The Week That Was (11-01-2010): Lhasa; Vampire Weekend; Nowhere Boy; The Knife…

New Year, new section; we begin 2010 with a new a weekly recap of everything that has grabbed our attention during the past seven days. And we do it with some sad news, while we were still shocked with Vic Chesnutt’s tragic death, we found out Lhasa de Mela is also no longer with us. The American born, Mexican raised and Canadian based singer-songwriter who swept the board at the Robers’ 1997 with her debut album “La Llorona” and had just released her eponymous third album. has lost a long battle against cancer. Our thoughts are with her close ones.

The second week of the year has become a key date for independent labels to put in the shops their firmest bets, taking advantage of the lack of strong releases after the established names all rushed before to gain a chunk of the Christmas market. Last year this strategy worked wonders for Animal Collective and in 2010, another indie faves , Animal Collective, follow their example and launch their second work, “Contra” – which can be heard in full through MySpace.

First impression was not as favourable as its classic debut’s one. Preview single “Horchata” didn’t quite convince us and “Cousins” somehow sounds like the Arctic Monkeys. But the record continues with their blend of usual influences (Africa; Punk; Indie Pop…) expanding it by toying with many new ones –from electro to dancehall. The record will be also released in a limited edition containing a bonus remix CD courtesy of new cumbia king Toy Selectah.

It’s Oscar season and high profile movies get crammed in the multiplexes. However, the best movie we’ve seen this week is not in the radar for the coveted awards. “Nowhere Boy” is a John Lennon’s biopic that covers the origin of The Beatles but is mainly based on the icon’s troubled family upbringing. The film is a solid drama with fine performances from Anne-Marie Duff (as Lennon’s mother) and Kristin Scott-Thomas (as his auntie and adoptive mum). It’s the debut as a film-maker of multidisciplinary artist Sam Taylor-Wood, who’s hitting the glossy mags’ headlines for his romance with Aaron Johnson, the young actor who performs the role of Lennon, from whom the director is expecting a child.

Other awaited films are the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed masterpiece “The Road”, eagerly anticipated after the Coen Brothers’ big success with another of his novels, “No country for old men”. “The Road” is a good – yet not great – movie that if may not do total justice to McCarthy’s masterly prose; it does manage to translate its bleak spirit and its reflections about the best and the worst in human nature to the big screen. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee excel in their respective father/son roles, but minor alterations of the story weaken a bit its script. Even so it stands out as one of the most interesting cinematographic propositions at the moment.

The third movie we watched last week was a small deception. “Nine” with its promise of endless glamour and starry cast didn’t stop looking like a collection of promo videos to display the beauty of its stars. Neither its music, nor its cardboard storyline stood translated from musical to movie well. It exuded, though, Hollywood splendour everywhere; but in the times we are living that is not enough to make it work.

The Knife announced the release of their music for the opera “Tomorrow, In A year”, in which the siblings collaborate with leftfield electronica artists Planningtorock and Mount Sims, with a first taster “Colouring Of Pigeons”. Fellow Swedish jj, nominated for this year’s Robers, also unveiled some tracks from their next offering “jj no 3” through a mix for their country’s radio.

Kiwi psychedelic-pop songwriter Lawrence Arabia and the returns of Canadian band Besnard Lakes and cult legends Quasi also captured the interest of music blogs around the world. Finally, we made an interesting discovery: Dominican artist Rita Indiana y sus Misterios.

Much Love To The Plastic People (DJ mix December 2009) by Four Tet

This week has seen a mind-blowing flood of free mixtapes ready to be streamed or downloaded:

Four Tet kept on paving the way for what promises to be a return to his best shape with his new record “There is love in you” and made available the mix that he gave away to the attendees of his last night as resident DJ at the London club Plastic People.

-Stereogum offered a mash-ups collection with some highlights of the past year.

-Diplo’s label, Mad Decent, also gave away the new South Rakkas Crew mixtape “The Stimulus Package”, where a wide spectrum of sounds, from dancehall to Deerhoof, was represented under their Caribbean imprint.

Statik Selecta celebrated the imminent reunion between Talib Kweli y Hi Tek, who get together once more under the moniker Reflection Eternal.

-And the Underwater People collective brough a chilling mix including some up and coming new acts with their “Winter Review.

-Finally, anticipating what it’s going to be one of the highlights of this year, The Gas Lump paid tribute to Flying Lotus’ ten-year career.

This post is also available in: Spanish