Thursday, 30 June 2011
on his Top Ten musical highlight of 2011
As we hit the mid-point of the year 2011, James Christopher Sheppard takes a look back and charts his top ten musical highlights of the year so far. With stellar performances, standout single releases and albums that will be listened to for years to come, here’s how James’ top ten shapes up, in descending order, starting with the tenth best highlight.
P!nk ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’
New Mum, P!nk, released the second single from her Greatest Hits… So Far!!! album in March, to much critical acclaim. The video portrays a girl with self-confidence issues, who dabbles in self-harm, but ultimately grows into a beautiful women and mother. As corny as it sounds, it really is a moving song and video and incredibly apt for P!nk at this time in her life. I can not wait for the follow-up to the incredible Funhouse album.
Britney Spears ‘Hold it Against Me’
Britney smashed back onto the scene after a short break at the beginning of the year with the dub-step tinged monster hit ‘Hold it Against Me’. The song is a new direction for Britney, and while the album Femme Fatale may not live up to the standard set here, ‘Hold it Against Me’ is one of the best Britney singles ever.
Lady GaGa ‘The Edge of Glory’ performance at Radio One’s Big Weekend.
Lady Gaga had run into all sorts of critical indifference at the beginning of the year as the response to the first two singles from her album Born This Way were not met with the same ecstatic reception in the UK that she was used to. While ‘Born This Way’ slowly built on people and sold steadily, it still was the least original single she had put out, and ‘Judas’ didn’t do a great deal to help matters. Cut to May and Gaga headlined Radio One’s Big Weekend in Carlisle and performed a piano only version of third single ‘The Edge of Glory’. With no gimmicks, no crazy outfit or political message, ‘The Edge of Glory’ proved Lady Gaga’s musical talent was still as evident as ever and stands as one of her most emotional and powerful performances to date.
Blondie Panic of Girls
Returning with their ninth studio album, Blondie proved on their stunning new album that they are still a force to be reckoned with. The band sound younger and fresher than they have done in years, with Panic of Girls being innovative and full of energy. Stand out tracks include ‘Mother’, ‘What I Heard’, ‘Girlie Girlie’ and ‘Wipe off my Sweat’. Get the limited edition collector’s pack if you haven’t already, featuring an exclusive magazine, prints, a poster and bonus tracks.
Lower Than Atlantis World Record
The second full-length album from melodic hardcore band, Lower Than Atlantis, arrived in April and saw Mike Duce and his band-mates establish themselves as one of the leading alternative rock bands in the UK, getting air-play from Radio One and Kerrang, amongst others. World Record managed to outshine their outstanding debut, Far Q, with killer tracks like ‘Beech Like a Tree’, ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, ‘Another Sad Song’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’. World Record is only the beginning for these guys, which makes them so exciting to watch. Definitely a band and an album to check out if you haven’t already.
Adele 21 and that Brit Awards Performance
You must have been in a coma for the past six months if you’ve failed to notice to phenomenal success of English singer/songwriter Adele’s second album, 21. The album is now established as the longest running UK number one album since Saturday Night Fever in 1978, that’s sixteen weeks so far, and as it stands 21 is still #2. First single, ‘Rolling In The Deep’, was a huge success pretty much everywhere, and has just spent its seventh week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while ‘Someone Like You’ rocketed to number one in the UK following the heart-wrenching acoustic performance at the Brit Awards in February. There’s even more to 21 that the massive hits however, with gems such as ‘Turning Tables’, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Set Fire To The Rain’. 21 is a record-shattering album, with over seven million sales since its release in January, and its obvious why- just seriously good music.
Incubus If Not Now, When?
Following a five year gap since their last studio album, Incubus finally ventured back into the limelight over the past few months to announce the forthcoming release of their seventh studio album. If Not Now, When? is delicate and mellow, yet mesmerising and powerful, with new Incubus classics such as ‘Adolescents’, ‘Isadore’, ‘Defience’ and ‘In the Company of Wolves’ to add to our already lengthy Incubus playlists.
Patrick Wolf Lupercalia
What can I say about the new Patrick Wolf album, other than it is mind bogglingly good and everyone should own a copy? Patrick is shockingly underrated and still doesn’t receive the recognition he should. He has five brilliant albums to his name and is a musical genius, and Lupercalia is the most coherent and beautiful album he has put out to date. The strings are more prominent than ever, his voice is rich and strong, the brass heightens the shameless loved-up happiness and it is just flawless. Well I think it is anyway, and this is my top ten.
Within Temptation The Unforgiving
Dutch symphonic rock band, Within Temptation, released their new concept album earlier this year, and thank the metal Gods that they are back. The Unforgiving is their freshest album yet, blowing all expectations out of the water. The band haven’t lost any of the drive or love for what they do, and it is so apparent with this release, which sounds like a labour of love, from start to finish. Standout tracks include ‘In the Middle of the Night’, ‘Stairway to the Skies’, ‘Shot in the Dark’ and ‘Faster’. If you love female fronted rock with a difference, you should definitely check this out. The Unforgiving is currently my undisputed album of 2011 so far.
Kylie Minogue Aphrodite: Les Folies World Tour
Yes, my musical highlight of 2011 is undoubtedly the latest concert tour by our one and only Pop Royal Highness, Miss Kylie Minogue. Kylie’s most comprehensive world tour ever, with 76 dates played so far, is a simply stunning show, featuring a camp-as-Christmas set-list, including a glorious cover of Eurythmics’ ‘There Must Be An Angel Playing With My Heart’, the classics ‘What Do I Have To Do’, ‘Confide In Me’ and a rocked up version of ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, as well as almost all of the #1 album Aphrodite. The show flows coherently, drifting into each new song with natural timing and features the most intricate staging I have ever seen, with water jets, moving stages and even a real life angel that Kylie flies over the audience on. The Aphrodite: Les Folies World Tour really does show Kylie on top of the world and being the absolute best she can be, which unsurprisingly is better than any other pop star out there. If I could go to this show every week for the rest of my life, I would. Kylie, we salute you.
JCS is the regular music critic for Eyewear; a graduate of Kingston University's acclaimed Creative Writing BA, he currently divides his time between Hull and London, where he is working on a book about growing up gay during the Blair Years.
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
|This picture has nothing to do with the reviewer or reviewee. Apologies.|
This will not be a review, because that would be boring and mean I have to talk about someone else. Actually, reviews are little machines for pretending to be interested in someone else. The longer they are, the more they are about the writer. This review is about Luke Kennard. Luke Kennard is two things we all want to be: tall and funny. He is, thirdly, young, and fourthly, British, and fifthly, smart about poetry. So that's six things, really, if you count famous. I am not sure about rich. Luke Kennard did not use my blurb on his new pamphlet. This hurt until I realised it was an oversight. Life is bearable again. I like the title: Planet-shaped Horse. Notice this is not Pluto-shaped Hearse. Or Plant-shaped House. Those will come. Give him time. Kennard is funnier than every other poet writing in Ireland and Britain, including Kevin Higgins, Simon Armitage, and John Hegley, who are the other really funny poets. He is as funny as Canada's David McGimpsey. He is that good. He may be funnier than Apollinaire, who was only funny in French, which is like being sexy in Cornish. I did not mean that. I want to be ecumenical here. He is like a screwball slapsticking a pratfall over a barrel of lubed-up monkeys. He is the Goon Show meets Laurel and Hardy on Acid. Planet-shaped Horse has its own Mr. Bones sort of thing happening - it has Simon and Miranda, who are characters who - in every poem which is like a new cartoon panel every day - change their identities like others change diapers: often, and for good reason. This allows the poet/Kennard to be anywhere, but usually near to a mental halfway-home. The key note word in all this is: prose poem minus poem to make it one word. No one can write like Kennard but that won't stop the dogs dying. People will now waste their lives trying to be him like we all were WC Williams for about 80 years. Why do we still think Charles Olson was good when all he did was write lyrically with indents? In New France, it was a royal decree that forbade sledding on snow in the 1600s that led to the death of fewer than five seigneurs - syntax off. So - anyway, this new pamphlet is now the gold standard for surreal ha-ha English hu-mahr. I also like the drawings and the funny bit about Hughes. Dirigible mandolin sex practice, PART THREE. Men want to be Kennard and woman want to be Kennard. Does that mean we are all mortal? Alcools on the Western Font.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Sam Riviere co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives, and was a recipient of a 2009 Eric Gregory Award. Faber & Faber published his pamphlet in 2010 as part of their New Poets scheme. These poems are taken from '81 Austerities', a series currently being published in instalments with supporting material at this place.
Monday, 27 June 2011
The Cam climbs out from under mist. The heads
of tulips show. In galleries of oak
the blackbirds cough dissent, the pigeons wake.
Across the river’s surface golden blades
of Darter’s flash. And by the bank he stands:
the naturalist in muddied shoes and cloak,
at rest against a still-mossed hazel stick
which now he nudges up against a fold
of bark and deftly turns it back. Beneath,
two beetles crouch. He bends to shut their shells
inside his palms. And then the earth reveals
a third, too rare to lose. Right hand to mouth
he stores one prize, but then recoils and spills
all three: the sting of acid, and an oath.
poem by Ben Parker; published with permission of the author.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
Grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1970s.
Always making margaritas in the kitchen,
always laughing and doing their hair up pretty,
sharing lipstick and shoes and new juice diets;
always splitting the bills to the last penny,
stealing each other’s clothes,
loving one another then turning and complaining
as soon as they walked out the door. Each one with her doe eyes,
each one younger than the last,
each older the next year, one year
further from their girlhoods of swimming
at Sandy Hook, doing jackknives off the diving board
after school, all of them
being loved by one boy and then another,
all driving further from the local fair, further from Atlantic City.
They used to smoke in their cars,
rolling the windows down and letting their red nails
hang out, little stop lights:
Stop now, before the green
comes to cover your long brown bodies.
poem by Meghan O'Rourke; reprinted with permission of the author
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Tennis is a great sport - but the British press is ruining it with their obsessive need for a British winner at Wimbledon. IS THIS MURRAY'S YEAR? blare the headlines. Truth is, probably not, since at least three better players, a few the greatest ever to play on grass, are also competing. Murray could win, if he was lucky and at the top of his game plus some, but he may not. And, actually, who cares? Why the need for a British winner? This constant jingoistic urge ruins all the sporting events reported on here - rather than just focusing on sporting excellence from whichever nation it may hail from. I say balls to Murray-obsessed tennis reporting. Let the best men and women on the day win and well done to them.
The Luther episode featured a bound police officer being branded; a man's hand crucified with hammer and nail; and fourteen children kidnapped on a schoolbus, gassed liked during Nazi Germany, and graphic discussion of how their bodies could be destroyed by acid. Each of these acts is repeatable, and no doubt some nutter will want to try and mimic the show. It certainly puts ideas into sick and healthy heads alike. Great drama has cathartic confrontations with evil, but it is also well-written and has deeper consequences. This was just rubbish. I want my money back.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
If one adds Glenn Gould as the second greatest Canadian, it will become immediately apparent that the native genius of this vast land is to explore visionary ways of communicating across distances, in practice and theory. Ten years ago, Tom Walsh, composer-conductor-musician, and I, working as the electronic duo Swifty Lazarus, worked on an album, September 2001, in Budapest, Hungary, that would try to enact the ideas of McLuhan, Gould, and Orson Welles, in-studio. The result was The Envelope, Please, released in 2002 on the Wired on Words label.
I became a Catholic a year ago, and now that the summer is upon us again, this June 21, I find myself, much like the English weather, only partly sunny. I have wavered this year - coming in and out like that politician's infamous spiritual radio; as discussed previously here, the numerous nuclear accidents, wars, cruelties, and destruction of the environment, have made it seem as if God is distant. And, some of the positions of the Church are difficult. Not least, celibacy, and also a lack of ordination for women. Still, having a faith is a bedrock, even if one has to lie in (on?) it. A hard bed, then, but one for some assurance. Not that I am certain of Heaven. I tend to think that Christianity is best in this world. I wonder why it is that humans, godless or not, are so hell-bent on destroying the oceans; and battering themselves to hell. This disenchanted, secular, world, is clearly fallen. I had hoped poetry would help raise it up. Or good works. Or belief. It seems a narrower needle than that, now. But I maintain this core belief - love and tolerance and compassion - kindness - are required, in the daily and supernal realms.
Monday, 20 June 2011
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Saturday, 18 June 2011
They were an eclectic mix of Colin Wilson, Ngaio Marsh, Mimesis, and, most memorably, the most wonderful summer book, I Am Not Stiller, by Max Frisch. I had a deep woods crush at the time (I was 16) on a Hungarian-British girl from a posh part of Montreal I had met at a debating party, and we wrote letters to each other that summer. I can still recall how I trembled to kiss her. She had green eyes. I wrote her many poems. But mostly I read Frisch's deeply moving novel about denial and guilt and desire and identity. I wept when it was over. I have read other gripping books with joy and total immersion (The Idiot, Fear is The Key, The Secret History, most of Greene, The Road to Wigan Pier, The Good Soldier, A Month In the Country, Nemesis, poetry) but never again more so than then. Will I ever be so transported again? I always remain open to the chance I will be.
Friday, 17 June 2011
Where did the British summer go? Eyewear is looking out on another rather dull London day. Still, there is some good news - we have a great Friday feature. Anna Swanson (pictured) is a poet and children’s librarian living in Vancouver, Canada. Her debut book of poetry, The Nights Also, from Tightrope Books, asks how identity is formed and challenged in relation to chronic illness, sexuality and solitude. It won a Lambda Literary Award and the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in 2011, which is the most significant Canadian debut collection prize (similar to the Yale or Forward in prestige). As I was chair of the judging panel this year for the Lampert (given out by the League of Canadian Poets), it is especially heartening for me to be able to showcase this brilliant younger poet on my British blog this morning. Her book was very lyrical, very moving, and very witty - and cohered as a whole in a satisfying way. Also, its exploration of sexuality was refreshing, especially from a British perspective, where far too few lesbian, gay and bisexual poets write candidly of their experiences, notwithstanding the fact we have a gay Poet Laureate. If there's one Canadian poetry book you read this year, why not start with Swanson's? The poem below is from that collection.
The patron saint of bagpipes
poem by Anna Swanson; reprinted with permission of the author and publisher; from The Nights Also, Tightrope Books. Photo credit: Vivienne McMaster.
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