Monday, 29 December 2008

Stef Reviews... Revisiting Sonic 3 and Sonic 2

Beginning christmas day, I started replaying Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 via a Sega Megadrive emulator on my DS (very cool). I absolutely love this series of games, and cruelly was denied a Megadrive of my own in my youth, so I had to make do with the Game Gear variants (which weren't even a tiny patch on the mega drive epics). Either way, a few years ago, when emulators and roms and that became all the rage (which they still are, to be honest), I downloaded and completed Sonic 1, 2, Sonic and Knuckles, and a plethora of other games. However, Sonic 3 got me stuck in the Carnival Night Zone, and so this was where I began. 


This game is probably the most epic of Sonic games, introducing Knuckles as a bad guy (because Robotnik had tricked him! Read the comics already!). At the time, this must have been one of the most epic games to come out, I mean, I didn't even own a megadrive, but I read Sonic the Comic and other gaming magazines almost religiously, and this game was HYPED. Especially in Sonic the Comic where the comic's storylines started being about the game's storyline. For a kid, that stuff is huge, and I still get that excitement now. Especially when re-reading all of the past Sonic the Comic's. And I've finally finished this one now too, the Carnival Zone bit where I was stuck was ridiculous. Stupid bouncing barrel thing.


Right, I've gotten sidetracked, and am now going to spend my night watched the old Sonic TV series (Not the slapstick one, the GOOD one) and most likely read more STC. Sonic 2 was an ace game though, I finished it again today, in two fairly short sittings. Good times!

NOTE: In both game completions, I didn't collect all the emeralds. I do plan on doing this at a later date, but I'm all about quick fixes at the moment! 


Friday, 26 December 2008

Stef reviews... His christmas presents '08

So, let me explain the feelings behind this post first; It's early saturday 27th december, and I'm planning on catching up on my christmas tv via iPlayer (Charlie Brooker and Gavin and Stacey are calling me...), but i'm currently listening to Okkervil River - The Stage Names on vinyl, and it's that lovely that I have to do something else than watch things for another half an hour, cos I'm a little bit involved in this record right now. So; My christmas presents '08: The Review.

Okkervil River - The Stage Names 12" LP

Released in 2007, this is THE alternative pop album you need in your life. Currently making my ears very happy. Recommended listening? Unless It's Kicks.

Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance 12" LP

Sexy album, the beginning of track one is a bit overly scratchy due to the vinyl, but All Medicated Geniuses and This Is Our Emergency are absolutely classic art-rock songs.

Boys Night Out - Make Yourself Sick Blue/Black 12" LP

Loved this album for years, when I saw that Vinyl Collective were released it on black and blue vinyl, I had to get it. Arrived in the mail on christmas eve, this gets the "best timing of the year award"

Saves The Day - Stay What You Are 12" LP

F. I. R. E. F. L. Y.

Enough said. That song on vinyl is pretty much happy thoughts all round.

Watchmen by Alan Moore graphic novel

Having already read this on my computer via the interweb, I decided to actually get the real thing, and it is by far the best graphic novel I've ever read. Such a great story, and there is so much depth to it as well.

Sonic The Comic #100

Years ago, I collected Sonic the Comic. I read it every week without fail, and when I eventually stopped, my parents got rid of them all :(  But now, pretty much over ten years on, I found a site where I could order the old copies, and thought i'd get the epic issue 100. I'm currently reading all the back issues online, i'm up to #55 :) And i'm back to playing Sonic 3 via a Sega MegaDrive emulator on my DS. Good times.

Rhys Darby - Imagine That! DVD

He isn't just Murray the manager off Flight Of The Conchords (or just the manager of Jim Carreys workplace in Yes Man (which is awesome!)!), he is also a wicked stand up, with an act that highlights his amazing talents at mime with sound effects. You ever wonder what the whole "trapped in a box" mime routine would be like with added noises? Wonder no more :D

Peep Show - Series 1-5 Boxset

I want to be more like Johnson if I'm honest. You know this series is ace already, right?

Russell Brand - My Booky Wook

Yes I like Russell Brand, he is both funny and interesting. And that whole Andrew Sachs thing was BLATENTLY Jonathan Ross's fault. Either way, this looks like a really interesting life story.

Lucky Charms cereal from my Dad

I was so excited I didn't see the lid of the cereal box was taped down a bit. My heart visibly sunk as my parents chortled at me. Inside the box was:

- A note explaining there was a credit crunch on (back story needed here; Lucky charms arent sold widely in the UK, just imported in from the US and sold for like £7.49 a box in Selfridges stores), and instructions on what to do with the rest of the contents of the box.
- A packet of standard marshmallows
- A packet of cheerios
- My epic sadness

I'll say this; The thought that went into this elaborate scheme is amazingly commendable. However, it calls for revenge at some point.

Lucky Charms cereal from my sister

LUCKILY (haha) my sis saved the day; She bought me some real Lucky Charms. WOO

New Wallet

It is okay, but I fear lack of card slots/money sections will prove an eventual hinderance. Will seek out more heavy duty alternative, relegating this to the still-quite-sexy "my night out wallet" status.

Chocolates and Sweets 


Aftershaves, Perfume stuff

Issey Miyake (?) stuff I already use, but I have run out of: Win.
The other two new ones I got: Win.

Should keep me smelling delightful for another year

Gift vouchers

Always appreciated.

I think that covers it, thank you's go out to all of my loved ones.

Note: I did actually buy the majority of my presents myself, with my parents letting me off two weeks of rent in compensation. There's still some thought that counts there :)

Merry Christmas 2008 all!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008 15-1

Part two of the biggest countdown this side of 2009. Oh yes.

15: Flight Of The Conchords - S/T

First off, the Flight Of The Conchords TV programme is absolutely amazing, and I implore you to watch it if you haven't already. Bret and Jemaine are two musicians from New Zealand who have their own special brand of comedy-folk. That said, this album is an absolutely fantastic collection of songs from the award-winning first series of the TV programme, and no track is quite like the last. Whether they are being influenced by the Pet Shop Boys ("Inner City Pressure"), Gangsta Rap ("Mutha'uckers"), or David Bowie (er.."Bowie"), Flight Of The Conchords always manage to bring a smile to your face. Definitely the comedy music album of 2008. Here's to the second series of the show, and (surely) the second album in 2009.

14:Hot Club De Paris - Live At Dead Lake

Despite the slightly misleading title, Live At Dead Lake is the second proper album from Liverpool alt-pop band Hot Club De Paris, and how it hasn't escalated them to levels of Wombat-esque stardom is absolutely mental. Lead single "Hey Housebrick" is a big highlight here, being one of the indie singles of the year. Elsewhere, the quality remains high, with the ever-so-slightly dark "My Little Haunting", and the ultra-catchy "This Thing Is Forever". "Boy Awaits Return of the Runaway Girl" is also worth mentioning, with it's perfectly mellow chorus. Hot Club De Paris are a band who definitely deserve your attention right now. Check out the "You've Been Framed" style video for Hey Housebrick below.

13:Pockets Filled With Matches - Strobe Lights and Ambulances EP

First off; EP's count in my top 25. Just in case a fuzz was kicked up. This debut EP from Sheffield's Pocket's Filled With Matches is a brilliant 7 track showcase of beautifully fuzzy female-led post-punk rock, with splashings of Pretty Girl Make Graves and Help She Can't Swim all over. Stand out tracks include the exhilarating "The Monophonic", and the frantic "So Sorry, Simone", and between the clever guitar lines and the energetic vocals of siblings Paul and Elie respectively, you'll barely have time to catch your breath. With several singles being lined up to follow up this EP in the new year, bigger things are surely on the way for Pockets. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this EP is entirely free? Download it from here (rapidshare link)

12:Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing

This is one of the most blissed out indie-rock albums to come out of America this year, and it's not hard to see why, with opening number "Glue Girls" inducing the type of surf-rock feeling that the Beach Boys were once king of. The whole album just gives off the aurora of one of those perfect sunny days you see on adverts where everyone is just chilling out at the park eating ice-creams, so as you can imagine, listening to this album in the depths of winter is an extreme headfuck, but a worthwhile one at that, as it warms you up inside quite awesomely. I also challenge you to get album highlight "Modern Mystery" out of your head after a few listens. Perfec'

11:Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Speaking of blissed out indie rock, we come to number 11, and Narrow Stairs by Death Cab For Cutie. This album took all the good parts from previous album Plans, and combined them with the atmosphere of album-before-that Transatlanticism, and it is absolutely fantastic. Obvious album highlight is the 8 minutes-plus "I Will Possess Your Heart", a song about longing made perfect by a 4 minute intrumental buildup at the start of the song. Single of the year? Very possibly. After this, the album turns into a mix of american indie rock anthems ("No Sunlight", "Long Division") and slower, more atmospheric numbers, which are what we've come to know, are Death Cab's strong point. And they don't disappoint, with "Talking Bird" and album closer "The Ice is Getting Thinner" being so full of longing, that you can feel it in every drum hit, every guitar line, and every syllable of every word. Overall, this is one of those albums where each track has it's own special reason for being, but when brought together, they become something special indeed.

10:Lykke Li - Youth Novels

About a day after reading Lykke Li's name for the first time, I entered a competition to see her live in Manchester for free. I won said competition, and then saw her for the first of two times in the same month on that night, and both times I was absolutely in awe the whole time. Lykke Li's stage presence is so unique, so demanding, that it's hard not to get trapped in the almost tribal performances of the synth pop tracks that dominate Youth Novels. That said, Lykke Li's music sounds a lot more organic than the synth pop tag gives her credit for, and tracks like "Dance Dance Dance", "Breaking It Up" and "Little Bit" can't help but make you want to groove along with them. Online bonus track "Tonight" proves to be a fantasticly longing closer to the album, and demonstrates an exposed fragile innocense that the rest of the album manages to hide behind tribal drums and acoustic guitars.

9:Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim

Laura Marling must surely be on track to becoming a national treasure. On the the release of this, her debut, mercury nominated, album, she has had only just turned 18, and the songwriting on display within this album does not suggest such a youth. From the start of "Ghosts", to the end of the hidden track, this album swells with a timeless romantic yearning, sometimes so close to the edge of despair that it can literally pull your heartstrings and start sawing at them with a small, delicate blade. 2nd Single "Cross Your Fingers" puts an upbeat alt-folk backing track to otherwise downbeat lyrics ("Cross your fingers/Hold your toes/We're all gonna die when the building blows"), and it has a habit of being one of those songs you start singing at random times without really realising it. Warning;This could be a potentially awkward situation. 

8:Anathallo - Canopy Glow

Whenever I try to describe Anathallo to people, I always tend to go for the description of "Like the Arcade Fire, but a lot more uplifting", and this seems to be a good starting point. Anathallo is a 7-piece band from Chicago, and they play some of the most delicate, uplifting music you are likely to hear. Seeing them live is an utter delight, and I was honoured to support them down in London recently. Canopy Glow builds a lot of the grandiose foundations laid by previous album Floating World, and is absolutely full of alt-pop moments, from the "When you wake up" vocal lines on "Italo", the killer chorus of "The River" and pretty much everything about "John J. Audubon", from the handbell intro, to the enchanting "Ooh's" and "Doo's" and background vocals. In all seriousness though, it's live where these guys truly astound, when they are next playing near you, I recommend you see them. You can download "The River" here. (right click save target as)

7:Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

From the strange machine like drum beats that lead into album opener "Centennial", Tokyo Police Club grab you and don't let go, taking on a tour of their short snappy indie rock, like The Strokes hyperactive younger brothers. Almost every track on this album clocks in at under 3 minutes, and because of this, it is absolutely impossible to get fed up of it. The more mellow "Juno" appears at track 4  with its glacial lyrics and glockenspiel to slow proceeding down again, but as soon as the last glockenspiel note rings out, we're straight back into the urgent post-punk indie rock with the fantastic single "Tesselate". This album also wins an award for the strangest chorus to get into my head on a regular basis, and this is "Elephant shell/You're my cave and I've been hiding out" from "In A Cave". I can't fault this album. Even though it's only about 25 minutes long, it all fits perfectly.

6:Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

To say that Los Campesinos are prolific is nothing. This was their second full-length release of 2008, and if anything is improves on their debut wholeheartedly. This record is a feast of amazing lyrics, and the twee instrumentation highlights Gareth Campesinos amazing vocal work. The title track's lyrics in particular are amazing, if only for the brilliant little run where Gareth reminisces about "the one in Canada/when you got drunk/ate loads of crisps/and threw up by a football pitch". Elsewhere, teenage heartbreak, revenge and hundreds of awesome little references are to be found on an album that manages to switch between naive optimism and sharp realism at the drop of a violin bow. Almost perfect indie pop. You haven't seen the end of team campesinos in this countdown though...

5:The Maple State - Say Scientist EP

The second EP to make this top 25, and rightfully so. This EP is a collection of six songs by The Maple State that are absolutely perfect. Opener "We Swear By The Light Life" is a great little pop song, with driving bass sneaking underneath the glossy guitar lines, and passionate vocals, that are found all the way through this EP. Things turn dark on "Don't Take Holidays", which is the most straightforward rocker on here. However, the best is saved for the second half, leading off with the anthem-in-the-making of "For Our Temperature Lives". I dare you to find another song that utilises the line "Now i'm not so fucking chipper". I dare you. The syrupy sweet synth lines in this track are absolutely perfect, and manage to dig inside you and just take up residence. Personal highlight for me is "Starts With Dean Moriarty", a song which seems to fit my whole year of being an overly poor student perfectly, with it's chorus of "This is a bad sign/I'm believing my own lies/The money is gone/Now there's no-one left to bail me out". With the members of The Maple State still being at university themselves, i'm guessing that they were in the same boat as myself. Nice. Roll on 2009, and hopefully their debut album.

4: Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster

The debut album from Los Campesinos (their first of two this year;see no.6 on this list) was pretty eagerly anticipated by myself. Ever since hearing "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" on a Drownedinsound podcast (which is a song that has been cruelly left off this album, uncondonable), I got officially hooked on Los Campesinos. Hearing the opening track "Death To Los Campesinos" for the first time before the album came out was the icing on the cake; It's possible the track that encapsulates what LC are all about - good clean fun indie pop-rock, with subtle dark undertones. Early single "You!Me!Dancing!" acts as a centrepoint for the album, with an extended post-rock noise intro bursting into dancey twinkly indie pop town. Good times all round. "We Are All Accelerated Readers" deserves extra special mention as being one of those "gets in your head" songs, and the exhilarating ending of "One blink for yes, two blinks for no" makes "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" one of the uplifting highlights of the album. I just realised that I almost forgot to write about "My Year In Lists". This is probably THE track of the album, and the video to it can be seen below, and I HIGHLY recommend it!

Even though this album is rated two space higher than "We Are Beautiful..." I think I rate both albums about the same; This one just edged ahead due to the fact I've been listening to it all year, whereas i've only had "We Are Beautiful.." for just over a month. So there that is.

3: Gregory And The Hawk - Moenie And Kitchi

I've only had this album for just over a month, and it's completely sucked me into it's delicate off-kilter world. This record is one part acoustic guitar, one part off kilter drums and percussion, and multiple parts of sweet, beautiful vocals, courtesy of singer Meredith Godreau. I can say with complete 100% honesty that I think "Oats We Sow", "Doubtful" and "Ghost" are absolutely perfect songs, and the rest aren't far behind. Also worth checking out, although not strictly album related, is her acoustic cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable", with is absolutely stunning. You can listen "Oats We Sow" here, and I really recommend you doing so;

2: The All New Adventures Of Us - Best Loved Goodnight Tales

This album is so close to being my favourite of the year. For one, single "Firetruck Doki Doki" has been one of my most played tracks since TANAOU put it on their myspace page for the first time. Next, when the actual album was first released earlier this year, it was released on vinyl only, which made me madly excited, being a huge fan of albums of vinyl to say the least. Next up was when it arrived, because it wasn't just a vinyl record; there was a (photocopied) handwritten lyric booklet, a badge, a 7" record adapter in the shape of the TANAOU logo, a sticker, and even a CD-R with the album tracks on, as well as a tonne of random sideproject songs and demos. Can I say awesome? 

Onto the actual content of the album, and every single second is filled with beauty. Singles "45 Forever", "Firetruck Doki Doki" and "St Crispins Got Our Back's" shine out brightly, and they are surrounded by beautiful tracks such as "Loftets Grand", which is an amazing 8 minute centrepiece that somehow manages to place you into a snow covered carpark outside a service station in another country. The lyrics are picturesque and subtle, and are delivered with one of the most sincere and emotional voices in musical history. This album is your new best friend on cold quiet nights, I promise.

1:Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light

Firstly; Salt Peppa and Spinderella, otherwise known as song of the year. Birmingham's own Johnny Foreigner score the number one slot on my top 25 albums of this year, making a perfect messy indie rock album. This band are absolutely exhilerating live, and this album is the perfect collection of songs that showcase how amazing they are. In particular, "Salt Peppa and Spinderella" features the most satisfying build up and finale in any song this year, fact. Elsewhere, single "Our Bipolar Friends" and "Eyes Wide Terrified" speak for themselves, whereas tracks such as "Lea Room", "The End and Everything After", and "Yes, You Talk To Fast" are all waving their arms in the air trying to get your attention, with both Alexei and Kellys vocals on great display all over. Some quiet respite is offered with a slower acoustic track "DJ's Get Doubts", but as soon as you hit "Absolute Balance" and "The Hidden Song At The End Of The Record", you are hit with the most beautiful cacophony of noise. Which sums this album up quite succinctly really.   

So, that's it for this year! Coming up soon, my tips for 2009, and a few other more brief lists. 
Like top 10 tracks of the year perhaps.

What are your favourite albums of this year?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2008 25-16

It's that time of year! Let's kick this off in reverse order style;

25: Ladyhawke - S/T

When I first saw the video for "Dusk Till Dawn", I was convinced I was watching the new Ting Ting's video, as Ladyhawke definitely shares a lot of synth-pop characteristics with the here-today-hopefully-gone-tomorrow indie-dance outfit. However, after hearing the 80's-tinged (not a pun) "Back Of The Van" played inbetween bands when I went to see Hot Club De Paris in Birmingham, I checked out Ladyhawke's Selftitled album, and was amazing to find a pop album where every single track is as catchy as the singles. Definitely a party soundtrack album.

24: Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux

Although this album technically isn't out yet (god bless the internet), it has definitely managed to creep onto the end of my top 25. Essentially, those who gave up on Fall Out Boy after the last album will still hate this one, but for those like myself who still like Fall Out Boy (heaven forbid), this album is a mixed bag of amazing songs, from the synth-rock single "I Don't Care", to the absolutely awesome "typical" Fall Out Boy tracks, such as "(Coffee for Closers)" and "27". This album is all about clever lyrics, big choruses, and switching between pop punk, rock, and r n'b at the drop of a hat. Album centrepiece "What A Catch, Donnie" is a major highlight, with a huge ending that brings in a ton of guest vocalists, and the ghosts of Fall Out Boy songs past. Nice. 

23: Elle Milano - Acres Of Dead Space Cadets

I have a pretty strange history with this band. First off, i only realised a few years after hearing Elle Milano that i'd been a fan of a band called Psirens, that some of the members of Elle Milano had formerly been in, so that was quite a weird coincidence. I first saw Elle Milano live supporting Nightmare Of You in Manchester in 2005, and was quite impressed by them, but after a few weeks listening to random demo mp3s of theirs, I kinda forgot about them. That is, until this year, with the release of their first full length. The album explodes with "Laughing All The Way To The Plank", which has one of the most amazing, adrenaline inducing choruses you'll hear all this year and next. See youtube link below for proof! Elsewhere, this album is packed full of dark indie-pop tracks, such as the almost spooky sounding "Curiousity Killed The Pop Star", to the amazingly upbeat indie-west-west-saloon-piano-led "I Know It's Good But I'm Playing It Down", which could almost pass as a happy indie-disco version of Muse. Sadly, Elle Milano have parted ways now, but I am definitely glad they released this album before splitting. RIP.

22: M83 - Saturdays=Youth

From the cover art, to the music videos, to the synth laden dreamy poptronica found when you press play, it's clear to see that this album is in the wrong decade. Everything on this album, from the drum fills on "Kim and Jessie", to the guitars on "Graveyard Girl", just screams 80's. This is an album for those that loved the soundtrack of Donnie Darko, as this album perfect channels the spirits of 80's bands such as Tears For Fears, and Echo and the Bunnymen, and combines this with the most dreamy atmospheric vocals this side of the next millenium. Perfect morning-after music.

21: I Was A Cub Scout - I Want You To Know There Is Always Hope
When I first heard "Pink Squares" I got hooked on this band way too easily, almost from the word go. I was playing Pink Squares like there was no tomorrow. After follow-up single "I Hate Nightclubs" was released, I was officially excited for the eventual album release. A few months later, and bam, IWYTKTTIAH is released. And I think I was initially disappointed, I mean, from the first few listens, nothing on the album topped "Pink Sqaures", not even the newly version of the same track. I soon forgot about the album for a while, until I noticed that everytime one of the album tracks played on my ipod or itunes when in shuffle mode, I was really loving them. Tracks like "The Hunter's Daughter" (which bursts into life spectacularly) and "Our Smallest Adventures" were absolutely amazing, and when listening to the album again as a whole, I came to appreciate just how goddamn amazing it was, from start to finish. I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot, because this album is ironically a lot more immediate than I took it for on the first few listens.  Quite annoyingly, this the second RIP in this list already, as the beloved IWACS have sadly parted ways already.

20: We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery

In a year where the 80's have been influencing everyone left, right and centre, I don't think anyone thought that the No.1 american indie export We Are Scientists would be taking the same influences on board, but, nonetheless, they did. Brain Thrust Mastery continues on the same track that With Love And Squalor was taking, but instead of continuing on the same, easy, well lit route, they have taken the dark, winding route through the creepy haunted woods, and have created synth laden tracks such as the spooky opener "Ghouls", and the much-more-upbeat single "Chick Lit". It's not all darkness and 80's keyboard sounds though, elsewhere there are more standard rock tracks such as "Impatience" and "Dinosaurs", and of course, lead single, and potentially album highlight "After Hours". The amazing BBC session version of this can be seen at the youtube link below, in all its slide-guitar and strings-laden glory.

19: Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

After Test Icicles, the awesome synthpunk band from 2005, I don't think anything really expected an album of US-tinged acoustica from Dev Hynes, yet here is an album full of exactly that. By recording with Mike Mogis in Omaha, home of Bright Eyes and everything Saddle Creek related, Lightspeed Champion has created a great collection of chilled out tracks, that have amazing lyrics, and make up an absolutely pleasant listening experience. Highlights definitely include the uplifting "Dry Lips", the poetic "Everybody I Know Is Listening To Crunk", and the amazing 9-minutes-long album centrepiece "Midnight Surprise", the video to which is below;
This album comes under the category of great morning-after music, or even just perfect music for a sunny morning.

18:Friendly Fires - S/T
My love affair with Friendly Fires has been a short one so far. Having first heard them during the same DJ set that I first heard Ladyhawke - Back Of The Van, I have become addicted ever since. Singles "Jump In The Pool" and "Paris" are songs I expect to hear everytime I ever go out now, as they have such good crossover potential, it's not even funny. Their energetic note-perfect performance on Later with Jools Holland just solidifies how bright this bands future is. Their performance of Jump In The Pool is linked to below, in all in percussive glory.

17: Forgive Durden - Razia's Shadow; A Musical

From the start of this concept album to the very end, I was completely hooked. Featuring a tonne of guest vocalists all taking different roles in the story (Such as Chris Conley of Saves The Day as a wise man, Max Bemis of Say Anything as a scheming spider, and Greta from The Hush Sound as a love interest), this album pleases from start to finish, with a story that takes a few listens to figure out properly, but each listen proves more rewarding than the last, given the amount of little nuances that pop up on this each track. Love song "The Missing Piece", with all it's sweeping strings and stabbing horns will stick in your head for weeks, and the crazy evil-disney stomp of Doctor Doctor (featuring Shawn Harris of The Matches) paints a fantastic picture of an incredibly imaginative storyline, and altogether this album proves to be one of those albums where you always feel like hitting repeat as soon as it finishes.

16: Foals - Antidotes


Weird video, but this song is amazing. The whole album is an amazing listen. Bring on album number two already.

Stay tuned for 15-1, they will be coming tomorrow, for I am sleepy.

What are your top albums of 2008?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Kevin Devine - Split The Country, Split The Streets

I'll start at the beginning. The main facts that influence this story are these;

1) I love vinyl records, and am on a quest to purchase all of my favourite albums in this format.
2) At my work, after 6pm, everything goes quiet, and my workload decreases in an epic fashion.

You know what, this isn't even the beginning, it's more like the middle, but we'll get where we need to go eventually.

So, recently at work, wikipedia has been my best friend, and it was on wikipedia that i found out that "Split the Country, Split the Streets" and "Make The Clocks Move", two albums by american singer-songwriter Kevin Devine, had been released on vinyl. In the same package no less.

I got excited. And my debit card got scared.

Further reading and research uncovered some important, and some troubling facts. Firstly, it was only released in Germany. This is ok, thought Stef, with a bit of luck and babelfish I'll be able to decipher this cryptic language. However, secondly was the fact that there were only 500 copies pressed. Ever.

My debit card almost melted thinking of how much this record might end up costing me.

As luck would have it, the website of the label who'd pressed the record (Defiance Records) seemed to still have it in stock. Phew. Lots of translating later, and i'd sent an e-mail (in english no less) asking if I could order it (for only 18 euros and postage, not too bad!)

As luck didn't have it, I had an e-mail back stating that they were sorry, but they sold their last copy the week before. Ouch.

As luck still actually had it (it never lost it, to be fair), i had a browse of some of the vinyl distro sites linked from Defiance Records, and jackpot, had it.

Skip forward two weeks to this morning, and i'm skipping towards the door thinking my new phone is being delivered, only to be given a vinyl shaped package to be signed up, covered in German packing tape and stuff. Score!

So. thats the middle of the story. The ending is that i've been listening to "Split the Country, Split the Streets" all day, but let's set the scene and go to the beginning.

I first heard Kevin Devine when I heard that Jesse Lacey, frontman of Brand New, had sung on Devine's track "Cotton Crush". I promptly got hold of the track, and adored it. It's the lead track on "Split the Country" and it builds up to such a brilliant breakdown, that it's become one of those rare songs that i've loved for years without ever getting sick of it. So what of the rest of it's parent album? 

Cotton Crush Live feat Jesse Lacey

After the intense beginning that is "Cotton Crush",  a more straightforward rock affair is found with "Afterparty", a bittersweet love affair of a song that drags you in the amazing "No Time Flat". This is one of the standout tracks on the album, a mid-pace ambling acoustic-rock song that is lyrically amazing, where Devine sings about aging, Iraq and politics, but somehow manages to not sound preachy whilst doing it, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Side A of the record is completed by another two upbeat fuzzy songs, "No-one Else's Problem" (whose catchy "you're no-one else's problem but you sure are mi-i-ne" refrain will be in your head for the next x amount of years) and "Buried By The Buzz".

Side B is a much more intimate affair, with Devine singing quiet acoustic tracks about stealing a wig that remind him of an ex ("Haircut"), and the assumptive thought process that occurs when noticing someone on the "other side of the train" ("Probably"). Devine closes the album with an ode to love ("You are the daybreak") and an open letter regarding religion ("Lord I Know We Don't Talk"), and honestly leaves you wanting to start the album over again.

I think where the record is so effective is that Kevin Devine manages to sing clever lyrics with an emotional voice that verges more towards "passionate" than "whiney", and especially when combined with Jesse Lacey's background shouting on "Cotton Crush", it manages to both impress and inspire at the same time. Elsewhere, it's lyrical couplets like "The quiet can scrape all the calm from your bones, but maybe it should, maybe we need to be hollowed" and "I got a fistful of shattered seashells that scream like soldiers stuck down an oilwell/I saw a bad sign lit up like broadway, and I watched my head spin, and I heard my voice shake "I'm buried by the buzz of a year gone numb"", that just get stuck with you, and really make you stop and think about the words.

With "Split the Country, Split the Streets", Kevin Devine really managed to create an album that manages to tread a line between romance and politics, and it really manages to hit the mark on both subject matters, with a great mix of anthemic heavier tracks, and subtle slower songs. It's an album I highly recommend, purely because in the three years since it was released, I haven't managed to get sick of it. If anything, I think I love it a little bit more.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin


"It’s a pointless, small place,  On a map in outer space. Every second, every day you’re gone Got a job, but I can’t keep working on.  Yeah

I think you are so anointed,  That’s why you get so disappointed.  I swear you are so important,  Nothing you do is pointless.  Yeah 
There is no modern mystery,  No “mystic chords of memory”  There is no modern mystery  We’re makin’ up our history. 
You could really put me in my place  On a map in outer space.  You got a real cool constitution   And that’s a come-on, but it’s not an allusion."

This song is almost perfect, and i highly recommend it. It has a feeling to it that makes you want to hear it again and again. Perfect chilled out american indie rock.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Modern Mystery

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Joshua Radin

For those of you that are fans of Scrubs, you'll have probably heard two of Joshua Radin's songs without even realising it. He writes the perfect music for a lazy day in the sun, or the rain, or whatever. He is releasing his sophomore record "Simple Times" on Sept 30th, and I reckon it's going to be the exact album that we'lll need in the hazy Autumn months. Here are two tracks that are going to be on it that were posted on his myspace page a few days ago,and if you are a fan of chilled out acoustic singer-songwriters, this is exactly what you need in your life right now.

I'd Rather Be With You
One Of Those Days
(from the forthcoming album, Simple Times, released 30/09/08)


Monday, 25 August 2008

So, you want to read some amazing comic books? Part Two!

Okay! I put this off unwittingly, but now it's time for part two of my adventures into graphic novels. These are the ones you really want to check out, even if you don't know it yet. I can safely say this: All of these graphic novels are fantastically written, have fantastic artwork, and are just basically a good time for all. Lets begin...or continue even.

The Watchmen by Alan Moore

This is hands down amazing. It's not surprising to hear that a film is being made from this fantastic graphic novel. The story largely centres around a defunct group of superheroes in a future where being a superhero-vigilante-type is outlawed, and the death of one of the team starts drawing the original team back together, with an absolutely thrilling finale.

What's also brilliant is how there are so many brilliant characters, from the anti-hero Rorschach, the controversial Comedian, and the enigmatic Dr. Manhatten. Each of the main characters gets a bit of a back story as well, as this adds to the feeling of the whole story, as we are constantly being introduced to characters all the way through, keeping the story entirely gripping.

Needless to say, as The Dark Knight has been my mostly anticipated film of 2008, Watchmen will be my most anticipated of 2009 by a long way.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Frank Miller completely takes hold of the Batman franchise, and makes it his own. Set in a future where Bruce Wayne has retired Batman for the past ten years, we are shown a future Gotham City, where crime has essentially spiralled out of control. Needless to say, Batman doesn't stay out of commission for long, and as well as brief encounters with Harvey Dent, A new Robin, and even Superman, he has absolutely epic battles with the leader of the vigilante army terrorising Gotham, and of course, his old enemy, The Joker.

This is an absolutely out of this world story, and it guarantees gripping you until the end. If the Batman film franchise gets stale again, this would be the perfect story to knock it back into shape again, no doubt.

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller

The sequel to The Dark Knight Returns is another fantastic Batman story by Frank Miller. Without giving too much away, the story goes on a big Batman vs Superman tangent, and if you want to see an absolutely epic battle between Batman and Superman, this is the comic book for exactly that.

I can't give away anymore about this one, but again, it's worth the read!

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb

After Frank Miller's futuristic Batman books, we jump back to the "present" day, and a mysteriously bandaged villain is attempting to sabotage Batman's every move. As with The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory, Loeb yet again writes another fantastic Batman mystery, and even broaches the subject of Batmans' romantic links with Catwoman.

Oh and expect The Joker, as well as Harley Quinn also. Another great story.

300 by Frank Miller

This is absolutely beautiful. This whole graphic
novel is set out in a painted, double page layout, and if you've seen the film, this is like reading storyboards for the film, it's that amazing.

The story, of course, is all about King Leonidas, and his 300-strong army of Spartans, who attempted to go to war with thousands upon thousands of the Persian army, in a battle for Greek honour.

This is one worth buying for the art alone, every page would make a stunning picture on any comic book fans wall.

Ok, that's it for now, i'm sure i'll write more regular, maybe even LONGER reviews of comic books as and when i read them.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

So, you want to read some amazing comic books? PART ONE

In the last week I have been astounded by the amazing works of art that I have found in the medium that is comic books. Here is a round up of what I read, and why it was so good.

1. Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

I'm not sure how this journey into comic books started. Wait that's a lie. This starts with the newest Batman film: The Dark Knight. After watching that, I spent quite a few days reading all manner of Batman-related information via the internet, and when reading that a lot of inspiration for the script of the film was taken from the Batman comic books "The Long Halloween" and "Dark Victory", I set about finding them. Of course, Batman: Year One is the prequel of sorts to these books, and is a brilliant starting place.

First and foremost, it's written by Frank Miller, the man behind 300, Sin City, and a whole host of other acclaimed comic books (his name will come up again in this article, be sure of that!), and the story is impressive, giving a realistic beginning to the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, not unlike the same events in The Dark Knight's prequel, Batman Begins. All in all, it's a fantastic starting point in this version of the batman story, especially if you've enjoyed the recent films. The darker, more realistic feel to the story adds as much to the comic book as it did the film.

2. Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb

Even though Batman: Year Two is the official sequel of sorts to Year One (although not written by Miller), many online sources regarded The Long Halloween to be a much better sequel, and I couldn't find anything to disagree with.

As mentioned before, the writers of The Dark Knight found this to be a big inspiration to the script of the film, and it's not hard to see why, with the mob, the joker, and Harvey Dent all featuring prominently. The main story of the book is of a mystery holiday killer slowly going through the members of the most notorious mob family, killing on every major holiday. Well almost, but that's telling.

The book features appearances from Joker, Scarecrow, Catwoman, The Riddler, and many other well known bat-villains, but of course, it's the story of the white knight DA Harvey Dent that will be of the most interest, especially in the books concluding chapters. A fascinating read.

3. Batman - Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb

Jeph Loeb brings closure to many of characters explored in Year One and The Long Halloween in this book, and he does it in a stunning fashion.

There are breakouts, a hangman killer leaving clues, a tonne of bat-villains, and an introduction to the boy wonder too. Yes that's right, Robin is in this one. And it's good, and still quite realistic, something this trilogy of sorts definitely delivers with.

After Year One and The Long Halloween, there's no way that you wont want to read this.

4. Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker

An alternative sequel to Year One of sorts. (That's right, another alternative sequel!). This one gets quite a lot of good press though, and it's not hard to see why. Continuing where Year One left off, it explores the relationship between Jim Gordon and Batman, as a crazed madman starts killing important city officials.

It's not hard to see that this first batch of comic books were all read with a fascination of the joker character in mind is it? Either way, this is a more straightforward introduction to the joker character in the Batman universe than, for example, The Long Halloween.

Ok, that's it for part one of what's been a mostly Batman-centric comic book feature so far.

Next up: The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, The Killing Joke, 300, THE WATCHMEN.

Beware, you have no idea how much I loved the next batch. Be prepared.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Listening to surround sound Jack's Mannequin
Need a job
Want to play Final Fantasy VI
Want to install and figure out MIDIDS, and install Cubase on my laptop for this reason also
Need to book check up with dentist
Need to put washing out
Need a job
Need money
Want to do awesome Lightningheart related stuff
Want to write music all day and all night
Want to finish reading Nick Hornby - Slam
Listening to surround sound Beirut


Saturday, 12 July 2008

From my draft text's folder tonight:

the amount of intertangled stories there are on one single night out; An absolute tonne.

Conflict of interest, endings that create disaster, masked as simple victory.

night allx

Friday, 11 July 2008

Gig tickets

Back at home (where i currently am for a bit) in my bedroom, all that remains of all my old band posters (that followed me to university) are a trail of gig tickets winding their way around about 2 sides of my room (i think if they were in a straight line i could make it all the way round you know). And for the first time in ages, I had a proper look at them tonight, and it's a strange experience.

Its goes something like this: First gig experiences (incubus, jimmy eat world), crowdsurfing (rival schools, A), meeting bands (36 crazyfists, coheed), amazing singalongs (dashboard confessional, brand new), crushes, both the crowd and other (lostprophets, the distillers), first gig on own (boys night out), first gigs Not on own ifyougetmymeaning (colour of fire, reuben, horrorpops), gigs when the Not on own stuff started to go bad (v 2004, datsuns), crazy photography days (taking back sunday, my chemical romance), crazy streetteaming days (bloc party, steriogram), WHSmiths crew gigs (Bright Eyes, Yourcodenameis:milo, we are scientists, Regina Spektor x 2), Silly gigs in birmingham with train station overnight stays (we are scientists, the first time), gigs with good friends (mc lars, fightstar, motion city soundtrack, maple state), university adventures (help she can't swim, panic at the disco, we are scientists, be your own pet, get cape, tanaou, maria taylor), university outings with fun endings (nightmare of you, the paddingtons, ok go), gigs with hillard that ruled (goldie lookin chain, we are scientists (in wales no less)), summer-after-first-year gigs (jeremy warmsley, regina spektor (again!), say anything), LONDON BABY! gigs (brand new!),Budg in stoke gigs (mc lars, :(, fightstar) , gigs notonown again (motion city soundtrack), -Pausebuttonforawhileforreasonsbestnevermentionedasusual - then Gig that fixed me (The Maple State at the Roadhouse, namely "Our Temperate Lives"), gigs notonown again for a bit (blood brothers, get cape, brand new, regina), gigs on own but with friends again (klaxons) ,gigs notonown again, but better (emily haines, Manchester Orchestra w/Anathallo, regina spektor again!)

and then whoa. basically up to date, bar the gigs i went to in the last year, and my memory fails me there. i remember athlete, lykke li (twice, both amazing) M.I.A. with Mia, Rival AWESOME i mean Schools, ermm Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip.

There's a story of the last 6 and a half years of my life wrapped inside the pattern of those gig tickets.

Deep man.

Stef outx

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Bam! Its typing time!

Hey boys and hey girls, time for an everything update!

I have spent the last week of my life being absolutely obsessed with Doctor Who, and it's not a good obsession! I seem to be living in this little inbetween period of my life where I need to be making important career moves, jobhunting, all that jazz, but the idea of time travelling and mad adventures seems a hell of a lot more interesting.

Anyway, as I said, that's how I've spent my last week, and don't get me wrong, I've been jobhunting too, but today, it changes. I'm going to be much, much more focused on the job thing from today. Besides, once all that is sorted, then I can probably laze about and watch saturday evening sci-fi comedy-drama all I want. And House too.


Be the change you want to see in the world
Everything changes with change. That sounded cooler in my head.
Most things seem to, this is an honest fact.
You have no idea. But then neither do I.

Years can be amazing when their potential is reached.
Onto brighter, lighter places seems like a good ideology now.
Underneath stars and planets there is universal truth.
Can normality make real sense of today?

My brain finds fiction amazing. But still finds space for fact.
Old lessons teach everyone new tricks.
Dealing from new decks of cards makes new games happen.
Everyone loves card games. RIGHT?

Or just create a new idea of what "sense" is?
Ultimately I've no idea, but I like the idea of thinking about it.
Love the idea of thinking about it, thinking is never overrated.
Don't you think so? Thoughts are absolutely worth everything.

Left Right Up Down A B & Start. Rearranged. Level Select.


I can't wait for the next bit of my life to start really.

What's been interesting is putting my newest album - Hurry Up, Hurricane - online for people to download ( if you are interested). I've had so much good feedback from people, it's definately the work i'm most proud of so far. Lyrically i'm improving as well, although I can never put my finger on what I'm writing about, some of it seems rooted in fiction, but I know some of it is based on fact, I just forget what though. It's essentially all from my head. I think the first track is the most honest, that was an honest snapshot of where my head was at when writing the album. I'll transcribe it at some point, will be good to see it written down.

In terms of music, I can't get enough of Hot Club De Paris recently, their recent single "Hey Housebrick" is the best pop song of this year so far, and i just found out the other day, after about a month of loving the song, that Lucy and Nicola from Puzzle do the "Hey!" vocals in it! This is doubly awesome because I've recorded Puzzle before :) Six degrees of seperation or what!

Somehow everyone knows everyone.

Right, I'm off to eat breakfast, write 14 job applications (maybe 15 to round things up) and then as a reward maybe play Final Fantasy XII. Good game.

Crowd participation- tell me your favourite song of the moment in the comments, I think i'm going to make an awesome compilation of everyones current favourite songs...that would be quite cool thinking about it :)


Monday, 16 June 2008

Another pleasant valley monday

I'm off to see Rival Schools in Manchester in a very short time indeed, so this will be kept short, concise, and to the point.

Number One:

This is why Rival Schools was so awesome (if you are on my facebook notes, click HERE to go to the full multimedia experience!)

I KID I KID. Either way, the game was still awesome, so awesome that Walter Schreifels named Rival Schools, and their only album (so far), United By Fate, after it.

What I really meant was, this song is why Rival Schools are so amazing. Forget all your fancy boyslikegirls, hellogoodbyes, and other haircut emo bands (yes i'm generalising). This is what emo should still be; Rocking. This is Used For Glue.

I'm willing to bet that will the encore song tonight :)

Number Two:

Laura Marling is already amazing, but her new single, "Cross Your Fingers" is in fact more amazing. I tried to do the maths, but I failed. The video can be seeeeeeen here>

Thats all for now folks, I'm off to the gig! Review later? Oh yes!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

One Tree Hill, The Cure, and Tokyo Police Club

Today I watched the series 5 finale of One Tree Hill (yes i watch One Tree Hill, it's nice mindless viewing) and there was this one moment where Peyton (who is in love with Lucas) painted a huge comet on the RiverCourt (an outside basketball court) with the lyrics to Lovesong by The Cure all around it. Lucas sees it later on, and is suitably impressed.

I thought this was amazing, and have been listening to that song a lot today. Video? Video. Listen to the lyrics, and you'll see why I think the whole basketball court thing is amazing.

Other than teen melodrama and The Cure, today I'm loving Tokyo Police Club a lot. For those who have yet to hear this amazing band, here's a primer: They are four guys from Canada, they released a mini-album last year called "A Lesson In Crime" which was 7 short tracks of energetic brilliance, and they've just released their newest effort, Elephant Shell. Single no.2 from this in "In a Cave". Video of which Love the concept of this.

Tokyo Police Club are surely on their way to bigger things, for one,
In A Cave is one of the catchiest songs on the album, and its refrain of "Elephant shell/You're my cave and i've been hiding out", is the stuff of msn names and scribbled lyrics on the fronts of notepads worldwide. The band also put on a pretty awesome live show, the things they do with tambourines are impressive to say the least. They are playing Manchester Night n Day cafe the day before Lykke Li interestingly, on the 1st June. Two nights in manchester, two amazing acts. I personally can't wait.

Also interesting news, if you visit their myspace now, you can download an exclusive remix of former single "Tesselate" by Tom from Los Campesinos!. Sorted, and sorted.

The single, "In A Cave" is out on June 26th through Memphis Industries.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Lykke Li

Ok, storytime.

I entered a competition in the Metro free newspaper a few weeks ago. I was up at stupid o' clock in the morning due to my housemate's need to get to Staples to get his dissertation printed off and bound, and I decided to get mine printed off too, you know, just to have lying around for fun. Reading said free newspaper on the bus, I saw that they were offering free tickets to see a singer called Lykke Li. Having heard one song from Lykke Li the previous day, for the first time ever, I though, what the hell, and entered. Not even a question, just a text number.

- Little Bit

Bear in mind the last time i was on public transport at stupid o' clock in the morning, I did the same kinda thing, and won tickets to see M.I.A. in birmingham...i was travelling back to Warrington when I entered, and I was in Warrington when they called me to say i'd won. I was on a train back to Birmingham within the next few hours. Snappy.

Anyhow, I entered the competition, then got dissertations bound, headed back home, and ended up falling asleep around 1pm. Very late nights + early mornings = Tired.

Needless to say, around 3pm i was awoken from my slumber and politely informed that I had won tickets to the Lykke Li gig later that day. I was sleepily grateful, and I think I woke up a bit after that. Thank you Metro.

Skip to the gig, I was astounded, having only really heard two songs beforehand, I was in awe the whole time. Upon getting back home, I downloaded her debut album "Youth Novels", which is absolutely fantastic. However, the two songs that she played live that I was truly wowed by aren't even on the album. Crazy.

That said, a short period of searching later, I found that Wow track No. 1, a beautiful song about being on a night out but not "feeling it" (i totally "got" this song, its a feeling i'm very familiar with haha), called "Everybody But Me" was a B-side to her "Little Bit" single, and Wow track No. 2, her closing track "Tonight", was posted on her very own website, as a kind of online bonus track to the album.

- Everybody But Me

If you didn't watch either of the videos in this post, I recommend you do so now, I don't think I can do justice to describing how she sounds. A more delicate poetic version of swedish singer Robyn perhaps?

Either way, her album is worth a listen to, as well as the random bsides/bonus tracks dotted about. She is also playing Manchester at the Night n Day Cafe at the start of June. You know I'll be there.

Stef outx