Seduced by ‘Carol’

Although the Polish premiere of Carol will be held on Friday, March 4, Polish filmgoers still have a chance to see this remarkable love story between two women in 1950s just before The Academy Awards ceremony. At least in larger cities, where the pre-premiere shows are being organised, such opportunity exists. Yet not everyone knows that the history of making this film involved various difficulties that must have been overcome.

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The screenplay

Let’s start with the script and its circuitous route. Based on a Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, the first draft of the screenplay was delivered by Phyllis Nagy in mid- to late 1997. Back then, the film rights to the novel belonged to a film producer Dorothy Berwin. The screenplay was passed around various circles of the film industry. Different directors were interested in the screenplay and then dropped out. The real moment of doubt came about in 2010 when Berwin’s rights to the book lapsed. In 2011, Elizabeth Karlsen, a producer of Nagy’s film Mrs. Harris, called Phyllis and said that she obtained the rights to the book. At first, it was hard for Phyllis to simply say ‘yes’ and go back there. It was the painful road which brought along discouraging false stars. But Karlsen didn’t want to let it go and Phyllis changed her mind in the end.

Directors and the cast.

Before having Todd Haynes and Rooney Mara aboard, the director attached to the project was Irish director John Crowley (Brooklyn) and the actress who had a shot at the role of Therese was Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland). Crowley resigned from the project by reason of a scheduling conflict and so did Mia Wasikowska because of her role in Crimson Peak. Todd Haynes, an American independent director, was reached through Christine Vachon, a long-standing producer for Haynes and a friend of Elizabeth Karlsen. In 2014 Haynes approached Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for the role of Therese, which she turned down before because of her need for a break after doing four films in a row. The film was shot in Cincinnati, Ohio in March 2014 and made its debut during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival held on May 17, 2015.

Plot

Carol centres on the story of two women falling in love in early 1950s New York. Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is a well-off wife and mother residing in New Jersey. In the search for the present for her daughter Rindy, this absolutely gorgeous blondish woman dressed up in a fabulous fur coat, is waited on by Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young clerk at a department store. With Rindy’s chosen doll being out of stock, Carol ends up buying the train set for a Christmas gift. The two remain in contact because of the gloves that Mrs. Aird (who knows if not deliberately) leaves behind.

Unlike in the book, we don’t see Carol only through Therese’s eyes. Thanks to the beautifully introduced perspective shifts, the subjectivity arousing from the point of view is lessened. There are three worlds around us. First of all, there is Therese’s world where she has a nice but definitely more emotionally invested in this relationship boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy) who keeps insisting on taking her to Europe. She is surrounded by a group of friends and aspires to become a photographer. Then, there is Carol’s world that reveals her relationships with her daughter Rindy, husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), friend as well as former lover Abby (Sarah Paulson) and Harge’s family. The story raises another important issue when Carol has to choose, owing to the perception of homosexuality and the sexism of this period, between having custody of a child and being with the loved one.

The third world is the one that Carol and Therese share with each other. It begins with the meeting in the department store and results in a first lunch date, a visit in Carol’s house and eventually departing on the road trip West. It’s the world with waves of emotion sweeping over the two characters, it’s the world that evokes our memories of falling in love or the world that makes us wonder what it feels like to be in love for the first time.

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Each world is filled up with a stunning grasp of colour and light, a marvellous capturing of characters’ profiles through the glass (Ed Lachman), a mesmerizing and touching soundscape (Carter Burwell) as well as distinctive but reflecting the reality of that time outfits (Sandy Powell).

Carol is not just a beautiful film with amazing performances, well-written screenplay, noteworthy direction, cinematography and costumes. We mustn’t forget that it is a project that required a great deal of investment among the people involved in it. It’s hard to resist Cate Blanchett’s words that the commitment to make this film see its daylight and the actual filming process constituted a real labour of love.

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Pieces that form a masterpiece

Instrumental music doesn’t suit everyone. Some people claim that it is impossible to interpret such compositions because they do not have lyrics. Others appreciate the fact that this genre allows a listener to decode the message behind a piece on his/her own.

Elements

An Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi shared with us his newest long play Elements on 16 October 2015. The album consists of twelve elements that form a whole. Twelve pieces which form a masterpiece. Just like many Ludovico’s enthusiasts, I discovered Einaudi’s music from Shane Meadows’ This is England. As I watched the film, I just enjoyed the musical layer. But as I finished This is England ’86 series, my mind was completely engrossed in Nightbook compositions (The Crane Dance, Solo). I was dying to know who the composer was. And that was how the adventure started.

The newest album takes inspiration from elements of nature. It is a journey through fragmented thoughts and feelings. Einaudi says that he had wanted to explore: creation myths, the periodic table, Euclid’s geometry, Kandinsky’s writings, the matter of sound and of colour, the shapes of the landscape.  Inspired by some artistic symbols and drawings, Einaudi decided to make his own drawings and one of them happened to be a part of a cover of the album.

The album starts with a track called Petricor. Delicate piano notes are used as a base of the composition. It’s just a moment until Daniel Hope’s subtle violin and Redi Hasa’s magical cello join in. The piece extends with Einaudi’s piano variations that one can associate with a desperate pursuit of something highly important or elusive. Slightly behind the middle of the piece, there is a moment of serenity. It doesn’t last long, after all. It seems like the symphony softens just to burst out again and affect our souls with the striking harmonic progressions. Well-thought shifts together with a beautiful texture make Petricor an excellent opening of the album.

Night is the very first Einaudi’s track available in anticipation of the album release. It begins with placid loops and gets fulfilled with piano notes. But the moment of Night raising its power is when Amsterdam Sinfonietta gets on the board. Even though not so powerful and tumultuous as Petricor, no doubt Night is a haunting and emotive composition. Drop is given a more sedate tempo. Even so, it doesn’t stop the interacting instruments from creating the aura of uncertainty, anxiety, mystery and state of defection. The marvellous complement to this atmosphere constitutes the presence of Mauro Refosco’s talking drum. Four Dimensions is probably the most comforting and serene track on the album. One feels a flicker of hope in it. The piano in collaboration with vibraphone, triangle, marimba and crotales evoke a stream of poignant emotions.  When hearing the title track Elements, we find ourselves in a completely different dimension. Bass notes lay down the beat. Other instruments (rhodes piano, cello, violin) appear gradually. Again, the piece reaches its pinnacle with Amsterdam Sinfonietta and allows us to explore this beautiful but unfathomable soundscape. Despite the fact that there are some gracious piano variations in Twice, this composition seems to me like another mysterious journey. Repeating notes, present at the opening resemble a hastening, ticking clock. And this clock forces me not to treat it sketchily. Don’t let the appearances fool you. Even if the outset in Logos lingers over, it is only a matter of short time before the real drama begins. Rich in riddles and labyrinthine paths, the symphony culminates in a frenetic finale.

The latest Ludovico’s record proves that he is not only an inspiring artist but also an astute explorer. This album is worth to be listened to in a sheltered place through headphones or in large concert halls. The fact that Einaudi’s music is used in various soundtracks (The Intouchables, Mommy, This is England) is another hint about him being an exceptional composer.

 

Farawell words to our beloved gang

So this is it. This autumn, we followed probably the last adventures of our dearest bunch of skinheads. This is England ‘90 constitutes presumably the last sequel to Shane Meadows’ saga This is England. We might not see all these familiar faces from the film and previous miniseries ever again. What happens next can be left only up to us.

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10 years ago Shane Meadows started shooting the BAFTA-winning film This is England. In 2006 his work saw the light of the day. It portrays life in the early 80’s England, shortly after the Falklands war. During challenging times, when the unemployment in the UK reached over 3 million, the sense of the conflict with Argentina was queried and negative reactions to immigration became noticeable.

The main character of the film is 12-year-old Shaun Fields (Thomas Turgoose), whose dad was killed in the Falkland’s war. The loss of a father had a huge impact on the boy’s physical and mental state. He was hurting and feeling grief-stricken. His life changes together with a chance encounter with some local skinheads. Seeing Shaun’s dejection, Woody (Joseph Gilgun), the leader of the gang, attempts to cheer him up. The try turns badly because Gadget (Andrew Ellis) and Pukey (Jack O’Connell) bully the youngster about his oversized flares, causing him to explode. Woody castigates both of his mates. A few days later he invites Shaun to join them for some merriment in the woods. Before Fields is officially accepted into the group he changes his image to look like a proper skinhead. He received a Ben Sherman shirt with suspenders and has his head shaved.

Woody’s gang alludes to “old skinhead traditions”. It is apolitical and multiracial (it includes a Jamaican known as Milky (Andrew Shim)). The gang is destined not only for boys but also for girls. They spend their time playing football, listening to ska and reggae music or occasionally getting stoned. Violence against people is wrong in their eyes. The worst thing the gang do is demolishing abandoned buildings. They may not be saints, but they are good people for whom tolerance and friendship are of great value. Being in their company, Shaun is able to smile and giggle again.

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Things change with the return of Woody’s just released from prison old friend Combo (Stephen Graham). Dissatisfied with reality and his own failures Combo becomes a nationalist and racist. He delivers a speech on how immigrants are taking away jobs from ‘proper’ Englishmen and how pathetic the Falkland’s war is. This splits the gang into two groups, those who will follow Combo and those who want to stick with Woody’s apolitical gang. Shaun is deeply moved by Combo’s rhetoric and decides to stand by him. Fields in turn reminds the older skinhead of his younger self. The two get along with each other until things get complicated and Shaun discerns Combo’s dark side…

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Luckily for us and for the cast, Shane Meadows opted to make a sequel to his remarkable film. In 2010 This is England ’86 was broadcast on Channel 4. Our characters are 3 years older and they changed in some respects. The spin-off focuses more on Lol’s (Vicky McClure) family drama rather than skinhead subculture. The story takes place during the 1986 FIFA World Cup. This Is England ’88 covers three consecutive days before Christmas and This is England’90 corresponds to the four seasons. With each sequel we get to know our figures better and simply grow attached to them.

It’s hard to say how much does the whole TIE saga mean to me. While watching the film as well as the series I leaped from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. I did cry, I did laugh, I was moved, I was shocked. I was truly delighted with the acting, screenwriting and direction. Not to mention brilliant soundtracks (among others Ludovico Einaudi, The Smiths, The Stone Roses). I have no words to express my gratitude to the people who worked on it and put their heart and soul into it. Thank you and good luck in your future endeavors.

Rehab on demand

Augusten Burroughs’ “Dry” was the very first English book I bought. It was also the very first English book I fell in love with. It describes the author’s battle with alcoholism that includes a 30-day rehab stint, attending daily AA meetings and facing temptations to relapse. Although the memoir is based on actual events, some of them have been compressed, names changed and characters combined.

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The story is told in present tense, from the first-person perspective. Augusten is in his mid twenties. He is a guy without a formal further education who became a “big cheese” in New York advertising. A man who makes a killing without a college degree? Most people wouldn’t mind swapping places with him. But there is one thing that Burroughs has to deal with every day. He is in need of drinking alcohol. Though Augusten remains in denial about his problem and tends to imagine himself as a casual drinker, his evenings usually begin with a liter of Dewar’s scotch. They result, if not in a severe hangover, then at least in carrying the smell of alcohol that is easily recognizable by his co-workers. Eventually, there comes a moment when Burroughs’ employers force him into rehab. Having no other choice Augusten heads for a 30-day stint at the Proud Institute in Minnesota which caters to gays and lesbians.

Thinking that a rehab hospital run by homosexuals will be fun because of good music and sex he faces the reality of staying at such institution. After one day of detox, group therapy and affirmations that include the ceremonial passing of plush animals our character wants to get out of this place. He finds it humiliating and ridiculous. With some time, however, his attitude changes. At first it evolves into a silly conviction that rehab could turn out to be great because he’ll be able to drink more like a normal person drinks. Eventually Augusten begins to realize that he has a serious problem. He makes a friendship with a recovering alcoholic and crack addict Hayden and victoriously ends the stint.

The second part of the book deals with Burroughs’ fight with sobriety since leaving the rehab program. Augusten works out at the gym and attends a group therapy. Things are going well until a chapter of accidents appears. Not only our main character has to deal with the increasing HIV-related health problems of his best friend and former lover Pighead but also he becomes involved in a complicated relationship with a fellow addict in recovery. There arise more and more obstacles that constitute a perfect opportunity for Augusten to start drink again…

I have read three Augusten Burroughs books so far. All of them were memoirs. I remember one opinion about this author that I saw one day. Augusten Burroughs isn’t a casual writer. He is a MEIMORIST. These are words I cannot agree more with. Every time I read Burroughs’ works I am truly impressed with his skill to reconstruct a sequence of events in the past. To reconstruct his thinking in the past. What stops me from putting his books down is the narration. In my eyes, the storytelling equals pure perfection. In Dry the author successfully presents an alcoholic’s point of view. In The Wolf At The Table it is a young boy who shares a story with me. Augusten has recently announced the date of his new memoir Lust & Wonder. The book will be out in March 2016. Keeping my fingers crossed for it!

Here comes Trouble

I remember a conversation with my brother about our greatest musical inspirations. “You know, my favorite artist is probably Trouble Andrew,” he said. At that time, I had absolutely no clue who this guy was. I admitted that I wasn’t familiar with the name but it didn’t surprise my brother. Almost none of his friends knew this artist.

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Then he played some Andrew’s songs on YouTube and I comprehended what was so appealing about him. All of his works illustrate perfectly that you don’t have to be a super talented person to make something truly impressive. Sometimes, it’s all about passion and honesty. About regular practice and being a skilful observer. Trouble suits this description well. With his magnetizing vocal and charisma, he doesn’t have to shout or sing in the upper register. In Andrew’s case the use of a scratchy, soft and dynamic vocal is completely enough. Another compelling thing about Trouble is the impression that art equals sainthood to him. No matter if we talk about music, design or direction.

Trevor’s self titled album Trouble Andrew saw the light of the day in 2007. The most popular and the very first track written by him is Chase Money. The song was used in the game Skate developed by EA Black Box. The second long play Dreams of a Troubled Man was released in 2011. The album was overfilled with various electronic beats and bass strumming. Later on, in 2014 we were given an opportunity to hear four new songs made by Trouble. One of them was an innovative cover of Joy Division’s hit Love Will Tear Us Apart (Trevor entitled his version as Luv Will Tear Us Apart). The musician also made a twisted video clip for this song. The other tracks created in 2014 were Wasting My Time, That Boy and Shoot Em Down.

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It was 2015 when Trouble decided to upload his third long play, namely The Unpopular Pop Artist. The album features four songs that I listed above and twelve brand-new tracks. His style mixes various genres such as electronic, new wave, rock and hip-hop but the perfect label is the one that Trouble invented himself — genre killer. The new record begins with the track Ghost. The very first thing which grabs your attention is that Trevor sings each word of the verse separately. He changes his vocal manner in chorus and the song gets more lively. Ride it out, in turn, is enriched with a distinctive, sharp guitar riff present in verses and instrumental parts. Coming back to the previously mentioned Wasting My Time, it is simultaneously dark and consuming. While analyzing our lives, we often come to a conclusion that they are terribly repetitive. Andrew sings about “spending money, making money, sipping drinks, smoking weed and fucking girls” but those are only examples of repetitiveness. I think I know starts very slowly and is maintained in such a tempo for a major part of the song. It clearly evokes associations with new wave.

My favorite track on the album is Trouble theme with its distinctive bass line and joyous whistle after the second chorus. The composition is dynamic and constitutes a perfect song to blast in your car. The story is simple. There are a guy and a girl. They want two different things. While he’s ready to move on, she wants a reunion. The lyrics start with the words Calling me to stay. Yet the subject’s reaction is negative. Trevor sings Get back / yeah a change my mind / no wow/ find a different man / we’re done. Turning into chorus, we find out that the girl is pertinacious and she keeps calling our man despite his refusal. The second verse and the words “It’s too late, don’t try to fix it now, I’m gone, I don’t miss you around” strongly indicate that the guy is done with this relationship and he simply wants to get rid of his ex-lover.

The next composition I truly adore is “Don’t Go”. It’s funny though, because in this song the roles are actually resolved. It is the subject who wants to keep another person for himself. No, no, no / Don’t say you don’t want me / Save / Won’t you save my life tonight? Stay / I want you stay the night tonight / Stay / don’t go / you should stay / Don’t be cold he sings. Being infatuated and longing the girl so much our subject gives her everything she wants. Nonetheless, she “just keeps walking”. It’s probably the gentlest track from the album.

If you don’t know Trouble Andrew yet, make sure to check out his new long play. It’s definitely worth a go. Who knows, maybe this autodidact will become your inspiration too. Even if not, at least you’ll discover some nice tracks to listen to in the car.

British make it well — Broadchurch

British make it well

It was three months ago when the finale of the second season of a British crime drama Broadchurch was released. Although the first episode brought along very high ratings and critical praise, the viewership started dropping with subsequent chapters and a mixed response from critics occurred. The reviewers’ main objection was introducing irrelevant threads of the plot like portraying the inner lives of lawyers Jocelyn Knight and Sharon Bishop. It is true that some aspects of the series could leave viewers unsatisfied but we shouldn’t only point out the production’s weaknesses but bring out the very best of it.

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The Holy Trinity

I couldn’t resist watching Broadchurch because of three factors. Firstly, by reason of the soundtrack composed by an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds. I won’t deliver a monologue about how I adore this guy. If you happen to be fond of classical music combined with electronic components, there is a huge chance you will enjoy his works. Arnalds’ absorbing, mysterious and anxious soundtrack constituted a perfect background for the British production. Another facet that drew my attention was the series’ form short crime drama. It reminded me of the American series The Killing and the Scandinavian series The Bridge. I was completely engrossed by them. There were characters I was attached to and ones I despised. The cliffhangers made me cogitate on who the murderer was and what the circumstances were. Finally, Broadchurch is a British production. And owing to Shane Meadows’ This is England 86’ and This is England 88’ I have pleasant associations with the British television industry.

Murder on the cliff

The first season of Broadchurch begins with the murder of an 11-year-old boy named Danny Latimer whose body is found on the beach near the cliff. The investigation is carried out by two detectives – deeply reserved Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and truly humane Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). Unlike Hardy, Miller is a local DS. Because of knowing the people who live in Broadchurch she did manage to form her own opinion on them. Her partner, by contrast, doesn’t belong to the town’s community and remains objective. The inquiry is very complex and multi-faceted. Whenever we think that the particular suspect must be the guilty one, it turns out that even though he entangled himself in a shady matter, it wasn’t related to the case directly. Little by little our detectives find the shocking truth about secrets of Broadchurch residents and eventually catch the killer. The series is, however, not only about solving the crime. Equally important aspect, brought up by Chris Chibnall, is a family drama that the Latimers must go through. Undoubtedly, losing a child is one of the severest and heartbreaking things one may face in their life.

The old-new case and the trial

After having found out Danny’s killer, no one in Broadchurch finds peace of mind. The Latimers are trying to rebuild their devastated family when the defendant decides not to plead guilty and go onto trial instead. Apart from that, the series focuses on the old unresolved Hardy’s case. It concerned the murder of two cousins Pippa Gillespie and Lisa Newbury in the town of Sandbrook. The prime suspect of the crime was Lee Ashwort, the neighbor of the Gillespie family. In the second season DI Hardy asks for Miller’s help to unofficially solve this tormenting case. The new characters appear and we can’t be sure which of them gives true testimony. Turning back to the courtroom, the course of the trial brilliantly shows barristers’ methods of persuading the jury to give a specific verdict. The trial lawyers do not hesitate to use hazardous strategies in order to win favour with them. The examination of witnesses is no less gripping than Sanbrook case. The characters exude various emotions what has a profound effect on a viewer’s response. The standout performance gave Olivia Colman whose character (Ellie Miller) is impossible to dislike. I personally wish her wonderful career overfilled amazing roles. She really has “it” and watching her on the screen is a pure pleasure. As I mentioned before, Chris Chibnall introduced some subplots too. It is true that they could have been not fully developed but they stood for a complement to the main issues so it didn’t bother me that much.

Show about people

What I like about crime dramas is that they are not overfilled with sex and nonsensical schemes. Such shows are focused on casual people, their weaknesses, failures and struggles. There are many characters we can relate to because of their credibility and complexity. They remind us of those who are present in our own lives. Naturally, there are characters in Broadchurch that may annoy us in some respects but the fact is that they still remain reliable. Making mistakes is humane and understandable. When it comes to the crime aspect there are numerous reasons for it. Sometimes people are pushed into doing it because of a series of events they haven’t foreseen. Another time, the felony is planned down to the last detail. One way or another both of them indicate the gloomy recesses of criminals’ mind.

Guy with tattoos – Fences

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Original, brave, talented. A 31-year-old musician Christopher Mansfield alias Fences has just released his new record entitled ‘Lesser Oceans’. The album is getting positive reviews and may help the artist achieve high success in the music industry.

I’ve come across Fences because of Sara Quin. I’ve been searching for her collaborations with other artists on YouTube and saw a beguiling portrait of a man holding two leaves in his hands.

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The picture accompanied the song My Girl the Horse. Something intrigued me about the mysterious guy surrounded by greenery and there was nothing left to do but play the track. I heard soft and smooth guitar strumming with the drum synthesizer in the background. Then, the song becomes filled with the melody played on piano. Finally, a man’s voice comes in. Deep and subtle. In the middle of the ballad the background vocals appear. They belong to none other than Sara Quin. The duo’s voices complement each other beautifully. The ballad has everything that a good song should have. Great vocals, pure harmony, compelling lyrics (even though they contain only 26 words!). In short, it got me in.

Affected by Chris’ vocal I decided to listen to other tracks from the debut studio album Fences. I started with the first single, namely Girls With Accents. This piece is without a doubt far more lively than My Girl the Horse. The meaning of the song can be seen as something universal. It tells a story about a man who changes his mind after getting what he thought he wanted. And this is the life. There are plenty of things that we perceive as something important, something we really need or crave for. But after achieving them, we may realize that those matters weren’t actually that significant. Worse still, they didn’t satisfy us the way we expected. The next single on the album is The Same Tattoos. Again, the leading role is played by guitars. It also contains a piano motive. The song refers to the relationship between Chris and his father. My favorite track from the record is Your Bones which stands for another sorrowful ballad. In contrast to other songs, the only guitar used was the electric one. As I mentioned before, the lyrics of this song are truly wistful. In my mind, they describe a conversation between two people. One is looking for a shelter and asks her lover or friend for help. The other replies that his love has gone and “it has become a chore”. The other tracks that deserve full attention are From Roses, Fires, Hands and Boys Around Here.

It took Fences almost 5 years to release the next studio album. Many listeners may claim that the brand new CD sounds commercial and is different from the band’s debut. However, the truth is that it doesn’t make the record bad. Quite opposite – it is a well-done production. Music trends are constantly changing. Most artists don’t stick to one genre but are willing to experiment. And so are the musicians from the band Fences. The new CD was produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla. The album has a great balance between entertainment and emotions. Nostalgic lyrics are mixed with catchy melodies. The songs are definitely more vigorous than the ones from the debut album. The first single from the new record is entitled Arrows. It is different in comparison with the other tracks, especially because it features Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The cooperation between these musicians resulted in a great mix of indie pop and rap. Not only did I enjoy Chris’ tuneful voice and Macklemore’s ‘rhyming power’, but also the great distinctive bass line which is audible during the major part of the song. Another strong point of this single is its lyrics that tell us about the consequences of fame. Sunburns is marked by thick bass in verses and buoyant strumming in chorus. The song is filled with Lindsey Starr’s soft and pleasant voice that appears in each chorus. Her background vocals are also present in other tracks such as Lesser Oceans, My Mountain is Cold or Dusty Beds.. The lyrics of The Lake are bound to seem sentimental for many people. Feel of regret is strongly emphasized in simple but honest words It’s too late, now I’m wishing that I loved you better. Two peaceful songs, namely My Mountain is Cold and Running of the Gods may remind you of the works from Fences debut album.

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In brief, I found the band Fences admirable and became their fan. Both albums took my fancy and they landed up on the must have albums list. Hopefully, they’ll become the records that you’d love to own too. Hopefully, the band will visit Europe one day and I’ll be able to see how do they deal with live performances. Hopefully, it’ll be an amazing show!