Frankie & The Heartstrings

Frankie & The Heartstrings

To my ears the Sunderland / Durham / Newcastle accent when sung by male indie groups sounds the same. I know this is ridiculous but perhaps I am so swept away by the romance of a NE accent that I totally forget to listen for any defining qualities. Maximo Park were noticeably not The Futureheads because their music was much spikier, but when new Sunderland band Frankie & The Heartstrings came along last year I had a quick listen to their not very interesting debut single ‘Fragile’ and promptly put them into my forgettable, I’ll just listen to the Futureheads if I want that, box.

The first disappointment came because it’s very easy to assume things based on the first things you see about a band which are normally their name and their first promo shot. The worst thing at the moment is every band under the sun sending over some glitzy, polysexual photo that inspires you to click on their myspace, only to discover utter twaddle when it comes to the music. For Frankie & co, there was an awful, although at least not faux-gay, promo shot (see above) but the name conjured up images of beehives, quiffs, a rock & roll high school and soaring strings. ‘Fragile’ totally didn’t tick that box.

It’s good work on their part then that their second single ‘Tender’ is much more exciting and retro sounding complete with point winning hand claps. Dancable and infectious, the video totally endears them to me and the idea of someone who ‘feeds you milk and gives you wine’ sounds like a winning combo. Plus I love a frontman who doesn’t have an instrument to hide behind, yet has the ability to jump about looking silly and like he’s actually digging his own music. Can someone organise a Frankie vs Friendly Fires’ Ed McFarlane dance off please.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29A5jD2Hz4U[/youtube]

(It still sounds like The Futureheads)

I Am Yours Now

During the first few months of 2010, you couldn’t watch television without Florence popping up in the background of some trails or another. Now that moment’s passed, it seems that The XX are the latest ‘trail friendly’ band. After ‘Crystallised’ popped up, much to the anguish of a snobby indie fan, on the 90210 Channel 4 trail, it’s now time for ‘Islands’ to take centre stage seemingly in the position of the BBC’s election advert song.

Handy then, that it’s the band’s next single. I saw them for the first proper time over at SXSW in a dimly lit Methodist church in Austin and it was magical. Now for ‘Islands’, video director Saam Farahmand (Cheryl’s 3 words) has managed to create something very special out of the story of love breaking apart through a delicately changing dance routine. Totally mesmerising.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXNS0Uub80k[/youtube]

Lost Musicals: Paris

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-oEA1sK374[/youtube]

Forget people banging on about going to see Rufus Wainwright’s opera at Sadlers Wells in the next couple of weeks; the real hot ticket comes courtesy of Lost Musicals performing ‘Paris’ in the accompanying Lillian Bayliss Studio.

Run by Ian Marshall Fisher, Lost Musicals is a brilliant project. It is designed to find and stage musicals which have been ‘lost’, either literally or in memories, by some of America’s greatest songwriters. Over the last 21 years, the project has staged over 70 different works and does so with the help of actors who give their time for free as well as researchers and Ian himself who trawls the world looking for songs that have been mislaid so he can reconstruct the shows.

I’m a massive Cole Porter fan and last year, Lost Musical’s staging of The New Yorkers first introduced me to their project. The show takes place on Sunday afternoons with actors in evening wear, on a stage with neither a set nor props, reading from their scripts. It’s a very unusual style to watch but utterly captivating.

This year, one of their three shows is another Cole Porter show and I caught it last weekend. Not quite as sharp and lively as ‘The New Yorkers’, ‘Paris’ was Porter’s first Broadway show and revolves around a marriage between an American socialite and a French actress. It’s the show which features possibly Porter’s most famous song ‘Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)’ and showcases his brilliant rhyming wit that really shines in later songs like ‘You’re The Top’. The show is really stolen by the socialite’s mother, Cora, who at Lost Musicals was played by ‘er off the tele’, Anne Reid, probably best known to me as Doctor Who monster, the Plasmavore, who enjoyed sucking people’s blood with a straw.

The Lost Musicals series is totally recommended and I think now a firm spring outing each year in the diary. Paris runs for three more weeks and it’s followed later in the year by Lerner & Loewe’s ‘The Day Before Spring’.

Better than Steve

stanza0410

I am, as a friend put it last night, part of the Apple eco-system. I have an iPod, an iMac and a macbook. Everywhere I go, I have an apple to keep me connected, but for some reason I don’t feel much connection with the iPad. Using it to read sheet music and playing board games on it sounds pretty cool but I think it would take a bit to get my head round paying for apps. Even buying iPhone apps that are more than £1 make me tense, as if it’s actually £100 a go. I’m sure in time I’ll come around though.

I mention this because I guess the iPad will be to a lot of people a reading device. I don’t like carrying a large handbag, and ones that can fit a book are on the large side for me, so I actually don’t end up reading much (as travelling is probably the only time I would be reading a physical product). There is of course also the Kindle, but I’m adverse at the moment to having ‘yet another device’ to cart round.

Last week James brought a life changer into play by showing me the Eucalyptus app on his iPhone. It, and various other apps (personally I’m using Stanza) are e-book readers for the iPhone. And if your eyes can handle it, are bloody amazing. They work by using something called Project Gutenberg. You might all be aware of this. Reading up on it I’m pretty aghast that in, what, 14/15 years of using the internet I’ve never heard of it. In essence and for this particular use, it’s a collection of lots of works of literature, articles and plays which are out of copyright (currently, books published before 1923). Wonder how supermarkets sell copies of Sense & Sensibility for 99p? It’s because they don’t have an author to pay. These works are available for free and Project Gutenberg goes about collating and digitising them. With an iPhone app that utilises it, you can download from a vast range of books and read to your heart’s content.

It’s an amazing way to really get to grips with classics that you otherwise wouldn’t find the time to read, or wouldn’t get round to because the latest Sophie Kinsella (nowadays I should probably say the latest Abby McDonald) has hit the shelves.

If you’re an iPhone-r, get on it pronto (particularly now Apple have just announced e-books in 4.0), and even if you’re not you can still download material to use on other devices. In any case tips for classics please! I’ve just done ‘The Curious Case on Benjamin Button’ and am now half way through ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.

Thanks Gutenbergers, you’re amazing.