Dec 30, 2009

Favourite Films Of 2009

2009, the year in cinema, will be remembered by me for one thing above all. It was the year that Australian cinema came of age. After many years of mixed results, 2009 was a truly memorable and consistently great year for Australian cinema. Even if they still failed to top the box office, these cinematic offerings were original, heartfelt, intelligent and packed a huge emotional punch. Plus, in compiling my top ten I had to omit some gems that I absolutely loved. Such as the claymation marvel Mary and Max or the heartbreaking Beautiful Kate. Both of these films were superb. Then there were films like Blessed and Balibo that I missed at the cinema, but were both criticically praised. Two other films, that were heavily blogged about because of their soundtracks, that I thoroughly enjoyed were (500) Days Of Summer and Where The Wild Things Are. Both of these films were original and in equal parts sad and fun. I just couldn't find a spot on my final list. The ones that finally made the cut were the films that in the end affected me the most. In my heart and in my mind.

1. Synecdoche New York, directed by Charlie Kaufman.
This truly astounding and confounding film didn't receive a release in Australia until May. But it was truly worth the wait. A film of big ideas and huge imagination it didn't hit all of its targets, but when it did...Holy cow! It would seem that this film was either mostly loved or hated. Well, I loved it. The story of the eternally frustrated theatre director who searched for the meaning in his life was full of scope and daring ideas. The great Philip Seymour Hoffman was wonderful, as usual, as the man of frustration. His surrounding cast of women actors were amazing too, giving us a rainbow of emotions to sink our teeth into.

2. Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme.
In which Anne Hathaway proved she was a rare talent. As the caustic Kym she was superb in portraying an anguished and pained character, dominating the screen through out. This film was hugely intimate and at times painful to watch. Probably because it felt so real with much of it shot with hand held camera and with some scenes improvised by the cast. This was warts and all film making, showing us the full array of the human condition. It was entertaining, beautiful, moving and sometimes very sad.

3. Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant.
This life affirming film was rich in detail and flowing over with humanity. The true and tragic story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk was handled with care by Van Sant, never at any time descending into cliche. Sean Penn was stunning as the lead character, deserving his many awards, including the Oscar for Best Actor. In fact, this film probably should have won Best Picture. It was just that damn good.

4. A Serious Man, directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.
Another chapter was written this year in the storied book of Coen film. This darkly comedic film was also painful to watch at times. Probably because this film was also perhaps the Coens' most personal film to date. The story of a troubled Jewish man in suburban Minnesota was real, very real. Although it still contained that treasured Coen humour. The non all star cast was also very effective, allowing us to concentrate on the story at hand.

5. Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino.
This romp of cinema was, I believe, Tarantino's best film in quite a while. Dialogue, dialogue made this very special. Long scenes of inventive and dazzling dialogue allowed the audience to luxuriate in tension filled scenes. I was in awe at the cinematic art that was presented before me. Hopefully this might be an Oscar contender in 2010.

6. Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion.
I only saw this wondrous film yesterday, but it is now indelibly stamped on my memory. Jane Campion has done it again. The sad and tragic tale of the short lived love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne is told with utmost care and tenderness. Each scene is an exploration in light and beauty. Abbie Cornish simply shines. Brightly.

7. Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard.
A superb film that was nominated for Best Picture in 2009. It didn't win, but it was surely worthy. Two superb performances, especially Frank Langella, in the title roles elevated this film into greatness. A wonderful, tight script paved the way for cinema magic as the protagonists probed each other before our dedicated eyes.

8. Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.
Small in budget, but big in stature, this film was entrancing and totally compelling. Mainly thanks to the genius that is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell is basically the film, his character never leaving the screen, giving us amazing insight into the human psyche. This is science fiction as it should be. Thoughtful and based in reality. A superb film.

9. Last Ride, directed by Glendyn Ivin.
One of the best Australian films that I have ever seen. It is certainly perhaps the best shot. Breathtaking cinematography formed the back drop to the stark story of a man and his son on the run. At times funny, at times heart breaking, it features superb performances from the great Hugo Weaving and also the newcomer Tom Russell.

10. Samson & Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton.
It has won widespread acclaim here and overseas. And with good reason. As mature an Australian film that I have ever seen, it cuts like a knife. With little dialogue it paints a stark and unrelenting picture of indigenous life in Australia. Totally real. Totally compelling.

Films I am looking forward to-
Fantastic Mr Fox
Up In The Air
The Road
The Hurt Locker
Shutter Island
Alice In Wonderland
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Beneath Hill 60

Dec 28, 2009

Balmorhea To Release New Album In February

Early in 2009 Texas band Balmorhea released an excellent album in the shape of "All Is Wild, All Is Silent". In fact, it was one of my favourite albums of 2009. Now, maybe surprisingly, we have news of a new album. Western Vinyl will release "Constellations" on February 23, 2010. The album contains 9 tracks and was recorded and mixed by Andrew Hernandez in Austin, Texas. Songwriters Rob Lowe and Michael Muller weaved magic in 2009, let's hope that 2010 is just as good for them.

Constellations Track Listing
1 To The Order of Night
2 Bowsprit
3 Winter Circle
4 Herons
5 Constellations
6 Steerage And The Lamp
7 Night Squall
8 On The Weight Of Night
9 Palestrina

Dec 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

Dec 22, 2009

Best 50 Albums Of 2009

So, how was your 2009? Did you find what you were looking for? Was it rewarding? For me, it was. Simply because the search for new experiences always is. Whether it is a piece of music, a cinematic wonder or a work of art I find there is always something fulfilling in the search. Then if the search is fruitful it feels like bliss. Happily for me 2009 felt like a good year for music. In some ways better then 2008, but only time will be the true judge of that. In compiling my list I discovered a few things. There were only two truly landmark albums. Two albums that will immediately find a spot on my all time list. But after that there was plenty of quality. Records that ranged from good to very good to excellent. I also noticed that my list is very North American centric (what's new). But I can only call it as I see it. So minimal UK music. I did like albums from The xx and Mumford & Sons and one or two others, but not enough good music is coming from Britain at the moment. Only two Australian albums found a spot too, but there were several releases I enjoyed. Such as Dappled Cities, Whitley, Songs and Bridezilla. But I just couldn't find a spot for them. But they shouldn't feel too slighted as I couldn't find a spot for these following artists either. The Mountain Goats, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Elvis Perkins, Ganglians, Dan Auerbach, Alela Diane, Langhorne Slim, Lotus Plaza, Califone, Harlem Shakes, Eels and HEALTH. All released albums that I enjoyed in part, but what can you do?

So what else was there? Some artists stepped outside of their bands and released fine albums. Paul Banks, Dan Auerbach and Alec Ounsworth all did this with tremendous results. Some albums that were majorly hyped I found myself struggling to enjoy entirely. "Bitte Orca" had its moments, but I just couldn't last the distance, whilst the debut album from Girls was a very uneven experience. Some other albums that I just couldn't connect with were ones by Phoenix and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Both had highly acclaimed releases, but they just didn't do it for me. Oh yeah, you can add Wavves to that list too. I was disappointed in the second album from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. His debut was quite remarkable, but his second just felt a bit flat. On the other hand I did enjoy the revival of some veteran players. The Flaming Lips and Built To Spill both showed that they have plenty to offer with superb albums released. Even Wilco stepped up to the plate with a better release then was maybe expected. But at the end of the day it's all subjective. You can only listen to a finite amount of music and then figure out what made a connection. Well, these are ones that connected with me.

1. Dragonslayer-Sunset Rubdown
This album still astounds me upon every listen. It might even be Spencer Krug's finest work yet, which is saying something. From the first sip of "Silver Moons" to the last drop of "Dragon's Lair" this is a work of rich complexity. And it flat out rocks as well, which combines perfectly with the emotional artistry of Krug. Lyrically dense and meaningful, musically melodic and near perfect, I can not find fault with this album. We are honoured by his presence.
MP3: Idiot Heart

2. Veckatimest-Grizzly Bear
This sublime album thoroughly deserved every single plaudit that came its way. Building upon the success of "Yellow House" the band from Brooklyn delivered an exquisite and glorious piece of music. What amazes me about this album are the complex and rich layers on show. Hours can be spent enjoying and discovering the subtleties on display. Perfect for any time of the day too. The harmonies of Droste and Rossen are a sheer joy too.
MP3: While You Wait For The Others

3. Other Truths-Do Make Say Think
I love, love, love this album and I think it is vastly under rated. No band in the world can make a guitar sound quite like Do Make Say Think can. That is, perfect. They somehow manage to impart a vulnerability and almost human emotion to each guitar chord. Four songs presented as part of a suite, the band has never sounded better. Few do.
MP3: Make

4. Bromst-Dan Deacon
This album graduated Dan Deacon from party starter/animal to musical deity. "Bromst" is still full of fun, but here we are also given a genuinely moving experience. Music swings wildly from silly to profound. From simple to complex. If you previously dismissed Deacon as the man with the banana iPod then listen to this wonderful album.
MP3: Snookered

5. Enemy Mine-Swan Lake
It would be near impossible for me not to like an album that combines Krug, Mercer and Bejar. But honestly, this is a great album. The most surprising part is that Bejar is perhaps outshone by his illustrious partners. Krug of course provides considerable emotional nourishment, but Mercer delivers the blows that absolutely crush the heart.
MP3: Spanish Gold, 2044

6. Middle Cyclone-Neko Case
Somehow, just somehow my love for Ms Case just grew even stronger. This album is tender and touching in just so many ways. You can feel the amount of care that went into the making of this superb album. If you want to experience authentic and real songs about love and nature, then pick this album up. Neko Case has never sounded better!
MP3: People Got A Lotta Nerve

7. Merriweather Post Pavilion-Animal Collective
This is a great album, but it still falls short of their masterpieces such as "Feels" or "Sung Tongs". I think I prefer that more tribal, organic feel that they had. But this is still pretty great. It hit me at the transition point of "In The Flowers", it still blows be away. Add in "My Girls" and a few other gems and you can see the reasons why Animal Collective are perhaps the most important band of the last decade.
MP3: My Girls

8. The Hazards Of Love-The Decemberists
Without doubt the most under valued release of 2009. When I first heard the thrilling "The Rake's Song" I knew I was in for something special. Despite getting a critical hammering I was not to be disappointed. As a point of difference this band should be applauded. For creating music that is ambitious and complex they should be loved. Well, I do.
MP3: The Rake's Song

9. Face Control-Handsome Furs
I defy anyone not to enjoy this album. I think it is truly impossible. Urgent and energetic the combo of Dan and Alexei gave us music suitable for all occasions. Even if I think "Plague Park" is a better album, this just might be a more enjoyable one. Closing track "Radio Kaliningrad" is near perfect. The most intelligent fun you will have this year.
MP3: Radio Kaliningrad

10. There Is No Enemy-Built To Spill
This album gave me immense joy. I was hugely pleased and surprised that one of my favourite bands of all time could still bring it. This powerful album still has that trademark BTS guitar work, but the songs are a definite return to form. They are languid and strong, emotional and heartfelt. Full of scope and ambition. Doug Martsch, I salute you.
MP3: Life's A Dream

11. Gather, Form & Fly-Megafaun
This release is nigh impossible to classify. But that is probably a good thing. This album is genreless and totally original. At times dark and stormy and at others gentle and pastoral, this albums has countless delights and secrets. Harmonies are just superb.

12. Eskimo Snow-Why?
This artist has had huge play with me in the last month or two. This companion piece to "Alopecia" displays another side to the writing skills of Yoni Wolf. Still grounded in hip hop, "Eskimo Snow" sees Wolf expand to be a complete and compelling songwriter.

13. Skin Of Evil-Blackout Beach
Carey Mercer is definitely one of kind. This January release had considerable staying power, a testament to Mercer's talents. Dramatic, wounded, sad and totally unique this album is a rich tapestry of the human condition.

14. Intuit-Ramona Falls
These Menomena boys are very talented. Brent Knopf, one third of that band, released a solo debut that was intoxicating, exciting and irresistible. He seamlessly blends the human and the electronic for an album that I listened to endlessly with great pleasure.

15. Embryonic-The Flaming Lips
One of two albums in 2009 that took me forever to get my head around. Still probably haven't. But I can report this. The Flaming Lips are back. A dense, sprawling crazy album that is perfect on headphones. Wayne Coyne is to be treasured. One of a kind.

16. Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free-Akron/Family
An engaging and original piece of work. Harmonies abound, fused with chaotic and crazy guitar. This album could also be gentle and totally relaxing. Being reduced from four to three, they barely missed a step, still producing an original and single minded sound.

17. Real Estate-Real Estate
Had me hooked from the opening bars. If not totally original, this New Jersey band made up for it with songs of pure clarity. Melodies, my favourite thing, flow easily hear creating some of the best sounds of the 2009. Perfect for a summer day. Or any day for that matter.

18. …At The Moment Of Our Most Needing-Rock Plaza Central
This record wanted me to yell and scream. Feel and connect. Strongly literate and directly emotional, Rock Plaza Central are probably the best band you know the least amount about. A superb modern combination of rock, folk and country sounds.

19. Clues-Clues
In which Alden Penner stole the limelight from the other Unicorn. I was a bit disappointed by the Islands album this year. But not Clues. This album was totally compelling and overflowing with pop tunes that were built to excite.

20. Wind's Poem-Mount Eerie
Yes, you guessed it. The other album that was difficult to digest and comprehend. But it's Phil Elverum after all. A heavy slab of music that was threatening and challenging and yet still found space for the quiet little details that only Elverum delivers best.

21. Songs Of Shame-Woods
Another winner for Woodsist. This album is dripping with lovely melodies and sweet tunes. Folk rock hymns for the twenty first century.

22. Outside Love-Pink Mountaintops
A bold and robust album, revealing a gentler side to the members of Black Mountain. Slowly droning guitars and ethereal vocals make for a winning combination.

23. Mo Beauty-Alec Ounsworth
Definitely a winner here. Ounsworth went to New Orleans and returned with an album full of soul and passion. Variety was the key here.

24. Tarot Sport-Fuck Buttons
A gentler and more elegant version of "Street Horssing", but just as compelling. Most eletronic music leaves me stone cold. This does not.

25. Colonial Drones-Hallelujah The Hills
This band reminds me of the great bands of the nineties. Their sound is forthright and robust, full of fury and intelligence. Anthems for this decade.

26. Logos-Atlas Sound
A definite grower that gave me more with each and every listen. Bradford Cox is a unique songwriter. Having Panda Bear join the party didn't hurt.

27. Get Guilty-A.C. Newman
A killer opener meant this album was a constant revisit in 2009. Carl Newman can write pop hooks in his sleep. Let's hope he continues to.

28. Years-Years
Ohad Benchetrit crafted an elegant and cultured album, full of delicate touches. Expressive and experimental, the guitar work was stately.

29. Vacilando Territory Blues-J. Tillman
The Fleet Foxes drummer gave us two albums in 2009. Both were good, but this was better. Lilting and refined. "James Blues" was a stand out.

30. I And Love and You-The Avett Brothers
This album will finally get an Australian release in February, 2010. About time, these bluegrass boys craft country beauty like few others.

31. All Is Wild, All Is Silent-Balmorhea
A sleeper of a record. Well, I slept on it anyway. Sumptuous and deliberate, I have a feeling that this album will only better with time. Very imaginative.

32. When The Devil's Loose-A.A. Bondy
Another fine example of that genre named 'Americana'. Bondy is producing music of a high quality, gritty, substantial and easy to love.

33. Apple's Acre-Nurses
A strange concoction of pop and absurdity. High pitched vocals and original rhythms combined for music that simply made me happy. Totally infectious.

34. My Son's Home-The Roadside Graves
You might have gathered by now that I have a soft spot for authentic country/folk. This band do it as good as anyone. Fun and also moving, this is a beautiful album.

35. Belly Of The Lion-Ola Podrida
David Wingo records in hushed tones and quiet reflections. His music is soothing and gentle, perfect for the end of the day when quiet is needed.

36. These Four Walls-We Were Promised Jetpacks
Inevitably they are compared to Frightened Rabbit, but this Scottish four piece have their own identity. Their debut was brash, frenetic and full of promise.

37. Worldwild-Pterodactyl
The music was intense, frenetic and possessed unique time changes. It also contained rich and interesting melodies. A very rewarding album.

38. Julian Plenti Is...Skyscraper-Julian Plenti
Now this was a pleasant surprise. After Interpol disappointed with their previous album my expectations were low. But this was actually very good.

39. Unmap-Volcano Choir
An unusual collaboration, but it worked. The atmospheric noodlings fused quite well with Justin Vernon's high pitched reed. Elegant and subtle music.

40. Yours Truly, The Commuter-Jason Lytle
Well it does sound like a Grandaddy record, but it's still a good record. Lytle does what he does very well. That is create eerie soundscapes.

41. Upper Air-Bowerbirds
Not a totally consistent album, but definitely an interesting one. Contains some gems that are beautiful and compelling, especially "Northern Lights".

42. Wilco (the album)-Wilco
They will probably never produce an album like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" again, but they are in a different place now. But this album is solid through out, a good listen.

43. Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle-Bill Callahan
One of this era's best songwriters produced another album of well written and intelligent songs. This man always gives us interesting and vital work.

44. Noble Beast-Andrew Bird
See above. Andrew Bird just doesn't do 'bad'. The man is a great talent, whose albums always prove to be thoughtful and also very soothing.

45. Time To Die-The Dodos
A totally different beast then last year's "Visiter". They seemed to tone down the drumming, making for a quieter album. Still very good though.

46. Psuche-Psuche
My favourite Australian album. Why? Because this was extremely inventive and desirably imaginative. Each track is a little adventure in itself.

47. Rain Machine-Rain Machine
Kyp Malone's solo adventure was very satisfying. His voice is the main reason. It imparts a huge amount of soul and wisdom. A record to sink into.

48. Threadbare-Port O'Brien
Port O'Brien continue their development as an exciting and very talented act. Of they continue to produce music this good then their audience should keep growing.

49. Wooden Arms-Patrick Watson
This album definitely grew on through out the year. Whilst not totally consistent I was able to find some real quality shining through here.

50. Jonathan Boulet-Jonathan Boulet
My last album to add to the list and this one surprised me. I instantly fell for the insanely catchy melodies and the imagination on display.

Dec 19, 2009

Best Live Shows of 2009

It was here. In these four walls. In this space that my favourite show of 2009 occurred. In a year of great live music I found it near impossible to separate my favourite shows of the year. But seeing Handsome Furs at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne was just so special. Not only was the music spot on fantastic, but I got to meet Dan Boeckner after the show. That clinched it. But there were plenty of great live experiences and I would like to share those with you here, with a link to my initial review of each show. You know, going to a show can be truly rewarding, but there some things that can spoil it. For everyone. I would like to list here my three biggest annoyances at gigs. Maybe, just maybe we can make the experience better for everyone.

1. Don't talk through the show. As surprising as it may seem I paid money to see the band, not to listen to your inane conversation. Also, just because the band is playing loud doesn't mean you should speak louder to be heard, it still spoils the experience.
2. Just because you arrived late doesn't mean you can push your way through to the front. See this space. I have stood here for over an hour. It is my space, not yours. Thank you.
3. Hey man, the show is only going for an hour. Can't you stop going for a drink every ten minutes and bumping your way past me? Enjoy the show and have a drink afterwards.

Now, onto the list.

1. Handsome Furs @ Corner Hotel
You could feel the love. From audience to band. From Dan to Alexei. Pulsating, exciting, fresh, honest. Beautiful. And Dan Boeckner is a saint. He was gracious, warm, engaging and 68 types of awesome. Come back. Please!

2. Okkervil River @ Annandale Hotel
They are ALWAYS amazing. On record and/or live. The incredible thing is that this show was maybe even better then their sublime 2008 show. Stunning.

3. Fleet Foxes/The Dodos @ Metro Theatre
After this night I thought for sure this gig would not be beaten in 2009. Just shows how special 1 & 2 were. Two hours of near perfection. Yes, Robin Pecknold is godlike. Can't wait for a new album.

4. Animal Collective @ Enmore Theatre
A band in full flight, knowing no boundaries. Just near perfect music. Then "Fireworks" elevated the night into the stratosphere. Panda Bear=Genius.

5. The Flaming Lips @ Hordern Pavilion
Have you stopped smiling yet? Will you ever forget this night? I didn't think so. Wayne Coyne proved that spectacle and good music CAN go hand in hand.

6. The Hold Steady @ Metro Theatre
Craig Finn knows how to play a crowd. I had waited for this band for a long time and they did not let me down. This band matters. Their fans know this to be true.

7. My Morning Jacket @ Metro Theatre
There is a very good reason why this band is considered one of the best live acts on the planet. They play like their hair is on fire! Less from "Evil Urges" would have landed them a higher spot.

8. Frightened Rabbit @ Manning Bar
This took place on NYE, 2008, but I am squeezing it in here. Why? Well they were exhausted, no proper soundcheck, possibly drunk. But the music, oh that music...

9. TV On The Radio @ Metro Theatre
A fiery and unforgettable night. A band that gives their all and then some.

10. Why? @ Annandale Hotel
Just absolutely loved this show. Yes, I am love with Why?

11. Blitzen Trapper @ Metro Theatre
A little bit of Portland crept into all of our hearts on this night.

12. Charge Group @ Hopetoun Hotel
Without doubt my favourite local show of 2009. Hopefully we can all return to the Hopetoun one day soon...

13. Dan Deacon @ Serial Space
Unique, unique, unique. Oh yeah, I danced with Dan Deacon!

14. Bill Callahan @ Famous Spiegeltent
Bill. In the spiegeltent. Need I say more?

15. Bon Iver @ City Recital Hall
Gorgeous, gorgeous music. We needed better seats though.

16. Dan Auerbach @ The Basement
This man can sing. Just a great and authentic performer

17. Black Mountain @ Annandale Hotel
Gritty, dirty, thumping. Hugely entertaining

18. Jolie Holland @ The Basement
Umm, I think I am in love...

19. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks @ Metro Theatre
He is still the man. OK then, who's coming to Pavement?

20. Akron/Family @ Annandale Hotel
Astounding? Yes. Infuriating? Yes. Unique? Definitely.

EDIT: I have realised I made an error. One of the best shows of the year was part of a festival. ATP Sydney in January was a great day on Cockatoo Island and one man made it magical. Nick Cave. Him and the Bad Seeds were positively magnetic. A truly astounding performance. So If I were to redo my list I would slot that show in at number 7.

Dec 17, 2009

Why? @ Annandale Hotel

I only played chess once in my life and I lost. I have only seen Why? once in my life and I won. The Oakland collective were tight and strong Wednesday night at the Annandale Hotel. It's been a big week for live shows, starting off with Animal Collective and Akron/Family, but no doubt about it. Why? were every bit as good. Even though it was a short set, just on an hour, they were totally impressive. Strong and seductive, robust and powerful. They enraptured the audience, a very good one by the way, from the opening note to the last morsel of "The Hollows".

Yoni Wolf is some sort of clever guy. Starting Why? as virtually a solo project, his lyrics have always been fiercely intelligent and directly personal. He can write a good melody too. Something normally lacking in the world of hip hop. So are good songs in fact. This is the strength of Why?. The songs are great and they are true songs. Another strength is the band Yoni has assembled around him. They are seamless in their approach, all great musicians. Especially Yoni's brother Josiah on drums and the gorgeous marimba he played and also guest guitarist Andrew Broder. They hit stride straight away with "These Hands", from this year's wonderful "Eskimo Snow". This album got a fair hearing with the sublime "Against Me" being a highlight. But it was companion album "Alopecia" that stole the show. More heavily hip hop then "Eskimo Snow", these numbers were made for the stage. "Good Friday" was dark and dangerous, whilst "These Few Presidents" was near perfect. I also loved "A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under". It was great to hear some material from "Elephant Eyelash" as well. No "Crushed Bones" or "Fall Saddles", but we did get the kinetic "Yo Yo Bye Bye" and the bouncey "Rubber Traits". All material from these albums, though different, flowed perfectly into one another. There is a real tactile quality to the music of Why?. You can feel it in your hands and your throat. The heart as well. It is mature, thoughtful and damn exciting. This is nearly all due to Yoni Wolf. He has a real stage presence. Although he didn't say much, he didn't have to. He stalks the stage, owning it with his manners. His vocals are commanding and hit directly. Despite the sound quality not being perfect, what's new there, this was a totally enjoyable show. 2009 is finishing nicely.

Set List
These Hands
The Vowels Pt. 2
Rubber Traits
Against Me
Good Friday
These Few Presidents
January Twenty Something
A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under>Twenty-Eight
This Blackest Purse
The Fall Of Mr. Fifths
Yo Yo Bye Bye
By Torpedo Or Crohn's

Fatalist Palmistry
The Hollows

Dec 16, 2009

The Besnard Lakes Are Back

March 9, 2010 will see the release of the new album by The Besnard Lakes. "The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night" follows on from their excellent 2007 release "The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse". This album, like their previous, was recorded and tracked at Montreal's Breakglass Studios. This band knows how to craft complex, intense music so I am really looking forward to this release. The band has added further instruments to the mix in the shape of 12 string guitar, flute, omnichord and mellotron. Jagjaguwar are bringing us the music.

The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night Track Listing
1 Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 1: The Ocean
2 Like the Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent
3 Chicago Train
4 Albatross
5 Glass Printer
6 Land Of Living Skies Pt.1: The Land
7 Land Of Living Skies Pt. 2: The Living Skies
8 And This Is What We Call Progress
9 Light Up The Night
10 The Lonely Moan

Dec 13, 2009

Akron/Family @ Annandale Hotel

I don't know if I enjoyed every minute of Akron/Family at the Annandale Hotel last night. But I know this, I was amazed by every minute of the show. It was bewildering, confusing, joyous, chaotic, mesmeric, loud and totally engrossing. For nearly two hours the trio from New York dazed and confused us with a combination of sound and performance that I have rarely seen on stage. I knew the band had a reputation for freak out live performances, but I wasn't prepared for anything like this. Anything. At all.

Coming on later then advertised, the trio began gently. Lulling us into a sense of security it would seem. They opened with the opening stanza of "Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon", before giving us a little of "Meek Warrior". Then came the true beauty of "River", a song for this age and any age. With each band member taking turns on the vocals, the harmonies were entrancing and quite beautiful. Then, well, things changed. They launched into a long improvised song about meadows and crickets. I have no idea what it was called, but it was beautiful and tranquil and kind of strange. Then as it ended the band called for the lights to go down and for the audience to close their eyes and think of things we loved, which also led to some sort of strange happy birthday to some quasi-religious figure. Odd, but some how comforting. Then the band returned to "Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon" which extended into a super heavy jam. This was certainly a feature of the night, I was certainly surprised at how heavy the band was. As these long jams descended into chaos the two guitars on stage really crunched. Seth Olinsky on lead and Miles Seaton bass really cranked up the volume and intensity. All the while drummer Dana Janssen was moving every thing along with intensity and passion. The next song, not sure of its title, became a thirty minute jam with members of support Oh Ye Denver Birds joining the band on stage and proceeding to deliver a cacophony of sound and fury. If this wasn't enough the band launched into the supersonic "Ed Is A Portal", which was furious, chaotic and totally sublime. Closing with "Everyone Is Guilty" was welcomed and well received. Then they departed, after midnight much to the chagrin of the venue's owners. There was certainly concern on their part as the hotel's curfew was already passed. But the band was set to deliver more, giving us a blistering "Blessing Force", before a salubrious "I Know You Rider". What did we witness? I am not sure I even know. Sometimes I felt like crying with joy. Sometimes I wished they knew how to end a song. It was everything and nothing. It was heart. It was soul. It was community. I don't know. You just had to be there.

Set List (Really struggled with this. any help would be welcome)
Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon (opening)
Meek Warrior
Ancient Meadows?
Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon (completing)
long jam ?
Ed Is A Portal
ambient noise ?
Everyone Is Guilty

Blessing Force
I Know You Rider (Traditional)

Dec 12, 2009

Animal Collective @ Enmore Theatre

Their talent is self evident. Their creativity boundless. Their reputation sky high. Friday night at the Enmore Theatre only confirmed all of these opinions and more. For the stars shined and sparkled as a near musical perfection was attained. In spades. This, ladies and gentlemen is Animal Collective. On their only previous visit, they played a much smaller venue. @newtown. They also numbered four back then. Now they are three, with Deakin taking a leave of absence. They also have a much bigger audience now. Due in no small part to the release of this year's hugely acclaimed "Merriweather Post Pavilion". Thankfully the audience that they attracted last night was attentive and appreciative. Engrossed and entranced. Well, why wouldn't they be? It's not like every day Animal Collective roll up to this town. For this we are truly grateful.

As expected cuts from MPP featured heavily. They opened with "Also Frightened", which is one of my least favourite songs from that album. But this version was soaked in reverb and came across better then the studio version. A good start, I was in good hands. Launching into "What Would I Want? Sky" sealed the deal early. This wondrous song from the just released "Fall Be Kind" is already an instant classic. An impossibly gorgeous song. Then it was time to dance. The crunching bass of "Summertime Clothes" had the crowd moving with great joy. Going into the night I was hoping for material from their masterpiece in "Feels", but I was to be disappointed. However I was pleasantly surprised to receive two tracks from "Sung Tongs". "Leaf House" was the first and I didn't recognise it at first as this version is more synth heavy and not so tribal as the original. After this the band paused briefly. Avey Tare uttered a few words of thanks and off they went again. This was basically the only interaction of the night, with most of the set list flowing from one song into the other. Each vehicle presented as a seamless transition into the next, with small jams connecting many of the songs. Animal Collective do not play to the crowd. They are not showman. Their mission is to impart joy in each and every one of us. In this they succeed, wildly. Then it came. "My Girls". This slab of sunshine floated across the venue, with everyone breathing in the goodness. But the absolute highlight was still to come. "Fireworks" was an orgasmic exploration into sound. Stretched out to nearly twenty minutes in length, the band shaped and shifted the song to all of its boundaries. Panda Bear took up the drum kit for the majority, keeping perfect time with Avey's impassioned screams. The performance of this song will be burned into my memory forever. They then closed with the drop dead "Daily Routine". A slow burning marvel that showcased the great vocal qualities of Panda Bear. You could hear a pin drop at certain sections of this song.

We needed more though and the encore surely delivered. "In The Flowers", which I thought would have been an ideal opener, came at the end. Its bone crunching transition is hard to resist. Oh yes, hips were moving. "Bleed" was great also and the uplifting "Brother Sport" put a fine exclamation point on the night. A night of sunshine and bliss. Of melancholy and exuberance. Panda and Avey exchanged harmonies with exquisite timing, as Geologist kept things moving all the time. I also appreciated that despite the band now having a bigger audience they certainly don't pander to the party crowd. They still push the boundaries. Searching for that perfect sound. That point of discovery. As the clock struck eleven and I wended my way home I looked up into the sky and all I heard was sky-blue, bells ringing...

Set List
Also Frightened
What Would I Want? Sky
Summertime Clothes
Guys Eyes
Leaf House
My Girls
Who Could Win A Rabbit
Daily Routine

In The Flowers
Brother Sport

Dec 9, 2009

Best Songs Of 2009

The year in song. Well, there were many fine examples of song writing. Mr Krug dazzled us again, as did the Grizzly Bear boys. Then you had Animal Collective, stamping their feet all over the year, beginning in January with a bang and ending in December with a glorious nightcap. But a brief appearance from Destroyer was enough to remind us all just how incredibly gifted a songwriter Dan Bejar is. His band released a two song collection called "Bay Of Pigs". The title track winning its way to the top of my list for 2009. This thirteen minute epic was beyond scope in grandeur and ambition. Delirious, delectable and quite stunning. All set to a background of some ambient disco. Voila! "Bay Of Pigs" was my number one of 2009. Below I have included various clips of my other favourite tunes of 2009.
Please enjoy!

Dec 8, 2009

New Album From Aloha In 2010

When I started this little blog back in 2006, a band came to my attention that I soon grew to love. They were called Aloha and their album of that year, "Some Echoes", would make its way into my top ten albums of that particular year. This band from Ohio made delectable and bewildering melodic pop rock. Stuff that would have you humming the tunes for weeks on end and not ever grow tired of it. Hailing from Ohio and consisting of four members, the band was formed in 1997 and so far have given us four full length albums. Now you can make that number five. On March 9, 2010 Aloha will release "Home Acres", which will contain eleven songs and hopefully be another solid chapter in the band's career.

Polyvinyl Records will be delivering the goods.

Home Acres Track Listing
1 Building A Fire
2 Moonless March
3 Microviolence
4 Searchlight
5 Everything Goes My Way
6 White Wind
7 Cold Storage
8 Blackout
9 Waterwheel
10 I'm In Trouble
11 Ruins

Dec 7, 2009

Best Of Australian Music 2009

Recently I contributed to Sean's list (possibly last) of the best of Australian music in 2009. Somehow my number one band was the same as the overall winner. That is, Sydney's finest in Dappled Cities. This year saw the band release "Zounds", an album that I would say is their finest work to date. An impressive effort indeed. But there was plenty of other good music to emerge in 2009, some from established acts. Some from new discoveries. So I give you the list of 20 artists that I thought had the greatest impact on Australian music in the year quickly drawing to a close.

1. Dappled Cities
Released their most mature and best perhaps best work to date. Still the benchmark in Australia for melodic rock.
2. Bridezilla
Their debut album is only a sign of the great things to come. This band will continue to get better and better. A very exciting future.
3. The Middle East
A stunning debut EP; a great and pleasant surprise. Who knew Townsville could produce something this good?
4. Leader Cheetah
The album was good, but live they are getting better at each and every show. Violin was a good addition to their music.
5. Whitley
Their latest album is hugely impressive, displaying an ample and significant growth in songwriting.
6. Dead Letter Chorus
New tunes at various shows indicate that this wonderful live act is on quite an impressive upward curve.
7. Parades
Finally saw them live and was blown away. Great melodies and great guitar work make for an exciting combination.
8. The Crayon Fields
Their latest album was a subtle and rewarding experience.
9. Rat Vs Possum
Saw them open for Handsome Furs in Melbourne. Yes, they are good.
10. Children Collide
2009 saw them come into their own.
11. Kid Sam
12. The Kill Devil Hills
13. Songs
14. Aleks and the Ramps
15. Sarah Blasko
16. Washington
17. The Temper Trap
18. The Paper Scissors
19. Cloud Control
20. The Mess Hall

NB: Having recently purchased the 2009 release by Psuche and being very much impressed, I would find a spot for them somewhere on this list.

Dec 5, 2009

Frightened Rabbit Update

Here it is. The cover art for the new Frightened Rabbit album. "The Winter Of Mixed Drinks" will be released on March 1, 2010 on Fat Cat Records. The album was produced and mixed by Peter Katis, who also worked on "The Midnight Organ Fight".

The Winter Of Mixed Drinks Track Listing
1 Things
2 Swim Until You Can't See Land
3 The Loneliness and the Scream
4 The Wrestle
5 Skip the Youth
6 Nothing Like You
7 Man/Bag of Sand
8 Foot Shooter
9 Not Miserable
10 Living in Colour
11 Yes, I Would

Dec 3, 2009

Shearwater Ready New Album

February 15 will see the release of "The Golden Archipelago", the newest album from Shearwater. Containing 11 tracks, the CD and LP are both packaged with a 50-page perfect-bound book featuring a set of extracts from a dossier of records, photos, regulations and images collected by Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg. Matador are delivering the goods and have made available an MP3 in the shape of "Castaways".
The Golden Archipelago Track Listing
1 Meridian
2 Black Eyes
3 Landscape at Speed
4 Hidden Lakes
5 Corridors
6 God Made Me
7 Runners of the Sun
8 Castaways
9 An Insular Life
10 Uniforms
11 Missing Islands

Dec 2, 2009

Final Fantasy: New Song Available For Download

As reported before, Final Fantasy will release a new album on January 12. The long awaited "Heartland" is being released on Domino Records. If you go here right now and give over your email address you will receive an MP3 of "Lewis Takes Action". So, what are you waiting for.

Dec 1, 2009

Spoon Reveal New Album Cover

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the album cover for the new Spoon album release. "Transference" is due out January 19 on Merge. The photo is a reproduction of a piece by American photographer William Eggleston. Nice!