Thursday, January 27, 2005Turn on the Bright Eyes
There are few more prolific song-writers than Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. Not only does he fill up the time between recording albums with various EPs and guest appearances, but this week he releases two completely different albums; "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" and "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn". The former is more in the style of his earlier work, with country twangs, tales of travelling, while the latter, as its title suggests, is a move in the direction of electronica, fusing his unique songwriting style and his organic influences with synthesisers and creating a beautiful landscaped sound.
It'd be very easy to hate Conor Oberst. Young? Check. Handsome? Check. Painstakingly talented? Check Check. But these albums make you forget any envy you may have - their sheer perfectness, makes you forget everything. "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" sweeps you off to the golden Nebraskan cornfields, takes you on a trip down the open highway with all your belongings tied up in a few old cases. His desparation is so prominent in his work, as is his self-awareness, and how he is ever conscious of the thin line between mediocrity and genius. Lyrically, this is his most accomplished to date, and that is saying something. The reviews are almost unanimous in asserting its classic-in-the-waiting status. The Dylan comparisons are frequent, but don't be put off. This album is truly special and Conor is a bonafide genius. Buy this album and let yourself be swept away.
"Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" is a less immediate affair. This is his first step away from his tradional approach to the musical side of things and takes a little more time to appreciate. Reviews have been less favourable, probably because its beauty is not instant and people want to find something to fault in Oberst's ability. But give this album a chance - it works in different ways than can usually be expected from Bright Eyes. The landscape of sounds created fuse magically with the lyrical content and the focus is on creating an overall atmosphere, rather than just the pure emotions of the lyrical matter. Even after five listens it is revealing more and more layers. Both of the albums clearly have a lot of CD-player mileage and deserve to be a part of many many CD collections.
Friday, January 21, 2005The Wind is in the wires.
Patrick Wolf prove last night at his semi-secret acoustic gig at the Metro that there is no more talented, innovative, or sincere artist in the world. That's all I'm going to say for now, but expect a review of his sublime new album, Wind in the Wires in the coming few weeks. It is a record that will change your perspective on music and artistry. And that is a promise.
In other news, Abstractboy has two new links. Do check out Helen's lovely concept for a blog of Popstar's feet here and read up on the science of pop music at Dirrrtypop.
Saturday, January 15, 2005Too many DJs
Abstractboy will be making his public DJing debut at Kill The Pets on Friday 21st January 2005 at the uber-cool Pleasure Unit in Bethnal Green. The night is run by Adi and Dale who used to run Dolly Rock, but are now focusing their efforts on this new night. The theme is eclectic. A huge variety of music will be played - indie, electro, sixties soul, rock, pop, punk, and there will a live performance from the undeniable Truly Kaput, and Fuckin Pink Insects will be doing their thing (experimental Music and Pole Dancing, apparently). There will also be fashion graduates showcasing and selling their wares.
Abstractboy will be joined on decks by yorkpete and they will be playing a good set of angular, danceable indie, trashy electro, pure pop, new wave and artrock from the likes of Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Editors, the Smiths, Girls Aloud, Patrick Wolf, Tom Vek, Le Tigre, the Postal Service, Sons and Daughters, the Faint, the Knife, Stellastarr*, Blondie...a formula that may seem a bit done, but we promise enthusiasm, sincerity and spontaneity, which can definitely said to be different from the increasingly tired indie disco format.
The night will be a fun, friendly and unpretentious affair and it would great to have support for an original and fresh new night. For more information on directions, times, prices und so weiter, visit the website.
Friday, January 14, 2005Un-edited for your convenience
We are only 2 weeks in to 2005 and the "Bands to believe in" campaign has already started to take pace. The band in which you should place all faith you have left in music is Editors (no "the", seemingly). Abstractboy was lucky enough to catch them at King's Cross Water Rat's Theatre, first on the bill of bands that paled in comparison to their undeniable greatness.
Drowned in Sound describes their sound as "Intelligent, dark indie", which is an apt in-a-nutshell description. I'd be more inclined to write an essay, detailing every luscious, urgent melody, the undeniable rhythms provided by the drummer, the haunting vocals and the bands' incredible stage presence. But we don't have time for all that. They are clearly influenced by the likes of Joy Division and there are definite similarities to Interpol's grand sound like many new bands at the moment. But Editors succeed in doing it sincerely where all the other pretenders to the throne have failed. The melodies and tunes are distincly their own, the rhythms, the lyrics, the basslines. Their sincerity comes across boldly; they are clearly a band who mean what they do.
Their upcoming single, Bullet, (out on CD and 7" on 24th January) is an instant dancefloor filler in the making. There is an underlying pop brilliance to their tunes. Abstractboy has come to realise, having been thinking more about what makes a great sound writing this blog, that a pop sensibility is the key to the success of indie bands - look at the Libertines, the Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Razorlight...their crossover success is mostly due to their indie-disco playability, their other-disco playability, and their radio station playability. Dancing to indie music isn't about the art of spilling carling as you pogo to Blur anymore. No, it's a lot more sophisticated, just like indie music really, and just like Editors. Sophisticated, danceable, sweeping, incendiary, sincere. Editors are currently on tour, with a full itinerary on their website. Don't delay, check them out.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005Lost in the Supermarket?
Rather than blogging about exciting bands, amazing albums soon to be released and how accurate Abstractboy's predictions for future music hotness have been (Tom Vek, Bloc Party, the Departure), it's about time to indulge in one of Abstractboy's favourite passtimes; supermarkets.
A slightly odd hobby, perhaps. But a hobby nonetheless. Even when there is enough food in the flat, Abstractboy and flatmates will go to their local supermarkets just for shits and giggles. While the majority of people would rather do anything than grace the fluorescent aisles of Sainsbury's, or pick out their identisize dutch red peppers (79p each) from Morroway, the supermarket excursion is something to look forward to at the end of a long day in college. And living in glamorous Holloway, there is such a great selection of supermarkets - on our bit of the Holloway Road, there is an Iceland, a Marks and Spencers, a Morroway, and for wealthy days, a Waitrose. Being the compulsive listmaker that I am, I tried to make a definitive chart of supermarkets. However, it is really not that simple.
Morroway is definitely the regular. With it's endless offers, average quality produce and consistently good reduced section, it is perfect for the discerning student. But the lights can be too bright and the scarlet red special offer signs are, at times, almost blinding. However, do not be blinded by the red on their Bettabuy range, because it really is quite good value.
Waitrose, surprisingly, can play house to the best special offers. Because Waitrose has a classier market, most stores have a fresh cake counter and by 7pm, the cakes can be as cheap as 10p each. The whole shopping experience on the whole is a lot more pleasurable - the lights are more subtle, the stock is better presented, you are not tricked into "buy 8, save 4p" offers, and the ready meals are reassuringly expensive. A regular shop at Waitrose, however, would swallow a student loan very quickly, so a Waitrose shop is a rare treat.
One of the most important lessons in enjoying supermarket shopping is to treat it as an event. View it as a laborious task and it will always be a laborious task. Dress for the occasion, opt for themed outings, dress as a year and buy things that remind you of that year, start at the reduced counter and work your meal around it, use customised canvas bags. But this is a lesson for life in general. Approach everything menial as something special and it need never be menial again.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005Happy New Year!
2004 saw a great deal of things change and happen for abstract boy. There was (and still is) love, adventure, travel, academic success, experiences and events that would inevitably affect my outlook. For the most part, it was positive – as can be clearly seen from the archives on here and all the photos on Abstractboy.co.uk. But several negative things happened which tainted what was otherwise a vintage year. Abstract boy was a victim of aggravated (homophobic) assault on the 29 night bus in London in August – an awful night which finished in the Whittington General Hospital in Archway with four stitches in my mouth. A second annoyance was a burglary at our Holloway palace in mid-December, where abstract boy’s laptop and digital camera were stolen, hence the lack of updates recently. Never having been the victim of violent crime or robbery before, I was rarely concerned about the risk of being assaulted or robbed. I’ve hardly known either to have happened to anyone, especially not in the cushy Edinburgh area in which most of my friends and I grew up. Neither did I feel at risk when living off the Tottenham Court Road in Halls of Residence last academic year, despite being surrounded by Fitzrovia brothels and degenerates.
It feels like the Honeymoon Period with London is over, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It happens with all loving relationships; at first you are idealistic and immersed in a sense of excitement and lust and then reality kicks in, you see the imperfections in your loved one, but battle on nonetheless because there is still love there and thus a reason to carry on. The experiences have made me more aware of the desperate poverty and urban apathy that is everywhere in London, although it is so easy not to see it if it so pleases. People come to London in search of something or to escape something, or both. To people who want to move there, it symbolises hope – whether they are Turkish, Scottish, Ghanaian, or Portuguese, there is the lure of prosperity, the big city lights, the metropolis, something bigger and brighter. The reality is often as far from the dream as is imaginable. The rents are extortionate; the path to wealth and success is steep and almost unfathomable if you don’t have the right experiences or the best command of English, so it is no surprise that the daytime streets and the night busses are full of people who have no hope, no money and no idea what they are doing and why they are doing it. Vicious cycles of poverty continue and further ensue and people turn to drugs and crime. You only have to take the 253 past Finsbury Park to see – Seven Sisters, Tottenham, Stamford Hill, Clapton. But it’s better to be aware, because to be aware leads to an understanding of what it is to have not had the same blissful opportunities that I have had and consequently to be understanding with those whose situation leads to crime. It would be easy to go through life in London bearing grudges and harbouring fears, but to do so would ruin your enjoyment of what is still exciting about London. The lessons I’ve learnt this year are to be genuinely sympathetic to those who aren’t as fortunate, but to value and respect every profession because they are all essential for society. And lastly, not to let the negative experiences taint your enjoyment of life.
It was, however, lovely to go back to Edinburgh for the festive season. As much as I do love London and do my best not to let my negative experiences get me down, a break is always good. Edinburgh is a city I know I’ll never fall out of love with – its unique setting among the seven hills and its Victorian grace is inimitable. The sight of the fireworks being set off from all seven of the hills as 2005 was welcomed in was simply awesome. 2005 will bring even more changes, including moving to Berlin for a year in September, which will bring a whole other world of things to blog about. Thank you to everyone who reads this. I hope you enjoy it as much I enjoy writing it.