Music: Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

Remember back in 1994 when you were screaming along to Head Like A Hole and Closer with your best friends in the park and wondering how one man could make the exact music that displayed the anger and pain that you yourself were feeling at the time? And later on in 1999 when you were singing We’re in This Together from the balcony of your apartment at 3am to the distress of that stupid neighbor who was trying to sleep with his girlfriend in one of the apartments across the street? Seeing this band perform live in 2000 during your first trip to the States, and deepening the love that you already felt was unconditional for this band, and mainly for the man behind (and in front of) it all: Trent Reznor. Sometimes when I read the journals written by my younger self I have to laugh at how many times I declare my love for Trent Reznor and Robert Smith (although I would like to say that my love for both was always equal, I do think that Robert jumps ahead a little, but that’s a whole other story). In any case, this review is not going to be in any way objective, and who cares if it is anyway? I LOVE Nine Inch Nails. Have loved them ever since I first heard Pretty Hate Machine. I don’t write on my blog to be objective – I write about music, books, movies, art that I love, rant about things that really annoy me and ramble on about things that I miss and love and care about. 

“I am whole, I am free” - Everything

I’ve been waiting for the release of a new NIN album since I read a really well written article about Trent Reznor, written by Alec Wilkinson for The New Yorker and published in the December, 17 2012 issue. Imagine my heart jumping when I read that he was planning the release of a new album in 2013! He had previously said that NIN was over (although I had kind of refused to believe that, and just thought he may need a break to work on other projects until it was time to regroup and produce another opus). Hesitation Marks is to be released next week, on September 3rd (although those lucky Australians can already buy it as it was released a week earlier there), but you can already stream it for free on iTunes and hear it for yourself. I never read anyone else’s reviews before reviewing an album myself, especially if it concerns one of my favourite bands, so I cannot say if it has been well received or not. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVE it. I honestly wasn’t as keen on the three albums released after With Teeth in 2005, or maybe just wasn’t in the frame of mind I needed to be to listen to the albums (Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip) but for me this one marks a return to the NIN that I adore. REALLY adore.

For those of you looking for another Downward Spiral or even Pretty Hate Machine, Hesitation Marks won’t be what you are looking for. Instead it’s the creation of an evolved NIN, one where Trent is older and more mature. There is less anger, there are less pulsions towards self-destruction and self-hatred, more self-reflection and inner thought, and the music and lyrics portray that. I think Find My Way displays this feeling perfectly, a slow but powerful song, taunting at times but direct in approach: “I’m just trying to find my way”. But then you hear Came Back Haunted or All Time Low and you realize that the album goes back to sounds that made NIN so popular years ago – with a newer edge. And then songs like Satellite and Everything are entirely new and old sounds mixed together to create something completely different, but similar at the same time.  All in all I think that what makes Hesitation Marks so good is that it flows perfectly and is a creation of old and new, of evolution, of hunger and anger, of love and pain, of despair and hope. Basically a brilliant Nine Inch Nails album.

My favourite songs on the album right now are Came Back Haunted, Find My Way, Various Methods of Escape, I Would For You and Everything. But I really think that listening to the album as a whole is the best way to hear how brilliant it actually is.

And don’t worry – the world is still going to end. The last song on the album tells us that. Not everything changes, not even with age. And it feels like the perfect end to a wonderful album.
“A little more, every day, falls apart and slips away. I don't mind, I'm okay, wish it didn't, have to end this way” – While I’m Still Here

NIN - Official Website

Music: The Raveonettes - Observator

You know how there are so many bands that release an amazing first and/or second album, and then you lose interest in them? Or those old bands that have an amazing repertoire of music, but sounded much better 10 or 20 or 30 years ago? I could give you a list of them that would go on for ages, including even some of my favourite bands that I feel I have been listening to my whole life. The Raveonettes are the exact opposite for me – every time they release a new album I find it even better than the last one. The latest, Observator, released back in September, is absolutely brilliant.

The Raveonettes have always been one of my main NYC loves, and Pretty in Black, released early 2005, was one of the first albums that I purchased just after I moved to NYC. I remember strolling into Tower Records on Broadway (I’m still sad that it doesn’t exist anymore), listening to it on one of those listening stations and taking it away with me. Those were the days when I didn’t really know anyone in the city and spent my free time walking around the streets and hanging out in record and book shops. I love the mix of Jesus and Mary Chain-style tunes with 50’s-style rock and Motown sounds combined with lyrics that are often darker than you would expect, especially in the more poppier songs. I‘ve seen them live many times and they never disappoint.

In any case, this latest album just knocked their previous album, Raven in the Grave, off my obsession list. It’s darker and dronier (don’t know if that is a word, but it’s the only one that actually says what I want it to say), and also sadder than other albums they have released. It corresponds perfectly with my mind set at the moment, and actually paradoxically lifts me up and makes me feel happier. The lyrics are spot on in all of the songs. I wish I could play it on a loop all night at work tonight, but I don’t think that’s possible, so I will just listen to it again all day today…

“I saw it you and me in time apart
I get a shiver from broken hearts
I like the sun when it don't shine
I make it hard on anyone
So many restless souls
I don't wanna be young and cold
I don't wanna be young and cold”
From Young and Cold

Music: Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

I literally have about 20 different stories and poems that I have started writing but haven’t finished yet, and woke up this morning with the intent on at least finishing one thing before I have to open the bar… But of course I got sidetracked yet again when I noticed a friend post something about going to a Bat For Lashes show in England tonight… Which lead me to immediately think that if she was doing a tour then she must have released a new album. Ten minutes later I had downloaded The Haunted Man on my phone and went up to the roof to listen to it with my tea and cigarette.

I’ve loved Bat For Lashes (Natasha Khan) ever since she released her amazing first album Fur and Gold. She’s wonderfully talented and her music always takes me somewhere else. Sometimes to another planet, sometimes to a dream world that her words create and mesh with my own visions, and sometimes somewhere further into my head. I especially love walking around New York on a grey day and listening to Two Suns, forgetting that I am myself and pretending that I too have an alter-ego called Pearl that is living in my body. I still listen to Siren Song on repeat on bad days when I want everything and everyone to go away. I saw her live a few years ago, at Webster Hall by myself and it was a wonderful experience. Natasha commands the whole room with her voice and stage presence – I definitely want to see her again when she comes back here.

On a first listen The Haunted Man is in the same vein as the previous albums, a little more mature, but still the same ethereal feeling, the one that takes you elsewhere. Sadness, happiness, love and more love. It’s actually difficult to explain how brilliant she is unless you actually know what her music and lyrics sound like, because then you will understand exactly what I am trying to describe. A part-Siouxsie blended with a Kate Bush with a side of PJ Harvey and an air of Stevie Nicks (who all happen to be some of my absolute favourite female artists), but also with her own originality that keeps her standing out. She plays all of her own instruments, is a beautiful writer and I feel that The Haunted Man showcases the latter even more than the previous two albums. I am particularly obsessed with the first single, Laura, right now – it weirdly goes with the last short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago, about one of those people everyone should always have in their life. I love it when strange coincidences like that happen… The other song I keep listening to right now is The Haunted Man“I couldn’t sleep last night…” Those are the two songs that immediately stood out to me, but there are some other gems on the album too. Actually the album on a whole just sounded amazing.

I have a feeling I am going to be listening to this album for the next month.

From Laura:
When your smile is so wide and your heels are so high
You can't cry
Put your glad rags on and let's sing along
To that lonely song

Music: Mogwai at Webster Hall, NYC, June 15th 2012

I spent the beginning of last year listening to Mogwai's last studio album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, while I was trying to figure my life out. Then I spent the last few months of the year listening to their last EP, Earth Divisions, while trying to work out the next steps in my life. It seems to be a pattern in my life, since the late 90's, listening to Mogwai while reflecting on the meaning of life. Or maybe something a little less grandiose than that. Reflecting on what on earth I was doing with myself right at that moment in time and why I had chosen this instead of that.
For me, listening to Mogwai has always been like going for a long walk, where you start off in a quiet, countryside area and then find yourself suddenly standing in the middle of a square packed with people and noise and lights with your feet are stuck to the ground, looking around with wide eyes, not knowing where to go. Until, all of a sudden you are pulled up in the air by an invisible force, and fly over the crowds back to a peaceful calm in a different place, where the journey starts again.
Basically a slow build up of music, bit by bit, layer upon layer, gaining momentum until all you can do is feel it flowing through your entire body. Yes, I seriously love Mogwai.
I didn't think I would actually get to see them on this tour, with the multiple cancellations and the being broke issue and all of that. But I have a fabulous best friend who took me as his plus one, which also meant that we got the best place to sit and watch the show at Webster Hall, right above the stage, where I could just lean on the barrier and absorb the music and float off to different places my mind decided to conjure up. There is not much else to say apart from the fact that I had goosebumps half of the time, and spent the rest of it floating somewhere above Webster Hall, during all of it feeling that I was literally in the music. Not just a part of it, but right inside it. I've been waiting to see them again for so long now, and it was so worth it, just to be there and to see them perform again. Live music is mostly always excellent, but there are some bands that just take it a step further on stage and Mogwai is one of them. Excellent setlist too - a real collection of different pieces from over the years.
I have to say, over the past 9 months I haven't been to anywhere near as many live shows as I usually do, but the ones I have been to have been pretty brilliant, and all thanks to the wonderful friends I have here (Portishead, The Cure, The Kills, Spiritualized and Mogwai).

Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home
White Noise
I Know You Are But What Am I?
San Pedro
Mexican Grand Prix
Stanley Kubrick
Stop Coming To My House
How to Be a Werewolf
2 Rights Make 1 Wrong
Ratts of the Capital

Rano Pano
I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead
We're No Here

Book Review: The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel

 The Red Leather Diary - Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal, by Lily Koppel

I still have all of my diaries that I have kept over the years, the first one being from when I was 10 years old if I am not mistaken. Over the years I see changes in handwriting, developing ideas, crushes and heartbreak, drawings, sadness, happiness. Some of the journals are full, others conclude halfway through with a sentence along the lines of "this is the end of this part of my life and therefore a new journal is to be commenced". I still keep a journal, at 34, but today it is more of a scrapbook than just writing, snippets of sentences created by emotions and visions, photos, drawings, concert tickets, notes from friends, lists and so on. I love rereading entries from years ago, but I doubt they really would be of any interest to anyone else. Except of course if I become a world famous author, because then, after my death, scholars will devour my teenage thoughts to try to figure out who I was, just like I did when I was writing my thesis on Sylvia Plath.(Yes, yes, one can dream).

I love reading the journals of famous artists. Not because I want to actually determine who so and so actually is, but because they always contain a deeper view into feelings and thoughts and emotions, and also because they often contain some of the best writing. One writes a journal with the knowledge that it is not going to be read by anyone else, so therefore one allows oneself to be more free and open. That's the way I see it anyway. For example, Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals may contain some of the darkest prose that she had ever written, in my opinion it also contained some of the best.

What would you do if you were a budding journalist and one day came across a five year journal, started by a 14 year old living in Manhattan in the 1920's? You would probably read it, and then see if you could get it published in some way or form. Lily Koppel went a few steps further than that: she read it, went on a search for the author, and once she found her, rewrote those five years in her own words, interspersing the prose with snippets from the journal itself. Early in her career with the New York Times, Koppel was leaving her apartment building one morning when she came across a dumpster containing trunks dating back to the previous century. The building management had decided to get rid of content that previous residents had left in the basement and never come back to collect. Can you imagine getting a chance to go through such treasures? Old photos and clothes and books and letters and ornaments and hats and cards and maps! I would have had a field day! The red leather journal was found in one of those trunks and belonged to a young lady called Florence Wolfson.

Florence was a smart, fashionable, precocious teenager, with many interests, mainly in the usual pursuits of the young, love, sex, friendship, as well as the world of Art that the city of New York had to offer at the time. She wrote of books, plays, actors and actresses, poems, paintings, and focused a lot of her own time on writing and drawing, as well as going to performances and other activities such as tennis, fashion and parties. Her journal portrays a woman of her time, as well as a glowing Manhattan of the late 20's and early 30's (including mentions of the more darker times after the Wall Street Crash of 1929). I was first drawn to the book after reading the cover because I wanted to delve into the life of a teenager in the city during the 20's, but once I started to read the book it was Koppel's wonderful writing that really drew me in. Koppel has the ability to recreate a life lived so long ago into a story of such tenderness and beauty that I was brought to tears in several different parts. For a time I felt like I was actually living right by Florence, and imagined my own teenage life side by side with hers. The beauty of this book is that Koppel added a part of herself into Florence's life, giving us readers the chance to do the same.

Inspiring, to say the least.

More information on the book and the author HERE

Anthrax/Megadeth/Slayer/Metallica – The Big Four at Yankee Stadium

(Note: I recorded the videos from the left of the stage, and the image quality isn't very good, but the audio quality really is. Enjoy).

Music often goes hand in hand with nostalgia – a song will immediately bring me back to an instant in time, sometime very powerfully, and for the space of a few minutes I will be back there, in the body of the person I was then. Often one song can take me back to multiple places, because the music I listen to often comes with me through everything. Sometimes it gets forgotten in a corner for a while, but always makes reappearance at some time or another.

I hesitated a few minutes when Dana asked me whether I wanted to go with her to see the big four a few months ago, mainly because the price of the ticket was a little extortionate. All I had to think about was that I was going to see two bands that I actually adored growing up, and who I had never had the chance to see before. Slayer and Metallica on the same day? I’m there.

I didn’t think it was such a big deal for a girl to be a Slayer fan, but from the amount of comments I got on my old ripped up Slayer shirt on my way to the GA area, I suppose it is here? I have never really hung out with any hardcore metallers in NY, not like I used to in France growing up, so I don’t really know what people listen to anymore. I’ve always loved Slayer, and still listen to them today. Best entrance ever into Santa Cruz with my sister Karli last year – blasting Dead Skin Mask from the car, playing air drums and head banging out the window. We like to do our road trips in style.

Metallica really remain in one pocket of time in my life though. I have never listened to an album of their released after 1991 (the album most commonly known as the “black album” was the last, and I LOVE this album). I have many a fond memory of singing (shouting?) along to Blackened in my friend Battle’s old Citroen, and moshing to Battery in the metal room at the Usine… I occasionally listen to Master of Puppets now and again, but my old Ride The Lightning shirt that was given to me by my cousin John in 1996 and which was a staple wardrobe item during the 90’s has long since disappeared.

So back to today. Or yesterday more accurately. I got a great spot against the barrier to the left of the stage and didn’t leave for the entire show (apart from the time that the lovely guy next to me saved my spot so I could go to the loo). I was never really into Anthrax, but they put on an excellent show, and it was a really big deal for them that they were playing there, as they all come from the Bronx. I really enjoyed the energy, even though I actually didn’t know a single song. It’s really hard to play so early in the day (4pm!), in the daylight, but they already had a good crowd who was there just for them, and I think they did a great job.

Then came Megadeth. They were good, but Dave Mustaine was obviously in pain – he actually said that he was going to have surgery/or had just had surgery on his neck, so I guess he shouldn’t really have been there in the first place. I was never a huge Megadeth fan, but in 1996 Youthanasia was on repeat in my room, and there are two songs on that album that mean an awful lot to me for many personal reasons, so when they played A Tout le Monde I was SO HAPPY. Brought back a lot of memories of walking around Grenoble, being a high-school drop-out, smoking hash in the park, hanging out with friends for hours on end just talking about music and books and drinking beer. You know, universal teenage stuff.

I was so excited for Slayer to come on! I had a conversation with a group of guys who were next to me about how I was there for Slayer and not Metallica, as were some of them. Slayer really have this group of hardcore fans, people who have followed them for a long time. Their set was GREAT, not long enough for me, and maybe a little too obvious, as they played all the favourites, but still GREAT. I recorded Dead Skin Mask for my sister on my phone, so she was able to hear them play it live just a few minutes after it was over too (modern technology has it’s pros in these types of moments!). If I figure out how to stream audio from a blog post one day I will post it, but until then you will just have to make do with the videos I have posted. That cry of “War Ensemble!!” just made my day, seriously. I really really REALLY wanted to abandon my handbag and jump in the mosh pit, but restrained myself. Now I regret it a little… Jeff Hanneman was still absent from the stage, I hope he’s doing better and will be able to start touring with them again. And Tom Araya is just one nice-looking devilish person man. So much charisma. It really made my day to actually see them live for the first time in my life!

Slayer - War Ensemble:

Honestly, once Slayer were done, I wasn’t too bothered about the Metallica show, I really just hoped they would play songs that I actually knew. So as I wasn’t expecting anything special I was completely blown away. They seriously, as James Hetfield accurately put it at the beginning of their set, “took it to another level”. I always find stadium shows hit or miss, but they really made this into a hit, into a real show. The music! The energy! The fireworks! The show!! And they only played two “new” songs, everything else came from all of the older albums. I am pretty sure the set lasted about two hours, and they never let up, even on the “slower” stuff, like Nothing Else Matters, was so powerful. I had actually forgotten that song even existed, and now have been listening to it on a loop all day today, nothing wrong with going back to that place again! By the way, how did I never realize how hot James Hetfield was? Yeah, sorry, I’m a girl, can’t help inserting this type of comment in here. There was a girl in the pit in front of me who was completely into the show, dancing like she was all alone in her room, and she was totally reenacting the way I felt inside – I wish I had got a picture of her, she was awesome! I love seeing people become one with music, it’s such a wonderful feeling…

Metallica - Ride The Lightning:

At the end of the Metallica set, all of the other bands came on stage (except Dave Mustaine, which I think was due to the fact that he was in pain, not because he had some kind of beef with the other guys), and they all jammed to Motorhead’s Overkill. So good. SO GOOD. I’m glad we got a different song than they have done on other Big Four dates. Makes you feel kind of special…

The Big Four - Overkill:

Anyway, all in all, a really great day for me, in all aspects. Brilliant show, many a nostalgic moment, and a LOT of fun. Nothing else really matters right now anyway…

Metallica - Welcome Home (Sanitarium):

The Shadow of the Sun - Ryszard Kapuściński (Book Review)

I picked up The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński while I was on holiday in California last week and definitely need to recommend this one! Not only for those interested in essays on Africa, but also for the pure captivating storytelling and wonderful writing.

Ryszard Kapuściński was a Polish journalist who covered the news in Africa from the later 50's until the 90's, and each chapter in the book relates a different experience. Think the independence of Ghana, Idi Amin's coup in Uganda, traveling through the Sahara with no water, living in the slums of Nigeria, the genocide in Rwanda... Each essay contains fact but also the world from the author's eyes, descriptions of real people, of places, feelings, emotions, colours... Kapuściński never really felt comfortable in the richer, "white" areas, and tended to prefer living and travelling with the everyday population in every country he visited and/or lived in, which gives us great insight into his own personal experiences of Africa.

What I really appreciate about this book is that it is definitely written by a journalist (his ability to outline every experience with historical background that helps the reader get a better understanding about the current situations in each country as he writes about them), he is also an excellent writer. His descriptions of the insane heat of the sun, and the complete darkness of the African nights are palpable.

Excellent read, even if you never really know if he is always telling the truth or not (read this interesting article on that exact subject).