Music, Opinions

This Week In New Music: Passenger, Nick Mulvey & Ciaran Lavery

The Boy Who Cried Wolf – Passenger (Album)

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The surprise release of a new album from Passenger came after the singer-songwriter published a long post on Facebook on Tuesday evening. In the post, he reveals that his show in Dublin the previous Sunday was his last gig for “a while.” It’s an emotional post in which he reminisces on how far he’s come and thanks his fans for their support, before announcing he has a surprise for them on Friday. This surprise was an album made up of some new tracks as well as some fan favourites from his youtube videos. The opening track is aptly named ‘simple song,’ and it’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Yes these songs are simple, some might argue boringly so, but if you’ve a soft spot for Mike Rosenberg’s vocals & his simple but clever lyrics, there’s plenty to love on this album. Plus, not knowing when we’ll get the next installment of music from the Brit makes it all the sweeter.

 

Mountain To Move – Nick Mulvey (Single)

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God, I love Nick Mulvey. His debut album is one of the most beautiful and relaxing albums I own, I never tire of it. My love of “First Mind” means I’ve really high expectations for his forthcoming release in September and if this track is anything to go by it won’t disappoint. It’s classic Mulvey – a gentle acoustic number that builds in to something uplifting that will warm you to your core. If anyone wants to come experience this live I am looking for a gig buddy for the 28th of September xo

 

Everything Is Made To Last – Ciaran Lavery (Single)

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I’ll be honest, this is the first I’ve heard of Ciaran Lavery. My bad. The Northern Irish man has released ‘Everything Is Made To Last’ ahead of his third album and it’s a gorgeous track with a chorus that builds and builds in to something beautiful. It’s full of life and vitality and I can’t wait to see what his next album will bring. #SupportIrish

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Life

body image.

Recently a few blog posts & youtube videos about body confidence have popped up on my social media. These posts have come from girls of all shapes and sizes, mostly in their early twenties and/or attending university.  They’ve discussed calorie counting and exercising, late-night pizza’s and weight gain, and they’ve all had me nodding along at points. It inspired me to write a bit myself on the topic.

I don’t really want to write about weight gain as I’ve started moving from early to late teens and from school to college life (I have), or about how even when I weighed less I had body issues (yup) or about how I’ve overcome body issues and am now confident because we’re all beautiful in our own ways.. to be honest with you, that would be a lie. I don’t think I have overcome my body issues and I am not sure I ever will 100%, but I am more grateful for the body I have now than I have been before. It’s not that I prefer this body to the admittedly slimmer one that looked nicer in that dress three years ago, but I’ve learned to appreciate that there are parts of my body other people wish they had instead of their own and vice versa. So instead of pining over the bits I hate, I might as well try and see myself through their eyes and appreciate what I’ve got!

As a teenager, my biggest insecurity was probably my acne. As I’ve come out of my teens and my skin has improved it has become less of an issue for me, but it does still affect me. Going anywhere, or even having unexpected visitors, without at least tinted moisturizer on my face makes me feel insanely insecure. Now part of this is down to the fact that I’ve very pale skin and when I go completely barefaced everyone repeatedly asks if I am tired and/or ill (which is just fabulous for my self-confidence!), but I think the main source of this insecurity is that even though I know logically my skin is fine, that anxiety about my acne is so ingrained in me that I’ve developed some kind of body dysmorphia about it.

Even now, sitting here writing about body confidence, I can’t bring myself to actually talk about those two or three parts of my body that I am most insecure about. Despite the fact that everyone else can see my body and make their own assumptions about it, somehow pointing out what I see as massive flaws seems like inviting people to focus on them and make judgments – something I certainly don’t want to encourage! In the past when people have made remarks about these parts of my body, not even in a negative way but more just pointing them out for one reason or another, it’s made me feel so terrible I still remember it years later. This is something I am trying to work on, maybe in the future I’ll be able to write about these things without a sense of (ridiculous) dread, when I’ve begun to overcome them.

For now I’ll make a compromise of writing about one thing that isn’t a permanent feature, but is one of the most prominent body issues I deal with. A lot of girls out there will probably relate to feeling particularly down about their bodies around that time of the month due to hormonal issues which can cause lower self-esteem, spots and bloating. For me bloating is one of the biggest issues I have when it comes to body confidence and unfortunately, it’s one of the most common symptoms my anxiety causes. The more anxious I am the more likely I am to experience stomach cramps which may or may not cause bloating in and off themselves, or the medication I take for the stomach cramps cause bloating. Take into account that any kind of event like a concert, a houseparty, a holiday, a presentation etc triggers my anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder), I am usually bloated when I want to look my best. This is really damaging to my body confidence as you might imagine. I can order a dress online, try it on when it arrives and think yes that looks great, then a week later when I am actually going out, look down at myself and want to cry because my stomach is at least double the size it was when I last put it on! It’s incredibly frustrating but it’s also something I can’t really change, and the more I worry about it the worse it’s likely to get, so the only way I can deal with it is say fuck it!

When I think about it, anxiety is the cause of a lot of my body issues, another one being eczema  – nothing like patchy and irritated skin as a base for make-up and tanning products! But… after a couple of years I’ve come to understand that I can attempt to treat these problems with E45 and spot creams and the likes, but at the end of the day they’ll all persist or evolve in to something else until I learn to cope with the root cause itself. For me that means that accepting my body and not allowing it to exacerbate my anxiety disorder is particularly important, so all I can do is keep marching on and hope one day I can write a blog post about body image and know that I am happy where I am at.

This post was inspired by a number of lovely ladies including Eilis, Eimear, Arden, Hannah & Melanie (video below).

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Music, Opinions

This Week In New Music: Declan McKenna, Foster The People & Nothing But Thieves

What Do You Think About The Car? – Declan McKenna (Album)

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Two weeks ago Declan McKenna featured on my “This Week In New Music” feature with his single Humongous, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his debut album ever since. Luckily, I only had two weeks to wait, and it didn’t disappoint! McKenna has everything you could look for in a new artist, he’s a young artist at the start of his career with interesting lyrics and brilliant hooks. Politically charged songs like Brazil, Isombard & The Kids Don’t Want To Come Home are examples of how McKenna is much more than his catchy choruses and eye make-up, there’s grit beneath the glitter. If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to Electric Picnic make sure he’s on your timetable for the weekend.

Sacred Heart Club – Foster The People (Album)

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Aside from ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ a lot of people won’t be familiar with the music of Foster The People. This is a real shame because Pumped Up Kicks is a watered down version of the trio. On the debut album in which the massive single featured, it was accompanied by infectious tracks like Don’t Stop (Colour On The Walls) & Houdini. On their sophomore album Supermodel the energy was kicked up another notch with Are You What You Want To Be, Coming Of Age & Best Friend. With their third release Sacred Heart Clubs, the energy is still there but it’s definitely more muted.  They’ve swapped screaming summer indie-pop bangers for a more cool & collected, groovy vibe… I guess. There’s plenty of songs I love on SHC (Sit Next To Me, SHC, I Love My Friends, Lotus Eater) but it’s sad to see the band leave behind their roots because they were so good at what they were doing, while being just distinct enough from their peers to be special. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly special about this record, hopefully they return to what they do best on their next.

Sorry – Nothing But Thieves (Single)

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After two years, the British band Nothing But Thieves have returned with “Sorry,” the first single from sophomore album Broken Machine. The bridge has a distinctive The Killers sound (the synth instrumental is a bit too much Smile Like You Mean It if we’re honest here) and is followed by the repetition of “I’ve waited for this, I am ready for it” which pretty much sums up how I am feeling about their forthcoming album.

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Music, Opinions

This Week In New Music: Oh Wonder, Coldplay & Vance Joy

Ultralife – Oh Wonder (Album)

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The eagerly awaited second album from London pop-duo & couple Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West was released last Friday. To be honest with you, I haven’t been listening to it much – nothing’s gripped me. But I was the exact same with their last album, it just grew on me over time. Ultralife is very much the same as their debut, maybe a little bit more upbeat, so long-time fans of the duo will no doubt find plenty to love here.

Kaleidoscope – Coldplay (EP)

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For those of you who find yourself saying “I preferred Coldplay’s older stuff” this EP might be just what you were looking for. All I Can Think About Is You, Aliens & Hypnotized have serious Parachutes/X&Y era vibes. Miracles (Something Special) is catchy & the live version of Something Just Like This has massive feel good factor, especially if you were lucky enough to catch them on tour. The EP is a perfect example of a band returning to their roots while embracing the new.

Lay It On Me – Vance Joy (Single)

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After three long years, Vance Joy of “Riptide” fame is back! The leading single off Joy’s forthcoming second album has got a gorgeous rousing chorus that has the Australian begging someone to “lay it all on me now.” Perfect for radio play and festival crowds, I can’t wait to see what else Vance Joy has up his sleeve with his new album expected to be released later this year.

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Movies, Opinions

To The Bone is a harsh and unglamorous look at eating disorders


(Mild spoilers ahead)

It’s hard to review this movie without talking about, or acknowledging at the least, the controversy surrounding it. It’s also hard to watch it without being affected by this noise. Unfortunately, I think most people’s opinion of this movie will be made up before they’ve even seen the opening scene. For those of you who saw the trailer and argued it glamorized eating disorders or was triggering for those who are currently suffering from or recovering from an eating disorder, you will find moments in the film that will justify your opinion. Shots of a sickly thin body, moments when our lead blurts out the calorie count of every food on her plate, moments that can be taken out of context and used as “thinspo” on Tumblr. But if you look at the film as a cohesive piece, nobody could argue that it glamorizes eating disorders in any way.

For those of you not familiar with the new Netflix movie, it stars the beautiful Lily Collins as Ellen, a 20-year-old woman who’s been in and out of treatment facilities for anorexia nervosa. The film picks up when her dysfunctional family are at their wits end with her but decide to send her to a new “unconventional” doctor (Keanu Reeves) who is blunt, nearly seeming unsympathetic, towards her but agrees to check her into his treatment facility. There we meet a host of characters who are both helpful & unhelpful to Ellen at times, the most influential being Luke, whos dreams of becoming a dancer have been shattered by his illness.

It’s a tough watch, with some brash humour and several moments that make you feel as though you’ve been punched in the stomach. The performances are all fantastic (Luke is a pain in the ass most of the time but Alex Sharp does a good job of trying to make him charming instead). Particularly moving is Lily Collins, who herself has suffered with an eating disorder, and Lili Taylor who plays Ellen’s mother. The script for the most part is good too, although I wish there was a bit more “resolution” by the end. So at the end of the day, what’s going to leave you with a positive or negative feeling about this film is whether or not you think the very existence of this movie glamorizes anorexia – for me this is a resounding no.

One argument for this film glamorizing ed’s is that there’s a couple of shots of Collin’s severely underweight body.  I would argue that it is necessary to show this in the film, that it would not be as powerful as it is if we couldn’t see for ourselves what the illness has done to her body. For me, the few scenes in which Collins strips down are a visceral, visual image that show us that this illness is not about chasing unrealistic beauty standards, there is nothing at all beautiful about the the emaciated, bruised skeleton covered in downy fur we see in this movie.

Some more positives for To The Bone is I don’t think it falls victim to some common cliché’s about eating disorders. It addresses the fact that anorexia is not about thinness, rather it’s about control. It also gives us examples of other eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder and shows us that eating disorders can affect people of all colours, sizes and sexualities. It addresses the issue of art trivializing or glamorizing mental illness, something which ironically, To The Bone has been accused of. In the film, we learn that Ellen’s artwork has been used as #thinspo on Tumblr and tragically, resulted in a girl losing her life. The film thus acknowledges that art can have an extremely negative affect on others, but it also addresses the fact that ultimately it is not Ellen or her artwork that is to blame for the unnamed girls death. I would agree with the films assertion in that regard, and that’s why I would have to disagree with those who say this film should be banned because it may be triggering to some.

This film comes with a warning before it plays and it is your personal responsibility not to watch this film if you believe it might be triggering for you. As for those looking for #thinspo in To The Bone, if this film did not exist there is plenty to be found online, in magazines, on TV. I certainly believe in ‘trigger warnings,’ but I don’t believe in banning material because it may be triggering for some. As I understand it (I didn’t watch it), one of the issues with 13 Reasons Why is they did not provide sufficient trigger warnings for their content and they did not offer a sense of hope, something that may be discouraging to viewers. In contrary to this, To The Bone provides both a sufficient trigger warning & a hopeful (but not unrealistic or fairytale) ending. Therefore I don’t think it’s fair to lump the two together.

I’ve also heard people argue that this film could inspire someone to “get” an eating disorder. Whatever about those with a history of ed’s, I can say from the perspective of someone who has never suffered from an eating disorder, I can not imagine anyone that would see this movie and “get” an eating disorder. To me that’s absolutely absurd. It shows the physical and mental toll the illness has on both the victim and all their friends and family, and there is not a single moment where it shows or appears to show ANYTHING positive associated with the illness.

Although I’ve never personally suffered with an eating disorder, I do suffer from GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). GAD is something that affects my life every single day, and anyone with any kind of mental illness will probably have experienced times when that mental illness was overwhelming and affected not only themselves but others around them. The reason I bring this up is because I think To The Bone deals with this very well. One of the scenes that hit me the hardest was a scene in the last third of the movie where Ellen’s mother breaks down / tries an unconventional method she thinks might help her daughter. It’s one of the most powerful scenes in the movie that shows you the pain, the guilt, the heartbreak this illness has caused the sufferers parent. When Ellen takes her up on the offer, I felt she was doing it for her mother rather than for herself.

That was one of my favourite moments in the film for many reasons, one of which was that I think it showed Ellen in a positive light and gave sufferers credit where credit is due. A lot of people with mental illness will experience everyone from healthcare professionals to friends and family and even strangers telling them a whole host of random shite they think will “cure” them. As the person receiving the advice it can be a real pain in the ass. For one, because you’ve probably heard that advice a million times before and tried it already, for another because it implies, in a way, that you’re just not trying hard enough to “get better.” To have to smile and accept people telling you what to do with your own head or body etc is at times really frustrating and downright insulting even when it’s well intended, sometime we just do it to keep others we love happy. I really appreciated that they showed Ellen doing something for her mom, giving those of us who suffer with mental illnesses credit where credit is due.

Even on the first day of its release on Netflix, a quick google search will return reviews ranging from 5 stars to 1 stars for To The Bone, I am sure many of my friends will have a negative impression of this movie, but my personal opinion is that this movie meant will, and we could do with more of them. Films that address binge eating disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Films that shows these disorders for what they are, mental illnesses that negatively affect the lives of those of us who live with them as well as our family and friends. There is nothing quirky or cute about OCD or GAD, just as there is nothing beautiful about anorexia. And I think it is only through realistic depictions like To The Bone that the wider population will come to understand this.

That’s why I am giving To The Bone 4.5 out of 5 stars. I have enormous respect for Lily Collins for finding the inner strength to confront her own past with eating disorders and take on this movie, and I hope that those who prejudged the film and accused it of glamorizing eating disorders will give it a chance and see that it does nothing of the sort.

 

4.5/5 stars

Streaming on Netflix now

 

 

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Movies

Film Review: Okja is unique & thought-provoking


(Beware – spoilers ahead!)

Okja is Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s new dystopian movie wherein a new breed of pigs are genetically modified to help feed the planet in a more sustainable way. The brainchild behind this revolutionary project is Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) of the Mirando Corporation. Ten years ago, a number of these pigs were sent to remote locations around the world to be raised lovingly by farmers. One of these superpigs is Okja, and she is farmgirl Mija’s (An Seo-hyn) best friend.

As is the usual case for farmanimals, Okja is fated for a tragic end and when the ten years are up, representatives of the villainous conglomerate (think Monsanto) come to collect one of the company’s best superpigs. However Mija, a stubborn and brave young heroine, goes on a quest to rescue her beloved friend from commercial exploitation and eventual slaughter. With a stubborn set to her jaw she breaks open her piggy back and runs to Seoul, determined to bring Okja home.

There’s a bizzare host of characters including Jake Gyllenhaal’s celebrity zoologist (Steve Irwin on crack) and the head of the vegan militia (Paul Dano) who’s commitment to anti-violence is questionable at times. There’s a magnificent road chase through the city of Seoul that is just as exhilarating as any blockbuster action movie and there’s beautiful cinematography that makes you wish you were at your local cinema instead of curled up on the couch with your laptop teetering on your lap (the film will not see a theatrical release in Ireland).

It’s over the top and wacko at times and then flinchingly realistic at others. Most importantly, it is truly though provoking. Moments of comedy and delight are overshadowed by deeply unsettling scenes of factory farming. When you walk away from this movie the moments of comedy will fade fast, the image of a superpig pushing her baby piglet under the electric fence of the slaughterhouse to the escaping Okja & Mija will remain.

It’s a film with a message, but whether that message will be enough to make viewers stop and think next time they’re making a beef sandwich is anyone’s guess. Some might say the film is brazen, aggressive even, in its messaging but it’s not that simple. The film seems to be daring us to look at the blood on our plates, but even our heroine Mija seems to contribute to the meat industry (her favourite food is chicken soup). The director himself has said the film is not supposed to oppose meat, but to help the audience understand the “state of capitalism today” and how animals are treated in the world of mass meat production.

In an idealistic world, Okja would have the power to turn every watcher vegetarian if not vegan, but in reality, Tilda Swinton’s character sums it up in the end when she asserts that the people won’t care what their meat is or where it comes from, “if it’s cheap, they’ll eat it.”

4/5 stars

Streaming on Netflix now

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Music, Opinions

This Week in New Music: Lucy Rose, Jade Bird & Declan McKenna

Something’s Changing – Lucy Rose (Album)

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I’ve done a full review of this album which you can read here. It’s a simply beautiful record which reflects her growth as both a person and a musician in the last few years, much of which she credits to her independently organised tour in Latin America last year. Left with no manager, no booking agent and no label, Lucy Rose took the reins for Something’s Changing and created her best work to date.

Something American – Jade Bird (EP)

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This is the one of the best finds I’ve come across this week. Jade Bird is a young lady with a powerful voice and a brilliant collection of songs to go with it on her first ep “Something American.” ‘Cathedral’ is a smasher. I can’t wait to see where this girl is going.

Humongous – Declan McKenna (Single)

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Another new find for me this week was Declan McKenna, and wow am I glad I did.  This track has a marvelous hook and the kind of chorus you could yell out at a gig or a festival. After one listen to Humongous I hastily listened to the rest of the tracks on his Spotify, which are all fantastic too. Once I got passed how great his voice & the sound was, I started listening to the lyrics.. the content of the lyrics are something particularly unusual from a 18-year-old singer-songwriter. He’s written about the likes of FIFA scandals, the issue with religion and youth involvement in politics. I haven’t been this excited about an artist in a long time, I’ll be counting down the days till his debut album “What Do You Think About the Car?” is released on July 21st!

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