Sunday, 21 April 2013

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A rare post about art...

Classic become classics because more people (or more 'influential' people?) like them than like non-classic things... That may not be true but I am sticking with it for now. Personal taste is a mysterious thing; who knows why anyone likes anything (or at least anything not-technically-essential for living) more than any other thing (not-technically-essential for living)? Art (or 'the arts') are an excellent example; presumably the things you like say something about the person you are, beyond 'a person who likes cubism' or whatever. Even not being a psychologist I can see that many of my favourite paintings have various things in common, though I have no idea what they say about me; nice to look at though!

Edvard Munch - The Voice (1893)

The Scream will always be Munch's most famous painting, but this is dreamlike, beautiful and beguiling. There are two versions, but in the other the woman has a completely different, and far less appealing expression and face....

James Cowie - Falling Leaves (1934)

A beautifully atmospheric and poignant painting that reminds me of another favourite (also painted in Scotland...)

John Everett Millais - Autumn Leaves (1856)
Painted in Perthshire, this is a lovely painting which for once has no mythological/historical basis and is all the better for it.
Hans Bellmer - La Poupee c.1933-5
German surrealist Bellmer made a series of photographs of his bizarre 'doll' made up of various parts of two 'female' dummies. Sometimes he joined torsos, sometimes it has a mask-like face, here he has linked the four legs together and placed them in a mundane everyday setting (as for a portrait photograph of the era) with dreamlike and disturbing results. There is a strange obsessive quality to this series of photographs, which are at times reminiscent of crime scene photographs, at others of medical studies or of pornography. Icky but effective.
Amedeo Modigliani - Madame Kisling and Elena Pavlowski (c1917)
Two of Modigliani's many great portraits, stylized and simplified, but capturing both the individual features and characters of the sitters.
Lucas Cranach: Judith with the head of Holofernes (c.1530)
German court painter Cranach painted lots of portraits of ladies of the court as Judith (or, more tragically as Lucretia (below) and they are all great, glamorous and a bit creepy. This is my favourite one though.
GF Watts - Choosing (1864)
GF Watts is not very fashionable nowadays; in his day he was considered (in the UK at least) one of the great artists of his time, but now his symbolism-laden yet conventional portraits and landscapes just seem very Victorian indeed. Lovely though.
Jan Vermeer - View of Delft (c.1660/1)
Sometimes underestimated because of its photographic quality, this is a highly atmospheric and just beautiful painting.
Albrecht Durer - Melancholia I (1514)
This highly enigmatic engraving is crowded with obscure symbolism and has been interpreted as a work of philosophy, autobiography or even occultism. I also like the similar painting by Durer's contemporary, Lucas Cranach (below) although his female angel(?) figure looks a bit more cheerful than Durer's.
Wyndham Lewis - Workshop (c.1914/5)
It's hard to imagine this painting, now almost a hundred years old, ever looking 'old fashioned'. Abstract without ever looking aimless or 'easy', Wyndham Lewis' early Vorticist works have an almost palpable sense of arrested energy and dynamism.
Joshua Reynolds - The Misses Waldegrave (1780)
Reynolds was famously not a great painter of women, but obviously that isn't really true, as this is a lovely, intimate-yet-showy and glamorous group portrait.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Female Artist (c.1908)
The German Expressionists used the most dynamic design and colour compositions, but the moods and feelings they evoked were not always extreme or simplistic. Despite its vivid sense of design, this lovely painting captures a strong sense of ennui and melancholy.
Tamara de Lempicka - Madam M (1930)
Polish art deco painter de Lempicka's portraits are the ultimate in 1930s modernist glamour; like this one.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti - May Morris (1872)
The most dedicated member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti was a strange, obsessive artist, painting similar many portraits of many similar-looking women. This one, of the young May Morris, may be the most beautiful. The otherworldliness of Rossetti's vision can be seen by comparing with the more prosaic (but equally delicate) work of the slightly earlier Scottish equivalent(ish) of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, the German Nazarene-inspired William Dyce (1859). This painting is actually of the historical/semi-mythical Beatrice, but looks far more 'real' than the ethereal May Morris. 
Caravaggio - Bacchus (1597)
The epitome of baroque decadence.
There are many many more, but I can't be bothered thinking which to choose right now, much less deciding what these say about my taste; mainly but not exclusively representational & figurative, and, err... dunno.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

March's Soundtrack

A Bowie-centric month for a variety of reasons, but plenty of other things too....

1. David Bowie - Big Brother (from Diamond Dogs, 1974)

This great anthemic ode (more or less) to fascism is understandably overlooked despite its catchiness. As unsettling as it is stadium-worthy and with one of Bowie's finest vocal performances.

2. Daniel Johnston - To Go Home (from The What of Whom,1981)

Probably DJ's most consistent home-recorded album, and this is one of his most accomplished, 'normal' yet obsessively odd songs.

3. The Edgar Winter Group- Free Ride (from They Only Come Out At Night, 1972)

Perhaps the archetypal laidback 70s funky blues-rock anthem from freakish semi-albinesque rocker Edgar Winter.

4. The Beatles - Sexy Sadie (from The Beatles, 1968)

Lovely funny and uplifting song with only mildly caustic overtones really, considering its disillusioned-with-their-guru origins.

5. Led Zeppelin - Over the Hills and Far Away (from Houses of the Holy, 1973)

A lovely, romantic and atmospheric song that brings together the delicate, acoustic and heavy electric sides of Led Zeppelin perfectly.

6. Cheap Trick - Southern Girls (from In Color..., 1978)

Everything that is great about Cheap Trick in one song; funny, warm, catchy, goofy; rock.

7. Altar of Plagues - (from Teethed Glory and Injury, 2013)

Inventive and (shock!) original post-black metal from one of Ireland's finest metal bands.

8. The Cure - In Your House (from Seventeen Seconds, 1980)

Seventeen Seconds is a superb but strange, hushed, dreamlike album of (aside from the singles) peculiarly half-formed songs, of which this is probably the best.

9. James Brown - Hot (I Need To Be Loved) (single, 1975)

It blatantly rips off the tune of Bowie's Fame but is a great record in its own right.

10. David Bowie - We Are The Dead (from Diamond Dogs, 1974)

Another great song from the end of Bowie's glam era. I don't think there's a better sung or recorded moment in his oeuvre than the first part of this song. The chorus isn't quite up to the quality of the verses but genius nonetheless.

11. Frank Zappa - Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? (from Joe's Garage, 1978)

Puerile, silly but also a cool bit of 70s hard rock.

12. John Cale - Coral Moon (from Helen of Troy, 1975)

A melodic and delicate, even 'lilting' song from the mostly angry/disturbed (but still accessible) sounding Helen of Troy
13. King Curtis - Memphis Soul Stew (single, 1967 )

Who could not love this classic funk/soul/jazz record? Lots of people no doubt, but they are wrong.

14. Lou Reed - Crazy Feeling (from Coney Island Baby, 1975)

Lighthearted, semi-romantic pop music is not always Lou Reed's forte but on occasion he does it very well.

15. Ólöf Arnalds  - A Little Grim (from Sudden Elevation, 2013)

A lovely and poignant little song from Arnalds' first English-language album.

16. Richard Hell & the Voidoids - Love Comes in Spurts (from Blank Generation, 1980)

A lot of US punk sounds kind of old-fashioned compared to its UK equivalent but not Richard Hell. Not a great song but a great record.

17. Lustre - Spirit (from Lost in Lustrous Nightskies, 2013)

This track comes from a compilation of outtakes and rarities that is a masterclass in almost imperceptible ambient black metal; beautiful and ugly/

18. Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place (from Speaking in Tongues, 1983)

One of Talking Heads' most 80s, most pop, but also best songs, strangely haunting for something so chirpy.

19. The Doors - Hyacinth House (from LA Woman, 1971)

Strident yet despondent, LA Woman may well be The Doors' best album, and Hyacinth House seems to encapsulate the mood that led Jim Morrison to his self-imposed exile in France.

20. The Raspberries - Come Around and See Me (from Raspberries, 1972)

The Raspberries' debut is one of the greatest power pop LPs ever made and this song, written and sung by guitarist Wally Bryson is a lovely, romantic, slightly scruffy and informal pop-rock tune.

21. The Smiths - Back to the Old House (B-side of What Difference Does It Make, 1984)

One of The Smiths' loveliest, most autumnal songs, like much of their early work it just sounds like one long sigh.

22. David Bowie - Young Americans (from Young Americans, 1975)

Bowie's foray into contemporary American soul/r'n'b is about as 'authentic' as you'd expect for a white guy from London; and therein lies its charm.

23. Kate Bush - Cloudbusting (from Hounds of Love, 1985)

Peculiar, catchy pop song about philosopher Wilhelm Reich with a great and presumably expensive video. Strangely moving even if it always seems somewhat unresolved.

24. Throwing Muses - Not Too Soon (from The Real Ramona, 1991)

Possibly the most accessible album by the underrated Throwing Muses, both Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly were at their best here and this is probably the most perfect pop song the band ever wrote.

25. The Meads of Asphodel - Sonderkommando (from Sonderkommando, 2013)

I half-wish Sonderkommando was available in an instrumental version, not because the lyrics/vocals are bad, but because the music on the album is so rich and expressive, beginning with this intro.

26. Dio - Night People (from Dream Evil, 1987)

Despite the popularity of the mighty Holy Diver, I think Dream Evil is possibly the most consistently great Dio album, it's commercial, MTV-friendly sound making it a true classic of 80s metal.

27. David Bowie - Station to Station (from Station to Station, 1976)

Exceptionally sinister and occult-obsessed Germanic rock music probably seemed like a strange turn to take from the wholesome accessibility of Young Americans, but Station to Station stands as one of the great albums in the Bowie discography.

28. Iggy Pop - Some Weird Sin (from Lust for Life, 1977)

Iggy Pop is the emperor of jaunty sleaze, and this may be the jauntiest of the many deranged but cheerful sounding songs on Lust for Life.

29. The New York Dolls - Who Are The Mystery Girls? (from Too Much, Too Soon, 1975)

The Dolls' second album may not be as iconic as the first, but it's pretty good and Shadow Morton was an inspired choice of producer.

30. Burzum - Galgviðr (from Umskiptar, 2012)

Sometimes you hear Burzum and all of the crap surrounding Varg and his beliefs just melts away; this is one of those times.

31. Cultes des Ghoules - The Devil Intimate (from Henbane, 2013)

Supremely creepy and nocturnal-sounding black metal from Poland. A great, nasty, scabrous piece of music, even if the intro is probably the best bit.