Dec 31, 2008

Favourite Films of 2008

First rule of film reviewing. Any Paul Thomas Anderson film is destined to be considered above all others. Well, that is my rule anyway, as I do believe this wondrous director hits heights that no other current film maker currently does. Put simply, the man is a marvel. So, even though, his latest film was released overseas in 2007, it only saw the light of day in Australia in early 2008 and from the very first frame this pure cinematic experience was destined to be my favourite film of the last 12 months. Without doubt. Although there were also some very fine films released early in the calendar year that impressed me greatly as well. Having said that, the second half of the year seemed to dry up for the viewing of quality film. Plus, buying a house and then moving into it did put a dent into my movie going. Anyway, here are my favourite 10 film experiences of 2008. Please enjoy.

1. There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
A masterpiece on every level possible. Pure cinematic gold. Dynamic, astounding, relevant and revealing. This meditation on greed and power resonates strongly in today's age. Shot with breathtaking beauty and featuring a unique score, I was blown away by the sheer originality. To top it off, it featured the Academy Award winning performance of Daniel Day Lewis. Lewis is simply magnetic on screen. It was very hard to take your eyes off him at any stage. This powerful film is evidence again that Anderson has no peer.

2. No Country For Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Even though the above film should have won Best Picture, I had no complaints with this incredible film taking the honours. Every frame of this film is close to perfect. Not a single shot is wasted. Could be the Coens' finest work yet. Filled with dark humour and sometimes unbearable suspense, the characters in this film were richly drawn and the acting was first class. Javier Bardem's character will remain long in the memory. Several times in this film I had to quickly look away, before returning my gaze to the magic on display.

3. The Savages, directed by Tamara Jenkins.
This film took an age to reach our screens. But it was certainly worth the wait. A beautiful and tender depiction of the responsibilities of family and the duty of care. Two of the best, Hoffman and Linney, combine perfectly with heartfelt and true performances. This movie is caring, moving and ultimately funny. Directed with tenderness and surety, it is joined by an intelligent script that is insightful and nuanced.

4. Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen.
An astounding debut. A breathtaking and heartbreaking film. The true story of hunger striker Bobby Sands is truly moving and a stark reminder of the injustice that exists on this planet. There is hardly any dialogue, but the images do the talking. What images they are too. Despite the subject matter this is quite a beautiful film. There are scenes in this film that are starkly poetic. Add this to remarkable performances and you have quite a film.

5. Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck.
Who knew the Affecks were this talented? Ben's directorial debut was one to reckoned with, whilst brother Casey is a revelation as the stoic young private detective looking for a missing child. This is old fashioned film making at its best. Solid story, intelligent narrative and gritty, realistic performances. The downside of Boston is shown with all its flaws and humanity. An extremely good example of what all Hollywood films should strive for.

6. Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle.
Only saw this two days ago, but the impression was huge. The scenes of Mumbai just pour off the screen into your lap. Brimming with life and humanity, this film is eternally vibrant and vital. A cleverly constructed story balances reality and fantasy with great effect. A superb and exciting film that hits hard and often. Well deserved of all the praise.

7. The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson.
A little under rated, but this latest Wes Anderson release is a true charmer. I just have a very strong affinity for the wry and dry humour of Anderson. His lines are delivered impeccably by the fine cast, especially by Owen Wilson. Like all Anderson films, beneath the humour beats a strong heart and the capability to deliver strongly moving scenes.

8. Burn After Reading, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
The Coens return quickly with a light hearted romp through the world of espionage. But this film to me was more about relationships then about spy games. The motives of relationships and the mistrusts between people. Deliciously funny and dark, features many great performances. But none better then George Clooney, who is hysterical.

9. I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes.
A film of magic and much mystery. An original and unique approach to the life of Bob Dylan. Not every scene works, but when it did it was special. Cate Blanchett is, as usual, outstanding as the Dylan in England. Of course, the music is great. None better then the appearance of Jim James, white faced, covering "Going to Acapulco".

10. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet.
Lumet, the legend, shows the younger crowd how its done. Of course, having the equally great Hoffman in the lead doesn't hurt. This is brutally frank drama, full of pain and anguish. A classic story of greed and desperation, bristling with great dialogue and brimming with well directed scenes. Totally engrossing and satisfying.

Some films I am looking forward to-
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Wrestler
Synecdoche, New York
Revolutionary Road
Gran Torino
Rachel Getting Married
The Reader
The International

Dec 30, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is the most vibrant, most alive film I have seen in a very long time. This wonderful movie teems with humanity, leaping off the screen with the utmost zest and vitality. A splendid celebration of cinema, a must see event. Danny Boyle's best work yet.

Slumdog Millionaire is based on the novel "Q & A" by Vikas Swarup. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy, Boyle made the film wholly in India and mostly in the chaos that is Mumbai. It follows the life of impoverished Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a 'slumdog' who grew up in the ghetto of Mumbai. We start the film as he has somehow worked his way onto the Hindi version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire". Jamal, despite his lack of education, manages to make a sustained run on the quiz show. This bemuses the host Prem (Anil Kapoor) at first. But bemusement turns to anger, as he wants to rid his show of the poor kid from the slums. In fact, Prem concludes that Jamal must be cheating and has him arrested. Thrown in jail, Jamal is interrogated and probed without mercy. Here is where the brilliant construction of the film develops. Each question and answer on the quiz show reveals a part of Jamal's life. His turbulent start in life with older brother Salim, his meeting the love of his life Latika, his growing up in an orphanage and the struggles he faced as a young teenager. There are scenes in this film, particularly in the first half, that leap off the screen. The colours and sounds of Mumbai are captured with great clarity. You feel every inch, every moment of joy, every moment of pain. It is a unique blend of reality and fantasy. Very real and also quite surreal. It embodies the fullness of life, the grit of the urban experience. The largely unknown cast, to western eyes anyway, is excellent. Especially the two actors who play Jamal and Salim as young boys. Their scenes will stay with you long after the film has ended. This film is melodramatic, vital, exuberant, totally engaging and also hilarious at times. Make an effort to see it.

Dec 28, 2008

Swan Lake Reveal New Album Details

This is going to be good. "Enemy Mine" is the second album from the supremely talented Swan Lake. For all music lovers it will be released on March 24, 2009 on the Jagjaguwar label. For those not familiar, Swan Lake are the insanely talented Spencer Krug, Dan Bejar and Carey Mercer. Mercer actually found the album cover art from a painting he purchased for $25 in an antique shop in British Columbia. Go figure.

Enemy Mine Track Listing
1. Spanish Gold, 2044
2. Paper Lace
3. Heartswarm
4. Settle on Your Skin
5. Ballad of a Swan Lake, Or, Daniel's Song
6. Peace
7. Spider
8. A Hand at Dusk
9. Warlock Psychologist

Dec 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. This is our Christmas tree in our living room in Newtown.

Bonus coverage. Our beautiful cat Bowie.

Dec 20, 2008

Best 50 Albums of 2008

That didn't take long. Did it? 2008 just seemed to fly by. Sometimes life seems too busy to fit everything in. Especially finding the time to listen to all the music produced in the world. But, it comes to this. A list, because we love making them, of my favourite albums of 2008. I just looked back at 2007 and I think 2008 didn't quite measure up in terms of overall quality. But, there was still plenty of quality out there and certainly enough to find a list containing 50 albums that I really enjoyed. Of course, this list is shaped by what I purchased and what I love. Somehow, I don't have have the time to listen to all of the music produced world wide. But, I try my best and these albums reflect my general taste in music. That is, songs with good structure, intelligent lyrics, a good melody, authentic and honest. Music that is hopefully original and also stands the test of time. So, to the list.

1. At Mount Zoomer-Wolf Parade
Yes, it was predictable. But for good reason. This band embodies everything I love in music. Great melodies, power charged guitars, soaring and heartfelt vocals and that 'It' factor. You know, that factor that just splits your atoms in half. Sometimes you can't explain it, but you just feel it. In your heart and your bones, shaken to the core. Spencer and Dan combine for glorious moment after glorious moment. Producing music that matters. This album seems to have been a bit overlooked for some reason. Were the expectations too high after a stunning debut? I don't know. But I know this. This album was my number one. Without a doubt. More please.
MP3: Language City

2. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
This new songwriter hit me between the eyes with an axe. From the moment I heard the opening bar of "Buriedfed" I was hooked. In a big, big, way. The songs on display here are so rich and worldly and just SO real. Nearly impossible not to fall under their considerable spell. The man has lived a life already, but he has emerged as a major force. A husky voice combined with heartfelt lyrics and driving rhythms make for a potent mix.
MP3: Buriedfed

3. Visiter-The Dodos
It's the drumming firstly. Then the guitars. Then it's the pure energy. The energy, the vitality, the sheer exuberance. This is music that is full of life and spirit. A seriously wonderful album that tumbles melodies like dice, rhythms that flow like rivers. The drumming is kinetic and precise, exploding with life. The guitars strident and free flowing. The vocals vociferous, yet reassuring. This is music that confirms life and blood.
MP3: Fools

4. You & Me-The Walkmen
If "A Hundred Miles Off" was a mild disappointment, then this album was a resounding success. Without doubt. I played this record non stop upon its release. I marveled at its style and substance. The playing is superb and Hamilton Leithauser has never sounded better. "You & Me" is so deep and meaningful. The songs resonate long after they finish. The guitars shimmer and shine and the drumming is exemplary. A band fully matured and ready to star on the world stage. This album will age like fine wine.
MP3: In The New Year

5. Lost Wisdom-Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire
Without doubt the most tender and gorgeous album of 2008. Phil Elverum once again shows he has few peers in creating quiet beauty. A short album, it has had incredible replay value at ONL. Songs of crushing beauty, delivered with utmost honesty and sincerity. Elverum sings of love and nature, the moon, the stars and the earth. Doiron's angelic voice is a perfect complement. Mount Eerie have also just released "Dawn". It might even be better.
MP3: Flaming Home

6. Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes
There is a very good reason this album is appearing on most year end lists. Because this is a truly great album. An outstanding debut, full of warmth and incredible inner beauty. The harmonies are flawless, the melodies rich and satisfying, it just makes your inner parts feel very well fed. Also, this album has no filler, no weak points. If flows from one stellar track into the next, then makes you want to hear it all over again. Quickly.
MP3: White Winter Hymnal

7. Trouble In Dreams-Destroyer
An album that seems to have become lost in the rush. But, for those that have fallen under the spell of Dan Bejar, it's another fine chapter in the catalogue of this remarkable Canadian singer. Bejar has few peers when it comes to complex and erudite lyrics. He combines the natural with the abstract in a package that is original and sometimes daring. He is also an excellent guitarist, who wraps wonderful melodies around his precious words.
MP3: Dark Leaves Form A Thread

8. Arm's Way-Islands
A release that seems to have had very mixed reactions. Well, I love it and I think it is an important work on many levels. "Return To The Sea" was a fantastic debut, but I think this epic work tops it. And it is epic. In every way. But ambition is a good thing and here it pays off for the most part. At times bombastic and theatrical, it is also magnificent and thoroughly ambitious. The melodies are truly great and the patient listener will be more then rewarded.
MP3: Pieces Of You

9. Stay Positive-The Hold Steady
Ladies and Gentlemen, this record rocks. Truly. The album of 2008 that makes me smile the most. It is bursting to the seams with life and adventure. Craig Finn writes mini anthems of everyday life. Drinking, driving, hanging out. Love won, love lost. He is a quite a songwriter and the band is stellar, delivering crunching guitars and exquisite keyboards with vim and vigour. This is music that celebrates life and is therefore essential.
MP3: Slapped Actress

10. Furr-Blitzen Trapper
A band of this age and any age. Drawing all the great influences of the American musical quilt and putting them into one very delectable piece of music. Truly entertaining, invigorating and special. Defines easy to listen to in the very best way. Country, folk, rock, pop. It's all there wrapped up in a very special package. Eric Earley's voice is so comforting and reassuring and the guitars twang in a way that is hard to resist.
MP3: Furr

11. The Midnight Organ Fight-Frightened Rabbit
Killer hooks combine with starkly honest lyrics to make an album that is truly enjoyable. Simple as that. In an era when most British bands are content to be Coldplay-lite, this Glasgow band play with heart, passion and downright joy. Scott Hutchison's plaintive Scottish drawl is a true thing of beauty. Combine that with great drumming, soaring guitars and knock out melodies and you have a sure winner on every single level.

12. Parc Avenue-Plants And Animals
This album came early in the year and I kept returning to it over and over. At first it didn't truly grab me, but when it did I was hooked. The songs are complex and truly beautiful. They draw on many styles, but somehow they mesh together quite beautifully. There is a languid and gentle quality that allows the songs to grow upon every listen.

13. Missiles-The Dears
The band that turned itself inside out managed to produce quite possibly their very best work. It contains the band's trademark sounds, but at a more leisurely and considered pace. Lightburn's songs still tackle the big subjects of life. Love, hate, death, life. But in a way that is truly poetic. The guitar work, as always, is quite exemplary.

14. For Emma, Forever Ago-Bon Iver
First released in 2007, this gorgeous album got a wider release in 2008. Seemingly universally loved and with good reason. Justin Vernon made a quiet acoustic album that spoke volumes. Full of heart and emotional depth, this album makes me feel very content.

15. Red, Yellow And Blue-Born Ruffians
It's not that easy to write pop songs with such wit and depth. Of course these songs are as catchy as hell, but there is an earnest and honest approach that definitely gives these songs great staying power. Songs that hum with pure joy.

16. Wagonwheel Blues-The War On Drugs
Expansive and classical songwriting on display here. Inventive and multidimensional, yet also earthy and authentic. Adam Granduciel's voice is one to treasure, backed up by driving melodies and swinging guitars. A great discovery of 2008.

17. Lie Down In The Light-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
The 'Prince' of songwriting releases yet another great album. Will Oldham is revered for what he is. A truly gifted songwriter capable of speaking about life with quite exquisite beauty. The very antithesis of modern pop music. Forever a true original. Build him a statue.

18. Langhorne Slim-Langhorne Slim
If your heart is sagging and in need of restitution, then this album could be for you. If your day is not working out as you intended, then this album is definitely for you. It just screams joy and happiness. Love and beauty. With Slim's trademark swing and harmony.

19. Hometowns-The Rural Alberta Advantage
This band needs a much bigger audience. Right now. This album reminded me of those classic Indie albums of the nineties. Rocking with a heart, giving us riffs that made us shout and scream. Lyrics of place and time, making your heart skip a beat. Find this album.

20. House With No Home-Horse Feathers
Quietness never sounded so good. This Portland band created music that was stunning in its execution. Subtle, tender, honest. Sometimes breathtaking.

21. Dear Science-TV On The Radio
The first two songs I heard had me worried. Too light? But the rest of the album delivered, with the closing three numbers truly stunning. Great in parts.

22. Microcastle-Deerhunter
This album has the potential to rise in years to come. Late to the party I was mightily impressed by this album's inventiveness and ear for fine melody.

23. Something For All Of Us...-Brendan Canning
Definitely an under rated album. Canning leads the crew into more guitar deliciousness and wizardry. Glowing moments abound here.

24. Heretic Pride-The Mountain Goats
An eclectic and diverse collection of songs from the American great. If not up with past releases, still a reminder of the potency of this band.

25. The Stand Ins-Okkervil River
The companion piece to "The Stage Names" does contain some filler. But there are also 5 or 6 true gems, leaving Sheff's reputation enhanced.

26. Your Anchor-Lackthereof
Atmospheric, haunting, quite original. This album was to the point and excellent in many ways. Seim has a real sense of rhythm and melody.

27. Soft Airplane-Chad VanGaalen
Hard to pin down, but very enjoyable to listen to. A melting pot of sounds make VanGaalen a musician of considerable depth and talent.

28. Don't Be A Stranger-The Moondoggies
Classic guitar music for the 21st century. This Seattle band delivered an album complete and thoroughly fun. Harmonies and riffs explode.

29. með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust-Sigur Ros
I believe this was their most accessible work yet. Erupts with elation and good humour at every point. Still contains those moments of beauty we love.

30. Rook-Shearwater
Some of the best lyrics you would have heard in 2008. Powerful, dense and at times uplifting. Has to be their most important work yet.

31. Street Horsssing-Fuck Buttons
This album still scares me to death. Sometimes impenetrable, but quite substantial. An album that was close to hypnotic. Archetypal.

32. Animal Kingdom-Baseball
Ferocious, mesmeric and downright exciting. Australia's most exciting band, I believe, produced an album to savour and explore, oh yes.

33. Shots-Ladyhawk
The sound of guitars falling in the forest. Woody, earthy and crammed with chunky guitars. Driediger's voice is one of the best out there.

34. Oh, Ramona-Hospital Ships
Jordan Geiger's project flew under the radar. Delightful and dark, pop gems with substance abound here. Find it and wrap yourself in it.

35. Swimming-French Kicks
Lazy, hazy songs swoon over shimmering guitars. This New York band escapes the glare these days, but they truly know how to write a good song.

36. Escaping Mankind-Charge Group
Sydney band makes good on promise. An emotion charged, at times stellar, collection of songs. Ethereal, yet robust and strong. Dynamic.

37. Migration-Takka Takka
Fresh and innovative sounds flourish on this very good album. A blend of musical styles and influences combine for eclectic resonances.

38. Attack & Release-The Black Keys
Dan and Patrick are consistent in the extreme. They still somehow manage to sound fresh after all these years. Yet again, pure and reliable.

39. Kensington Heights-Constantines
An album that was a bit up and down. But the ups were very high. Bryan Webb's voice is one of the best out there and this band has lost nothing.

40. Caught In The Trees-Damien Jurado
In the field of soft and tender songwriters, Jurado is one of the best. A lovely album of superb reflections on life. Delicate and endearing.

41. Alopecia-Why?
Hip-hop I can like? Why? Well, the lyrics for a start. Something to sink your teeth into. Plus, the music is inventive and very creative.

42. Loyalty To Loyalty-Cold War Kids
How to follow a stellar debut? Well, try to plough ahead and write good songs. Despite a couple of stumbles, there is plenty to like here.

43. Goodbye Weather-Seagull
An Australian gem. Deliberate, intelligent and forthright music. At times celestial and rarefied, this music was unique and multi layered.

44. The Living And The Dead-Jolie Holland
It's the voice firstly. That husky, whispery, feathery living thing. Then it's the delightful music and strong lyrics that complete the package.

45. Nouns-No Age
I think I still prefer their debut, but this album definitely had its moments. Abrasive and robust, I think I preferred the quieter moments.

46. Moody Motorcyle-Human Highway
Nick Thorburn appears again. This time it's pop with a country twang. Seemingly simple songs were at times immensely enjoyable.

47. Conor Oberst-Conor Oberst
An uneven collection of songs. But the best, like "Cape Canaveral" and "Milk Thistle" prove that Conor still has it. Where will he go next?

48. Consolers Of The Lonely-The Raconteurs
Sprung quickly on the public, it seems a rushed affair. But there is still a good helping of Jack White magic to keep us entertained.

49. Young Family Song-Last Of The Blacksmiths
Haunting and faithful to classic American traditions, this is a whisper quiet album full of soft and gentle moments. Delicate and handled with care.

50. Real Emotional Trash-Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
The legend still lives on. Long and guitar heavy, there is much jamming going on here. Some songs drag, but many soar and stun.

Dec 19, 2008

Dead Letter Chorus @ The Basement

Christmas came early to The Basement last night. Dead Letter Chorus and their Xmas show to be exact. This fine Sydney band yet again put on a wonderful show, full of fun and passion. But, this report will have to be short, sorry. Due to Christmas parties and all other sundry activities I am a bit on the tired side and a little frazzled. But, put simply, Dead Letter Chorus were great last night. This was definitely assured after opening big with "11th Dream About Aeroplanes", which is always epic live. Other highlights of the night were the radio aired "Down In Your Valley", the big sounding "The Peaceful Sleep Of Death" and seldom played oldie "Drifting Along". I also loved the Gabby Huber sung "Fight The Morning". This song sounded as good as it ever has live on stage. The band were also joined on stage, towards the end of the set, by Canadian sister and brother act Matthew and Jill Barber. They played an Aussie classic in "Unguarded Moment", before launching into the Neil Young number "Only Love Can Break Your Heart". So, all in all, a great night and a nice way to spend time close to Christmas.

As stated, Matthew and Jill Barber played as support on their first visit to Australia. Matthew played first and he was very good. He has a lovely soulful voice, similar to Ryan Adams, and impressed greatly. His sister Jill followed and she was quite good as well. Playing a classical guitar she performed with great class and skill, producing some great melodies.

Dec 18, 2008

More Middle Cyclone...

More "Middle Cyclone". Out March, 2009.
From the magnificent Neko Case.

Dec 15, 2008

Best Live Shows of 2008

They spoke only briefly. They didn't sing. But they played. Oh, they played. Like nothing else I have seen. Ever. In a year of stupendous live shows, 4 men stood tall. Head and shoulders tall. Four men from Texas came to Sydney for the first time and blew me away. Completely. 2008 proved in no uncertain terms that live music is worth it. Worth putting up with rude people, talkative people, drunk people, waiting, tiredness. For when the stars are aligned, seeing great music performed in front of you is a unique and unforgettable experience. 2008 was that sort of year. Especially in those heady nights in January and February when nights blurred into one another. Sometimes we would see the same band more then once. Why? Because it was worth it. But one band outshone all the rest.

Munaf Rayani is some sort of being. His spirit filled us all this night and reminded us that music is not Sony, Pink and Kylie. Or Coldplay for that matter. It is making music that matters and playing it in a matter that touches everyone who sees them. I floated away this night.

Will Sheff wakes the dead, shakes the unliving, embodies the spirit of life. He is emotion and heart wrapped in a suit. A dishevelled suit, because he brings it. ALL THE TIME.

This man (Phil Elverum) is a living, breathing treasure. Sitting on a floor in a church was a memorable and unforgettable experience. So gracious, so gentle, so in touch. And I met him before the show!

Kevin, Brendan, Andrew, Justin, Charles, Leslie, Amy, Torq. All of them. They should have closed this festival. But it was perfect anyway.

I think the floor of the Enmore just stopped shaking now. My face ached from smiling, my heart was full of joy. Such energy, such everything. Wow!

We saw them twice and it was worth every cent. Each night was practically identical, but it didn't matter. The songs are just so good. Superb.

This band is just great. In so many ways. Their musicianship matches their astounding catalogue. Then there is Jeff. That voice.

Britt is the man. And he smiled at me!

How did something this great end up at 9? See above, I guess.

Doug Martsch is quite possibly the finest guitar player I have ever seen.

I was prepared to be disappointed. No way, no how.

See number 9. This band can never disappoint. Never.

I fell in love with Amy Millan. Torq, you're kinda cute as well.

This was better then in 2007 and they played "Broke".

Even confetti can make this venue seem special.

This one exceeded all expectations. Just so entertaining and hearfelt.

She is just so sweet and angelic. And so talented.

18? Doesn't seem fair. We saw him twice, both nights were wonderful.

I would like to see Owen go toe to toe with Andrew.

A night of pure enjoyment and total fun.

Dec 13, 2008

Final Fantasy @ The Vanguard

A unique night from a unique performer. First thoughts on the Final Fantasy show at the Vanguard last night in Newtown. Second thoughts? A man of great talent put on an exquisite and thrilling show. The man "behind" Arcade Fire is truly a greatly talented performer in his own right. With two albums behind him and hopefully a third in 2009, Owen Pallett was making his first trip to Australia. And for little over an hour he enthralled a very appreciative audience.

There was a lot to digest for the night. Firstly, although he didn't say a lot, Pallett is a very charming and gracious performer. Always thanking the audience and seeming very modest of his considerable talents. For considerable they are. Dressed in a Deerhunter T-Shirt he sticks mainly to the violin, with occasional trips to the keyboards, continually looping his sounds to create a beautiful wave of sound. His violin playing his quite superb, managing to find every way possible to create mellifluous music. Sometimes playing with great force, sometimes with quiet tenderness and sometimes banging it in an attempt to create something special. Special would be an operative word. Whether he was playing an old tune, a recent EP track or something that will hopefully appear on the new album. Highlights for me were the jaunty "This Lamb Sells Condos", the gorgeous "The Butcher" and the almost ferocious "Many Lives". These were all great. The new? songs also sounded great. Especially the last song which I believe is called "Lewis Takes Off His Short". Pallet said he didn't like the song as they have recently recorded it, but it certainly was a success live. A short break then saw him return for an encore, taking requests from the crowd. Thankfully he played "The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead", which was a joy to hear. Another quick break ensued before he returned to play a beautiful rendition of Joanna Newsom's "Peach Plum Pear". Quite superb. As was the night. Pallett is a singularly talented performer. He has quite ethereal voice, that surprises with its power. His musical style is almost anachronistic too. Quite theatrical, very classical and definitely enjoyable.

Set List
About Face? (new song)
This Lamb Sells Condos
The Man With No Ankles
The Butcher
Flare Gun
E Is For Estranged
Lewis Takes Action
Many Lives -> 49MP
He Poos Clouds
This Is The Dream Of Win and Regine
Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

What Do You Think Will Happen Next?
The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead

Peach Plum Pear

I struggled a little with the setlist (with some new songs), but this is my best crack at it. Sean was also there and has a report on the night.

Dec 10, 2008

Best Songs Of 2008

Then there they were. Those people, those men of super talent. Filling our lives with sounds of a glorious and triumphant nature. Any excuse to write about Wolf Parade, hey? Well, why not. They are supreme after all. After a three year wait, we received LP Number Two. But, I will be writing about this release in my upcoming Best Albums post. Right now I am here to write about my favourite songs of this year past. And guess what. Wolf Parade feature heavily. But to fair, I have only chosen one tune from "At Mount Zoomer". So, here will feature my other favourites. Songs that have moved me. Songs that I believe contain heart and beauty and hopefully will stand the test of time.

Kissing The Beehive-Wolf Parade
I could have easily chosen Dan's triumphant "Language City" or Spencer's shaking "California Dreamer", but I went instead for a combination of the two. The epic "Kissing The Beehive". Ten minutes of monumental goodness. Dan and Spencer intertwining for the good of music. Basically a big don't argue to the rest of the music world. You know, anything you can do, we can do better. Much better. Guitars mash, drums thump, voices wail and cry. It soars to great heights, pushes a bit further, collapses, rests, then pushes onto the epic climax. The ending kills me everytime.
"Johnathan, Johnathan
Waterfalls are running thin you know
Here's a holy grail for you to hold
Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole"

Lover's Day-TV On The Radio
An ecstatic call to love. A triumphant and unbelievably joyous ode to the complexity of love. A swooning statement, delivered with such beauty and passion. This song has an innate ability to make my heart stop everytime I hear it. The drumming is phenomenal, the soul is starkly great and the vocals go where few vocals are capable of.
"We could build an engine.
Out of all your rising stars."

Buriedfed-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, this song. I love its humanity. I love his voice. I love its grittiness. I love its determination. I love that people still write songs like this.
"This is my last song about myself, about my friends
Found something else to sing
Try and patch it up with tape and twine
Maybe I'll just break everything that's mine"

The Season-The Dodos
My favourite new band of 2008. Hands down. This song categorically exemplifies the strengths of this wonderful band. The amazingly rhythmical drumming, the throbbing guitar lines, the plaintive vocals and that incessant push and pull. This band's songs invariably fold themselves back onto each other, encircling till the tension explodes into a violent orgy.
"Miles until this desert brings me back to your face
Those eyes you know I think of them still sometimes
But you're away in Eden
And I'm still here the heathen
This times for real, we're even
We do this for the season"

Black River Killer-Blitzen Trapper
Broken dreams. Tumbleweeds. Deserts. Plains. Flooded streams. Woodchips. Rusty keys. Shots in the head. Blood. Sweat. Oh, sweet music. A glorious tune from a great album. You remember melodies? This band has them in spades. Spades.
"It was dark as the grave, it was just about three
When the warden with his key came to set me free
They gave me five dollars and a secondhand suit
A pistol and a hat and a worn out flute"

Slapped Actress-The Hold Steady
They write songs for the everyman and everyman should love them. Well, I do and this song is near perfect. Craig Finn snarls and spits over vicious licks. The sort of song that demands fist pumping and rump shaking. Glad to see someone is still doing it.
"Don't drop little hints, I don't want them to guess
Don't mention Tampa, they'll just know all the rest
Don't mention bloodshed, don't tell them it hurts
Don't say we saw angels, they'll take us straight to the church"

On The Water-The Walkmen
A sultry, delectable walk on the wild side. Mature music for mature people. Full of a dreadful kind of beauty. Hamilton Leithauser's voice sits astride, backed by incessant guitar and that metronomic drumming. A stunning song from a stunning album.
"Oh, you know I’d never leave you
No matter how hard I try
You know I’d never leave you
And that’s just how it is"

My Favourite Year-Destroyer
Well, it's Dan Bejar for starters. It's great for enders. And it's just all sorts of awesome in between. Complex, elegant, ambitious and majorly multi-layered. Another sure example of the genius of Bejar. If anymore was needed.
"You in white and me in gray go well tonight
So let’s linger here
This used to be my favorite palm tree
I was starving in that shit-house, the world"

Changing-The Moondoggies
Soulful, hard charging music never sounded better. Ringing guitars give way to hard driving melodies. This song howls with great authority and it just feels so good. So good. So natural.

White Winter Hymnal-Fleet Foxes
Sweet, sweet harmonies. Glorious and substantial. Those voices soar into the sky with effortless ease. Believe the hype.
"And, Michael, you would fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries
in the summertime.. "

Dec 9, 2008

Some Fine Australian Music

Firstly, November saw the release of the debut album from Sydney's Dead Letter Chorus. This is certainly an impressive start for this exciting band. Last year saw them release an EP and tour quite heavily, forging a considerably impressive live reputation. "The August Magnificent" manages to capture that live energy and also expand on it with quite formidable results. Drawing from rock, country and folk sources they have created a sound that is both timeless and modern. There is classic song structure, augmented with ambitious production, as the band use all manner of instruments to reach for the stars. The highlights for me are the epic opener "The Peaceful Sleep Of Death", which features ferocious drumming and a great bridge where the guitars soar and sing, and the angry "Silly Little Man/Kill The King", a fiery burning cinder. Also "11th Dream About Aeroplanes" and "Fathers And Daughters" show that their live prowess is not lost on record. This album is one to definitely track down. It features great vocals, gorgeous arrangements and lashings of howling guitars and drums. Great stuff.

I am a sucker for any band that features violin quite heavily. Sydney's Charge Group do that and earlier this year they gave us an album that has grown on me with impressive results. "Escaping Mankind" is a quietly beautiful album. It doesn't shout greatness. It whispers it. Vocalist Matt Blackman has a plaintive, yearning voice that is full of pathos and grandeur. It is backed up by sweeping guitar work and the violin. Oh, the violin. Listen to opening track "Lunar Module" to see what I mean. It stutters and floats, creating a languid, yet beautiful aura. "Redcoats And Convicts" continues the greatness, a glowing number full of leisurely refinement. This is a strong and assured piece of music. It speaks of empty hallways and dusty rooms. It is waiting to be discovered, for its strengths are many.

Earlier this year I saw Seagull as a support act. I had never seen nor heard this Melbourne act before and I was blown away by them. Their sound was/is quite unique. "Goodbye Weather" is their debut album and it is essentially the work of Chris Bolton, although he plays with a full band live. Bolton's voice is oh so delicate and slightly affected. It is not classically good, but it is so tender and real that it manages to carry a lot of weight. The music of Seagull is ethereal and fragile, with sweeping soundscapes created with relative ease. There are many songs to enjoy on this album, but I do love the jangling guitar on "Baby", the crushing beauty of "Ash Wednesday" and the ominous slow burning "Spear". A wonderful Australian release.

Dec 8, 2008

Face Control Cover Art

As reported in an earlier edition, Handsome Furs will be releasing their second album "Face Control" in 2009. Initially set for a February release, Sub Pop have pushed the release date back to March 10. Now, here is the album cover. Pretty ferocious, hey? Not quite sure yet if the cover is doing it for me, but I can't wait to hear the music.

Dec 6, 2008

The Mountain Goats @ Manning Bar

They're back. A resplendent, vociferous, ecstatic troupe of performers. A triumph of song and songs, a crystal clear example of why music matters. Especially their music. The music of John. John was unwell, so an April tour was postponed. Now, they are back. Friday night at the Manning Bar was the return of The Mountain Goats. In full triumph. So, we are/were grateful. For their shows are something to hold and treasure. Full of guts and glory, humour and pathos. Respect Oh Goated ones. Much respect.

My 2007 experience (first time) at the Metro was a singular moment. An undeniably happy, joyous time. So, to see them again was much anticipated. I am happy to report that the night was a great success. Although, maybe not quite the night that I witnessed in 2007. This set was slightly shorter and perhaps lacked a couple of the anthemic numbers from the previous show. John Darnielle was also suffering from jetlag. Although his energy level was still very high, maybe at 98% level. He still managed to squeeze the life out of every number, his face straining and grimacing as he sang with full heart and force. He truly is a unique performer. So generous, so intelligent, so gracious, so everything. He loves his time on stage, truly engaging and engaged.
The music. Naturally it leant heavily on the new album "Heretic Pride". Seven numbers in all from the new release and they all translated well live. Especially with the addition of a drummer in Jon Wurster. Wurster was great, pounding the rhythms out with great dexterity. I wonder if the addition of a drummer concerns long time fans. You know, acoustic to rock so to speak. I, for one, was certainly an advocate for the expanded sound. "Heretic Pride" was a definite highlight, as was the closing section where John exchanged his acoustic for an electric. "San Bernadino" was delicate and exquisite, whilst "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" fully stormed the stage. A great closing number.

Of course, this band has such a huge repertoire that any show becomes a guessing game as to what songs will be pulled out. To such, you can't really be disappointed. So, even though "No Children" was not played we heard a slower tempo (and lovely) version of "Dance Music", a beautifully rendered version of "Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod" (probably the night's highlight) and a storming "This Year" to finish the night off. Also appreciated was the seldom played and thumping "Lion's Teeth". Only minor quibble was a short two song encore, leaving us wanting much more. But Mr Darnielle can definitely be forgiven. Who can be upset with such a gregarious host? Not me, ever. Stories and songs, timeless. Appreciated.

Set List
Michael Myers Resplendent
Heretic Pride
Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into The Water, Triumph Of
Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod
New Zion
Dance Music
Sign of the Crow
Dinu Lipatti's Bones
You Or Your Memory
Have To Explode
Lion's Teeth
In The Craters Of The Moon
San Bernardino
Sept 15, 1983
Lovecraft In Brooklyn

Wild Sage
This Year

Support act was a surprise choice. Baseball. Maybe not a natural match. But this band is a law unto themselves. A true original. Australia's best act. They take your heart, pull it out of your chest, then shove it back down with feathers attached. See. This. Band.

Dec 4, 2008

Neko Case Reveals Middle Cyclone Album Art; Or Wayne Gets Very Excited

2009 just got a whole lot better. Neko Case, that paragon of voice, will be releasing her new album on March, 3 on Anti-. "Middle Cyclone" is the name and we now have the album art. Whereas 2006's "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood" was lyrical and beguiling, this cover is striking and dazzling. Holy cow, that's Neko brandishing a sword on top of a muscle car!
Bring on "Middle Cyclone".
Middle Cyclone Track Listing
1. This Tornado Loves You
2. The Next Time You Say Forever
3. People Got A Lotta Nerve
4. Polar Nettles
5. Vengeance Is Sleeping
6. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
7. Middle Cyclone
8. Fever
9. Magpie To The Morning
10. I'm An Animal
11. Prison Girls
12. Don't Forget Me
13. The Pharaohs
14. Red Tide
15. Marais La Nuit

Dec 3, 2008

Baby For J-Hospital Ships

As mentioned before, I am really loving this debut album from Hospital Ships, the work of Jordan Geiger. Its dreamy pop landscapes are hard to resist. Here is the video for "Baby For J".

Dec 2, 2008

Good People + Good Music = Great Housewarming

The secret is (well, not that secret) to a happy home is to fill it with love and beauty and then enjoy it to the full extent. I feel our new home is like that, so my beautiful partner and I were happy to share it on Saturday night with good friends. Good people made for great company. Plus, there was good music. Well, I think there was because I devised the playlists. So, being the music nerd I am I decided to share my playlists with you.
Plus, I was fairly inebriated by night's end, so I don't remember hearing most of this.
NB: This is fairly long and maybe of only interest to me.
It was definitely a good night...

Skinny Love-Bon Iver
Heart Of Gold-Neil Young
Song For Myla Goldberg-The Decemberists
The Bleeding Heart Show-The New Pornographers
Tables And Chairs-Andrew Bird
Drink To Me, Babe, Then-A.C. Newman
Train In Vain-The Clash
Vice Rag-AA Bondy
California Stars-Billy Bragg & Wilco
Wish You Were Here-Pink Floyd
Bukowski-Modest Mouse
Pressed In A Book-The Shins
The Crystal Lake-Grandaddy
My Moon My Man-Feist
The Dark Don't Hide It-Magnolia Electric Co.
To Be Young-Ryan Adams
For the Pier (and Dead Shimmering)-Sunset Rubdown
Palmcorder Yajna-The Mountain Goats
I Summon You-Spoon
The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion-Okkervil River
Right in the Head-M. Ward
Jacksonville-Sufjan Stevens
Black Star-Radiohead
Jackeyed-Micah P Hinson
Poetaster-Miracle Fortress
Shady Lane-Pavement
Going Mobile-The Who
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?-Bruce Springsteen
Myriad Harbour-The New Pornographers
All The Wine-The National
Never Stops-Deerhunter
Handshake Drugs-Wilco
Driver 8-R.E.M.
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)-Arcade Fire
This Year-The Mountain Goats
Soldier's Grin-Wolf Parade
I've Seen Enough-Cold War Kids
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again-Bob Dylan
In The Midnight-Langhorne Slim
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-The Band
One Big Holiday-My Morning Jacket
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times-The Beach Boys
The Lengths-The Black Keys
Furr-Blitzen Trapper
The Prodigal Son-Two Gallants
Just To See My Holly Home-Bonnie "Prince" Billy
City Of Daughters-Destroyer
Song Of Our So-Called Friends-Okkervil River
7/4 (Shoreline)-Broken Social Scene
Lived In Bars-Cat Power
Queen Bitch-David Bowie
The Sound Of Settling-Death Cab For Cutie
Who Could Win A Rabbit-Animal Collective
The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Waltz #2 (XO)-Elliott Smith
Black River Killer-Blitzen Trapper
I'm The Man Who Loves You-Wilco
Grounds For Divorce-Wolf Parade
Black Math-The White Stripes
The Way We Get By-Spoon
Cut Your Hair-Pavement
Lives-Modest Mouse
Rotten Hell-Menomena
Major Leagues-Pavement
Queen Jane Approximately-Bob Dylan
Elevator Love Letter-Stars
Chicago-Sufjan Stevens
Dance Music-The Mountain Goats
Hotel Yorba-The White Stripes
Growin' Up-Bruce Springsteen
Such Great Heights-The Postal Service
Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End Of Your Feral Days-Sunset Rubdown
The Modern Leper-Frightened Rabbit
Out Of Sight-Built To Spill
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1-The Flaming Lips
Strange Currencies-R.E.M.
John Allyn Smith Sails-Okkervil River
Rebellion (Lies)-Arcade Fire
Mistaken For Strangers-The National
Jesus, Etc.-Wilco
And Your Bird Can Sing-The Beatles
Ticket To Immortality-The Dears
This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers-Augie March
15 Step-Radiohead
The Late Greats-Wilco
I Am Waiting-The Rolling Stones
Trigger Cut-Pavement
Sidewalk-Built To Spill
Good Mornin'-You Am I
Dears Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts-Wolf Parade
Handsome Furs Hate This City-Handsome Furs
Sister Jack-Spoon
Lazy Eye-Silversun Pickups
Teen Creeps-No Age
Arms Like Boulders-The War On Drugs
Blues From Down Here-TV On The Radio
Baba O'Riley-The Who
Stevie Nix-The Hold Steady
Searching For The Ghost-Heartless Bastards
Buriedfed-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Life On Mars-David Bowie
The Twist-Frightened Rabbit
Dog Faced Boy-Eels

Dec 1, 2008

Best Of Australian Music 2008

It was the eyes. Staring with fervour and excitement. A Baseball gig is like no other. So, therefore Baseball (the band) was my favourite Australian music act of 2008. I think, in terms of releases, 2007 was perhaps a better year. But 2008 saw some fine Australian music released and also output on stage. Sean recently compiled from various tastemakers a list of Australia's best in 2008. To which I contributed. Here is my effort.
Note: In my haste I neglected Charge Group from that list.
So, they appear here.

1. Baseball
Not only did they release the best Australian album of 2008, but they are truly sensational live. "Animal Kingdom" is a throbbing wash of sounds and collisions. Then to see them live is an experience not to be missed.
Their album was unsettling, disturbing, brilliant in parts. Just like their live shows. Let's hope they return to our shores soon.
My favourite band to see live in Sydney. Always fun and engaging. Their debut album shows a lot of promise too.
4. Bridezilla
Believe the hype. These youngsters are extremely talented.
They seem here for the long haul.
6. Pivot
Signed the big deal and grew a much deserved audience.
7. Charge Group
"Escaping Mankind" is a beautifully rendered album.
8. Theredsunband
"The Shiralee" flew under the radar. Why?
9. Seagull
Saw them live and was blown away. Their album was great too.
10. The Panics
2007 was a triumph. 2008 was a victory lap.