Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 50 of 2011. Cos 10 just can't be enough

2011 provided more than its fair share of despair, frustration, anxiety, sadness and anger on a scale which I’ve never really faced before. From catastrophic world-events in my old hometown of Brisbane and shocking images from my adopted second home of Japan, to deep sadness at the loss of some near and dear friends, and finally giving the ending a bang by planting a personal mountain of bullshit to overcome. There have been some not insignificant highlights, too - the surprising welcoming of a new niece and my brother’s wedding counting as two peaks - but by the overall buckets of shit this year has heaped down on us, and me, it can not be too surprised if I wish it a big “fuck off” and eagerly anticipate this new one.

The upside of being forced to lay low for long periods of time (explaining why this blog attracted some dust and cobwebs) was that I was able to envelope myself even more in some cool music, so here’s my Top 10 of 2011, with a bonus 40 songs which I reckon are tops:

50 - Grieves, Speakeasy
49 - Yuck, The Wall
48 - Eddie Vedder, Sleeping By Myself
47 - Xavier Rudd and Inzitaba, Yandi
46 - Fucked Up, Queen of Hearts
45 - Scroobius Pip, Introdiction
44 - Mogwai, How To Be A Werewolf
43 - Eagle and The Worm, All I Know
42 - Radiohead, Little By Little
41 - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Heaven’s Gunna Happen Now

Yuck and Songs were cool discoveries this year, equal parts sludgy rock and hooky pop. Vedder picking up a uke was always going to be greeted with quizzically cocked ears, and a solo effort by Scroobios Pip somehow afforded him more lyrical balls. Rudd was rediscovered thanks to his impressive Bluesfest effort and the entire Radiohead was nodded at thanks to its teetering rhythm section, as brilliantly outlined with this song.

40 - The Bamboos, Typhoon
39 - Grouplove, Colours
38 - REM, Alligator, Aviator, Autopilot, Animator
37 - Ben Ottewell, Shapes and Shadows
36 - Gorillaz, Hillbilly Man
35 - Mick Harvey, Frankie T and Frankie C
34 - Only The Sea Slugs, Big Sky
33 - We Were Promised Jetpacks, Hard To Remember
32 - Femi Kuti, Dem Bobo
31 - Bill Callahan, America!

I got back to some singer-songwriter roots, after a bit of a break looking at new things. Ben Ottewell (that voice from Gomez) and Bill Callahan sing with a most sublime troubadour spirit, while Mick Harvey’s first post-Bad Seeds album showed some surprisingly picturesque Australian landscapes. The Bamboos have been a late addition - Melbournites of the same soul/funk revivalist movement as Sharon Jones. Booty-shaking.

30 - Yuck, Shook Down
29 - Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Bakitju
28 - Feist, How Come You Never Go There
27 - Eagle and The Worm, Good Times
26 - Songs, It Doesn’t Exist
25 - The Herd, Salary Cap
24 - Jeff Lang, Running By The Rock
23 - The Weeknd, High For This
22 - Seeker Lover Keeper, Bridges Burned
21 - We Were Promised Jetpacks, Picture of Health

I should’ve gotten into Feist and Seeker Lover Keeper more than I did, but their put-on, over-affected vocal can tend to grate sometimes. They miss the pained huskiness or extroverted sexuality which I dig so much. That said, a bold move for three very assertive and distinctive vocalists to harmonise together for a whole album (even though Sarah does win hands-down, favourite-child sydrome style).

20 - Xavier Rudd and Inzitaba, Time To Smile
19 - Scroobius Pip, Try Dying
18 - Eagle and The Worm, Futurman
17 - Ball Park Music, Literally Baby
16 - Bon Iver, Perth
15 - Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, Black Snake
14 - REM, Oh My Heart
13 - Gotye, Eyes Wide Open
12 - Femi Kuti, Politics In Africa
11 - The Grates, Sweet Dreams

So REM fucked off, but left us with a true gem of heartbreak with a heartbreaking melody. Bastards. It was always going to be Gotye’s year the moment “that” song dropped, but this one is a killer also. I never really took to The Grates earlier on in their careers and found a little too deliberately indie, but now they seemed to have grown and a way more comfortable in their own skin.

10 - Holly Throsby, What I Thought Of You
It was Holly’s year. What, with her third “normal” album (she released a kids album, too) and then her part in the barnstorming Seeker, Lover, Keeper trio it’s hard to whack the shuffle on and not hear her smooth timbre. The cyclical melodic hook is heart-wrenchingly gorgeous.

9 James Blake, There’s A Limit To Your Love
Ethereal and mystical. His second offering (I think), but this one’s much more accessible thanks to actual lyrics being sung. His vocals are spooky.

8 The Black Keys, Lonely Boy
Seriously beat-worthy, which once again stakes they Keys’ claim as being the premier modern blues rock duo. The effect-ladden sloppy slide guitar intro gives way to a key-inflected melody which draws the hooks along. A classic Dad-dance film clip (akin to You Am I’s iconic Berlin Chair clip) is just the icing on the cake.

7 Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Ain’t No Buildings In The Projects
I had the pleasure of reviewing Sharon’s live show and an advance copy of this album. Nothing makes me happier than seeing this sassy woman crunchy out some deeply felt revisited funk/soul. I’ve done my bit in spreading the word on this scene, but I’m still amazed by how little people seem to dig it.

6 - PJ Harvey, This Glorious Land
I’ve never been a huge fan of Polly-Jean... truth is, she’s always kinda frightened me. But this album is all about the toilet-bowl which England society has seemingly become to her, and this was pre-riots. The slow dirge with the under laid off-timed “charge” trumpet call is a seething coil. In another song she poses the question “What if I take my problem to United Nations?”. The Mercury Prize was well-deserved.

5 - Ben Salter, I Am Not Ashamed
Always good to see a hometown lad and mate make it big. This album has just hit, seemingly on the tail-end of the solo bandwagon (seriously heaps of them in the past year and a bit... Glenn from Augie March, Gareth from The Drones, Adalita from Magic Dirt, Mick Harvey from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds). Anyway, I can almost feel the inner-western suburbs of Brisbane on a slow, heavy, bright January afternoon seep through this track. (The clip is from the single The Coward and it makes me instantly homesick).

4 - The Grates, Turn Me On
Finally, The Grates prove they have more than just youth and bounciness on its side. Its first two albums were fine, but they cranked the Lo-Fi ethos just a little too high. This one sees singer Patience Hodgson go from the frizzy-haired annoying girl next door to a contender as a serious rock vixen, in the Wendy James (Transvission Vamp) vein. She undermines that sex-bomb theme a little for anyone listening to her awesome tales on The Minutes podcast, but she’s still gorgeous.

Watch Enmore Theatre and other great gigs on Moshcam.

3 - Adalita, Hot Air
The ex-lead singer of bogantastic 90s rockers Magic Dirt has truly blown me away with this album. I reviewed the launch at one of two sold out shows at the Northcote Social Club and found it the hardest gigs the get a reading on and have some perspective about. The Tiger and I stood transfixed, yet floating and completely moved by the coiled emotion of just Adalita’s no-nonsense presence and guitarist JP Shilo’s contorted frame.

2 - Ball Park Music, It’s Nice To Be Alive
Brisbane indie group which I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow and blossom over the past couple of years. They’re part of a record label in Bris (Mucho Bravado) which is steadily building a name for itself as a new force in the city. Seriously catchy, smart and cutesy pop with a solid base. These guys will be huge.

1 - Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know
My number 1 and Hottest 100 Number 1 for sure, lest there be some sort of massive Silverchair-esque backlash between now and when voting closes. Nothing I can say will compare with The Vine’s detailed analysis.

Whaddyou reckon?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This, precisely, is what's wrong with Australian music

There are very many things to rage against in the meaningful meaninglessness of this poll, but the Number 1 album pretty much sums it up. At the risk of sounding old and angry, I'm going to suggest that this album was the very precise moment that the Australian rock-based music scene got a tad full of itself and dived straight for the middle ground.

Despite small glimpses of genuine gold since Fanning put his ovary-friendly intentions overtly on display with this insipid and weak brew of songs, it's all been pretty much downhill since then.

Bar-fkn-humbug. And Doc - the kids can have their fkn station back. It appears to be broken, anyway.

Countdown #1 | Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time | triple j

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Business as usual, then?

So, to re-cap an entire afternoon's worth of productivity sapped away by Twitter:

@DocYobbo thinks we're all far too over the hill to even be discussing such things as radio polls;

@beeso thinks we've all got our heads in the sand thinking that guitar music has a future, despite overwhelming influence that a dude on a turntable standing behind some dude delivering nasally poems is, by and large, "untrammeled shite";

@Medway has been voted unopposed to the Treasurer position of the Blokes Punching Way Above Their Weight club (with myself as self-admitted president and @JohnBirmingham firmly ensconced in the Patron role);

I seem to be the only one valiantly flying the flag for honorable, left-minded, honest inner-urban hipsterism into the third decade. I even have the bicycle, dastardly disheveled beard and copies of Monocle to prove it.

And, finally, the pricks over at @triplej are a pack'a cunts for getting us once again on this pointless round-a-bout discussion.

Oh, and for the record, my short list of Top 100 Australian Albums Of All Time (the top ten I voted for in italics) were:

You Am I - Hi Fi Way
AC/DC - Back in Black
Alex Lloyd - Black the Sun
Archie Roach - Charcoal Lane
Augie March - Sunset Studies
Church, The - Priest = Aura
Church, The - Starfish
Custard - Wahooti Fandango
Cordrazine - From Here To Wherever
David McCormack - Little Murders
Dirty Three - Ocean Songs
Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist
george - Polyserena
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu - Gurrumul
Gin Club, The - Deathwish
Go-Betweens, The - Spring Hill Fair
Hummingbirds, The - loveBUZZ
INXS - Kick
Jeff Lang - Half Seas Over
Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads
Paul Kelly & The Messengers - So Much Water, So Close To Home
Paul Kelly - Ways & Means
Pollyanna - Longplayer
Powderfinger - Double Allergic
Powderfinger - Vulture Street
Regurgitator - Tu-Plang
Sarah Blasko - As Day Follows Night
Something for Kate - Beautiful Sharks
Weddings Parties Anything - Donkey Serenade

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vale the best sax offender around

Sax is overdue for a revival in modern music. The soul-revivalists like Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings and Black Joe Lewis are doing their darnedest, but by Jesus a saw solo like this absolutely needs to be re-introduced. Vale, Big Mr Clemons.

YouTube - Clarence Clemons "Jungleland" solo (Milwaukee 3/17/08)

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Pals, yeah.

Some shit's just magic to witness, isn't it? Luckily the prophecy wasn't true - the Tote's still alive and well (even though I've yet to be fully immersed in its sticky-floored greatness)

YouTube - Last song at the Tote: My Pal - The Drones w/ Joel from God