Wednesday, 29 October 2014

JUNGLE'S JUNGLE


This is a review I wrote of Jungle's debut album for The Talkhouse.  Because, you know, music

The music industry is a bubble. Actually, it’s like several bubbles inside one another. It seems that the further away from the centre you are, the easier it is to be relaxed about music and just hear things on the radio and like them, not caring about anything other than the song itself. Who cares what Lana Del Rey said to The Guardian? Who is Lana Del Rey anyway? That seems like bliss. But as you burst through the walls of those internal bubbles, one by one, you start to know more, and care more.
At some point, enjoyment of music becomes more than just “Do I like it?” Your interest in a band and your relationship with them and their music become complex and challenging. Obviously, to a lot of people that’s great — being knowledgeable about things you’re passionate about is generally considered a good thing — but it also means you have a lot more shit to wade through. These days, I’m not sure where I sit in the bubble. One thing I know for sure is that, being in a band, at one point I found myself closer to the centre than I liked. No one wants to see the way the sausage is made, let alone party with the pig.
I discovered Jungle last month at a festival. My sister was desperate to see them and incredulous (and slightly smug) that I hadn’t heard them. I didn’t know much other than that the music is written by two guys, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, and they play with several other musicians live. Their self-titled debut reminds me of a ’70s cop film soundtrack — it makes me think of coiffed curls and leather jackets that are too short in the arms. It could be played on a boombox in Harlem in the blazing summer, with kids drinking water from a fire hydrant — you know, basicallythis picture.
The first time I played the album, I immediately suspected that Jungle might not be from America, because this feels like a portrait of a time and place by people who definitely have never been there. And yep, turns out they’re from London.
And that’s the contradiction at the heart of Jungle’s debut. It has the feel, the sounds, the general brushstrokes of ’70s funk and soul, but it’s resolutely an outsider looking in. It’s a digital interpretation rather than a recreation, and the band themselves nod to this — one of their songs is called “Smoking Pixels.” It’s retro, not vintage. And it’s not just the Studio 54 era they’re emulating — there are shades of Daft Punk, Prince and even ’80s British new-wave pop band Fun Boy Three.
On “The Heat,” they layer fuzzy samples of slowed-down vocals and American police sirens over wobbly synths and distorted guitars, but wobbly and distorted in the sense of “my friend lent me this album they recorded off the radio onto a tape,” rather than being reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. The song is wrapped in a haze of warm distortion, lending it a beautifully thick, nostalgic texture. It manages to both uplift and haunt the listener.
“Julia,” one of the standout tracks, is the perfect illustration of how great it can be when British kids get their hands messy with American pop culture; they start with a big fat synth line descended from Manchester and Factory Records and then weave in some gorgeous falsetto vocals which sound like they could have been sampled from an old tape in the back of a cupboard at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio. Obviously, it’s always easy to dip into what has come before, as it’s already been crowdsourced. You have the data to reassure you people will like it, but you have to do more than just re-create what’s come before. Jungle make dance music for people who fetishise the past but live resolutely in the future, and they do it really, really well.
Lyrically, the songs are simple: Lloyd-Watson and McFarland sing things like “You’re all I’ll ever need” or “You can’t get enough.” And then repeat them. A lot. For these two, the focus is on the groove and creating a mood and a soundscape, rather than perfecting the art of the pop song. This is music to dance to, music for the city late at night. But that doesn’t mean that dancing is the only thing on their minds.
My favourite track, and I know this because it’s the one that has been played the most times on my phone, is “Lemonade Lake,” the final song, which is as sweet and effervescent as the title suggests. It bounces along, synths popping, samples hissing, but, unusually for Jungle, the lyrics hint at a melancholy that goes beyond their usual well-trodden simplicity: “Every day and every night/Cos I don’t know what went wrong/I miss you.” It’s austere and gorgeous. And for the first time you start to wonder if this isn’t just a dance album, if perhaps it’s actually a break-up album, a Blood on the Tracks for the London 2014 generation. It would be so easy to dismiss Jungle as late-night, “I’ll see you in the dance tent” festival-fodder, but there is some depth here, depth which will hopefully be explored even further on their second album.
This is a great debut. I’d tape it off the radio for you and lend you the cassette. Hell, I’d even consider re-entering one of those bubbles closer to the centre of the music industry in order to see them live — although I suspect that, with the hype and buzz surrounding Jungle at the moment, that bubble is going to be seriously cramped.

Friday, 24 October 2014

BEE AND PUPPYCAT


Our friend Timothy (of the amazing People I Know comic) introduced us to this cartoon a few days ago and I can't stop thinking about it.  It's created by Natasha Allegri and it's wonderful, plus Bee dresses super dooper cool.  They've already raised more than they needed on Kickstarter to make a full series (you can read about that here) which means we're going to get a season of the show without having to do anything!?!  I'm annoyed because I wanted the kudos of being able to say, "Oh yeah I was a part of that from the beginning" when Bee And Puppycat is invariably massive in six months time.  This post and talking about it constantly will just have to do instead.

Monday, 20 October 2014

STYLE DISSECTION: DIRTY DANCING





There are so many things wrong with Dirty Dancing. For example, I understand that despite the film being set in 1963 they would choose a song that is very decidedly from the '80s for the final dance, since the movie was released in 1987, but why is Johnny singing along to it?  Is he a time traveller?   Also, as with the case with many films of the time, class and money are very important factors in the story.  Baby (seriously?  I know the story is all about her coming of age, but that name is so on the nose) is always being harangued by the other characters for "using Daddy's money" or not understanding how it is for REAL PEOPLE or that she's just a tourist in their world, dipping her toe into the tough lives of the economically inferior.  She's a diamond and they are the rough.  I find it curious that this theme died out in Hollywood teen films in the '90s, with the trend moving more towards having glossy rich girls that we were supposed to aspire to be - *ahem* Clueless - I guess that storyline doesn't work so well when the rich girl is the outsider.  

That said, I have always loved this film.  When I was younger I would see it in on the shelves in Blockbuster before I was old enough to rent it and long to watch it.  I always thought it must be a REALLY RUDE film because of the cover artwork and the title.  It's not, obviously, but they do use the dancing as a pretty successful metaphor for Baby's sexual awakening and, of course, this is reflected in her outfits...  

Friday, 17 October 2014

WOMEN IN CLOTHES









For my birthday this year one of my best friends Eleanor (who, incidentally, is a nominee for the Women Of The Future awards, wow) gave me this beautiful book and it hasn't really left my side since.  It's a fantastic textbook for style and beauty, a weighty catalogue featuring some of the best and most badass women around - Tavi Gevinson, Leanne Shapton, Kim Gordon, Lena Dunham and about six hundred other marvels.  It ranges from interviews with ladies who strive to keep their curls natural (very relevant to my interests) to photos of collections of sunglasses, shoes and nail varnish.  It also goes deep into why we choose the clothes we wear, maybe you like wearing trainers because your big brother loved them and you wanted to be like him, perhaps you're not a fan of varnish because you love biting your nails instead.  It's a nice reminder that fashion is more than trends and magazines and runways, we dress with our hearts as well as our heads.  Miranda July, who is pretty widely accepted as one of the best people alive right now, has a great piece where thirty six women dress in each others favourite outfits, it's a pretty amazing way of showing how clothes are more than just fabric - they're cultural signifiers, they're political,  As someone who loves trying on different people's or characters looks, I love this idea.  If you want to contribute to the project (and I imagine potentially a future book) you can fill out a survey.  A brilliant book, thanks Ellie!

Friday, 10 October 2014

ASOS X STAND UP TO CANCER





I'm ruddy proud to be a part of the Stand Up To Cancer campaign currently going on at the moment, I've donated this Missguided two piece and this And Other Stories skirt to the ASOS Marketplace trading site.  So if you want to you can buy these (or check out some of the other splendiferous items for purchase) and know that all the money you spend is going straight to Cancer Research UK.  The Marketplace will be open until the 17th of October, which is the day of the big fat SU2C telethon on Channel 4.  I like telethons, they're exciting.  I make little secret of the fact I'm a huge fan of ASOS, so it's great to be able to work with them on this, I can also promise that the clothes come from a loving home and are very much looking forward to having new owners.  

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

ROME + EATING




This is a post about two great places to get pizza al taglio (a kind of square pizza you buy by the slice) and two great places to get some truly excellent gelato in Rome.  We selflessly tried out these places on our recent trip, struggling through some of the greatest food we've ever eaten just so we could make sure that if you're ever in the Italian capital you won't miss out. 

FORNO CAMPO DE' FIORI
This is a bakery that has been open for over thirty years and their pizza al taglio - while delicious - is just one of their spectacular offerings.  They also excel at glossy sweet breads studded with chocolate chips (see the photo below) and fluffy foccacia, soft and saturated with rich olive oil then sprinkled with sea salt.  My favourite of their pizza was the caprese, pictured above, with its crunchy, airy base, and excessively creamy buffalo mozzarella on top.  
There are little tables inside, but really you want to take this pizza and eat it on the go, preferably walking in the direction of a gelateria...

Campo de' Fiori
Tel 0668806662
Open Mon - Sat 7.30am - 2.30pm, 5pm - 10pm
Closed Sunday




GROM GELATERIA 
Grom is a chain, and it's growing.  Outside of Italy they now have shops in Osaka, Paris, Tokyo, New York and Malibu.  But all of those places seem very far away when you're standing in an ancient cobbled street scoffing down tiramisu ice cream and having palpitations at just how great this frozen cream tastes.  Grom are all about using the very best raw ingredients, a philosophy that seems to be shared by many Italian chefs and is no doubt what makes their food so famously brilliant.  Grom have their own organic farm, use free-range eggs, and approach the preperation of their gelato in a very precise, scientific way which borders on obsession. 
It tastes amazing.  Find the nearest one to you here




GELATERIA DEL TEATRO
This is our favourite gelato in Rome, and we go every time we're in the city.  They have incredible flavour combinations - lavender anyone?  Rosemary and fig?  Or why not just play it safe and have the richest, thickest chocolate ice cream you've ever tasted?  You have to take a ticket at busy times and then they have a machine that flashes numbers, the same kind you get at delis...or doctors' waiting rooms...but there is a pretty courtyard outside with tables to eat at, and there's also wi-fi, which is a major boon when you've been walking around all day and just want to sit down and check your emails godammit.  Don't judge me.  We went twice this trip, the second time trying some of their non-gelato products including a sort of Rice Crispie cake, only it was a million times better than anything else ever.  And a couple of truffles.  I still think about those truffles. 

Via di San Simone 70, 00186
Open every day, 12pm - 12am







LA RENELLA
If you only try one pizza place in Rome (why?!) then do La Renella.  This place has been open since 1860, and they burn hazelnut shells in the oven instead of gas or wood.  They say it's because it's more sustainable, but I think it's also that it gives their dough this nutty smoky flavour that places their pizza and panini in the highest echelons of taste.  I couldn't speak for several minutes after eating, and we each bought a panini for the plane.  Even Easyjet is great when you've got a foccacia stuffed with salty parma ham and fontina cheese in your bag.  You should also try a slice of their fruit pies (crostata al taglio), which are sold the same way as the pizza - you point out how much of the large rectangle you want to eat.  The pies reminded me of a linzer torte, only the fruit was far tangier and the pastry more rich.  So good.

Via del Moro 15 (Trastevere)
Tel 0658175265
Open Mon - Sun, 7.30am - 1.30am





Monday, 6 October 2014

THE PIG HOTEL
























For my birthday this week we went to stay at The Pig hotel in Hampshire.  There are four Pig hotels to choose from, but I wanted to visit this one because it's in the New Forest and ahem PONIES.  The Pig call themselves, "A restaurant with rooms", which sort of downplays quite how appealing those rooms are.  Ours had it's own terrace, a separate dressing room you could swing a pig in, and a bathroom with a roll top bath AND walk in shower. To me, that is the very definition of opulence.  Oh and the bed was so soft it was like sleeping on a sturdy marshmallow.

The rest of the hotel is decorated pretty much how my future house will look - in my wildest dreams.  I love how artfully cluttered it is - beautiful mismatched jugs side by side, stuffed birds in glass cases sat on top of dark wood bookshelves, paintings of flowers left on a sideboard.  It feels like you're staying in the country house of your very rich and quite eccentric great aunt, who has spent a lifetime collecting unusual and on--of-a kind crockery and books and now drops them onto random tables as she wanders off to show you something else she's just remembered she got from a little market somewhere.  Outside the gardens are expansive, and dotted with pigs, chickens and PONIES along with greenhouses where the gardeners dig up vegetables and flowers for the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, the food was astonishingly good.  No.  Seriously.  It was I-Can't-Believe-They-Don't-Have-A-Michelin-Star-Although-Actually-I'm-Sort-Of-Glad-Beause-That-Means-There's-Less-Competition-For-A-Table good.  The chefs alter the menu depending on what their forager has foraged that day (I love the word forage), and are very proud of their local menu - nothing they serve has travelled further than 25 miles.  The staff are as passionate about the food as the cooks, reeling off info about how the dishes are prepared, telling you their preferences, and informing you just how far the contents of your bowl have travelled.  We.  Ate.  Everything.  I even had crackling and scotch eggs from their Piggy Bits section of the menu, two foods I would have sworn I'd never eat.  (They were delicious, I'm a convert).  They do so much in-house, even smoking their salt -I need to learn to do that - and it's all served to you in their beautiful conservatory restaurant with a tiled floor I drooled over.

Basically, if you can't tell yet, I really liked it.  I felt like a pig in, well, you know.