Jul 29, 2010

The State Of Television

In an excellent article I read today in the New York Times I discovered that Laura Linney, the wonderful film and stage actress, is coming to TV. On Showtime, also home of Weeds and The United States of Tara, The Big C is a dark comedy about a mother and wife in Minnesota who has incurable cancer. It premieres on the USA in August. But it got me to thinking that years ago an actor of Linney's credentials would never have touched television. The 'idiot box' was the home of sit coms and light entertainment. You might start there, like George Clooney, but you didn't end up there. That stigma is now well and truly gone. Actors the quality of John Goodman, Toni Collette, Mary Louise Parker and many others now ply their talents on the small screen. I truly believe we are in a golden era.

Having said that there is also plenty of lowest common denominator product. We are awash with reality shows that make no sense to me. Australian drama is still stuck mostly in soap opera land and there are plenty of American shows that are formulaic and tired with laugh tracks and poor dialogue. For every 'Hung' we have a 'Two and a Half Men'. But let's concentrate on the good. Such as the new David Simon creation in Treme (pictured above). It premiered recently on Australian screens and two episodes in we are hooked. Beautifully shot and written it captures the drama of Post Katrina New Orleans with great effect. We are also loving Modern Family, which no has laugh track and for a mainstream comedy show is very well written and very funny. Good Australian TV is hard to find, but thankfully the ABC still delivers with shows like 'The Gruen Transfer' and also the creations of Chris Lilley.

I thought it would be an idea now to list my 10 favourite shows that are currently live and ongoing, plus a list of shows that are no longer with us. Either recently finished or favourites from the memories of the past. I would love to hear your favourites.

Television I Love Now
1. Mad Men
2. Breaking Bad
3. True Blood
4. Big Love
5. Weeds
6. The United States Of Tara
7. Hung
8. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
9. Entourage
10. Modern Family

Television from the Past
1. The Wire
2. Deadwood
3. Arrested Development
4. Six Feet Under
5. The Simpsons (I know it's still going, but I haven't watched for a while)
6. Fawlty Towers
7. Hill Street Blues
8. The West Wing
9. The Office (UK)
10. Seinfeld

Jul 26, 2010

Grizzly Bear @ Enmore Theatre

So it came to past that Daniel Rossen's guitar radiated out sounds and shapes exceedingly blissful to the human ear. A symphony of joy if you will. Enough to make me want to lie down with his guitar and embrace the myriad expressions that it gives forth. To share the unique and joyous sounds that emanate out. But if truth be told I need everything else. Everything else that makes Grizzly Bear such a special band. The rich voice of Ed Droste, the intelligent drumming of Chris Bear and the four hundred instruments that Chris Taylor brings to the stage. These four men are in sync like few other bands. Every sound is matched perfectly, whether it is a subtle one or a heavy and strident one. Put simply, Grizzly Bear are unearthly at the moment. Superb.

Sunday night at the Enmore Theatre was a victory lap for the men from Brooklyn. In January they played to sold out shows at the Sydney Festival. I went to two and was bedazzled both times. So was a third show within six months necessary. Yes, vitally, undoubtedly. Plus this was a rock show, in a theatre. I love the acoustics of the City Recital Hall, but sometimes it is good to stand and move. Be moved. A definite must see and hear. No doubt. Once again it was naturally "Veckatimest" heavy but the longer show meant it was possible to dig out more older tunes. Such as the stunning "Little Brother" or the sumptuous "Knife". Both great, as was the closing "On A Neck, On A Spit". A big surprise was the even earlier "Showcase", a song that Ed said they hadn't played for three years. They need to remedy that situation, for it was positively radiant. The encore song was an oldie too in the shape of "Fix It", which was fairly thunderous. Of course the latest songs shone fully as well. "Fine For Now", "Ready, Able" and "While You Wait for the Others" all hit the spot. Wait, everything hit the spot. No flat spots, just high points. Grizzly Bear delivered the goods in spades. Sydney embraced this band. We await your return.

Set List
Southern Point
Little Brother
Deep Blue Sea
Fine For Now
Two Weeks
Ready, Able
I Live With You
While You Wait for the Others
On A Neck, On A Spit

Fix It

Support act Here We Go Magic were a great entree. The five piece from Brooklyn delivered a varied, interesting show that was a great display of harmonies and interesting melodies. Their live show also gave us a heavier sound then the one on record. Many songs were extended with long guitar jams that were effective and enjoyable. It was all pretty great but my two favourites would have had to been "Fangela" and Only Pieces".

Jul 23, 2010

Boyfriends-Secret Cities

Make sure you track down "Pink Graffiti", the new album from Secret Cities. It is absolutely brilliant. Here the band play "Boyfriends", a stand out track from the album.

Jul 21, 2010

Arcade Fire Teaser

Untitled from Arcade Fire on Vimeo.

Excited? Yes!!!

Jul 19, 2010

Perfume Genius

A month ago I had no idea who Perfume Genius was. Now I do and for that alone I am glad. This picture tells a story about the music. It is open, direct and brutally honest. Perfume Genius is a young man from Seattle named Mike Hadreas. He write songs that are short but powerful, emotion charged but very tender. They are an insight into his soul, a pathway to his heart. He can explain better. “I spent my whole life hiding from the things that happened to me, to my family and friends,” Hadreas says now. “The entirety of all these experiences: abuse, addiction, suicide, all that cool stuff, I couldn’t bear to look at it.” His first song was "Learning", a sparse and heartbreaking ballad. It would also become the title and first song of his debut album. "Learning" was released on Matador in June and I can recommend it highly if you love tender and meaningful music that speaks with a direct voice.

MP3: Learning-Perfume Genius

Jul 17, 2010

Meet Me In The Basement-Broken Social Scene

Jul 16, 2010

The Moondoggies

In 2008 a band from Seattle emerged with a fine debut album. "Don't Be A Stranger" was a rustic, ramshackle hugely enjoyable album that deserved a much bigger audience. Now The Moondoggies are back with more music. Hardly Art will release "Tidelands" on September 14. The album comprises ten tracks and was recorded in the winter months of 2009 and 2010. It was produced and recorded by the band and Erik Blood with help from Phil Ek and Kurt Bloch. Lead singer Kevin Murphy explains the themes of the album. “What the water represents can be taken many different ways,” concedes Murphy. “Many of the lyrics came to me while trying to be constructive in how I dealt with feeling depressed, rather than just getting wrapped up in my own head.” Songs deemed worthwhile but inappropriate for inclusion on "Tidelands" have been released on an EP, now available, named "You'll Find No Answers Here". I have a track for preview from that EP. It's pretty great, which augurs well for the album.

MP3: Fly Mama Fly-The Moondoggies

Jul 14, 2010

Breathe Owl Breathe

This is not a community service announcement in the aid of ornithology, but rather an introduction to a band you might not have heard of. Breathe Owl Breathe are Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs and Andrea Moreno-Beals. They hail from rural Michigan and are about to release their new album on Hometapes, their first for that label. Previously they had self released four albums, so "Magic Central" represents a bigger step out into the world. Their music is organic, nurtured and quite beautiful. Please listen to "Own Stunts" and then judge for yourself. The new album is due out on September 28.

MP3: Own Stunts-Breathe Owl Breathe

Jul 11, 2010

2010; A Quick Look Back In Time, Or How I Became Andronicusised

What? Who are your number one? Yes folks it is not Wolf Parade. Not a magic moment from Canada, but a hurricane from New Jersey. Titus Andronicus, led by the spirit of Patrick Stickles, gave us in 2010 an album of such fierce passion that I could not but consider that "The Monitor" is my number one musical moment in the first half of 2010. To be sure "Expo 86" is not far behind and by year's end it could work its way to the top. But for now consider me well and truly a disciple of the one and only Titus Andronicus. Put it this way. I can't imagine enduring a life that does not contain "The Monitor". But there have plenty of other great moments in 2010. Some surprising, some not. In the live arena I was swept overboard by the return of Pavement. I fell in love with Scott Avett at The Factory. Then way back in January we were truly charmed by the spectacular The Decemberists and the gorgeous Grizzly Bear. Musically there have been some underwhelming moments. Some slight (The Hold Steady, Blitzen Trapper), some medium (Midlake) and some quite large (Band of Horses, Eels). But there have been some pleasant discoveries as well, such as Fang Island and Suckers. All in all, just another step along the magical mystery tour of music. Plus, we still have Panda Bear to look forward to.

Top Ten Albums of 2010 (So far)
1-The Monitor-Titus Andronicus
Staggering. Fierce. Passionate. Angry. Fun. Committed. Ambitious. Incredible. Loud. Epic. Stupendous. Life Changing. Essential.

2-Expo 86-Wolf Parade
Nothing but the best from these four men. An exuberant and exciting album full of the usual detours and heart on sleeve moments.

3-La La Land-Plants And Animals
Severely under rated, this Montreal trio deliver a sumptuous and exotic album that is warm and glowing. Full of ambition and adventure.

4-High Violet-The National
The brooding men from Brooklyn have done it again. Gets better with each and every listen. Berninger's voice is just something else.

They have done better, but it's still a great album. Which is testimony to the enduring greatness that is the soulful Spoon.

6-Teen Dream-Beach House
The album that converted me. Not a fan before, but I love this ethereal and radiant album. Lush and inviting melodies abound.

7-At Echo Lake-Woods
The unique and the esoteric Woods create melodies that just don't quit. In a sane world these songs would be sung by all of us.

8-Together-The New Pornographers
Another chapter in the ever consistent career of this band. Subtle and rewarding music that keeps giving and giving.

9-The Wonder Show Of The World-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang
If 'Beware' was a misstep, then this album is a mighty return to form for the one and only Will Oldham. Simply beautiful.

10-Forgiveness Rock Record-Broken Social Scene
Not a masterpiece, not consistent. But when it's on, boy is it on. BSS still know how to produce thrilling and glorious moments of Rock.

Honourable Mentions
Paul's Tomb:A Triumph-Frog Eyes
Here's To Taking It Easy-Phosphorescent
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks-Frightened Rabbit
Have One On Me-Joanna Newsom
Wild Smile-Suckers
Gorilla Manor-Local Natives
Brothers-The Black Keys
Fang Island-Fang Island
I Speak Because I Can-Laura Marling
Learning-Perfume Genius

Music to Anticipate...
Blue Giant-Blue Giant
I Heart California-Admiral Radley
The Way Out-The Books
Pink Graffiti-Secret Cities
The Suburbs-Arcade Fire
Public Strain-Women
All We Grow-S. Carey
The Orchard-Ra Ra Riot
Personal Life-The Thermals
Wilderness Heart-Black Mountain
Tidelands-The Moondoggies
Lisbon-The Walkmen
Everything In Between-No Age
Tomboy-Panda Bear

Jul 10, 2010

Wolf Parade (Live In Montreal)

Because they are Wolf Parade, GBOAT. Playing their classic "I'll Believe In Anything" at Le National in Montreal. First date of their North American tour. Let's hope they do visit us in January.

Jul 8, 2010

Mr Peterson-Perfume Genius

Jul 7, 2010


If you are a fan of Bon Iver, then perhaps you will be inclined to fall for the charms of S. Carey. For Sean Carey has been a member of Bon Iver from the beginning, providing important and relevant percussion and is now set to release his debut solo album. "All We Grow" will be released on Jagjaguwar on August 24. Containing 9 tracks the album was recorded at Carey's home and also at April Base (Justin Vernon's studio in Wisconsin). The first available song for download is a good sign that this will be an album to strongly anticipate.

MP3: In The Dirt

Jul 5, 2010

Expo 86-Wolf Parade

If music matters to you then Wolf Parade should matter to you as well. For they, in my opinion, represent what is good in music. What is exciting and stimulating. What is great. They climbed the mountain in 2005 and five years later they have managed to stay there. With "Expo 86", their third album, they have created stimuli for the senses, shocks to the heart and smiles to the face. It is music that is conversely simple and complicated. Simple in its intent, but complicated in structure and sound. The music is raw, yet complex and giving. This is an album that will make you dance with unshackled mayhem, but is also good enough to be a headphone masterpiece. I hoped for greatness. I received it.

Previously I delved into this album, so I won't go long with further appraisal. Suffice to say that in an age of glib pop and poor song construction it is refreshing to hear music that pounds on the head and the heart. That takes guitars, keyboards and drums and makes music that is fresh and invigorating. The band have stated that they worked long and hard on this record and the results have born fruit. They also recorded mostly everything direct to tape, trying to capture their famed live sound. This worked also as there is a directness and illumination on each and every track. This album feels like a band collaboration too. An Arlen drum fill, a Dante bass line, Dan's lead guitar or Spencer's keyboards. They are all there, meshing together in one organic celebration. But it's the moments that make Wolf Parade great. Those signature sparks that carry long inside your head and heart. No one does it better.

The frenetic drumming at the end of "Palm Road"
The driving midsection of "What Did My Lover Say?"
The way Dan sings "Sing 'em all night anyway" in "Little Golden Age"
The weeping guitar in "In The Direction of the Moon"
The maelstrom of guitar and drum (twice) in "Pobody's Nerfect"
The aching guitar breakdown in "Yulia"
The madcap surge of "Cave-O-Sapien".

It's all there. All for us. All for you.

MP3: What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)

Jul 4, 2010

Dead Letter Chorus @ Sandringham Hotel

Familiar faces in new places made a cold Sydney Saturday night in Newtown just that much warmer. Dead Letter Chorus, not long returned from a successful trip to Canada, played near our home last night at a venue that I hope to return to again and again. The Sydney five piece, who always bring it live, were playing the last night of a short tour promoting their new single "Covered By Snow" and a slew of new material from their forthcoming new album that they are currently working on.

The Sandringham Hotel is a Sydney institution on King St, plying live music for many years. But they recently opened up a new space upstairs. A small but comfortable room with exposed brick and plenty of charm, it looks set to become a destination for many bands to play. Plus the lighting and sound was excellent as well. Perfect for Dead Letter Chorus who once again put on a enjoyable and fun night. As said, they gave us quite a lot of new material and it all went down a treat. Good to see the band expanding their sound as well. Long the masters of the sonic epics, such as the great "The Peaceful Sleep of Death", some of new material was a blend of folkier and poppier moments. I really loved "Run Wild" which was very percussive and rhythmical and also "Yellow House, Brown Dog" which was a stripped back almost folk number that prompted a singalong from the appreciative audience. Then there was also "Covered By Snow" which was strong and powerful live. Hopefully this song will continue to pick up radio airplay. For the encore it was a return to old times with Gabby starring on "Sally On Red" and Cam bringing it home on "Fathers And Daughters", where Canadian support Two Hours Traffic joined them on stage for the finale to a great and hugely enjoyable night.

Set List
I Belong To You
Everything Fades
Down In Your Valley
Oscar Moland
Run Wild
Magnolia Farm
The Peaceful Sleep Of Death
Yellow House, Brown Dog
Last Day
Covered By Snow

Sally In Red
Fathers And Daughters

Jul 3, 2010

A Cold Freezin' Night-The Books

Here is a new video for a track from the long awaited new album from The Books. "A Cold Freezin' Night" is one of 14 tracks from "The Way Out", which is to be released on Temporary Residence on July 17. Below is another track for your sampling.

MP3: Beautiful People-The Books