Archive for the ‘Great Britain’ Category

Have You Heard Of: Florence + the Machine

In Great Britain on November 25, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I must confess… I have fallen in love with a certain Florence and her Machine. I tried to resist, but it turns out the British press and listening public were correct in their crowning the act (essentially a moniker for Florence Welch) the Next…Big…Thing. Her unique brand of art-pop, equal parts soulful, theatrical, and ethereal, hit the indie world by storm and her debut album Lungs became a bona fide hit overseas (it reached #2 in her native UK and eventually went Platinum). She solidified her success by garnering an impressive number of award recognition, including a Mercury Prize nomination, a BRIT Award, and three Q Award nominations amongst others. It really is no surprise, though, that the album found such a rapturous reception with both professional critics and the average music fan; her songs are swelling gale forces of musical emotion, while simultaneously being extremely catchy and listenable. And her preoccupation with death and pain, her liberal use of Gothic imagery, and willingness to take risks set her apart from both the mainstream pop world and indie community.

Florence herself as said she draws inspiration from artists like Kate Bush, Bjork, and Tom Waits, while also incorporating influences from her childhood like jazz vocalists and opera. According to her official website, “the common thread [amongst her influences] is always the emotion” and it’s not hard to see that reflected in her own music; songs such as “Dog Days are Over”, “Kiss With a Fist”, and “Hurricane Drunk” are bursting at the seams with her passionate vocals and full-blown instrumentation.

Of course, when one is responsible for such a distinct and self-assured first album as Lungs a follow-up that at least matches the quality of its predecessor can often be a tall order. I really don’t think fans should be worried, though.


Nowhere Boy, dir. by Sam Taylor-Wood

In Great Britain on November 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Nowhere Boy represents British multimedia conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s film directorial debut, and tells the story of a young man in the late ‘50s and his interest in the burgeoning rock scene of the time as well as his relationships with his mother and aunt. Of course this is no ordinary story, as the film’s main characters go by the names of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 19 year-old actor Aaron Johnson (who is actually engaged to Taylor-Wood, 42 years his senior) portrays Lennon, the “Nowhere Boy” in question, while Thomas Sangster, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Anne-Marie Duff provide support as McCartney, Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, and his mother Julia respectively.

Based on a biography of Lennon’s adolescence by his half-sister Julia Baird, the film has already garnered considerable acclaim in it’s homeland; it was nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards including Best Film, Best Actor for Johnson, and Best Supporting Actress for both Scott Thomas and Duff (the awards will be handed out December 6th). On a side note, electronica duo Goldfrapp is providing the score for the film. A must-see for every Beatles fan (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), the film opens in theaters in the UK on December 25th and will make its way stateside sometime next year.

“An Education” at TIFF

In Great Britain on September 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, and directed by Danish auteur Lone Scherfig, An Education tells a distinctly British coming-of-age-tale in which a teenage schoolgirl (played by up-and-comer Carey Mulligan) begins a whirlwind romance with a man nearly twice her age (Peter Sarsgaard), and subsquently faces an identity crises as she transforms from an innocent youth to a sophisticated woman.  Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper, Sally Hawkins, and Emma Thompson round out the cast.

The film, which premiered at Sundance this year, has been the target of Oscar buzz for months. It is currently being featured in the Toronto Film Festival, largely regarded as the launching ground for awards bait (this is the place where the then-unknown Slumdog Millionaire began its march towards the Kodak Theater, after all). This is the first major film role for Mulligan (who got her start alongside Keira Knightley in 2005‘s Pride & Prejudice), and, combined with her roles in high-profile films like Public Enemies and the upcoming Brothers, could very well signal the arrival of a new star. Those who have seen the film say that she is a revelation, and many prognosticators have had her name pencilled in for Best Actress since early summer. Whether or not awards are in the film’s future, though, is ultimate irrelevant; what matters is great filmmaking, and it would appear that Scherfig, Mulligan, et al have delivered just that.

Watch the trailer and judge for yourself.

Jamie T to Release Sophomore Album

In Great Britain on September 7, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Jamie T (born Jamie Alexander Treays) is on the verge. The singer-songwriter, who has drawn comparisons to the Arctic Monkeys, the Streets, and Lily Allen for his blistering observations on modern British youth culture, released his sophomore album Kings & Queens in the UK on September 7th to critical acclaim (The Guardian called it a “43-minute, all-killer, no-filler set of stunners”).  His debut album, 2007’s Panic Prevention, was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, spawned three top 20 hits in the UK, and was ultimately certified Gold. Yet he has found nowhere near the level of cross-over success in the United States that contemporaries, such as the aforementioned Allen and Arctic Monkeys have.  Could 2009 be his break-out year?

With a collection of songs as varied and multi-layered as those found on Kings & Queens, the Wimbledon-native couldn’t be more deserving. He goes from Dylanesque folk musings to aggressive hip-hop stylings to “pull-out-your-lighter” sing-along rock with the flick of a switch. For many artists, such genre-hopping comes across as disingenuous and desperate. For Jamie T it is nothing less than a natural expression of his various musical influences.  In addition to dabbling in a wide range of musical styles, his 11-track set covers a number of political and social issues of concern to urban 20-somethings. Government surveillance, binge drinking, alienation, and adulterous affairs are all represented in ways both melancholy and visceral; what Jamie T does so well though is to wrap these deep issues in walls of sound and deliriously catchy beats so that it never comes across as plodding or overtly socially conscious. If there is any justice, Mr. T. will make significantly more than just a splash on this side of the pond.