- Great read on the CIA’s secret sites in Somalia from The Nation. Always a great site for solid investigative reporting.
- Slightly cloying Peter Biskind profile of Warren Beatty and the making of Reds. Not a film I’ve ever felt quite as fond of as Biskind appears to, but undoubtedly the kind of film that you would never get made, let alone seen, today.
- Nice mini-memoir of a life growing up with Christian contemporary music in the 1990s alternative scene. Not music I know personally, but still an engaging piece.
- Terrific profile of Bridgewater Associates founder and guru Ray Dalio. Read this article with the thought in your mind that his man manages the largest hedge fund in the world and, further, note the justification he gives for blending his spiritual enlightenment with a socially bankrupt form of finance.
- The best though… an astonishing account of the revolution in Yemen from those on the ground. Utterly superb journalism at a time that is vitally important.
Music: I’m really loving two new records this week. First is No Age’s Nouns, the follow-up to their much-hyped EP compliation Weirdo Rippers. It’s streamlined noise-pop mastery at its best and manages to rattle through its songs fast enough that any sense of pretension or posing never materialises. The other is the amazing Music Hole by a capella chanteuse Camille which expands on the rough-hewn fun of Le Fil and creates a tangible world for her to exist in.
I managed to get hold of two great Jim O’Rourke soundscaping albums (Bad Timing and I’m Happy, I’m Singing, And a 1,2,3,4) and they are proving fantastic for working. As a general rule of thumb, krautrock and motorik electronica are efficient soundtracks for writing. I’m still obsessed with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago which might be my favourite album of the year so far.
I got to see Sebadoh play Bubble & Scrape live as part of the Don’t Look Back series from ATP and that was some experience. The crowd didn’t quite get the concept fully, constantly requesting during the album portion of the show, but the band were affable and in good spirits so they took it well. For the record, it’s a much better album live.
Elsewhere, the new Scarlett Johannson record has a couple of nice moments but is mostly a slightly misguided folly. Death Cab for Cutie’s follows the trajectory of Plans in being good enough but not really closing in on the brilliance of Photo Album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes and their masterpiece, Transatlanticism.
Portishead are reassuringly brilliant and Wolf Parade are spiky but not fully satisfying. I haven’t absorbed My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges yet but first listen reveals an album falling somewhere between the church-hall grandiosity of the first two and the slinky brilliance of Z.
Pick of the Week: Skins Series 2 – Slim-ish pickings this week I’m afraid so Skins gets top billing. It’s probably all worth it though for the first episode which features an amazing modern dance routine by Maxxie and Bill Bailey dancing with a dog.
Ashes to Ashes Season 1 – A moderately disappointing follow-up to Life on Mars which is really only worth it to again appreicate the irrepressible brilliance of Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt.
Charlie Wilson’s War – Fumbled political satire with great turns from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks but an embarrassingly bad one from Julia Roberts.
Shrooms – Irish rural teen horror movie. Looks pretty awful.
Bonnie and Clyde – A 40th Anniversary edition of the utterly-classic birth of New Hollywood.
The Orphanage – Solid and effective ghost story if somewhat overrated in the scare department.
Youth Without Youth – Francis Ford Copolla’s indifferently received, ambitious work.