Of Iceland and inspirations

July 8, 2010

Iceland has had a tough run these past few years, what with its financial crisis since 2008, and the sudden eruption of Eyjafjallajökull not too long ago. The island has pretty much been non-existent to many before all these hoo-ha. I’m sure most of you don’t even give your two cents about Iceland until the volcano exploded, stranded millions in Europe because of its monstrous plume, and humoured the rest of the world with its almost impossible to pronounce name. I don’t blame you; when I was a kid, I used to think Iceland is equivalent to that of Antarctic – nothing but glaciers of whites as far as the eyes can see, and people as Eskimos living in igloos.

Iceland is more than that. He is the mirror image of that muscle that beats your heartbeat. He is the sunset at 11PM, and the sunrise at 3AM. He is the steamy embrace of the mighty Gullfoss, and the symphonic Northern Lights when lovers meet at the equinox. He has a face of pure and heavenly innocence, but an eerie and worned out world when you stare deeper into his eyes; not unlike a young 21-year-old who’s seen too many heartaches and hopelessness. He is the place geniuses think about when they write music. He is the second home to Damien Rice, and home to Sigur Rós. I’d like to believe that if one could see music, Iceland will look a lot like Vaka, Samskeyti and Fljótavík.

Last week, halfway across the world, there was a free concert dedicated to the people of Iceland. Anyone who has once claimed the island to be their home went on stage for Iceland Inspires that day, singing of hope and comfort – inspiration.

The concert opened with the dreamy and surreal sounds of Amiina, Sigur Rós’ strong sisters in arms, like a gradual wake up call to the nation. There was also a traditional ensemble of Steindór Andersen, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Páll á Húsafelli, paired with the more contemporary harmonies of Hafdís Huld, Dikta, Lay Low and Seabear.

By day, everyone huddles together as Damien Rice and Glen Hansard serenade the crowd with their beat up guitars the beloved The Blowers’ Daughter and Leave, respectively. And as night swallows Reykjavík, Spiritualized‘s acoustic mainlines finishes up with profound gospels, lifting the city up into the floating space: “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away.”

It is a concert of returning favours, from the people who have been inspired by Iceland, thanking him for inspiring them when they were once hopeless and lost.

To the land I could only dream of stepping foot on someday, I wish you well in days to come. I hope to one day see you face to face, kiss your rain-damped pavements as your mid-Atlantic air wipes my tears away.

Here is my favourite set off the Iceland Inspires concert: a powerful orchestra of Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Lára Runnarsdottir and Lay Low with their rendition of Iceland’s folk lullaby, Sofðu Unga Ástin Mín.

Watch the rest of the concert performers HERE, and more of Andri Elfarsson’s photographs HERE.


Fair enough

June 7, 2010

Being broke and jobless sucks. So, I took a break from the outside world last weekend and decided to tend to all things virtual. (Geeky, I know). Thus, a new layout.

OK, fine, it ain’t exactly anything new and mindblowing. I was just watching the movie again the other night, and I thought hey, why not make a header out of it. I was just trying to past time, really.

The movie needs no introduction. 2004 was the year for Garden State, and it is probably responsible for singlehandedly kickstarting this new era of indie movies in the mainstream wavelength. (Note ‘this era’ because if not, it would not be fair to the ones before said movie. See Empire Records, High Fidelity and more).

Following suit was Juno in 2007, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in 2008 and more recently, (500) Days of Summer in 2009. And those are the more famous ones; we have not even delved deep into the pool of indie flicks hovering at the bottom of the ocean yet.

And with these indie movies come splendid lineups for the soundtracks. In my opinion, I thought Zach Braff did such an awesome job for the soundtrack of Garden State, even he himself could not top that for the soundtrack of The Last Kiss. Having indie filled songs for soundtracks is like, so cool right now, even New Moon is getting in on the action. Meh.

So, before I go on further with my rambles, I shall leave you with this: if you have not seen this movie, what is the matter with you. Go find the nearest DVD peddler for a copy, or just download it. (Well, excuse me, I can’t afford to splurge on originals like you now, can I?) After that, get the soundtrack.

If you have, this entry is for you. Watching the movie again, if you may. Relive it. Here is my favourite passage from the movie:

“You know that point in your life when you realise the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden, even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out. It just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, for your kids, for the family you start – it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”

And here is one of my favourite songs from the soundtrack – Fair by Remy Zero. Download it HERE.

Where’s the cocktail? Stereophonics as performed in KL: A review

April 28, 2010

Can Kelly Jones hold his own as front man of a British rock movement that gave us so much good music to fuck to?

Well, yes and no.

To the purist, the former is of course the only option. For a fence sitter like me, I’d say, if magic did exist, Kelly would just be riding pillion on the broom stick.

Don’t get me wrong. There was absolutely nothing wrong with their performance. The energy was there. Jones’s voice was flawless. His guitar playing was immaculate. The band was tight. The lighting, exotic.

So, what’s the problem exactly?

Let me put it for you this way. You know something’s wrong when Stereophonics is playing Bright Red Star, and the crowd were just talking among themselves.

Sure, we all hate Malaysian crowds. They’re totally primitive and cavemen-like when it comes to genuinely embracing art. But I was standing just below the speakers, my eyes tuned directly at Kelly, straight-on like a moving freight train and as he sang, “Mary, is my bright red star”, I could feel nothing.

No goosebumps. No hair stand. No sudden rise in temperature. No falling of the soul.

Kelly for me, could not hold the mellow songs on his own. With the band shrouded in darkness, and the spotlight focused on him, he felt empty. Hollow.

Not that he didn’t try.

He did. His desert-like voice, whom someone in front of me commented was a cross between Liam Gallagher and Nic Chester, rose to meet every note with steady perfection and serene vibrato. But I could not feel him. Maybe it’s the crowd. Maybe it’s the place. Or maybe I’m being unfair because I wanted him to shut the PA system and walk right up to me, and play it just for me.

He needed the band.

On heavy guitar crunching numbers like stuck in a rut, innocent, the bartender and the thief, just looking and superman – the crowd went wild and jumped and skipped and tangoed with each other. Call me skeptic but it just feels like people just wanted noise and that’s all that it took to get them yelling in appreciation.

Here are my 4 favourite moments of the night, awesomeness in ascending order.

1) When Kelly strapped on his acoustic for the first time to play have a nice day.

2) When traffic came alive, as Kelly announced that he’s gonna go mellow for a bit.

3) Mr Writer with an elongated outtro, accentuated by sexy green lighting that somehow reminds me of Paris Hilton’s sex tape.

4) Dakota as the encore, where Kelly stood mighty as he repeated again and again, “take a look at me now” not stopping till every individual in the venue soaked in the atmosphere ready to go home and embrace their mundane lives.

So back to the golden question. Does Kelly hold his own as front man of a leading british rock band?


But with all due respect, he should look to Chris Martin for inspiration on how to leave his audience exploding with multiple orgasms. I only had one and I know my body was capable of much, much more.

Disclaimer:  Dont hate me for the shitty image. I’m not Celeste and i was not born with her photographic blood.

This is a story of a bunch of girls

April 19, 2010

With only some 10 days left till the Stereophonics concerts in Malaysia and Singapore, I thought I’d hit on something a little left to centre.

Now, we all know the main genius behind this Welsh band is none other than Kelly Jones. And back when Stereophonics were working on Pull the Pin in 2007, he started having all these crazy ideas that needed to be penned down. Cue Only the Names Have Been Changed, a limited edition release, which reached number 1 on the iTunes chart, but didn’t do so well critically.

The essence of the solo debut: women. 10 of them to be exact. You have heard Dakota and Lolita – which, by the way, is about his then newly borned daughter, Lolita Bootsy – from Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, and perhaps even Daisy Lane and Bright Red Star in Pull the Pin. Only the Names… is sort of like an extended version of that.

Like an author’s anthology of short stories, this is Jones’ musical anthology: There is Rosie, the good-hearted lady who works in the hospital, and helped save Jones’ baby girl Lolita when she was ill. There is Katie, who sold her body for a free taxi ride home. There is Violet, who sold her body and ended up getting murdered. There is Emily, who waited a lifetime for that prince charming, only to fuck things up herself in the end. There is Suzy, one of them girls who came out of nowhere just to inspire your life, only to disappear as quickly as she appeared. And there is Misty, only because she is Jones’ second daughter.

Call me superficial, but I don’t really like an entire album of songs named after girls. Perhaps it is corny, and you’re sort of taking the easy way out in being articulate. Perhaps it’s the whole Low Millions shebang with their Ex-Girlfriends flop in 2004. It just left a bad taste in my mouth; and you’d think as a son of Leonard Cohen, you’d at least do – I dunno – better. But that’s just me.

For me, I can’t say it’s a mind-blowing solo debut for him, as I only like Suzy, Liberty and Jean. But I doubt Jones penned down the songs to have them share the same fate as his Stereophonics numbers. I suppose, it’s just one of those things, which got too much and you just have to write them all out. You know, like that time in high school, when you got a bunch of writings to do about love and life and teachers, and you just want to let them all out. Whether one or none of them would fly or not, it does not matter.

Other than that, Only the Names… portrays a more personal and sensitive side of Jones, ala Bright Red Star. Striped off the backings of Stereophonics, his many leather jackets and RayBan shades, and armed only with his cherry red Gibson SG. Not at all the rock persona Stereophonics is known for, but all the same contexts that made the band who they are always.

HERE is Suzy.

And we will see you guys at the concerts.

Peaches live in Singapore @ Apr 28, 2010

April 15, 2010

I love peaches in summertime. The vibrant colours of yellow, orange and red. The inviting touch of its supple texture underneath your fingertips, in between your teeth. The lip smacking crunch that threatens dribbles of juicy goodness out the corner of your mouth. The urge to moan orgasmically at the heavenly sweetness that touches your tastebuds. Yum.

But that’s not the Peaches I’m talking about here. So, before you think this gig is about crates and crates of imported fruits selling at dirt cheap prices, the Peaches I’m talking about here is Merill Beth Nisker, Canadian-born dance electro punk musician, who has been an icon when it comes to reinventing fashion and upping the level of individualism.

Peaches is well loved by notable acts like Iggy Pop, Bjork, Josh Homme, Lil’ Kim, Kelis, 2 Many DJs, M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem, as well as being embraced in the fashionista world of Paris runways and Victoria Secret shows. Peaches have five studio albums out, latest being I Feel Cream released in May last year to acclaimed reviews. Since then, she has been around the world doing her deeds, and here she is now, making a pit stop in Singapore with all her juicy and sexual demeanours.

Details below:

Peaches live in Singapore
April 28, 2010 (Wednesday)
Time: 9.30PM
Venue: Zirca, The Cannery, Clarke Quay
Tickets: S$45 (pre-sale), S$55 (door price)

Pre-sale tickets are available at TDC and Home Club.

And here be some peachy tunes.

Stereophonics live in Malaysia, Apr 28, AND Singapore, Apr 30

April 9, 2010

Forget keeping calm and carrying on. Because Stereophonics is going the long way around to swing by both Malaysia and Singapore by the end of April!

No introduction is needed for this Welsh rock band; heck, they’ve been in the music scene for close to two decades. I’m sure you would’ve came across them on way or another. But if you insist – does Dakota or Maybe Tomorrow ring any bells?

With seven studio albums under their sleeves, the latest one being Keep Calm and Carry On, which was just released end of last year, we’re bound to have a good night out with Kelly Jones and the boys.

So, start your ‘Phonics revision now.

Details are as follow:

Stereophonics live in Malaysia
April 28, 2010 (Wednesday)
Time: 7.30PM
Venue: KL Live
Tickets: RM118

Tickets are available at all Axcess outlets from April 10 onwards. Log on to their website for more info,  or call +6 03 7711 5000.

Stereophonics live in Singapore
April 30, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 8PM
Venue: Fort Canning Park
Tickets: S$98 (Standard), S$110 (Door price)

Tickets are available at all Sistic outlets now. You can get your tickets by ringing them up at +65 6348 5555, or log on to their website.

Here is something to get you in the mood.

The story of two kings, conveniently

March 18, 2010

Hmm, things have been rather quiet around here, have they not? So, conveniently, I decided to write something regarding two Kings – Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe – or better known as Kings of Convenience, to start things off again nice and easy.

A while back, on a not so special day, a few friends and I found ourselves shuffling through rough sands by a beach at two in the morning, and decided to plop down on them because we ran out of places to go. The hotel behind us was close, everything was close, and all around us pitch black save the dimly lit hotel. The waves were crashing – high tide, and the stars were out – two fell.

We sat there talking about recessing world economy while switching sitting positions when the legs had pins and needles. Half of the time, I thought to myself – we could definitely used some beer (which we eventually set out to get, really) and greens (it’s the beach, I think things like that) in a place like this. A friend played bad, bad, bad 80s music that did not fit the bill, and I thought of Kings of Convenience.

My point being: for me, it is hard not to associate Kings of Convenience with a beach setting. In fact, cashiers at CD stores should inform us, conveniently, after our purchase of Declaration of Dependence: “Here’s a complimentary beach to go with your CD. Enjoy.”

Unlike Jack Johnson, Kings of Convenience are quieter with their delicate string instruments that seem to be tiptoeing into the bedroom at three in the morning not to wake your parents, and their solemn voices like lullabies. They are a picture of a beach at night time, when insomniacs would stroll down, instead of a sunshine-y one with sands that burn and a perkily pecked surfer bouncing, bouncing, bouncing by.

Quiet is the New Loud paved the roads right for them as a necessary introduction to their music career and sound they are aiming to go for. Although things got a little complicated in Riot on an Empty Street – with additions of pianos and more complex guitar melodies and a queen named Feist, things pan out alright again in Declaration of Dependence with a slightly darker motif – a proper growth, I think.

Yet, after three albums, individualism is still capable of being instilled into every song. You cannot really find one song too similar to the other. I mean, yes, they are in the same languid mood and delicate tone, but you know – a convenient cliché-like metaphor coming up – kind of like crashing waves, or stars, or snowflakes. They still crash against the shores like they are supposed to, and they still fall on your noses (not the stars), like they are supposed to. But, no two waves or stars or snowflakes, under close observations, are ever the same.

Once upon a time, there were two Kings. Conveniently, they kept it simple, ruled a nation of songs with mere acoustic guitars and cellos as weapons of choice. Some songs were happy and some were rather sad. But the Kings held them all together well, like beaches with waves, nights with stars, and winter with snowflakes.

Conveniently, the two Kings will be dropping by Malaysia this Sunday (March 21, 2010) to have a concert, which I believe will be intimate, at the Bentley Music Auditorium. Unfortunately, tickets have sold out. But HERE, is Cayman Islands from their second album, Riot on an Empty Street, which you can download. Conveniently.