Monday, 27 July 2009

iSpot a flaw in this plan

So, it's finally happened: Spotify have announced their plans to go mobile. It's been rumoured for ages, and now a teaser video has been released, outlining a proposed Spotify iPhone 'app'. It's pretty much a big deal.

Not owning an iPhone, I wasn't too excited when I first heard
about this. I've got an iPod Touch, so I can access the internet
wireless within the confines of my own home, or within any
other open access wireless zone, but that's by no means a
universal thing. If it needed internet access in order to stream
music, it was of no consequence to me, I reasoned. But that's
the awesome thing about this application in its current
prototype form: playlists can be selected for offline streaming.

This is great - perfect for songs that you go through phases of
listening to a lot for a week or two, but have only a temporary
attachment to. Basically, songs that you want to listen to, but
have no real inclination to own. This is what Spotify is great
for in its computer-based form. Before this, if you wanted to
hear a song that you didn't already have, you had to
download it, be it through legal channels or illegal ones. Now,
you just search for them on Spotify. Recent such songs for me
would include 'Touch Me' by The Doors, 'At the River' by
Groove Armada and an Italian song called 'Primavera
Anticipada' by Laura Pausini (don't even ask). But could a
mobile version of this service completely change how we listen
to music?

The current downfall of Spotify for me is that I like to feel that
I 'own' tracks, whether I've bought them or not. Which means
having the opportunity to listen to them on my iPod as well.
Much as the Spotify adverts irk me, I don't get annoyed enough
by them to warrant paying £9.99 per month simply to get rid of
them. But to be able to listen to anything I want (provided I've
cued it up beforehand) while away from the internet? That
might just cause me to reconsider. After all, £9.99 for a month's
worth of unlimited music really isn't a lot at all when you think
about it; it's equivalent to just one album.

Ultimately, though, it's probably not going to get approved by
Apple, is it? Let's be honest - why would it be, in the form
they're currently proposing? With an iPhone, you can
download tunes directly to the device from the iTunes store.
And each time you do so, that's a nice little 79p for Apple.
Why would you do this in addition to having the Spotify app?
Unless Spotify are paying Apple a fair amount of cash, it's
likely that Apple would lose a fair amount of revenue. I'd
love to see the app in its proposed form get released, and
soon, but I'm not too hopeful about it. Fingers crossed, eh?

My current playlist, featuring some rather shameful picks: summer playlist

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Morrissey, Brixton Academy, 19.08.09

Ah, Brixton, how cynical I was. After cancelled dates ('production reasons') in Italy just days previously, I was sceptical even as I made my way into the palatial Academy main room. I was still allowing room for doubt as the support hit the stage. Ultimately, though, I was wrong.

Support act Doll and the Kicks were entertaining, as far as it's possible to be when suffering the obligatory support act muddy sound quality. Pouting and pirouetting flirtatiously across the stage, frontwoman Doll certainly makes for an pleasantly diverting stage, and her seemingly strong vocals deserve more exposure than they receive tonight.

As one punter's t-shirt reads, however: 'It's Morrissey's town - we just live in it.' Indeed. The venue's not even selling meat at its one lonely food stall, lest the slightest whiff of scorched animal wafts across the vast arch of the ceiling and upsets him. And who could expect anything less from the famously bolshy vegetarian?

Tonight is everything you'd predict. The crowd conform to the expected demographic: at least 65-70% male; mainly pushing it to see the younger side of 27; polite, though not as introverted as might be imagined. And lapping it all up, obviously.

In some ways, the setlist very much plays it safe in this respect. It must be somewhat galling still be expected to trot out songs by a band which acrimoniously dissolved over 20 years ago, but tonight features no less than six Smiths songs - nearly a third of the set.

As said, it must be galling to have this expected from you after so long, but opening with 'This Charming Man' will always prove a popular gambit. And when, just a few songs in, the classic guitar distortion of 'How Soon is Now?''s opening riff kicks in, it's hard not to be taken aback. Boz Boorer may not be Johnny Marr, but it still sounds fucking majestic: it's really that simple. Sheer, bleak, rumbling majesty.

Boorer is certainly the backbone of the band, and makes it look effortless, from the jangle of 'Ask' to the climactic encore of 'First of the Gang to Die'. It's Morrissey's vocals, swooping and soaring around and above it, though, which really cause things to take flight, particularly on newer tracks such as 'I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris' and 'When Last I Spoke to Carol'.

This favouring of new material over old is perhaps the sole disappointment. Yes, it's the 'Tour of Refusal', and so a focus on the Years of Refusal album is a given. Out of an 80-minute set, though, it would have been nice to hear some old Morrissey classics rather than an almost sole reliance upon the past half-decade or so. Yes, that's Morrissey classics rather than Smiths ones. I mean, 'Some Girls are Bigger than Others'? Rather than 'Everyday is Like Sunday' or 'Suedehead'? Really? When it comes to faults, this may be coming close to splitting hairs: setlist preferences are will never be anything other than subjective.

Like the crowd, Morrissey is exactly what you're expect: he flails the microphone cord around in a dramatic fashion first perfected decades back; he provides nigh-on nothing by way of between-song banter; he bows and preens incessantly, getting his chest out at the end of the show. Oh, and he doesn't disappoint.

Morrissey - I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Misery business

I have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with book-to-film adaptations. I'm a massive bookworm, so it's perhaps little surprise that I find myself unable to 'let go' of a book I love and take in a film adaptation on its own merit. I was quite excited, though, when I found out there was going to be a film of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper; I really did think that it could make an interesting premise for a film.

Ah, if only that heady optimism could have carried into the film itself. Within 10 minutes of the opening credits, I had seen young Kate with a profusely bleeding nose and vomiting blood, and had realised that this was very much not the film for me. I didn't want to be there; I continued not wanting to be there for the remaining 100 minutes until the end credits rolled and someone sat behind me turned to the person beside them and said: "I feel emotionally violated."

It's petty to spin the classic "but it wasn't faithful to the book" line, and indeed, much of the film is faithful to the book. One sister (Kate) has cancer and needs a kidney to save her life. Other sister (Anna) doesn't want to give up her kidney and so sues for medical emancipation. Court case, etc. But the book is very much focussed on said court case. The film is very much focussed on said cancer. I've heard My Sister's Keeper described as 'thought-provoking', but a more accurate phrase might be something to the gist of 'rape of the tear ducts'.

You'll probably cry. But you'll also resent those tears, as you will understand, even as they are being shed, how cynically and calculatedly they have been wrung from your eyes. Misery business indeed. Cancer isn't pretty, and the film doesn't shy from that - but my, it's certainly an unrelenting torrent of cinematic misery. I counted one joke; it was about cancer. There's a fragmentary feel at play, with lots of 'fade to black' moments, but nobody could accuse My Sister's Keeper of ever straying from its goal - it sets out early on its target of tears, and shamelessly and repeatedly goes in directly for the kill.

I was hoping that Abigail Breslin (Anna), after her amusingly sweet performance in Little Miss Sunshine, would at least ensure this would be to my taste, but she had a hopeless task ahead of her - rather than sprinkling sugar, the script pours on syrup. You almost wish that Kate would hurry up and get on with it - and yes, that does make you a bad person.

I've always denounced the Hollywood tradition of neatly tying up tales from books and tarting them up a bit in the cheerfulness stakes. This certainly bucked the trend, and I wished to God it hadn't. That's me shown, then.