Wednesday, 23 December 2015

MINCE PIE RECIPE


I'm reposting my mince pie recipe because apparently these are an annual thing?!

My grandma used to make perfect mince pies.  Elegant, with a uniform shape.  Fluffy, light pastry, and filling that oozed out gently when you took a bite.  Nowadays I'm the one in our family who makes the mince pies, but I don't have her recipe or nimble fingers so I just bumble about on my own.  The result is deep buttery pies.  And they really are pies.  Lack of resources means I use a muffin tray, so my festive treats are beefy.  They splat and crumble, they shoulder their way into the party instead of lightly skipping, the stars atop them a bizarre accoutrement, like a sumo wrestler wearing a tiny silver top hat.

However, they do the job, and while making them this year I took some photos.  So if you lean more towards big fat mince pies, you can follow my recipe below.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

WTF WAS UP WITH FASHION IN 2005?


This is a piece Noisey let me write about the nutso times of style in the early 2000s.

  
In terms of style, 2005 was the best of times and boy, was it the worst of times. Personally, I was spending all my money on vintage—back when vintage was actually cheap. I was wearing a lot of dresses and sporting that over-straightened, asymmetric haircut (mullet) a lot of us were apparently digging a decade ago. In fact, you can see what I looked like in 2005 here. For the record, that is not my cuddly white tiger and I did not write that stuff about wanting to save or adopt them. In 2005 I was a cold-hearted, Chromeo-loving club kid. I cared not for animals, I only cared for ra-ra skirts worn with pumps and three quarter-length footless tights. But before we get into the fashion of 2005—disclaimer alert—music fans, and eventually everyone who gives a damn about their appearence, are heavily influenced by artists and celebs, but because these artists (and sometimes celebs) are always somewhat ahead of the curve, the trickle-down effect tends to take six months to a year to catch on. Sometimes it takes even longer. So don't start moaning about a shot of Karen O in the summer of 2004 because for real, you did not work up the courage to start attempting to emulate her '04 steez until '05.


Anyway, let's do this.  

HAIR

​Hair is and has always been a critical statement—the cherry that tops off your stance—and in 2005 gig-goers' coifs were still reeling from the affects of electroclash: It was the day-glo hangover from 2002/3 that hovered above all our crowns. Thanks to Peaches uh-huhing all over the world we were very into mullets. The key differentiation between a Simon Le Bon cut and a 2005 business-party situation being, as I mentioned before, excessive hair straightening. (Even Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill was getting in on the act.) 

We also spent many hours in the bathroom accidentally ruining our towels with neon shades of pink, red, and yellow as we home-dyed streaks into our strands. Note: This was pre-the hip East London, salon Bleach and the many shades of pastel-hued hair which eventually took over the world. This was pre-ombre, pre-balayage, pre-shades of pale lavender/rose/blue. The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas’s latest follicular lewk (below) can surely be attributed to a recent stumble across some old photos of Karen O and/or Peaches.
He’s clearly trying to bring back the I-accidentally-killed-my-hairdresser's-cat-and-now-I'm-paying-for-it look. Either that or a toxic apocalypse took place on his thatch, (which is kind of thematically in line with last year’s ambitious LPTyrannyRead all about it and him in our Noisey cover story from earlier this year ). 

Can't wait till 2022 when he's bleaching his hair and turning it a pale shade of pink, while posting pics on Instagram of his green juice in a mason jar. #blessed.



SKINNY JEANS

Kings of Leon circa 2005 via Last.fm
There's been a lot of debate in the Noisey office about skinny jeans in 2005. Were you wearing skinny jeans back then? If so, please get in touch. We will need to see photographic proof of you wearing said item while holding a newspaper from that year. You see, slim-cut denim may have entered some fashion collections like those of Stella McCartney in '04, but if you think hard about it, it wasn't till mid-way through 2005 that they began to be a wardrobe staple. I know I was wearing them with ballet shoes and weird homemade boob tubes, but then I was completely insane and definitely not stylish. Kate Moss was probably wearing them at Glastonbury with a waistcoat, #ofcourse, with a snivel-faced Pete Doherty in tow, but tapered denim were not de rigueur for the masses, even if Kings of Leon were already getting their mom to tailor infertility-inducing fits. Perhaps it's how comfortable girls felt in leggings that made the later transition to skinnnies so seamless. And speaking of leggings...

LYCRA (PREFERABLY SHINY)
A woman’s best friend and worst enemy all in one fabric! 

Karen O was a major Lycra icon. It's elasticity allowed her to catapult herself around the stage with ease without a care for a tears. She could lunge and plunge and high kick without giving a fuck. Imagine if Lenny Kravitz took a leaf out of her book? The world would never have witnessed his, well, you know...Remember when Karen started wearing leotards and torn fishnet tights and we all lost our shit? This was DIY. All you had had to do was head to American Apparel and roll around drunk in a rose bush and you were 96 percent there. If leotards were too bold a step, leggings were still legit—preferably patterned with a zebra print or neon stripes. Alternately, if you considered yourself remotely eccentric-alt, you were probably cast in gold. 

I remember a lot of people being into those metallic-hued Lycra jumpsuits and wearing them with big faux fur coats, face glitter, and bright, smudgy eye make up. A lot of those people were into performance art and the Scissor Sisters. They started “collectives” and squatted in distant zip codes/post codes of major cities that had yet to “come up.” Gentrification? Pfft? Never ’eard of it!

A lot of those people are now married with babies and chatter on Facebook about how much they love Zara. A lot of them are my friends. But back in '05 sheeny Lycra worn with simple white Keds knock-offs was a great way to say “I'm arty, I'm free, I'm sucking in my stomach.” 

BAND BOYS


As we all know, 2005 was a great time for indie music. As we said in our #2005 week article Losing Our Edge, The Year the Mainstream Hacked Indie Rock, the world was enamored  with guitar music in a way that hadn’t been felt en masse since Britpop in the UK, or grunge in the US. In 2005 The Strokes were still saviors! They were white, male, straight, and well to-do while encapsulating a dishevelled downtown cool. And they wrote songs about girls. (For the record, I love them, but they hardly re-invented the frickin' wheel). Their look, which was copied in all major metropolises by many men, and some women, included long-ish hair, vintage tees, hoodies with blazers or leather jackets, and Converse. Sometimes Albert would bust out a suit (or part of one). Brandon Flowers of The Killers, who were really coming to pre-eminence in 2005, was all about that look, while Interpol's Carlos D was working, not only a flat-ironed asymmetric haircut and a suit, but also a totally superfluous gun holster. (Glad that one never caught on.)  

A lot of boys were also toying with the idea of wearing trench coats . Some were way ahead of the ladies and were stuffing themselves into the aforementioned skinny jeans. This was the beginning of the era when men would say, “I actually buy women's jeans, they fit better.” The point of this look was supposed to say you didn't give a fuck, but of course you gave many, many fucks. Your hair would be artfully messed up with wax, or strategically straightened, and you'd almost certainly smoke. Press shots for bands were taken backstage with a bottle of whisky, and you could smell the whiff of potential hotel room destruction in the air. This was really 70s-inspired, rock ‘n' roll behavior's last hurrah. Bloody feminism and Spotify ruining the casual misogyny and the possibility of signing a record deal with a huge bowl of cocaine!







CLUB KIDS

Indie clubs were massive in '05. If you were a club kid you were always out, going to the same pre-approved places over and over again, seeing the same people, and the only thing that changed was the outfits. Trash in London and Misshapes in NYC were huge. Everyone was a DJ and many people had their own nights where they'd play the same records all their friends played at their club nights. A lot of Scritti Politti and Steely Dan's “Peg” mixed in with an obscure band no one had heard of yet. Trucker caps were on the way out and black and white striped tops were in, as were glasses sans lenses, chunky belts, big, colorful plastic bead necklaces, blunt bangs, and pouts. And boy, were plenty of opportunities to exercise those pouts thanks to the influx of party photographers. The best examples are probably LA’s Mark Hunter, a.k.a. the Cobra Snake and one third of the Misshapes, Geordon Nicol who was a DJ (obviously), at the night of the same name. (We made some current day hipsters review the Misshapes photography book earlier this year and the results were very entertaining and made some of us at Noisey feel very old.) 

Anyone with a digital camera and a powerful flash—this was pre-decent cameras on your cell, remember—could turn up at some dark, dank club and have an impromptu photo shoot with some non-models who considered themselves at the forefront of fashion. It's like what happens to Jenny Humphrey in Gossip Girl when her nutso model friend encourages to put on a fedora, take off her top, and dance on a table so some dude can take pictures.

There are two rules of party photography—as the photographer you must always use the flash. Bleaching away the majority of your subject’s facial features is totes flattering and helps alleviate sweat-face (although this is not always successful). If you are the subject: chin down, pout/grimace. A lot of Sunday mornings in 2005 were spent scrolling through the pages of party blogs trying to find a new Myspace profile picture: “This one will get me in loads of Top 8s!”
Side note while we’re on the topic of Myspace. This was the era of the proto-selfie, where shooting yourself in the bathroom for that all important profile pic was a crapshoot which involved debilitating arm-strain as you angled the camera at your face from on high. Tough times.  (For more Myspace nostalgia please head to A Love Letter to Myspace, the Social Network Where Music and Identity Intertwined. Yay #2005week!)



Above is a Sienna Miller fan-made video set to Jeff Buckley's "Grace." Not sure how he'd feel about this. Although there are plenty of shots here that are not from 2005, you can spot Miller's '05-boho gear faster than DiCaprio can sniff out a Victoria's Secret model at fashion week.


BOHO
Blame Sienna Miller. Blame Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe. Blame any skinny blonde chick who wrapped some gold elastic around her head in 2005 and called it “Grecian.”  Those floaty skirts worn with a vast leather belt perched jauntily around a lady’s widest part (hips). Slouchy pirate boots. Rouched peasant blouses. Upper arm bracelets that either continuously slipped down to your wrists, or strangled the circulation of your upper under arm flab. (BTW, the term for this in the UK is “bingo wings.” Why is there no US-slang equivalent?)

Those waistcoats. Pause please. Seriously what is the point of a waistcoat? It's not a jacket, it's not a dress, it's a completely useless tunic often of tasseled suede or studded leather. More like WASTEcoat, amirite? Looking back I actually think the Boho vibe was one of the less offensive styles to smack us between the eyes in 2005, but that might be because right now everyone seems to want to dress like Penny Lane in Almost Famousincluding me. I remember thinking at the time, “Everything about this vibe is so flammable, your BO clings to Lurex like an aggressive koala and every item is cast in various shades of burnt sienna/mustard. Why are people into this gross 70s stuff?” But I probably thought that because it's really hard to do Boho when you have an overstraightened mullet. Sob.   

PROTO-NORMCORE A.K.A. JENNIFER ANISTON
In 2005 Ms. Aniston had just been crowned the media's Heartbreak Queen thanks to her split from Brad Pitt—swiped, if you believe the tabloids, by the plump-lipped, vial-of-blood wearing vixen
 and future earth mother/philanthropist Ms. Jolie. In September of that year Aniston allowed an interview with Vanity Fair entitled 'The Unsinkable Jennifer Aniston' in which she talked and cried about her divorce. The then 36-year-old did so, according to the journalist, while wearing “a white tank top and white drawstring linen pants, with a vivid lavender cashmere cardiwrap around her to ward off the unseasonable chill.” Yep, sounds about right. She was and still is, a walking Calvin Klein campaign who appeared on the red carpet in an endless rotation of very plain black dresses, letting her tan and hair do the talking. (Please note, she is CK post-the edgy Kate Moss  years.) Aniston was always in pumps—again very boring ones, black or nude—and around town, her off-duty look was cargo pants with t-shirts or sleeveless roll necks. A choice look for scooping the center from her bagel and filling it with ultra low fat tofu cream cheese while she wondered when she'd finally be able to have a baby. Or whatever crap the tabloids said she was doing. 

Not everyone could do basic as beautifully as her, so a lot of us resorted to the safer world of Proto Normcore Plus—a look that Marissa Cooper made famous/notorious. To put together this look at home you will need:


The O.C. press shot via Warner Brothers

1. Open-toed kitten heels/flip flops or pointy pumps.

2. Boot cut jeans—MUST BE LOW RISE—or capri pants. 

3. A silky, wafty short sleeved top.

4. A croissant shaped bag. One with a really short strap so it's just sitting in your armpit all day long getting stinky. Also the bag itself should be the perfect size to store your ballet flats, but not big enough to actually be useful.

5. Big sunglasses that cover most of your cheeks.  

6. A long necklace. The key word here is statement. Hey, why not throw on two?

7. A tendency to say, “Let's get cocktails!” and then order something really sugary and stand at the bar holding it nervously. (Listen, the effects of SATC were still rippling, OK?)

8. A deep, deep love of The O.C. soundtrack and an even deeper love for Adam Brody. 

9. To be overflowing with middle-class whiny problems.

JUICY COUTURE Amy Poehler's chest clad in JC in Mean Girls

You know who loved Juicy Couture tracksuits in 2005? Victoria Beckham. She was so into that velvet feel, she liked wearing nothing but a bra underneath the hoodie, getting a fit that was really, really tight. Paris Hilton was at the top of her fame-game then too, and in May 2005, when her waxwork at Madame Tussauds was unveiled, she was wearing, you guessed it—a pale blue Juicy number. When Britney Spears married Kevin Federline (in Vegas in the fall of '04) her bridesmaids wore matching pink tracksuits while the men wore white ones with the word Pimps emblazoned on the back. Even the not yet properly famous Kimmy K was wearing a grey one back then. 

Now the brand is re-focusing and the days when celebs and Desperate Housewives wore clingy velour appear to be long gone. A fashion tragedy, that will be mourned by everyone from J Lo to Lilo—in much the same way we mourned the death of style when we first clapped eyes on them trotting around LA parking lots accessorized with a giant frappuccino that was roughly the same size as the accompanying small dog in a designer handbag. 

THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS

PCD in the "Don't Cha" video

I probably should have said this at the beginning, but if you want to see what happens when a year of fashion explodes onto six women, just take a look at Nicole Scherzinger and, err, the other ones. It's like their stylist sent them the most popular looks of the season so they could pick their favorite, but instead they just went, “NAH, WE'LL TAKE THEM ALL IN ONE GO, PLEASE.” 

Little Mean Girls-esque kilts worn with trucker caps and boho waistcoats. A brightly colored, asymmetric hairdo with low-rise, boot cut jeans, pumps and a studded basque. Boho waves with a Lycra leotard and cargo pants. Stripes! It's like one of those kids games where you can match or mix up people's heads with different illustrations for their top, middle, and bottom. For example, sticking a crown on a farmer in cowboy boots. Or most of Britney Spears outfits. Basically, you're entering a world of pain.

DOUBLE POP COLLAR
Some dudes on Tumblr OK, So I'm British and live in London and my shit hot editor suggested this as a look from 2005 which I should talk about. But the thing is, I've never seen this before—other than in the Wet Hot American Summer prequel, when it was a nod to the 80s. What is this? I'm staring at pages and pages of Google images of men wearing two (or more) different colored Ralph Lauren shirts with collars popped. Why are they doing this? Do they all have some sort of illness or chill that only affects their neck and chest? Do they want to look like they're really built in the peck area? Is it so they can swap them round when the one closest to their skin gets sweaty? They must be wearing two so they can give one to a friend! Or, so they can save space when packing for a trip. Right?

The popping of the collar I don't mind too much, it's super preppy, although I feel like if I met a guy styling it with crisp khakis and loafers I'd probably be really judgmental and assume he's very rich, possibly creepy, and frat-y, and not completely averse to Donald Trump. But also that's a look that translates to the UK–Prince Harry is always poppin. Is this a delayed response to Usher’s 2001 hit “Pop Ya Collar”? Did all the Ivy Leaguers decide they liked Three 6 Mafia’s “Poppin’ My Collar,” but want to put their own Hamptons spin on it? (If you want to know more about this then please refer to another #2005week gem: Let's All Take a Moment to Remember How Three 6 Mafia Saved Us In the Popped Collar Wars of 2005.) The odd thing is that it seems to have been pretty acceptable to do the double collar pop in 2005. I just found a screengrab of John Mayer sporting this look on a forum for Les Paul guitars, and someone replied, “I'm so glad he only did this a couple of times.”

BUT WHY DID HE DO IT AT ALL? I don't understand. I don't think I want to.



JM on a Les Paul guitars forum

2005 was a time when we thought it was a good idea to wear flip-flops with jeans, when owning several long beaded necklaces was imperative, belts were worn over smelly vintage dresses, and insta-creased satin and overly-glimmered fabrics were all over the red carpets. And yet simultaneously, this was the year that LCD Soundsystem dropped their eponymous debut and Nothing. Was. The. Same. I can't believe it was a decade ago. I can't believe I still have some of these relics in my wardrobe and—gasp!—still wear them. I can't believe how religiously I wore ballet flats. I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling of a sodden sole of a pale pink ballet shoe as I walked home in the rain. I'm so glad I threw my hair straighteners away, but I'm sort of sad Myspace is gone, as are club photos where, when you look at them again all these years later, we actually looked sweaty, try-hard, and gross. 

When I write another piece like this in 2025, what will we cringe about? Probably nothing! We all look fantastic now, right?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

WE MADE A CHRISTMAS EP


We're hearty fans of festive times, with all the great (and less great) they bring.  It's a magical time with a big dollop of full-on realness.  You might get to eat loads of good food, but you might also have a massive fight with your brother.

With that in mind, this year we made a Christmas EP (called 'Christmas' because we're just THAT good at naming things).  Below is the single from it and a video I made from found footage AKA other peoples' home movies.  We're going to be playing acoustically before a screening of Elf at the Hackney Picturehouse on the 19th of December, but in case you can't get there you can find the EP at one of the places below:

iTunes here
Spotify here
Direct from our label here!