Lily Allen’s been in the studio (not in the kitchen) and now she’s back!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the ‘chart music scene’ has been really, really bad recently. We’ve had to endure Robin Thicke‘s tacky rape anthem ‘Blurred Lines’, Miley Cyrus‘ tongue antics, endless auto-tuned EDM put your hands/drinks up in the club/to the sky ‘bangers’ and everyone twerking as if it was something only invented this year (it wasn’t).

Despite all the misogyny flying around, pop music is usually an area where girls do it best,  but I can sum all the recent albums from Lady Gaga, The Saturdays, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne with a big meh. Where’s the spark?! Things clearly need to be done.

Luckily, my second favourite popstar of all time Lily Allen has decided to come out of musical retirement, and dropped the name Lily Rose Cooper she used when featuring on P!nk‘s ‘True Love‘, to bring take pot shots at the sorry state of the music industry, and the rampant sexism – all wrapped up in one of the best singles of the year.

This, is ‘Hard Out Here’

So, it’s clearly amazing. I could go on about how clearly amazing it is; nearly every line is quotable, the production sounds like a Lily Allen song (twinkly piano et al) in 2013 should sound like an the video if full of screen-cappable gems. Here’s my top 5 favourite bits.

NUMBER 5:  I personally like to think the amount of times Lily uses the word bitch in the song is directly referencing Britney‘s ‘Work Bitch’. Which is still a terrible piece of music.
NUMBER 4: “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut / when boys be talkin’ ’bout their bitches, no one’s making a fuss.”
NUMBER 3: The ironic, and perfect (over)use of auto tune where its really not necessary. Kanye, T-Pain, Rihanna and the like must be REALLY big fans of that Cher song from ’98. You know the one.
NUMBER 2: 

This is my new favourite saying

This is my new favourite saying

NUMBER ONE (unsurprisingly):

Lily Allen Baggy Pussy

This just sums up Lily’s humour: sharp and to the point, but not afraid to self-depreciate herself at the same time as putting the (music) world (of 2013) to rights. I’m so excited, that the album and tour tickets are going to be pre-ordered the moment they go online.

Keep it coming, bitch.

(Oh, and the John Lewis advert Keane cover is lovely and all too. #diversity)

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So, August…

So August came and went in a bit of a blur, so much so I barely blogged at all (sorry!). So I thought I’d do a reflective post on Things I’ve Been Doing. Admittedly I’ve not done anything as exciting as gone to the MTV VMAs and got everyone talking about my foam finger (I could write an entire essay about Miley Cyrus but in short: she’s not doing anything worse than I’ve seen on many nights out, but she is trying too hard and getting on my goat a bit) but I’m sure I will spice things up with a few pictures and (attempts at) puns.

Most of my time this month has been spent commuting to and from Cardiff for work. I’ve got an enjoyable job and its digging me out of my student debt but obviously it’s not where I want to be in my life. And as graduates know, very few leave Uni and walk into a career. The media especially requires you to know the right people, be in the right place at the right time and/or get shed loads of experience.

Luckily for me and a few of my fellow graduates, this weekend we have gotten some of the latter and it’s been invaluable.

L-R: Leah Coombs, Gwyneth Jane Humphreys, Laura Emily Harris, myself, Jack Perry and Alex Tisley.

We’ve all spent the last few days at Snetterton Race Course up in Norwich for the Citroen 24 Hour 2CV Race. As you can tell by our funky uniforms we were the official media team for the whole race. For us this meant we had to man the Twitter, set up and fix the cameras around the race course as well as vision mix and maintain the online live stream. With the race being 24 hours we each got a chance to try our hand at everything multiple times, and get a few hours sleep. Except for Jack and Leah, who endured the full 24 hours with less pit stops than the cars themselves.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

The event wasn’t as intricate or large as Formula 1, but the experience is very similar (I’d imagine).  Carrying around the roaming camera in the pits we had to be totally aware of our surroundings: what cars were in the pits, who was about come in or leave and where you shouldn’t walk unless you want to get run over. As the audio was handled separately by the radio team and their commentators, we had to try and catch the action on the camera as it was being spoken about. We had walkie-talkies to communicate with the director/vision mixer and at the start found it difficult to communicate, with all the noise of the vehicles and other people around. We learned as we went on to communicate direction using short and to-the-point phrases and assume the camera we were carrying was live all the time.

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

Once we worked out this system, and worked out the rhythm of vision mixing the process ran pretty smoothly. Sure, every now and then one of the cameras would decide to not work (it wouldn’t be a proper live broadcast unless something technological failed) and the amount of sugar and snacks I’ve consumed is disgraceful but it was a fantastic experience and, as the first piece of media work I’ve done since University, I’ve been reminded just why I want to be in this industry. It’s a thrill. And the race was pretty exciting too!

I've discovered a passion for motor racing

I’ve discovered a passion for motor racing

Apart from that, there’s not really much to write about what I’ve got upto, so I might quickly whizz through some music and film reviewsopinions.

Music: apart from Miley Cyrus, August saw (and heard) the return of megastars Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with the lead singles from their third albums. Both are all right I guess, ‘Roar’ is probably the better song but ‘Applause’ is more interesting, if only for some of the lyrics and that accent on the verses. First singles are usually pretty safe, predictable options in today’s overly cautious Top 40 music scene, and I’m hoping there are some genuine classics to come from both. As we move into the last few months of the year, loads of albums are released hoping to be scooped up in the Christmas buying rush. The first one of those is obviously Janelle Monae, who has been pretty much on repeat in anticipation over the last month.

This has also come to my attention recently, and anyone who knows me is well are of my… gripes with the original.  (NSFW)

I’m not sure what’s better: this parody or the comments on the web from men who find watching this uncomfortable. So much irony here I could use it get rid of all the creases in my clothes forever.

Films: I’ve been TERRIBLE with going to the cinema this last month; literally only seeing two films. And no, neither of them were One Direction: This Is Us.

Both The Wolverine and Elysium were, in my opinion, strong solid 7 out of 10 movies. Great films wrapped up in good ones, with their potential just hindered by a few things. The Wolverine starts off as a slow, character piece with a gorgeous setting in Japan and a fantastic set-piece atop a bullet train with physics being thrown out the window. I was actually reminded of one of my favourite films of all time, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children; both have that Japanese sensibility, a mix of realism and stylisation, similar pacing and focus on lonely warriors afflicted with symptoms that cause them to collapse at inopportune moments. But whereas the over-the-top action felt in place in Advent Children, and the set-pieces outdid themselves each time, The Wolverine’s final third just descended into silliness for me, with a gigantic CGI samurai robot. There wasn’t much tension in that fight either, with shots of a character waking up from being knocked out and noticing a weapon they could thrown ruining any element of surprise. The teaser trailer has me very stoked for next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which is clearly 20th Century Fox‘s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Let’s hope its just as awesome but I’ve probably memorised every line of last year’s epic nerdfest and I’m insatiable for more.

(speaking of Insatiable, Queen Nadine Coyle annoucned she’s having a baby!)

Back to films and onto Elysium which, like the Pet Shop Boys album with the same title released last year, wrapped up some social commentary (the film about class divide and capitalism, the album about ageing and fame) in a package that’s easily enjoyable, but leaves you wanting more. I’m guessing that’s what you’d find if you looked up the word in the dictionary.

Oh.

Oh.

Unlike most people I’ve talked to, I had no problem with Jodie Foster at all. In fact, she was one of my favourite aspects of the film. My beef was with Sharlto Copley. He was one of the best things about the incredible District 9 but here, I can’t take him seriously as a villain. I can see what he was going for but I never found him creepy, or intimidating – just a large ham criminally out of place.

Continuing on the theme of enjoying things but finding them a bit disappointing (I am so middle aged…) I’ve been playing a lot of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch which has sucked up a fair bit of my time. It’s got that irresistable JRPG hook of ‘just one more thing to do before I stop’  but like Level-5‘s previous games Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King and Rogue Galaxy I find as the game goes on it gets too repetitive and its becoming a bit of a slog. The combat is frustrating at times with ridiculous AI and the story I’m not really into.

It is VERY pretty though. I’m a sucker for Studio Ghibli and being able to have a Totoro lookalike on the team is pretty awesome.

I will say though, I’ve pretty much not used a guide at all so far which I’ve purposefully tried to do after realising I’m potentially ruining gaming experiences but using them too much during my first playthrough. Sure there’s a great in-game encyclopaedia and a lot of hand-holding with very little thinking involved for a lot of puzzles, but I’m choosing my own monster team and one of their two final evolutions based on gut feeling, rather than guides and what other people online tell me to. I could go into a LOT more detail but I’m saving this for either a full blog post once I finish the game or get a YouTube channel with one of my friends off the ground.

Eyes on this space, guys. Eyes on this space.

For now, I’m going to sleep some more and recover from the weekend. Comments, likes, follows etc. are all greatly appreciated and have a lovely September. I promise to post more! Joe

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.