Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Love Is Watching Someone Die

What Sarah Said - Death Cab For Cutie

The origins of this blog were forged over a decade ago. I was a 20 year old boy who had never been laid and was still coming to terms with the death of my sister. I weighed 22 stone, spent my nights drinking in the pub and hid everything under a mask of laughter.  I loathed myself and things were about to get worse. One day whilst on my lunch break at work – at the time I was working a dead-end job as a purchase ledger clerk – I received a call.

“Mister Lawson?” asked a calm voice.
“Speaking,” I replied.
“This is Doctor Brookes; I’m in charge of your fathers care. Were you aware that he was admitted to hospital?”
“No, the last update I had was a month ago to tell me that he had gone back into full-time care.”
“I’m afraid to tell you that his condition has been deteriorating for some time and that this morning he collapsed on the ward. He’s stable… for now but it would be best if you could come into the hospital.”

It was a call I had been dreading but not prepared for.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Evolution of Fanzines

A look at the history of fanzines reveals more about their writers than the music

The first time I encountered a real fanzine was at a festival. I hadn’t slept for 24 hours, was covered head to toe in what I hoped was mud and feeling the satisfying effects of a large amount of gin. Called Applecore, the small, photocopied ‘zine was thrust into my hands by an ordinary looking guy called Henry, cost me £1 and could easily have been mistaken for a school project. I shoved it in my bag, forgot it existed and three months passed before I finally took a closer look at a form of publishing that has become an obsession.

Within its rough A5 pages I found a new form of writing that I had never considered, which paired music opinion and travel in intelligent diary entries, written with a delicate touch. As I read from cover to cover, questions began to reverberate around my mind; what motivated Henry to write about music? At what point between pressing play and the end of a song did he become compelled to commit his thoughts to the page? The subject spiralled out of control and began to broaden. After all, Henry isn’t the only ordinary listener writing about music, heck, all critics start off their career as amateurs.  So I decided to take a look at the history of fanzines and their offspring – blogs and webzines – to figure out what inspires ordinary listeners like Henry to pick up a pen in the first place.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

You Will Never Die

Youth Lagoon - Dropla

Don’t believe what your mum told you, telling lies isn’t bad, it’s an essential part of surviving daily life. Not because we all need to hear little fibs from time to time - “No honey, you don’t look stupid in that” - but because if we didn’t tell ourselves some massive whoppers, life would become an excruciating exercise in futility. How else could we muster the energy to get out of bed, when deep down we know everyone and everything we love will eventually die?

Faced with a truth this bleak, lies (or ignorant acceptance) are wholly preferable. They satisfy our desire to find meaning and are seductive temptation which organised religion has preached for centuries.  It’s this that forms the beating heart of Youth Lagoon’s ‘Dropla,’ a track which glows in the warmth of heavenly strings, whilst pastor Trevor Powers cleanses your weary soul with every solemn repetition of his sermon, “You will never die.” 

Through this affirming baptism, Powers gives you the permission to forget the ugly truth. Providing the strength to face your mortality with dignity and without fear and proving that sometimes a lie is not only more beautiful but more important than the truth.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sometimes I get problems that are hard to solve

A few years ago I had a vivid dream about falling down a flight of stairs and breaking my front teeth (just the though of it makes me shudder). It felt so real that even though I’ve made it through 32 years without any such injury, whenever I have walked downstairs since, I feel anxious.

It’s this sort of irrational fear that The Knife’s utterly compelling track ‘Full Of Fire’ feels like. A micro panic attack where normal thoughts suddenly implode and form a tension filled vortex of sawtoothed synths, hidden voices and overbearing rhythms that invade the waking world with every horrific dream you’ve ever had.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Let Me Show You A Few Things

Justin Timberlake - Suit & Tie

Sorting out the details of a wedding is an exhausting process. Like all creative endeavours you start with a daunting blank page, that offers an almost infinite amount of options. Do you want organise the day of your dreams, one that all your loved ones will enjoy or something in between?

It’s a bewildering amount of choice and there is little wonder that couples take years to plan out every little detail. As a newly wed himself – Timberlake tied the knot with Jessica Biel last October – the pop star has used the anticipation of his own nuptials to draw a neat parallel with the excitement of finally releasing new material after a four year wait.

The new track, Suit and Tie, opens with Timberlake psyching himself up, “I’ll be on my suit and tie shit, tie, shit / Let me show you a few things.” A steadying pre-ceremony chant, paired with a deep breath of reversed trumpets and a short pause to steady any nerves before launching into an up-to-date Marvin Gaye number that despite the superfluous efforts of Jay Z, guides the listener on a rousing first dance. 

Whilst it’s not quite as thrilling as the first time you heard ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds,’ it’s another high class return from Timberlake, making his proposal to take you on The 20/20 Experience worth accepting.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Fuck Being Polite

A$AP Rocky - Wild For The Night feat. Skrillex

This song is every fan of hipster-hop worst nightmare. On one hand it’s by A$AP Rocky, who apart from Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar, is just about the trendiest rapper working today. On the other it features Skrillex, an artist whose name is used as derogatory term by pretentious, wannabe music-aficionados. Who think his form of radio friendly dance floor bangers is wholly without merit.

They are wrong.

Whilst it’s easy to dismiss Skrillex’s form of Bro-step (or whatever you want to call it) as formulaic, it would be unfair to say that it doesn’t bring anything to the table. His music excels at physically jarring releases of energy, an essential attribute for any club banger. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that someone as talented and savvy as A$AP Rocky would want to tap into Skrillex’s aptitude in this sphere. 

On ‘Wild For The Night,’ Rocky pairs sludgy yet stoned vocals, “I’m going wild for the night / Fuck being polite,” with a shrill electric air horn that sounds like an annoying 5 year old playing with an overpowered sound effect toy. It’s over the top, but in the right quantity, never quite jarring and just SO much fun to throw your imaginary guns to the ceiling to. 

So if you’re one of the electro ponces that dismissed the track as ‘commercial’ and wouldn’t be seen dead getting your Quiet Life cap sweaty to anything that has the stigma of Skrillex attached. Have a long hard look at yourself, because when his expertise is put to good use, the results can be spectacular. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Christen Them With Paraffin

Crystal Castles - Wrath Of God

In the year 1880 any song with the title ‘Wrath Of God’ would have seemed foreboding, one which conjured images of fire, brimstone and the vengeance of an omnipotent creator. But in a modern society where belief in a ‘God’ of any kind is waining, what sort of message are Crystal Castles trying to send?

The track is the standout on their self-titled third album, Crystal Castles III. Where the Canadian duo bind the jittery compositions of their previous work with the ethereal sound of Balam Acab's excellent, Wonder/Wander, to create a new type of gothic-house. One drenched in Silent Hill's cold fog; through which individual voices are lost amongst the hubbub of the crowd. A disquieting experience that perfectly captures the omnipresent role of social networks in day to day life. Where the constant stream of voices can turn from a comfort into an oppressive nightmare of information overload. 

Given that the virtual walls of our profiles have become a place to air our hopes and fears, our responses to them, supportive, sympathetic, mean, disinterested or otherwise are important. We are in essence passing judgement on the ‘prayers’ of friends and our collective voice has taken the role of ‘God.’ Making the potential for wrath, a very real thing indeed.

Friday, 11 January 2013

We Both Enjoyed A Good Fight

Lucy Rose - Shiver

There is an earnestness to Lucy Rose’s debut album, Like I Used To, that makes it hard to ignore. In most ways, the record is just another collection of an unremarkable set of acoustic songs, with very little to differentiate it from an already crowded genre. In Rose’s case, perseverance will reap rewards. The softly sung youngster from Surrey has a knack of capturing relationships that feels intimate without losing accessibility to a wider audience. On ‘Shiver,’ when Rose laments “We broke / Everything that was right / We both enjoyed a good fight” or confesses “And we stole / every moment we had to make the other one feel bad” her vocals are tender and sorrowful enough to convince any listener that she’s opening her heart to them. Whereas the ambiguity of the lyrics allow anyone to adopt the song as their own heartbreak anthem. Rose’s music may not push the sonic or songwriting boundaries, but it has a beautiful judged balance that few can match.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

We Don't Need Each Other Now

Foals - My Number
There’s something very eco-friendly about ‘My Number,’ from Foals. The second cut from their forthcoming album, Holy Fire, feels like a slice of retro-funk which has been upcycled. That restyles the sound of Wild Cherry into the danceable yet intelligent indie for which Foals are famed. The indifference with which Yannis sings the opening lines, “You don’t have my number / We don’t need each other now,” sets the tone for the rest of the band vocals. Who follow his cue and layer their voices in an equally disinterested manner. The result is brilliantly modern; a morose funk that hipsters can dance to with the cool detachment they prize.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

We Used To Be Closer Than This

The xx - Chained

How do you improve on perfection? That was the problem facing The XX after their 2009 self-titled debut album. An LP that flawlessly realised their spatially aware minimal sound, and through tracks like VCR, captured shyness in a way that no record before or since really managed. With their second album, Coexist, the London trio took the only option realistically viable for them to try, refinement. The trouble is, with an already lean sound, fat to trim is hard to find. The results were mixed, succeeding in trimming their sound to the bare-essentials, but failing to deliver songs with the motional punch of it’s predecessor. ‘Chained,’ is the exception to the generalisation, it’s a romantically charged duet which eschews shyness for confessional pillow talk. A direction that could offer the band a second great album if they take a leaf out of Gareth Campesinos book and are bolder with the pen.

Check out the video below:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

So you can stick your words of comfort

Los Campesinos! - Allez Les Blues
Release wise, 2012 was a quiet year for Los Campesinos. As one of the most prolific bands around, it’s strange to come to the end of the year list and not to have a new record or EP to consider. This downtime has allowed the band to focus on other creative endeavours, in particular Heat Rash, their exclusive Fanzine. Each issue comes bundled with a vinyl 7” single that contains two unreleased songs and ‘Allez Les Blues’ is the highlight from the third edition. The track sounds is an off cut from fabric of the groups last record, Hello Sadness; one omitted because it feels like a rehash of old styles and structures rather than trying something new. Los Campesinos desire to progress is admirable and exciting, but fans of the group will be satisfied that this sullen indie-pop gem got a release of its own.

Monday, 7 January 2013

I Haven't Got A Clue

Metz - The Mule
Given the 20 year anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that plenty of bands found inspiration from 90s lo-fi bands in 2012. One of the better examples was Canadian post-hardcore trio, Metz. Their excellent self titled debut album offers fans of Fugazi and Lizard Jesus, 11 scuzzed out tracks which aped and subtly modernised the sound of these forebears.

‘The Mule’ is the most immediate of the bunch. Its fleeting run-time is powered by a metronomic rhythm section that creates an overbearing hubbub of bone shattering drums and bass strings pushed close to breaking point. Floating above the din is front-man, Alex Edkins, whose panicked screams sound like Ian Curtis freewheeling a BMX into the fires of hell. Breathtaking.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Their Heavy Words Can't Bring Me Down

Lana Del Rey - Radio

2012 was a year of transition for Lana Del Rey (real name Lizzy Grant). Riding atop a wave of hype that followed the late 2011 release of ‘Video Games’ – one of the best pop songs of the last 5 years – she entered the year a critical darling. The song, which combines nihilist songwriting, her smokey voice and trailer trash glamour, singled Del Rey out as an act worthy of attention. Although little was known about her ability as a live performer or her background, hopes for her debut album, Born to Die, had been raised and media scrutiny became intense.

Seeing the opportunity in front of her, Del Rey milked the attention for all it was worth. She embarked on a plethora of interviews and by the start of 2012 had became an almost ubiquitous presence on the pages of the net. The backlash was bound to come, all the critics needed was ammunition. 

They got their wish once Grant’s real life background had been unearthed. It turned out the Del Rey persona was a fabrication. She was a rich girl, playing at being white trash and it tainted all the attention ‘Video Games’ had gathered, It was all paid for “by daddy.” Coupled with a now infamously shoddy performance on Saturday Night Live and her authenticity was shot. The music snobs had enough evidence, Grant was an unworthy faker, and it wouldn’t matter how good Born To Die was, it would only ever be elitist plastic.

It’s this history which gives ‘Radio’ its significance on the album (which is a worthwhile record IF you can listen without prejudice). What was meant to be a retort to ex-lover now sounds like a preemptive strike against this pretension. Adding a satisfying double meaning when Del Rey melodramatically croons, “Their heavy words can’t bring me down,” before really flipping the bird over a gloriously catchy chorus. “Now my life’s sweet like cinnamon / Like a fucking dream I’m living in / Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio / How do you like me now?”

The defiant arrogance in these words is palpable and serves as a perfect bookend to Del Rey’s year. As the new face of H&M, she doesn’t need critics to love her anymore, the adulation (and money) of the public will be more than enough.