Dec 30, 2007

Jose Gonzalez @ Enmore Theatre

I would admit that I am not a Jose Gonzalez expert by any means. Of course, I loved "Heartbeats" like most people and I own the album that features that song. Plus I did purchase his latest album "In Our Nature", which although not a revelation is a pleasant and soothing collection of songs. However I had heard that his live shows were impressive, so I decided a little while ago to take in his show at the Enmore Theatre on Saturday night. My impression. A satisfying and enjoyable show, that didn't elevate to any moments of greatness, but still delivered a rewarding night of good music and expert musicianship.

I would say the definite highlight of the night was the display of expert and very skillful guitar playing. Jose's Argentinian heritage was self evident as he stroked and caressed his guitar to produce a variety of delectable and desirable sounds. The majority of the show was in solo mode, with Jose's quietly powerful voice filling the old theatre. For some of the night he was joined on stage by two percussionists who added backing to his songs, plus some lovely harmonies. Of course he played "Heartbeats" which was well received. But other highlights were songs from his new album such as "Down the Line", "In Our Nature" and "Cycling Trivialities". I guess my only quibble is that the songs are possessed of a similar nature, lacking a little thrust or spark. It certainly makes for pleasant listening, but sometimes you long for that moment of chills up the spine. I would say that Jose does enjoy a cover as he finished with "Small Town Boy" by the long forgotten Bronski Beat. His encore was very enjoyable though as he went with "Deadweight on Velveteen", "Crosses", "Abram", before tackling another cover in Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart". He then closed with "Teardrop", which was very striking and powerful, an ideal way to close. So, it was an enjoyable night spent with an master musician. Even if I didn't leave the theatre with my head spinning, I certainly left with a smile on my face.

Dec 29, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited is immensely enjoyable, exquisitely filmed, full of subtle humour and beautiful observances of human behaviour. In other words, it's a Wes Anderson film. For when you see an Anderson film, this is what you receive. He is a film maker like no other. His gorgeous colours, wry humour and delightful interplay between characters are quite unique. I would say that The Darjeeling Limited might not hit the extreme heights achieved with his classics "Rushmore" or "The Royal Tenenbaums", but it is not far behind. This is a film of immense charm and heart, one that is sure to entertain, bewitch and delight. Mr Anderson is truly a great film maker.

Francis Whitman (Owen Wilson) has arranged a special train trip on The Darjeeling Limited. He invites his two brothers Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) to come with him on a "spiritual journey" through India. We learn that their father died recently and that the brothers have not been exactly close over the years. Francis is hoping that their journey will bring them closer together, which in turn will be a hard task to achieve. Immediately, I was drawn into this film. The dialogue between the brothers is seamless and full of subtle nuances. Anderson's characters are so richly drawn and finely observed, that is hard not to fall under their spell. Their journey encounters many bumps in the road. We learn much about them as the film progresses. We learn about the relationship they have with mother (Anjelica Huston) and the many differences that exist between the brothers. Francis is trying extremely hard to make things work, but is revealed as quite manipulative. Peter is about to be a father and is very suspicious about Francis' motives, whilst Jack is continually seeking the perfect woman. There is so much to admire in this film. The performances are flawless. Owen Wilson shows once again, that given the right material, his comic timing is second to none. Adrien Brody displays a wonderful comic talent, with some great visual humour, whilst Schwartzman is his usual idiosyncratic self. The art direction is superb. Wes Anderson was born to make films in India, the colours are vivid and overflowing with richness. Of course, the music is well chosen, with a lot of the songs being picked from a slew of Indian films, with a few Kinks and Rolling Stones songs thrown in for good measure. If you wish to be subtly charmed and visually delighted go and see The Darjeeling Limited. Also, there are many heartfelt and moving moments. A sometime criticism of Anderson's films is that they are full of style, but lack true heart. Well I am here to refute that suggestion. This glorious film is ample evidence to suggest otherwise.

Dec 27, 2007

I'm Not There

I am going to see this film, this weekend. Well after I have seen "The Darjeeling Limited" and "No Country For Old Men". At the moment I am on quite a Bob Dylan and The Band kick, so I am really looking forward to this one. Has anyone seen it yet? What were your impressions? I own the soundtrack, which I really love.

Dec 26, 2007

The Band

I have always been an admirer of The Band.Their classic blend of country, blues and folk was a high point in modern musical history. There is no doubt that "Music From Big Pink" and "The Band" are two of the finest albums ever released. Recently I re watched "The Great Waltz", which was a sound reminder of their great sound. So I was really delighted to receive on Christmas Day a wonderful present, "The Band, A Musical History". It is a gorgeous photo book, with the story of The Band, accompanied by many classic photos. Also included are 5 CDs, which chronicle their musical history. It not only includes many unreleased songs, but also older tracks recorded when they were known as The Hawks and were backing Ronnie Hawkins. Also included is a DVD with exclusive live performances. The above video is from the DVD. First up is "King Harvest", recorded in Woodstock, New York in 1970, followed by "Long Black Veil", recorded in Calgary, Canada, also in 1970. As much fun as it is to appreciate today's music, I think it is just as important to explore our musical heritage.

Dec 23, 2007

Favourite Films of 2007

Film. An exciting medium. I always feel a measure of excitement when a potentially great film is on the horizon. The very thought of going into a darkened cinema and sinking into my chair and being transfixed and transported by the action on the screen is always thrilling to me. Sometimes it is hard to find greatness on the silver screen. You have to wade through endless films purported to "entertain" and nothing else. Sequels and pure silliness. Films made with one aim only; to make money. Thankfully there are still film makers out there seeking to enlighten and bewitch. To make cinema with brains and heart. I decided to compile a list of ten films that moved and shook me in the last 12 months. There are some very exciting films on the horizon as Boxing Day and the New Year beckons, but this list represents those pieces of cinema that stimulated me to a large degree in 2007. Before I begin, the following films were much loved but just missed out. 4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days, Pan's Labyrinth, Noise, Sicko, The Last King of Scotland, Once, Bobby and Michael Clayton.

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik.
An exquisite and masterful meditation on the price of infamy and the obsession of celebrity. Andrew Dominik's American debut is nearly flawless. Deliberate and directed with great care, he draws amazing performances from Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the protagonists in the film. Roger Deakins' cinematography is superb and so is the score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. A film that explicitly eschews the easy path, it explores in great detail and depth the relationships between men living on the very precipice of life. Stunning.

2. Half Nelson, directed by Ryan Fleck.
Ryan Gosling is startlingly good as the inner city high school teacher who reaches out to his teenage students. Thankfully, this powerful and emotional film shuns all cliche and is real to the bone in its depiction of dependency and addiction. Gosling's teacher has his own demons to battle and he handles the character with great warmth and sincerity. Shareeka Epps is also outstanding and the music of Broken Social Scene only adds to the power of the film.

3. Babel, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu.
Another triumph for the great Innaritu. His films are always full of such heart and intelligence, they can take your breath away. Four stories in one, they are all connected by a tragic shooting in Morocco. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are a couple at the centre of the tragedy, started by two Moroccan boys who get careless with a rifle. Meanwhile there is a connection in the desperate life of a Japanese family and a sad outcome in Mexico. All these stories intertwine to present a world of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Should have won Best Picture this year, for sure.

4. The Lives Of Others, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
An uncomfortable and unerring glimpse into another world and time. Winner of Best Foreign Language Film, this masterful and superb film is stunningly real and packs a sure emotional punch. Set in East Germany in the 1980s it tells the story of a Stasi agent who spies on the private lives of citizens. When he is ordered to spy on an artistic couple, he finds the job more then he bargained for. An authentic and powerful film that will stay with you for a long time.

5. Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn.
Sean Penn has done it again. This film is one of the most moving I have seen in a long while. Based on true events, it is many things all at once. Deeply moving, incredibly touching, awe inspiring and thought provoking. Emile Hirsch is a revelation as the young man who turns his back on society to explore the great outdoors. However, Penn's careful hand sees that this film is more then just a mere travelogue. It is about the tangible connection we have with earth and strong ties that bring all humans together. If this film doesn't move you, then I am afraid you have no heart.

6. Zodiac, directed by David Fincher.
A rarity, a Hollywood film with intellect and patience. That is probably due to the always superb direction of David Fincher. The story of the Californian serial killer "Zodiac" could have easily become just another Hollywood thiller with little sustaining power. However this is a superb and taut story of the men who dedicated their lives to capturing "Zodiac". This film is more of a journey then a quick hit. The three leads, Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo and Downey are all superb in evoking the spirit and temperature of the times.

7. Control, directed by Anton Corbijn.
The tragic story of Joy Division's Ian Curtis is handled with great care and attention by Corbijn. The emotions on display are so touching and real that you feel completely devastated by the film's end. Shot in glorious Black and White, each frame is full of great texture and quiet moments of beauty. Sam Riley is totally effective as the tragic Curtis, his performance being crucial to the credibility of the film. The music scenes are also played out with great power and authenticity.

8. This Is England, directed by Shane Meadows.
Another glimpse into the past. This time, 1983 in Thatcherite England. A story of a group of skinheads becomes a powerful and searing story of loyalty and friendship. Young Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is befriended by a group of skinheads. Their friendly times are split apart by National Front elements that bring the complex issues of race, violence and masculinity into full view. Meadows' handles all these themes with skill and maturity.

9. Away From Her, directed by Sarah Polley.
Sarah Polley's directorial debut reveals a seemingly more mature hand at the helm. She created an emotionally resonant and deeply moving film, that is eternally refreshing in these days of cheap thrills and quick fixes. Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent are superb as a long married couple whose life is torn apart by the intrusion of Alzheimer's disease. A film of true and sincere emotion, the story is delivered with a clear head and a true heart.

10. Letters From Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood.
The legendary director's companion piece to Flags of our Fathers. That film was good, this was better. The iconic landing on Iwo Jima during World War II is told from the Japanese perspective. At times heart breaking, you get a true sense of the futility of war and that in the end, no one truly wins. Lives are lost and the cost is always too great. A beautiful film to look at, it feels like a genuine account of the tragedy of war.

Some films to look forward to, that are just around the corner-
The Kite Runner
The Darjeeling Limited
No Country For Old Men
I'm Not There
American Gangster
Sweeney Todd
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will Be Blood
The Bucket List
Lust, Caution
August Rush
The Savages

Dec 19, 2007

Best 50 Albums of 2007

The album. Such a historic sounding word now. Especially in these days of iTunes and Emusic and downloading, illegal or otherwise. Apparently the first album was released in 1909. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite (It rocked, btw). It was actually like a photo album. 4 78 RPM discs in an album style book. 1948 saw the introduction of the 12 inch 33 1/3 vinyl disc. Fast forward to 2007. The term album is still used but many people don't seem to buy them as much. They cherry pick songs, only briefing stopping by to consume, not experience. Background music for their lives. As CD sales fall, I seem to be buying more and more of them. I just like the physical copy in my hand. I like to view the artwork and read the liner notes. I also definitely like to listen to an album from start to finish. Listening to the ebb and flow of the music, as the artist intended. Thankfully there are still many artists pushing the boundaries. Trying to make special music that can make you feel special.

I would have to say that 2007 seemed like a remarkable year in music. I was going to do a top 40, but I extended it to 50 as I was ruing that I would have to exclude more albums I liked from my list. In fact as I poured over many of the albums that I liked I could easily have gone to a top 100, but I might have lost all of my readership. So I stuck with 50 and I do believe that this list has far more depth than that of 2006. Just a few observations before I start.

-I have only just obtained a copy of Bon Iver's album. Well MP3s anyway. So far I love it, but to be fair I need more time to evaluate it properly. It is also getting a release on Jagjaguwar early in 2008. So maybe I can cheat and include it on a 2008 list.
-Other albums by Mice Parade, Vic Chestnutt, Scout Niblett, The Acorn, Oakley Hall, Underlapper, Castanets and Sleeping States are also new to my collection. Just really have not had the time to evaluate them.
-Every album reviewed here was purchased by myself. No freebies here. So there are sure to be albums that I have missed along the way. But I would like to think it is a good representation of the year in music.

1-Random Spirit Lover-Sunset Rubdown
Was there ever any doubt? I don't think so. This masterpiece stands alone as an original creation of supreme artistry. Complex and beautiful to the nth degree, it gets better with every listen. And I loved it after listen one. I have already written so much this year about the magnificence of this album, that I am running out of words to expound any further. Just know this, I consider Spencer Krug to be our generation's finest songwriter.
MP3: Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days

2-Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga-Spoon
Ah, Britt, how do you do it? How do you write such seemingly simple songs, which in turn, reveal themselves to be eternally complex? Whatever your secret is, keep doing it. I believe this is Spoon's finest work. Concise, taut and brimming with soul and melody, it is well rounded and full of heart. Not a bad song exists here. But having said that, Spoon do not write bad songs. The only shame is, a lot of the world is still ignorant of this fact.
MP3: The Underdog

3-Plague Park-Handsome Furs
For a while, I thought this would be number one. I love this album so much. Beautifully put together, with heart and passion and stark tenderness, just heart breaking. Dan and Alexei wrote a complex and complete album of isolation and longing. The bare feelings seep through the speakers. If only all music was made with this amount of heart and awareness. And I could listen to Dan Boeckner sing the phone book.
MP3: What We Had

4-You, You're A History in Rust-Do Make Say Think
This album was SO under rated. Elegant and sumptuous, majestic and serene. Blissful guitars that wept under the crush of humanity. The adept placement of vocals only added to the strength on display here. More feeling here in one guitar chord then most bands could produce in an entire body of work.
MP3: A With Living

5-Strawberry Jam-Animal Collective
Is there is a more creative, organic group of musicians on the face of the earth then AC? Marching to the beat of their own drums, they are so in touch with their muse, that I am constantly astonished at the genius they produce album after album. I have so much faith in them, that I am predicting that they will produce their true masterpiece in, oh say, 2012.
MP3: Peacebone

6-Person Pitch-Panda Bear
If Animal Collective are the drink of life, then Panda Bear is the straw. This album is a direct and unequivocal statement of beauty. Multi layered and emotionally resonant, the melodies shimmer and shine. Rising up and collapsing at the same time, this is music for all occasions as it represents the very sinew of life.
MP3: Bros

7-Boxer-The National
2007 became the year I fell under the spell of The National. "Alligator" went from being a sometimes played album to becoming a modern masterpiece. Then "Boxer" came out and its dark and earthy tones entranced me all year long. Matt Berninger's voice is a weapon of unrivalled beauty and the drumming is just exquisite. Songs that brood and hover, dark and delicious, sad yet full of pure emotional truth.
MP3: Apartment Story

8-Friend And Foe-Menomena
As perfect a 3 song opening that you would find. Thankfully the rest of the album lives up to the quality of the start. Inventive and wildly creative music expressed with immense heart and courage. Startlingly beautiful and deeply moving, I wish all music had this much brains and heart.
MP3: Wet and Rusting

9-The Stage Names-Okkervil River
The work of a mature and great band. Will Sheff has never sounded better. Virtually peerless as a song writer, he has found new ways here to entertain and enlighten. As any great songwriter, he has many strings to his bow. Not content to produce a BSB II, he has instead created perhaps Okkervil River's most entertaining work yet. And that is saying something.
MP3: Our Life is Not a Movie, or Maybe

10-Neon Bible-Arcade Fire
No sophomore jinx here. If it were considered nigh on impossible to follow "Funeral", then this Canadian collective have done as fine a job possible. Darker and more intense then their debut, it has its fair share of anthemic moments, yet it contains quieter moments of power and beauty. Hopefully as this band becomes bigger and bigger they won't lose what made them so special in the first place.
MP3: Intervention

11-All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone-Explosions In The Sky
After a short hiatus, these sonic masters from Texas return with another triumph. If not quite the masterpiece level of their previous two albums, it is none the less a quietly brooding tapestry of instrumental sounds. Their sound is always so giving and tender, reaching emotional places where most other bands fear to tread. Glorious.

The crackle of human emotion. Feeling and substance overflow to create a tangible concoction of sublime and tender sounds. Matthew Houck's voice conveys a broken spirit, but the connection is so real, it is virtually impossible not to be moved by its depth.

13-Spirit If...-Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew
Kevin Drew embraces life. He sees all the blood, sweat and tears. He feels it. He gets it. Continuing in the tradition of BSS, this is a sprawling epic, full of vitality. Joy sits quite comfortably next to pain here. Grandiose and yet, oh so tender. A true celebration of music.

14-Becoming All Things-Zookeeper
A pure joy to listen to. Meshing many styles and sounds, this is quite a triumph. Raucous anthems are placed next to tempered ballads. A celebration of life, an affirmation of moving forward, this is a great debut.

15-Ash Wednesday-Elvis Perkins
So real, it hurts. Beautifully tender and remarkably honest, Elvis' voice crackles and murmurs over tales of real loss and sorrow. Pain never sounded so good.

16-Some Loud Thunder-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
This is a very good record. Repeat, this is a very good record. In some ways more complex and daring then their excellent debut. The hype might have died but in its place is an excellent band writing excellent music.

17-Tears of the Valedictorian-Frog Eyes
Unique and startling. Blindingly original, Frog Eyes' existence should be applauded each and every day. Carey Mercer's songs of awe and inspiration require dedicated listening, but they are eternally rewarding. Gob smacked and bewildered, I am.

18-Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper
An amalgam of sounds, a maelstrom of mischief. Straddling many genres there is a freshness and daring on display here, that is lacking in most music. New country for the new age.

19-The Flying Club Cup-Beirut
Boy genius goes French. His debut was startlingly good, but this is even better. Luxurious and elegant, this is music which is timeless and effortless.

20-My Ion Truss-Minus Story
Yes, Minus Story are the world's most under rated band. Their fractured pop tales reveal a quiet and inner beauty. Pop songs grow and flower, before bursting into mini anthems of pain and regret.

21-Love Is Simple-Akron/Family
Harmonies, vocals, melodies abound. Crazy and beautiful all at once, the human heart bursts forward here on this unique album. Experimental, yet immersed in traditional sounds. Transcendental.

22-Armchair Apocrypha-Andrew Bird
The whistling genius returns with a sublime collection of heartfelt and heart warming songs. Gorgeous strings combine with tender vocals to produce perhaps his best work yet.

23-The Submarine-Whitley
Australian album of the year. Gorgeous pop melodies and authentic sounds.

24-Challengers-The New Pornographers
If not as immediate as their previous work, just as good. More deliberate but still retains that pop charm.

25-Cotton Teeth-The Snake The Cross The Crown
One of my many trips this year into pure American sounds. Effective and true song writing. Pure country soul, deliciously good.

26-Sky Blue Sky-Wilco
They might have mellowed, but the great songs are still there.

27-Cassadaga-Bright Eyes
It might contain a couple of weak points, but this is still a great collection of songs. Conor still has it.

28-Icky Thump-The White Stripes
Jack White still has it too, no doubt about it.

29-Two Gallants-Two Gallants
Their most subdued effort yet, but a testament to their great talents.

30-We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank-Modest Mouse
Maybe the true glory days are gone, but there are many great songs here.

31-War Elephant-Deer Tick
A great young talent produces blood curdling and heat stopping songs.

32-The National Anthem Of Nowhere-Apostle Of Hustle
Sultry and sophisticated, mature and majestic.

33-The Pretender-We All Have Hooks For Hands
Precocious and exciting, full of life and love. A pure joy.

34-Children Running Through-Patty Griffin
Classically beautiful. A glorious voice that will melt your heart.

35-The Reminder-Feist
You know the songs, I will never tire of them. Glorious vocals.

36-Emotionalism-The Avett Brothers
An apt title, heart and passion abounds here. Pure country gold.

37-American Hearts-AA Bondy
See above. A delightful discovery, true and honest.

38-The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse-The Besnard Lakes
A glorious and sumptuous record, aims high and mostly gets there.

39-The Broken String-Bishop Allen
Vastly under rated, if only all Pop music had this amount of heart.

40-Cease to Begin-Band of Horses
Ben Bridwell's voice is enough to elevate this album above good.

41-No One Will No Where You've Been-The Roadside Graves
More American gold. A rollicking road trip through the States.

Flawless EPs meant this had unrealistic expectations, but this is very good.

43-Cruel Guards-The Panics
J Award win was well deserved. Quintessentially Australian.

44-Sing The Greys-Frightened Rabbit
These Scottish pop maestros concocted an album of great staying power.

45-Raven And The White Night-Odawas
Glorious and original, soars to strange and wonderful heights.

46-Wincing The Night Away-The Shins
Didn't measure up to their first 2 masterpieces, but it is still a fine album.

47-Five Roses-Miracle Fortress
Blissful and brimming with sunny moments. A mini pop masterpiece.

Designed to calm you and give you serenity, it achieved its aim.

49-Less Talk More Paper Scissors-The Paper Scissors
A raucous and soulful effort. Full of fun and passion, a great debut.

50-The Meaning of 8-Cloud Cult
Complex and passionate. Would have finished higher, with some editing.

Dec 16, 2007

This Makes Me Feel Better

I have decided that Hell is being laid up at home with an infectious Viral Disease. Feeling miserable and not allowed to leave the house, feeling like this weight of illness just won't go away. Having to miss Dr Dog and a long planned trip to Melbourne. It might be a cliche, but you sure do appreciate good health when you have it. I am trying to look on the bright side and think that I will be well by Christmas and that 2008 holds so much to look forward to. Out of all the great bands and singers coming our way in 2008, it is entirely possible that Explosions in the Sky will be the highlight. This performance of "The Only Moment We Were Alone" makes my heart stop. You can not manufacture this sort of emotion and feeling. What a band!

Dec 13, 2007

Spoon ARE Playing the Annandale; FACT!

After reports and then unsureties and then "will they please announce something", it is official now. The mighty Spoon are playing the Annandale for sure. How can I be sure? Well it is on their website. January 24 at 8pm. Tickets go on sale December 20. For $40 plus booking fee. Bargain of the century I do believe. Why? Well in my opinion if Spoon are not the greatest band in the world, then they are in the discussion. I was very excited on Wednesday to purchase Arcade Fire tickets and I know their show will be one to remember, but this is even more exciting. And the Annandale is the perfect venue. Sweaty and beer stained and intimate, I can't wait. Support is provided by Little Red. Don't miss this show.

Dec 12, 2007

There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson is a cinematic genius. Of that, I am in no doubt. A little while ago I posted a small trailer for his upcoming film There Will Be Blood. Here is the new trailer for the film and to say I am excited would be a massive understatement. It recently was awarded Best Picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. I thought that this film was going to get a local release in January, but I can't find a release date at all now. Hopefully this potential cinematic masterpiece will hit our screens sooner rather then later.

Dec 11, 2007

The Whiskers

The Whiskers are Thom Stylinski, Jim Stylinski, Brett Mattox, Matt Vuchichevich, Dan Jircitano and Mike Kendall. They are from various parts of the USA. I can't tell you much about them, except that they have a self produced album out on Awkwardcore Records and it is excellent. The video above is their first and it is a brand new song called "Sails" and I love it. Apparently they are working on a new album at the moment, so that is something to look forward to. As a point of reference I would compare their style somewhat to Frog Eyes, although not quite as frenetic.
Here are a couple of wonderful songs from their debut album.
MP3: Roses
MP3: The Idle Rich

Dec 9, 2007

Homebake Festival 2007

On a steamy, humid day I ventured to the annual Homebake Festival in The Domain. When the initial lineup was released I wasn't exactly compelled to buy a ticket. However when the second announcement added some talented artists I made sure I procured a ticket and ventured to the All Australian Festival. I am glad I did, for even though a majority of artists didn't provide musical stimulation, there was enough to keep me entertained. Without doubt the highlight occurred early in the afternoon as those precocious and ridiculously talented kids from Bridezilla (pictured above) played a great set in the Hopetoun Tent. Having just released their debut EP and gaining a fair amount of good press there was an enthusiastic crowd there to witness them. They cook up quite a maelstrom on stage. The undoubted highlight being the dueling saxophone and violin on stage. Violinist Daisy Tulley is an intense presence on stage, strutting all over the place with sometimes fervent passion. Singer Holiday Sidewinder has quite an ethereal voice, which has improved in strength since I last saw the band. I would say though that it is at times a little flat, detracting sometimes from the excellent music provided.

My other highlight took place later in the afternoon, when I made a return trip to the Hopetoun Tent to see Sydney instrumental trio Pivot. They played a mixture of old material and songs from their forthcoming new album. To say they were intense would be an understatement. Their mixture of syncopated prog rock and melodic instrumentals is fierce and passionate. Richard Pike is quite a resourceful and innovative guitarist, whilst his brother Laurence is as fine a drummer as I have ever seen. His huge frame can belt the life out of the drum kit, whilst in the very next song he displays meticulous and creative subtleties and textures. Pivot are quite a sight on stage.

The remainder of my day was spent wandering around the lush grounds, thankfully it didn't rain, taking in bits of sets here and there. Some good, some a little underwhelming. SubAudible Hum were good value for money with their intelligent rock licks. I especially enjoyed "Aaron's Western Assault". Took in the set of Sydney legend Ed Kuepper. He was enjoyable, boy does he like an extended jam. I left half way through Soft Tigers' set. I am afraid that their dance influenced Indie rock wears thin after a while. And the vocals don't help. But I then managed to catch the always fiery and rocking The Mess Hall. Now a trio they had the crowd rocking solidly on the Dome Stage. They always deliver live and made me think I need to check out their new album "Devils Elbow." To say I was underwhelmed by Angus & Julia Stone would be close to the truth. Charming and lovely to the extreme, the brother and sister act just don't have a collection of songs with any meat or substance. And I found Angus' voice barely audible. I can see why a lot of people find their music delightful, but it left me a little non plussed. So that was my day, after an early start I was flagging by the time Sarah Blasko and Gotye did their thing. So they had to carry on with out me. In summary, an enjoyable day in an ideal setting. There was enough good music to keep myself entertained through out the day.

I have more photos of the day at my Flickr.

Dec 6, 2007

Best Live Shows of 2007

This was it. This was my moment in 2007. A night I will never forget. In a year of many great live experiences this one stood at the top of the mountain. I travelled all the way to Ontario, Canada to see Wolf Parade at the Wolfe Island Music Festival. And it was burned into my memory. However I enjoyed many great live shows through out the year and I still have Dr Dog, Black Lips and Jose Gonzalez to come. But these are the top 20 live experiences I enjoyed this year. They were all great in their own way. Most of them were in Sydney, except for a few that I enjoyed on my overseas jaunt this year. They all had two things in common. Great music and great audiences. At all of these shows the crowds were attentive and appreciative. Incredible music enjoyed by grateful fans. I have provided a link to my original review, with a quick line to sum up each show. Let's hope 2008 has greatness in store. What was your live highlight in 2007?

1. Wolf Parade @ Wolfe Island Music Festival, Ontario, Canada
It wasn't the longest show I saw in 2007. It was full of new material. I was tired and sunburnt. The band was a little rusty. But this was friggin' Wolf Parade. Spencer and Dan. Musical genius.
This band will own 2008. Monumental. Here is evidence.

2. The Mountain Goats @ The Metro Theatre
John Darnielle is THE most giving, generous performer I have ever seen. He is universal. Game Shows May Touch Our Lives, John you touched mine.
3. Wilco @ Enmore Theatre
A truly great band in full flight. Have never sounded better. Just sublime.
4. M. Ward @ The Famous Spiegeltent
A magical night in a magical setting. That smoky voice was close to perfect.
5. Neko Case @ The Annandale Hotel
Neko, I love you. You are class with a capital C. Perfect voice and night.
6. M. Ward @ The Metro Theatre
My first dose of Mr Ward. With full band he rocked and entertained all night.
7. Horse Feathers @ Pickathon Festival, Oregon, USA
Sitting on a cement floor in a barn. I cried with joy, just exquisite.
8. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Enmore Theatre
These guys are way beyond the hype. Great songs made for a great night.
9. The Dears @ Playground Weekender Festival
Under a starlit sky with only a few people left, this band played with uncommon passion.
10. Joanna Newsom/Bill Callahan/Andrew Bird @ NIDA Theatre
3 unique talents made for a unique night. And I met someone special.
11. Andrew Bird @ The Basement
He is a genius. End of story.
12. Bill Callahan @ The Factory Theatre
A man of immense talent played an extraordinary show. WITH STRINGS!
13. Patty Griffin @ Clarendon Guest House
What an amazing voice. What a gracious and generous performer.
14. Silversun Pickups @ The Annandale Hotel
Sweaty, raucous, exciting. Just pure passion and fun.
15. Born Ruffians @ Wolfe Island Music Festival, Ontario, Canada
3 young men making rocking, exciting noise.
16. The Winks @ La Sala Rossa, Montreal, Canada
Enchanting, magical and ethereal. And so was the venue.
17. Calexico @ The Basement
Superb musicians playing with obvious heart and soul.
18. Po'Girl @ Pickathon Festival, Oregon, USA
Sitting in an old farm house listening to pure gold. Charming and delightful.
19. Cold War Kids @ The Forum
These guys are here to stay. Soul and fiery passion.
20. The Paper Scissors @ Spectrum
Australia's best live band. They truly are.

Dec 5, 2007

Sunset Rubdown:Daytrotter Sessions

Sunset Rubdown, they are good. Well, they just got even better. The fine people at Daytrotter have recorded a new session with Spencer Krug and his now 5 piece band. I might be biased, well I am biased actually, but these 3 new songs have proverbially blown the door off. Yes it is true, the great genius of our time has gotten better. The three songs in question are new song "Idiot Heart" (formerly known as Icarus) which stomps like an angry elephant. "Three Colors" which is an elongated version of the original song which appeared on an earlier EP, and a slow version of "The Mending of the Gown" which has the distinct possibility of producing tears.

For your downloading pleasure-
Idiot Heart
Three Colors
The Mending of The Gown

Time to celebrate. Destroyer will be releasing their new album on Merge on March 18. The new work is called "Trouble in Dreams" and contains 11 tracks. It is sure to be stunningly good if past works are anything to go by. The first track "Foam Hands" has been made available. It is quite a stately, measured song featuring the always unique voice of Dan Bejar. See what you think.
MP3: Foam Hands

Trouble in Dreams Track Listing
01 Blue Flower/Blue Flame
02 Dark Leaves From a Thread
03 The State
04 Foam Hands
05 My Favorite Year
06 Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night's Ape)
07 Introducing Angles
08 Rivers
09 Leopard of Honor
10 Plaza Trinidad
11 Libby's First Sunrise

Dec 3, 2007

Best Songs of 2007

Spencer: Here's looking at you kid.
Panda Bear: Cheers mate, you're quite a talent.
S: Thanks, just one thing. How did you get 2 songs in Wayne's top ten?
PB: Oh, he has some silly rule about one song per album. I wouldn't worry about him. He can be funny like that.
S: Ah, yeah. I probably could have ruled this list then, hey?
PB: No doubt, bro. Anyway you got number one, so congrats.
S: Thanks, man. Love the old school Orioles cap, btw.

2007. Where to begin? Where to start? Well how about my favourite songs of 2007. Trying to narrow the selection down to 10 is an almost impossible task, but here goes anyway. In this process I think I am sure to forget songs I love. I also figured it is probably singularly impossible to listen to everything released in 2007. Although I have tried my best in that regard. What do I look for in a great song? Well I believe a great song should have the ability to affect three parts of your body. The heart, the mind and the hips. That is, hopefully it will be sufficiently emotional, rigourously intelligent and undeniably catchy enough to get your body moving. I need it to have a great melody, if it's just bringing rhythm then it just won't get the job done. I need it to feel fresh and original, yet still drawing on its past influences. I do hope the lyrics are daring and fierce in their emotions. Preferably the instrumentation will be original and organic, it needs to bleed through the speakers. A great song for me will always reach that "goose bump time", that moment when inspiration meets execution. When the chills up your spine are not because you forgot to close the window. Now you might have grasped by now that I have a certain affection for "Random Spirit Lover", in fact its greatness could have simply filled this list with ease. Songs like "The Mending of The Gown" and "Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days" are quite stunning in every possible way. But I decided to limit Sunset Rubdown to just one appearance in this list. Their song wins the number one position, the others are listed in no particular order. Just know this, they are all special to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Taming of the Hands That Came Back To Life-Sunset Rubdown
The opening drums are like a kick to the head. Wake up, you are in Spencer's world. The keyboards that follow are like a clarion call to the creative genius of this man. What ensues is six minutes of magic. I still don't really know what this song is truly about, but the relentless rhythm, the glorious vocals, the head rush of excitement is just overwhelming. Overflowing with ideas, brimming with beauty. This song is crushing, like a buzz saw to the brain enveloped in a soft bed of down. Delirious and transcendental. Breathe it in. Extraterrestrial.
"Will you live in the physical world?
With the sun setting low and the shadows unfurled
Can you live with the way they make you look unreal?"

A With Living-Do Make Say Think
Can guitars weep? Can guitars leap from the speaker, down your throat and into your heart. In the hands of this Canadian collective, they can. This song doesn't shout greatness, it whispers it. Using vocals on a rare occasion, they are employed with stunning effect. When the song bursts into life after warm and fuzzy guitars lap at your ears, your heart will soar. This song has so many layers, exquisite guitar, sublime drumming and glorious harmonies. Halfway through it slows to a mellifluous halt as guitars trill and tremble. After that, it is like a glorious comedown as the guitars slink and sway, crashing off cliffs and careening into the abyss. Glorious.

While You Were Sleeping-Elvis Perkins
As real and as starkly heartfelt a song you will ever hear. Simple strum of guitar adorns the gentle and soothing voice of Elvis. A simple melody, yet amazingly unforgettable. This song defines momentum, a story of heartbreak unfolds, building and building before derobing the bare emotion on display. Understated beauty never sounded so good. A sad story was never more sweetly told. I would contend that if this song of truth doesn't move you then maybe you put a hand on your heart and see if it is still ticking.
"I walked on tiptoe, sent darkness swirling over
all the kitchen in the early morning
I'll never catch up to you
who sleeps so sound
my arms are useless
my heart beats too loud to go to sleep
my mind's too proud to bow out"

Bushels-Frog Eyes
And then we felt the musical world turned upside down. The wild and mercurial world of Frog Eyes, a world where nearly all other music appears vain and mundane. This song crushes and devours. It chews you up and spits you out. Complex and detailed to the extreme, Mercer pleads and howls over frenetic guitar. His heart seems likely to burst forth from the song. Draining yet remedial, the song reaches into another stratosphere when the vocals go from being a cry for help into a demolition of a soul of a man. Spectacular.
"When am I going to feel the sting of your sun?
I was a singer, I sang on your heart
I was a singer and I sang on your home..."

Chores-Animal Collective
Jump, jump, jump. Feel the pulse quicken and nearly explode. Panda Bear's sublime melodies crash headlong into this band's unique and original tribal rhythms. Drums crash and burn, sound effects abound. Then at 1.40 the song slows and blossoms into this paean of slow burning majesty. A testament to the pure and resplendent genius that is Animal Collective. Truly, they are not of this planet. They just visit us sometimes.

Bros-Panda Bear
Extraordinary, revelatory. An exposition of the very possible limits of sound. Can a rhythm and melody have ever been fused so tightly together with such great affect. My mind sometimes freezes when I listen to this. I say this. It doesn't imitate Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson wishes he could have written something as life affirming and as majestic as this. To say this song has momentum would be an understatement. Try to concentrate on every single note on display, then tell me this is not a work of divine inspiration.

The Underdog-Spoon
Trying to choose a favourite song off "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is like trying to pick your favourite child. It is such a complete and supreme work I did have difficulty. So I just went for the catchiest. That didn't help, really. Well, I settled for "The Underdog". Why, play this 100 times in a row and tell me if you grow tired of it. I didn't think so. Britt Daniel just knows how to write intelligent, soulful songs that wrap themselves around you. And that husky voice gets me every time. Just one question, why wasn't this a number one song? Go figure.

Apartment Story-The National
One wisp of Matt Berninger's voice is enough. Enough to make you tremble and shake. From a album that is truly great, this was my favourite. Great, elastic drumming, throbbing guitar and a glorious melody. Then that voice, crooning like no other. This song is dark and delicious, inviting and delectable. Also I have strong personal reasons for loving this song. Let's just that when I play this I always think of someone special.
"We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days."

Muscle'n Flo-Menomena
That organ. That friggin', blessed organ. If it weren't for the now well proven theory that is gravity, I would float on air every time I heard this song. Thankfully this sublime song is more than that. Gorgeous harmonies, a groovalicious rhythm, lyrics that are plaintive but also hopeful.
This is experimental music with enormous heart. But oh, that organ. 2.20. Stunning.
"Well here I stand
a broken man
If I could I would raise my hands
I come before you humbly
If I could I'd be on my knees."

What We Had-Handsome Furs
Is there a more expressive singer in the world then Dan Boeckner. On a album that is purely magnificent from start to finish, this was still my favourite. Oh, so simple but eternally glorious. A simple drum beat meshed with the rumble of a lonely guitar. All held together by that brooding, towering voice. Dark and deliberate, this song exudes sorrow.
"They're all our eyes are saucered to see
as if hands might float right down from above
and change this place
nobody here, don't mean a thing."

I couldn't help myself, here are ten more moments of musical magic-

Becoming All Things-Zookeeper
Intervention-Arcade Fire
Country Caravan-Blitzen Trapper
Unless It's Kicks-Okkervil River
Kookaburra-John Vanderslice
Behold the River-The Snake The Cross The Crown
Cocaine Lights-Phosphorescent
Cindy-Ola Podrida
For Emma-Bon Iver (song removed by request)

Dec 2, 2007

Toy Symphony

Toy Symphony is a triumphant return for two heavyweights of the Australian stage. Firstly, this magnificent piece of theatre now showing at the Belvoir, is esteemed playwright Michael Gow's first work in 10 years. Secondly, it represents Richard Roxburgh's first appearance on a stage in 7 years. Thankfully, for those that love imaginative, engrossing and revelatory theatre Toy Symphony is an extreme success. To put it plainly, this play is as fine a piece of theatre that I have seen in years. Rewarding to the extreme, its strengths are many. Just pure magic.

Roland Henning (Roxburgh) enters a sparsely decorated stage, just a plain brown chair adorns it. He is a gifted playwright suffering from writer's block. He is soon joined by Nina (Justine Clarke), his therapist who is trying to cure his troubles. There then follows a lengthy scene as the two characters go back and forth. He is cynical and bitter. She is frustrated and caring. The scene is engrossing, but has been done before. But before you can perhaps settle into a pattern that you might suspect the play will follow, the play bursts into a multitude of scenes that will bewilder and dazzle. Confuse and endear. Leave you ragged and raptured. Basically, the play becomes a dazzling trip into the mind of Roland as we are transported into his childhood. We learn of his experiences as young boy and as a teenager, experiences that formed the man we see now. We discover the heartfelt connection to his teacher Mrs Walkham (Monica Maughan), his vivid imagination that enables him to create historical characters before everyone's eyes (these scenes are incredibly humorous and tender) and the persecution he suffered from school bullies and school doctors. Out of all this he starts to write, including a fanciful play based around the story of Haydn's "Toy Symphony". The significance of this childhood play will become evident in a crucial scene towards the climax of the play. All these continuous flashback scenes never descend into cliche. In fact they are full of magic and pain, heart and soul. They actually reveal the journey that the grown man has under taken. Roxburgh is quite incredible as the troubled lead. He is at once arrogant and tender, difficult yet heartbreakingly real. The performance is one to marvel at. All the cast are exemplary, including Russell Dykstra and Guy Edmonds in important support roles. Gow has written what seems quite a personal work. There are scenes that discuss the pain of artistic block and the questioning of the theatre's importance and relevance. There is a touching connection to growing up in suburban Como and the questioning of life after Roland's parents pass away. Director Neil Armfield has expertly taken the finely detailed script and welded it with great surety to the skill of the talented cast. The end product is theatre that will have your heart breaking and your face sparkling, most often in the same scene. This is on stage drama of many layers and levels. It deserves all the plaudits it is receiving.

Dec 1, 2007

Paper The Walls-Loch Lomond

So many good things come out of Portland, Oregon. Here is another one. Loch Lomond. Write that name down. For they are good and so is their third release, "Paper The Walls". This album builds and develops the ideas brought forth in their excellent 2006 EP "Lament For Children". Loch Lomond were originally conceived in 2003 as the solo project of singer Ritchie Young. Fast forward to 2007 and the band has grown to 9. However, the thing that strikes me about this band is that although they are large in number, their sound is extremely intimate. Personal to the extreme, the music is all quietly delivered beauty. Pastoral folk if you will.

The opening song "Carl Sagan" will give you a pretty good idea what to expect. Young's vocals are tender and giving, but he manages to build in power as the song progresses. The music is a delightful concoction of multi instrumentation. Besides the obligatory guitar, there is also cello, violin, mandolin, celeste, theremin, clarinet and saw. The feeling continues into "A Field Report". This is not music to grab you by the scruff of the neck, rather it beguiles and enchants. Leaving you awash in a sea of serenity. There is also a connection to fellow Portlanders Horse Feathers, as Peter and Heather Broderick from that band also play in Loch Lomond. Delightful as the first half is, I think the album really hits its stride in the second half. "Scabs On This Year" features absolutely gorgeous strings, whilst "Stripe II" whispers quietly into your ear. "Song in 3/4 " is precisely that, its rhythms resonate The Decemberists and "All Your Friends Are Smiling" is a perfect closer, full of delicious and evocative four part harmonies. Recorded at Type Foundry in Portland by Adam Selzer (Norfolk and Western), "Paper The Walls" is not revolutionary, but it is evolutionary. Full of earthy texture, it feels organic and natural. Its great charm and generous heart is sure to win you over.

Purchase now from Hush Records.
MP3: Carl Sagan
MP3: Stripe II