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Is (Tokyo)

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The Dud Avocado (VMC)
The Dud Avocado (VMC)
by Elaine Dundy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An American in Paris, 6 May 2004
This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
Problem: You feel like reading something that's witty and light-hearted but not so embarrassingly girly that it makes you feel like you should be wearing fluffy pink slippers and call your beloved "snookums". You loved "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons and "In The Pursuit of Love" by Nancy Mitford. You have been known to dream of Parisian boulevards and bohemian attic flats in Montparnasse. The thought of strolling down Boule Mich in an evening gown makes you feel all warm inside.
Solution: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, following the adventures and misadventures of Sally Jay Gorce. In the proud tradition of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, Sally Jay is an American in Paris, sardonic and enamoured at the same time, and determined to soak up everything the Moving Feast of Lights can offer. In contrast to Ernst or Gertrude, though, she is more busy flitting around cafes and pursuing a very modest stage career than devoting herself to High Art. She just wants to live, damn it! And that's exactly what she does, mixing with shady aristocrats, hustlers, painters and Southern belles from the Left Bank to Biarritz.
Sally Jay's streetsmart voice conveys a great sense of time and place. The fifties slang is really cute, and it's interesting to see the how the Home-makers of America moral values prevailed even in bohemian Paris. Even though some plotlines seem a bit weak (without giving too much away: how traumatic is it to lose a passport, for example?), the charm and exuberance of this book makes it seem churlish to complain. You could definitely do worse than party in Paris with Sally Jay.

The Dwarf (Quartet Encounters)
The Dwarf (Quartet Encounters)
by Pär Lagerkvist
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sinister and compelling, 5 May 2004
This slim volume from Swedish author Lagerkvist is a masterful exploration of evil and alienation. The setting is a Renaissance court somewhere in Europe, where the dwarf of the title plots and schemes for his master. He is a truly grotesque creature: Machiavellian, sadistic, delusional. Still, Lagerkvist manages to make the reader empathise with this little outsider, reviled and ridiculed since birth. We all want to make an impression on the world, he seems to say, being ignored is the worst punishment... In the words of another Swedish writer, Hjalmar Söderberg: "We want to be loved, failing that respected, failing that loathed and feared. The soul abhors a vacuum, and longs for contact at any price."
In Sweden, Lagerkvist is equally famous as a poet, and the lyrical symbolism of his writing is always evident in "The Dwarf". It's a sinister book, but also a very compelling one. Don't bring it with you to the beach, but do pick it up when you feel the urge for something both substantial and very readable.

Living In America [Us Import]
Living In America [Us Import]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.95

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's not ABBA - its the Sounds!!!, 5 May 2004
Why has nobody heard of The Sounds? I thought this was going to be the next big thing to come out of Sweden. Just like The Cardigans, The Sounds have an icy, blonde lead singer, a "the" in their name and an album full of glorious pop hooks. Especially "Seven days a week" and "Living In America" are criminally catchy. Their sound is rockier than the Cardies, though, and they jump about on stage in black leather (oooh) and those stripey sort of t-shirts 14-year old punks always seem to love. Talking about t-shirts - Dave Grohl of Nirvana endorsed the band by wearing their concert t-shirt. (Wow!) It's not fair that that's their only claim to fame, because there is lots of great stuff on this album, and the kids look damn good too. Give their spiky punk-pop a chance and maybe you'll agree with Foo-fightin' Dave.

La Revancha Del Tango
La Revancha Del Tango
Offered by Tracksounds-es
Price: £7.72

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Last Tango In Paris, 5 May 2004
This review is from: La Revancha Del Tango (Audio CD)
Actually, you have probably heard this album already; you just don't know it. The slick techno-dub tango beats and silky alto of Cristina Vilallonga is the sort of music that floats around London's coffee shops while you're dipping your nose in cappuccino froth and chilling out.
Just like Favela Chic, Gotan Project is a French take on Latin-American rhythm - though in contrast to Favela, La Revancha del Tango is more Parisian lounge than Argentinean dance, more Serge Gainsbourg than Susana Rinaldi. It offers none of the melodramatic desperation of traditional tango, in spite of a plaintive accordion and film-noir backdrop, crafting rather the cool moodiness of a Massive Attack CD.
It's too polished to be truly sexy, but by tapping into a growing demand for music from outside the Anglo-Saxon pop world, it still offers something new and kind of exciting. So what if it won't take you to the seedy glamour of Buenos Aires? At least you'll get to go to the Latin Quarter in Paris.

Wonderful Women by the Water
Wonderful Women by the Water
by Monika Fagerholm
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Finn Family Grows Up, 5 May 2004
As titles go, this is one is quite fabulous - and the book starts off in the same evocative way. Kajus meets his wonderful wife Isabella in an amusement fair where she is working as a mermaid. Soon they are married with children, spending idyllic summers by the sea. But Isabella wants more. She longs for all the glamour the world out there can offer, and when she gets to know upper-class Rosa, she starts drifting away from her family. As these two Wonderful Women go water-skiing and drink cocktails on the beach, suburban family life seems less and less appealing.
"Wonderful Women By The Sea" a story of a time and a place just as much as it is a story of people. The time: the sixties, in all its Elizabeth Taylor, Tupperware, American Dream, Jackie Onassis, milkshake glory. The place: Finland (of all places...), a small, provincial country that is just beginning to open up to the world.
The story is told in short chapters, often offering just fleeting snapshots of the events. Since it's mostly seen from Isabella's son's perspective, much left unsaid - the child's incomplete understanding of the adult world makes his observations the more touching. Still, this style also makes it difficult to be truly gripped by the book.
Though Fagerholm is good at conjuring up an atmosphere, the latter part of the book, which follows Rosa's and Isabella's children loses some of its focus. Even though I would recommend anybody to try this book out (it's a different and personal account of family life), I can't give it more than three stars...

Who Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley
Who Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley
by Tove Jansson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Toffle, 5 May 2004
For a Swedish kid like myself, this book brings back lots of childhood memories, since Tove Jansson is a Finnish author writing in Swedish. Those already familiar with the Moomin Valley of Jansson's imagination will feel at home with Toffle. The same fairy-tale creatures pop up in this book, all vividly brought to life by the illustrations. The Toffle of the title is a timid little character, scared by just about everything - until he find someone who is even smaller and more scared than himself, someone he can actually help. The story is exciting, but I don't remember being scared by it as a kid - it's definitely less frightening than Harry Potter! I really recommend you to read this to your kids: it's a beautiful, humorous classic in the vein of Astrid Lindgren or Winnie the Pooh.

Songs In Red And Gray
Songs In Red And Gray
Offered by RAREWAVES
Price: £12.79

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New-York Doll, 4 May 2004
This review is from: Songs In Red And Gray (Audio CD)
I have loved Suzanne Vega ever since I was a kid and saw a video for "Luka" on TV. There was something about this porcelain-skinned girl with her pensive eyes and understated voice that caught my attention, even though I was just twelve years old and couldn't speak a word of English. So "Solitude Standing" became the first LP I ever owned, and since then her music has followed me throughout the years.
Her new album, "Songs in Red and Gray" somehow marks a return to the music that first got me listening to her - not that she ever really departed from the folk-tinged but still distinctly urban singer-songwriter material. And hey, this is Suzanne Vega we're talking about, so of course the lyrics play a big part. They deal mostly with the break-up of her marriage - apparently, she stayed at home for a year and just wrote, finally surfacing in the small Green Village clubs where she started out once upon a time, and tried the songs out on her old mates. "If I Were A Weapon" is a great example of stringent song-writing, where she demonstrates how to use a metaphor without coming over all Dido-esque (sorry, Dido is my pet peeve) and who else could devote a whole song to playing solitaire on the computer?
The thing I like so much about Suzanne is that she can get results with small means - she never sounds overblown or melodramatic, and still her songs possess great emotion. It's her warm voice coupled with a cool detached eye that does it: just listen to the quietly perceptive "Last Years' Troubles" or the evocative "Widow's Walk" and you'll see what I mean.
One tip to her fans: do catch her live if you have the chance. I am always a bit wary of concerts, since I'm afraid of being disappointed. (Rickie Lee Jones, for instance, is wonderful on vinyl but the sourest pill EVER on stage.) But Suzanne has a great warmth and generosity about her that translates even into an audience of 200+.

Different Class
Different Class
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.70

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2004 and we're still at the disco, 4 May 2004
This review is from: Different Class (Audio CD)
Blur or Oasis? Well, Pulp actually. Almost ten years (!) on, "Different Class" seems to have aged better than any of the other Britpop offerings of the mid-90's. Long after Oasis' arena rock has ceased to thrill, this album still sounds like it is - apologies for the pun - in a class of its own.
On these twelve tracks, Jarvis Cocker - in cigarette-slim trousers and the biggest glasses on Earth - snarls about the sordid glamour of lower middle-class life over classic pop tunes. Mixing class venom with tender nostalgia, the album includes chart toppers "Disco 2000" and "Common People" - but these are far from the only highlights. The bulk of the material deals in melodrama, with lyrics about affairs with housewives and growing up in the acrylic 70's rushing towards a musical crescendo. It could have gone so wrong, but instead the music transcends Cocker's poseur geek-chic persona to capture something toxic but true. It's got wit, it's got attitude, it's got style, and it could only have been made in Britain.
Go on. Get Pulp

Memories Of A Color
Memories Of A Color

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars aurora borealis in the jazz joint, 4 May 2004
This review is from: Memories Of A Color (Audio CD)
Sliding over hesitant, jazzy arrangements, Stina Nordenstam's little-girl-lost voice conjures up a dreamscape of its own, full of the details of the everyday juxtaposed against a spacey weirdness. She whispers of lost opportunities of love in "She watches him from behind" and gently mocks her own melancholy with lines like "my sister needs a cigarette to take her through the day, I need this". Hiding behind this lunar lyricism are some glorious jazz hooks that make for captivating listening. Overall, Nordenstam has created the just the right soundtrack to nights of introspection and insomnia.

Candyfloss and Medicine
Candyfloss and Medicine
Offered by glyn hyde
Price: £4.92

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everybody needs some kind of medicine..., 27 April 2004
This review is from: Candyfloss and Medicine (Audio CD)
I had been an Eddi Reader fan for years before I realised that she used tosing in Fairground Attraction. Maybe the candyfloss theme of this album should have been a hint: the CD sleeve pictures Reader as a threadbare angel riding the merry-go-round and probably getting drunk behind the ice-cream stand.

To be fair though, there is little else on her solo albums that would remind you of Fairground Attraction, whose biggest hit was the bouncy "Perfect". Instead, you get a string of contemplative, folk-tinged and sometimes heart-wrenching songs - the way Glaswegian buskers would sound if they were any good.

"Everybody needs some kind of medicine", she sings on the CD's possibly most beautiful track, and this music provides exactly that. Full of the slightly faded glitz of the fairs and the bittersweet taste of a strong cup of tea, this CD couldn't have been made anywhere but in Scotland.

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