Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Art

Tate Liverpool, René Magritte: The Pleasure Principle until 16 October

Catch the end of the first UK exhibition devoted to the Belgian surrealist in a decade. This exhibition brings together major works and those from Magritte's early commercial career- many previously unseen in the UK. A highlight is a selection of rarely seen photographs and films. Adult tickets are priced £9, with concessions at £7.10.

Comedy

Soho Theatre, London W1D, Josie Long- The Future is Another Place 20 October

Long is from South East London and started doing stand-up comedy at 14 years old. She has achieved rapid success, winning the BBC New Comedy Awards at 17 and supporting Stewart Lee during his spring 2005 tour. The Future is Another Place began at the Edinburgh Fringe. In this intelligent and charming show Long uses anti-Tory material; however, rather than being overly ranty, she is upbeat and optimistic.

Music

Hammersmith Apollo, London W6, Bon Iver 23 October

Performing on 23-24 October, catch Bon Iver's indie folk sound. Best known for his raw and emotive vocals, American singer-songwriter Justin Vernon founded the band in 2007. Fellow band members are Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan. The band have recently released a self-titled album follwing their widely-acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago of 2008.

Talks

The Banqueting Hall, London SW1, Bye Bye Kitty!!! 17 October

What is one of the first things you think of when someone mentions contemporary Japanese culture? Is it kawaii (cuteness, sometimes super-girly hyper-cuteness)? David Elliott, founding director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, urges that this stereotype detracts attentions from the real nature of modern Japanese art. He emphasises its intensely reflective, self-critical and often political stance. Elliott will discuss the Bye Bye Kitty!!! exhibition he curated at the Japan Society in New York earlier this year, which will be complimented by a discussion with sociologist and Japanese art specialist Adrian Favell. The event is free, but booking is essential.

Theatre

National Theatre, London SE1, The Kitchen until 8 November

Set in London during the 1950s, Arnold Wesker's darkly funny play takes place in the kitchen of an huge West End restaurant. It is a hectic place where a range of intriging and dynamic characters work: chefs, waitresses and porters from across Europe. Peter is an upbeat young cook who strikes up an affair with married waitress Monique, but can their relationship survive? As part of the National Theatre Live, The Kitchen will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide on 6 October.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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