan Harris (Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery),
Lane Pryce (Jared Harris),Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser),
Don Draper (Hamm), and Peggy (Olson)
Huge shifts have occurred since the last time we saw our favourite characters 17 months ago- Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has relocated to a swanky apartment in Manhattan, along with his new wife Megan (Jessica Pare), series standout Joan (Christina Hendricks) has a baby boy, and the civil rights movement plays as a backdrop for the events in the first half of the season, leading to ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price hiring its first ever black employee in the form of Dawn (Teyonah Parris). Oh, and Don’s daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) is morphing into a quite a sneaky pre-teen lil’ lady.

What’s interesting about the show is that it doesn’t patronise its audience, as 'Mad Men' simply details the (normal?) lives of Don and his co-workers. Every episode has twists and turns, along with clever banter between the protagonists, but communicates it in a way in which the audience is forced to pay attention. For this reason 'Mad Men' is not a show that you can simply have on in the background, as key dialogue and plot points can easily be missed.

'Mad Men' has had it all in the 13 episode 5th season, setting up more potentially major shifts when it returns next year. But as one great cable television show ends, another one begins. Now on to True Blood…


Key Episodes: "Christmas Waltz", "The Other Woman", "Commissions and Fees"

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Japandroids- 'Celebration Rock' (album)

Although the band will be new to most, Japandroids have been chucking albums out since 2009, when they made their debut with the incredibly ear-splitting noise-rock sounds of ‘Post-Nothing’. The Canadian duo consisting of Brian King and David Prowse opt for a more conventional sound for their latest LP, 'Celebration Rock', while slightly shifting from their noise-rock genre to a noise-pop sound in the process.

'Celebration Rock' appropriately kicks in with the sound of flickering fireworks, followed by a simple yet effective drum and cymbals combo on the opening track "The Nights of Wine and Roses", and leads into “woah-oh” gig-ready chanting, a central piece that pops in and out of a number of other songs on the album, such as Fire’s Highway, and lead single The House That Heaven Built.

The album is loud, messy and distorted, but in a good way. However, the guitars and drums take over so much that you will find yourself forgetting Prowse and King’s shared wailing vocals almost entirely. Also, too many of the albums 8 tracks (yes, just 8) sound too similar, which makes the ‘Celebration’ get lost in a tidal wave of percussion. Ultimately this is problematic, as any artist with an album that contains a small number of tracks should try and offer as much variety as they can, which Celebration Rock fails to do.

So, the disorderly sounds of Japandroids latest album moves closer into the pop lane than any of their previous efforts, but still manages to maintain the sound that their core fans love. Sadly, the album comes off as repetitive at times, while failing to offer anything new. 


Key Tracks: The Nights of Wine and Roses, The House That Heaven Built

Friday, 1 June 2012

Revenge- Season 1 (TV Series)

l-r: Nolan (Gabriel Mann), Ashley (Ashley Madekwe),
Jack (Nick Welscher),
Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), Daniel (Josh Bowman),
Declan (Connor Paolo),
Charlotte (Christa B. Allen),
Victoria (Madeline Stowe) & Conrad (Henry Czerny)

Urgh. URGH. There are no words to describe how much I enjoyed the first season of ABC’s breakout drama 'Revenge'. Created by Mike Kelley, 'Revenge' is an appropriation of the book The Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexadre Dumas in which the protagonist is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and swears to bring down the people that put him there once he is released. Revenge is a modern day version of Dumas’s tale, in which main character, Emily Thorne (actually born Amanda Clarke, played by Emily VanCamp) is the daughter of the wrongfully imprisoned character from the book. The show is also set in the ultra-upper-class Southampton, New York, with money and power playing as two huge themes throughout the series.

Revenge is host to an array of different characters, both typical and atypical of what you might expect to see in a soap-ish female driven drama. Emily is aided by Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) the only person who knows her true identity and her intentions to bring down the Grayson family, headed by the ice-cold and treacherous Victoria (Madeline Stowe), who helped frame Emily’s father. Emily and Victoria’s scenes together are incredibly enjoyable, due to the fact that you can really feel their distaste for one another through their incredible politeness, even though Victoria has no idea who Emily really is. However, Victoria often takes a backseat to villain Tyler Barrol (Ashton Holmes) a mentally unstable friend of her son’s, and backstabbing liar that is so irritating you may feel the need to punch your TV screen.
Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke

'Revenge' has enough drama, twists and turns to keep fans of shows such as 'Desperate Housewives' interested, while the shows crime, power and of course, vengeance plot points are sure to bring in unexpected fans as well. It’s smart, it’s engaging, and it’s Kill Bill for the Gossip Girl generation, and it needs to be watched.


Key Episodes: Commitment, Chaos, Reckoning