The Daily Philistine – January 23rd – Lawrence Coulson and Bat For Lashes

Picture of the Day – Lawrence Coulson’s ‘Studio Vista’

lawrencecoulsonstudiovista

Like Paul Kenton, Lawrence Coulson is an artist whose work I saw exhibited at a gallery with my parents. His paintings are fairly regular fixtures at that gallery, understandable given his talent. The last time we were in there, my parents accidentally got into a conversation with one of the salespeople, not realising that it was going to lead to a hard sell on a painting that was worth about four times their joint monthly income (and a solid proportion of the value of their house).

Coulson’s work is invariably wonderful and, to be honest, I struggled to pick one out of the dozens, nay hundreds of landscapes that he’s painted. So I went with the one that had the nicest range of colours and the highest resolution I could find with a Google image search – which is how I find most of these works of art, to be honest. Look at it, though, look at how perfectly he’s captured the rainbow colours of the evening sky.

It was only a few years ago that I first noticed that at sunset, the sky really does go through the spectrum, from red to yellow through green and then to blue. I don’t know how I hadn’t realised before – presumably I just wasn’t looking very often.


Music of the Day – Bat For Lashes’ ‘Daniel’

Spotify Link: Bat For Lashes’ ‘Daniel’

Bat For Lashes has produced loads of amazing, peculiar songs, but I like this one in particular because it reminds me a lot of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Except that apparently this is her most popular song, which makes sense because it’s great, but it now also makes me seem like the least original person ever, even though I’ve had this one saved in my ‘Highlights’ playlist for ages without ever hearing it played anywhere else. The only thing I can learn from this is that I’m apparently the most basic person I know. I suppose tomorrow I’ll pick ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Amazing Grace’ or something.

The Daily Philistine – January 6th – John Blanche and Jenny Owen Youngs

Picture of the Day – John Blanche’s ‘The Emperor’ or ‘The Golden Throne’ Or Whatever The Hell It’s Called

I’m returning to my nerd roots for the end of the week. That’s right, I’m doing Warhammer art. Specifically, my favourite of all John Blanche’s many creations. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s Blanche – it doesn’t seem erratic enough to be one of his, but I can’t find any other artist to credit, and the internet has told me that it’s his, so, whatever.

My first exposure to the intensely, extravagantly dark and dystopian universe of Warhammer 40,000 was when I received the 3rd edition starter box for Christmas as an eleven-year-old. This was back in, Christ, 1999, literally in the last millennium. I opened the book and the first full-page illustration, just a couple of pages in, was this gorgeous, Gothic depiction of The God-Emperor of Mankind, a being of overwhelming psychic power with the frail physical form of a human, who had been betrayed and mortally wounded by his favourite son. He had spent the last ten THOUSAND years as an unconscious, slowly-rotting corpse, tied into an unfathomable contraption that pumped ichor and foul blood around his carcass in a desperate bid to keep the last, tiny whisper of life in his veins, that he could continue to suffer overwhelming agony in the name of holding back unstoppable tides of insane, Lovecraftian daemons from engulfing all of humanity.

Ludicrous existential nightmares aside, this painting was so striking, so intense that I fell in love with it straight away. The uncountable machines and cables pinning every part of his body, disappearing into the endless darkness. The helmet, a relic of his former days of glory. The gaunt, unmoving rictus on his face, the skulls of fallen heroes covering the plinth beneath his throne, the tattered scrolls of litany and legacy. The noxious fumes swirling about the whole scene, poisoning the air.

Blanche can be a controversial artist, but this piece is almost perfect, I feel, in capturing the essence of what makes the world of Warhammer 40,000 so captivating. It’s chilling, enormous and completely mysterious. My adolescent self couldn’t get enough of it.

There’s been a “Special Remastered Edition” of this painting in the years since, with the face replaced by a more skeletal visage, and for my money the new version is greatly inferior. The skull oversells the “living corpse” aspect (as if any part of the original image could be more oversold to begin with) and the original remains the definitive version for me.


Music of the Day – Jenny Owen Youngs’ ‘Coyote’

Spotify Link: Jenny Owen Youngs’ ‘Coyote’

(Note: The Spotify version is the best.)

Ah, J.O.Y. Such an incredible talent. I first heard her stuff on MySpace. Yes. MySpace. About twelve years ago. A few of my classmates liked her, too, and one of them was kind enough to “legally” “buy” her first album, ‘Batten The Hatches’, and then “legally” “give” me a “copy” on a “flash drive”. Look, I love supporting up-and-coming artists but her stuff wasn’t out in the shops and we were teenagers, give me a break.

Her most popular song back then was ‘Fuck Was I’, which is also incredible, but I always felt like ‘Coyote’ was like, you know, it was, like, totally, like, speaking to me? But on, like, a totally deep level? Nowadays I just like the kooky lyrics and the jaunty piano.

The Daily Philistine – January 5th – Marc Chagall and Jocelyn Pook

Picture of the Day – Marc Chagall’s ‘Adam and Eve Expelled From Paradise’

marcchagallexpulsionfromparadise

I first saw this piece whilst on a backpacking tour of all the most beautiful churches of France. I stopped off for a quick snack, a niçoise salad and a 1956 Domaine de Familongue Rosé, the best that Nice had to offer, when I glanced through the open shutters of a nearby window and spotted-

HA! Just kidding, I’ve never been to France. This is the painting Spock has in his quarters in ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’. It’s a reminder to him that things end. For me, I just like the vibrant colours.

Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.

EDIT: A friend and former colleague (and talented artist himself), Dave, had this to say about Chagall:

Favourite painter.
American Windows is my favourite. As an artist Chagall was always a painter until his 80’s when by chance he accepted a commission and went into stained glass. These works became some of his most influential and challenged the convention of traditional stained glass. This taught me that an artist is never too old to change and that an artist “should” change if that’s what is necessary. That no matter your age you can still challenge conventions. This literally made me believe that I will never be too old to create beautiful things.

You can find some of Dave’s own work here – he’s an actual talented creative person, unlike me, and has done some amazing pieces of art. I hate him.


Music of the Day – Jocelyn Pook’s ‘Blow the Wind / Pie Jesu’

Spotify Link: Jocelyn Pook’s ‘Blow the Wind / Pie Jesu’

My parents had loads of those compilation albums when I was a child. ‘Classical Chillout’, ‘Mystic Moods’, ‘Chillout Moods’, lots of chillouts and moodiness. This peculiar mash-up of an old Northumbrian folk song and Christian refrain is strange, haunting and beautiful – just like my sex life. It takes me back to afternoons spent in a rainy conservatory in Cheshire, surrounded by cats and a big dog and a wood-burning stove. It’s great.

Oh, and would you look at that? The Youtube clip is from a ‘Pure Moods’ compilation album!

The Daily Philistine – January 3rd – Josh Kirby and Norah Jones

Picture of the Day – Josh Kirby’s Cover Art for ‘The Light Fantastic’

030117light-fantastic

I’ve spent my entire life not reading as much as I should. I find it too easy to start a book and never finish it. To buy a book and never open it. The idea of being someone who reads is far more appealing to me than actually reading. Which is awful, I know. But there were several books that I did finish when I was young, and most of them were by Terry Pratchett.

And, because I’m precisely that sort of person, what I remember most about some of the earlier books is the cover art by Josh Kirby. Four hundred pages of witty fantasy satire, and all I take away in my head is the colourful painting on the front.

What I remember most is the detail – each piece was covered in tiny details, down to every corner and edge. I honestly could have picked any of Kirby’s covers, but I went with ‘The Light Fantastic’ because I can only barely remember the plot of the book itself, but the cover is etched in my memory. All of the strange little animals in the bottom left, the weirdly pallid skin of the scantily-clad warrior woman, the sheer grotesqueness of every figure depicted, all gaudy and bright and a little bit strange. Which is basically the definition of Discworld, I suppose. Gaudy, bright, a little strange.

There isn’t much else I can offer for this one. If you’ve never read a Pratchett novel, definitely don’t start with this one, start with ‘Mort’ (which also had a beautiful cover). Or ‘Only You Can Save Mankind’. That one I do remember. Or The Bromeliad. Terry Pratchett crafted many wonderful stories, and very few of them need to be read in any kind of an order.


Music of the Day – ‘Say Goodbye’ by Norah Jones

Spotify Link: ‘Say Goodbye’ by Norah Jones

I used to listen to Norah Jones’ ‘Feels Like Home’ a lot when I was younger. I had a weird taste in music for a teenager. A few weeks ago, I decided to listen to some of her other albums, and ‘Say Goodbye’ stood out on ‘Little Broken Hearts’. It stood out because it’s completely divergent from her usual gentle folksy stuff from over a decade ago. It’s really unusual but very catchy, I find.

The Daily Philistine – January 2nd – Paul Kenton and Desire

Picture of the Day – Paul Kenton’s ‘Lights of Fire’

paulkentonlightsoffire

When my parents come to visit me in Birmingham, we often go out for lunch. One of our favourite Italian restaurants is next to a small fine art gallery and shop – part of a chain – and we’ll often pop in there after lunch to ogle all the paintings and sculptures that plebs such as ourselves will never be able to afford to buy.

The last time we were in, they had a few pieces by Paul Kenton on display. His were all wonderful, in a rough, basic sort of a way. He did one really interesting one on a shiny aluminium sheet – a scene of a rainy, downtown Manhattan, and he left the reflective metal uncovered to form the puddles and rain-streaked windows.

But the one that really caught my eye was this one, ‘Lights of Fire’. It’s stark, and stunning, and somehow really lonely. This may sound daft, but one of the bits that really made me fall in love with it was the ceiling office lights you can see in the top right, just barely shining through the reflection on the windows. It makes it feel real, the sort of thing that would be there, but that you wouldn’t really notice.

He’s done some amazing other pieces, too, but this was my favourite. I’ll likely never be in a position to own something like this (even with 0% credit, as advertised on the little cardboard label next to it), but if I was ever in the position to drop £750 on a whim, a piece of art like this would probably be one of the first things I’d spend it on.


Music of the Day – ‘Under Your Spell’ by Desire

Spotify Link: ‘Under Your Spell’ by Desire

This is a song I first heard when watching the movie ‘Drive’. ‘Drive’ had a brilliant soundtrack (alongside brilliant casting, brilliant cinematography, brilliant lighting, brilliant pacing…) and this is one of a few songs from the film that I still listen to frequently. I know little else about Desire, and haven’t listened to much of their other work, but I really like this one.

It’s again, a bit weird, it has a spoken-word bit in the middle which may be annoying, but I appreciate the timelessness of it – it feels like it should be a track straight from the 1980’s, played on a cassette in a car stereo on a long drive in the middle of the night. Which is probably why it was selected for the film ‘Drive’ in the first place.

The Daily Philistine – January 1st – Ralph McQuarrie and Everything Everything

Happy New Year! In an effort to contribute, in some small way, to a more positive year for 2017, I’m going to be updating my little blog here on a daily basis with a short article about a piece of music and a picture that I really like. This is a mostly-selfish attempt to get myself back into the habit of writing and to farm for more clicks, because I’m pretty vain in that regard.

A brief warning: I know very little about art, and even less about music. As such, my contributions will mostly be “I like this because I think it’s good.” That is the standard of critique you’ll mostly be seeing.


Picture of the Day – Ralph McQuarrie’s B-Wing Concept Art

mcquarriebwings

Sticking to type for my first contribution of the year, this piece is some Star Wars concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, who’s pretty much a legend in the niche category of Concept Artists. He defined the look and feel of the entire Star Wars series, and is probably about as responsible for its success as John Williams, the series’ soundtrack composer.

My reason for choosing this picture, though, out of the many possible options, is that it’s just beautiful. McQuarrie’s ship and vehicle designs will be his legacy, but as an artist I loved how he used light in each of his pieces, which is about the most generic art-critic-y phrase I could have used, but just look at that painting! The glow from the explosion, the deep, oceanic reflections on the planet behind, the faint outlines of the Imperial fleet, and the pale crescent of the Death Star, lurking in the background with deadly menace.

McQuarrie uses the light to define the shape of the new B-Wing fighter – the light from the explosion catches the all the edges of the ship, accentuates the curved surfaces, and makes the ship look powerful, and dangerous. He isn’t just designing a space fighter, he’s giving it a role, a character of its own, by telling a story in a beautiful way.

I imagine I’ll be posting more McQuarrie pictures throughout the year, and I’ll definitely be sharing more artwork where light plays a dominant part, since it’s about the only thing a philistine like myself can appreciate. For now, though, I think this is a good starting place.


Music of the Day – ‘No Reptiles’ by Everything Everything

Spotify Link: ‘No Reptiles’ by Everything Everything

‘No Reptiles’ is a weird song by a band I’d never heard of and know nothing about. I really can’t overstate how little I know about music in general, it’s frankly awful. I would make the worst radio DJ in the world, partially because I’d have nothing to contribute in terms of discussion and mostly because the bulk of what I’d end up playing would be soundtracks and shapeless ambient stuff.

Anyway, I picked ‘No Reptiles’ for today because the lyrics are mostly absurd and the music is full of variety and “energy”. The pace and the acoustics of the song change throughout its run, but always seem to be set to “slightly strange”, along with the singing. I’m not really sure what else I can say about it, because I really do know very little about music – it cropped up on my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist on on Spotify, which is actually my main vehicle for broadening my musical horizons. Yup.