Archive for December, 2010

The Constant by I Blame Coco — music CD

December 23, 2010

[Bill]

“The constant” is the debut album by the English alternative [electro-pop/reggae] band “I blame Coco”. Coco is the nickname of Eliot Pauline Sumner who is one of Sting’s [formerly of the Police] daughters. The album [alas] has had less than stellar reviews. Nor is it a big hit. But it does have three noted tracks. “Caesar”, “Self machine” and a version of Neil Young’s “Only lover can break your heart “ from 1970. This is an interesting album. It is a compilation of diverse songs. I use the word diverse with a precise meaning. Most music albums are a collection of, for the most part, similar material. Diverse implies differing from one another, and this one does so nicely. It is as though an attempt was consciously made to see how different the songs could be. I believe that they have done very well.

I Blame Coco have also been opening for the English synth-pop band La Roux this last year. As such one should not be surprised to learn that if you are going to work and be in close proximity to another band you will hear their work. Elly Jackson [of La Roux] has paid what is perhaps the ultimate compliment to another artist by remixing “Self machine” and including it onto her album “Sidetracked”. Coco herself upon hearing Elly’s version for the first time was so delighted that [we are told] she, Coco, begged Elly to include it in her, Elly’s, upcoming disc. Which Elly did.  I highly recommend listening to both versions. Riveting.

At 20 years old Ms Sumner has a lot of potential, a memorably husky voice and I believe a true talent for thoughtful and touching lyrics. If I may say hardly a self machine. I wish her well and hope for more in the not too distant future.      

bill littlefield

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The Snowman – DVD

December 22, 2010

[Bill] 

The WML has recently acquired an DVD of the classic animated film by Raymond Briggs “The Snowman”. Released in 1982 for the then new Channel 4 in the UK. The film has no words but it does have a hauntingly delightful song “Walking in the Air”.

 The story starts simply enough. On a snowy day, a boy in the UK, we presume in suburban England, builds a snowman. A familiar childhood activity certainly, but then a wondrous thing happens-the snowman comes to life! Be assured this is not the classic American story. It is not “Frosty”. This snowman does not speak, nor is he twee. This snowman can fly. And after being taken inside the boy’s house to look around, the boy and the snowman then fly over the English countryside and over the North Sea to the North Pole where with other snow-people, they pay a visit to “Father Christmas”.  The boy and the snowman then fly back to the boys house.

 I will not disclose the rest. It is enough to say that this has become a winter-time classic. The film itself is only 26 minutes long. But it is a full 26 minutes. It is a fine story for little children and adults as well who perhaps have not entirely forgotten what it was once to be a child. The animation is certainly not Disney quality, but that is not entirely a bad thing. I find it a highly pleasing and enjoyable story. And it is one of those things which makes this time of the year so very memorable. For it is has a rare quality, for it is magic.

 bill littlefield

Florence and the Machine – Between Two Lungs (music CD)

December 22, 2010

[Bill] 

The WML has recently acquired a copy of the audio CD “Between two lungs” by Florence and the Machine”. Released November 15, 2010 it is not an altogether new album, indeed some have said, and with some validity , that it is a crass capitalization to make money by adding a second disc to a genuinely phenomenal debut CD [although Lady Gaga did it with overwhelming success with The Fame Monster…]. I would disagree.  And, those who would make such a charge miss the point, the point is oddly enough not about the music. The point is one of format or rather the transition from the outdated Phillips/Sony CD format to the MP3 format of the now ubiquitous iPod. This is the format of the future, actually of the now, as the audio CD is rapidly passing away in popularity. Talk to you son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandkids.

 Nevertheless, Florence and the Machine have been very busy this year with touring and TV appearances including one with great acclaim on Letterman here in America. “Lungs” has captivated the progressive music world. And made some listeners rather obsessive. So much so that there has been a loud clamour for more Florence. Easier said than done. It takes an astonishing amount of time to write, practice, record, mix, produce and compile a music album, even in 2010. And that is even before you must make and distribute the thing.

 Between Two Lung’s bridges a gap between a wholly new album, no doubt in order to appease rabid fans and the original disc. And to introduce the band to new listeners, old and young. One noted track from “Between” is “Heavy in your arms” which achieved considerable notoriety earlier this year with its inclusion as the second song in the closing sequence of the incredibly successful Twilight film trilogy “Eclipse”. And “Heavy” it is pure Florence. Which means her unique voice and her strangely contradictory brightly dark [or darkly bright] lyrics. Which is to simply say marvelous. Another great piece is an incongruous track, actually a remix of her signature, “You’ve got the love” with the British rapper Dizzee Rascal titled, very much tongue in cheek, “You’ve got the Dirtee love”. The style of which seems to be all the rage in the UK and gives an interesting case of Florence singing at 33 1/3 and Dizzee at 78 as the music plays at 45 [rpm, as it were, for those of us who remember such things…]. All in all it is a great listen and a brilliant triumph for Florence Welch and her Machine.

bill littlefield

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols – King’s College Chapel – music CD

December 17, 2010

[Bill]

At this festive winter holiday season the WML is fortunate to have acquired an audio CD of an enduring Christmas classic. It is The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, recorded in 2008, by and at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England.  This is, or rather, has been a beloved performance in the UK countries since it was first broadcast in 1928 by the BBC. And it is now eagerly awaited by Americans who since 1979 have been able to listen via NPR radio live on Christmas Eve Day live at 10:00 EST.

This “Festival” was originally prepared by the then Anglican Bishop of Truro, England in 1880 in order to attempt to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve. We are not told, however, as to whether or not His Grace was successful in this endeavor. This service lasts approximately 90 minutes and has been said by some to be the perfect combination of the secular and the divine.  

The Gothic facade of the Chapel at King’s College is the symbol of the City of Cambridge and the building itself seats approximately 600.  We in 2010 are fortunate in that we may listen in ease at our radios, or computer, the “Beeb”, live from Cambridge University and enjoy the beautiful acoustics of the Chapel. Enjoy the crystal clear voices of the choristers, enjoy the music old and new, and enjoy the wonder of the English language spoken and sung.   We may believe or not. But think of this, think of the sound of a time before TV, most certainly before the Net, of a time when the electric light itself had just been invented and was a curious wonder. Have some curious wonder yourself. Listen to this CD or on Christmas Eve morning to “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s”.

bill littlefield

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

December 9, 2010

[Tricia]    This is a long, strange, fascinating book about a young boy who, as the title implies, dies at the very beginning of the book.  The book is set in a boarding school in Ireland, and offers a powerful,  sometimes scathing, glimpse into that world, as it pieces together what happened to Skippy.  It is a complex, intense, haunting book, which is also really funny and kind of sweet in places. I don’t know that it is for everybody, but I really liked it, and I’ve found that it has really stayed with me since I’ve read it.