Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Dylan receives Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan has recently celebrated his 71st birthday last week and is still receiving praise for his activist lyrics and musical anthems. President Obama awarded Dylan a Medal of Freedom yesterday, the highest civilian honour in the US. He was one of thirteen who have impacted the nation, and moved people with their words and inspiring actions - (and the only one who wore sunglasses during the ceremony...). Dylan drew crowds in the early 60s with his innovative music, thought-provoking lyrics and unique nasal voice.

Earlier this year, dozens of international artists collaborated on a tribute album Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan. The four-CD compilation honours 50 years of Amnesty International, and 50 years of Dylan's music. It spreads over a variety of genres, with musicians from Lenny Kravitz to Miley Cyrus interpreting iconic Dylan songs in their own way. I'm not sure if the link between Amnesty and Dylan is that obvious but underlying most of his music is the spirit of emancipation and autonomy, and his work has paved the way for many artists following in his style of work.

Friday, 18 May 2012

R.I.P. Donna Summer

This week Donna Summer passed away - one of the most iconic voices of the 1970s - at the age of 63, from cancer. Titled 'The Queen of Love' for her seductive disco hits, Summer won five grammy awards and is said to have started her own genre, a mix of gospel vocals and European dance. Top hits include 'I Feel Love', the 17-minute 'Love To Love You Baby' and 'Hot Stuff'.

In an era of dance-floor tracks, Summer stood out with her emotional delivery, songs of resilience and sensuous performances. Singers from all around the world have expressed their tribute, with Elton John insisting Summer should have a place on the walk of fame and Barbra Streisand claiming she had an amazing voice and talent.

With the 2012 Billboard Awards held on this Sunday, it will be interesting to see what sort of tributes arise. Some have acknowledged the close timing of recent singer's deaths - including Whitney Houston's to the VMAs this year and Michael Jackson to the Grammy Awards 2009.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Met Ball 2012

The Met Ball can outshine the Oscars in terms of red-carpet outfits and with a multitude of actors, designers, musicians and models this year's outfits proved to be no less daring. Held annually at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, this year celebrated a new exhibition of late fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli's work - "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations". Long gowns typically dominated the scene but some celebrities took on shorter ensembles and even jumpsuits. Fabrics became more futuristic, metallic and transparent - and this year had less of a feminine touch than last year's graceful gowns. My favourite look of the night was Jessica Alba in Micheal Kors - a bold gold gown that both flattered her figure and skin tone.

Following close by is Camilla Belle in Ralph Lauren- this time in silver with an ivory beaded gown, sheer detailing, a plunging v-neck and open back, looking old-school glamorous with Ralph Lauren vintage collection jewellery.

Two stars turned up with dark, seductive Givenchy numbers- Dragon Tattoo's Rooney Mara in a lace custom made gown and model Gisele B√ľndchen in slim femme-fatale couture.

Tom Ford, American designer, also appeared on the red carpet with super long, super tight and innovative designs for singer Rihanna and model Chanel Iman.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Album Review - "Port Of Morrow" by the Shins

Port Of Morrow (2012)              ★ 

The Shins kept their fans waiting five years for a follow-up album to Wincing The Night Away and although they are usually categorised under the indie/alternative genre, their latest release Port Of Morrow delves into a more commercial, electronica sound. James Mercer, frontman and lyricist, has created a piece full of reverie, unfinished sentiments and introspection, yet it is very much a complement to his previous work and The Shins collection.

The album continues the band's weaving of cryptic lyrics into folkish arrangements and Mercer's voice sounds even more mature. It's sort of like a gathering of songs that ask questions about the world, about disappointed efforts, about personal experiences. Port Of Morrow is a refreshing return to seamless, coherent album listening in an age where singles rule - that's not to say that some tracks off the album haven't succeeded alone.

Rifle Spiral makes a bold entrance with an energised crescendo into Mercer's infectious voice reminding fans of the very reason why The Shins are so popular. It's the ideal mix between poetic lyrics and dynamic musicality that isolates their tracks from other indie work. They also recently released a Hugo-inspired stop-animation music video to accompany it. Main single Simple Song follows as an upbeat track with universal lyrics: "Don't go thinking you've gotta be tough, and play like a stone."

Port Of Morrow progresses into more acoustic, lyrical tracks reminiscent of their old songs on heartbreak and regret. For A Fool is a slow, melancholy address to an old love and September is a dreamy folk-inspired reflection on looking past the flaws.

Personally It's Only Life is a favourite and a great representative of the album's versatility - with some pop/electronic influences but carrying along Mercer's expressive voice and emotional lyrics. It was performed on Saturday Night Live recently.

This album seems to be more sing-a-long friendly, especially in the uplifting choruses! Port Of Morrow won't be a great hit with new fans but is sure to please old listeners.