Category Archives: Review

Being John Malkovich: Review

Every now and then a wonderful work of fiction can be doomed, at least among certain audiences, by a strange title. I spent months ignoring the hype around “The Da Vinci Code” (the book) because I thought it was some kind of art history analysis, rather than a uniquely thrilling mystery. I never watched “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” because it sounds like a dry TV film rather than what’s likely a pretty full-bodied drama featuring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. And I’ve always thought that few titles could sound less interesting than “The Constant Gardener,” which incidentally is a very interesting film. But the category of works of fiction with strange or misleading titles has to be headlined by “Being John Malkovich,” which is why it seems a good film to work up a retro review for.

I’ve heard people ask if this film is a biopic on John Malkovich, with the unspoken follow-up question why do we care about John Malkovich again? dangling in the air. And for a while, I avoided the film for this very reason.

being_john_malkovich_www.whoisscout.com

The truth, of course, is that the film has very little to do with the actual John Malkovich, and instead merely uses him as an example (albeit a brilliant one) of an interesting mind into which ordinary people might want to delve. The film, in all of its glorious quirkiness, is being featured on the Picturebox streaming service online, so it’s quite accessible at the moment for those interested in checking it out. This particular streaming site cycles its collection in and out, but the film will be available through June and most of July for viewers. But why tune in?

The main reason is that this is simply one of the most unique and inventive films, really of all time. After all, when Roger Ebert starts a review with “What an endlessly inventive film this is!” you know you’re in for a treat! The film stars John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, an unemployed street puppeteer looking for a break in life, and mired in an unfulfilling relationship with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz). An ordinary film’s simple synopsis may end there, but in “Being John Malkovich,” the action doesn’t really get started until Craig gets a job as a file clerk and is placed on floor 7 1/2 of a building, in close proximity to the attractive and alluring Maxine (Catherine Keener).

On floor 7 1/2, Craig ultimately discovers a small, mysterious door behind a filing cabinet, and finds that it leads to a portal that transports him into the mind of the actor John Malkovich – who plays himself, or at least a version of himself. From that point on the film becomes a brilliantly tangled and surreal exploration of what’s essentially the ultimate puppeteering adventure, with different key characters controlling and manipulating Malkovich to support their own agendas. It’s every bit as strange as it sounds, but smoother and more intelligent than you can imagine without watching yourself. The performances from the leading cast members are extraordinary, the premise is one-of-a-kind, and the action keeps you guessing, laughing, and leaning in closer the whole way through.

A few years ago, The Guardian did a write-up of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s retelling of the process of having the “Being John Malkovich” script approved, and it offers some insight into how we as an audience enjoy the film. The way he tells it, Kaufman took some bland, everyday inspiration and spun it into an odd tale that ultimately sort of stumbled into becoming a major film. And that’s exactly what happens when we watch it: it starts out normal, takes a turn to something stranger,

and spirals into something magnificent.

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Still one of my favourite albums…

I originally posted the following text back in 2010, but I’ve been listening to The ArchAndroid a lot lately and felt the need to share my thoughts on its sheer ‘epicness’ again.

Note: before one’s ears consume the wonder of “The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)” it is essential to set aside 1 hour 9 minutes so that one can truly appreciate its entirety, from start to finish.

Never have I listened to an album and felt like I was watching a film

….until now. And yet the magic of Janelle Monáe’s debut studio album is that it is also so much like a book. Each person can experience the art and picture it however they want. They can listen to it and allow their imaginations to create their own interpretation of Metropolis.

Ms Monáe is one of the most exciting, electrifying and modern artists in the game. Period. I had very high expectations for her debut album, (after experiencing “Metropolis: The Chase”) and am very happy to say I am not the least bit disappointed. She has served up so much more than I had anticipated.

The “Overture” teases the taste buds (in the ears). I cannot tell you how inspirational it is to hear the beautiful sounds of an orchestra. It is refreshingly real.

Janelle Monáe is so organic.

There’s a purity to her voice that just soothes my soul I swear.

Faster faster I should run

Cold War. Tune.

Tightrope = a perfect blend of funk, silky smooth vocals and a catchy-ass hook that you’ll be humming for days. The end of the track is most ‘wondaful’ too. So glad this is the lead single.

Ms Monáe is about to redefine female artists. She smoothly sings in and out of numerous genres ranging from soul, rock, funk and cabaret and manages to channel various different influences from the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, Hendrix and Bowie. Is there anything this woman can’t sing?

Neon Gumbo. It makes me feel funny. I love it. It’s something that is so me…I used to always play around on acid pro and what not, reversing vocals and trying to make interesting sounds…

…find beauty in the obscurity.

As the album draws to a close, you really feel as though you’ve been on an epic journey. The tracklisting allows this piece of work by Monáe to flow effortlessly. “Say You’ll Go” is an ethereal experience and the Debussy at the closing of the track beautifully compliments everything that has preceded it.

For the record, my first listen of “BaBopByeYa” left me speechless. I felt emotional. I guess it really is an emotion picture. I hope you all go and get a copy and enjoy it as much as I did (and will continue to do so).

This woman is a genius.

*****

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Scouts Shouts #33

Album of the week

NELLY FURTADO is back with her fifth studio album and this time she has paired up with Darkchild to create a sick record.

From the dope, commercial PARKING LOT that boasts a banging beat and catchy hook to the old-school vibe of BUCKET LIST, which has classic Furtado written all over it, whilst stilll sounding fresh, the album is great. The lovely little ‘studio outtakes’ that were hidden in between tracks and tagged onto the end of songs on LOOSE, still remain. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING is seductive and pulsating with a tribal tone and I love the high synth/melody line that serves as the backbone to WAITING FOR THE NIGHT. However, CIRCLES is the jam. The synth is killer. When I first heard it in my headphones, I lost my mind. The beat is faaacking outrageous. I’m staring out my hotel window right now listening to it. It’s just gone 3am and I’m looking out across LA. This song is giving me everything. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, so I shall end with this:

Nelly Furtado + one of my favourite producers ever = The Spirit Indestructible. Check it out!

Song of the week

LEONA LEWIS is an exceptional vocalist. People can sing, but this girl can siiiing. I love how she emotes so much.

She is actually flawless.

Image of the week

Film of the week

PULP FICTION is without a doubt one of my favourite films. Ever. Tarantino is an absolute genius and for some reason the film’s been on my mind a lot lately so I feel like it needs to be this week’s FOTW. If you haven’t seen it, there’s one thing I’m going to need you to do. WATCH IT. If you have seen it, watch it again. Ha. I know people moan and say that it’s so predictable to love it, but I don’t care. If something’s good, why shouldn’t it be recognised? Celebrated. Appreciated. The longer I’ve spent out Stateside, the more I’m learning that it’s okay to do exactly that. If you know when something is good, it’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge the goodness. Or even sometimes the greatness. I feel like too often in England, people are quick to see the negative. It’s too easy to see the glass as half empty. Maybe it’s just the sun, but there’s a lot more positivity this side of the Atlantic and I’m loving it…

Shoot of the week

I love the styling of this shoot by David Bradshaw for Vogue Hommes International F/W 12.13

Photographed by Chad Pitman

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Opus Label Two

If you don’t know about OPUS LABEL, get to know. Opus Label is a Los Angeles based boutique record and fashion company that includes innovative up and coming artists from all around the world. I featured their first compilation album HERE and now the label is dropping their second release on July 10th. So naturally, Who is Scout? have you covered, check out my thoughts and be sure to grab yourself a copy when it’s released…

TEAM GHOST – LONELY, LONELY, LONELY opens the record and it really does just that. It’s such a wonderful opening, preparing the ears for a sonic journey. It sounds like something out of TRON. It is filmic. Inspiring. Magical. Close your eyes and listen.

THE TAPEATERS – ECHO is next up and it immediately makes me think of a beat that Robyn could eat up. The Russian electro pop duo serve up a vintage vibe which sets a seasonal tone to this compilation. Summery synths and a starry night’s sky. “Echo” is airy, light and lovely. KRISTY LEE & MIKE ROSS – SPACE IN BETWEEN serves up the best bassline whilst AUTOSTRADA – AV just proves that everything sounds better in French! It’s almost orgasmic. One of my favourite tracks has to be CHATEAUBRIAND – THE SUNSET (FEAT. DESTRONICS) (JEAN TONIQUE REMIX) which is electro-pop perfection.

GYPSY & THE CAT – JONA VARK fuse acoustic guitar with reverb-esque vocals to create a song that sounds like it needs to score an arthouse-love-romantic-perhaps-Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-film. The Australian duo have already received a positive response to this track in Europe and even supported Kylie Minogue on the Australian leg of her tour last year, so expect these two to continue to go from strength to strength. METRONOMY – THE LOOK makes me wish it was a sunny day, but instead the clouds are grey so I am closing my eyes and imagining that I am on a beach somewhere as this song fades out into soft synths and strings. With a final track in the form of YOUNG EMPIRES – THE EARTH PLATES ARE SHIFTING, the compilation comes to a close in a rather wonderful fashion. Young Empires have that all-encompassing, all-consuming sound that the likes of Yeasayer also employ. “The Earth Plates Are Shifting” boasts choral elements, punctuated strings and a skipping beat.

Quite frankly, the OPUS dudes have done it again. This is a solid compilation that will, along with the first one, provide a great soundtrack to my (and hopefully your) summer!

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The Bolts

ONES TO WATCH: THE BOLTS

THE BOLTS = a classic yet contemporary quintet, consisting of bassist Addam Farmer; guitarist Heath Farmer; keyboardist Austin Farmer; guitarist Ryan Kilpatrick and drummer Matt Champagne. Oh and by the way, they’re all vocalists (minus Matt) and with influences including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen and The Clash, I knew just from reading about these guys that they would be serving up some serious sounds.

 

Their EP “Fall” (set for release in September) opens with “Walk Away”, which is instantly anthemic with its pulsating guitar melody and vocals, reminiscent of Michael Jackson on “Come Together”. The boys showcase their strong four part harmonies, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the top of Champagne’s smashing snares and cool kicks. This is rock/pop at its finest, with a catchy hook and a large sound. As I type and listen, I suddenly realise that I’ve been bashing and bopping my head to the beat for the past 3 minutes…

Some of you may recognise “Walk Away” as being featured in the famed Sobe commercial starring Kate Upton.

all you know it drives me crazy, I think about it almost daily,
all the lies they do not phase me…

Next up is “The Truth”, which offers a beautiful bridge, further showcasing the strength of the band’s vocals, before bursting back into a chorus that I can hear people singing for years to come. ‘Cos I want to be the end of an era, I want to be the start of something new…’. The Bolts first experienced local success in 2007 when the band landed five demo songs on the local rock station KROQ and since then they’ve gone on to play numerous residencies and gigs in and outside of their native Orange County. You can currently catch them performing a residency at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Terrace (a residency once held by No Doubt).

Upcoming show dates:
Disneyland Residency

June 16, 30
July 3, 9, 12, 16, 28
September 22
November 2
December 7

The third track on the EP entitled “This Can’t Be Real” is harder and more rockier than the first two songs, demonstrating the band’s darker side. And finally “We May Fall” closes the EP rather epicly. It starts off with a fuzzy, bassy synth and ends in a glorious fashion, that sounds like an homage to Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”. Overall, what really stands out for me is that The Bolts boast stellar vocals and really REALLY cool + catchy melodies. I love how they sound! As I mentioned earlier, September sees the release of their “Fall” EP, which will be followed by a second seasonal EP “Winter” and then their official full-length release in Spring 2013. Get ready for these guys to take over! For now though, get into their sound over on their official site HERE and like them on FACEBOOK.

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Scoutabouts: Six60′s London Debut

Last night I went along to the HMV Forum to check out Six60′s first London gig. I was there to witness, well, history in the making. For those of you who don’t know who Six60 are, you will soon enough! I only recently discovered the wonders of the New Zealand based band, but my timing could not have been more appropriate, as it meant that I was able to see them live in Londontown. And they were electric!

The lead vocalist, Matiu Walters, is a true pro, oozing showmanship, wooing the girls with his flawless vocals and getting the lads to sing along with an enthusiasm I haven’t seen, or rather heard, at a gig in London for a while. When he wasn’t giving his all, jumping around the stage, he was soothing everyone’s ears with his smooth, silky but raw riffs. Think John Mayer meets a less annoying Adam Levine (with a little Ryan Tedder) and that’s sort of how he sounds. Sorta.

The lead guitarist, Ji Fraser, is crazy good. Fingers fretting the funky rock. He shines on the more stripped numbers when the guitar line soars above the sounds of the band. The man behind the machines and keys, Marlon Gerbes, is so beautifully versatile and the drummer, Eli Paewai is a class act. BUT if you know me then you know I love me some bass and the bassist, Chris Mac, was insane. Rocking with his whole body while providing the groove of the set, his energy never faltered.

As a band they are extremely solid. It is so evidently clear that they love what they do. They love this. Love it. The set opened with “Rise Up 2.0″ and then they flew through their impressive discography, which included “Get”, “Only To Be”, “Take It From Here” and “In The Clear”. “Lost” was easily a highlight. It is such a gorgeous track and is by far one of my favourite songs of the band so hearing it live was such a treat. When the band played “Forever” near the end of their set, the crowd went wild. I lost my mind. I had a grand time. “Don’t Forget Your Roots” however, probably best epitomises the spirit of last night. EVERYONE was singing along. EVERYONE was happy. It was a wonderful moment. A true celebration of their first London gig. The first of many, that I am sure. For a debut it doesn’t get much better.

As Matiu sings, ‘ain’t it good to be alive’.
Well it sure is when music is this good.

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‘Opus Label One’, is the one.

I love getting little treats in my inbox and the other day, I opened my emails, filtered through the ‘trash’ and found something wonderful. Released by Opus Label, a Los Angeles based boutique record and fashion company that includes innovative up and coming artists from all around the world, OPUS LABEL ONE is a 12-track musical feast. The compilation is the first from Opus Label and it serves up some of the finest sounds I’ve heard all year. I guess they aren’t joking when they say that each song has been meticulously chosen for its originality, craftsmanship and listening pleasure to create the perfect moment in time. INDIE. ELECTRONIC.

It’s a synth-funk fiesta.

1. JOYWAVE – TRAVELING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT is a festival song, there’s no two ways about it. I can just hear it on some massive stage with everyone in the crowd vibing out!

2. JOLIE CHERIE – BARCELONA is all sorts of awesomery! It’s definitely one of my favourite numbers off of the compilation possibly because I’ve been to BCN and I love it so when I listen to this, it transports me back there. The memories flood back. The people, the food, the sun and the energy of the city. The build in the song is also something of beauty. At 3.10 it goes dowwwwn!

3. MATT VAN SCHIE – JOURNEY is another favourite. It’s knocking, it’s tapping, it’s a winding love song.

4. KELJET – LASERFLIES has that euphoric, club feel. I have an urge to vocal it. The sad undertones and the minor chords are calling out to me…

5. SECOND DATE – YOUNG BEAUTIFUL, ECT.

6. J.VIEWZ – SALTY AIR has a slow bouncing bass, that’s almost hypnotic. It sounds like something that would score a scene in a movie where there’s a montage of clips…the chick’s vocals sound like Fergie.

7. ROBOTIC BIRDS

8. BOAT CLUB – MEMORIES takes you to a sunny scene, with its soft guitar riffs and light, airy feel. It’s got such a feel-good vibe to it, I want to be cruising down a highway in California. For now though, the countryside north of London will have to suffice.

9. KAUF – RELOCATE

10. JUPITER – KID WHO is pure filth (that’s a good thing). From the moment I heard this, I was sold. It’s infectious. When the bass drops. Ugh. The track is the electronic-funk hybrid of Michael Jackson and Queen; the beat is ‘Billie Jean’ and there’s a subtle bass tone that reminds me ‘Another One Bites The Dust’.

11. THE ICE CHOIR - ICE CHOIR is WHAM! 2012. I love it, from the pulsating bass line to the throwback vocals. It’s making me bust out a move while I’m listening to it, whilst standing on the train platform. I can’t help myself!

12. 8TH GRADER – HEAVY WITHOUT YOU is the love child of Francis and the Lights and Animal Collective (two of my favourite bands). At least it sorta sounds like that, but slightly watered down. More laid back. It’s a niiice track. Mellow, but still packs punch (particularly in the hook).

I basically feel like I should go to LA this summer and shoot a movie, ‘cos I feel like I’ve already got the music for the soundtrack! And it’s really inspiring my wild mind. Ha. Jeremy Wineberg and Miguel Jiménez (the dudes behind OPUS LABEL) have done very well indeed. If this is any indication of the quality of the label’s releases then these guys are going to go far! The compilation is available for download over at iTunes US, but for all you Londoners, you’ll just have to wait for the time being. Do check out the tracks on YouTube to keep you ticking over though.

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Listening to Lana

She’s the tragic all American girl.
Heartbroken and madly in love.
Candid and polite. Scarlet starlet. 

I thought that it would be rather interesting to write out my initial reactions to LANA DEL REY’s sophomore album, BORN TO DIE, as I listened to it. So check out my immediate reactions below, which I wrote on my iPhone notes so apologies for any rambling, nonsense…

Photos, minus the album cover are from UK Vogue’s March 2012 issue, photographed by Mario Testino.

1. BORN TO DIE has a soft, pulsating beat. The opening track is extremely filmic. There’s something very seductive but sad about her voice. This first number instantly establishes a somber tone (one which I’m assuming will be continued throughout the record).

I feel so alone on the Friday nights…

The verse on 2. OFF TO THE RACES makes me think of New York. It’s got more of a hip hop, Gwen Stefani flex and I love it! Her vocals on the hook suddenly pop and are far less of a drone. Sizzling. Characterful. But the contrast between the talk singing in the verses and the more floaty, fruity choruses = what makes the song work. You can hear the Britney Spears influence in the hook too!

3. BLUE JEANS = hell yeahhh!!! Easily one of my favourite songs. And well 4. VIDEO GAMES is the song that started it all. Okay so this record has started off very strongly. Let’s see where it ends up.

5. DIET MOUNTAIN DEW = Yes, the first bass that’s made an impact on my ears. Love it. I’m harmonising to it on the train. Oops. But dayum it’s like I already know it and I’ve  never  heard it before. The first third of the album = killer.

6. NATIONAL ANTHEM – I can imagine Fergie on this track. Her vocals even remind me of her slightly. This could be a big tune with a sick video. It’s got a hook that I could hear everywhere. I could imagine it at a festival but I peg her as more of an intimate venue kind of artist…but who knows?!

7. DARK PARADISE is haunting and hard at the same time. The beat when the bridge drops is the one. For some reason it makes me think of a Madonna song and I wouldn’t even know because I don’t listen to her. Ever. It’s also one of the first songs to really paint a picture in my head. It makes me think of some very vivid visuals.

Okay i’m waiting for a filler track and yet we’re at 8. RADIO and it’s still a jam! This is making me think it may well just be like Janelle Monáe’s ‘The ArchAndroid’, where the whole album is wicked! ‘Radio’ has such a nice mellow essence. Her vocals work wonderfully in the whisper-esque tone she adopts.

Whoops, spoke to soon. 9. CARMEN is the first song for me which does not do anything. It’s a nice concept but for some reason I find myself for the first time whilst listening to the album, slightly disengaged and thinking about other things…

10. MILLION DOLLAR MAN sounds smokey, sexy, squeaky and very old school. I could see/hear it in a musical! Second third of the album = still going strong.

11. SUMMERTIME SADNESS reminds me of something that maybe Clare Maguire or The Hurts might cook up. The strings with the rolling snare = yes please.

12. THIS IS WHAT MAKES US GIRLS. I like the Bambi line, but my ears are starting to get a little tired at this point…this album is quite intense. Similar sounds over and over.

13. WITHOUT YOU has a lovely chorus. It also sounds very UK for some reason, I don’t know how else to explain it.

Tell me life is beautiful
They all think I have it all

14. LOLITA is probably my least favourite song on the album. I’m a little tempted to skip it, but no, I have to listen to this whole album all the way through…

15. LUCKY ONES sounds like the sister to ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’. Similar chord progression?

So the last third of the album is not as impactful as the first two, it might also be that I’m simply a little drained or tired of hearing such a mellowed out, slow-paced album. That however is also one of its strong suits. It is so cohesive! It sounds so whole. I would love to hear her hit it a little bit harder with some of her vocals, ‘Come take a walk on the wild side’. I respect that she’s not the kind of artist to be bellowing out numbers or doing vocal gymnastics etc. and that’s great because I really like her vibe and it is a breath of fresh air, but some of the songs on the record would sound insane with a little bit more vocal development…

HOWEVER, those hating on this chick are silly. To be honest I don’t care if her dad is a millionaire. I don’t care about the rumours with regards to her lips, marketing blah blah. This album is dope. It sounds so complete and it sounds like it was created and not stuck together. It actually sounds like a f*****g film score. It’s really bloody beautiful. Second time round for Ms Del Rey and she has done well. *Applause*

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Robin Thicke is a G…entleman

The American gentleman.

Robin Thicke’s

latest album LOVE AFTER WAR, is well, simply put, rather wonderful. I’ve been meaning to write my thoughts on his fifth studio album for a few weeks, but this year has already been terribly hectic. Cue a back log of posts…meh! Such is life. I can’t complain. I love being busy and it’s been even better because I have been able to listen to Thicke whilst rushing around here, there and everywhere.

1. An Angel On Each Arm
2. I’m An Animal
3. Never Give Up
4. The New Generation
5. Love After War
6. All Tied Up
7. Pretty Lil’ Heart (feat. Lil Wayne)
8. Mission
9. Tears On My Tuxedo
10. Boring
11. Lovely Lady
12. Dangerous
13. Full Time Believer
14. I Don’t Know How It Feels To Be U
15. Cloud 9
16. The Lil’ Things
17. What Would I Be?

He’s back! The smooth crooner. He’s so slick and soulful. From the funky ‘I’m An Animal’ to the mellow ‘Cloud 9′, he constantly proves that he can and will put out/create quality music. He’s also one of the sickest male artists out there as of right now. I love his flow on ‘Pretty Lil’ Heart’ and I immediately warmed to ‘Tears On My Tuxedo’ maybe because I have very recently written a track called ‘Tuxedo’. (It’s such a great word and should be used more! Yes I know tuxedos aren’t exactly worn everyday, but still… *note to self* I must rock one more frequently!). Anyway, ‘Lovely Lady’ is well, lovely and latin-inspired. Overall the album is extremely laid back but Thicke has always had that effortless cool, so that’s to be expected. He uses a lot more of his full voice on this record, which serves up a change and although the album would be more digestible if it was a little shorter, I’ve found my jams on it and they will be continuously played for the coming weeks!

I’d love to see this album performed live. Preferably in some random jazz bar or speakeasy or something something…ha!

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Melancholia is magical and maddening

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth… Melancholia is a psychological disaster movie from director Lars von Trier. — (C) Official Site

Dunst and Gainsbourg are incredible in MELANCHOLIA. The film is beautiful, raw and emotionally exhausting. It’s frustratingly amazing.

It’s magical and maddening.

It’s naked.

Moments of MELANCHOLIA are moving image at its finest. Like a painting. It is wonderfully directed. Von Trier has created something sensationally eerie and fascinating, even in its slowest moments. Dunst carries the film, but is supported by a tremendous cast; Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt and both Alexander & Stellan Skarsgård.

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