Insurgent_posterTITLE: Insurgent
STARS: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet, Mekhi Phifer, Miles Teller
DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke
RELEASED: March 11th 2015

So I was a little late in seeing this especially as I saw Divergent on its release date, However, I remember my cinema experience being marred somewhat by overexcited teenage girls and seeing Insurgent once all the hype had died down, certainly made a difference. A new director on board and even more drama unfolding, I was always curious about how Insurgent would compare.

After the events of Divergent, which left off on a devastation revolutionary note, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller) seek shelter with Amity, the faction of peace and love. However, whilst there, the Dauntless who are hunting Divergents burst in and chase them onto a moving train full of the factionless. A brawl ensues before Four gives the factionless his true name and they take him to meet their leader, his mother Evelyn who was believed dead. Tris and Four travel to Candor, leaving Caleb behind to return to Abnegation. In Candor, the remaining Dauntless are waiting and the plot to rise against Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and the Erudite begins.

Insurgent is full of dark secrets, truth revealing and spell-binding cinematography. The scenes where Tris is within simulations are truly stunning and there are many times where your heart is in your mouth. I felt that I connected to Tris a lot more in this film, as all facets of her personality are clearly shown. She is brave, kind, honest, selfless and intelligent and it doesn’t really come across as well in Divergent. In the second film, we see her standing her ground and really fighting for what she knows to be right. I was really rooting for her in places, even though she is by no means one of my favourite protagonists.

There was also much more of sci-fi element to Insurgent. A lot of elaborate imagery and effects were on show, namely the slow disintegration of Four and the city in the simulations were mesmerizing to watch. The stark contrasts between Amity and Erudite were particularly striking as one lives in peaceful simplicity whilst the other is powered by intelligence and technology. The mirrors between their world and ours were also apparent when considering the differences between these two factions. Amity are the farming faction whilst Erudite are the governors. Much like reality, the farmers who grow the food that keeps us alive, live in humble houses with close to no possessions whereas the government, who are often corrupt and selfish, live in luxury with everything that they could possibly desire.

I have yet to read Allegiant, so I have no idea what to expect from the final installment. The neat ending of Insurgent also intrigues me as it could easily have been a duology. The final book received incredibly mixed reviews and that makes me nervous to finally wrap the series up, as I really don’t want to feel let down. Here’s hoping to avoid another lame dystopian ending!

FEHMPICLARGEDiscovering new talent is one of the best parts of writing about music and FEHM are a band who recently appeared on my radar. Angry, ethereal and wonderfully weird, they have a huge amount of unique talent that is sure to send them far. Writing about issues that affect the masses such as unemployment and anxiety, their songs resonate with a huge number of listeners and it’s this real down-to-earth preaching that gives them their appeal.

The Leeds goth foursome have only been around for a year but have done their fair share of gigs. The release of their first EP, Animal Skin, is due to be released this month and they debuted its lead single Hand To Mouth two weeks ago. Their live performance has been given favourable reviews with lengthy descriptions from reviewers with regard to their onstage antics. Frontman Paul Riddle was said to “pace the stage like a man possessed” which certainly sits well with their strange sound.

Their first single is packed with shimmering synths, dark industrial guitars and a quirky frantic vocal. It’s a great showstopper with a steampunk-esque feel to it that is rare in new music. FEHM clearly take inspiration from the atmospheric goth-rockers of the 70s and 80s, such as Bauhaus and this influence sets them apart.

The genre is not as prominent as it once was but if FEHM release their brand of kooky post-punk to the masses, goth could well see a revival. Their EP Animal Skin is released on April 11th but until then, have a listen to Hand To Mouth below.

The band are playing a few shows to celebrate the EP’s release. Two Leeds shows on the release date April 11th (Brudenell) and May 2nd (Live At Leeds festival) as well as a London gig on April 25th (The Waiting Room). Keep up with FEHM on Facebook and Twitter.

topimpabutterflyTITLE: To Pimp A Butterfly
ARTIST: Kendrick Lamar
LABEL: Top Dawg
RELEASED: March 16th 2015

Now considered one of the most exciting rappers, Kendrick Lamar’s new album was highly anticipated. Its predecessor good kid, m.a.a.d city was released in 2012 to huge rounds of critical acclaim and sold almost 250,000 copies in its first two weeks. To Pimp A Butterfly was introduced by singles The Blacker The Berry and i, which won Kendrick two Grammys this year -Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.

The sixteen track album is full of outbursts on black culture and references to oppression. Kendrick has never been one to hold back and the new album is certainly no different. However, there is a beautiful lyrical poetry embedded within the fierceness and the title of the album all comes to a head at the very end with an unforgettable closing track.

It opens with Wesley’s Theory, a song about Wesley Snipes’ stint in jail for tax evasion and how black celebrities are “pimped” by the media -“every nigger is a star”. A jazz influence sounds in the back and this becomes ever-present throughout the album. Kendrick’s rap flows smoothly over the calming sax and gentle blues symphonies that accompany it, giving a trippy experience for the listener. An early big anthem on the album is King Kunta, which has a funky bass and a summer feel to it. The whining female voices contrast the deep, angry male and the catchy chorus make it a stand-out track. It’s inspired by an 18th century slave called Kunta Kinte who was known to be rebellious and the song is Kendrick’s homage to black resistance.

kendrickOne of the sexiest songs is These Walls, which refers to both physical and mental walls. There is a chilled R&B feel to it and a quirky synth as it explores sex, emotions and the human mind. A melodic hook “if these walls could talk” that shows off singer Anna Wise’s voice, which also appeared on good kid, m.a.a.d city. It’s also the first time we hear a fragment of the main poem in the album, which isn’t fully revealed into the end. The first two lines “I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence. Sometimes I did the same” are said at the beginning and it sets up the rest of the record.

The upbeat lead single i has an evil twin in u. Here, Kendrick explores all his insecurities and darkest thoughts and feelings. The hook “loving you is complicated” is a mantra that many people with low self-esteem tell themselves daily and it seems that Kendrick knows exactly how it feels. There is a strong thread of severe anxiety in the tone of voice and the lyrics. The glitches also add to the uncertainty and broken feeling. When speaking about u, Kendrick told Rolling Stone: “That was one of the hardest songs I had to write. There’s some very dark moments in there. That shit is depressing as a motherfucker. But it helps, though.”

A deeper insight into the character of Lucy or Lucifer is seen on For Sale? (Interlude). It’s about the seduction of hip hop and the lifestyle of a rapper, personified by Lucy as the temptress. The choral harmonies and calm atmosphere give it a chill-out vibe and the outro repeats the first half of the central poem.

Telling the horrors of his childhood, Hood Politics is a commentary on the gang culture that was rife while he was growing up. The smooth funky beat in the background of the angsty youthful rap juxtaposes the dark content. The track contrasts Momma which is about his development and growth after such a dark past.

The last track Mortal Man is a powerful and moving end. Primarily, it’s another track about the struggles of being famous and a role model. “When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?” is Kendrick asking if his fans are true and loyal to him, showing his uncertainty about his place in the industry. He knows he is a newcomer and his unexpected interview with the spirit of Tupac Shakur continues this, as he “asks” him how he dealt with fame. Tupac’s answers are actually taken from a Swedish radio interview in 1994 but the seamlessness of it on Mortal Man is amazing. The final poem, a tale of the pressures of being famous and the lessons learned through it, is revealed and Kendrick ends his album on a lyrical piece on self-development and change using the analogy of the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. “Although the butterfly and the caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same” is a beautiful, thought-provoking line that resonates as the album shuts itself down.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a very well thought-out project that Kendrick has decorated with poetic wonder. It’s a concept album unlike any other and hits some hard truths. It’s easy to see Kendrick’s talent for words and why he has received so much praise for his work. It’s an album that throws itself open to anyone who wants something more than music. It’s for those who want a story and a strong message to take away with them.

 

cinderella3_glamour_19nov15_pr_b_720x1080TITLE: Cinderella
STARS: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
RELEASED: March 27th 2015

As a big Disney lover and a huge fan of the Cinderella fairytale, this adaptation was one of my most anticipated film releases of the year. I firmly believe that nobody is ever too old for fairytales and that adults should continue embracing and believing in them, as they give us a lift in the dark chapters of our lives. I find it incredibly sad when people sneer and believe themselves above such fantastical nonsense because it hints that they’ve lost all sense of wonder and love of magic. That’s definitely something that I never want to lose.

The film follows the original Disney animated version’s plot almost exactly. It begins with Ella (Lily James) as a happy little girl with her mother and father living in a beautiful country mansion. However, the familiar fairytale trope of early tragedy strikes and her mother dies. As she grows up, she is happy with her father who eventually marries Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and she and her two daughters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) move into the family home. One day, while her father is away, a messenger calls and delivers the news that Ella’s father has died. As Ella grieves, her stepmother and stepsisters are distraught that his death will cause them to lose their lavish lifestyle. As the famous story goes, Ella is treated as a slave and loses her bedroom to the sisters forcing her to seek warmth by the hearth at night. Her ashy appearance earns her the name Cinderella from her stepsisters.

One difference from the original film’s storyline is that Ella meets the prince (Richard Madden) in the forest before the ball. He falls in love with the beautiful innocent country girl who dissuades him from hunting a stag. He then decides to throw open the upcoming ball to every maiden in the land, not just princesses in the hope that she will attend. Another difference is the eventual unfolding of who the mysterious “princess” really is. In the animation, Cinderella’s stepmother has no idea that her stepdaughter has the other glass slipper but this version shows Lady Tremaine confiscating Ella’s shoe and smashing it before the duke arrives. The mice open the window of the attic where Ella is trapped and the royal party hear her sweet singing voice as they are about to leave, which leads to her trying on the shoe and having the happy ending.

The cast is full of faces from huge global phenomenons and if you’re very familiar with these shows (as most people are), seeing Lady Rose and Robb Stark as Cinderella and Prince Charming while Downton’s shy retiring kitchen-maid Daisy plays an evil ugly stepsister, does take some getting used to. Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as the Fairy Godmother is one of the best in the film. Perhaps Bonham Carter has been typecast to play beautiful, whimsical women but she does it so well and her arrival indicates a shift in the mood. She brings the light-heartedness and her magic adds the entire fantasy element. Richard Madden’s portrayal as the prince or “Kit” is equally moving. He is a down-to-earth guy who seems keen not to be seen as royalty and marries for love. This is, perhaps, a modern thread in the film but it gives viewers hope that true love is key to everything.

The lasting memory of the film is the beauty of the costumes and cinematography. It is a beautiful film to look at and the costume design is second to none. The stepsisters’ ballgowns are slightly pantomime-esque but even they have their own unique wonder. The ball scenes are mesmerising, enchanting and encapsulate everything that fairytales should be. Expect some production Oscar nominations!

Cinderella is definitely worth watching if you love stories of true love and triumph of good over evil. Branagh was hired after the previous director envisioned a darker version and Disney refused. Of course, a darker version would have appealed to those who believe they are “too old for fairytales” but Branagh’s version is for those who haven’t given up hope yet. The fact that Disney recognises that we exist promises good things for future adaptations of classic love stories.

amiusefulTITLE: Am I Useful?
BAND: We Came From Wolves
LABEL: Saraseto Records
RELEASED: March 30th 2015

Up-and-coming alternative band We Came From Wolves will release their catchy new single next week. The Scottish foursome are currently touring their homeland in support of it but the song has already received critical acclaim from Rocksound, who summed it up with “Feels, hooks and more feels”.

The band’s debut EP Cope was released in 2012 and earned them airplay on Radio 1’s Introducing. Last year’s EP, Paradise Place received rave reviews from Rocksound and at Radio 1. Since then, they have supported Frightened Rabbit and Irish rockers And So I Watch You From Afar, as well as putting in appearances at T In The Park and Wickerman Festival last summer. However, their new single Am I Useful? casts a light on their self-doubt. Frontman Kyle James Burgess said:

WCFW600x250“Am I Useful? is about the doubts that creep into my head in direct conflict with my aspirations. Anyone trying to pursue a life doing what they love faces these fears, that the goal might never be achieved, and a more “ordinary” life may await…it’s facing up to those fears and earnestly asking myself the question of “what use would I have if not creating?”

A strong growling intro gives way to Kyle’s soft melody and melancholy lyrics while strong drums and singing riffs frame the powerful message. The hook gets you right away and is reminiscent of later Kids In Glass Houses. The whining guitar solo before the final chorus adds to the emotional atmosphere and the words speak to anyone who is trying their hardest to live their dream. The stuttered ending gives it more of an edge too. We Came From Wolves have that accessible sound that is perfect for lighting up festivals.

Catchy, energetic and a lot of big-hit potential, We Came From Wolves are a band who have a lot to give to those who have a KIGH hole in their lives. There is a touch of heavier bands to their sound too but they’ve definitely come along at just the right time!

 

 

untitledTITLE: Only Ever Yours
AUTHOR: Louise O’Neill
EDITION: Quercus
PUBLISHED: July 3rd 2014

Dystopian, young-adult and feminist literature are three of the biggest current trends in books, so a novel that sits in all three genres is bound to be a big seller. Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours is exactly that. Last week, it won the first ever YA Book Prize and here’s why.

Frieda lives in a world where baby girls are not born but bred in schools. They spend their first 16 years training to be companions to men. Frieda and her classmates are about to take their final test to prove that they have achieved the ideal level of beauty required to be chosen by the sons of influential men. For the girls who don’t make the cut, life as a concubine or chastity awaits. Frieda and her best friend Isabel are among the highest ranking girls in their year and destined for companionship with the highest ranking boys of their age. However, the pressures of final year kick in and Isabel begins to gain weight, letting her rankings slip. Frieda leaves Isabel behind and joins forces with the other high-ranking girls and catches the eye of beautiful Darwin but at graduation, some dark realities materialise. Talking about her inspiration behind it, Louise said:

“When I re-read Only Ever Yours, I could see how a myriad of my life experiences had influenced the book. I was educated in a single sex convent from the age from 4 to 18 so I was very familiar with that dynamic. It was when I spent time in India in 2006 that I became aware of a gender imbalance favouring men due to a high rate of death in female infants. I read a book called May You Be the Mother of A Hundred Sons and I think that was a huge influence on me. I didn’t have the idea for the book until January 2011. I was in a Starbucks in New York reading a trashy gossip magazine that had red circles of shame drawn around cellulite or muffin tops on female celebrities. A vision flared in my mind – it was of a young girl in a bikini standing in front of a classroom of about 30 girls. An older woman was drawing around her ‘defective’ body parts with a red marker. And it came to me – a world in which women are bred for their beauty. A world in which women are unable to bear daughters naturally.”

It has been described as a cross between the Lindsay Lohan film Mean Girls and Margaret Atwood’s dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale and anyone who knows of these creations will notice the similiarities. Anyone vaguely well-versed in today’s pop culture will also notice numerous references to recognisable figures. Several characters in the novel are clearly based on supermodels and actresses of today. Cara has distinguishing eyebrows much like supermodel Cara Delevingne, Angelina has an enviable pout reminiscent of Angelina Jolie and queen bee Megan bears a striking resemblance to actress Megan Fox. Even Frieda herself has brown skin and long dark hair like Slumdog Millionaire actress Frieda Pinto. The boys are named after philosophers and great thinkers such as Darwin (Charles), Abraham (Lincoln) and Isaac (Newton) which illustrates how society
perceives men (strong minds) and women (beautiful faces).

Many issues are brought up in the novel, namely feminism and offers a dark but sadly realistic look at how women are typically seen. To some, it may seem an old-fashioned view to have in 2015 but we still live in a world where women are judged chiefly on their looks. Celebrity magazines and
tabloid newspapers are still ‘rating and slating’ outfits and their weight is still scrutinised. Women may be writing revolutionary books and speaking out against issues that affect them but Only Ever Yours reminds us that fundamentally, all some readers care about is what diet these women are on.

The link between social media and having unattainable goals is also addressed in Only Ever Yours. The girls are obsessed with a social network called ‘MyFace’ and use it to post mundane updates about every detail of their lives. They constantly compare each other’s photos and seethe with jealousy if one of them is looking better than they are. Sadly, this is straight from reality. These girls exist and it’s only when you realise this that the true tragedy of Only Ever Yours resonates. It is a work of fiction firmly embedded in reality.

On what’s to come from this exciting new YA author, Louise said: “My next novel is called Asking For It. It will be published by Quercus on September 3rd. It’s set in a small town in Ireland and deals with rape culture, victim blaming, and the fixation our society has on female sexuality, particularly in young girls.”

different

 

Hello to anyone who may be reading this.

Those of you who used to read this blog regularly may have wondered where I’ve been for the last five months. The answer is nowhere apart from a small pit of stress and despair.

Showmesomethingdifferent used to be a daily review site for music, films and books. The posts then began to fizzle out until it got to the point where I had posted nothing for a very very long time. For those of you who enjoyed these posts, I apologise wholeheartedly but my reasons for doing so were pretty serious, I can assure you.

As well as being incredibly busy over the Christmas period working long hours in retail, I then spent the entirety of January until the beginning of March on a magazine journalism course. It was a very intensive nine weeks (six days a week) and I really did not have any time at all to do anything that I wanted to do, let alone blog.

Which brings me to my next point: It’s true that I began the blog as something that would allow me to showcase my work to potential employers. However, as I was running it for free, it had to be a bit more than that -it had to be fun. For a long while it was and I really didn’t mind taking an hour or so out of every day (every day) to write a review. However, as I began getting more and more PRs and artists/bands interested in being featured, it got a bit much for the one-woman-show that Showmesomethingdifferent has always been. It started not being fun because I felt under pressure to listen and review music that I would never normally listen to and actually had no desire to review.

I have never been a fan of websites who seem to be able to “review” whole albums in 150 words. Big famous names do it and I hate them for it because I believe that reviews should be detailed, informative articles. In my opinion, simply saying “This was awesome” or “This was crap” is not enough for either the readers or the artists who have taken the time to make that album. You have to say why it was good or bad and give enough information about what the music is about, where it sits in the artist’s career and what tastes it suits. This means that my reviews are always quite long and are packed with information about what the music is actually made up of as opposed to just my opinion on it.

Reviews also have to be balanced which is why I am sad to say that I can no longer accept requests to review from certain artists. As I run this blog for free (now without a job alongside it), I won’t take the time out to review genres of music that I just wouldn’t normally listen to. I just don’t enjoy some genres and therefore it’s very difficult for me to force myself to listen to them in their entirety (which is what I believe all good reviewers should do) and I can no longer write about them.

Unsigned artists or bands who wish to be featured on Showmesomethingdifferent will now be very carefully selected but in order to be considered, they must fall within the following genres: pop, alternative rock, pop-punk, indie, acoustic. I understand that some acts will not fall definitely into any particular genre but they must have an element of one of these five genres in order to be considered.

I will still occasionally write about big releases from the genres I am not accepting as I still want to give my analysis on them and stay relevant. Book and film reviews will all be big releases, so please do not send any requests for me to review or feature any independent films or books.

I hope you can all understand. I have missed blogging terribly but writing about things I wasn’t enjoying got me down. It would be a different story if I was being paid to run the blog but I can’t do things that I don’t want to do for free anymore.

Thanks and love to you all,

Alex x

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 110 other followers