Friday, 30 January 2015

The UK Ushers in Indie Bands of Merit

All this music is fresh on the scene and totally fantastic. Two of the three bands have even produced music videos, which in this age of indie austerity is a blooming achievement.
There’s a general weariness in Britain about the shoddiness of mainstream pop music. It’s been building and a growing frustration is brewing with some newspapers blaming it on a lack of social mobility that disallows working-class kids to create original music, with some commentators laying the blame on a risk-averse British media unwilling to tapper the cultural damage caused by 15 years of Simon Cowell.
Whatever it is, the UK ought to never cease creating great guitar music and should always promote the songs of foreign bands influenced by the rock’n’roll of Blighty.
Crushed Beaks’ Overgrown
The garage-pop energy of this London band has annoyed much of Britain’s music press whom believe that Crushed Beaks ought to be supported more by national radio stations on account of how good they are. You do get the feeling that there’s a restless in the UK music industry to somehow revitalise things by finding young white guys with guitars that can bring about a serious generational shift through rock music. There are big expectations from Crushed Beaks but the change sought needs a better strategy than just vesting one’s hope a band that sounds this cool.
Pinkshinyultrablast’s Glitter
The reason why this Russian band is getting a modicum of airplay and great press in UK broadsheets is because they produce music that honours the classic British shoegaze scene of 1990, but meshes it with ethereal foreign touches.
Singer, Lyubov, sings in English because apparently it’s more “melodious” than the Russian language. Their soon to be released debut album debut album Everything Else Matters is said to be stunning, though it doesn’t seem that the heaps of positive press it currently courts will be enough to make Pinkshinyultrablast anything other than slightly hipster cool. It’s too leftfield and the band’s name doesn’t help, either.

Menace Beach’s Tastes like Medicine
Trust the north of England to deliver a garage-pop band that sounds so infectious. This is the kind of entertaining and fun indie music that ought to be on everyone’s playlist, but, tragically, it’s somehow perceived as being too niche.
Hailing from Leeds, West Yorkshire, Menace Beach totally tributes the sort of sound that was prominent during the glory days of guitar bands. The video replicates the type of down and dirty VHS recorded, 4:3 aspect ratio clips that used to come on MTV decades ago, overlaying it with novel animation to add requisite indie character.

Monday, 26 January 2015

-Music Videos on my Mind- Father John Misty’s “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”

If Father John Misty wasn’t the former drummer of Fleet Foxes and didn’t have his record released through Sub Pop, one wonders if Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) would get the hipster buzz inevitably coming its way. Producing radio-friendly tracks is no shameful thing, but this mariachi-drenched ditty is the kind of song Top 40 programmers stick on a loop because every conceivable demographic in America gets targeted in one masterful swoop. It’s songs like this that become a staple playlist fixture for Texan housewives and college campus youth stations, not to mention everyone in between. You can imagine this getting covered by Michael BublĂ© and American Idol auditionees, which means that this tune ticks a lot of boxes.
No-one ought to doubt that Father John Misty’s music comes from an honest place; it so happens that he’s got a dreamy voice and expert knack for melody. The problem comes when stuff like this hits cynical British eardrums because you then ask yourself why the song doesn’t take enough risks to earn its indie credentials. Then again, considering Chateau Lobby #4’s current lack of popularity, it seems the singer-songwriter remains staunchly alternative for now.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Hollywood Blockbusters to Go Bust in 2015?

One came across a strange comment last month by moviemaker Peter Jackson who, in an interview to Moviefone, claims: “I don't really like the Hollywood blockbuster bandwagon that exists right now. The industry and the advent of all the technology, has kind of lost its way. It's become very franchise driven and superhero driven.”
This is the same Peter Jackson that recently adapted a relatively slight children’s book and spun it into a trilogy of super-expensive blockbusters with a collective running duration of nearly a dozen hours. There was never enough source material to justify three movies, which means that Jackson’s Hobbit franchise was essentially bloated fan-fiction from a film director whose A-list credentials are only intact while he’s making movies set in that world.

This brings us to the more serious matter of Hollywood cinema embarking on its grandest year of movie output. The last fifteen years have been building up to this moment in which derided terminology currently synonymous with mainstream American cinema (‘origins’, ‘reboots’, ‘remakes’, ‘franchises’ and ‘shared cinematic universes’) will be put to the test. For 2015 will be the year in which an avalanche of branded blockbusters hurtles our way. All of our proven blockbuster cravings will be sated as everything from Fast and Furious speed-bandits, Avenging Marvel superheroes, revived Jurassic dinosaurs, Forces Awakening in some dormant space opera, and multiple other tested movie familiarities will somehow find their place over the coming twelve months.
If one was a betting person then it seems obvious that the odds are stacked in Hollywood’s favour. But Hollywood needs some luck as it comes to terms with the results of last year which demonstrate that box-office revenue for 2014 fell 5.3% (its worst result since 2011), coupled with the stark reality that theatre attendance dropped by an estimated 6% to 1.26 billion, the lowest figure since the dark days of 1995.
Therefore it makes sense for the US film industry to only back winners, though the law of averages suggests that some of these sure-fire bets will underperform principally because no market can sustain a schedule in which every other product is an extravaganza of colossal proportions. Keynesian economics tells us that hedging all of your business decisions on such a bloated amount of products will ultimately fail, and that what is called for is a production slate where greater range of films may produce better fiscal dividends because you then hit more targets.
But that’s hard to do in 2015 when you get 35-year-old men sneaking into Pixar movies unaccompanied by children, and forty-something mothers eagerly anticipate the final Katniss Everdeen sequel even more than their teenage daughters. Ergo, the notion of catering to separate markets makes little sense when we all want to watch is the same things. Hollywood has it easy right now because consumers have greatly homogenised tastes. We are at a remarkable moment in our global cultural identity where whatever Hollywood churns out actually scores comparable money in foreign box-office. In a word, everyone’s hooked on mediocrity.
It will be churlish of us to brand those working in Hollywood as intellectually incapacitated people. In the main, they’re highly-educated and ambitious individuals. They know what the public wants and are able produce it for them. That takes skill, especially when your international audiences are growing exponentially. But the cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment last year gave us insights, among other revelations, that those appointed to deliver such costly cinematic blandness are far from happy with the situation. Gawker revealed hacked correspondence that provided much needed perspective on the current state of studio filmmaking, with a member of Sony’s staff conveying: “There is a general ‘blah-ness’ to the films we produce. Althought (sic) we manage to produce an innovative film once in awhile, Social Network, Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we continue to be saddled with the mundane, formulaic Adam Sandler films. Let's raise the bar a little on the films we produce, and inspire employees that they are working on the next Social Network.”

Another leaked communiquĂ© in Gawker’s report had a Sony worker saying: “We do not seem to be doing new or original ideas anymore unless they come from term deal players … Our development execs should focus on new fresh material, and not be permitted to simply remake …”
If anything it seems that Hollywood studios, albeit backroom personnel, are quite ashamed of the current situation in mainstream American moviemaking. Such despondency must resonate strongly across the backrooms of all studio offices, yet Hollywood’s focus remains on doing the very thing that may not be working, at least not in the way envisaged. Although audiences welcome more of the same, there is a reason why revenue is down and audience attendance is also decreasing, though, we cannot discount the fact that profits are greatly affected by the plethora of competing new media platforms demanding people’s attention.
Where the influx of expensive franchise blockbusters due in 2015 will take Hollywood is open to debate. Some of these movies will be good, but it is unsustainable to expect this current business model to work in the long run. There is also the thought that all this American produced material may eventually incur a greater sense of cultural nationalism in emerging markets, making those audiences court domestically produced films over Hollywood offerings.
Which brings us back to Peter Jackson, for having changed the face of blockbuster moviemaking, will now return to making “smaller films”. He came on to the scene having made a blockbuster that was unlike anything out there at the time, only to now see everything else resemble it in some way. Jackson’s sentiments perhaps even suggests that he as a filmmaker is folly to the trappings of generically epic moviemaking and needs to break away from it somehow. It’s out of control and no-one seems to know what to do about it, most notably those that created the beast.