Friday, 30 November 2012

Purity Ring at The Button Factory (29/11/12) - A Review

Last night in The Button Factory we were treated to an exceptional live performance from electronic duo Purity Ring.

The Canadian outfit played the ten tracks of their debut album Shrines, released earlier this year to critical acclaim, with particular highlights including ''Fineshrine'', ''Crawlersout'' and ''Lofticries''. The use of a custom built electronic drum machine by Corin Roddick throughout the set was a refreshing change of pace from the usual 'press play' style of DJ's and electro acts these days, while an impressive light show and stylish stage set up added to the atomsphere.

Roddick's beats drove the stage lighting and were backed by Megan James' vocals which sounded even better in a live setting and as the pair ended with album closer ''Shuck'', chants of 'one more tune' went unanswered as the band simply had no more to play. There were no complaints from the crowd though, who had just witnessed a well-rehearsed, accomplished show from a very promising act who are slowly beginning to receive the recognition they deserve for their brand of chillout electronica.

I spoke briefly to Megan James following the gig and asked her about the band's touring schedule. ''Well we're gonna head home for the holidays and after we'll be touring America starting January till March. Maybe then we can think about heading back to the studio.''

When asked about how the show compared to their previous Irish performance at Forbidden Fruit during the summer, James said ''This was definitely better, the crowd were really into it, so we were happy with tonight.''


Friday, 23 November 2012

Paranormal Activity 5 Confirmed For October 2013

Paranormal Activity 5 has been confirmed for an October 2013 release date by Paramount Pictures.

The announcement continues the trend that has seen a PA film released every Halloween since 2010, as the franchise continues to take over from the ''Saw'' series, a previous Halloween favourite which ended after its seventh outing.

Curiously, the fifth addition to the franchise will be shot partly in Spanish, possibly hinting that events will take place elsewhere than its usual US setting, although Katie Featherson is set to reprise her role as Katie, who is still possessed by the demon.

The franchise has been a box office sensation, and the original film currently ranks as the most profitable ever, having been made for a measly $15,000 and returning $193 million. PA 3 was the most critically successful of the four, and also the most profitable, generating $205 million worldwide.

While PA 4, released last October, was met with a lukewarm response from critics, it continued the trend of box office success for the series, making a total of $135 million worldwide.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

''(III)'' Crystal Castles - A Review

''I am the plague''. This is what Alice Glass declares as we begin Crystal Castles III, and it's true that there's always been a certain contagious nature to the Toronto duo's brand of electronical experimental music; detestable and depraved to many but undeniably infectious and intense as far as the band's loyal fanbase is concerned.

The style that Ethan Kath and Alice Glass pioneered in 2008 with I led to an eruption of dark, glitch techno partnered with a soft vocal touch and created the likes of Purity Ring, White Ring and You Love Her Coz She's Dead, bands that developed a genre of shock electronic music and took it to further extremes than it's original leaders. Suddenly, Crystal Castles don't sound so shocking. So where do they go from here?

Well, for a start things have calmed down quite a bit. II was certainly a step in a slower, more synth based sound with songs like ''Not In Love'' and ''Celestica'' introducing a gentler element to the band, but III is a full realisation of Crystal Castles soft side. Third single ''Affection'' is the most noticable example of this early on with a near dubstep approach that Alice croons over to excellent results, while ''Violent Youth'' is a very danceable combination of the band's early work and their newfound delicacy that sounds like a potential single.

The already released ''Plague'' and ''Wrath Of God'' are definite highlights that sound great in the context of the album, while ''Kerosene'' and ''Sad Eyes'' keep things moving along with striking pace. In fact, there's not a single lowlight to be had over the 12 tracks Kath provides us with on III, but the most special of all is saved for last. ''Child I Will Hurt You'' is the most misleading title of the band's discography because they have never made a more beautiful sound. It's a song that shares many similarities with I's finisher ''Tell Me What To Swallow'', and not only in it's domestic abuse subject matter. Both execute their respective records in a poignant, affective manner that couldn't be less expected following a record packed with hardcore electronic tunes and showcases the songwriting talent of Alice Glass who perhaps draws from personal experience. In any case, it's a thing of startling beauty that ends III perfectly and brings a close to an album that has quite simply upped the game for Crystal Castles.

Ultimately, III is the beginning of a new era for Ethan Kath and Alice Glass as they leave behind their shock tactics and begin exploring a mature, developed sound. The fact that there is no ''Alice Practice'' or ''Doe Deer'' on III tells me that Crystal Castles don't need to shock anymore- they're better than that. So while the likes of Purity Ring have impressed in recent times, III ensures that Glass and Kath can look down on the bands they helped to create with assured confidence and know they are still pioneering an area of music that began with them 4 years ago. In a year that has seen it's fair share of disappointing releases from big names, Crystal Castles have delivered, and in some style.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

''The Haunted Man'' Bat For Lashes - A Review

From the very beginnings of the 00's, we have witnessed the rise of the female solo artist to dizzying heights, from chart topping performers such as Florence Welch, Lily Allen and Ellie Goulding to the acclaimed sounds of Joanna Newsom, Regina Spektor and Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes. With the rise in popularity of these femme fatales, naturally (and often annoyingly) the tag of ''new Kate Bush'' has been thrown around quite a bit too much for anyone to take it seriously anymore. I'm not going to use it again, but I will say that if there was ever an artist to rival the artistic quality and vision of Bush in the past 12 years, it's been Khan, who continues her fine streak of releases this year with ''The Haunted Man''.

Following the critically acclaimed duo of ''Fur & Gold'' and ''Two Suns'', Bat For Lashes could seemingly do no wrong. A growing fanbase was ensured through lengthy touring and impressive support slots for both Radiohead and Coldplay, while she also found time to collaborate with Beck in between. All of which means that Khan has found her name increase in status, leading to considerable hype for her third studio effort this year. Usually this type of build up is a recipe for disaster or at the very least disappointment, but Khan's latest is a seemingly effortless collection of chilled electronic tunes.

''Lillies'' is a slow burning opener that sets a darkened atomsphere before latest single ''All Your Gold'' kicks the album into life, and Khan continues from here with the upbeat, almost playful sounds of ''Horses Of The Sun'' and ''Oh Yeah'', showcasing the Londoner's penchant for creating seriously danceable electro music, a feature of hers previously explored on signature hit ''Daniel''.

Things are slowed down for ''Laura'', the albums lead single as Khan uses just her piano and voice to create a haunting and poignant ballad, with a piano line and delivery reminiscent of Bush classic ''The Man With The Child In His Eyes''. It's raw, naked emotion at it's finest.

Following ''Laura'', Khan sets about finishing the second half of the album with a dreamy synth pop touch that makes for more excellent dream pop soundscapes in the form of ''A Wall'', ''Rest Your Head'' and closing track ''Deep Sea Diver'' as Khan croons her way to the end of a stunning conclusion.

Ultimately, ''The Haunted Man'' is a confident, sexy, intelligent statement that marks the completion of a superb trilogy of albums that has confirms Bat For Lashes presence among the elite in contemporary indie music. My reluctance to tag Khan as a newer version of past female greats in music is simply because to label her such would not only be disrespectful but also inaccurate due to the original, innovative style of her music.

Natasha Khan is not concerned with being the next Kate Bush, Bjork, or Tori Amos; she'd rather be the only Bat For Lashes.


''Banks'' Paul Banks - A Review

The title of Paul Banks second solo release is telling- his desire to be recognised as an individual artist and disassociate himself from Interpol is clear, and made all the more evident by his switch from the Julian Plenti alias to his given name. This was an issue that undermined Bank's debut in 2010 with ''Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper'', an album that felt more like another addition to the Interpol catalogue than a new direction for the frontman.

So how does ''Banks'' compare to its predecessor? Well in truth it's more of the same, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. ''Banks'' is most definitely a product of its environment and the frontman fails to establish the new identity that he set out to on the record, but it's a solid collection of songs from Banks that serves to enhance his reputation as a solo performer.

It kicks off with lead single ''The Base'', a stomping opener full of purpose and conviction that announces the album in style. From there tracks like ''Arise, Awake'' and second single ''Young Again'' are highlights which showcase Banks' trademark powerful vocals, while ''I'll Sue You'' and ''Paid For That'' are reminders of the strangely danceable tunes that filled Interpol's earlier work, in the vein of ''Say Hello To Angels'' and ''Evil''. ''Banks'' is not without a couple of duds though; the all too familiar ''Over  My Shoulder'' and ''Another Chance'' bring the record down, the latter comprising an awkward sample of movie dialogue from ''Black Out'' which is unsuited to Banks' music and stands out for the wrong reasons on the record.

Overall however, ''Banks'' is a surprising triumph for the Interpol frontman, surpassing the band's recent self-titled fourth effort and ensuring that Banks has bounced back from the criticism levelled at him following Interpol's latest. While it may do little to separate him from his original group, it proves the New Yorker's consistency as a solo artist and gives reason to hope there is a brighter future ahead for the acclaimed post punk outfit. However, if rumours are to be believed and Interpol are planning on a lengthy break, more solo work of this standard from Banks would surely be welcome.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Kendrick Lamar Hits Dublin In January

Promising Compton hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar will perform in Dublin early next year.

Lamar is set for a date in Vicar Street on 14 January 2013 following the recent release of his widely acclaimed debut album ''good kid, m.A.A.d city''. The album was recently reported to be the highest selling debut of any artist in 2012. The storytelling style and lyrical ability showcased on the record have seen Lamar compared to rap legends Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Don;t miss the chance to experience an intimate gig with the rising rapper before the world catches up; next time, don't be suprised if he's playing the O2.

Tickets go on sale Thursday and are available here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Electric Picnic 12 Nominated For ''Overseas Festival Of The Year''

Electric Picnic 2012 has been nominated in the category of Overseas Festival Of The Year at the UK Festival Awards. The annual Stradbally music and arts festival was headlined by The Cure, Sigur Ros and Elbow this year, and also featured excellent performances from Crystal Castles, Grandaddy and Explosions In The Sky. In recent years EP has gained a rising reputation which now see's it ranked among the elite festivals of Europe such as Glastonbury, Benicassim and Tomorrowland.

Speaking of The Cure, they've received a nod for Best Headline Act for their performance at Reading & Leeds, but they'll face stiff competition from fellow nominees The Stone Roses, Metallica and Jay Z. Another interesting category is Anthem Of The Year, which see's Florence And The Machine, Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines up for their hit festival tunes ''Shake It Out'', ''R U Mine?'' and ''Teenage Icon'' respectively.

The awards are decided by public vote so get onto for more information on how to get involved. We'll be voting for Electric Picnic for reasons that should be made obvious by reading our review of the weekend below.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Star Wars VII: A New Hope?

You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard the recent announcement that Disney has acquired the rights to Lucasfilm and intends to release a sequel trilogy beginning in 2015 with Star Wars VII. The news has sparked an expected backlash from fans of the sci-fi series who are still plauged by nightmares of Jar Jar Binks and the prequel trilogy as a whole, but here at Heavy Metal Mouth, I'm cautiously optimistic and I'll tell you why.

First of all, Disney's proven track record of producing quality films on a consistent basis is a reason to be hopeful. In the past, takeovers of Pixar and Marvel have proven extremely successful, resulting in the release of ''Toy Story 3'' and ''The Avengers'' in 2010 and 2012 respectivley. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Disney can't do the same again and produce a film perhaps not as brilliant as the original trilogy, but certainly an improvement among the latest releases.

Another reason to be positive is the fact that I-III were so bad means that VII-IX has to improve. Disney aren't stupid; they will know very well that the prequels were a huge disappointment and they'll be doing everything they can to set that straight. In fact, I believe that the trainwreck that was the prequel trilogy will actually serve as a catalyst to jumpstart the series again in 2015 with a higher quality product. Disney will examine in depth the reasons for I-III's failure among fans and address specific issues in order to fix them and gain a new following while also retaining the dedicated die-hard fan base of the originals.

Lastly, the fact that George Lucas is no longer at the helm of the project means there is an oppurtunity for Star Wars to be envisioned through the eyes of another director with a fresh approach. Lucas has single-handedly destroyed the reputation of the series since Return Of The Jedi and most likely this is because of his complete creative control; there was no one to tell him otherwise. Under the direction of a new mind with new ideas, Star Wars could be reinvented and reimagined in ways we didn't think possible.

Which brings me to the main point of this article. Who should direct Star Wars in 2015? I've got some ideas about who would work and why, so here are my top 3 choices for the new man behind the legendary sci-fi classic.

1. Christoper Nolan
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Memento.
Nolan is the hottest director in the world at the moment following his completion of The Dark Knight trilogy, and it's not hard to see why. His complete reinvention of the Batman franchise was an unexpected masterpiece that received unanimous acclaim from critics and long time fans for it's gritty realism and intense atomsphere. The possibilities would be endless for a Star Wars trilogy with Nolan at the helm.

2. Joss Whedon
The Avengers, Serenity, X-Men (Screenwriter), Toy Story (Screenwriter), The Cabin In The Woods (Screenwriter)
Whedon has proven himself a sci-fi visionary from early roles producing classic shows such as ''Buffy The Vampire Slayer'' and ''Firefly'' before moving on to larger projects, most notably ''The Avengers'' last year which was a huge box office success that proved popular with fans and critics alike. Whedon would provide a much needed insight as a fan of the series himself while growing up, even if only in a screenwriter role.

3. Guillermo Del Toro
Hellboy, Hellboy 2, Pan's Labyrinth, The Hobbit Trilogy (Writer)
Del Toro is another director with a particular love of the fantasy genre and as such, he could bring an element of magic to the new trilogy with his skilled scriptwriting and stylish direction. A rich backstory and major character developement would be a newfound focus of Star Wars as seen through Del Toro's eyes.

So have some faith; in 2015, Disney could yet provide us with a new hope for Star Wars.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Rate The Albums: Bloc Party

This week on Rate The Albums, we're taking a look at Bloc Party.


1. Silent Alarm
An astonishingly accomplished debut by a band that sounded as though they'd been playing together for 20 years, Silent Alarm is an explosive guitar classic that showcased the individual talents of each member of the group. Because unlike the majority of major label bands these days and long before, Bloc Party are far from a one man band. Okerere is without doubt a lyrical genius, weaving literary and cultural references into his intelligent songwriting and unique delivery, as heard on ''So Here We Are'' and ''Plans'', two tracks that best define the theme of wasted modern youth that is repeatedly referenced throughout the album. But then there's Russell Lissack, one of the most gifted guitarists in modern music today, who dominates on tracks such as ''Helicopter'', ''Pioneers'' and ''Luno'' with his experimental lead guitar and alternative techniques, while the rythym section of Moakes and Tong compliment each other perfectly, most noticeably on signature hit ''Banquet''.
Utimately, Silent Alarm showed that in an ever increasingly bland indie music scene, there are still bands like Bloc Party with original and special talent.

''I am trying to be heroic in an age of modernity'' was the line Kele chose to open sophomore album A Weekend In The City. Sounds pretty accurate to me.

Best Tracks: Like Eating Glass/This Modern Love/So Here We Are

2. Intimacy
Intimacy received a sharply polarized reaction from fans and critics upon it's release, with criticism mainly focusing on it's rushed release and electronic style. These are the two elements that make it a huge favourite of mine as the newfound electronic approach made for an aggressive, pulsating sound on ''Mercury'', ''Trojan Horse'' and ''One Month Off'' while there were also hints of delicate beauty throughout, heard on ''Biko'', ''Signs'' and the magical ''Ion Square''. The rush release of Intimacy can be heard within the album- it's obsessive compulsive, quickfire nature is central to the record's sound and it was clear to see that the band were fearless in their approach, giving no thought to the consequences of making these bold stylistic changes. Kele's lyrics examined relationships and gave greater insight into the frontman as he wrote on a more personal level than Silent Alarm and Weekend, giving Intimacy a heartfelt and intimate touch that provokes an emotional reaction in the listener.
Some are still unhappy with Bloc Party's third, but for what it's worth I see Intimacy as a daring acheivement that exposed a newfound side to the band that personally I would love to see developed in the future.

Best Tracks: Biko/Signs/Ion Square

3. A Weekend In The City
It was tough to place A Weekend In The City third, but the consistently brilliant nature of the band's first three made it difficult to order and meant it came out on the wrong end of a great series of albums. So obviously I'm still a huge fan of Weekend, mainly because it's an album that did what so many band's have failed to after such a hyped debut- it delivered on the original promise of the first record.
Themes of alienation and growing older dominated Weekend, as heard on bombastic opener ''Song For Clay'', the triumphant climax of ''Waiting For The 7.18'', and the aching, delicate beauty of  ''SRXT'', in which Kele adressess the issue of suicide in adolescents. It's an memorable, affecting closer and one of the band's finest songs. There were also broader issues such as terrorism and drug use in the UK on tracks like ''Hunting For Witches'' and ''The Prayer'' respectivley, while ''I Still Remember'' was an early indication of the relationship themed nature Kele's lyrics would take on the following release as he recalls a crush on a fellow student in school which never amounted to anything more.
The band's second effort was received with unanimous praise and acclaim much like it's predecessor, but while A Weekend In The City is another incredible collection of songs, the most important thing about was that it proved Bloc Party were here to stay, and they were very much capable of delivering more great albums.

Best Tracks: Waiting For The 7.18/I Still Remember/SRXT

4. Four
Four years later, with the four original band members (in spite of rumours suggesting otherwise) came Bloc Party's fourth release, and unfortunatley their fourth best as well. It's not that Four is a bad record, far from it, but it most definitely doesn't hold the impact and lasting effect of the three that came before it. Maybe that would have been a tall order- it was great just to hear a band that years earlier looked doomed to split, and there are absolutely great tracks here such as ''V.A.L.I.S'' and ''The Healing'' which would be worthy of previous albums.
The heavy nature of many tracks however, is Four's greatest downfall and the result of a misguided attempt to revert back to the guitar/bass/drums approach of Silent Alarm. Songs like ''Kettling'' and ''So He Begins To Lie'' are the only real successful outcomes of this style, while ''3x3'' and ''We Are Not Good People'' expose the band at their weakest, reduced to cliched garage rock that simply doesnt suit Bloc Party. Another problem I find with Four is it's lack of direction- previous Bloc Party albums seemed to carry a message with them as a whole, but Four just feels like a random collection of songs.
Ultimately, it's a very good collection of songs for the most part, and while Four is far from the album many would expect from such an accomplished band, it gives me hope there is more left in this exceptional group of musicians.

Best Tracks: V.A.L.I.S/Truth/The Healing

Next Week: Interpol