Archive for June, 2011

Music Review: The Vaccines: What did you expect from the Vaccines?

June 24, 2011


CD Music review

The Vaccines: What did you expect from the Vaccines?

Release date: 14 March 2011

Today is Bloomsday June 16. So what? For the English majors amoungst us, it is the day in Ulysses, the magnum opus of James Joyce, in which Leopold Bloom wanders throughout the city of Dublin. Some have said that if Dublin were to be destroyed it could be rebuilt by using Joyce’s narrative. It is also my birthday. I mention that because a birthday is hopefully a happy occasion and although I have been severely mocked lately for a lack of happy-ness, at least in music, I am actually a really happy person.

My birthday present this day is not clothing or dinner, nice though those are, nor is it to be astounded, or vexed, by Joyce’s tortured text, but it is music by which my ears have been charmed by the delightfully smooth, happy and bouncy, retro English Indie Rockers, The Vaccines. I will argue that any group with the self mocking title “What did you expect from the Vaccines” deserve a listen. This is as the/our students say is “gr8”. A “great summer album”, as we used to say. It is a short disc of 11 tracks. One, “Wreckin’ bar” at not quite 90 seconds. These are fast high energy songs that just sound so right. And to me that is the key.

Does it sound right? That is the main thing. Nothing else matters. I don’t care about the drama, the hair, the clothes, the sexuality, the origin, who is sleeping with who or not. Does it move you? Does it make you think, cry, laugh? Does it feed / assuage your pain? Does it make you recall your friends, enemies, joys, sorrows? Does it ask [or answer] the question, are you feeling what I am feeling?

The Vaccines just sound right, to me at least. The mild reverb and virtuoso guitar work on all the songs is notable but particularly on “Post breakup sex” it is perfect. The vocals are just coarse enough to be just a bit gritty in the smoothness, it is very listenable, as is “A lack of understanding”. Indeed after the first listen you feel as though you have heard them, before. Not a bad thing surely.

The CD ends with a curious piano solo in a slow, bluesy manner, “Family friend” at five and a half minutes is just different enough to prove that these are not just three minute wonder guys.

I hope that you have fun and happiness on your birthday, whatever day it is. I really don’t know if Leopold Bloom had a good time or not on June 16 in the novel. As for me I’m going back to listen to the Vaccines. Cheers.

bill littlefield

Music Review: The Naked and Famous: Passive Me, Aggressive You

June 24, 2011


CD Music Review

The Naked and Famous: Passive me, Aggressive you

Release date: 6 September, 2010 in NZ; 14 March, 2011 worldwide

I have always wondered at the curious conceit that causes people to attempt either through hubris or vanity [or both…] to expound on what to many is the obvious. Specifically, theatre, film, opera and music reviews. A reasonably objective review is useful and might even be humourous to read, a spitefully subjective one is, well spiteful. There are, alas, no shortage of poison pens in the world and regretfully no shortage of people trying to “get even”. Please forgive the pedantry but it seemed to be necessary for this music review of the New Zealand band “The Naked and Famous”. The name has nothing to do with the fact that the bard are fully clothed and until recently anonymous.  It is a lyric from a song by from the band “Tricky” and the lyric is “Everyone wants to be naked and famous”.

Passive me, aggressive you, yet another delightfully droll title, is certainly unusual. It sounds like four bands in one. It defies genre. Usually one applauds an album wherein the songs do not all sound the same. This sure is one. There are female and male vocalists; there are wholly different sounds to various sounds. It is an unusual and welcome work. I could not help but think, oh to be young and full of fire, talent and ability.

I recently said of an album “does it sound right”? Well here is another, at least to me and very well done too. “Young blood” and “Punching in a dream” do have very similar sounds. At first I thought the lead female singer was singing in falsetto but it just seems as though her pitch is quite high. Nicely layered a classically rocky, punky, and delightful. “Girls like you” is also very well done.  Oh, yes the videoare a blast artfully artsy, clever, but not weird.

The exotically named female vocalist “Alisa Xayalith” has a truly notable voice. The other vocalist Thom Powers whilst very good is more in the usual vein and I do not mean to damn with faint praise. The difference causes one to sit up and notice between songs. I’ve enjoyed this CD immensely. The mixing is excellent as are aspects of the CD. It is getting a lot of airplay on the stations that will play this genre, and rightly so as it is simply brilliant. To me this is music that is so needed right now. Sometimes the less said the better please give a listen.  I am confident that it will not be your last.

bill littlefield


Born This Way by Lady Gaga – Music CD

June 15, 2011

[Bill]  Music Review   Lady GaGa: Born this way   Release date 5/23/11

Some have said and with more than a little truth that the less said about “Lady Gaga” the better. But I have a confession to make or at least a retraction. Once I had said that of the spectacle that is Lady Gaga I was neither for nor against. For better or worse [rather like marriage…] I have come to enjoy her art even if I am not a “little monster” as her rabid followers are known. This was not voluntary. I tried, God knows I tried. Yet, as the disciples of the canon of Star Trek Next Generation might say, and with some veracity, “resistance is futile”; I too have been assimilated.

All I can think of were the words which by chance I heard recently from an online jukebox. It was the classic late 60’s track by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds; Turn, turn, turn. It is a hell of a long haul from Haight-Ashbury world of 1968 to the Twitter/Facebook/YouTube world of 2011. But I believed then and I believe now that artists reflect the time in which they live and work and produce their art.

The art of the Byrds was truly shocking in ’66, ‘68 & ’70 if you recall those days you will recall what I mean. Gaga is that shocking person today. Is it good or bad? I say neither it just is. But long may it be so. And not doubt, most people really do either [still] love or loath her.

Gaga took her name from the then hit track Radio Ga Ga by the British Rock band Queen in 1984. She  claimed to have fallen in love with the song and its title, naming her stage name after it. With apologies to Roger McGuinn and Queen I say that this is the season of, what else? Gaga.

As of mid spring I have come to be convinced that, she, Gaga is a genius of the order of John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Annie Lennox and with apologies to a dear friend of mine Elvis Presley. Again this is only an opinion, mine. Even so when I saw Gaga interviewed on 60 Minutes before the Grammies last winter it was an outrageous, irreverent, cheeky riot of commentary but, not unexpected. There was more than a little deliciousness in it all. And I enjoyed every bit of it. Her, Gaga’s performance at the Grammies for those who did not see it was again, as above, over the top, as it was meant to be. Egg-cellent…

Born this way. Brilliant and a spectacle as are its videos. Look at her, listen to her, it is the voice of the age. Available at an audio/video portal near you now.

bill littlefield


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

June 15, 2011


I listened to this book on audio, read by the author, and her quiet, matter-of-fact delivery was perfect for this quiet, matter-of-fact but magical  book. The book kind of broke my heart at times, and I loved the writing, and I thought it was beautiful. I don’t think it’s for everybody, but if you like Alice Hoffman’s novels, you might want to give this one a try.

Available as an audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Audiobook

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

June 13, 2011

[Lesley]  I loved this book.  What a great callback to Narnia, Hogwarts & Tolkien while still being original, interesting, page-turning and addictive.  I can’t wait for the sequel to come out this summer!

The whole series is available as ebook and audiobook on LIbby/Overdrive.

The Magicians - Audiobook