Archive for “April, 2012”

Sundance London launched today by Robert Redford

Robert Redford officially launched the first ever Sundance London film and music festival being held today through Sunday at The O2. The festival will include the British premieres of American independent films and documentaries shown at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this past January. In addition to the screenings, the event will include discussions and music performances from acts such as Rufus and Martha Wainwright as well as Placebo.

The festival is part of Redford’s vision to bring independent cinema to a bigger audience across the globe. Sundance Channel, which was founded by Redford, will also be celebrating the festival across Europe and Asia. In a partnership with the Shine Group and youth engagement agency Livity, the network has commissioned young producers to create highlights packages from Sundance London. They will be screened on the channel next Saturday and Sunday.

“This is a continuation of our mission that began 30 years ago in the mountains of Utah,” said Redford. “Independent film has since become one of the most exciting forums to showcase diverse voices and compelling stories. Sundance Channel continues to provide a platform for emerging talent. It’s also exciting that young artists will become involved in the first Sundance London festival and that their work will be seen on the network internationally.”

Next weekend Sundance Channel will also be showing a selection of films seen at the festival this past January. This includes California Solo from US writer-director Marshall Lewy. The drama stars Robert Carlyle (of Trainspotting fame) playing an ex-Britpop star coming to grips with his past. Below is a trailer and recent interview with Lewy discussing the film.

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Add great music to your blog or social networks with Spotify

If you’re a big fan of music, then you’ll no doubt have heard of Spotify – the online music jukebox. On the premium subscription service, you can have access to thousands of tracks on your iPhone without a WiFi connection. This is great for people like me who live in cities with a large underground transportation network.

Recently Spotify introduced a feature to allow you to easily add songs or albums to your website, blog or social networks. You’ll need to be a Spotify member first by doing a quick installation of the free software. All you need to do is right click any song, album or artist in Spotify and select “Copy Spotify URI” and then paste it into your post editor. The link needs to be on a separate line in your post.

I’ve just added it to this blog and am featuring a track from the new album by Justin Townes Earle. This prolific singer/songwriter is the son of troubadour Steve Earle and was named after the legendary Townes Van Zandt – Steve’s mentor.

Justin has been making great music since his 2007 Americana debut. His new album, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, sees him exploring more of a Memphis soul sound compared to his previous mostly acoustic affairs. His folk and country roots are still apparent, and he draws on some very dark moments in his life. He apparently followed his father’s path for a while and got into trouble for all sorts of things that I won’t get into here. Let’s just say he’s had some hard livin’. His music speaks for itself, and it’s incredibly absorbing.

Check out the new track Am I That Lonely Tonight? below. Steve Earle fans will appreciate Justin’s references to his dad in the song.

Justin Townes Earle – Am I That Lonely Tonight?

Norah Jones and her Little Broken Hearts

When Norah Jones broke out on the scene a decade ago, her jazz inspired debut Come Away With Me won eight Grammy Awards and sold 20 million copies. That’s almost a miracle when compared to the music sales market that exists today. Her broad appeal, considerable talent and breathtaking beauty certainly made a strong first impression.

While I’ve always enjoyed Norah’s music, I really took notice a few years ago when she contributed a beautifully reworked cover of The Grass is Blue for a Dolly Parton tribute. It was one of the album’s biggest highlights. Dolly liked the piano version so much that she ditched her original guitar arrangement for Norah’s version on her world tour. Now that’s a compliment!

Next month Norah releases her fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts, in a career that’s seen her steadily expand her sound and test new approaches to songwriting. On 2009’s The Fall, she wrote many of the songs on guitar instead of piano, which added an exciting new dimension. Last year she contributed vocals to the atmospheric Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) and Daniele Luppi project Rome, along with Jack White. The inspiration for that album must have carried over since Danger Mouse has produced and co-written Little Broken Hearts.

Like many of my favourite songwriters, Norah can adapt well to a variety of music genres. This pop direction with experimental touches is very different to her debut or even her country band The Little Willies.  Her smoky vocals and often dark subject matter offer a nice contrast to some of the deceptively upbeat music. There are also plenty of lush, quieter moments for fans of her earlier work.

The album’s being streamed in its entirety on both NPR and The Guardian, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely the last couple days. It’s great for rainy London days such as these. Click below to hear the free album streams for a limited time.

The Guardian’s Album Stream

NPR’s Album Stream

The Slap forces friends and families to choose sides

Provocative mini-series The Slap premieres on Sundance Channel this week across Europe and Asia.

What would you do if a friend slapped your kid for misbehaving at a family gathering? This is the question posed by a compelling new Australian mini-series called The Slap. Best on the best-selling novel by Christos Tsiolkas, the 8-episode drama is premiering on Sundance Channel this week across Europe and Asia.

The scene is the 40th birthday BBQ for Hector (played by Jonathan LaPaglia) in a suburb of Melbourne amongst a close group of family and friends. When the kids play a game of cricket in the backyard, four-year-old Hugo starts to misbehave. Hector’s cousin (menacingly played by Alex Dimitriades) slaps Hugo, even though he’s not his son. The event sends a shockwave through the group with friends and family taking sides as Hector’s cousin is taken to court by Hugo’s parents.

A clever twist is that each episode is told from the perspective of a different character and, in the process, examines the mores that shape a multicultural society in today’s world. There are so many issues raised beyond the subject of parenting, including infidelity, sexuality, class and gender just to name a few. These are all deftly handled as the plot unfolds and your opinion changes about the different characters.

The Slap features excellent performances from Sophie Okonedo (who was nominated for an Oscar for Hotel Rwanda) and Melissa George (best known for her work in Grey’s Anatomy and In Treatment). The drama won loads of awards at a recent Australian TV awards ceremony.

Below is a 2-minute trailer for The Slap.


Jay Brannan delivers bigger sound on Rob Me Blind

Some may recall Jay Brannan’s memorable role in John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus a few years ago that included a performance of a catchy song called Soda Shop. Since then, he’s developed a big following on the web with homemade videos of him performing acoustic covers and self-penned songs from his apartment in New York City.

After a couple of EPs and stunning debut album of original songs with sparse production and quiet intensity, Jay has just released a new album that lives up to his previous efforts. Rob Me Blind features a much fuller sound thanks to producer David Kahne, who has worked with Regina Spektor and Lana Del Rey. Songs such as Greatest Hits and the title track feature some of his most clever and poignant lyrics. It’s clear he spent a lot of time working on these songs to perfect a nice balance between the pop and folk elements of his songwriting.

Jay starts his UK tour this week, including a show at London’s Garage in Islington this Saturday. He’ll also be making stops across Europe in May and touring the US this summer. His latest single, Beautifully, is likely to help him attract an even bigger audience. You can see the video for the song below.


Jack White’s dispossessed youth

Former frontman of The White Stripes Jack White is issuing his first solo album, Blunderbuss, on 23 April and has just released a striking new video for the song Sixteen Saltines. Directed by AG Rojas, the clip looks like a modern take on Lord of the Flies.

Shot on a variety of cameras, including homemade style footage, the video features frightening scenes of kids running wild in a world without adults. Throughout the clip there are images of kids fighting, destroying property, tattooing each other, and trying to commit suicide. One of the most disturbing shots involves a girl with a severed finger playing hopscotch on a playground.

The final scene features White tied up in the back seat of a car with a boy pouring gasoline over it and getting ready to set it on fire. White’s driving guitar and aggro delivery of the lyrics complement the scenes unfolding before our eyes.

LA-based Rojas, who also directs short films, has recently shot some other excellent videos that convey depth and intensity, including Daddy for Emelie Sandé and Hey Jane for Spiritualized.

White, who still has two other bands – The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather – will release Blunderbuss on his own Nashville-based Third Man Records. Check out the video for Sixteen Saltines below.