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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.





Shura - forevher Music Album Reviews

The pop singer’s second album is looser, livelier and more ecstatic than her debut, detailing the headlong rush of falling in love.

Shura emerged in 2014 as a pop star with a contradiction at her core. “Touch,” her lo-fi disco debut single, was a sort of “Dancing On My Own” for a new generation: an eminently danceable song about watching somebody else dance, about wanting to touch one another but being unable to because you’re paralysed by your own thoughts. Her 2016 LP Nothing’s Real was full of pop songs about unfulfilled promise and missed connections. With track titles like “2Shy” and “Tongue Tied,” she channelled the feathery soul of Janet Jackson and early Madonna while singing about being so engulfed in her own mind that she came apart from her body (the title track described the near-death pangs of a panic attack). If Nothing’s Real was all thought, the Manchester-born singer-songwriter’s follow-up forevher is all feeling.

Shura (real name Aleksandra Denton) spent the three years between her first and second records falling in love. The relationship that inspired forevher is a long-distance one, played out between New York and London via Skype and iMessage, and so the album tells a very modern story of intimacy (switching off Airplane Mode as soon as you land to see what your lover sent you while you were flying; being preoccupied with thoughts of the latest nude they sent you).

In tandem, her sound has grown into something more corporeal: While her voice on forevher largely comes through the filter of Auto-Tune, the instruments are looser and more live than they were on Nothing’s Real, with string flutters mimicking skipped heartbeats, and basslines settling into deep, well-worn grooves. If Shura used to hover awkwardly on the edges of dancefloors, now, she gives herself over to them. The psychedelic electronic soul of “religion (u can lay your hands on me)” or “skyline be mine”—all co-produced, once again, with her regular collaborator Joel Pott—could sit comfortably alongside Steve Lacy or Connan Mockasin, with digital flourishes bringing a layer of surreal newness to earthy rhythms.

The hooks of this record, at its most sensual, are less pop choruses than they are ecstatic moans. The swaggering sci-fi funk of “side effects” melts into a refrain that feels ancient and instinctive: “What it is, what it is, what it is, it’s so good.” On “religion,” the sparse, direct hook is simply, “Ooh girl, don’t stop, please/ You can lay your hands on me.” The record’s repeated urge, between clipped scratches of funk guitar and distorted saxophone, is simply to keep on going, keep on dancing, keep on feeling.

Of course, Shura still grapples with light insecurities in the album’s slower mid-section, in particular “flyin’” and “princess leia,” both of which deal with anxious thoughts during long-distance travel. It’s a necessary contrast for a record that mostly revels in new-relationship bliss, but—obviously—less fun. Likewise “tommy,” a voice memo and short ditty depicting an old man finding new love, rings more hollow than the richer funk songs that surround it. Shura is at her most convincing, and her most alive, when she’s fully embodying her own experience rather than narrating someone else’s.

The album’s slightly saccharine title is an indication of its general embrace of romantic cliché—on “forever,” she rhymes "forever" with “together” and coos: “You make me feel like sunshine, feel so good.” It might be clichéd, but as with her neo-soul sound, it’s also an enthusiastic, earnest reclamation: You’ve heard people sing “forever together” on a pop song before, but have you heard a woman sing it to another woman? Throughout forevher, Shura places herself lyrically inside religious imagery (she promises to baptise her love like Jesus on “BKLYNLDN” and makes herself into God on “religion”) and inside romantic tropes, as if asking, why not us? On the cover of the record, she places two women inside the familiar image of Rodin’s The Kiss, washed in blue light reminiscent of a Hockney swimming pool.

The pop canon has, for so long, been totally devoid of women expressing uncomplicated desire for other women, but 2019 might be the first year where queer women are spoilt for choice. LA band MUNA are preaching self-love, Marika Hackman is writing rock anthems about women going down on one another, and Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens stop just shy of making out in the video for “Gone.” This record is, first and foremost, about queer women. It is also about anyone who has experienced this kind of love: as blinding as religion, as cheesy as a Hallmark card, as familiar as a pop song.

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