Friday, 15 March 2013

Seven Great Pop Songs You're Afraid To Love (And They're All By Girls)

I'm finished feeling guilty about these pleasures. In the past decade, there has been an emergence of female pop icons in the form of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and many more. The majority of men are more than happy to dismiss these ladies as trash for fear of being branded a woman themselves, but I for one, am done hiding behind acceptable music taste. That's right, I'm coming out, coming clean, and it's about to get real detailed.

7. Disturbia- Rihanna

Perhaps the most dominant female force in music today, Rihanna hasn't slowed down since she arrived on the scene at the turn of the millennium, releasing her seventh album this year. I was tempted to include ''Stay'' on this list, the second single taken from her 2013 release, but for me Rihanna is at her best with pumping dance tunes such as ''Disturbia'', a electro-pop driven smash that saw the Barbadian superstar embrace her darker side.

6. Bad Romance- Lady Gaga

I could have picked any Gaga song here because truth be told I'm a huge fan. The American has transfixed audiences since her emergence on the scene with ''The Fame'' in 2008, which boasted such gems as ''Just Dance'', ''Pokerface'' and ''Papparazzi''. But my personal favourite came with ''Bad Romance'' taken from her sophomore effort, and it showcased Gaga in an experimental mood, as she dived into house/techno territory while retaining her pop roots with a pumping chorus.

5. Call Me Maybe- Carly Rae Jepsen

This synth pop dance tune was released last year to huge commercial success and surprisingly even some unexpected critical acclaim. It's almost unheard of for a number one in the charts to find success with music writers and reviewers too, but Carly Rae Jepsen broke these boundaries last summer simply because ''Call Me Maybe'' is one of the catchiest songs written in the history of man. Go ahead, listen to it and try not to sing along. I dare you. A universal favorite and one the finest singles of 2012 without a shadow of a doubt.

4. Halo- Beyonce

Beyonce's penchant for up tempo dance pop as seen on singles such as ''Crazy In Love'' and ''Sweet Dreams'' has seen her become the superstar she is today but for me, her finest moment came when she slowed things down with ''Halo'' on 2008's ''I Am... Sasha Fierce''. The R&B power ballad featured a powerful vocal performance and stunning production values alongside poignant lyrics, and was a major highlight of one of 2008's standout albums.

3. Everytime- Britney Spears

''Everytime'' finds a post-teen Britney in a contemplative and decidely dark mood with this emotional piano ballad proving that Spears is capable of real substance behind earlier dance classics such as ''Hit Me Baby One More Time'' and ''Crazy''. Later covered by Glen Hansard of The Frames (and my good friend Tomas Mulligan), ''Everytime'' is a truly moving tale of love gone wrong and Britney sells it spectacularly with a spellbinding performance both vocally and visually, in the hypnotic video single.

2. Love Story- Taylor Swift

America's sweetheart burst onto the scene in 2008 with her sophomore album Fearless. Taylor's debut featured a more folk-oriented sound than her second effort and didn't reveal the true potential of the country superstar which was exposed through her trademark blend of country music and mainstream pop in lead single ''Love Story'' (and the equally appealing ''You Belong With Me''), which immediately caught the attention of the American and European public through it's sweet, sincere and moving melody which details a relationship during Swift's youth that she compares to Shakespearean classic Romeo & Juliet.

1. Since U Been Gone- Kelly Clarkson

Carly Rae may have defied critics last year with ''Call Me Maybe'' as previously mentioned at number five on this list, but it was American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson who started the trend of acceptable pop greatness back in 2004 with ''Since U Been Gone'', my personal favorite of these pop classics. Clarkson's revenge ballad is a powerful, irresistible belter that was acclaimed by many critics to be among the best songs of the decade. The up tempo pop rock style of ''Since U Been Gone'' marked the beginning of an era for female songwriters that dominates the music charts today, and the reason that Clarkson's debut hit is so significant is the fact that it changed public perception of the traditional pop ballad. ''Since U Been Gone'' made it okay to like mainstream pop music again, and for that, Kelly Clarkson deserves another number one spot.

The Bloody Beetroots at The Olympia Theatre (08/03/13)

It was difficult to know what to expect from the crowd at the Olympia on Friday night- The Bloody Beetroots relatively softer approach on their new material may find a more matured crowd in time, but they were nowhere to be seen here; for the most part, this was the exact same crowd of teenagers that the Beetroots had played to in the Academy three years previously, with the added exception of even younger newcomers to the Italian duo's brand of hardcore electro.

So the audience may have aged since their last outing in Dublin, but had the band themselves? To put it bluntly, no. The Beetroots emerged in their trademark Venom masks to high anticipation from the Irish crowd, and immediately kicked off proceedings with a spectacular light show set to a thumping electro house beat. Sounds good? Well it did for about 7-10 minutes when it suddenly dawned on me that Bob Rifo and co. didn't intend on switching things up for the remainder of their set. Time after time the band cut the lights and turned the tempo down only for the dance-punk noise to pump back in accompanied by blinding lights in a shock tactic move that didn't seem so shocking after the first five times.

Such was the repetitive nature of the Beetroots set that it stunned me they weren't aware themselves of just how methodical it really was. The crowd seemed oblivious too, more than happy to jump around to ''Warp 1.7'' the third time it was played within the hour. Yes that's right, the hour. Having come on stage around the 9pm mark, once the clock struck ten the Beetroots were done, much to the bemusement of the audience who saw their evening cut considerably short. A brief encore did nothing much to convince me and many others in the venue that our 25 euro could have been better spent on something other than one long blur of indistinguishable techno mush for just over 60 minutes.

It's always been a feature of the Beetroots live show that they play with a full band as opposed to hitting a button and letting the audience do their thing, and that's an admirable aspect of their set, but if this is the best they can muster up with or without their own instruments, maybe they'd be better off just pressing play next time.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Side Effects Of Breaking Bad

Critically acclaimed and commericially successful, the multi-award winning series Breaking Bad has been proclaimed by many to be the best show currently on the box and even one of the greatest ever. Heading an exceptional cast is Bryan Cranston, whose portrayal of mumbling professor turned meth kingpin Walter White has captivated audiences worldwide. But what about the side effects of our addiction to AMC's groundbreaking drama? Here are 4 examples of what happened when some viewers took the show a little too seriously.

74 Year Old Female Walter White
In perhaps the most comical of all Breaking Bad related drug crimes, 74 year old Math professor Irina Kristy of Boston was discovered to be running a meth lab from her own home with the help of her 29 year old son. The Boston University tutor was caught red handed in a raid on her home in November 2011. It's not clear how the elderly criminal became involved in the drug trade, but it's an almost identical situation to Walter, the only difference being that Kristy is facing a prison sentence unlike our protagonist.

Record Breaking Drug Bust In The Big Apple
October 2012 saw the largest drug bust in New York history as the Drug Enforcement Agency seized $800,000 worth of meth from a boarding house in Westchester, New Rochelle. The DEA (workplace of Walt's half-brother Hank in the show) worked in conjuction with the NYPD to carry out the raid and arrest two suspects inside the house.

Drug Cartel 'Super Lab' Taken Down
In January of this year, SWAT teams raided a 'super lab' in New Mexico (the predominant setting of the show) which was reputed to contain 99% pure crystal meth, a staggering number that defies even the talents of Walter White (who boasts a purity figure of 97% at best). Police said that they ''obliterated'' the drug cartel, identifying Steve-O Bennett as the kingpin of the cartel. The lab reportedly had the power to outpit 50 pounds of the drug in a single cycle.

Gardai On Alert For Breaking Bad Drug Outbreak
Even here in our beloved Ireland, Breaking Bad is taking effect on the population as e800,000 worth of meth was seized in Waterford last September. The criminals used the drug Sudafed, available in Pharamacies throughout the country, to manufacture their own home made meth. Gardai arrested a 32 year-old man and warned chemists to take extra care in their distribution of the drug in future.

It seems that many of Breaking Bad's impressionable audience have found their inner Heisenberg, but one thing they all have in common is the unfortunate ends they've all met at the hands of the law. Whether the same will be said for Walt at the end of the series remains to be seen.

Breaking Bad returns to screens in July 2013.

Monday, 4 March 2013

''The Hobbit'' Reaches $1 Billion To Join Highest Grossing Films Of All Time

The first of Peter Jackson's planned Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, has passed the $1 billion mark and become only the 15th movie ever to do so.

Released in December, the film recieved mixed to positve reviews but while its critical reception hasn't exactly been overwhelmingly (you can check out our review here) it has certainly seen its share of financial success. It's sequel, The Desolation Of Smaug, is set for release in December while There And Back Again will complete the trilogy in December 2014.

2012 was a great year for the industry with the likes of Avengers Assemble, Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises all joining the list in 3rd, 7th and 8th place respectively. You can see the full list below.

1. Avatar (2009) - $2.7b
2. Titanic (1997) - $2.1b
3. The Avengers (2012) - $1.5b
4. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows- Part 2 (2011) - $1.3b
5. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011) - $1.1b
6. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003) - $1.1b
7. Skyfall (2012) $1.1b
8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) $1.08b
9. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $1.08b
10. Toy Story 3 (2010) - $1.06b
11. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) $1.06b
12. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) $1.04b
13. Alice In Wonderland (2010) $1.04b
14. The Dark Knight (2008) $1.004b
15. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) $1.001b

Friday, 1 March 2013

The HMM Guide To Irish Festivals 2013

Staying home this summer? Don't let the weather get you down, there are plenty of reasons not to leave Ireland in your search for quality tunage. Here's your guide to our very own festivals from May to September...

Life (24-26 May)

Kicking things off this summer is Life Festival, a chillout dance/drum 'n' bass weekend that usually takes place on the last weekend of May in Belvedere House. For those looking to start things early, Life is the place to be having picked up several awards in recent times including  'Best Irish Dance Festival' at the Irish Festival Awards the past 3 years in a row.

Tickets: A decent offering at e160, and considerably cheaper on presale (e126/e138). There's even a ticket installment option offering you payments of e44 in 3 seperate transactions.

Line-Up: Highlights this year include Modeselektor, Groove Armada and MMOTHS. Full line-up available here.

Forbidden Fruit (1-3 June)

Forbidden Fruit growing reputation has led to the ambitous decision to expand from Dublin to Cork and Galway this year, not surprising really considering the immense line-up it featured in 2012 which included Death Cab For Cutie, New Order, Wilco and Grimes to name but a few. Another feature of the festival is the Comedy Tent which is set to continue in 2013.

Tickets: Regular prices stand at e49.50 (1 Day) e89.50 (2 Day) and e115 (Weekend), another bargain for the average festival goer.

Line-Up: Set to be announced this Tuesday with early bird tickets on sale Wednesday, stay tuned!

Longitude (19-21 July)

Rumours had surfaced of MCD's new addition to the festival scene as early as last year, and judging by the line-up announced earlier this week, it's going to be a good one. The laid-back vibe of the announced acts was a pleasant surprise for many who were expecting a cast of Oxegen shams, and it seems that Marlay Park is the place to be on the 19th-21st of July this summer.

Tickets: Early Bird tickets are e129.50 for the weekend and e44.50 for the day.

Line-Up: Kraftwerk (who'll be performing in innovative 3D style), Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Modest Mouse. Full line-up available here.

Castlepalooza & Indiependence (2-4 August)

These two small-time events on the Bank Holiday weekend are great alternatives for the cheap and cheerful bunch of lads who are more than happy to spend their weekend in a field rather than actually focusing on the music. That's not to say the festivals don't provide decent acts though, with Castlepalooza featuring MMOTHS and Le Galaxie last year, continuing its tradition of promoting up and coming Irish acts. while the same can be said about Indiependence, which specialises in home grown talent including sets from Republic Of Loose, Fight Like Apes and The Blizzards since its inception. Both festivals take place on the same weekend and tend to share their acts amongst each other.

Tickets: Castlepalooza are offering a 3 day camping ticket at a staggering e59 at the moment, while Indiependence is still good value at e99 for the weekend.

Line-Up: Nothing announced just yet...

Oxegen (3-4 August)

It seems that the once mighty Oxegen has taken a slight fall in recent times having had a break in 2012 and cutting this year's event a day short. According to reports, the decision to shorten the festival is due to costs such as policing and insurance. In addition to the change of length, the traditional July spot that Oxegen holds has been switched to the first weekend of August, which seems a little inconsiderate towards the smaller events aforementioned considering Oxegen's massive attendence. Unless it's an absolutely cracking line-up (and it doesn't seem so with The Rolling Stones, Rihanna and Elton John the rumoured headliners), this is one to avoid as the knacker parade takes over Punchestown Racecourse for a very messy weekend.

Tickets: Last time around they were e244.50 for 4 day camping, e224.50 for 3 days, and e99.50 for just the one.

Line-Up: Reports were that we'd get the line-up last month but nothing so far...

Electric Picnic (30 Aug-1 Sept)

Without a doubt the country's greatest music event and one of Europe's finest festivals, Electric Picnic is back in 2013. In additon to it's usually excellent list of acts, the Body & Soul arena, Trenchtown Comedy Tent, and wonderful selection of food will keep campers entertained all weekend. Described in the past as the ''Irish Glastonbury'', this is one weekend you don't want to miss if it's anything like last year.

Tickets: Usually e229 for the weekend and e99.50 for the Sunday.

Line-Up: No info on that but if I was to speculate I'd go for Radiohead, Beck, The Stone Roses, The Arcade Fire and maybe, just maybe Daft Punk.

Well that's my guide to this summer in Ireland, personally I'll most likely be found at Electric Picnic, with Forbidden Fruit another distinct possibility while a day at Oxegen could be sufficed if they pull out some amazing headliner by chance.

Stay tuned for HMM's guide to the European summer festival scene next week.