Feb 28, 2011

Oscar Thoughts

New hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway were pretty good.
Not as bad as most people said.
They were natural and charming, if not massively funny.
Kirk Douglas was hilarious.
Aaron Sorkin was the must win of the night.
Will Roger Deakins ever win?
3 of the 4 Original Song nominess were terrible.
Trent Reznor's score was brilliant and memorable.
Must go and see Inside Job.
Cate Blanchett's dress was a little strange.
Celine Dion was embarrassing.
Melissa Leo was naturally wonderful.
Colin Firth knows how to give a speech.
Natalie Portman looked amazing.
Her speech was heartfelt and moving.
Christian Bale just had to win.
How the hell did The Social Network not win Best Picture?
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.
David Fincher was robbed.

Feb 27, 2011

Academy Awards Preview

Tomorrow in Los Angeles the 83rd Academy Awards will be conducted, consumed and later dissected. We will all have our opinions on who will win and who should have won and so forth. So here are mine. These aren't predictions though, but more like who I would like to see win. Seemingly most years there are plenty of worthy winners. Unlike The Grammys quality does shine through. There are rarely bad films that win Best Picture. However it is very, very common for the absolute best film to miss out. The Academy voters seem quite conventional in their choices. Picking the films that are more traditional and 'normal', conveying a story with a hero and a message, rather then the most unique and unconventional film. Sadly it looks like this year will be no exception. After sweeping the Golden Globes "The Social Network" seems to have lost traction recently with "The King's Speech" gaining favourite status. This is shocking to me. Fincher's film is flawless. A perfect concoction of directing, acting and writing, whilst the latter film is enjoyable, precise but very conventional and hardly dazzling. However we might have to live with this result. A lot of the other main categories appear to have clear cut winners. But not to worry. I will list here my thoughts on each category and also dig a bit deeper into the past with a list of losers that should have been winners.

Best Picture (complete with Pitchfork style scores)
The Social Network (9.3)
Black Swan (8.6)
True Grit (8.4)
The Fighter (8.2)
127 Hours (8.1)
Inception (8.1)
Winter's Bone (7.8)
The King's Speech (7.5)
The Kids Are All Right (7.3)
Toy Story 3 (No rating, not seen)

Best Actor
Colin Firth is at unbackable odds and rightly so. It is a wonderful stand out performance. But James Franco would also be a worthy winner and Ryan Gosling was unlucky not to score a nom.

Best Actress
Natalie Portman was astounding as the twisted ballerina and should win. Even though a long shot I would be happy though if Michelle Williams caused an upset.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale. Hands down, NO other chances.

Best Supporting Actress
Probably the tightest race with Melissa Leo the slight favourite. She would be worthy but I would give the statue to the wonderful Amy Adams.

Best Director
Firstly Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan were very unlucky not to be nominated. But no matter, this category belongs to David Fincher.

Best Original Screenplay
Favourite seems to be David Seidler for The King's Speech, but I would definitely pick the team behind The Fighter, a wonderfully written film.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network. No question at all!!!!!

Best Cinematography
A hot field, but I am hoping that Roger Deakins finally wins for True Grit.

How the hell did this film win?
Crash over Brokeback Mountain and Capote
American Beauty over Magnolia (didn't even get a Best Picture nom)
Shakespeare in Love over The Thin Red Line
Titanic over Boogie Nights (PTA strikes out again)
The English Patient over Fargo
Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction
Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas
Terms of Endearment over The Right Stuff
Ordinary People over Raging Bull
Kramer vs Kramer over Apocalypse Now
Rocky over Taxi Driver

Feb 26, 2011

Akron/Family Live!

AKRON/FAMILY - Live at Christ's Church Cathedral from Mitch Fillion (southernsouls.ca) on Vimeo.

The new Akron/Family is holy crap good and is currently my favourite so far for 2011. Here is a wonderful performence of "Canopy" performed recently in Hamilton, Ontario.

Feb 23, 2011

Wye Oak Set To Release Civilian

March 8 will see the release of Wye Oak's new album. "Civilian" will contain 10 tracks and was recorded between December of 2009 and July of 2010. "The songs are about aloneness, loneliness, moving on and letting go" lyricist/guitarist Jenn Wasner reveals. I love this band, so I am really looking forward to this album. Thankfully Spunk Records will be releasing the album locally on March 10.

Civilian Track Listing
1 Two Small Deaths
2 The Alter
3 Holy Holy
4 Dogs Eyes
5 Civilian
6 Fish
7 Plains
8 Hot as Day
9 We Were Wealth
10 Doubt

MP3: Civilian-Wye Oak

Feb 19, 2011

The Books @ Seymour Centre

A remarkable, remarkable night. Better then I could even hope for. A truly astounding collision of the visual and the aural. Supremely inventive, totally original and achingly human. Truly, truly great art exists in the small corners of society. Artists creating art for the sake of it. No artifice. No pretense. Just the art and the moment. The moment when the fibres twitch in your brain and your synapses are alive. Alive with the possibility that you can experience something that you have never experienced before.
That was The Books.

The Books played the Seymour Centre on Friday night and took a captive audience to places unknown. With a stupendously arranged show of movement, colour and music. This duo, a trio live, create music that is a carefully constructed mesh of music and snippets and samples of all sorts of odd sounds. Instructional tapes, home movies, found sounds. Collected from thrift stores and jumble sales. But how would it work live? Would it move us and involve. Yes and more yeses. Obviously the show has to be carefully arranged. But it felt real and organic. Natural and human. Nick Zammuto would begin every song by picking up his remote and starting the visual display on a screen behind. Sometimes it would be home movies or old film that tied in with the song, or lyrics/words displayed, or just images that gave structure to the song. Along with this we also received the samples and found sounds. Quotations or kids speaking, etc. Then the trio would back it up with live playing. Zammuto would play electric bass and acoustic and sometimes sing. Paul De Jong, who curates all the sounds, would play his cello with amazing precision and power. Between them Gene Back would handle several instruments. Guitar, violin and keyboards. He was quite simply superb. Especially the supersonic guitar work he performed on "Tokyo", one of many highlights. There was the odd humour of "A Cold Freezin' Night", the majestic beauty of "Chain Of Missing Links" and the slow burn of "Free Translator". Then there was the hypnotic and heartfelt "Take Time" to close the set. Backed with thousands of visuals of human interaction and religious meetings, it was breathtaking. They also played songs that are live staples, but actually unrecorded. Like the the brief wordplay of "Meditation", or the astounding "Geese" song, complete with images of Canadian geese and geese callers. But the best was quite possibly in the encore. "Classy Penguin" was basically an instrumental with actual real home movies, showing the band members at various stages in their life, including Nick Zammuto's brother Mikey. It was eternally moving and achingly real. Just like this joyous and wonderful show. Sometimes in life the smallest things can turn out to be the biggest.

Set List
Group Autogenics 1
I Didn't Know That
Be Good To Them Always
A Cold Freezin' Night
Chain Of Missing Links
A Short Song About Geese
Free Translator
8 Frame
An Owl With Knees
Smells Like Content
Take Time

Classy Penguin
Cello Song

Feb 17, 2011

Secret Cities Have A New Album For 2011!

Well that didn't take long! Hot on the heels of 2010's excellent "Pink Graffiti", Secret Cities return with "Strange Hearts", to be released in early March on Western Vinyl. "Pink Graffiti" was full of boundless energy and melodic golden moments, so I am super excited to hear their new release. "Strange Hearts" was written and recorded in an intense three month period, with the recording taking place in an abandoned bank in Kansas City, Missouri. I have a track for preview below.

Strange Hearts Track Listing
1 Always Friends
2 Ice Cream Scene
3 The Park
4 Love Crime
5 No Pressure
6 Pebbles
7 Strange Hearts
8 Interlude
9 Brief Encounter
10 Forest of Love
11 Portland

MP3: Love Crime-Secret Cities

Feb 16, 2011

Weekend-Smith Westerns

Feb 13, 2011

Last Night At The Jetty-Panda Bear

Feb 10, 2011

Okkervil River Update

OK, more news on the new Okkervil River album. Due for release by Jagjaguwar on May 10, here is the artwork, once again done by the extremely talented William Schaff. Listed below is the track listing. This week the band released a single on vinyl containing two tracks. "Mermaid" and "Walked Out On a Line". Holy cow, they are amazing! And they didn't even make the album, which augurs well for this exciting release.

I Am Very Far Track Listing
1 The Valley
2 Piratess
3 Rider
4 Lay of the Last Survivor
5 White Shadow Waltz
6 We Need A Myth
7 Hanging from a Hit
8 Show Yourself
9 Your Past Life As a Blast
10 Wake And Be Fine
11 The Rise
Spin have a Sheff exclusive track by track breakdown of the album.
Pitchfork have a great interview with Sheff about the album.

Feb 9, 2011

Deerhunter @ Metro Theatre

Deerhunter are an experience. No doubt about that. Sometimes they bleed into greatness and sometimes they just bleed your ears. The sounds can veer from sheer beauty to ear splitting cacophony. At the Metro last night my mind wandered off sometimes to other thoughts, then I would be snapped back to reality and be transfixed by the power and beauty. I do feel, after seeing this band now three times, that they are sometimes like an exhibit under glass. You can study them, admire them, focus on them, but never truly feel close. They can be distant and seem aloof. I am sure this is more about them though concentrating on creating the wall of sound they produce, but it can lead to their shows being slightly unsettling.

Speaking of walls of sound the opening 20 minutes or so was concentrated fury, with no break between songs. Opening with "Cryptograms" the band displayed the theme of the night. Controlled fury and enveloping sound. Even the beauty of "Desire Lines" became a raucous descent into noise velocity. Soon though we had smaller snippets of melody in "Revival" and "Memory Boy", which felt like a reprieve. Of course "Nothing Ever Happened" was a monster live and I was ecstatic to hear them close with the genius of "He Would Have Laughed". Although even this song's delicate nature was somewhat deadened live. I later learnt that the encore was to include "Never Stops", which I would have loved to hear, but it was replaced by "Spring Hall Convert" instead. They then closed with an astonishing "Fluorescent Grey", which must have lasted all of twenty minutes. It was breathtaking and sometimes painful all in the one song. I guess an amalgam of a Deerhunter gig. They can, in the one show, take your breath away and also put your hands to your ears. Their shows are challenging, glorious, frustrating and slightly hypnotic.

Set List
Desire Lines
Hazel St.
Don't Cry
Little Kids
Memory Boy
Famous Last Words
Fountain Stairs
Nothing Ever Happened
He Would Have Laughed

Cover Me (Slowly)
Spring Hall Convert
Fluorescent Grey

Feb 7, 2011

Menomena @ Factory Theatre

Tonight at the Factory Theatre I realised something. Well, I probably knew it beforehand. Menomena mean the world to me. So, even if somehow they only played an average show I would be in awe. But it was so much more then that. It was an organic and cataclysmic display of talent. A show of seismic talents. Menomena have the elements that make for the perfect band for me. They have drama in bucketloads. Cymbals crashing and guitars exploding plus those sublime keyboards are thrown at the wall in a furious and glorious mess. They have pathos and extreme imagination. They can be dark and obscure. They have emotional gravitas. They have power and subtlety in the one song. It's a very potent mix you see.

The show opened like a sledgehammer. The uber powerful troika of "Muscle'n Flo", "Five Little Rooms" and "TAOS" was a bold and startling beginning. "TAOS" is particularly robust live. Immense and thunderous. But the night would prove that there was nary a weak point. Of course I loved "Strongest Man In The World", cut from their very first album. This plaintive beast is hypnotic live. A pleasant surprise was the gift of two more tracks from the debut release. Especially the joyful and melodic "The Late Great Libido" which Justin Harris stated they hadn't played in four years. Harris shone also on "Queen Black Acid", the wonderful opening track from the triumphant "Mines". If there was a chance the night could not get any better, then it did, somehow. The band closed with "Rotten Hell, perhaps my favourite song from the band. This song is an emotional powerhouse that soars until my heart breaks. When Harris bursts forth with "Well it's high time we step outside, drop the gloves and settle this like a man" I sink with joyous resignation. A short break ensued and our men returned with two more songs including a raucous and thrusting version of "The Pelican". Man, I needed more, but I was still truly satisfied. As was the small but devoted crowd. Sad to think a band this great can't sell out a relatively small venue. But more power to those who were there. Although there was one 'fan' who became an annoyance after a while. He kept reminding new keyboardist Paul Alcott of his small computer malfunction at Laneway on Sunday. He also kept requesting "Evil Bee", until Paul reminded him that it was a Brent Knopf song and they wouldn't be playing it. Speaking of the departed Brent, of course we missed him. But the band and Paul did a great job of filling the void. Although Alcott slightly missed the beat on some songs, he really nailed the vital keyboard elements of the band. These were his first shows with the band and he did great considering the short time he had to rehearse the material. Of course the two main men were great. Danny Seim is a ferocious drummer, pounding the kit in the manner of Patrick Carney. Justin Harris, despite suffering from a cold, was dominant front and centre. His voice has great range and emotion and he is equally skilled on bass guitar and saxophone. As said, Menomena mean a lot to me. Their songs combine intricate layers, dramatic flair, pathos and raging emotion to great effect. For this reason alone this show will be very hard to top in 2011. And I have witnessed some great ones already.

Set List
Muscle'n Flo
Five Little Rooms
Strongest Man In The World
Twenty Cell Revolt
The Late Great Libido
Queen Black Acid
Dirty Cartoons
Rotten Hell

The Pelican

Feb 6, 2011

Sydney Laneway Festival 2011

Laneway returned to Sydney on this Sunday. In its second year at Rozelle, I would give the day a big thumbs up. An eclectic and talented lineup ensured that the sold out sign went up a long time ago and by days end I was pretty damn satisfied. Menomena ensured this was possible, but they had a few friends to help them them along. The day dawned, as it has for a week, with record temperatures. With sunscreen applied liberally we hoped we wouldn't be scorched. Thankfully by mid afternoon we had received a cool change, plunging temperatures and making life more bearable. So what was good and bad? Well besides the great music, it's a great setting. Beautiful sandstone buildings make for a great backdrop. Even though it got crowded at times, it was always seemed manageable. Of course at any festival, there are always douchebags that make a nuisance. Thankfully not too many here, but we still have to put up with the 'fans' more interested in themselves then the music. And at times the sound was a bit variable. But this is always the case at outdoor festivals. Especially if the wind is picking up. As for the music, I had mapped my day out a few days beforehand. My favourites will get a mention further down, but I will touch briefly on some here. Rat Vs Possum had the unenviable task of being the first band up. But they were great. Their rhythms and loud percussion are quite addictive. New York's The Antlers were an early show as well. They barely filled 30 minutes, only playing 4 songs. But they sounded great too. "Sylvia" and "Two" were great to hear live. Stornoway were pleasant, but rather dull. Sorry! Warpaint had moments of greatness as well. Even though their songs tend to blend into one another after a while, they have great harmonies and can really wield the axe. Of course, "Undertow" was a particular standout. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti was clearly the worst act I saw all day. Geared up as if they dressed blindly in a really bad op shop, their music is extremely cheesy and camp. They might be aiming for this, but they are not very good. And Ariel comes off as a petulant child, who is uncharismatic to the extreme.

Local Natives might not be edgy or ubercool. They don't break the bounds of songwriting. But they are one thing. Incredibly entertaining. "Gorilla Manor" was a mammoth album of 2010 and hearing it live was a total joy. This band has more hooks than a fishing boat and their harmonies are glorious. They are great live too, building the drama inherent in each song. Of course "Shape Shifter" was a personal favourite, but "Airplanes" went down howlingly well. This band is great, just great. Give me good songs over hype any day of the week.

Set List
Camera Talk
World News
Wide Eyes
Shape Shifter
Who Knows Who Cares
Sun Hands

Menomena owned this festival. Despite being on the smallest stage and only having 40 minutes, they showed one true thing. There was no more talented band on display this day. Recently I was shocked to hear of Brent Knopf leaving the band. His melancholic voice was very special to me. How would they replace him? Quite ably it would seem. Of course, songs like "Wet and Rusting" and "Killemall" didn't get a hearing. But Paul Alcott, what an afro, performed ably on keys, a vital part of the band's sound. The other songs were blisteringly good. The ripped Justin Harris was fierce and godlike on vocals. He virtually plays lead bass, with the sax for good measure. Danny Seim is an intense drummer, bashing out like there's no tomorrow. All the songs are just great. I was really excited to hear the classic "Strongest Man in The World" open. This was followed by a ferocious "TAOS". "Dirty Cartoons" was moving and precious. "The Pelican" tore my heart out and then "Muscle'n Flo" was the perfect closer. For this is nearly the perfect band. Did I mention they owned this day!

Set List
Strongest Man in The World
Dirty Cartoons
Five Little Rooms
Queen Black Acid
The Pelican
Muscle'n Flo

The great Deerhunter ended my day on a perfect note. Despite some muddy sound, they shone like diamonds. Their mixture of melodic goodness and complex guitar arrangements is hard to beat. They also, unlike other acts, played for every second of time allotted. In fact Bradford Cox made sure they snuck in one last song, "Memory Boyl", as time expired. "Nothing Ever Happened" was of course greatness, but I really loved Lockett Pundt taking control with "Desire Lines". What a guitar line. Day ended perfectly.

Set List
Cover Me (Slowly)
Desire Lines
Hazel St.
Little Kids
Nothing Ever Happened
Calvary Scars
Memory Boy

Feb 4, 2011

Explosions In The Sky Take Care

Thricely that is. "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care" is the Texan sonic quartet's first album since 2007. Temporary Residence will release it on April 26 and once again the album was produced by John Congleton. 2011 just keeps getting better.

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care Track Listing
1 Last Known Surroundings
2 Human Qualities
3 Trembling Hands
4 Be Comfortable, Creature
5 Postcard from 1952
6 Let Me Back In

Feb 2, 2011

"Black Night"-The Dodos

Previously I mentioned the exciting fact of a new album coming soon by The Dodos. Now, we have the first taste. And it tastes good!

Feb 1, 2011

Fleet Foxes Are Back!

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Fleet Foxes return with their second album in May. May 3 on Sub Pop to be precise. "Helplessness Blues" was recorded over the last year at Avast Recording, Bear Creek Studios, Dreamland Studios and Reciprocal Recording. The album was mixed by Phil Ek and co-produced by the band and Ek. The label have released the title track and it is absolutely fantastic. Excited? Yes!

MP3: Helplessness Blues-Fleet Foxes