The Wisdom Of Jon Stewart

The Wisdom of Jon Stewart

The political landscape in America has always been turbulent. Its two party system promotes animosity and it's elections drag on for months if not years! It's a difficult world to keep on top of, which is why when someone comes along who can do it well, it's important to listen to what they have to say.

Jon Stewart is one of those characters. A comedian and former host of the critically acclaimed The Daily Show, Stewart was at the frontline of American politics for years, commenting on countless scandals, and getting involved with a number of campaigns. He helped pass bills through congress and managed to single handedly take the atrocious Crossfire off the air.

 

He has stepped down from his post at The Daily Show, passing the reigns over to the talented Trevor Noah, but his impact continues to resonate, through shows created because of his inspiration and through his sporadic returns to late night TV.

So what is it about Stewart that makes him so watchable? Well, the first thing is that he's a comedian first and a political commentator second. Taking a dry subject and making it entertaining is an incredibly difficult task. Politics is perhaps one of the driest topics of all. Everything moves so slowly, and it's only through strenuous research and scrutiny that comedic angles begin to appear.

Take The Daily Show's series of segments entitled Democalypse, these focused on news coverage dedicated to the 2016 election. These news reports were largely just filler, as nothing of importance happens with the presidential race until around 12 months before. However Jon Stewart and his team managed to find gold with this coverage time and time again.




And it wasn't just national movements in the political machine that were targeted.

Another great thing about Stewart's time as The Daily Show's anchor was his attempts to shine a spotlight on some of the more ridiculous goings on in state legislature across America. Take Oklahoma's decision on oil and gas legislation following a dramatic increase in earthquakes in the state.



Whilst these stories showcase his day to day greatness, one thing Jon Stewart is more famous for than anything else, is his concentrated attack on Fox News. The partisan hacks of Fox, seemingly hired by the Republican parties propaganda wing, promote themselves as a fair and balanced organisation...which was a little too much for Stewart to take. Himself and Fox poster boy Bill O'Reilly have had several debates against each other and he has ran several pieces on The Daily Show pointing out the contradictions in values the network so often displays.



The funny Jon Stewart is good, but the serious Jon Stewart is just as effective. After the decision made not to prosecute the offers involved in the killing of Eric Garner, Stewart took to the screen to voice his genuine frustrations at the situation unfolding in front of America.



The really annoying thing about Jon Stewart's departure from The Daily Show, is that it happened before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee from the presidency, and with that, created more mouth dropping headlines and gaffes then you could believe.

Can you imagine what he would have done with that material? It would have been open season for Stewart, which is perhaps why he couldn't resist returning to our screens on Stephen Colbert's show and taking shots at the ludicrous situation the republican party currently finds itself in. 



I guess what I'm trying to say with this blog is; Jon, we need you back. John Oliver is doing a fine job over on HBO, but he can only do so much. The time is now Jon, before it's too late, take to our screens on a regular basis and...make America great again.


On Repeat: September 2016

Jamie T Trick

Jamie T - Power Over Men



Jamie T's new album Trick is out and working it's way up the charts faster than you can say bass guitar playing troubadour. Power Over Men is one of the highlights. Featuring a gritty melody, the track walks the indie/pop line perfectly and delivers everything you've come to demand from Jamie T, and then some.

BRAWLERS - Annabel




This is just about as perfect as pop punk gets. Coming in at under two minutes, BRAWLERS manage to cram three choruses, a bridge and a slamming riff into Annabels' running time and conjure up magic by doing so. I'm late to the party with this one...but I'm making sure I catch every release from this band going forward.

Fall Out Boy - Fourth of July (Live at Reading 2016)




I dare you to watch Fall Out Boy's headline show at Reading and not be impressed. The lads have well and truly evolved into a main event standard group, with a barrel load of hits and enough pyro packed into their production to worry the local fire service. Fourth of July was one of the stand out songs for me. With an arena sized chorus along with the accompanying fireworks it was quite the spectacle. Catch the performance in the video above at 38:11.

Bon Iver - 33 "GOD"



Justin Vernon has gone over the edge. That much is clear from his new music. It's a pretty seismic departure in terms of style and genre, there are currently no signs of the low key folk stylings he was well known for in this new sound. Bon Iver, however can be whatever the hell Vernon wants to be, and if you want my opinion the new sound he's crafted on these new tracks make up his best work yet. Sit back and enjoy.

Omar Rodriguez Lopez - Winters Gone




Omar Rodriguez Lopez is a musical genius. I think we can all agree on that, right? He's currently releasing an album on a bi-weekly basis...and so far they have all been of exceedingly high quality. His latest release Umbrella Mistress is my favourite so far and Winter's Gone encapsulates the mood of the record in it's most immediate form.

Interestingly the version above is an acoustic version recorded back in 2014. It's great, but you should absolutely check out the studio version for good measure.

Franz Ferdinand - Lucid Dreams



Franz Ferdinand channeling The Beatles via Kraftwerk. This is one of the bands best tracks and has found its way back on my playlist as of late. And that's a fantastic thing. Eight minutes well spent. Trust me.

Bring Me The Horizon - Antivist (Live at Wembley Arena)




This concert has made it back onto Youtube...it won't last long of course but whilst it's here I recommend checking out Bring Me The Horizon's performance of Antivist. It features the best lyrics in a track ever written and it's good for a bit of anger management. 58:11.


New Music: Soft Hair - Lying Has To Stop

Soft Hair Band
Photo credit: Erwan Fichou
Well. That's a strange image to announce your new band with, isn't it? We should expect no less of course, this is a group made up of former Late of the Pier and current LA Priest man Sam Dust/Eastgate and the equally experimental Connan Mockasin.

The name of this new group? Soft Hair, and they have announced the release of their first album on October 28th.

The album’s recording took place over five years amongst the pair’s solo careers and outside lives. After the dispersion of Late of the Pier, whom Connan supported on tour in 2009 (the first time the two met), Sam travelled in the far east, Africa, Europe and elsewhere, spending time inventing his own instruments, producing and directing, and re-emerging as LA Priest in 2015 with debut solo album Inji.

Connan meanwhile released the albums Forever Dolphin Love and Caramel, and toured the world extensively, working with artists such as James Blake, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Vince Staples.

The songs on this album were written and recorded in a wide array of locations using methods that neither Mockasin nor Dust had used previously, developed by the pair from the start of its creation. As a result, the record gives the listener a view into an exotic world with a blend of familiar, unfamiliar and unconventionally attractive sounds.

Sounds good right? Want to hear more right?

Lucky for you they've already released a new video for the song Lying Has To Stop. Watch it below, it's...a bit odd. But again, what did you expect?




Black Foxxes: I'm Not Well - Album Review (Sort of)

Black Foxxes New Album I'm Not Well

We're at a very exciting stage of the Black Foxxes story right now. They have just released one hell of an album (I feel like I've said that too soon into the review...ah well) and the hype machine is steadily hitting into higher and higher gears.



The album entitled I'm Not Well is twelve tracks of arena sized emo. With flashes of Manchester Orchestra, Brand New and Against Me! partnered alongside passionate performances translated perfectly from their live shows to the record. This is an album that is engrossing from start to finish. It's a great listen, but here's where things get really interesting.

Black Foxxes are officially rock music's worst kept secret.

They feel like a top UK act in the making. The record industry knows of course, they've been snapped up by Spinefarm Records who are a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. And the critics know, everyone from Kerrang! to Drowned in Sound have been heaping on the praise for the UK three piece and the premiere album stream was picked up by The Independent.

The mainstream rock audience is yet to fully take hold, but aren't far behind. Of course, these things take time, and the beauty with rock fans is, they're always on the look out for the newest act to melt their faces off.

The benefits for fans quick on the uptake is opportunity. A cursory glance at their upcoming tour boasts a treasure trove of opportunities for new devoted fans to catch this band in intimate surroundings. 500-1000 cap venues galore, if that!



So how big could they be?

Well let's think about that. This album isn't a pop record. There are no Cary Rae Jepson (remember her?) ear worms to propel them onto the Radio 1 A-list, and rock music, no matter how epic, has to take a backseat to the shenanigans of the hit parade when it comes to national airplay.

But whereas pop acts, appear then disappear in a matter of months, rock acts have a more elongated process ahead of them. I mean it took Biffy Clyro four albums to get the recognition they deserved, and with The Maccabees calling it a day before having the chance to headline one of the top top festivals in the world (which they most thoroughly deserved to do) it just goes to show this business is a marathon not a sprint.

The sky's the limit, but it may take time.

But Black Foxxes are onto something here, and if I've learned anything whilst writing about music, it's that good music always gets the audience it deserves. Tracks such as River, Bronte and Pines are all cult classics in the making (if not already) but cult status is not what awaits this band.

Black Foxxes have arrived. Say hello to your new favourite band.


Introducing: A Grave With No Name

A Grave With No Name - Interview

Allow me to introduce you to A Grave With No Name, the moniker of singer-songwriter Alexander Shields. He crafts dark, art-rock folk sounds and is releasing his latest album Wooden Mask this Friday (August 12th).

Recorded over a winter at London’s Holy Mountain Studios, Wooden Mask is a skeletal collection of songs, stripped and left bare. He carefully crafts voice, ambient noise, thoughtful acoustics and field recordings to create a sound that is at times both distant and intensely intimate.

The latest track to be released from the forthcoming album is Pirouette a delicate two minute affair formed around an acoustic arpeggio and a string accompaniment both of which combine effectively to create a dark yet peaceful atmosphere. In the artists own words...

"It’s a ballad for the invisible sways and whirls we perform; the theatre we divine.”

The man behind the music kindly agreed to answer the now infamous introducing questionnaire, revealing his childhood love for WWE, a hate for Jay-Z's latest effort and how a performance at a Bar Mitzvah started his musical journey.

1. What is your favourite album and why?


I have a couple, but The Glow Pt.2 by The Microphones is always a constant. I bought the CD around 10 years ago knowing very little about it, but as soon as I pressed play, my whole conception of what an album could be, and sound like, altered

2. What is your least favourite album and why?

Without hesitation, Magna Carta: Holy Grail by Jay-Z. I had always been a big fan of Jay-Z, and respected his ability to put out artistic records like American Gangster at the times when people least expected it and had written him off, but Magna: Carta Holy Grail and everything it stands for is just bullshit.

3. If you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Observe and report.

4. What made you start making music?

Although I had never picked up an instrument in my life, a friend asked me to write a song to play at his Bar Mitzvah party when I was 12 years old, and it just continued from there. The performance was probably the most humiliating experience of my life, and may explain why I don’t enjoy playing live to this day.

5. Favourite swear word?


Tuchas.

6. If you could create a band from musicians, living or dead who would you choose?

I think pushing musicians incongruously together rarely produces good music, but personally I would enjoy the opportunity to work in the studio with Dave Pajo, or Phil Elverum.

7. Obvious musical skills aside, do any of you have any secret talents?

I can guess the time accurately to the nearest couple of minutes without referring to a clock no matter what time of day it is.

8. What is your favourite childhood TV programme?

I am not big into nostalgia, so I don’t really think back fondly to the programmes I watched as a kid, but I was seriously into wrestling when I was younger.

9. If you weren't in a band, what profession would you like to attempt and why?

I enjoy helping people out who have had difficult upbringings and I pursue that now, so I guess that would come into focus more if there was space left by not being a musician.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“Alexander Shields? I’ve been waiting to see you. I just wanted to say I thought your performance at Joseph Synett’s Bar mitzvah ruled man. Come on in!”

A Grave With No Name's new album 'Wooden Mask' is out August 12th via Forged Artifacts


FIB (Benicassim) Festival 2016 - Review

Kendrick Lamar FIB 2016

Spain really is spoilt when it comes to weather.

"What's the forecast look like today Marco?"

"What?"

"The weather forecast"

"..."

"Marco?"

"It's sunny. It's always sunny. It's been sunny for the last 300,000 years".

"Oh yeah!"

There's a reason Spanish television brushes over the weather in it's news bulletins (I mean, I'm guessing here...but why would you bother?). Of course, this almost guaranteed sunshine present in Espana means that it is the perfect location for a festival. So that's why I ventured a few weeks back to Benicassim Festival or FIB.

Located just over an hour away from Valencia, the festival sits on the Costa Azahar and puts the UK festivals to shame in terms of pure landscape beauty. As well as this landscape, they always manage to shape a line up that can stand toe to toe with the best of them in Europe, with headliners that would entice any music lover away from the shores of Blighty.

The first headliner (or co-headliner) up was Biffy Clyro. With a brand spanking new album behind them, the band were eager to dust off a few of the new tracks they'd been working on for the past few years, and flew into Wolves of Winter before diving head first into a hit-heavy set list.

Biffy Clyro FIB 2016
Excuse the arm...
Seven albums in, and with just over an hour to play, the band had to work hard to tick every box on the festival agenda and only managed to do so by neglecting to play anything from their first trilogy of albums. A bit of a shame, but a storming performance none the less.

Elsewhere, Band of Skulls were busy converting new fans with their blend of fuzzed up blues whilst The Soft Moon briefly transformed the sunny environment into an underground dive bar with their heavy industrial stylings laying waste to all who were lucky enough to bare witness.

The 1975 demonstrated their future headlining status, bringing with them an army of devotees as well as an arsenal of hit songs and The Maccabees rocked the main stage laying claim to the title of "worlds biggest cult band". Seriously, they deserve more!

Snakehips brought trap music to the festival, and kept the party going well into the early hours (a highlight for sure) and The Coral brought their brand of Brit Pop to proceedings, unleashing a barrel load of hits to an appreciative audience.

FIB 2016

When you think of rock festivals in 2016, you think of one band. Muse. The trio from Teignmouth have grown to such a size now, that not even stadiums can host their glam-prog stylings. But with that popularity comes the weight of expectation.

Matt Bellamy and co always deliver, that's just what they do. But you couldn't shake the feeling that  this had become a bit routine for them? Apart from perhaps Bliss, there were no real surprises in the setlist. It was single heavy and whilst those singles are predominately all showstoppers, I would've liked to see a few more rarities thrown in.



Perhaps I'm asking for too much. Perhaps I'm a bit of a "Muse snob". One thing is for sure, despite what I say, they were the majority of the festivals performance of the weekend.

My performance of the weekend prize however, goes to Kendrick Lamar. The Compton born rapper brought To Pimp a Butterfly to Benicassim and delivered a powerful performance.

It's a strange experience seeing a festival crowd silenced by an artist. These people had been drinking all weekend, and yet there was not one person in my vicinity who could take their eyes of the stage when Kendrick performed. Tracks such as Alright and Institutionalized juggled their heavy subject matter and danceable rhythms perfectly, whilst M.A.A.D City and Swimming Pools established themselves as outright hip hop anthems, each one bringing the house down respectively.

All in all an amazing weekend of music in an amazing environment. Who could ask for more?

Why You Should Be Watching...Speed Runs

Sonic The Hedgehog Speed Run

I'm a fan of video games. Having said that, I wouldn't say I dedicate any discernible amount of time towards playing them. They're a way of getting out of my head, a distraction from whatever silly problems I may have running through my brain box that day.

That's not to say I haven't got caught up in a few titles in the past. I'm a fan of the Fallout franchise, and as a kid was a bit obsessive over a few of the Final Fantasy titles (7,8 and 9). Barring those, I'm very much a casual gamer, at the very most, the step up from that... a smart-casual gamer perhaps?

Despite my laissez faire attitude towards games, a few days ago I found myself watching play throughs of old titles. It's a bit of a thing on Youtube. Personalities such as PewDiePie have made big money by playing and uploading footage of themselves playing games.



That's all very well and good, and if you can get away with playing games for a living, I say go for it.

However, it wasn't these standard (or "Let's Play" videos) that grabbed my attention. No, the videos I was fascinated by, were specifically categorised as "Speed Runs".

This type of video features a gamer sitting down and attempting to finish a title in the fastest time possible. Forget the plot, the characters, in some cases even the core mechanics. The name of the game is speed.

It really is something to behold. The people doing this have dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy into playing and perfecting these games, with the hope of manipulating every frame of a games being, so that it is optimised for speed.

Expect lots of shortcuts, glitches and game breaking hacks. Of course, sometimes it's just a case of knowing the game back to front (check out the THPS run through below).

It's hypnotising. And it's not just a couple of people doing it. A group called "Games Done Quick" recently held a Summer charity event and raised over $1.3 million for Doctors Without Borders!

By now you've either decided I've gone mad and disappeared, or you're thinking, "go on then, show us what's so bloody good about these videos."

As you wish.

Below are a few videos I've watched which made me think "oh snap". Check em out, and if you want to see more, pop over to the Games Done Quick Youtube channel where there are literally hundreds of videos.

Enjoy.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 (Start at 1:50)



Pokemon Yellow (Start at 1:27)



Super Mario Bros (Start at 3:11)