REVIEW: Rivers Wanted by Rachel Piercey

The Emma Press Ltd
Out Now
More information on the Emma Press website.

Rachel Piercey’s Rivers Wanted is a collection of whimsical yet sharply relevant poems that simultaneously harness the essence of navigating life’s twists and turns and explore the spectrum of human emotion and experience. Through sometimes witty, sometimes serious but always wonderfully concise language, Piercey takes us on a journey through the mundanity, anxiety, discovery and sentimentality that inevitably accompany a life in this world. As Alan Bennett writes in The History Boys, the best moments in reading feel “as if a hand has come out and taken yours” and Rivers Wanted reaches out an exuberant hand to people of many different ages, nostalgically and beautifully capturing moments and feelings in a way that couldn’t fail to resonate and warmly grasp the fingers.

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Top Five…. Movie Soundtracks

I love the movies and equally get a buzz from great artists and albums; therefore whenever the two get mixed together to create anything like I’ve listed, it takes a lot for me not to get up and dance during a screening…

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction was one of the biggest films of the 90s and the soundtrack was just as huge a hit. Quentin Tarantino used his fan-boy skills to score an eclectic assortment of oldies. This movie gives us a chance to hear Dick Dale’s now-iconic rendition of ‘Misirlou’ and others such as ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool & The Gang and Dusty Springfield’s version of ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’. Thanks to the soundtrack, it’s hard not to picture Uma Thurman and John Travolta dancing whenever Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ gets a spin.

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REVIEW: Enter Shikari – ‘The Mindsweep’

Hopeless Records
Out Monday 19th January
More information on the Enter Shikari website

Four-piece British rock band Enter Shikari are set to release their new record this coming week. The Mindsweep is set to be better, stronger and more developed than all the previous albums. Their previous album was released in 2012, leaving a gap of nearly three years for fans to eagerly await the next one. In anticipation of the release date, the band has released four songs from it to gage fans’ reactions. The tracks, ‘Slipshod’, ‘Anaesthetist’, ‘The Last Garrison’ and ‘Never Let Go of the Microscope’ have met incredibly positive responses from fans that are eager to get their hands on the album in its entirety.

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REVIEW: Enemy @ Tyneside Cinema

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gordon
Running time: 95 mins, Cert: 15
More information on the Tyneside Cinema website

Enemy is everything wrong with UK cinema distribution. Technically a 2013 release, us Brits have had to wait over a year for Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy. Being an impatient so-and-so, I ordered the American DVD months ago, and ever since, Enemy’s biting weirdness has been gnawing away at me, and I could more or less see why it has taken so long to arrive here. I suspect the film will do the same things to you. The long wait has resulted in a simmer in the inexplicable, like a Twilight Zone episode directed by David Lynch.

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REVIEW: The Theory of Everything

Directed by: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones
Running time: 123 mins, Cert: 12
From Friday 2nd January
More information on the Tyneside Cinema website

There are so many ways a film documenting the life of Stephen Hawking could be achieved, yet The Theory of Everything takes a unique stance. Based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking, the film captures Stephen Hawking’s inspiring story through taking the viewer on a visual journey following his relationship over the years with his ex-wife Jane.

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REVIEW: Birdman @ Tyneside Cinema

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone
Running time: 119 mins, Cert: 15
From Friday 2nd January
More information on the Tyneside Cinema website

I have had two long nights’ sleep to digest Birdman, and I still haven’t quite gotten to grips with it. One thing that is for certain is that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s technically ambitious black comedy it is so painfully close to being a bona fide masterpiece that it might as well get that label for sheer effort. Its only apparent fault (which I can’t discuss fully for spoiler purposes) is well within Iñárritu’s directorial intentions.

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REVIEW: Hardeep’s Charity Night for Foodbanks @ The Stand

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tuesday 6th January

The premise was a rather simple one: show up with a bag or two of shopping, we make you laugh, you give us the food, we give the food to food banks in the area. I arrived at The Stand with only minutes before the show started. As I bounded down the stairs and through the hallway leading to the venue itself, I was taken aback by the sheer amount of shopping bags. Endless amounts of food, all going to those who really need it in food banks through the region.

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Top Five… Reasons to love St. Ives

My favourite place is the Cornish town of St. Ives; its charm, creativity and beauty make it a very special place for me. I have been going there since I was little but every time I arrive, it still feels like the first time – there’s so much to do in this bustling town. Every trip there leaves you waiting to return and here’s why…

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REVIEW: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Hyperion Publishing
Out now
More information on the book’s official website

Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendesen are stranded on an unfamiliar planet light-years away from their homes after their spaceship is blown out of the hydrosphere, resulting in a massive catastrophe. These Broken Stars is a story of their relationship, as well as the discoveries they make while struggling for survival.

This sci-fi/romantic novel clearly shows that there is no such thing as a utopian society; even though the action starts in a seemingly perfect stetting it’s easy to spot flaws, such as class separation. It kind of makes you think whether we are all actually capable of living in a utopian world.

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REVIEW: Nadine Shah – ‘Stealing Cars’

Apollo Records
Out Now
More information on Nadine Shah’s website 

Nadine Shah’s ‘Stealing Cars’ is quite a simple song. It has a repetitive beat that doesn’t become boring; instead by being mixed with Shah’s seductive singing, it drives the track into having a powerful, swirling, psychedelic effect.

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REVIEW: The Theory of Everything (Soundtrack)

Back Lot Music
Out Now
More information about the album on the official The Theory of Everything website

The Theory of Everything is a story of the life of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, which begins by taking place at Cambridge in the 60’s during his time at the university. The film is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s Travelling To infinity: My Life with Stephen. The main focus is on the love story of Stephen and Jane as his illness progresses; it’s beautiful as well as tragic and the soundtrack definitely reflects that.

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REVIEW: Defector by Susanne Winnacker

Hodder Children’s Books
Out Now
More information on Sussane Winnacker on her website

The second book in Susanne Winnacker’s Variants series, Defector opens to the scene of Tessa, a young teen with the special power or ability, called a Variation, to shapeshift into those whose DNA she has come into contact with. Tessa is currently back at the headquarters of the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities (FEA) recovering from her last mission with her beloved boyfriend Alec. Best friend Holly is subsequently kidnapped, forcing our young protagonist to attempt a rescue mission fraught with self-discovery, accompanied by one friend with the potential to become something more, $150 between them to get from headquarters to Las Vegas, a hijacked motorcycle and no clue where they’re going except the blind knowledge that they’re going to rescue Holly from the clutches of elusive mob group Abel’s Army.

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PREVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time @ Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Monday 26th January – Saturday 7th February 2015
More information on the Theatre Royal website

The National Theatre’s highly acclaimed adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is coming to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from the 26th January to the 7th February. Holding a record-equalling seven Olivier Awards, including best play of 2013, this production has been heralded both as ‘high quality and high tech’ (Time Out).

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BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Until 22nd February

Jesse Wine is an artist raised in Chester who works with ceramics, using traditional techniques for the process of making. Wine doesn’t record his methods, however he mixes glazes and oxides together and fires them at different temperatures with uncertain outcomes; colours melt and blend together and the structures collapse and fold into themselves. Jesse Wine’s final pieces are the result of happenstance, from lopsided vessels with shiny metallic glazes to disfigured self-portrait heads sporting a variety of accessories and hats. Continue reading

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REVIEW: The Suggestibles Impro Pantso @ Northern Stage

17-18 December 2014
Northern Stage, Newcastle

The Suggestibles were back this December to spread their special formula of improvised Christmas cheer. Their variation of the bizarre and wonderful pantomime tradition gave the sold-out house an evening of laughter and naughty surprises, as well as the Ultimate Christmas Message… that Cliff Richard is in all of our hearts. Always. Continue reading

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REVIEW: Gone With the Wind by Claire Morgan @ Laing Art Gallery

Newcastle Upon Tyne
19th September 2014 – 11th January 2015
More information on the Tyne and Wear Museums Website

As I always do when I go into museums or art galleries, I wandered into the Laing Art Gallery to see Claire Morgan’s Gone With The Wind exhibition with an open mind and a sense of intrigue. I had never heard of the visual artist and was, to be honest, a little hesitant. Not hesitant because I didn’t want to see the exhibition, but rather hesitant as I generally did not have the foggiest about what to expect.

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REVIEW: Paul Smith and Peter Brewis: Frozen by Sight @ The Sage

20th December 2014
More information on Frozen by Sight at the official website

Paul Smith and Peter Brewis are best known for being frontmen of artistic indie-rock bands Maximo Park and Field Music but their latest endeavour took them down a totally different path. Frozen By Sight is a sublimely creative compilation of songs made up of beautifully arranged strings, echoing drums and descriptive excerpts from Paul’s many chapters of travel writing. After the release of the album in November, Peter, Paul and their band planned a three-date tour which came to a triumphant and even comedic close at The Sage, Gateshead on Saturday 20th December.

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REVIEW: Cinderella @ Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre

Newcastle Upon Tyne
5th-30th December 2014
More information on the Tyne Theatre Website

It is the holiday season: time to eat, drink and be merry. For many, a Christmas tradition is to visit a local pantomime with their children and to see a show intended for the whole family to enjoy. With my younger sister in tow, I visited the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre to see Cinderella, a pantomime staple. Surrounded by young children waving light-up swords, it was interesting to return to a childhood favourite show with an adult perspective.

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REVIEW: The Unthanks – ‘Mount the Air’

Rabble Rouser Music
Out Now
More information on The Unthanks’ official website

The Unthanks precede their upcoming album Mount the Air with a single born in their own Northumberland studio and four years in the waiting. The titular track transforms a traditional, Dorset ditty and welcomes us back into the musical world of The Unthanks.

Composed by pianist and producer Alan McNally and co-written by Becky Unthank, we dwindle into the track with tempered brass and light percussion soon backed up by light chords and a smooth, local female voice, all of which ease the listener into the world of folk tale. The Unthank sisters’ Northumberland tones offer a brilliant folk rhythm to the song as it becomes more purposeful and our ears are enveloped by layers of instrument as the tempo builds. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the musicality.

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REVIEW: The Drink – Company

Melodic Records
Out Now
More information on The Drink at their Bandcamp page

Sharp guitar riffs, bold drum beats and haunting vocals – three of the things that permeate indie folk band The Drink’s debut album, Company. The trio that make up The Drink – Dearbhla Minogue, Daniel Fordham, and David Stewart – describe themselves as an “odd dark folk pop” band, something truly reflective of their songs entitled “Dead Ringers”, “Beasts are Sleeping” and “Haunted Place.”

The album opens with a steady and compelling beat and guitar riff, reminiscent of bands such as The White Stripes and Fleetwood Mac. However, then the vocals come in and the eerie mix of choral harmonies and the strong guitar and drum beat make for some truly encapsulating listening. Unlike many other emerging folk and indie bands at the moment, The Drink seem to have a sound that is entirely their own that is ever changing across the album – the harsh choral vocals from “Microsleep” are replaced by something softer and more pleasant, making tracks such as “Playground” and “Demo Love” easy listening.

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