Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"The Grand Budapest Hotel", Wes Anderson's Republic

The Grand Budapest Hotel

In my book, that's entertainment. Entertainment within an inviting, personal, mesmerizing world, where an author, in this case, a film director, goes way further in his imagination, being able to show it to a captivated audience. 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' might not be as touching as 'Bottle Rocket' or 'The Royal Tennenbaums', but easily qualifies as Wes Anderson's most rounded adventure of his filmography to date, and can compete to 'Life Aquatic' (which can't explain why but absolutely adore) in what regards to visual wonders.

Can a film be absurd, funny, exciting, violent and colourful at the same time? Yes. 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' combines all those elements. And again, it's visually wonderful and exciting. Anderson creates his own universe (loosely and freely based on Stefan Zweig's books), which is exuberant and somehow decadent, with cartooning but real characters, old-world charms and witty one-liners. It simply haunts the viewer with puzzling shots full of details.It's Anderson's fantasy, his improbable Republic, and we are invited to watch it. And foremost, enjoy it.

Although it can be argued the story in itself plays a secondary role compared with the care put on the flamboyant and flawless sets and visuals that's not to mean is not important or lacks substance. It's an adventure with a twisted humour, taking place at a vertigo pace and with killing, rapid-fire dialogues. But behind there's something else, something darker, more nostalgic and evocative. The world we are seeing in the film is not real, but it's even worse: it looks familiar, historically real, but out of time. It's a parallel reality looking condemned, already past, already gone. Forced to disappear too?

No one reflects that sense of an ancient world on the verge of being forgotten than the Budapest Hotel's concierge, Gustave H., played gracefully by Ralph Fiennes, the absolute star of the show. Relentless, old fashioned, sophisticated to the extreme, mannerist, picky and absolutely devoted to his job... and the glamour it concedes... at least in his head. He's the epitome of a vanishing present, quickly becoming past.

The film is a basically an adventure, involving an impossible chasing after Gustave puts himself in an extremely dangerous situation when he's inherits a precious painting which confronts himself with very dangerous people. But even more important, all this hide and seek tale is set against a very particular backdrop: the Nazis (although they are called that in the film) invading Central Europe. There are some scenes of imploding violence and the threat of war is always present. So the funny, offbeat and quirky humour, one of Anderson's trademarks, is sometimes poisoned by what looks like reality getting through fantasy. A cornerstone scene that happens twice during the movie says it all.

Anderson surrounds Gustave between two generational worlds. In a stellar cast of well-known faces (Anderson's growing family of actors) in supporting spots, including Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum or the charicaturesque, terrible villains played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody. In a key, hilarious and unforgettable scene which includes our dear Bill Murray, the troubled Gustave seeks for the help of his colleagues: we are referring to concierges of several hotels, similar in their old fashioned and surreal style to The Grand Budapest, all over Europe. Each of them stop their flawless and impeccably executed duties to attend Gustave's call, putting in charge their respective assistants. A younger generation taking the lead. Which is exactly the case with lovely Saoirse Ronan as Agatha and Tony Revolori as Zero, the other leading roles, becoming Gustave's partners in the adventure and their offbeat counterpoints on the dialogues.

At times, with 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' I had the feeling aesthetics and visuals were winning the battle instead of the story. You know when after watching a movie there's not a lot to talk about outside the theater? That's not exactly true in this case, but the majority of comments were focused on a particularly impressive scenario, a beyond cool imagery, or a stunning look. Would the movie be a masterpiece with a more profound insight on the characters & story? Maybe. But it would have been a different movie for sure. And who knows, maybe Anderson's wild, bustling imagination, would have been constrained with a more conventional plot development. So, for once, I'll just enjoy this masterful entertainment without caring that much about how long it will endure...

SCORE: 7,5/10

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Indie Anthology 50: essential songs

Back blogging with a great tune for our Indie Anthology. If the last one was about Lambchop, this time I to pay tribute to a very close band to them, one I've been reading about for Indienauta recently. A seminal but always underrated trio!

Song: Tom Courtenay
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Year: 1995

Never been a Yo La Tengo fan, one of the most perfect examples of a "band of songs", not albums, for me. But hey, when the amount of tunes reaches what it could make a lovely and diverse double/triple record, that's not exactly what you would call a bad thing, right? 'Tom Courtenay' might be one of their most straightforward, catchier songs, and the first that made "click" with me. Love the contrast between its sound exuberance, an unbeatable piece of indie rock without reservations (who can't deny the attraction power of the simple “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals), with the nostalgic lyrics of Ira Kaplan, full of childhood pop culture memories. Honestly, they are ages away from mine, but you can't help, just fall disarmed by the joy the tune transmits.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Discoverer 100: new indie findings

Who made the 100 post in our discoverer series? The last three bands to reach the landmark of 300 music proposals for your ears only!

The Luxembourg Signal. LA-based, this fantastic new project means the birth of a super-band, featuring members from the great Aberdeen or, most recently, Fonda and Trembling Blue Stars. The origins of the group can be traced almost ten years before, but only after several reunions Johnny Joyner, Beth Arzy and Brian Espinosa started The Luxembourg Signal with Betsy Moyer and Ginny Pitchford, recording the tunes each time Beth visited the States. After the 7" single 'Distant Drive' released in April 2014 by our dear friends of Shelflife Records, on September 30th their debut, self-titled album, will arrive. 10 rich tunes combining dreampop, glimmering pop with a darker twist, shoegazing textures and a talent to knack unbeatable melodies within the noise and guitar drones. Spectacular.
Minipop. Hailing from San Francisco, this group formed a decade ago, when Matthew Swanson joined forces with Tricia Kanne the duo began composing music with a clear '90s vibe like Slowdive or Lush, completing the band shortly afterwards with the addition of Lauren Grubb and Nick Forte. They self-produced debut EP, 'Precious', in late 2005, signing with Take Root Records and releasing their only album to date, 'A New Hope', a year later. Despite the great press and successful tours along with bands like Stellastarr, Film School or Cursive, Minipop has always taken their own path and rhythm to do things. Another EP, 'Automatic Love' arrived in 2010. With the band becoming a trio, now they are back with another EP, 'Chances' out since July. Starry-eyed dreampop, always fuelled with Kanne's irresistible voice. Melodic, spacey and ethereal sounds. The band's name is ironic, for sure. This is huge pop, not mini at all.

WORKING. Hailing from Rhode Island, here's an extremely exciting new group, with a quartet formed by John and Catherine Kolodij, whose previous projects include Aura'd and The Best Wishes, joined by friends Matthew Derby and Mary-Kim Arnold. They just released a debut, digital single on Shelflife Records entitled 'More Weight', announcing they are currently preparing a full length album scheduled for 2015. Three promising tunes of noise pop, C-86 style, recalling Black Tambourine or Velocity Girl, as addictive as the summer season. Great, huge expectations, keep WORKING that good!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Bloodbuzzed Jukebox 20

August, summer time, holidays...but here's our TOP TEN playlist, with several exciting tunes we are enjoying the most lately. This week we bring you some bands that have already captivated us as The Death of Pop, Tape Waves or Ex Hex (second or third song for them in our Jukebox) and also indispensable bands as our beloved Allo Darlin'. As always we introduce you new discoveries as Trust Fund, Cancers or Lily & Madeleine. It's also available at the Blog's soundcloud, so please Join Us!

Direct links to the previous Jukebox weeks
Week 1      Week 8        Week 15 
Week 2      Week 9        Week 16
Week 3      Week 10      Week 17   
Week 4      Week 11      Week 18  
Week 5      Week 12      Week 19
Week 6      Week 13
Week 7      Week 14

Welcome to the Jukebox!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Discoverer 99: new indie findings

We are very close to reach a milestone in our 'Discoverer' series. But before that special moment arrives, here are three unmissable proposals for your ears only!

Tape Waves. Let me introduce you to the Weldin's music, one of the nicest surprises reaching my inbox since this Blog was created. Jarod and Kim Hart Weldin hail from Charleston, South Carolina, and their first tunes surfaced just last year, with a self-titled summer EP, announcing more wonders about to come. After a 7" single featuring Stay All Night /Looking at the Sun' this May, since the end of July we can enjoy their debut album 'Let You Go', out via Bleeding Gold Records. Delicate, whispered dream-pop that looks, smells, feels, (I'm sure you can taste and touch it too) and sounds like the most peaceful sunny afternoon. Think on Real Estate jangling guitars fronted by an ethereal, echoing female voice (sometimes Kim vocals seem to be floating in the breeze). This is what sunshine pop should mean. This is a no-brainer: among the records of the year.
Thee AHs. Another discovery thanks to Indietracks. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, the band started around high school 2011, when guitarist-composer Davinia Shell joined singer and illustrator Sarah Lowenbot and drummer Mareesa Holmes. Completed with bassist Ridley Bishop, they self-released their two first albums, 'Thee AHs Nation' in September 2011 and “Future Without Her” in February 2013. Their prolific career so far includes tours across their country, the States and, their recent first UK tour, a change in their line-up, with Dan On replacing Bishop on bass, and the arrival of third LP, 'Corey’s Coathangers', out since March via Jigsaw Records and Birdtapes. Self-defining their sound as black bubblegum pop, Thee AHs do intriguing, adventurous in-your-face pop, one in which the sugar often masks twisted subjects and sinuous, frantic structural shifts, fuelled with Lowenbot's malleable honey vocals. Pretty unique.
The Artisans. Hailing from North East England, between Newcastle and the (their definition, not mine) thick smog of Hartlepool, this quartet formed at the end of 2013, but they are not newcomers into this "business": frontman Kevin 'The Nearly Man' McGrother has a very extensive career in bands like Just Like Alice, Tickety Boo or solo, releasing via several indiepop labels, while the rest of the band played in Pale Man Made and Uncle Monty. The buzz around the combo has just begun in the form of radio airplay and the support from Frankie & The Heartstrings. Something logic considering the four tunes (considered demos despite their unstoppable strength) we can enjoy to date. Jangly, with that timeless 80s feel, and immediately catchy songs honouring the best of traditions and its more than apt name. We just want more!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Bloodbuzzed Jukebox 19

Better late than never (you never know when a wedding is going to end) here's our TOP TEN playlist, with several exciting tunes we are enjoying the most lately. This week "illustrious veterans" and Blog "beloved bands" make most of the playlist, completed with new discoveries. And of course, it's also available at the blog's soundcloud, so please Join Us!

Direct links to the previous Jukebox weeks
Week 1      Week 8        Week 15 
Week 2      Week 9        Week 16
Week 3      Week 10      Week 17   
Week 4      Week 11      Week 18 
Week 5      Week 12
Week 6      Week 13
Week 7      Week 14

Welcome to the Jukebox!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

These Go to 11: interviewing The Swapsies

This day had to arrive! After meeting them at Indietracks (one of the highlights of the Festival without a doubt), Huw & Andrew, main composers of The Swapsies, one of the Blog favourite bands, take part in our questionnaire series. As expected, here's one of the funniest and charming These Go to 11 we ever had!

Huw Spink & Andrew Warhurst, The Swapsies
Best spoonball squad ever. Period
Hailing from Liverpool, the band started around 2011, releasing debut single 'You’re My Maillot Jaune/ Hey There You' that summer. But 2013 was the real "Swapsies year". First, with the August release, in conjunction with our dear friends from February Records, of their sophomore single 'Another Game on Saturday/ A Fleeting Summer' that, aside from its glorious two pop gems, got a lovely soccer-obsessed physical release. And before closing the year, it was followed by their first EP, 'Sparrows', four irresistible tunes, again preciously packed with a mini-fanzine and an illustration. While we await for new songs, and after enjoying them live for the first time, we can assure you this: your small & shy indiepop heart will be forever grateful if you hear The Swapsies. Music full of charm, harmonies, handclapping and genuine passion. Graceful, joyful, everlasting pop. Here we go!

1. First record that you bought (be honest)
Andy and Ned Flanders' choice
Huw: Almost definitely 'Any Dream Will Do’ by Jason Donovan. I still really like that song. I tried to persuade The Swapsies to perform it. Alas to no avail!
Andy: Ha! My Mum and Dad had the Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat LP so after I went to see the musical I asked them to put it on a tape for me. I'm pretty sure I could sing it now but I'm not convinced it'd suit us! I remember when I knew I was getting my first CD player I went out and bought two singles. 'Free Me' by Cast and 'Blackbird on the Wire' by The Beautiful South. The first cassette I remember getting is 'Things Can Only Get Better' by D:Ream when I was about 7. The first record I remember feeling any sort of ownership of was a 7” of 'We Didn’t Start The Fire' by Billy Joel which I used to ask my Mum to put on for me to dance around to.

2. First and last concert you have attended (be honest too!)
Huw: First was Paul McCartney in Earls Court in London in 1993. It was mind-blowingly exciting! Even if I was sat about a million miles away from him. Last was The Hidden Cameras at Indietracks. Life-affirmingly wonderful.
Andy: First: Idlewild at the Students’ Union in Liverpool in 2002. It set me off on a lifelong love affair with Scottish music! Last: Indietracks!

3. Guilty pleasure (song/band you shouldn’t like but you do, yes, it’s the embarrassing question)
Huw: Very hard to answer! Apart from the aforementioned ‘Any Dream Will Do’? Ok then - 'Asajere' by Las Ketchup then. Love that song! Tremendous. No idea what they are singing about, which might help my enjoyment somewhat! [Blogger's note, it's 'Aserejé', and easily ranks among the worst songs ever, but we love The Swapsies too much to take it against them...]
Proof that genius pop composers
chat to each other
Andy: It’s definitely not a very cool answer but I really like the hymns of John Bell. I don’t go to church a lot anymore but my Mum’s a vicar and I grew up singing songs in church. I think a lot of my love for a catchy tune comes from that! A few years ago I went with my Mum to see him sing some songs and talk about songwriting and during the interval he came and had a chat with me. We talked about Glasgow and Belle and Sebastian and he drew me a little map showing me how to find the record shops when I was going to visit. (As a coda to this, I messaged Stuart Murdoch about our conversation through the B&S website and he replied saying that he’s a fan too)

Mount Beatles!
4. Most precious music item you own (collector mode on)
Huw: Very hard to choose just one! Probably a model of Mount Rushmore but with The Beatles instead of Presidents. It’s quite classy in its own way.
Andy: My original vinyl soundtracks of the first three Muppet Movies! (should that be the guilty pleasure?)

5. Favorite lyrics (not yours)
Huw: “The temptation to take the precious things we have apart to see how they work must be resisted for they never fit together again”, from ‘Must I Paint You A Picture’ by Billy Bragg. Or maybe “I know it’s kinda hard but I’m glad that it is” from ‘Desperation Made A Fool Of Me’ by Belle and Sebastian.
Andy: I love so many of the lines in Belle and Sebastian’s 'Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying'. “Nobody writes them like they used to so it might as well be me” is such a wonderful philosophy for a song writer to live by.
Think of it this way/ You could either be successful or be us/ With our winning smiles, and us/ With our catchy tunes, and us/ Now we're photogenic/ You know, we don't stand a chance

6. Musician/s you would like to meet (should be alive, for obvious reasons, but you can choose a dead one too)
Henson & family
Broadside balladeer
Huw: Phil Ochs. He is my hero. A great lost songwriter of the 1960s. I’d love to have had the chance to tell him how much his songs mean to me (having already made a fool of myself telling Billy Bragg & Stuart Murdoch)
Andy: Would Jim Henson count? He had a lovely singing voice and an ear for a harmony but didn’t write any of the songs. I’d love to have met him. I'd also like to sit round a cafe table with Stuart Murdoch and Lee Mavers.

7. Favorite artwork album (not yours)
Huw: The Beatles’ ‘For Sale’ LP. A lovely photo of four lovely men. What more do you need?
Andy: Kraftwerk’s Tour De France artwork takes some beating for me

'Motherless Brooklyn'
8. Books or movies? Depending on your answer recommend us one (trick: you can choose both) 
Huw: My favourite film is ‘Bridesmaids’. It has genuinely cheers me up everytime I have watched it. I really like the novels of Jim Thompson – though they are not terribly cheerful. They are all great (they are also all rather similar – which is fine by me!).
Andy: I wouldn’t want to choose one over the other! Our friend Kristin (co-runner of February Records) recommended reading 'Motherless Brooklyn' by Jonathan Lethem so I did and it was great. I’m reading another of his books now so I’ll pass on Kristin’s recommendation! For a film to recommend, I recently watched a documentary called ‘Just Like Being There’ which is about screen printing gig posters. It’s super-inspiring! Since I’ve watched it I’ve been recommending it to everyone!

9. Release (of yours) you are most proud of
Huw: Andy wrote it but our song ‘I Won’t Stand Idly By’ is the one I enjoy singing most. It’s a bit of a protest song, but it’s also about being a bit shy. In my mind it’s our nod to great protest singers like Phil Ochs without forgetting that we are not gregarious, rabble-rousing kind of people either.
Andy: I’m really proud of how 'Another Game on Saturday' turned out and it’s a lot of fun to play.

10. What’s does it mean indie for you? (yes, the “serious question”)
Huw: Indie to me just means doing it. Not waiting for perfection or hoping for fortune and glory but the act of creating music being in itself its own reward.
Andy: Yeah, it's the freedom if you think you’ve got something worthwhile to share to just do it yourself and get it out there. If we like the music we make then maybe someone else will too? There’s also a great community spirit where everyone helps each other out where they can without expecting anything much in return. I think blogs like Bloodbuzzed sum up that spirit and enthusiasm and are just as much a part of ‘indie’ as the people who make the music.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Huw : Celebrating the ten year anniversary of filling in this questionnaire (thanks Mitch Hedberg!)
Andy: Living in the West End of Glasgow in an independent Scotland (wishful thinking)

Zillion thanks Andy and Huw! Zillion thanks Swapsies!