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Vs. The (Pop) World 2

By Juan Manuel Freire

Vs. The (Pop) World  Juan Manuel Freire When on holiday, do you prefer sea or mountains? Mine’s city, please, thank you. Maybe I’m a victim of these times of attention deficit problems, but holidays in remote places only seem “pleasant” and “relaxing” to me for a very limited amount of time; after that, I get the horrible feeling I’m missing out on something. That’s why I usually go to stressful cities for my holidays, something that seems contradictory, I know. But the act of thinking doesn’t always help. Sometimes you find distraction in noise and action.

In a sense the city has a bad name, but in general, it’s a fiasco; “The Wire” showed us that. However, it’s a perfect place for poetic conception. It can inspire terrible things like Moby’s “Destroyed”, but also beautiful films by Michael Mann and terrific stories by Saul Bellow. And few places are better to write than some of those noisy bars that are all over the city centre: where one can let oneself be impregnated, contaminated by the lives of others; the electricity. It’s like travelling on the tube, which can strangely lead you to great epiphanies. Urbanites: there’s no place like home, spend your holidays at home.

Ah: Radiohead are great

As far as I can gather, listening to Radiohead in 2011 is punishable with burning nails in one’s feet. Or at least, that’s how I interpret the comments of certain individuals who associate Thom Yorke’s band with everything that is evil in popular music and, by extension, the world. If they are actually right, I’m doomed to fall from Eden, like Malick’s hero. All because of the grower “The King Of Limbs” - which I can’t stop listening to - or the new “Staircase”, premiered on the BBC’s “Radiohead - The King of Limbs: Live From The Basement”. It’s the best possible version of Radiohead, with that snake-like and propulsive rhythm, that emotive vocal melody, those Badalamenti-like chord changes. Another so-called defect of the band is their (supposed) lack of sense of humour, but we see Yorke smiling here. And how about those moves, huh?

‘Platinum Hit’

There’s a lot of talk about the success of “The Voice” and the arrival in the USA of “X Factor” (unfortunately, without Cheryl Cole as a member of the jury), but less is said about the reality musical that has all ingredients for a guilty pleasure. I’m talking about “Platinum Hit”, a recently premiered show on Bravo - the proximity of which to reality series about fashion ( “Project Runway”), food ( “Top Chef”) and hair ( “Shear Genius”) resulted in a cult status. This “Platinum Hit” also deserves a large passionate following, but maybe for the wrong reasons: the show challenges an eclectic group of composers to create hits, with the results you can imagine. No, you can’t. The climax (or anti-climax) so far has been the chapter dedicated to the musical genre in which it is possibly the easiest to make a fool of oneself: hip-hop. Jury members Kara DioGuardi and Jewel can’t really say anything about anyone’s aptitude for the rap genre, but guest jury member Rodney Jerkins suggested that some of the people “need to spend more time on [their] raps. {mp4-flvremote width="100%"}http://videos.cache.magnify.net/FKVMVB0GYFBJSF7K-110620_platinumhit_108_780_576x0.mp4{/mp4-flvremote}

Misanthropy party

Luckily, not everything on the telly is embarrassing. This summer, AMC, FX and HBO bring us the new seasons of “Breaking Bad”, “Louie” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, respectively, three series that deliciously question human nature’s reliability and our innate goodness. It’s hard to pick a favourite of the three season openers. Walter H. White has returned in all his pathetic splendour, wearing a Kenny Rogers T-shirt that is probably now sold out on eBay. Louie is still as down as ever, in other words: great as ever. And Larry David is seriously flirting with disaster (what? No, he’s getting busy with it) in this new season: right in the first episode he brings down his marriage over a stain from a glass on the table ( “do you respect the wood?”); he recovers the rules of the “bald code” with Cheryl’s lawyer ( “I can call you bald. It's like black people calling each other nigga. Hey baldy. Ya know.”); and he shows a girl scout how to use a tampon. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

I ndie hits for the summer

I’m not sure about the real world, but in the alt.world the song that has all the right sounds to become the summer hit is . . . it’s not that easy. There are several battling energetically for the title. In one corner we have Cansei De Ser Sexy’s “Hits Me Like A Rock”, a slice of quirky eighties dance-pop (with Ace Of Base peeping around the corner) featuring Bobby Gillespie for extra charisma. And in the other, of course, is “Ice Cream” by Battles and Matías Aguayo, with the added bonus of a great video by Canada. Honourable mentions: “Humedad” by Chileans MKRNI, “The Bay” by Metronomy, “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People (indie summer hit according to a recent survey by Stereogum) . . . I vote CSS. What about you? Cast your votes in the comments, please.

With your eyes closed

The Stereogum readers could also vote for “Eyes Be Closed”, by Washed Out. However, that song could only be queen of the summer if this time of year weren’t synonymous to hedonism, but rather to collapse - which it is, but only according to a few people. One of them must be Ernest Greene, in spite of his smile on the photos. “Within And Without” is the record of a man in shambles (he doesn’t call himself Washed Out for nothing): whispered melodies that don’t want to disturb, shy beats, clouds everywhere . . . I would like to call it the ultimate chill-wave album, but it doesn’t beat the debut albums by Toro Y Moi and Small Black: too few memorable melodies and unexpected twists. But “You” and “Eyes Be Closed” are great songs . . . for the end of the summer. Here’s the video of the latter track, another visual lesson by excellent director Timothy Saccenti.

The Beyoncé disappointment

YAnd no, I’m not talking about the cancellation of the video game about her. I’m talking about, of course, “4”. Remember how it was announced? Like a giant step forward for modern pop, the big meeting between Queen B, Diplo, Switch and Sleigh Bells. In the end, it’s not really anything: a pseudo single that is only interesting because of the spectacular video; the odd intriguing conceptual ballad ( “1+1”, her “Wonderful World”); and, err, zero Sleigh Bells. The mildly seductive mid-tempo productions prevail over the bangers on an album that is ideal as background noise. Maybe the good Knowles album will come from Solange.

The girl of the hour

Ay, Eleanor Friedberger. She does not disappoint. No wonder people write songs about her: “Eleanor, Put Your Boots On”, by Franz Ferdinand. The female half of The Fiery Furnaces is a force of nature: the Carole King of progressive pop, the probable leader of a 3.0 version of Jefferson Airplane. Live, she’s the perfect cross between Patti Smith and Mick Jagger. Now she’s releasing an album on her own (while her brother Matt is working on a series of eight), which will only add to the cult around her persona. “Last Summer” is a delicious piece of AM pop-rock featuring some of the best songs of the year, like “My Mistakes” or the funky “Roosevelt Island”. And then there is what seems to be her answer to “Eleanor, Put Your Boots On”: “Early Earthquake” ( “my heart’s trembling just for”). A record to hold dear, if you ask me.

Summer reads

When Time Magazine asked him which books he was planning to read this summer, actor and playwright Shawn Wallace (Vizzini in “The Princess Bride”) said: “Well, that’s really not anybody’s business, is it? It’s very personal. It’s too personal.” And when the interviewer insisted, asking him to at least tell him what he would like to recommend people, he said: “It’s hard to recommend a book if you don’t know who you’re recommending it to.” Intelligent, right? But in the end he did concede: “I could recommend a book to someone who’s quite a bit like me: The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant.”

The first objective for my short holidays won’t be that ambitious, but equally recommendable: you only need to read two chapters of “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” to know you’re in good hands; and, with a bit of luck, that you’re dealing with a new landmark in Young Adult fiction. The novel debut by filmmaker and travel writer Ransom Riggs, published by Quirk Books (the house of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”), is a story about freaks with a heart that skilfully combines text with old, unreal photos.

The idea came from finding rare vintage images, which “suggest stories even though you don't know who the people are or exactly when they were taken,” as Riggs said to Entertainment Weekly. There will be a film, but undoubtedly the book will be better.

5x140

I Break Horses/Hearts: Fans of Cocteau Twins and/or My Bloody Valentine should listen to this Swedish duo. Super class, shoegaze-pop. Pure X/Pleasure: The pleasure of being down, of standing in the rain, of watching the ceiling, of saying no to the future, and so on. Lo-fi dream-pop to digress to. William Elliott Whitmore/Field Songs: Spine-chilling roots. Great records are still made with a banjo, a voice and some stories. Part Time/What Would You Say?: I would say Ariel Pink, synth-pop and congratulations. Perverse music for future appendixes to “Retromania”. Zomby/Dedication: Zomby’s personal tribute to a friend who passed. His collaboration with Panda Bear is ace.

Next: The unreleased tunes of the “A Clockwork Orange” musical, the history of rap according to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, M83 (+1000), Dum Dum Girls, the return of the beef, dinosaurs-dinosaurs . . . Those who want to live life to the max, seizing every chance they get of enriching their existence culturally (with music, books or cutting edge audio-visuals), should never leave a city with less than a million and a half inhabitants. That’s what Juan Manuel Freire thinks, among other things - like Beyoncé having released a disappointing album.

Vs. June 2011

Vs. May 2011

Vs. April 2011

"The King Of Limbs"

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