Monsters University, The World’s End and the End of University (oh, and Pacific Rim too)

First off, sorry for not posting in a week (but seems like forever), I was busy. Y’know getting a job, cutting up robots, seeing the very good Little Mix and less good JLS and Union J live, catching up with friends, eating Nando’s and melting in the heat.

I don't like not being at the front.

I don’t like not being at the front.

Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about any of those things. I want to talk about what I’ve seen at the cinema recently, specifically: Monsters University, The World’s End and Pacific Rim. This isn’t a ‘should I go see this film?’ kinda blog, but since my Man of Steel one proved popular, I’ll quickly run through them.

SHOULD I GO SEE THE AFOREMENTIONED FILMS?

Yes.

Yes.

meh.

What I want to talk about is how the first two films, Monsters University and The World’s End hit a chord in me, and I connected with them in a personal way.

Right now, I’m at that post-graduation point in my life which for a lot of people seems to go one of two ways: they either go straight into something fantastic and ride a wave of good fortune, or end up in a bit of a slump. Lately I’ve definitely been experiencing the latter. I’m not going to end-up living at home until I’m 24 working at the cornershop or something but I’ve tried throwing myself out there to potential employers in the industry I want to go and no fish have bitten (I’ve completely changed the metaphor halfway through that sentence). So many gameplan is to take smaller, hopefully more secure steps – unless I run into some kind of miracle (pop reference!) – but at times I get frustrated I’m not at where I want to be, even though I’m working on it. I just want to jump forward in time and be where I want to be.

The loveliest day ever. But I was crying inside. (I wasn’t really, #lad or whatever the kids do nowadays)

It’s similar to what Mike and Sully go through in the film. I’m not spoiling too much for anyone when I say they obviously aren’t in University by the end, and a big theme is where do they want to be and how are they going to achieve it. Lots of people (including a half dragon, half centipede-type thing made sexy by having the voice of Helen Mirren*) doubt them, and put them down. There are the high-flyers who make the protagonists feel inferior, but that doesn’t stop them putting in hard work. And I really relate.

I don’t know if this was planned, but the release of Monsters University has been PERFECTLY timed. In fact, it’s the third piece of evidence I need to make me believe Pixar makes films for me. Not people like me, ME. Me, Josef Anderton, 21-Year Old Welsh Matt Damon Lookalike With An Unhealthy Obsession With Final Fantasy. 

Point 1: The first film I ever saw at the cinema.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me’, that is all.

Point 2: The last film I saw before going to Uni.

I will freely admit I cried my eyes out watching this film. But not at the bit you’re all thinking of. The bit that got me was the very human, very real moment where Andy’s leaving for college just… hits his mum. For me personally, my moving out wasn’t emotional because I wasn’t moving that far away, excitement was the overriding feeling and me and my parents were getting on each others nerves greatly. So when I saw these emotions on show me and my family were repressing I guess, it really got me.

And point #3 is what I’ve just talked about above:

I chose this poster because… ooft Helen.

So where does this fit in?

Funnily enough the penultimate film I saw before University was Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, also directed by Edgar Wright. That film has become my all-time favourite because of its unashamed geekiness, beyond inventive filmmaking and the foundation of many late-night University conversations and possible THE reason my best friend is my best friend. But I’m going off-topic. If you know anything about The World’s End you’ll know the character played by Simon Pegg suffers from Peter Pan syndrome big time.

I would hate to see myself end up like Gary King; still thinking its the early 90’s, he’s barely old enough to legally drink and Saint Etienne are still good (OK, the last one is unquestionably TRUE!). But Wright is cleverer than to just show us Pegg’s character are not having achieved anything in life. All his friends (and I’m not spoiling anything, just look at the posters and trailers and its pretty obvious) seem to have settled into hum-drum, boring jobs and their lives could do with some colour. These can’t be the only two ways adulthood is meant to be, right? Successful but sour or fun but a failure? Not for me thanks.

A lot of people happily tell me life is just constant mediocrity, and though it frustrates me from time-to-time I want to make the most of it; be successful but ENJOY it. And yes, lots of things will try and get me down and convince me our world is actually pretty rubbish but… it could be worse.

And with that, I move onto Pacific Rim.

Meh.

*by the way: Helen, if you are reading this – please adopt me.

New Music: Janelle Monae (!!!) Neon Jungle (Oooh) One Direction (…)

Now that I’ve managed to drag myself away from the Pet Shop BoysElectric’ album long enough to see what else is new and floating around, I’ve come across three songs that are, as they say, ‘worth a listen’:

First up, Janelle Monae – Dance Apocalyptic

You may know of Janelle Monae, or at least I hope you’ve heard ‘Tightrope’. Your life instantly becomes 142.693% better as soon as you do. I only bit the bullet and downloaded the parent album, the ArchAndroid quite recently (its from 2010, bad Joe) and it takes a while to wrap your around. Monae likes to throw everything into her songs, swapping genres on the fly, crazy ad-libs and interesting guest features. Two months ago, the pint-sized pop star launched her new album campaign with ‘Q.U.E.E.N’ featuring Erykah Badu and its nice enough, but ‘Dance Apocalyptic’  is a BEAST! 

There’s hooks aplenty, an insanely catchy beat and a great chorus. I can see Bruno Mars doing something like that, and I hope it becomes as popular as ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’. Just look at the video! Janelle has such tremendous energy, and those vocals, those moves… she is actually the perfect package. And the video is great too, from that intro through the out-of-the-blue interlude to the end. ‘Your chicken taste like pork?’ may be one of my new phrases. ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ is definitely my new jam, and the album ‘The Electric Lady’ (notice how its title is similar to the PSB one?) is one to look out for in September.

Next, Neon Jungle – Trouble

Not a Taylor Swift and no goats to be found. Neon Jungle are basically pre-label Stooshe (or maybe the Dolly Rockers if you remember them) with a pinch of  Ke$ha (the love of whisky, general trashiness) and Icona Pop (just the whole sound of the song). This one should easily be a hit, with club-friendly production and a chorus everyone’s going to be singing along with the first time they hear it. Let’s see if they last and become the fourth Big UK Girl Group right now.

And finally…. One Direction – Best Song Ever

First things first, this is not the best song ever. Not even by ‘1D’ standards, but its going to be everywhere and sell loads so you may get used to it. Also, its not actually meant to be premiered yet but it leaked and has been uploaded/taken down from YouTube many times already. So if the video doesn’t work, sorry. And if it does work, sorry. It’s been pitched up so it sounds a bit weird but you get a good idea of what’s about. ‘Oh Oh Oh’s and ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’s replace the ‘na na na’s but its pretty standard for the boys: not great lyrics, simple rock/pop production and a… sample of The Who?!? That sounds like ‘Baba O’Reilly’ at the start to me. Maybe that’s what they think the best song ever is. It’s a fair shout I guess. But I’m wondering with the Blondie/Undertones mashup ‘One Way Or Another’ and now The Who sample, are 1D (or rather, the producers/management) trying to appeal to the parents of the kids as well?

Or, more likely, make the fact the kids will constantly demand the boys CD on in the car a little bit more bearable?

Oh and Corrie ‘actress’ Helen Flannigan has a single/music video out. I’m not going to cover it because its a bit ‘NSFW’ and also… I’ve just talked about One Direction, I’m meant to be talking about things I LIKE.

The new Pet Shop Boys album ‘Electric’ is really good, let’s all try and make it Number 1 please

If you didn’t know, the Pet Shop Boys new album ‘Electric’ is out this week. Its being hailed as their big comeback, despite their last album only coming out ten months ago. That’s because last year’s ‘Elysium’ was chilled, reflective and… a little bit boring to be honest. ‘Electric’ is the Boys returns to the dancefloor, and the true sequel to 2009’s FANTASTIC Xenomania produced (the guys behind Sugababes, Gabriella Cilmi and the Almighty Aloud‘s biggest hits to name a few) album ‘Yes’. But not only that, it feels like the album PSB should be making and in fact… the album Daft Punk should have made this year with ‘Random Access Memories’.

This is absolutely amazing, why is this not played everywhere?!?

Don’t get me wrong this album is clearly the work of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (y’know, the Pet Shop Boys) and producer Stuart Price (The Killers, Kylie, Take That, Madonna). But it’s got the interesting electronic twists and turns that people who know Daft Punk pre-‘Get Lucky’ are used to. ‘Axis’, linked above, is a kitchen sink affair, and could easily be the work of Godfather of Electronic Music Giorgio Moroder, whilst ‘Shouting In The Evening’ is insane in a ‘Skins party sequence/keep the dubstep kids happy’ way whilst still sampling Lionel Richie. 

Elsewhere, ”Vocal’ is a full on raveathon with lyrics about being in a club and getting lost in the music and ‘Thursday‘ is an ode to starting the weekend early, featuring ‘What We Made’ hitmaker Example. Of the 9 tracks here, 7 are instantly gratifying, with only ‘Inside a Dream’ and Bruce Springsteen cover ‘Last to Die’ being overshadowed by the amazingness of everything else on my first dozen or so listens. But the Boys are (usually) clever with writing tracks that take just that little bit longer to reveal their brilliance, so I’ll get back to you on that one.

And now we come to my highlight of the album; a song with possible the most Pet Shop Boy-ish title of all time – ‘Love is a Bourgeois Construct’. An italo-disco affair that hits the sweet spot on first listen, where we find Neil is disillusioned with love, believing it only exists in books and whatnot. Its all very tongue-n-cheek and bounces along giddily, occasionally blasting off into some computery vocal effects (but tastefully done).  There’s even some classic ‘Go West’ male choirs thrown in for good measure. Listen and love:

Yeah, its that good I put it up there twice.

Now here’s the thing: the album is currently sitting at Number 2 on the album charts. This is great, because although ‘older’ bands like Black Sabbath have done great in the album charts this year, and a lot of old stuff is coming back into fashion, the Pet Shop Boys are seen by people of my age and pretty ridiculously ‘uncool’ (maybe its coolness, not love that is a bourgeois construct). The person keeping them from Number One is… this dude.

I mean, REALLY?!?

‘Blurred Lines’ (the song) has been Number 1 for 4 weeks, before getting knocked off by Icona Pop‘s amazing ‘I Love It (feat. Charlie XCX) and then climbing up to the top spot again last week. Well done everyone. I’m not being funny but whilst the song has a really catchy production, the song is dreadful and like the video, it’s a little bit… rapey.

Maybe since turning 21 I’ve actually become 40 but I find #BLURREDLINES (grrrr) crass and… pretty trashy. And off the back of that, this guy is going to have a Number 1 album over British music legends, with a career spanning 25+ years and legendary songs like ‘West End Girls’, ‘It’s A Sin’ , ‘Suburbia’,’Always On My Mind’ and I could go on but you get the point. So I’m begging of you please, music buying public of Great Britain; put aside your ideas of Pet Shop Boys being too old, boring, posh or… gay and go buy a very good electronic/dance album and enjoy it for what it is. Which is pretty spectacular.

Also, I got my first ever vinyl yesterday:

Iconic.

Pop Partners In Crime ANNIE & RICHARD X are back together with… ‘Back Together’

It’s my 25th blog post! Huzzah! I hope people have enjoyed reading them (or, just read them) as much as I have writing them. So, without further ado…

What a brilliant thing to return from holiday to. Norweigan Popstar ANNIE and My Second Favourite Producer Ever RICHARD X have announced The A&R EP is coming out in August. It features 5 songs the pair have described as ‘dance influenced pop’, ie: the areas they excell in. One song is tantalisingly called Ralph Macchio, about The Karate Kid actor. I can’t wait to hear what wonderfully weird lyrics Ms. Strand comes up with for that one. Argh, hurry UP August!

I imagine many people reading this aren’t going to get why I’m so excited. So here’s a brief history of the both, with lots of embedded YouTube videos of varying quality.

Let’s start with Richard X, who is a producer. But unlike, say, David Guetta, he doesn’t make bad music.

Quite the opposite actually:

He made his name doing 80s sounding mash-ups but he’s done completely original things too, producing a Number One album for this chap, led by this brilliant single:


Another single from that album samples the opening song from Drive and makes its better. Because that’s what Richard X does. He’s also produced songs for Goldfrapp, The Sound of Arrows, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Saint Etienne. He’s also done some fantastic remixes of Pet Shop Boys, Cassie, New Order and Nine Inch Nails. In fact, I may dedicate a future blog post to his best stuff. Or just hijack parties with my laptop and a Spotify playlist.

Onto Annie now…

You may remember Annie from her 2004 minor hit Chewing Gum:

 

or critics favourite Heartbeat:

The former was the first collaboration between Annie and Richard, but in 2003-4 they created two MUCH more interesting songs together. The first, Just Friends is an ambient-y few minutes of gloomy bleeps and bloops where the Norweigan pop princess is having second thoughts about meeting up with a guy she’s chatted to over the internet or some seedy phone line. It’s a great late night track. The other is the totally bubbly and cheesy Me Plus One. The production and ‘Mrs B-E-AUT, Mrs I, Mrs FUL’ chant give it a playground feel but the song is actually a diss track. Ready for some pop facts?

(breathes in)

Basically, and frequent songwriting collaborator Hannah Robinson wrote the classic Some Girls (always get what they wanna wanna, etc) which was recorded and released by Rachel Stevens Of Amazing Second Album Fame. Because it was for Sport Relief it has a pretty naff video, which Rich (rhyme!) apparently hates but that’s beside the point. Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell wanted the song for herself and locked herself in a car in a bid to get it. Whereas Some Girls uses clever wordplay to disguise the fact its on about performing sex acts to get ahead (ermmm) in the music industry, Me Plus One is pretty direct at who the song is aimed at. And its delicious.

Let’s fast forward to 2008/9 where the pair teamed up to create two fantastic icy disco gems, Songs Remind Me Of You and Anthonio.  Here they are you for your listening pleasure. (Not so much visual)

Going by this rule of the pair’s collaborations getting better as the years go on, this year the songs should be so good it isn’t humanely possible to comprehend.

Or at least be as good as my favourite song of the year so far, Take A Look At The World:

Luckily, the first song off the EP has been released already!! Annoyingly, when old Richie X popped it on his SoundCloud he didn’t allow it to be embedded (that or I’m an idiot). Here it is.

https://soundcloud.com/richardxbm/annie-back-together

It was written by Little Boots and sounds like it would fit perfectly on Nocturnes, the album she released a few months ago and you ALL should have bought. I’m surprised that the album didn’t feature any X production, here’s hoping he remixes one for a single release – preferably All For You. That being said, any one would be a killer.

But yes, Back Together is pretty great. It is however, definitely more album (or EP) track than single. Annieponannie has been social media-ing about a new single and video so I’m hoping for something so incredibly everyone else will just give up music and go home (or maybe just will.i.am and Rita Ora at least). That may be a bit far-fetched, so let’s just hope the video is better than this:

2013 will be the year all you ever hear about is Richard x and Norweigan Popstar Annie. From me at least.

P!nk throws everything but the kitchen sink into her ‘True Love (feat. Lily Allen)’ video, featuring Lily Allen

I’m a little late to the party with this one (by two days, which in modern social media entertainment pop music times means its about 2029) but had to write something about this because…

its bloody P!nk.

This woman is probably one of the best popstars on the planet, and although the singles from her The Truth About Love album have been played pretty heavily on the radio (especially Just Give Me a Reason featuring .fun‘s Nate Ruess) I get the feeling she’s always been bubbling under the top of the pop pantheon where the BeyoncesMadonna‘s and Lady Gaga’s reside. Having said that, Get This Party Started and So What will probably be forever ingrained into public conciousness, and rightly so. 

That’s why I want to make a bit of noise about the video for new single True Love. It should be an event, because its a) a new P!nk music video, b) it features another of my treasured but still underrated potty mouth pop heroine, who’s second album is my favourite of.All.TIME by the way, Lily Allen (well, Lily Rose Cooper but even the video title says Allen) and c) it’s pretty very good.

It’s a combination of sorts. There’s lots of shots of her singing the song on tour, as is common for acts without the time and possibly money to make a totally new video for single #4 from an album whilst on the road, mixed with a glimpse into her family being backstage and errr… cycling around whilst rehearsing.

Not sure what this word means to be honest...

Not sure what this word means to be honest…

This is intercut with some greenscreen-y, colour graded in that retro pop art way, multiple P!nk’s, bright backgrounds and shapes and whatnot, which would make a very nice video if it carried on that way till the end. But, when we get to the end of the second chorus…

There’s some shots of P!nk and her daughter playing with sock puppets and strange plush vegetables that look ever so slightly creepy. Then sock puppet to the camera greenscreen ‘action’ followed by well, Lily Allen chopping up a carrot in the most sinster way possible. And the carrot has a face! It’s like there’s some sort of message about vegetarians and ‘what would the world be like if vegetables had feelings too’ in there somewhere but then Lily puts them in a blender and it becomes a whirlwind of P!nk and some green things.

You're keeping control of the knife, but I'm not your darlin' (obligatory Girls Aloud reference)

You’re keeping control of the knife, but I’m not your darlin’ (obligatory Girls Aloud reference)

How did we even get to this point? It doesn’t make sense! What’s it got to do with love?!?

It’s silly and maybe a bit trippy but all in all, I’m having too much fun to care.

Please let this one be a hit, you can do it British public – it took long enough but we all finally got Icona Pop to Number One.

I have nothing...

I couldn’t screencap it at the right time to get the knife chopping carrots in the background. But it happens, trust me.

So I went on holiday, read a book and now I’ve got to think about my life

IMG_1227

Apologies if this blog is a bit rubbish but I’m still desperately tired after coming back from holidaying in Turkey for a week. All that sun, free food and drink really does take its toll. That and flying. It wasn’t a cultural experience per se, I rarely left the hotel and all I learned about Turkish culture was that I don’t really like the way women are treated in their society and the label food more hilariously than IKEA. Chicken Oven you say? Okay!

Whilst out by the pool all of my friends at home found out what grade they passed University with, it took me until the early hours of one of the mornings when a new friend told me you can actually get free wi-fi. I passed with a 2:1 and I’m partly over the moon, and partly… meh.

There’s many reasons for this: pretty much everyone I saw on Facebook got a 2:1 or1st (well done everyone!) so whilst we are all awesome, we are so awesome its going to be hard to stand out. Also, with the media and the kinds of work me and my peers want to go into, it is more about experience and who you know more. And I’d like to think I’ve had amazing practical experience and have started making some good networking connections.

Now that I’m back I’ve got to hit the ground running,  or chances are going to pass me by. The deadline for the work experience on the new Rizzle Kicks video passed whilst I was on holiday, and it was something I heard about as soon as they announced it. I’m kicking myself for that one, music is one of the areas I’d love to work in somehow and the music video is a great, short, sharp way of pulling off some fantastic visuals and camerawork without being bogged down in character or story too much. But alas, I thought the date was after my holiday and that I’d make some quirky video whilst in Turkey to apply for it, on the second day I log onto the free WiFi and slapped in the face with a ‘the deadline is at midnight tomorrow’ on my Facebook wall – dated 15 hours before I read it. Darn.

 I’ve also been a bit lazy in trying to get an article I’ve written for a pretty popular music site published, well I say lazy maybe overcautious. I don’t want to come across as a nag but it could really open doors for me, and at least look great on the CV. A look of media jobs are looking for people with some experience outside of University and that’s something I need to build up more. But I also need to find a house of my own again or my temporary stay with my parents will be longer than I’d like, which means I’m going to have to find a part-time job to keep my bank account looking healthier but allowing my time to pursue my artistic, career endeavours.

It’s all a bit of a balancing act that I’m definitely over-thinking too much. Which brings me onto a book I read on my holiday…

Now I very rarely read books (I did when I was younger, but then I discovered PlayStation and that was that) but when I do read one, I make sure I choose a good one. OK, that’s an understatement: Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh is absolutely fantastic.

I won’t spoil it but its incredibly well-written, shocking and a great balance of humour, character and pace. I’m not going to go into full on review mode or spoil anything but I do want to talk about how of all I things I felt once I turned the last page (about two hours after turning the first one – yep I read the whole thing in 2 hours and caught a nasty sunburn), the thing I feel the most is Inspired.

Right now, I’m panicking myself into thinking if I don’t make the right decisions now, my life will be rubbish and I’ll be working in some dead-end job I hate forever. But I look at how well Mikey is doing, after going through things so much worse than me (I cannot even state how much), not even having a proper education and I find myself thinking how trivial my worrying is. So thank you, Mr Walsh, you turned your life around from a situation many would call unthinkable through sheer hard work, determination and will-power. As long as I keep that in mind, I’ll be just fine.

I hope.