Jan 26, 2020

Best Albums of 2019

2019 presented lots of great music but I think there was only one true classic to me. Lots of very good to great music to listen to whether it was by veterans or by new artists. But one album stood clearly above the rest and that was House of Sugar by (Sandy) Alex G. The Philadelphia artist has been making music for years even though he is still very young. But his latest release was his most ambitious yet. Extremely creative and inventive but still retaining his impeccable ear for melody. Some of my man crushes released albums too. Kevin Morby made his most ambitious album to date. Ty Segall released an album with no lead guiat and yet it still rocked extremely hard and his best mate Mikal Cronin gave us another album of sublime melodies. Indie heavyweights Vampire Weekend, Wilco, Bon Iver and The National returned and showed they have lost none of their touch. Perhaps the year belonged to Big Thief who managed to release two wonderful albums in the one year and a song in 'Not' that was my song of year. Danny Brown I think is the best rapper working today and his latest album was fantastic yet again. So many amazing women making music too. Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen albums were truly spectacular and I loved records by Stef Chura, Vagabon, Hand Habits, Jay Som, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Claire Cronin and many, many more.

1. House of Sugar-(Sandy) Alex G
2. First Taste-Ty Segall
3. Two Hands-Big Thief
4. Seeker-Mikal Cronin
5. uknowwhatimsaying-Danny Brown
6. Oh My God-Kevin Morby
7. Forever Turned Around-Whitney
8. Remind Me Tomorrow-Sharon Van Etten
9. All Mirrors-Angel Olsen
10. Father of the Bride-Vampire Weekend
11. Violet Street-Local Natives
12. An Obelisk-Titus Andronicus
13. I Am Easy to Find-The National
14. Ghosteen-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
15. Eraserland-Strand of Oaks
16. Placeholder-Hand Habits
17. Ode to Joy-Wilco
18. Anima-Thom Yorke
19. i,i-Bon Iver
20. Face Stabber-Oh Sees
21. At the Party With My Brown Friends-Black Belt Eagle Scout
22. Midnight-Stef Chura
23. Undress-The Felice Brothers
24. U.F.O.F.-Big Thief
25. I'm You-Hallelujah the Hills
26. Lost Wisdom Pt 2-Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron
27. In the Morse Code of Brake Lights-The New Pornographers
28. Big Dread Moon-Claire Cronin
29. Cows on Hourglass Road-Avey Tare
30. Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?-Deerhunter
31. Buoys-Panda Bear
32. Vagabon-Vagabon
33. In the Shape of a Storm-Damien Jurado
34. Glacial Pace-Hurt Valley
35. On the Line-Jenny Lewis
36. I Need a New War-Craig Finn
37. Purple Mountains-Purple Mountains
38. Anak Co-Jay Som
39. Seeing Other People-Foxygen
40. Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest-Bill Callahan
41. Thrashing Thru The Passion-The Hold Steady
42. August-Shannon Lay
43. Nowhere Now Here-Mono
44. Plastic Anniversary-Matmos
45. Better Oblivion Community Center-Better Oblivion Community Center
46. LAHS-Allah Las
47. Warmer-Jeff Tweedy
48. Deceiver-DIIV
49. Between the Country-Ian Noe
50. I Made a Place-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Jan 25, 2020

Best Songs of 2019

What makes a great song. Well for me, it needs intelligence, passion, heart. Hopefully great lyrics. Great build ups, great melodies. Something that just makes it extra special. Many great songs in 2019 had this quality but one song had it in spades. 'Not' by Big Thief had been played live by the band for a couple of years now so it was a total delight when it turned up on their excellent album in 'Two Hands' in October of last year. The first time I heard it was on headphones and I think my heart skipped a beat when Adrienne screamed her heart out. The crashing of drums and guitars at the halfway point is surely perfection. Many other great songs saw the light of day in 2019. Danny Brown had a whole slew of them on his excellent album, whilst (Sandy) Alex G showed he is peerless in crafting melodic gems. Mikal Cronin gave us 'Undertow' which he didn't even put on his wonderful album. I could go on and on, but here is the list. Limit of three songs per artist.

1. Not-Big Thief
2. Dirty Laundry-Danny Brown
3. Lark-Angel Olsen
4. Undertow-Mikal Cronin
5. Gretel-(Sandy) Alex G
6. Seventeen-Sharon Van Etten
7. Radio-Ty Segall
8. Not in Kansas-The National
9. Dawn Chorus-Thom Yorke
10. Every Woman-Vagabon
11. Sympathy-Vampire Weekend
12. Used to Be Lonely-Whitney
13. Hollywood-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
14. Naeem-Bon Iver
15. Ruby-Strand of Oaks
16. What Happens to People?-Deerhunter
17. Show Me-Mikal Cronin
18. Cafe Amarillo-Local Natives
19. Hail Mary-Kevin Morby
20. Method Man-Stef Chura
21. Apartment Houses-Hurt Valley
22. Henchlock-Oh Sees
23. Can't Calm Down-Hand Habits
24. My Name Sounds Sinister-Hallelujah the Hills
25. Heads Gonna Roll-Jenny Lewis
26. Dylan Thomas-Better Oblivion Community Center
27. K.C. Yours-Avey Tare
28. Newspaper Gown-Damien Jurado
29. Visions-Strand of Oaks
30. Taste-Ty Segall
31. Southern Sky-(Sandy) Alex G
32. 13th Century Metal-Brittany Howard
33. My Mother & I-Lucy Dacus
34. East-Earl Sweatshirt
35. Impasse-Angel Olsen
36. Shoulders-Big Thief
37. Feel It All-Mikal Cronin
38. In Good Faith-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
39. Belief-Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron
40. Fireflies-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 
41. Shine-Danny Brown
42. Hands-Sharon Van Etten
43. Alpine Star-William Tyler
44. Placeholder-Hand Habits
45. The Torch Committee-Josh Ritter
46. Oh My God-Kevin Morby
47. Blankets-Craig Finn
48. In My Arms-(Sandy) Alex G
49. Harmony Hall-Vampire Weekend
50. Jenni-Big Thief
51. The Arms-Ty Segall
52. Days of the Years-The Felice Brothers
53. Meth Head-Ian Noe
54. Like A Shield-Claire Cronin
55. Quiet Amplifier-Wilco
56. Love Without Possession-Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron
57. Geology Dreamer-Hurt Valley
58. Theme Song-Danny Brown
59. Transparent Chart of the Heavens-Hallelujah the Hills
60. All I Do Is Lie-Stef Chura
61. Within The Gravitron-Titus Andronicus
62. Nowhere-Shannon Lay
63. The Surprise Knock-The New Pornographers
64. Polar Onion-Allah-Las
65. The Experimenter-Oh Sees
66. The Ballad of the Hulk-Bill Callahan
67. Hey, Ma-Bon Iver
68. Superbike-Jay Som
69. Giving Up-Whitney
70. At The Party-Black Belt Eagle Scout
71. (I Blame) Society-Titus Andronicus
72. Token-Panda Bear
73. Comeback Kid-Sharon Van Etten
74. Tell-Lomelda
75. Blankenship-DIIV
76. Bloodless-Andrew Bird
77. Honey-Drugdealer
78. Something to Believe-Weyes Blood
79. When Am I Gonna Lose You-Local Natives
80. Light Years-The National
81. All My Happiness Is Gone-Purple Mountains
82. Denver Haircut-The Hold Steady
83. The Dog/The Body-Sleater-Kinney
84. My Heart Dreams-Black Belt Eagle Scout 
85. Viking Hair-Dry Cleaning
86. Highway-Chelsea Wolfe
87. Sketch Artist-Kim Gordon
88. New Magic Wand-Tyler, The Creator
89. After You Comes the Flood-Mono
90. The Crying Pill-Matmos
91. Seven Devils-Kevin Morby
92. Flag at Half-Mast-Foxygen
93. bmbmbm-Black Midi
94. Boyfriends-Broken Social Scene
95. Days-Operators
96. Orphan-Jeff Tweedy
97. Forever Half Mast-Lucy Dacus
98. What It Is-Angel Olsen
99. Flood-Vagabon
100. Me and Willie-Rose City Band

Jan 19, 2020

William Tyler @ Seidler Penthouse

The Sydney Festival ain't what it used to be, but there is always one gem to find. Last year it was the incomparable Mount Eerie. This year it was Nashville guitarist William Tyler. This was Tyler's first time in Australia and it was a sheer pleasure to see him Saturday night. An even bigger thrill was the venue. Harry Seidler was an icon of Australian architecture. One of his works is an apartment complex in Milson's Point. He died over a decade ago but his daughter Polly still lives in the penthouse on the fifth floor. She graciously hires out the space for small events. It has spectacular views of Luna Park and Sydney Harbour, with marble floors and artworks by the likes of Stella and Lichtenstein. The space holds around 100 people. No photos were allowed but trust me it was a special night for sure.

William Tyler has released four albums. He has a unique style of dexterous finger picking on his acoustic guitar. He plies a battered Gibson that produces just so many warm and beautiful tones. So tonight was definitely all about the music. It's quite upbeat too, very bright tomes that sing and dance with care and joy. He does a bit of looping as well on some songs to aid the sounds he creates. My persoanl favourite was the elegaic 'Alpine Star'. A very special night on so many levels.

Set List
Not In Our Stars
Fail Safe
Kingdom of Jones
Alpine Star
Virginia Is For Loners
Gone Clear
Cadillac Desert
A Portrait of Sarah

Sarabande (Handel)/Ponotoc

Jan 13, 2020

Favourite Films Of 2019

I saw many great films in 2019. Despite Disney dominating the box office happily there is still room for film makers to make great orginal content that is deeply personal. As usual there is an overlap of Australian and overseas release dates and my favourite film was actually released in the US in 2018 and only received a very limited and small release early in 2019. Minding the Gap was a deeply personal and emotional documentary about skateboarders in a small ciity in Illinois. It was impeccable and hard hitting. A wonderful experience. It was nominated for Best Documentary but fell short. Speaking of the Oscars Green Book took home Best Picture which was a shame as there were far superior films such as the magnificent If Beale Street Talk by the uber talented Barry Jenkins. Many foreign language films shone for me in 2019. The German war epic Never Look Away was sublime. Korean films Burning and Parasite were just wonderful and the French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire was near impeccable. Films from Italy and Spain also filled my top twenty. One big story of the year was Netflix. The streaming giant gave me 2 of my top 5. The Scorsese epic The Irishman was magnificent and Marriage Story just blew me away. Today I saw 1917 and it's my pick for the 2020 Best Picture Oscar. But it will have to go on my 2020 list of top films.

1. Minding the Gap
2. If Beale Street Could Talk
3. Marriage Story
4. Never Look Away
5. The Irishman
6. Burning
7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
9. Ad Astra
10. Parasite

Jan 12, 2020

Best Live Shows Of 2019

I was fortunate enough in 2019 to see a lot of great live music but the absolute highlight for me was seeing the master himself Ty Segall in Los Angeles. I was in the USA for a two week holiday in September and I was lucky to see Kevin Morby in Nashville, Whitney in New Orelans and the epic Titus Andronicus in Portland but seeing Ty topped them all. He was doing a residency at the Teragram Ballroom over a two month period playing his new album in full plus 4 different albums in full. What a night it was. 'First Taste' lit the place on fire and then it was followed by his 2014 classic in 'Manipulator'. Two hours of sheer classic ebullient rock and roll. What a night it was.

I attended the Laneway Festival in 2019 with the mercurious Mitski being the highlight. I was also lucky enough to see her show at the Oxford Art Factory, a true highlight. I also Lucy Dacus at the same venue which was also wonderful and just missed out on my top ten for the year. Local Natives at the same venue was another great show. Vivid was the other major festival for me in 2019. Dirty Three performing their debut album in full was truly magnificent and the Sharon Van Etten show in the Joan Sutherland Theatre was one I will long remember.

1. Ty Segall @ Teragram Ballroom
2. Titus Andronicus @ Polaris Hall
3. Mitski @ Oxford Art Factory
4. Dirty Three @ Sydney Opera House
5. Beach House @ Enmore Theatre
6. The Flaming Lips @ Sydney Opera House
7. Oh Sees @ The Factory
8. Sharon Van Etten @ Sydney Opera House
9. Kevin Morby @ Third Man Records
10. Jeff Tweedy @ Metro Theatre

Jan 11, 2020

Vampire Weekend @ Enmore Theatre

Six years. Six long years since Vampire Weekend had played a show in Sydney. I know I know. Six years isn't really that long of a time. But for a band as talented as Vampire Weekend this seemed like an eternity. To be fair there was a six year gap between album number three and album number four. 'Father of the Bride' was released in May of 2019 and even though it didn't reach the perfection of their first three albums it was still a great success. Off the back of that album they came to Australia to play The Falls Festival and Thursday night they played an intimate show at the Enmore Theatre. What a night it was. Two hours of singing and dancing and smiling. Lots and lots of smiles.

The band is much bigger now too. Of course Rostam left but somehow they have swelled to seven members. It makes for a spectacular show. There are two drum kits and extra percussion/ The sound is that much bigger. And the extra guitarist is amazing. Brian Robert Jones is one hell of an axeman. As he ably showed on the extended jam on 'Sunflower'. Oh yes, the set list. Pretty perfect I would say. Lots of old classics that absolutely bang. 'A-Punk', 'Holiday', 'Campus', etc, etc. Absolute favourites like 'Unbelievers', 'Diane Young' and 'Step' totally slayed. Then the newer songs sounded great too Such as the bass heavy and deep cut 'Sympathy' and the glorious 'Harmony Hall'. We even received a Springsteen cover. It was just a perfect night. The band have killer song after killer song. Impeccable melodies that make you smile and dance. Everyone should see Vampire Weekend at least once in their life.

Set List
White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Everlasting Arms
Unbearably White
This Life
Diplomat's Son/Jessica (Major Lazer cover)
Married in a Gold Rush
Harmony Hall
Diane Young
I'm Goin' Down (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Hannah Hunt

Big Blue
Giving Up the Gun
New Dorp. New York (SBTRKT cover)

Jan 5, 2020

Top 100 Albums Of The Decade (2010s)

The decade that just barely finished was a fractured and interesting one for music. How we consumed music firstly changed dramatically. Buying physical media became less common, although vinyl sales did make a comeback. But streaming services such as Spotify made an even bigger impact. Music could be consumed even more with the artist barely receiving a cent. Of course it did mean music was more widely accessible to much more people, but at a distinct cost to the artist. Commercial music became even more of a wasteland with charts totally dominated by pop and rap, mostly bad. Rap and hip hop became a leading force in music. Even as artists like Kanye West lost touch with reality we saw talents like Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples and Danny Brown make significant and exciting music. It was even decried that 'rock was dead' and I guess in the conventional sense it was. 

Rock music became a marginal story in popular music. But in my little world it was as exciting as ever. Wolf Parade and Sleater-Kinney returned after hiatuses. Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and The War on Drugs made beautiful sounds and whilst major acts such as My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire gave diminishing returns I welcomed talents like Car Seat Headrest to carry the torch. Women also made a huge impact in this decade as they were eventually given some sort of parity. I fell in love with female led bands such as Beach House, Big Thief and Hop Along and artists such as Mitski, Sharon Van Etten, Lucy Dacus, Angel Olsen and many, many more. It was a decade we lost huge talents such as Jason Molina, Scott Hutchison and David Berman. All gone way too soon. My artist of the decade though was Ty Segall. The prolific garage rocker from California thrilled all decade with a huge catalogue of inventive, exciting rock. I was lucky enough to see him live 5 times. My album of the decade though came out in 2010. The Monitor was a monumental album that was significant and political. A searing document.

1. The Monitor-Titus Andronicus
2. Modern Vampires Of The City-Vampire Weekend
3. Twins-Ty Segall
4. Teens of Denial-Car Seat Headrest
5. Freedom's Goblin-Ty Segall
6. Teen Dream-Beach House
7. Singing Saw-Kevin Morby
8. Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)-Car Seat Headrest
9. Manipulator-Ty Segall
10. Helplessness Blues-Fleet Foxes
11. At Echo Lake-Woods
12. Lost in the Dream-The War on Drugs
13. Crack-Up-Fleet Foxes
14. I Love You, Honeybear-Father John Misty
15. House of Sugar-(Sandy) Alex G
16. Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend-Godspeed You! Black Emperor
17. Atrocity Exhibition-Danny Brown
18. Bend Beyond-Woods
19. Bloom-Beach House
20. High Violet-The National
21. Mines-Menomena
22. MCII-Mikal Cronin
23. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-Kanye West
24. Expo 86-Wolf Parade
25. Bon Iver, Bon Iver-Bon Iver
26. Shields-Grizzly Bear
27. Father, Son, Holy Ghost-Girls
28. Cry Cry Cry-Wolf Parade
29. Hummingbird-Local Natives
30. Moms-Menomena
31. Ty Segall-Ty Segall
32. MCIII-Mikal Cronin
33. City Music-Kevin Morby
34. The Most Lamentable Tragedy-Titus Andronicus
35. Wakin On A Pretty Daze-Kurt Vile
36. Fear Fun-Father John Misty
37. Muchacho-Phosphorescent
38. Contra-Vampire Weekend
39. Sleeper-Ty Segall
40. Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped-Moonface
41. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire
42. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper-Panda Bear
43. They Want My Soul-Spoon
44. A Deeper Understanding-The War On Drugs
45. First Taste-Ty Segall
46. Pure Comedy-Father John Misty
47. Julia With Blue Jeans On-Moonface
48. Heaven-The Walkmen
49. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care-Explosions in the Sky
50. 22, a Million-Bon Iver
51. Goodbye Bread-Ty Segall
52. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You-Neko Case
53. Two Hands-Big Thief
54. Yeezus-Kanye West
55. Tramp-Sharon Van Etten
56. 7-Beach House
57. Stubborn Persistent Illusions-Do Make Say Think
58. Have One On Me-Joanna Newsom
59. Get Disowned-Hop Along
60. God's Favorite Customer-Father John Misty
61. I Had a Dream That You Were Mine-Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
62. Bury Me At Makeout Creek-Mitski
63. Big Fish Theory-Vince Staples
64. Transference-Spoon
65. B'lieve I'm Going Down-Kurt Vile
66. Carrie & Lowell-Sufjan Stevens
67. Still Life-Kevin Morby
68. Are We There-Sharon Van Etten
69. With Light and With Love-Woods
70. Lisbon-The Walkmen
71. Clear Moon-Mount Eerie
72. uknowwhatimsayin-Danny Brown
73. Halcyon Digest-Deerhunter
74. Smoke Ring For My Halo-Kurt Vile
75. Tomboy-Panda Bear
76. Seeker-Mikal Cronin
77. Puberty 2-Mitski
78. Gorilla Manor-Local Natives
79. New Moon-The Men
80. Poison Season-Destroyer
81. La La Land-Plants and Animals
82. The Winter of Mixed Drinks-Frightened Rabbit
83. This One's For The Dancer and This One's For The Dancer's Bouquet-Moonface
84. Now Only-Mount Eerie
85. Melted-Ty Segall
86. To Pimp a Butterfly-Kendrick Lamar
87. Bark Your Head Off, Dog-Hop Along
88. Slave Ambient-The War on Drugs
89. Mikal Cronin-Mikal Cronin
90. Historian-Lucy Dacus
91. Pedestrian Verse-Frightened Rabbit
92. Old-Danny Brown
93. Father of the Bride-Vampire Weekend
94. Open Your Heart-The Men
95. America-Dan Deacon
96. Lemonade-Beyonce
97. Light Upon the Lake-Whitney
98. Painted Shut-Hop Along
99. Be the Cowboy-Mitski
100. Oh My God-Kevin Morby