Doc Who Dalek Scarf Offer

Winter is coming…

Wrong genre show, but the oncoming dark nights and cold snaps are an inevitability as we approach November. So it’s time to dig out your dusty old scarves in an effort to keep warm on the daily commute, or for when you’re on patrol in a graveyard with a trusty stake at your side. Oops, wrong show again.

doctor who scarf

Thanks to the folk over at Lovarzi though, you’ll be able to keep warm in true geek style this winter with their dastardly decorated Dalek scarf – a must-have for any Whovian, surely? And even better, for TODAY ONLY, you’ll receive an extra 15% off this officially licensed product when you use code DALEK15D at checkout.

Whether you’re the big fan in your household, or you know a Doc Who devotee who’d love to find this in their Christmas stocking, the time has come for Time Lord accessorising. Stay warm across space and time, kids!

Gaga: Pop Maverick or Art Pretender?

In 2010, I shelled out on eBay tickets for a Lady Gaga show in May when I’d seen her perform mere months before in the same city. Post-‘Bad Romance’, she had the pop world in her pocket and her bonkers but brilliant Monster Ball justified the hype: trashy, flashy, eccentric and exhausting, it was nevertheless a tour de force showcase of a premier pop talent. I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do next.

For me, this stretch in 2010 was Gaga’s defining pop moment; she may very well outdo herself and deliver on her promise in coming years, but nothing that has followed has topped Stefani’s ‘Fame Monster’ era. Unsurprisingly, for an artist who changes tack on a daily basis, there have been flashes of that brilliance in everything since – but just as many face-palm faux pas. The meat dress, the Madge ‘Born This Way’ controversy, the pretentious pre-hype waffle surrounding ‘Artpop’ – all of this and more has detracted from someone I still believe is (or at least has the potential to be) the great fucking pop juggernaut who threatened to dominate Planet Pop four/five years ago.

lady gaga artrave

Having skipped the ‘Born This Way’ ball in 2012, only a brief hesitation preceded my purchase of tickets to Gaga’s ‘Artrave’ tour in support of her least successful album to date, ‘Artpop’. Gaga’s pop pursuits have always had a touch of genius about them, with frequent clever references in debt to our pop culture DNA; however, my issue with ‘Artpop’ is that, while two-thirds of it (if not more) stands up as a solid pop album, the hyperbole would have had you thinking it was going to change the world. Gaga is great and her lofty ambitions are admirable, but a song like Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ has previously blended pop sensibilities with artistic intentions a lot more skilfully than, say, an ‘Applause’ or R. Kelly duet. Therefore, the album couldn’t fail to disappoint.

That said, catching Gaga in a live environment was an exciting proposition after four years. Could the spectacle live up to the Monster Ball, or would the arty-farty pretensions get in the way?

Thankfully (and I’m sure the free-flowing, overpriced Birmingham NIA beer helped), Gaga’s ‘Artrave’ was a blast. Sure, there’s the semi-dressed dancers, multiple costume changes (everything from seashell bikinis to fishnets-and-bra combos) and all the other OTT frills one would expect, but it’s a blast of a pop concert and ‘Artpop’s overlooked coulda-been-singles sound better live than they do on record. ‘G.U.Y’ is an early highlight, as is the vintage triple-whammy of ‘Just Dance’, ‘Telephone’ and ‘Poker Face’ which is confidently dispensed with just a quarter of the way in.

artpop lady gaga

As ever though, she truly shines – and surprises – when the crazy pop fa├žade is stripped and she sits at the piano. ‘Dope’ and ‘You & I’ display her strengths as a vocalist, and she does her gay pride thang during a piano-and-vox rendition of ‘Born This Way’ when she invites a young fan and his boyfriend to sit either side of her as she pounds the keys. She came in for criticism after ‘Born This Way’, with some of her gay fanbase not taking the song as a compliment and rather voicing their dislike that she’d ‘volunteered’ herself as their defender; her constant references to gay rights and other causes in interviews may come off as annoying, but it’s hard to question her sincerity as she reads the fan’s heartfelt letter then hugs him to her as she belts out her anthem to her little monsters.

The midsection shows off her musicianship, but pop thrill seekers get their money’s worth before the show wraps up. Things get dark and sexy with ‘Judas’, ‘Aura’ and ‘Alejandro’ before she gets all jazzy and pimps out her new Tony Bennett collaboration with her cover of ‘Bang Bang’. Then it’s time for the big finale, when she appears as a dayglo K-Pop raver and brings the house down with ‘Bad Romance’ (surely still one of the best pop singles of the millennium so far) and the off-the-wall ‘Swine’.

So, the consensus? Faith is restored. While the music isn’t exactly breaking boundaries but doing its perfectly fine job of making pop fans dance, the Lady’s formidable presence, charisma and talent (yep, believe it) means her future is still exciting to me. Who knows what she’ll come up with next?

Bright Stars

Dark nights are drawing in, which means the Stars will be shining brighter for longer…

no one is lost

The new record from Canadian indie-pop band Stars, ‘No One is Lost’, is set to drop in the UK this November. Two years on from their sixth record ‘The North’ – and a decade on from their seminal, swoonsome ‘Set Yourself on Fire’ – the band’s return is a welcome one for fans of their unabashedly romantic, emo-eloquent heartsongs.

Having caught them live in a quarter-full room in Wolverhampton, December 2012, I think it’s pretty safe to say that their star isn’t blazing bright in the UK unlike fellow Canadian art-rockers Arcade Fire, with only clued-in indie fans having sought out the band’s music. However, first single ‘From the Night’ is the band on fine form and will hopefully support my recommendation in encouraging music fans (think Metric covering The Smiths if that helps) in seeking out these bright bright Stars.

Trailer Tuesday: Getting the Disney Feels

After last week’s heroic ‘Big Hero 6′ trailer comes another new tease from Disney. Although the House of Mouse is entering a potential new golden era, thanks largely one suspects from the creative leadership of John Lasseter, ‘Inside Out’ officially bears the stamp of Pixar which is even more cause for excitement.

‘Brave’ was an interesting but flawed diversion and ‘Cars 2′ suffered from sequel-itis (although ‘Monsters University’ was great fun!) so it’s about time we got another cast-iron Pixar classic to stand head and shoulders alongside ‘Toy Story’, ‘Wall-E’ and ‘Up’ – and the totes emosh ‘Inside Out’ could be that very movie.

It takes the offbeat idea of the primary characters being emotions belonging to a little girl and gifts it a script from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ scribe Michael Arndt and an inspired geek-bait voice cast, including Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader. If you’re not already excited, then the sweet trailer tribute to golden Pixar moments is sure to win you over…

Welcome (Back) to Twin Peaks

Fancy some damn good coffee? Well, get the car loaded and logs at the ready because David Lynch’s seminal TV show (and pretty much the blueprint for all influential cult telly) is only getting the revival treatment.

return of twin peaks

^^^ That’s my excited face right now.

So yeah, after some cryptic tweets over the last few days, it has been officially announced that ‘Twin Peaks’ will return for a ‘limited series’ on Showtime in 2016, 25 years after the show ended after two seasons in 1991. Nine new episodes will be written by Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, with Lynch directing all nine episodes – can I get a WOW or ten?!

All Mondays need news like this from now on – okay, TV gods??

Take Me to Church (and the Record Shop)

Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ is undoubtedly one of the tracks of the year, introducing listeners to the soulful tones of Irish troubadour Andrew Hozier-Byrne via a dark, gospel-hued blues ballad. You may have heard it trailing the end credits of an episode of new cult TV fave ‘The Leftovers’, but the mainstream hasn’t ignored it either: it’s bafflingly been given the thumbs up by chart-crazed Radio 1, and a slot was given to Hozier on Jools Holland’s taste-making music show.

Anyone who missed two previous EPs will be happy to know Hozier’s self-titled debut album hits UK record shops (and, y’know, iTunes) tomorrow, after having already enjoyed success in his native Ireland, so we’ll all be able to listen to what lies beyond that haunting lead single. Until then, let’s bask one more time in the grizzled glory of his offbeat hymn to Sunday service:

Purple Reign

art official age plectrumelectrum

U2 force-feeding Apple fans a copy of their new album? Pfft. Thom Yorke releasing new music via BitTorrent? Pah! If there’s any kick-ass move made by a musical maestro these past few weeks, it’s Prince’s canny decision to release TWO albums on the same day. Moreover, he’s only gone and given people the option to purchase them on a physical format (oh my!) both online and in record stores (maverick!).

Seriously though, it’s always a treat to get new grooves from His Royal Purpleness so a solo album, ‘Art Official Age’, and a collaboration with his live all-female backing band 3rdeyegirl, ‘Plectrumelectrum’, means autumn/winter 2014 are about to get a whole lot funkier.

Having caught the tiny god on his comeback tour in May, I can safely say that the new material was pretty jive. The Artist Formerly Known as Squiggly Symbol is never one to rest on his laurels so, although ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘Purple Rain’ inevitably proved the biggest moments of the night, it’s no surprise that new songs were strong too – and now we get to hear them again and again! Which album is YOUR fave so far??

Trailer Tuesday: A New Disney Hero

The love for ‘Frozen’ is still yet to thaw, with cuddly Olaf teddies surely the must-have for every home this coming winter. Regardless, with its themes of sisterly love and big Broadway barnstormers, you simply can’t avoid the fact that ‘Frozen’ is, well, a bit girly…

Thankfully, the creative spark reignited in Disney since John Lasseter took the Big Boss job looks set to remain alight with ‘Big Hero 6′. Although it’s infuriatingly getting a pre-Xmas release in the States and a post-Xmas release in the UK, the key thing here is that the same creative verve applied to ‘Tangled’, ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ and, yes, ‘Frozen’ is not in short supply in the movie’s trailer – so it will hopefully be worth the wait!

The promo suggests an idiosyncratic spin on the recent superhero boom with interesting references from Eastern culture. An unkind person who doesn’t enjoy fun might say it looks to be recycling elements from ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Wall-E’, but if it’s even a tenth as good as those Pixar classics then I’m happy and my faith in the Mickey Mouse Empire shall remain unshaken.