Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Basically, you're less of a slag if you're rich.
Great Xmas message, Harvey Nic. Thanks a bunch.

I particularly enjoy the girl at the bus stop stuffing her face.
But I have to admit the gold plissé dress is quite cute!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family and loved ones.
A very happy Christmas to you all!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

It's About That Time!

As always, cataloguing 2011’s best albums was no easy task, particularly because I haven’t listened to most of the essential records that have been receiving rave reviews (St. Vincent‘s Strange Mercy, Bombay Bicycle Club's A Different Kind Of Fix, Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, Florence & The Machine’s Ceremonials, Noah and the Whale’s Last Night on Earth… the “unlistened list” goes on and on).

Still, keeping up with traditions, here are my Top 20 Albums of 2011, in no particular order.

(Quick note: I have to thank my BF for giving me most of these records. He’s pretty much my music dealer and deserves due recognition, as he’s provided for most of my 2011 soundtrack. Thank you! Love you!)

1. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake

As most girls my age, I grew up adoring PJ Harvey: she was – and still is – the coolest thing ever. Edgy and oddly beautiful, she’s truly groundbreaking and genuine. She doesn’t write or sound like anyone but herself.
I was deeply intrigued by To Bring You My Love, my first PJ Harvey album, and found it difficult yet brilliant. Is This Desire was for a long time my favourite and I remember the thrill of buying the same t-shirt Polly Jean’s wearing on the album’s cover: I wore that top so many times the picture of the lips eventually washed out. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea was pretty much the confirmation that this woman was nothing short of a genius (that duet with Thom Yorke? Heavenly!) and White Chalk, although under-appreciated, was the perfect set-up for what most critics have considered the best album of 2011: Let England Shake.
Summing up PJ Harvey’s 8th album as a cross between an homage to her homeland (with oh-so-British songtitles such as The Last Living Rose, England and The Glorious Land) and a war-record may seem odd and nonsensical but that’s pretty much what Let England Shake is: a concept album with references to all sorts of battles (from Anzac’s siege of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire to World War I, without forgetting Iraq). The songs are vivid portraits of struggle and conflict, with a strong political and historical undertone which made Polly Jean worthy of sharing the floor with David Cameron on Andrew Marr’s political talk show.
An album like you’ve never heard. And that’s why you’ll love it.

2. Feist, Metals

I love Leslie Feist, I really do: I’ve been a loyal fan since her early Broken Social Scene days and her Monarch debut, so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to hearing Metals.
Recorded in California's Big Sur with minimal post-production, Metals has a genuine, gritty almost acoustic feel to it, filled with rattles and thumps, breaths and handclaps. It’s raw, in a beautiful way.
Although I won’t say I was disappointed with Metals, Feist’s prior record The Reminder seems impossible to top and, admittedly, I had impossibly high expectations which weren’t, unfortunately, met.

3. Metronomy, The English Riviera

I mentioned these British beaus a few weeks ago and already hinted to their high ranking in this year’s Best Albums list.
A cross between an anthem to the British Summer (the record opens to the sound of cawing seagulls) and a soundtrack to a John Hughes film, The English Riviera is an incredibly clever album, with witty lyrics, sweet synths, sexy basslines and, overall, just really good vibes.

4. Alex Turner, Submarine EP

My favourite Artic Monkey songs are the folky, soppy love ballads, so when Alex Turner made a record solely composed of these sweet tunes, I was over the moon. Listening to this on a rainy Sunday, curled on the couch under a merino wool blanket, flipping through a book: pure bliss. And, as mentioned here before, the movie ain’t bad either.

5. James Blake, James Blake

Not since Burial’s Untrue back in 2007 have I been this keen on dubstep. James Blake is one talented boy who can write and compose eerily beautiful songs, set an out-of-this-world atmosphere and deliver stunning vocals. Although it has this ghostly, chilling undertone, Blake’s homonymous debut is warm and soothing. Plus, he shot to fame covering a Feist song so that alone deserves some serious brownie points!

6. Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I adore Justin Vernon. I mean, he could take a dump in MP3 format and I'd probably still buy, listen and love it. But, just as with Feist’s Metals, expectations were sky high for Bon Iver’s homonymous record and, when compared to For Emma, Forever Ago, possibly the most perfect album ever made when Justin disappeared into the snowy woods to nurse a broken heart, Bon Iver falls a bit short.
Still, the record stays true to Vernon’s soulful lyrics, gloomy melodies and eerie arrangements. As soothing as honey tea and a sweet ointment, the album unfolds as a sort of dreamlike journey (each song title is a place, real or imagined) on winding roads over snowing forests and shiny lakes. National Geographic gone hipster, if you will.

7. White Denim, D

I shamefully only discovered this Austin-quartet earlier this year but this record was such a pleasant surprise I had to include it in my best of 2011.
Somewhere between country and folk, with a touch of tropicalia and high-pitches, D was a real cheer-upper and overall really fun record.

8. The Strokes, Angles

After a not-so-great solo album, Julian Casablanca has thankfully joined the rest of the gang and created a fun, catchy album that reminds me so much of this summer I can almost smell sunscreen when I listen to Under Cover of Darkness. Although Angles lacks the hard-core head-banging rock songs that characterize the early Stroke, I think the pop influence is, paradoxically, what makes this record so special.

9. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes

This sombre Swede has hit a home run with her sophomore record Wounded Rhymes, charged with heart-broken and –breaking lyrics and melancholic melodies that make you want to sway your arms around and drop your body whilst you mumble the song with your eyes closed. Or maybe that’s just me…

10. Jamie Woon, Mirrorwriting

Jamie Woon’s haunting rendition of the old American spiritual Wayfaring Stranger, remixed by the one and only king of dubstep Burial, really sets the tone for this dark, earthy debut album. The hit single Night Air samples wicker chairs and Cornish pebbles: it doesn’t get much more organic than this.

11. Foster The People, Torches

Poor reviews let this L.A. trio fall under the radar but I have to admit really enjoy this album. It’s a no-brainer, straight up catchy pop. It was the perfect summer soundtrack with its clappy rhythms and sing-along lyrics: it may not be as nerdy or obscure as Tom Waits, at least it won’t make you want to pull a shotgun to your temple. Dance away your blues, my children!, and surrender to easy, breezy commercial pop: it will do you good!

12. Beyoncé, 4

Quite a surprising follow up to I Am… Sasha Fierce, 4 is a much calmer record, heavy on R&B and ballads. Although I don’t like most of Beyoncé’s pre-baby album, the few songs I do like, I really, really like – the irresistible dancehall anthem Countdown, the über-soppy ballad 1+1 and the incredible Love on Top – make 4 worthy of a high spot in our best of 2011.

13. Arctic Monkeys, Suck It and See

I think many die-hard Arctic Monkeys were disappointed with this album which abandoned their rocker darkness for wistful pop. Although Brick by Brick and other singles off Suck It And See are undeniably rock, this album values melodies over riffs and Alex Turner's clever wordplay and brilliant lyrics.

14. Wolf Gang, Suego Faults

LSE drop out Max McElligott has been dubbed both the new Byrne and Bowie. He’s great, no doubt, but I wouldn’t set the stakes that high… yet. But Suego Faults is a brilliant debut record. MGMT-producer Dave Fridmann’s touch is undeniable: catchy melodies, dancing tunes and strong choruses, it’s all there.

15. Other Lives, Tamer Animals

Described as a cross between Fleet Foxes and Radiohead, this Oklahoma quintet is one of my favourite discoveries this year: dreamy melodies, majestic orchestration, ethereal harmonies and haunting, sighing falsettos, their songs are epic without being over the top. It’s simply a beautiful record.

16. Cults, Cults
There’s a whole bunch of Phil Spector-inspired boy/girl duos this year: Jenny and Johnny, She & Him, below mentioned Summer Camp… and Cults. This adorable NYU couple, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, hit it big with their sensation Go Outside: it’s a great introduction to their homonymous debut, loaded with sweet, catchy tunes that transport you to an innocent 1960s prom-night. What’s not to love?

17. Summer Camp, Welcome To Condale

I guess if Instagram were a song, it would definitely sound like this London duo. Inexhaustibly compared to above mention Cults, Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley’s debut can also be described as retro pop, heavy on nostalgic synths and catchy lyrics. Their homage to the eighties goes as far as sampling Kelly LeBrock in John Hughes' Weird Science.

18. The Tree Of Life, OST

This is cheating a bit because the actual soundtrack of The Tree of Life only has Alexandre Desplat’s score which is shot-yourself-in-between-the-eyes boring. The tracks and songs, however, borrowed for The Tree of Life are a selection of the most beautiful masterpieces ever composed. Far from being a connoisseur, I do have a nerdy obsession with opera and French classical composers (I blame ballet) so The Tree of Life was all the more a treat.
19. Washed Out, Within and Without

Ernest Greene picked his band’s name very wisely, as it accurately describes its sun-bleached, hazy and nostalgic sounds.
With a distinctive, repetitive keyboard-based tunes – much like Memory Tapes, Neon Indian or Toro Y Moi – Within and Without is sort of really good background music: it won’t exactly stop you in your motions but you’ll find yourself happily swaying to the soft, soporific, summery synths. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ll agree, but I certainly enjoyed it enough for the 2011 honour role.
20. Adele, 21

This album has been so over-hyped, I feel like punching a baby at the first notes of Someone Like You, that’s how much it gets so much on my nerves.
Still, rationally, I have to admit it is a pretty damn good album, with clever lyrics, beautiful arrangements and, most of all, incredible vocals. Just go hide somewhere for a long while, Adele, so we can miss and appreciate you.

Which were your picks?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Watcha Readin'? Part 3 - Holiday Edition

Because Christmas’ just around the corner, it’s going to be a festive Watcha Readin’, so deck the blogs with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, 'tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dr. Seuss
Along with nappies, dummies and Gaviscon, I believe no child should be without Dr. Seuss’ complete works and parents should worry more about buying Green Eggs and Ham rather than the latest edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care.
American author Dr. Seuss revolutionized children’s literature in the 1950s and opened the gateway to fun and easy yet instructive children’s books. He understood that there is so much more to young literature than just easy vocabulary and basic plots: these books need to be fun! When you’re a kid, everything you do needs to be fun, otherwise you won’t do, simple as that. That’s just how their tiny, manipulative brains work. Tell a child to clean up his toys because he has to, he’ll pick up one when you’re in the room but the second you turn your back, they’ll just sod off and go do something incredibly dangerous. But if you tell them it’s a secret game, the little guy will have the room spick and span in under two minutes. It’s the same with reading: Anne of Green Gables is lovely and all but you’ll need a bit more than the misadventures of a red-headed orphan to get kids reading from a young age.
In this aspect, Dr. Seuss was nothing short of a genius. With a combination of simple vocabulary, imaginative drawings, witty plots, quirky rhymes and easy-to-remember metrics, his books were enjoyed equally by first-time reader as by older children who could already read on their own.
I’ve given both my one-year-old and three-year-old nephews a couple of Dr. Seuss’ classics and I tend to subtly sway them to pick these over their other bedtimes stories simply because they are such a joy to read, no matter how old you are.
A Dartmouth graduate and Oxford drop out, Theodor Seuss Geisel worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, a political cartoonist for a NYC newspaper and, during World War II, he worked in an animation department of the U.S Army (don’t you just love how massive the US Army is that they actually have an animation department?). It wasn’t until 1937 that Dr. Seuss published his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and up to his death in 1991, he published over 40 books, including Horton Hatches the Egg in 1940, The Cat In the Hat in 1957, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham, my personal favourite, both in 1960.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! which, sadly, most children will associate to Ron Howard’s film starring Jim Carrey, was first published in 1957 and is arguably the sweetest, wittiest books about Christmas, with an obvious (yet often forgotten) moral which children and adults alike need very much to be reminded about this time of year.
The Grinch, a bitter, ugly, green creature, with shoes too tight and a heart two sizes too small, is a recluse who lives in a cave with Max, his faithful dog, on a snowy mountain top overlooking the merry town of Whoville, home to the adorable and warm-hearted Whos.
Whilst Whoville cheerfully and, to Grinch’s annoyance, noisily carry out the Christmas festivities, miserable, mean old Grinch, unable to understand the Whos' happiness, makes plans to descend on the town and, dressed up as Santa, steal all their presents and decorations, thus depriving the quaint village of any Christmas fun. Although the raid is a success, the Whos celebrate Christmas all the same, even with no gifts or decorations.
Grinch then realizes that Christmas is more than just gifts and presents: ““Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!””. Touched by this, his heart grows three sizes larger: he returns all the presents and decorations and is warmly welcomed into the community of the Whos.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Although a Classic on its own, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was clearly influenced by the ultimate Christmas class and must-read at this time of year: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
First published in December 1843, A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a sour, stingy, selfish man who, on Christmas Eve, is haunted by the supernatural visits of his dead business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come,
Marley's ghost warns Scrooge that, in order to avoid a miserable afterlife like Marley’s suffering, he needs to change his ways and let kindness and compassion in his cold, pinched heart.
Then the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to the nostalgic and moving scenes of his boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was innocent and uncorrupted by greed and egoism.
The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, awakens Scrooge’s sense of responsibility and solidarity by taking him to several festive settings, including a joyous market of people buying food for Christmas dinner and the happy family feast of Scrooge's poor, under-paid employee, Bob Cratchit.
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come haunts Scrooge with dire visions of his future – namely his neglected and untended grave – if Scrooge doesn’t learn and act upon what he has witnessed during that Christmas Eve.
Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart: he spends Christmas day with his nephew's family, after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit family for Christmas dinner.
Transformed overnight, the kind, generous and compassionate Scrooge embodies the spirit of Christmas.
Celebrated as a great influence in rejuvenating old English Christmas traditions, despite being a story of hope, kindness and joy, A Christmas Carol is much more than a Christmas tale but, as all Dickens’ work, it’s an incredible account of the darkness and despair which characterized mid-19th century England.

I like re-reading A Christmas Carol at this time of year, to focus on what really matters. It’s outrageously cliché, I realize that, but the moral of both Dickens and Dr. Seuss’ stories need very much be reminded to everyone of us.
I’m not a fan of Christmas: I hate shopping at this time of year (I do all my X-Mas shopping online and months ahead of time); I hate the cold, dark days of December; I hate the forced joy we all insist on faking through office Christmas parties (is there anything worse?) and afternoon-long TV specials when even the worse of the money-grabbing, covetous pigs take time for a 158th cover of “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time At All?”. I hate what Christmas has become.

I’m aware this is a monstrous commonplace but Christmas is so far from Christianity, it’s frightful: Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus, the German Christmas tree, the turkey and, of course, the outrageous and furious shopping sprees, endless adverts on television, catalogues through the mail and in-your-face all-out decorations in shops… What on earth does any of this have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? And, no disrespect to Jesus’ birthday, we all love our slice of cake and party hat when it’s our b-day, sipping Bacardi and what not, but Christmas isn’t even the most important religious holiday. It’s Easter, in case you’re wondering, along with the Assumption of Our Lady on August 15th, so let’s not even pretend all this fuss is because of our religious beliefs.
It’s commercial, pure and simple.
So, step aside from the cacophony of money-grabbing machine which society becomes this time of year, pick up A Christmas Carol or How The Grinch Stole Christmas and you’ll see, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Enjoy. And Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Sh*t Girls Say - Ep. 2

It's funny because it's true.

All I Want For Christmas...

... are any of these darlings!

Casios and G-Shocks are soooo last season and I need a wrist watch ASAP.
This little beauty will do just fine.

This amazing golden Lomo!

Céline's Boston Tote for day and this Prada tell-all clutch for night, please.


Cat-eye sunnies.

This adorable ASOS frock.

What a combo!
This sweetheart skirt and that wooly sweater is perfection.

Jessica Alba's look in full, perfect for Christmas Eve.
Everything from the glitz to the cute hair-do.

So, please do feel generous! Because after all, Christmas is all about giving, right?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Sh*t Girls Say

I've seen this half a dozen times and still laugh out loud each time.
Other than being Juliette Lewis' buddy with twinsy bracelets, this could be me.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Evil Twin Supports The Beauty Routine - Part 8

How happy am I to be back on TBR?!
V E R Y!
Check it out here!

Christopher Hitchens (1949 - 2011)

I'm not that I'm apologizing about this but... still... I feel bad.

Class Actress

Brooklyn’s singer-songwriter Elizabeth Harper’s new act, Class Actress, is quite a change from a capella web-only cover-band Girl Crisis, where she sings along side the sweet and soft vocals of several other leading ladies, such as Caroline Polachek from Chairlift and Erika Spring-Forster of Au Revoir Simone.
When you listen to Class Actress’ debut album, Rapprocher, released in October on Car Park (home to Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi and Beach House), it’s pretty much like setting a time machine to London in 1981: with a sound that could be described as lo-fi New Wave, the oh-so-80s heartbreaking, melodramatic lyrics walking hand in hand with catchy electronic tunes will crimp your hair right, broaden your shoulder pads and have you campaigning for Reagan.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


There may be no such thing as perfection but these are pretty damn close.

The stunning Erika Labanauskaite.

Natalie needs no introduction.

Grace Kelly's white frock in To Catch A Thief.

Keira Knightley's green gown in Atonement.

Gone With The Wind aka. the greatest film with the greatest heroine. Ever.

Mad Men... And hot men on bikes.

Best friends.

Me and my BF on a lazy sunny morning.

Audrey Hepburn + Hubert de Givenchy + Paris = P E R F E C T I O N!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Misery Bear: When Depression Makes You Laugh

Misery Bear, a depressed, lonesome, suicidal teddy with anger management issues, is the furry little star of a series of short films commissioned by the BBC, directed by Chris Hayward and Nat Saunders. It’s so impossibly adorable you won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Back From London

Back from a week in London and missing it already, despite the bitter cold and 4pm sundown.
I was pretty short on time and cash this time round so I didn’t get to do much. The Da Vinci exhibition was sold out and daily tickets required very and many long hours of cueing I couldn’t afford. Basically a couple of hours at Waterstones and browsing through Vanity Fair at Heathrow on my way back were are as intellectual as I got.
Most of high street was already on sale but, as always, I managed to pick out the only items that were not on sale or stuff that even with a decent discount cost the equivalent of Switzerland’s GDP, so… no shopping.
I did however find out a couple of new eating joints which I highly recommend: Comptoir Libanais off South Kensington (thanks F. and S.!) and Racine in Knightsbridge which is possibly the best French restaurant I’ve ever been to (thanks W. and C.!).
Anyway, holidays are over (boo!) so posts will resume as normal (yay!).