Theatrical Reflections from a Rain-Painted Window

Rain pelts the windows of my Thameslink train as I type this. I’m on my way to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre, and if I was able to see both parts of the play before 7pm, then my review would be up today. As that isn’t happening, I thought it would be worth talking about my experiences at the cinema, and why I’m starting to prefer going to the theatre instead of seeing a film.

An obvious point to begin with is the accessibility of cinemas today. Whilst the one where I live has a few subtitled showings, living with a hearing family with their own schedules has meant seeing films without subtitles (not to mention the fact that most subtitled performances can be shown at inconvenient times of the day). From Marley and Me to Deadpool, I can still laugh and cry at what’s happening on screen, but I miss out on the plot that comes through dialogue. This is probably why it took me so long as a child to realise that TV shows were meant to be listened to as well as watched.

However, to blame it all on accessibility would be unreasonable of me. Another reason is the fact that I’ve always been a book nerd as opposed to a movie buff. Sitting in uncomfortable seats struggling to hear just didn’t appeal to me, compared to imagining the story for yourself from the comfort of your own home.

It’s become a question of time investment. Will it be worth spending two hours concentrating on this movie, trying to hear it? Will it demand my attention or will I get bored? It’s why I now have a certain criteria for a film to meet in full or in part before I decide to see it.

  1. It has received rave reviews.
  2. It contains an actor I like.
  3. It’s based off a book I like.
  4. The trailer looks good.

However, with a play, this criteria doesn’t apply, and the accessibility is better. Granted, there’s still no subtitles (unless you’re seeing a captioned performance) but the audio quality is better. Then there’s the sense of atmosphere in the theatre which can only be achieved in the cinema with a horror movie/thriller or by breaking the fourth wall.

But to revert back to the time investment point, I guess it’s something I’ve had for many years now when you consider some of the film classics I haven’t seen:

Titanic, E.T., Alien, Predator, The Shawshank Redemption, Love Actually, The Great Escape, Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Die Hard, Casablanca, 2001: A Space Oddysey, The Back to the Future trilogy, Fight Club, The Terminator, The Social Network, Psycho,  Trainspotting, Speed, Saving Private Ryan, The Shining, Guardians of the Galaxy, Schindler’s List, Jaws, Goodfellas… 

This revelation often has my friends staring in disbelief and firing me shocked or angry looks, but film isn’t really my thing. Perhaps if I have some time to see more captioned performances, this may change, but for now, I’m looking forward to Harry Potter and seeing more plays in the future.

Musical Discovery: ‘Little Secrets’ by Passion Pit

Passion Pit is a band who always seems to find their way into my life at those euphoric moments. Their collaboration with my favourite DJ Madeon on the track Pay No Mind welcomed me into adulthood, and now Little Secrets was part of my Summer in the City 2017 soundtrack – a weekend which was absolutely incredible.

With kazoo-like electronica that sounds reminiscent of an old Nintendo game mixed with summery French music, there’s a sense of blissful nostalgia which distracts oneself from Michael Angelakos’ slightly irritating falsetto. It’s how the lyrics and vocals intertwine with fluttering synth and bouncy drums which makes Angelakos just about bearable on this track. Whilst there’s no denying that his high-pitched singing is impressive, using this as in an attempt to heighten the emotions isn’t entirely successful.

Instead, you have a track which is worth listening to because of the instrumentals. It defeats the purpose of the track somewhat, but the feel good vibes are nonetheless apparent – despite the song supposedly having a much darker meaning.

A Thousand Words: Summer in the City 2017

At long last, I’ve finally attended a SitC (or Summer in the City) in full. 2015 saw me volunteer for a charity on the Creator Day, and I was only able to attend the Sunday last year. Now, I’ve been there for all three days and it’s been a blast from start to finish.

The first photo in this series which wasn’t taken by me. Thanks Teddy Ebbesen for the snap!

I should start by saying just how wonderful the YouTube community is when it’s squeezed into the ExCel in London, or indeed, when you spot a fellow viewer on a train. There’s no ice to break at this conference, and I’ve made so many friends because of that. Thank you to you all.

The other great thing is the amount of creators I was able to meet and panels I was able to attend. This was also my first year entering the Meet and Greet ballot, and because of that I was able to meet PetesJams, Emma Blackery and JaackMaate.

I met other creators outside of these M&Gs too, of course, who were just as nice. As for the panels, discussions on issues such  as disability and producing a sketch made me want to pick up the camera and film another video as soon as I got home.

I’m reluctant to talk about the convention too much, purely because I’ll be uploading a detailed, bumper vlog about the weekend to my YouTube channel soon. Look forward to that!

Musical Discovery: ‘Hometown (Radio Edit)’ by Jack Wins feat. Raphaella

There’s something liberating about being on the brink of making your debut as an artist. Yet to be defined by a single sound from a breakthrough single, DJs, bands and singers are free to experiment with different genres and styles before that one moment comes. For Jack Wins, previous releases ranged from poppy piano stab tracks such as Good Love to hazy synth and deep house vibes as heard in I Used to Love You. Now, with plenty of singles to his name and a brand new EP, Hometown is a wonderful mix of his past work.

Look no further than the introduction to the track – a series of haunting synth notes that hold a striking resemblance from Years and Years’ Shine that taps into the more mainstream side of the Dutch DJ’s style. Add in some light, soft vocals with a hint of soul from Raphaela and you have the typical low scene-setter to build up from.

As a drum beat grows in the background, it halts two lines before the end of the verse to create a smooth acapella with the vocals and a satisfying drop into the main melody of the song.

Cue the club vibes, with the common underlying bass notes mixed with high-pitched synth. As much as the song’s structure makes this sound euphoric, credit must also go to Raphaella, who is no longer constrained to the calmer side of her vocal range. Now, the bottled-up soul bursts out, merging perfectly with Jack’s constructed instrumentals.

If, surprisingly, this fails to get the crowd pumped or the bedroom listener excited, then the fact that the producer slips in a brief nod to tracks such as Good Love and Give it Up with sharp piano stabs should do the trick. After all, it’s an instrumental element included in tracks by artists such as Blonde and Sigala that have smashed the UK charts.

Yet, with a timecode of 2:40, there can be a sense of disappointment that comes with the end of the song. In amongst all the excitement packed into such a short duration, it’s easy to abandon that sense of structure we look out for in songs (with most songs, we know when it’s the final verse). With smooth transitions from verse to chorus, it certainly doesn’t feel like two minutes, but time flies when there’s good music playing, and there’s always the longer full house mix to listen to.

Musical Discovery: ‘Would You Ever’ by Skrillex feat. Poo Bear

It’s been a while since teenagers raved in nightclubs and bedrooms to Bangarang and Breakn’ a Sweat, and for those who haven’t kept up with Skrillex’s releases since then, the producer’s new track with Poo Bear, Would You Ever, can come as a surprise.

If you excuse the artist’s detour with Diplo (called Jack Ü), when the duo released the club hit Where Are Ü Now, Skrillex has always lingered in the harsher side of the party subgenre – trap, dubstep and so forth. Now, with soft synths and vocal distortions, Would You Ever sounds like the 29-year-old’s most mainstream track to date.

After all, it contains all the necessary ingredients: catchy, high-pitched vocals (supplied by Poo Bear), and a mix between mellow verses and a fast-paced chorus. We’ve seen male falsetto from other, recent releases such as Marshmello’s Ritual and Vice and Jon Bellion’s Obsession. There’s certainly a few boxes ticked with this latest collaboration.

Speaking of Poo Bear, it’s his vocals – as opposed to Skrillex’s contribution – which really takes centre stage in this single. Aside from the aforementioned high notes, the singer (real name Jason Boyd) sets a smooth tone in the verses as well as the musician asks adventurous, rhetorical questions – paving the way for Skrillex to make things all nostalgic in the chorus.

And if that wasn’t enough, then a professional longboarder dances down a US high street in the official music video. Whilst it’s not an unusual sight in today’s videos, the visual cliché keeps the good vibes flowing.

If it wasn’t for Poo Bear’s stand out vocals, one wonders just how popular this track would be. Nevertheless, Skrillex’s exploration of a mainstream sound has paid off, and could well win him a couple of new listeners – for now.

Musical Discovery: ‘Run for Cover’ by The Killers

It’s hardly an unusual occurrence in the music industry: a band, returning from a lengthy break with a desire to try out a new sound, release something different before backing it up with a single that sounds familiar. Yet, this is The Killers we’re talking about – the group behind Mr Brightside who are still full of versatility after more than 10 years on the music scene.

Run for Cover is the latest single from the hitmakers’ upcoming album, Wonderful Wonderful, and follows on from The Man – a track full of falsetto and machismo. This time, however, Flowers delivers gritty and harsh lyrics about toxicology, dirtbags and a difficult relationship with a brand of rock that’s reminiscent of a previous hit (Spaceman) and the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s no surprise either, after the lead singer revealed that “Run for Cover was written about nine years ago for Day & Age but it wasn’t completely written”.

Opening up the track with driving drum beats and intense guitar riffs, a sense of nostalgia is created for fans – and that’s even before Flowers begins the first verse with Ricky Wilson-esque vocals. Then comes the chorus, which sounds both familiar and distinctive at the same time, with the usual blend of anthemic lyrics, stand-out guitar melodies and pounding drums. Whilst The Man offers a more laid-back groove to sway to, there’s no denying that Run for Cover will have fans rocking out when the band go on tour later this year and in 2018.

A Thousand Words: Is it bad to live a structured life?

It’s a question I thought about in the early hours of this morning: is it bad to live a structured life? I pondered it whilst reminding myself of the many tasks on my to-do list (see the picture below), and how much of my life is typed, written or stored in to-do lists, calendars and email folders like the one below.

As I’ve mentioned previously, this is not to say that I can’t handle spontaneity – the career I hope to enter is not always predictable. However, whilst I like to consider myself a very organised person, it seems as though confining myself to daily or weekly tasks only speeds up the passage of time. It’s as I write this that I ask myself if I need to be more spontaneous. How are we in August already?

After reading this, one could argue that I’m stuck in the present. Yet, that isn’t really the case. At the moment, I’m looking forward to attending Summer in the City this time next week and seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the week after that. I also know that come the end of August, I need to start planning for university and that I’ll be going to the NUS Student Media Summit in London. It’s almost as if I’m going through the year, with little checklists along the way.

Now, I know I’ve most likely written about this before (albeit in a different way) but now begins the process of getting the final tasks done before it’s back to university in September.

There’s always something to look forward to.