Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

March.

I know you've probably seen this before. But it was a highlight of March.

As it’s the end of the month and I can’t be bothered to write anything good, I thought you might enjoy an insight into the goings on within my mundane little life. Let me begin with a cliché: this month has flown by. I’ve actually done quite a bit this month come to think of it, but in about six hours it shall be over.

March was a month of busy Thursdays. First up was the Lisa Mitchell gig that was very much enjoyed. The following week I was out with the father at La Dolce Vita (which was rather lame), however it was followed by the most amazing rib of beef at Bouchon Breton so all is forgiven.

The next week brought with it my sister’s 16th which was celebrated with a family meal in… Shoreditch. I’ve never heard of anyone going on a family outing to Shoreditch, but we did. And it resulted in a delicious meal at Beach Blanket Babylon. Their duck, mash and green beans were amazing. I’m not always a huge advocate of duck when it’s not Peking. I’ve been fortunate enough to try some of the most amazing Peking Duck in Hong Kong and I often find the breast itself too bland without being cooked this way. This was not the case with the offering of BBB which was succulent and generously surrounded by a hoisin sauce, providing me with the hint of the Chinese flavour that I love so much.

This brings us to last week where I had two exciting events. Tuesday was the day of Paloma Faith’s gig at the Corn Exchange, whilst Thursday was the highlight of my life so far the Bran Nue Dae screening. Both were very pleasant though it was obviously the latter that brought me more excitement.

What else have I learnt this month? Well, I learnt that I like jewellery. If you were a part of the 200+ page views that I got over Sunday and Monday then I’m sure you’re already aware of this. I passed my driving test this month and can finally drive Kylie (Yes, my car has a name linked to my love of Neighbours. Get over it.) without those L Plates drawing attention to my regular failed parking attempts.

As for April? Well I’ve got tickets to two gigs already – starting with Amy Macdonald this Tuesday thanks to teentoday.co.uk. Then towards the end of the month I finally get to see Nerina Pallot again after a three year hiatus (last time resulted in me missing the last train home from Tottenham Hale!) I’ve got two days at Channel 4 as part of Inspiration Week in the holidays which I’m really looking forward to and shall inevitably use as an opportunity to network and promote my blog/Teen Today. Oh, and Venice next Thursday for a few nights en famille before I return to school for that dreaded French Oral. But let’s not spend any more time dwelling on that…. Tell me, how’s your March been?! (That means comment. I don’t bite. Promise.)

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More pretty stuff.

Another necklace that would be sweeter had it been bought for me.

I genuinely think I’ve evolved into a proper girl. Eurgh.

After winning this necklace from Ji Ji Kiki, I’ve had a look around their site and wanted to share some more finds.

C'est La Vie

 First up is this French number. Yes, I do frequently declare my hatred for anything that reminds me of that vile language, however I struggled to detest this. It’s pretty. (I am really bewildered at using the word pretty in this blog. Twice. I am so not a ‘pretty’ kind of person.) The postcard-esque bit reminds me of my Elsiebelle number and, similar to that one, it’s made of brass. Which means that the more you subconsiously chew on it, the more it loses it’s colour. Of course, I’m yet to learn this lesson. It’s a newly developed habit of mine: Eating necklaces. Brass doesn’t react well to liquids. So don’t go dipping any pieces like this into your half full wine glasses. Especially those of you who were witness to the drunken events of last friday night at my house where my friend, Bethany, found half of her beads had slumped into her drink after an over enthusiastic conversation on Chat Roulette.

Whilst these Gingerbread necklaces might not be the most awe-inspiring. They’re only a fiver. Which I reckon is pretty good for a quirky present for someone.

Yum. Cake.

And Ji Ji Kiki don’t just sell jewellery. Oh no, they venture into my all time favourite type of product. Homeware. I mean, just look at these cupcake cases and tell me how they wouldn’t brighten up a boring choc-chip fairy cake. And you just can’t beat hugging salt and pepper shakers.

As for the necklace I was fortunate enough to win? Well that branch bit moves separately to the rest of the pendant which will inevitably mean it ends up in my mouth when I’m all too bored in French lessons. It hopefully arrives in the next few days so it’s bound to make an appearance around my neck before Easter.

Oh, and just so you don’t worry I’ve lost my sanity and become a normal teenage girl. Check out this amazing version of The Sound of White that Missy Higgins performed recently. 

I like jewellery.

This, my friends, is today’s revelation: I like jewellery. Going by your average teenage girl stereotype, I often differ from the norm in my permanently sober, always single, non-make-up-wearing ways. However, in recent years I’ve established a collection of jewellery (primarily necklaces) that are worn regularly.

I started out in the plain large beaded necklace phase, wearing items mainly stolen from a family members wardrobe. But I’ve decided that I’ve finally matured into a proper young woman in the fact that today I visited two fashion blogs and one amazing jewellery site. Yes, that’s right. I’m no longer just a pale faced, internet obsessed foodie. I am picking up teenage girl habits. And venturing, briefly, into the world of fashion blogging.

I have two necklaces that I own that I genuinely adore. The first is one that I picked up on a market stall in Dublin for around 20 euros (a price I deemed to be a little extortionate for what was effectively different coloured pieces of fabric and wood attached to some posh black string). The second is Littlest Love Letter which I won from Teen Today. Currently I wear the latter most days, receiving comments about who bought it for me. *cough* Nobody did.

And then today I stumbled across the Love Hearts and Crosses site after they kindly retweeted my blog on twitter. It’s a good job they did because  I discovered their really great product range include this beauty. It’s a typewriter. On a necklace. With mini paper. With writing on it. Wow. I think I’m in love. It’s taking pride of place on my hypothetical birthday list. (It’s May 17th if you’re wondering.)

Not only do they stock that amazing thing, but they also have loads of other beautiful pieces that have prompted me to register to their site and might even stretch to buying some stuff with my own hard earned money. Impressive hey?

So yes, I think I’ve successfully hinted to my sister that I would like that necklace, but if anyone fancies buying me any other cool necklaces, bracelets or holidays then feel free. (The last one was a joke. Unless you’re offering.)

Ok Ok. It turns out that I am impatient. I bought it.

Paloma Faith at Cambridge Corn Exchange

Who can wear a yellow jump suit? Hang on, let me rephrase that… Who can wear a yellow jumpsuit and pull it off? (First in a metaphorical manner, though later it must have been quite literally pulled off.)

As she walked onto the stage, with large pink feathers hiding her face, Paloma Faith immediately had a strong stage presence. Her hair a little crazy and wearing sunglasses that might more commonly be modelled by a six year old, it didn’t take long to realise that Paloma dresses like this because she wants to. Whilst she might not be as out there as Gaga, her outfits – yes plural – managed to create a stir amongst the audience.

Prior to her arrival on stage, the audience were awakened by the musical activity of La Shark. I have to credit them as providing me with the most enthusiastic performance I’ve ever witnessed; Jumping off amps and encouraging the audience to jog on the spot throughout a song of theirs proved to be all too entertaining. Oh, and if that’s not enough, they also sang a song in French. Which astounded me given my current relationship with the language from across the channel (I like to think we share a mutual hatred.) Musically, they weren’t exactly to my taste, but as live performers I genuinely enjoyed their set.

Opening with Smoke and Mirrors, the stage had been made to look like a 1920’s room complete with, you guessed it: smoke and mirrors. As the evening progressed, Paloma sang through nearly all the tracks from her album, as well as her own personal homage to Billie Holiday (who was a total unknown to me) and a cover of a song I’d never heard of The Beatles.

Instead of singing the album version of Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? a remix version was performed. It was more electronic than the original and allowed for Paloma’s very smiley guitarist to perform an impressive solo as she made her way behind the central mirror for a costume change. Arriving back on stage in a dress embellished with shards of mirrors and a beret, Paloma blended into the set design perfectly. Her ability to wear obscure fashion, left me bewildered as I stood in my jeans, plain top and Primark leather jacket.

Other highlights of the show included her latest single Upside Down, my personal favourite Stone Cold Sober and a performance of Romance Is Dead in which a middle aged guy from the audience was dragged up on stage to be serenaded by Paloma.

To end the show, she burst into New York. However this was not the same song that she’d got into the charts with. Oh no, this was the “Start spreading the news / we’re leaving today” version. Of course, this only lasted for a verse or so before the familiar beat of the Paloma-penned track could be heard and, almost faultlessly, the song changed from one to the other.

One thing was, however, missing from her performance. After her first two songs, she produced some sheets of paper and took them over to her guitarist to read for her. “I’m sorry but I’ve lost my voice and so my band will be speaking for me” he declared.  I missed the banter, anecdotes and jokes that so often make a good show great. There were times when Paloma broke her vow of silence to apologise once more for her dying voice (she even tweeted her apologies after the show), yet I can understand that she needed to savour it for her performances. She appeared to hit all the right notes despite the strain that must have been weighing heavily on her voice.

Bran Nue Dae

Ok, so my eyes look weird. But it's TIM MINCHIN.

Have you ever seen an Aboriginal Musical Comedy? Nope? Well I hadn’t either until I turned up at The Barbican Centre on Thursday evening to see Bran Nue Dae as part of the London Australian Film Festival. I knew a lot about the film prior to seeing it, undoubtedly this was because one of the main characters was played by my favourite Australian ever: Missy Higgins.

The plot is fairly straightforward. A young guy, Willie, runs away from his religious boarding school in Perth trying to get back to his home town of Broome. (These are Australian places for those who are a little clueless) He runs into his wayward Uncle Tadpole on his first night on the run and the two of them join forces to make the journey home. Without money (Tadpole is a bit of an alcoholic) they manage to guilt trip two backpackers into giving them a lift to Broome which is “just up the road”.

Missy Higgins plays Annie, a crazy hippy chick with a slightly more prudent German boyfriend. Missy’s not the only well known singer to appear in the film, Australian Idol contestant Jessica Mauboy and another Aussie Singer (whose been likened to Elvis) Dan Sultan also have major roles. The head teacher of the boarding school who chases after Willie is played by Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of The Carribean), whilst Ernie Dingo takes the role of Tadpole. Oh, and Magda Szubanski cameos as a weird shop owner with a gun.

Songs are used throughout the film to aid the plot and generally make you smile. Whilst the two songs Missy sings on (The stunning Afterglow, and her duet with Ernie Dingo on Feel Like Going Back Home) are really lovely, the one lyric that has really stuck in my head is “There’s nothing I would rather be, than to be an aborigine”. It’s a more comical song that resulted in an interesting dance routine on screen with choreographed, synced leg kicking.

At the end of the film, Willie predictably returns home to get the girl of his dreams Roxy (Mauboy) and then there’s a bit of a twist that is rather hilarious. I shan’t ruin it for you as I genuinely recommend this film to you all and think you should watch it. Admittedly it’s not going to ever make it to general release here. Nor will it be out on DVD. But if you ever get the chance to watch it, DO.

Oh, I feel I have to add a few words about what else happened at this screening. I met Tim Minchin. Hence the photo. He had introduced the film and hung around. He was talking with friends about how they were going to arrange themselves into cars to get home when we interrupted and got a photo with him. He was very sweet and called my rather large, slow camera “Old School”. He also trod on my foot.

But yes… Bran Nue Dae is my new favourite film. It should be yours too.

Amy Macdonald – A Curious Thing

Curious. It’s an intriguing word. It forms the name of one of my favourite albums Curiouser. When you combine this with the fact that I loved Amy Macdonald’s debut album This Is The Life, you’d correctly be able to assume that I was excited to listen to this album.

Fame has also been a theme that runs through Amy’s songs. On her debut you had the likes of LA, Poison Prince and Footballers Wife (the latter being, perhaps, a tad ironic given that she is now engaged to a footballer, albeit a Falkirk player!) A Curious Thing offers songs in a similar vain with This Pretty Thing being my personal favourite. “I don’t care if it’s YSL / I don’t care if it’s Chanel”. Simple words. But a clear message. And as I couldn’t care less about the clothes of the righteous ‘celebrity’ I enjoy to hear them being ranted about in a musical format.

Similarly, An Ordinary Life speaks of fame once more. I’ve heard somewhere that it was written about seeing Gerard Butler being mobbed at a premiere and how fame can overwhelm you. Whether this is true is yet to be seen (LA was fiercely rumoured to be about Jake Gyllenhaal before this was later denied), but I love the song.

Next Big Thing is guitary and has a fast pace. Amy can sing at the speed I talk out. Which, for those of you who don’t know me, is very quick. Catchy chorus, verses take a few listens for you to embrace them but after the number of times I’ve listened to it you learn to love it in it’s entirety. The narrative sticks to the third person storytelling thing which has worked up to now so Amy (or her record company) clearly saw no reason to make any sweeping changes lyrically.

The first single Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over has more electro background sounds than previous material. The Scottish accent is immediately present and shines particularly strongly in the chorus. Love Love also sees the accent being very strong. Saying this, the accent is part of Amy’s charm and so can be heard in every song that leaves her vocal chords. I guess it’s a bit of a marmite thing. Love it or hate it. It doesn’t bother me either way. I get the impression it doesn’t massively bother Amy either. She doesn’t through herself out in the media. She sings because she wants to. And so I’d guess that she sings what she wants, how she wants.

What Happiness Means To Me starts off slowly. It also ends slowly. It takes a while to get into – You can’t exactly singalong to it. Aided by the second half of the song being completely instrumental you get some time to sit back and appreciate the music. It’s not conventional. But it works. Speed is also not of the essence in Troubled Soul, however the chorus maintains a slightly faster beat and I am very capable of singing along to it.

The lyrics to Spark really hit you. The chorus is really catchy and full of metaphors. And I can’t help but love a good use of metaphor. In fact, the whole song is basically an extended metaphor. I love it. Your Time Will Come is less metaphorical and slightly more to the point. But equally pleasant.

Also featured on the album are No Roots, My Only One and Give It All Up. Personally, I find these to be the weakest tracks, but none are offensive to my ears.

All in all, I really like the album. Amy’s voice does appear to have matured, as has her songwriting ability. Highly recommended.

The Giraffe Poem

It appears that people keep finding my blog through search engines having searched for ‘The Giraffe Poem’. I feel that my review of Giraffe does not satisfy this search and, as such, feel that it is my duty to type up the poem. I did have it on a postcard which you can get free in all restaurants however I seem to have misplaced that. Therefore I have no option but to attempt to recite it from memory. Here it goes…

Every Giraffe knows that smiling is infectious.
You catch it like the flu,
Someone at Giraffe once smiled at me
And I started smiling too

I looked around the tables
And someone saw me grin,
And when he smiled, I realised
I’d passed it on to him!

I thought about my smile a lot
And realised all it’s worth.
A single smile like mine or yours
Can travel around the earth

So if you feel a smile begin,
Don’t leave it undetected.
Let’s start an epidemic, quick,
Let’s get the world infected!

I hope that this is correct and that you can all manage a smile when reading it. Any visit to Giraffe makes me smile.

Missy Higgins – Steer EP

Whilst I’m happy to admit that Steer used to be my least favourite Missy Higgins’ track, the EP that it came from is home to one of her most beautiful non-album tracks.

Like the majority of Missy’s singles; the CD title is not just ‘Steer’. No, it has those added two letters ‘EP’ that don’t seem to appear on other releases over here.  I’ve discussed the title track in my On A Clear Night album review which only leaves three other songs for me to comment on.

Before I even get started on reviewing the music I must mention the artwork on this physical release. The case is one of those cardboard ones that immediately makes it feel more special than being surrounded by plastic. The font is the same as is used on all promotional work from On A Clear Night; all capital letters with ‘HIGGINS’ being indented on the second line. In the right of the front photo is Missy in profile smiling as though she’s been mesmerised by something. Something that’s a night so totally clear perhaps? Perhaps it’s something that means you can control where you go and you can steer? Just a thought. Anyway, once opened there’s a lovely photo of a cloudy blue sky with a few birds flying around freely. And I guess being free is part of what Steer is all about.

Dusty Road seems to be about empowering women, I guess. “Sometimes men abuse your power” is a line that is followed by the chorus about how to get off the ‘Dusty Road’ of abuse. Maybe. I’m not entirely sure about this song to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing along to it (it’s one of Missy’s guitary upbeat tracks) but I don’t think I really “get” it.

A song that I do connect with is The Battle. Written about a supposed battle with another songwriter, the lyrics show Missy’s genius. Beginning with “I don’t need a slap in the face / I’m already at the bottom of the sea”, the use of metaphor is typically impressive. A slow song played on acoustic guitar, it allows for Missy to sing a few “oooohh’s” displaying her vocal talents.

The final track is asterisked as a Demo. It was produced by Missy herself and is titled Leave A Note. I love the rawness of this song. It’s full of emotion. It appears to be some sort of plea for someone to stop leaving without telling anyone. At face level that’s what I took from it anyway. Although as with most pieces of songwriting by Missy, there’s likely to be a few other more complex interpretations that could be found.

One of my favourite EPs. And definitely one of my favourite physical CDs for it’s beautiful sleeve.

Lisa Mitchell, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun and Benjamin Francis Leftwich at ARU, Cambridge

A cold winter spring night in Cambridge. An Australian singer songwriter is performing. Who is in the crowd? Obviously, it’s me. “Who is tonight’s obscurity from down under?” I hear you all ask yourselves rhetorically. Well, I shall ignore your use of rhetoric and tell you that this performer is a young girl (I think she’s nineteen, maybe twenty) and her name is Lisa Mitchell.

Her claim to fame over here is that Neopolitan Dreams was played in the Surf Advert. I say it’s ‘her’ claim to fame, she didn’t actually mention it as she played at the Anglia Ruskin Student Union. In fact, she failed to say much at all in between her songs. Perhaps she was feeling a little quiet last night as she politely thanked the audience after every song before strumming away at the next one. This didn’t really allow for massive audience interaction but the three drunken Australians doing strange jigs throughout the set suggested that she didn’t disappoint despite her lack of banter.

The set started late, with Lisa not arriving on stage until 10.34. Fortunately I did not need to catch the particularly early last train home from Cambridge at 10.41 as I would have missed the entirety of her set. My thanks have to go to Frankie’s dad for coming and driving us home. Had he not then it would have been a bit of a waste of a gig if I’m honest.

Nearly all of the songs from Wonder were played. Though sadly my favourite song from an EP, Alice In Wonderland was not. Lisa doesn’t have the most powerful voice, but she manipulates it to work alongside the instruments to create a unique sound. Whilst I’ve mentioned that her audience interaction could be improved, her random hops and awkward dancing entertained us in the likes of Neopolitan Dreams and Coin Laundry.

Supporting Lisa, were both Benjamin Francis Leftwich and The Boy Who Trapped The Sun. Whilst I’d previously seen the latter as a support act for Pete Murray in August last year, the first act was unknown to me. However I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by his vocals and acoustic guitar playing. His set could have done with one or two upbeat songs in there but that wasn’t his sound and I’m not going to judge him for it. The second artist, accompanied by a cellist, was still as good as when I first saw him. His track Dreaming Like A Fool had struck a chord with me last time and, despite it never being released and me not having listened to it since I saw it, I still managed to remember all the words to the chorus. “You could never be an actress/I know the knife’s under the mattress/If this is love I’d rather keep dreaming/Dreaming like a fool” There’s just something about those lines that makes them so powerful. Admittedly sleeping with a knife underneath you is pretty full on, but he’s crafted the metaphors into the song so that it’s complexity becomes enchanting. He’s got a new EP out now, and he assured me that Dreaming Like A Fool will be released in the summer.

Overall, it was a great gig. And well worth the six pound ticket. The venue was alright as well. It wasn’t even half full though which wasn’t great for an artist who deserves a lot more recognition.

My Daughter Grew Another Head and Other True Life Stories

Initially, this Channel 4 documentary is harder hitting than the Beeb’s offering as it has different shots of ‘real life people’ telling their life story in one sentence. These tend to involve health defects, sex or general impalement from a broomstick. Y’know, your run of the mill stories that can easily be found by listening in to your neighbours conversations. Oh wait, that’s a lie. The journalists have to do quite a bit of research to track down these interesting individuals who will eventually end up as laughing stock two page features in a magazine. To show the kind of reactions people have to these stories the documentary makers opted to film a few, how do I word this, ‘members of the target audience’ of these magazines as they read through the stories in utter disbelief and despair. For me, it was all a bit to hyperbolic and I was unsure of how ‘real life’ these shots were.

As opposed to being filmed at one magazine as Secrets For Sale was, this programme focuses more on the middle men. A company called Famous Features  will help you find the best sum for your gem of a story. Of course, this comes at a price as they’ll then take a large percentage of the sum as their agent fees. For example, a story that was sold around the magazines for £2500 only resulted in the guy involved in the story (a man whose claim to fame is that he was the first Brit to have a bum transplant – yes, ANYTHING is now newsworthy if it’s the ‘first’ or has any superlative before it) only got £1000. That’s a tidy amount being kept by the middle man. In fact, it’s almost sounding appealing to me. Almost. And considering this Essex lad spent £7000 on the implants in the first place, I’m not hugely concerned about the amount that he gets compensated for looking like a bit of an idiot.

Once again, I’m left questioning the morals of some of the journos. The ‘Secret Sex Change’ story left a transgender person in tears once they read their own article. At Real People they read the stories back to the contributors before submitting them, with only the overly-exaggerated titles left to the editor’s discretion. Yet here the contributor genuinely didn’t seem to know how their story was going to be portrayed. This is not journalism to me. This is manipulation of a story to sell copies. This is deceit.

Yes, there are some awful people in it solely for the money. But others genuinely want their story to be told, not sold. I know they must practically sign away their lives to the magazines to do what they want with them, but surely the contributors should get the final say on what can be said in a “true” life article? Apparently not.

“It sounds horrible to say, but those are the best sort of stories”. These are the words spoken about a couple whose two children were killed in a car crash by a footballer a few years ago. How on earth a journo can use a positive superlative in that context worries me. Surely there must be a point when your conscience kicks in and the profits overlooked?

At the end of the programme the class issue is brought up. One of the writers talks of how it’s not really a middle class thing to do. I’m glad I’m not the only one to have formed a heavily generalised and non-PC view of the target audience.

If I can just compare this programme with Secrets For Sale, I’d like to point out that the BBC put more effort into providing detail about the stories. For me, this Cutting Edge programme came across as trying to put across too much without providing the necessary information. Which I suppose could be deemed fitting for an industry which revolves around omitting the boring information in place of creatively constructed content.

As for the programme’s title? Well there certainly was not a second head on the girl. She’d had an implant in her head to help skin grow over to stop baldness. Another exaggerated title which is quite apt for the exaggerated world of ‘True Life’ magazines.