Monday, May 9, 2011

New Music

Rather fortuitously, or perhaps even annoyingly, new material from my favourite artists always seems to be released at the same time. I think that this is, in part, due to the natural life cycle of the music these artists produce - a new record every two or so years with a string of tours and music videos in between. But it's the waiting that gets me! I love hearing bands progress musically and the prospect of something new, refreshing and on CD is undoubtedly one of life's little pleasures. 2011 has a wealth of awesome new music in its midst and I thought I'd share some of the prospective records and the artists behind them that I am very much looking forward to.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (Released June 20th, 2011)

I've written on here before about my love for this act's previous effort, 'For Emma, Forever Ago', and how the album is probably my all time favourite collection of music. Where Justin Vernon and Co go from here is what excites me most however, and I simply cannot wait for what they do next. June 20th needs to be now!

Death Cab For Cutie - Codes and Keys (Released May 29, 2011)

When 'Narrow Stairs' came out in May 2008, I had just finished my first year university exams and was ready for the summer. It was unseasonably warm and I remember taking my CD player, my Sennhesier HD650 headphones, a deck chair and a long extension cable to listen to this album in its entirety, uninterrupted, in the garden. Rest assured, I will be doing the exact same thing this year with 'Codes and Keys'. Weather permitting of course...

Saves The Day - Daybreak (Released Summer 2011)

Saves The Day's previous effort 'Under The Boards' came out in 2007 and four years later,'Daybreak' will complete the three-part conceptual triad that started with 2006's 'Sound The Alarm'. The band are taking their time over it though, and whilst the album has been completed, its exact release date is still a topic of contestation. When it does arrive though, I will be the first person at my local record store ordering it in.

Face to Face - Laugh Now, Laugh Later (Released May 17th, 2011)

My love for this band stems back to being 13 years old; playing in punk rock / ska bands, skateboarding and bleaching my hair. Whilst I don't do any of the above anymore (although I wish I could pursue to former of the three), this band will always have a place in my heart. It will be their first effort as a band since their breakup in 2005 and I can only hope they tour the UK in line with its release (the whole band actually has an irrational fear of flying so that might not happen). If I could urge you to listen to anything from this SoCal quartet though, it would be 1992's 'Don't Turn Away', it's straight up melodic punk rock at its absolute best.

Jonty x

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Time, Top Five...

Favourite Chocolate bars or, to recognise my somewhat transatlantic audience (if there even is one anymore), favourite 'candy bars'. Next to some of my other top fives, I feel this one will be slightly easier but who knows. Who knows...

1) Snickers - Simply perfect. I went through a phase about four years ago where I needed to eat one of these every five hours or so. You probably think I mean 'wanted to eat' but no you are wrong, I needed them. Actually, I just think a chocolate bar that has stood the test of time like this tasty treat deserves a place in anyone's all time top five - even if you're allergic to peanuts. No excuses.

2) Lion Bar - A childhood favourite, this one really does require a strong set of teeth. Caramel and wafers galore it's a pretty intense eating endeavor in itself, but oh such a tasty one. As far as I'm aware, this one isn't available to American markets so you'll just have to imagine what it tastes like. Or I could tell you. It tastes good.

3) Dairy Milk: Fruit & Nut - Dairy Milk chocolate is a British staple and with the added raisins and nuts, it's even better. When chocolate's this good, you're not doing yourself any favours by purchasing an individual 'snack size'. No, you want to be on at least 500g a serving. Again, no excuses.

4) Drifter - It was a toss up here between a Twix and this slightly more obscure piece of confectionary, and given my propensity to be ever so counter-culture, I'm going for the latter. Whilst the two are indeed very similar through their whole two finger appearance, the Drifter is a fair bit softer in texture and more caramel infused in taste, but don't ask me - eat them for yourself! In fact, why are you even reading about someone's favourite chocolate bars?

5) Maverick - Very old skool and very cool, little is known about this fantastic piece of snack food. Although my memory of its appearance is somewhat hazy, its awesome taste still lingers somewhere within my subconscious and should Nestlé bring it out of retirement, I would seize them by the crate load. In fact, I would pay very, very good money to try one of these again.

Jonty x

Saturday, December 18, 2010

All time, top five...

Favourite albums. Now here is a very tricky one, and undeniably one that has taken me a few weeks, no scrap that, months (although I really mean years) to generate. Music has always been very important to me both in an active musician's and passive listener's sense, so the stance I'm taking to create this top-five, is somewhat biased - but not really. When thinking about these kind of things, it seems almost impossible not to include the music that you were brought up listening to or to include those first 'finds' you made as a teenager in record stores (or in my case over the internet). So, without further ado, here we go...

1) Blink-182 - Enema of the State (1999)
From when I was about nine, I've always loved skateboarding. When I was about eleven, I was in a skate shop where this album was playing and that was pretty much it. I've always said it was like hearing the music my ears were built to listen to. In reality, if it wasn't for this band, I would probably not listen to half the music I listen to today, or been in half the bands I've ever been in let alone picked up an electric bass. Whilst I love and appreciate everything this band has done before and since, Enema of the State tops it for me mainly for the influential age I was when it came out but also just for its awesomely perfect collection of pop-punk.

2) Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
As I've already said, only the truly time tested albums will find themselves in this list, yet here is Bon Iver's 2008 full length in all its glory. Again, this list is not a hierarchical top five and each look in deserves an equal share of the glory but I do feel like if I had to choose, I would never regret calling this album my all time favourite. To put it simply, for me this is music. Self recorded in a Wisconsin cabin over three months with vary basic gear, 'For Emma' is drenched in songwriting genius. Ghostly, layered vocals and melodies that I could only ever dream of writing. Deservedly, this album has been featured in countless best albums of 2008 or 2009; even becoming the Guardian Newspaper's best album of that former year.

3) Jimmy Eat World - Clarity (1999)
When the band's 2001 album 'Bleed American' came out in 2001, I wasn't overly impressed (I have since become so, though, don't worry). It wasn't until about four years ago that I first heard Clarity, pretty much ignoring the fact that the band had done anything prior to their first commercially big release. Now regarded as pretty much the 90's emo record, Clarity without doubt deserves a place in my all time top five. It's mainly a great record to relax to, or drive to, with tracks like 'Just Watch the Fireworks' and 'For Me, This is Heaven' ultimate mellow outers. I still absolutely love everything else this band has done (and even more so for the fact that their lineup has never changed) but Clarity will always be my favourite.

4) Name Taken - Hold On (2004)
Let's go for something a little more obscure shall we? As a band, one of my great internet finds of the early 00's, Name Taken's first and final full length is alternative pop rock at its absolute best. An awesome vocal with instrumentals that I will pretty much call perfect music, Hold On has it all. This album meant so much to me from the age of sixteen it would be wrong not to put it in this list. Standout tracks for me, 'A Year Spent Cold' and 'Drive Drive Drive'. Please go listen to it now!

5) Steely Dan - Aja (1977)
This last one's a little bit more tricky, but I think I've got to broaden the range and go for something slightly different and of course, older. Without doubt, the best album production ever (it actually won a Grammy for the Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording of 1978) and an ensemble cast of musicians that is, to put it bluntly, nuts. Steve Gadd's performance on the title track, 'Aja' is what got me into playing drums (long before my Blink-182 electric bass days) and in that same way, Chuck Rainey's bass playing on 'Peg' is jaw-droppingly, and flist-clenchingly good. Although this is very much an album of my parent's generation, it has to be in my top five not only for its production but also because it is just awesome music, played awesomely well.

So there we go. There are countless other equally awesome and influential albums that could easily be here but these are what came to mind and didn't leave and probably never will.

Jonty x

Friday, December 3, 2010

All time, top five...

Favourite TV Shows. As requested (or not) here, for your reading enjoyment, are my all time, top five favourite TV shows. Again in no particular order...

LOST (2004-2010)
When Lost started in 2004 I refused to like it. Perhaps because I wanted to be counter-cultural at the time and didn't appreciate its (then) bandwagon following. Needless to say, I was hooked after watching the first couple episodes of season two and it kind of went from there. I never watched these on TV (thanks to Rupert Murdoch hatin' on Richard Branson) but rather, extensive DVD marathons. That's how it should be done though, really. Season six was great but the week wait between episodes was awful and I would never want to re live it. In fact, I am proud to admit that I have watched seasons one to five twice now. Anyway, great characters and story line worthy of its own encyclopedia, and yes, there is one.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present)
I never got into Seinfield, and that's not because I didn't like it, I just never actually watched it (until recently of course). Larry David, however, Seinfield's co-creator and long time writer, is without doubt one of my favourite human beings of all time (the top five is coming). I love dry, dark, and hide-behind-things-because-you-can't-take-the-embarrassment kind of humour and this has it and then some. Favourite episodes are easily Season two's 'Shaq' and 'The Shrimp Incident' and I cannot wait until season eight airs in 2011! Pretty good, preeety, preeeeety preetty good!

The Simpsons (1989-present)
People who either shun or in any way look down on this series, go away now and never come back. I don't like you and I don't want to be your friend, ever. A show that i've enjoyed since I was old enough to remember watching it and still enjoy today unquestionably deserves to be in this list. A ridiculously awesome cast of insanely developed primary, secondary and even tertiary characters (see my first post for my comic book guy obsession) is what makes this show what it is. That, and an outstanding writing team that, contrary to popular opinion, pen some of the most consistently brilliant family based humour you can find on TV. Awesome.

The Office - UK version (2001-2003)
My girlfriend (being American) loves, and understandbly loves, the later US version of this comedy. Ricky Gervais' 14 episode original however, will and shall never be beaten. No question. Perhaps the sheer brevity of episodes is what makes this show so good in a short and sweet way, or perhaps it's just because it is that funny. Awesomely dry and again embarrassing (to the point of my Dad having to leave the room repeatedly) will always make this a favourite and conditioned viewing for my future children's upbringing.

Prison Break (2005-2009)
There were a few other contenders for this spot, namely HBO's Entourage, but this just cut it for its addiction factor. Seasons one and two are quite easily some of the best cliffhanger tinged pieces of programming I've ever seen and if you have the time to spare (which I'm sure you might if you've read this far) I urge you to sit down and watch the first season on DVD over a weekend or holiday. Then you'll see what I mean.

Jonty x

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All time, top five...

Favourite Films. This is a little bit more tricky as the list tends to change a bit. My list as of right now however, is the following - again not in any specific order.

The Matrix (1999)
This just simply is the best film ever, no question for me. I saw this for the first time on Christmas Day in 1999 and on VHS of all things, but boy did it resonate with me even then. Groundbreaking camera work and a kind of cyber-punk feel that Im yet to see done as well. I am now on my 25th viewing of the film and a Christmas day screening is a no brainer for my family even now. While the general consensus toward the second and third films is somewhat hateful, I quite enjoyed them. Having said that, had they left it at the first film, I wouldn't have minded.

Donnie Darko (2001)
Again, a film that really hit me when I first saw it. This one has a little bit of a mixed audience of lovers and haters, but I am most certainly the former. An awesome non-linear story combined with a great cast and a great script makes this an all round awesome film. If you haven't seen it, make it happen!

Evil Dead II (1987)
Here's another one that I saw for the first time on VHS (as you should see it!). To say I'm obsessed with the whole Evil Dead / Army of Darkness franchise would definitely be an understatement, it is THAT AWESOME. Whilst the first film in 1982 redefined a lot of what it means and takes to make a horror film, the updated sequel / remake five years later just tops it for me. It's funny, scary, weird and everything you could want in one go. Sam Raimi is undoubtedly one of masters of contemporary horror and I know for a fact I will never tire of this film... without doubt, one to show the kids!

American History X (1998)
I don't really need to say that much about this for if you have seen it, you will probably know why it is in my top five. It hit me pretty hard the first time I saw it, and its driving theme will definitely open any audience's eyes. Ed Norton's performance is world class, as is the general script, but wow... what an ending.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Whilst it's a tricky one for me, this is the best film adaption of a Stephen King text. If you want a perfect film, this is pretty much it. Surprisingly, it kinda flopped in theatres when it came out, but has (like all good things) garnered quite a following in the years since; consistently making 'the best films of all time' lists. Tim Robbins is so, so good here - WATCH IT NOW (even if you have already seen it).

So that's it. Like I said, the list can change which is why I like to keep the time tested films there. My next top five entry will more than likely be TV shows be we shall see!

Jonty x