Sunday, February 15, 2004

Bingeing On Music

After a moderately slow start this year, I’ve jumped back into the pool of the music buying public with both feet. The result is seven new CD’s in about as many days. In no particular order:

Stereolab – Margerine Eclipse. An album that sounds much like the band’s last several albums, which is not a criticism. Stereolab is just so good at creating beautiful music that you almost start to take them for granted. Can’t wait to see them live in March.

LOTR:ROTK - Soundtrack. Very much a mood album, featuring the excellent movie score composed by Howard Shore. Many chills up the back of your neck moments as the music evokes some great memories from the film, notably “The End Of All Things”.

Franz Ferdinand. Debut album from the local boys who everybody seems to name-drop these days. And for good reason. The album does take a few listens to get into, but not because it isn’t immediately good. It’s just that the current single, Take Me Out, is just so bloody catchy (more-ish as the Scots would say) that you just want to keep playing the track over and over. But hey, there are another 10 excellent tracks on this album that continue to grow on me. Another band I can’t wait to see live, this time in April.

Snow Patrol – Final Straw. Another buzz band, originally from Northern Ireland but based in Glasgow so they have effectively been adopted as locals. A few excellent tracks, but overall a little too mid-90’s alt-rock for my tastes.

Lost In Translation – Soundtrack. An excellent album featuring the music from the excellent film. My Bloody Valentine may be gone, but Kevin Shields is doing his solo thing here with several great tracks. “Kaze Wo Atsumete” by Happy End is a real standout track as it encapsulates the movie perfectly (no surprise that it plays over the end credits). “Alone in Kyoto” by Air is also brilliant.

Air – Talkie Walkie. Speaking of everybody’s favourite French duo, they are in fine form with their latest. Simply a stunning listen that evokes visions of a visit to a French outpost on Mars. Gets my vote for dinner party album of 2004.

As Mike revealed to me this week, the Pixies have in fact been confirmed to be reunited and touring this year. Imagine my excitement to learn that they will also be coming to Scotland to play as part of the T in the Park festival this year? With The Darkness and David Bowie already confirmed, this year’s festival should be incredible. I’m already beginning to speculate as to who else might be playing. Weezer, Morrissey and Teenage Fanclub all have new albums out this summer after all…..

Sunday, February 08, 2004

One Year Later

Last Thursday marked my one-year anniversary in Scotland. I knew the date to be accurate, but I could scarcely believe how fast the time has gone by. I’m already beginning to see certain events from this time last year kick-off, such as the rugby Six Nations Cup and the TripTych music festival which is bringing a strong sense of deja-vu.

The past year has certainly produced results that I would never have expected on that day I stepped off the plane into Glasgow International Airport. It has been a fantastic experience thus far and now that I am fully comfortable and feel like one of the locals (though with a foreign accent) I greatly look forward to the next year as well.

Last Sunday I attended one of the more fun concerts that I have ever been to when I saw La Bottine Souriante live as part of the finale to Celtic Connections. This Quebecois band was alive with rhythm, and it wasn’t long before I (along with the rest of the crowd) was clapping and toe-tapping away. What I found quite impressive was that there was no drummer per se. Several members of the band (either while playing guitar, banjo, or mandolin) sat on a chair and stomped out the beat with their feet. Combine that with a female dancer in skin-tight outfits slinking around the stage, a full brass section and four-part harmonies in French – well, a good night is to be had by all!

Saw two more excellent movies recently which is certainly getting me excited about cinema again.

I had just finished reading Touching The Void, the true story of two British climbers in the Peruvian Andes where, during the decent, everything goes very wrong. The book was an excellent read and I therefore was looking forward to the movie version which had recently opened in Glasgow. The film, done as a docu-drama (a dramatic recreation but with interviews of the real players and narrated by the author) was stunning with its dizzying camera angles and the way it really captured the mood of the situation. Despite knowing what happens, I was riveted to the screen and you could hear the collective gasps of the crowd during key scenes.

Much different but equally powerful was the film Belleville Rendez-vous, an animated French film about a Tour de France cyclist who is abducted by gangsters and the subsequent rescue attempt by his grandmother and loyal dog. It sounds absurd, but it was both funny and sad, and incredibly realistic despite the exaggerated drawings. Fantastic songs too – the theme song just won’t leave my head.

Last night Fiona and I had an incredibly fun time making dinner as we attempted to make home-made sushi using the kit that I received from back home for Christmas. Glasgow has an excellent Oriental grocery store where we got all the essential ingredients (seaweed, pickled ginger, sushi rice). After picking up our fish from the local grocery store, we got to it. And despite initial trepidation, it turned out to be quite straightforward. They looked almost like something you’d see at a restaurant, and they were delicious - combinations of avocado, cucumber, salmon, prawn and crab. Throw in some miso soup and green tea and it ends up as the most authentic sushi meal that I’ve had since arriving in the UK.