SAPPY NEW YEAR | 5th January, MMXVII

Well hello there esteemed readers, welcome back to a fresh and shiny new solar year, called 2017!

I really do hope everyone has had a chance to spend happy and healthy holidays with their loved ones, whichever festivities one may adhere to. I had some fantastic time off at home and skiing on the Swiss Alps. I also got the best Christmas present I’ve ever received in form of a kickass necklace with two splendid pendants that represent two of my biggest passions in life and for that matter the whole single reason why I started this site in the first place (read this if you’d like to know more about it, + pic of said best Christmas present below). Before we go any further, I’d also like to take the occasion to wish every single one of you a wonderful and passionate new year from the whole team at Everything Must Swing, which in all true honesty it’s just me, no one else really. Nonetheless, I would like for everyone’s onboarding on the new collection of 365 days into a single unity to be as passionate and inspiring as possible, and therefore I thought I’d come up with scattered bits and pieces listing some of the things that are getting me excited during the first days of 2017.

First of all, do yourself a favour and give a listen to the whole Frank Ocean‘s discography. It’s not immense, it starts with his debut mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA. (retrievable almost anywhere on the web with free download) and ends up with his latest, long-awaited LP Blonde that came out in August last year. In between these there’s the critically acclaimed first sensation studio album Channel ORANGE (released in 2012) as well as the totally unexpected, music-industry Trojan horse of a visual album Endless which came out a day before Blonde last Summer, however still only available through Apple Music. I’m suggesting to take a deep dive into his art because Frank Ocean is a pretty big deal. He used to be (or still is?) one of the most creative and daring members of the highly influential L.A. hip hop collective Odd Future and over time has received more praises and accolades in and out the music industry than almost anyone else in the past five to ten years. However, more than anything he’s a true R&B, soul sonic experimenter who has not been afraid to speak out on gender and sexuality issues as well as brilliantly setting up an elegant and refined strategy to screw a major record label – Def Jam Recordings/Universal, to be specific – through his double close-up release of Endless and Blonde. My personal take is that his music not only transcends genres and formats, but also possesses an extremely intense staying power, growing immensely on the listener at every new play. Try out for yourselves.

Secondly, in case you’re looking for some prompts and cues in terms of movies and television, I couldn’t recommend enough Dan Gilroy-directed thriller Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and taking place in a dark and gloomy L.A. whenever one would like it to take place time-wise. Wikipedia says that the movie portrays “a thief who starts shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles, selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer while secretly sabotaging both crime scenes and other news reporters” and to be fair I think it’s a good description of what it is about. Yet beyond its plot I truly believe that the movie has some of the best on screen dialogues and cinematography around, and while it was released quite some time ago already, appears to remain more relevant than ever theme-wise hinting at modern society’s perverse and twisted relationship with breaking news as well as a long lasting crisis of contemporary journalism. Also, it’s no surprise given the excellence of the script and some of the exchanges in the movie that the producers even decided to release the movie script in full on the Interweb. Definitely worth a watch/read if you too like me enjoy dope convos, double meanings, and lightened lines while at the same time not sacrificing an engaging and suspenseful plot.

Third, this time moving to the literary dimension, I currently find myself deep in the reading of American author James Franco’s Actors Anonymous novel, published in 2013 and tracing parallel (mostly very weird) stories about different (mostly very troubled) actors in California. The semi-autobiographical book deploys heavy name-dropping and I believe borrows most of the storylines from James Franco’s own acting career, notably having starred in movies such as the first Spider-Man trilogy, Pineapple Express, Milk, 127 Hours and many more as well as having been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2011. The novel’s tale is inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous 12 steps and 12 traditions by adapting them to the acting world and the Hollywoodian high entertainment industry as a whole, converting the book into a dark, genre-bending ensemble that – as stated before – shamelessly mixes personal memoir and quintessential fiction, not least scrutinising all sins and excesses of those involved in the maintaining of said industry. Extremely funny at times, the novel represent a true and profound insight into Franco’s take on what it really means to be acting and which higher purpose the whole activity oughta serve. Though above all the book might as well be considered a first-account collection of anecdotes, trivia and little behind-the-scenes stories about the world of global celebrities and world-famous actors that might otherwise have gone unheard, mostly because of the extent of shame and mercilessness involved. Or, as Franco puts it himself in the book’s frontispiece: “Hollywood has always been a private club. I open the gates. I say welcome. I say, look inside”. Give the book a read if you’ve ever wondered what happens to big entertainment stars in between movies and projects.

Well I guess that’s about it for now, as you can see I’ve touched upon three fundamental artistic formats (music, film and book) so as to try to not overrepresent the Queen of them all – the sonic one – as it is usually the case with this site. To be fair, there could be other entertaining-escapist suggestions I could potentially be giving you for this rather downish period of the working year, such as a couple of other movies or TV shows I’ve been glimpsing at here and there, however I don’t want to feel like telling you too much what to do and see but I’d much rather give out some initial, core inspirations such as the above ones, from which then everyone goes on their individual journey to find what really enriches them perhaps ending up at a much different place than the starting one. Actually, looking back at my three artistic cues above I only now realise that there is indeed a deep, underlying theme that somehow connects them all: Los Angeles. That is, it turns out that the Californian city of Angels – unbeknownst to me – is the lowest common denominator to all Frank Ocean, Nightcrawler and Actors Anonymous, for many different reasons. Yet, the narration of how and what this comes to be might be as well be outside of the scope of this very blogpost, thus let’s just say that I’ll leave that to me alone by considering it my own personal artistic journey that has taken off out of those initial three ingredients. Now it’s your turn to make yours a reality. Enjoy (not so) responsibly.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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RAIN ON AMERICA | 25th September, MMXVI

The past couple weeks have been extremely intense music-wise for me. On 16th September my all time favourite band Taking Back Sunday released their seventh studio album Tidal Wave, which has doubtlessly been on a loopy repeat ever since, whereas two days ago – on Friday 23rd September – Buffalo, NY, hardcore natives Every Time I Die dropped their highly anticipated and already acclaimed new LP Low Teens. Both made (and are still making…) for a very dense musical listening period which will likely fruit in some form of review on this frequencies sooner or later. I wouldn’t want to give away too much at this stage yet but I’ve got to say both of them offer, in very different ways, loads of interesting talking points and somehow represent new sonic frontiers for both outfits. More on this soon(-ish).

I just really wanted to touch base and highlight a little piece of art by alt-folk singer songwriter Ryan Adams that caught my attention during the past days. Interestingly enough, this time round I’m not talking about a song or album, but rather a free poem called Rain on America he released within his collection “Infinity Blues”, published back in 2009 and followed by a second instalment titled “HelloSunshine” during the same year. To be fair there could indeed be some room for musical excerpts, considering that the 41-year-old North Carolina minstrel recently announced the release of yet another LP in his already incredibly prolific career (18 studio albums and 11 EPs recorded in about 20 years!), provisionally called “Prisoner” and which Rolling Stone rightfully listed among its 35 must-hear albums of this fall. Yet I’d rather leave said musings to after it comes out, due in November, and let Ryan’s pungent and at times thorny verses do the talking for this one instead.

There’s not much to say really to introduce the following poem other than it truly resonates and emerges as relevant as ever to the current socio-political landscape, not only in the USA but other major Western countries too, even though it was most likely written about a decade ago. Enjoy it responsibly:

so dirty
so dirty and so mean
is a rainbow
is a letter-stained
is a blowhole sewer
that’s right
just a touch of little america
in a small town
wishing you were gay
or allergic
to something
anything
symmetrical lines ripe with train machines
like arms
branches of trees stuck to this rock
out-stretching
blowing up fast
through
shadow mole-holes
and
rain
rain rain rain


so dirty
so dirty and mean
hands like a battling machine
like a failed robotic attempt
like an interruption at the movies
like texting your former lover
or future
because he will not stop your nevers
not here
with a little touch of america
at your service door
flags in the yard
dogs in the house
his name above
loose and no growl
little ones go teary and cross
while the plate gets heavy with
cigarettes and lip gloss
and gin-scum breath
and cigarette-tray stains
and a hand gets bit by an animal
but nobody screams
or says anything
the mall dies
so eventually
store by store
the zombies outside they aren’t scary anymore
before the movies went cold before before
and the film backed up on the shilling and trade post
and chicken meat got hormonal and plain


so dirty
so dirty and so mean
little and loud
angry
and effortlessly proud
of nothing
and plain
just a little touch of america
rain
rain rain rain.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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THE DARKER SIDE OF MAGIC: PRAISE FOR LEV GROSSMAN’S “THE MAGICIANS” | 26th August, MMXV

—- THIS BLOGPOST HAS BEEN DECLARED SPOILERS-FREE BY THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS

So go on, read it.

The past two-three weeks have been quite a tumultuous time for yours sincerely, having had to deal with a frenetic and exhausting flat-search in the living hell that the city of London is, the finalization of the Master’s dissertation (to which a separate blogpost may possibly be dedicated, since it’s partially about music), and the adventurous beginning of a new employment in the realm of video technologies. Thankfully, such overwhelming slices of pressing, yet compulsory time have been balanced and championed with some quality escapism accompanied by HBO’s brilliant second season of True Detective (with an outstanding performance by Colin Farrell) and, more relevantly, by US novelist Lev Grossman’s first book of his fantasy trilogy sensation “The Magicians“. Despite having published the first self-titled book of the saga already in 2009, the trilogy only seemed to have reached widespread mainstream attention over the past few years (unless I’m really, really late to the party…). In fact, its extraordinary popularity may momentarily be confined more to the USA (not least judging by the fact that the book seems to be physically untraceable in UK’s bookshops, get it through Amazon folks), although given its potential I wouldn’t be surprised to see it taking over this part of the Atlantic quite soon as well.

It is precisely for this last reason that I’d like to frame the present blogpost as both a genuine suggestion to insert “The Magicians” in your bucket-list of upcoming “must” readings and as personal praise to its plot and narrative. As I’ve already pointed out, the novel is the first book of a fantasy saga completed by “The Magician King” (2011) and “The Magician’s Land” (2014), and it tells the story of 17-year-old student and brainy talent Quentin Coldwater, who suddenly finds himself thrown into New York’s highly secret and exclusive Brakebills College to pursuit a cutting-edge education in magic and begins his personal journey into the good-bad juxtapositional worlds of real magic rawness. I have to say though, as I’m writing this I find myself being only at about two-thirds of the book, and while this of course positively restrains me from giving away too much in terms of the content, I must convey to you that I’m still unable to deliver a total judgement of the first instalment. I know, I know, this shouldn’t ever be done when dealing with literary reviews (blasphemy claims in 3, 2, 1…), but to be honest I really felt this was the right momentum to let you all know about this linguistic beauty. Also, in all frankness, even if from here on out the book really only delivers first-class shit until its conclusion, it would nonetheless still be saved by the greatness of the insights I’ve come to read so far. And by insights I mean the directness, honesty and tangibility of Quentin’s experiences at Brakebills, obviously transposed into a realm of fantasy landscapes, supernatural forces and powerful wizardry.

What I mean by all this is I guess Grossman’s literal and stylistic sensibility that allows him and the reader to perceive Quentin’s adventures as personally relatable as ever, and yet so dislocated from the very realities that shape us on an everyday basis. By placing Quentin’s social encounters, extravagant successes, and painful struggles through the brightest of days and the darkest of nights within such a surreal scenario, the author in fact constructs a deeper connection to such dynamics that trascends their own contextualisation. That is, it’s literally impossible not to emphatize with the protagonist as he goes through all of his challenges at Brakebills, precisely because the things that come to happen in Quentin’s life, from recalibrating one’s young adult self-confidence or coping with life’s ephemeral temptations and disillusionments, are exactly the same ones that sooner or later, and with varying intensities, will cross our life paths too. Some, probably too many, like to draw comparisons between “The Magicians” and Harry Potter or even more hazardously with Narnia, though I really think Grossman’s story is capable of better digging into our most inner selves than it’s the case with the other two masterpieces, probably also because it may relate even more to young adults like me. In this regard, and also ’cause now that I’ve entered the door of the fantasy world I’m probably authoritatively obliged to mention his opinion, “Game of Thrones” bestselling author George R. R. Martin likes to think the following of Grossman’s effort:

“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well as to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children’s book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”

What I think it would be cool to do, for me, is to update you all on the matter a little later in time, possibly after having completed the first novel and having read the rest of the trilogy, which I predict it may happen in a not so distant future given the degree of appreciation I’m having for this. I honestly don’t know what to expect from the rest of the plot, not even what may happen before the end if this first instalment, but all in all I truly believe this is exactly what good reads should be all about. Thus, this one is definitely “to be continued”, unless I get myself invited and initiated into a mysterious and gloomy academy for magic in one of London’s suburbs, in which case, judging by Quentin’s fate, I may or may not ever come back the same…

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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