Monday, 18 February 2019

Finally! Dream Reporter Drops New Single "It Stays" #NewMusicMonday

Dream Reporter - It Stays #NewMusicMonday

It's finally here! Just over three weeks ago I heard Dream Reporter's new single for the first time but horror of horrors, I wasn't at liberty to share it. It might be the very beginning of the year but I'm declaring now that this will be my single of the year and it's finally out today. If you like Cocteau Twins or All About Eve or anything dream pop, you'll love "It Stays".

From its opening chords "It Stays" reminds me of the heyday of dream pop and shoegazing, when Cocteau Twins and Lush dominated the playlists of dreamy, introverted people like me. The momentous and suggestive baseline reminds me of All About Eve's Phased EP but it was the vocals that blew me away; Dream Reporter has the confidence, power and presence of PJ Harvey and Florence Welch. In truth, "It Stays" reminds me very much of Tori Amos's "Crucify", a song which I expected would forever remain unparalleled.

"Do you know what it takes to turn the bitterness I taste into something more than hate?"

Edit: we finally have a Soundcloud link too:

I am very excited to see what the London-based Dream Reporter does next but if this track is anything to go by, she is going to be huge. She's been touring the States lately but hopefully she'll come home soon for some gigs.

Links: Dream Reporter is super friendly on social media. Follow her on:
Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Spotify | Instagram

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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Review: Rick Yancey’s Post-Apocalyptic The 5th Wave ★★★☆☆

Have you ever met a book that you loved in so many ways but to which you were unable to give a good rating? I feel this way about Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave. For approximately one third of the book I was thinking to myself, "this is it, this is brilliant, I'm going to give this five stars". I loved the post-apocalyptic world Yancey created, I loved reading about Cassie, how completely alone she was and of her quest to survive.

The description of the waves of the alien invasion and the flashbacks of what had happened to Cassie's family were riveting. I've read some criticism of Yancey’s description of the alien invasion, of how it isn't original but I thought it was perfect. This is how invested I was in this book.

And then the unimaginable happened. Yancey took a perfect book and absolutely ruined it with the most awkward and creepy rendition of a relationship I have ever encountered. I fled to Twitter to see if anyone else had had a similar experience and indeed many people had.

So where does that leave me? I had never heard of Ricky Yancey’s The 5th Wave, I knew nothing of the hype surrounding the book nor had I heard of the film. I came to this novel with zero expectations but my expectations were nevertheless raised by the opening chapters of the book itself and the world Yancey created.

I wanted to love this book so much and bizarrely, I kind of did, except for those pages where Evan was stalking, kidnapping and gaslighting Cassie and, in his infinite confusion, the author interpreted this as true love and a OTP.

It’s safe to say I’m conflicted and this is manifest in many ways. I’m giving the book three out of five stars which I normally reserve for average reads. The 5th Wave is not average but it started off with five stars and one was deducted for the revolting 'love' scenes between Evan and Cassie and a further one deducted for my loss of pace after reading those scenes, where I had to actively remind myself that I’d loved this book up to that point and that carrying on reading must therefore be worthwhile.

Further evidence of my conflicted soul is that I think I’ll be reading the next two books in the series even though I’m fully aware that Yancey has set up a love triangle and we’re in for more stomach-churning and vomit-inducing ‘romance’.

★★★☆☆

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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Horror Film Review: Redwood (2017) ★★★☆☆

A couple goes hiking in California’s redwood forests hoping to outpace the terrible news they’ve received back home. By all accounts, it should be an idyllic trip but sadly one of them is an incorrigible man-baby who insists on hiking off-track and leading them into a nest of vampires. Will they survive the night and more importantly, can their relationship survive this?

Redwood stars Mike Beckingham (Simon Pegg’s brother!) and Tatjana Inez Nardone (Medici) as Josh and Beth, a couple blessed with possibly the worst survival skills in the history of horror films. For example, if you were being hunted by vampires, would you hide in a flimsy two-man tent? Anyone who has had their tent slashed at Glastonbury knows that isn’t a very good strategy at all. Then again, nothing about Redwood seems to suggest model decision making.

The film does have its good points though. Nardone gives a great performance and George Burt’s cinematography of the Redwood forest won the award for best cinematography at the 2017 European Cinematography Awards. The vampires are grotesque, with super creepy hands and certainly not sparkly. There was also the twist, which I thought was brilliant until it wasn’t.

What really lets Redwood down is the climax. After the reveal, the story could have gone two ways - one where there was an utterly satisfying account of justice served or the ending Tom Paton chose. Horror films are modern day fables and ultimately Redwood was pointless with a bare minimum of scares and no real moral lesson.

There was also the strange cameo by Nicholas Brendan as vampire hunter Xander Vincent and the assumption by Josh that the threat was supernatural. Redwood was strange and defied logic in many ways and I’m fairly confident that is not down to my inability to suspend disbelief.

Ultimately Redwood wasn’t clever enough to impress but the film was mostly entertaining until the disappointing ending. Three out of five stars.

★★★☆☆

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Saturday, 9 February 2019

Review: Chris O'Leary's 'Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie 1976-2016' ★★★★☆

There hasn’t been a day in my life when David Bowie wasn’t present. The Rise of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was released months before my birth and was perhaps my mother’s favourite album of all time. She used to play it over and over again in the car when I was growing up and then one day I simply took to playing it myself.

It wasn’t just that one album, of course, although today it remains my favourite. I used to revel in singing along to “Cracked Actor” way before I could even begin to understand the darkness in the lyrics and my love of “See Emily Play” predates my love of Pink Floyd (who I first fell in love with at age 8 with the release of "Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)".

David Bowie was one of those artists loved equally by my parents. My father absolutely loved Bowie’s mod aesthetics, recalling fondly how he was a mod in his teenage days and how he charmed a bunch of rockers. For my mother, it was the blond hair and blue eyes, the sharp wit and scathing lyrics and that voice, oh that voice. I inherited that particular preference in men from her.

By the time it came to give my final English speech in high school, the one that would decide whether I went to university or not, there was no question in my mind as to what the topic would be. With my parents’ eyes brimming with pride, I poured my love of Bowie into a 20 minute speech which was gleefully received by my English teacher. I’ve since come to realise that he was probably a massive Bowie fan too.

Years later when the David Bowie Is exhibition hit the V&A in 2013, I realised that far from knowing all there was to know about the man, my high school research had barely touched the surface. I was most interested in the Berlin years and in the complexities of his song writing at the time. I’d always promised that one day I’d delve deeper into who David Bowie was and the art behind his music.

While I was making empty promises, Chris O’Leary was embarking on an ambitious project of blogging about every David Bowie song ever written. Starting in 2009, Pushing Ahead of the Dame has become possibly the most successful David Bowie blog of all time. The blog has produced two book deals for O’Leary: Rebel Rebel (2015) covering the period up to 1976 and his latest release Ashes to Ashes (2019) covering the period from 1976 to Blackstar and Bowie’s untimely passing in 2016.

At 710 pages, Ashes to Ashes is a massive tome and I can reliably tell you that it will take about two months to read, once you’ve tumbled down the infinite rabbit holes to which the book will lead you.

The book begins not with a Bowie album as might be expected but with Bowie’s production of Iggy Pop’s debut solo album The Idiot. It was a fascinating aside to learn more about Iggy Pop. Despite knowing about his connection to Bowie, I knew very little about Pop beyond "The Passenger" and "Lust for Life" and embarrassingly didn’t even realise that Pop first recorded "China Girl".

For each track, which would have been published as a separate post on the original blog, O’Leary gives a complete breakdown of the personnel known or suspected to have been involved and the instruments they played. I imagine this is information that the most hardened fan or musically savvy readers will want to know but I soon began to skip over these sections (which are very helpfully put in please-skip-me italics).

What was interesting was the story behind each track, Bowie’s creative process and his experimentation first on Pop and later on his own material. Chris O’Leary has a talent of writing about music that many writers (me included) could only hope to aspire to. He really does know what he’s talking about and this makes the book a valuable read for any fan.

Despite the obvious mastery, the book is a hard slog to read and I resorted in the end to just reading a track or two at a time, which worked out well as I was listening to each track as I read along. Having read it in this way, I’d suggest the book’s best function would be as an accompaniment to listening sessions, dipping in and out to read in small sessions so that one appreciates the information, rather than simply read from cover to cover.

Thankfully, while the book is long, it is by no means dry and O’Leary’s scathing wit brightened up more than one reading session with gems like this: "That said, Bowie and Mick Jagger’s "Dancing in the Street" is still a rotten record for which everyone involved should be embarrassed”.

I give Ashes to Ashes an excellent four out of five stars and would recommend it to all fans of David Bowie, especially his later work. As a fan of his earlier work, I'll be seeking out the first volume, Rebel Rebel. Ashes to Ashes is published by Repeater and will be released on 12 February 2019.

★★★★☆

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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