Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inappropriate Emotional Reactions to Perfectly Ordinary Pop Songs (Or: "Don't Stop Believing")

I recently joined a gym and have so far made two discoveries: 

1. It's not enough to just pay the membership. For results, you also have to turn up occasionally.


2. I am prone to overly-emotional responses to pop songs that are just doing their thing.  

Does anyone else have this problem? 

The reason I joined this gym is because they have a dance class that incorporates the best of 80s dance moves. Sh'bam. I love the guts out of it. The current choreography culminates in us leaping through the air and "power-fist" pumping to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' ". 

Every time I hear this song I think, "Do this for Tony Soprano".

You see, I'd never actually heard this track until I watched the final episode of The Sopranos. I can't hear it now without my heart aching and my chin quivering a little, so sublime was that series. It's actually kind of embarrassing because, realistically, it's on musical par with tearing up over Rick Springfield. But I can't help it.

Music is as much about context as it is about lyrics and orchestration (as we know, because when we break up with someone we also have to break up with half of our Itunes library). Coincidentally, David Byrne (of Talking Heads) has just published a book called "How Music Works" and it is all about the context of music - how context affects both the reception and creation of music. I hope he offers some insight here because I also recently got emotional while sitting in the traffic and hearing to a Coldplay song on the radio. This is starting to get out of control.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Werner Herzog Owes Me $18 (MIFF 2012)

Yikes. A girl looks away from Blogger for one second (ahem...year) and it goes and changes its interface. Let's see how this works...

For the first time, I have partially fulfilled a dream of unemployment coinciding with an international film festival. Unfortunately, I only caught the first week of MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) as I am now en route to A Holiday in Cambodia. 

But what a line-up.* 

The highlight for me was Robot and Frank (dir. Jake Shreier). This film was a joy. Set in the near future, it is about the friendship that develops between an elderly man, Frank, who is suffering dementia and his robot assistant, "Robot". Can't say anymore without spoilers but it was so funny and moving, with quite a few unexpected turns. I was going to post a link to the trailer but it gives the entire film away while also making it look dull, which it isn't. 

Other highlights included pretty much any indie American flick starring, produced or directed by Mark Duplass. I have the love hearts for this guy. If you can get to a screening of Safety Not Guaranteed you will not regret it. Trailer here:

He also stars in Your Sister's Sister with the infallible Emily Blunt, which was also delightful if a little too montage-heavy towards the end. (If I wanted a montage set to a pop song I'd watch the end of every episode of Sorkin's "The Newsroom". I like my montages accompanied by preposterous characters, plots and polemic. No, really, I think I do because I cannot stop watching this ridiculous show).  

As with all festivals, when you're watching up to 6 hours of cinema a day, there are going to be some low-lights. Is there anything worse that sitting through a mediocre film and then having the dork sitting behind you say "wow that was great!" when it ends? This happened a lot. I wonder if it was the same guy.

I didn't have a lot of luck with the docos I chose. A Siberian film about the modelling industry, "Girl Model" wasn't as well executed as it could have been. Surprisingly, though, the honour of worst film experience this year at MIFF goes to Werner Herzog for Into the Abyss. At best, pointless, at worst, a contemptible piece of filmmaking whose only purpose was to give convicted psychopaths on death row a 50 minute platform to talk (remorselessly) about their life and crimes. This is the first time I have watched something that inadvertently made me think that capital punishment might not be so bad after all. To be fair, I think there was a screw-up at MIFF. They screened two episodes of a Herzog-directed series (allegedly) about the US prison system. In fact, they were meant to screen a feature-length movie he directed, comprising material from this series. I wonder if the feature version edited out his constant interrupting of the interview subjects and heavy-handed steering of them with his fruitless questions eg. "Do you ever see trees?" Yes, serial killer dude who is trying to manipulate Herzog into teasing out the details of your other gruesome crimes, what DO you think of trees?

Rant finished. In defence of Herzog, his film Grizzly Man made me want to reconsider the way I watch film rushes as an editor. I saw that film for free so we'll just call it even.


* Speaking of line-ups, have you checked out this year's ATP? Wowee. The Melbourne one, curated by the Drones and featuring ear-bleeders, Godspeed You Black Emperor (add ! as desired), sounds impressively angsty but take a jealous-making look at the UK ATP, 2012...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Last Word on Bon Iver...

Just so you know, I have added a post-script to the When Bad Sax Happens to Good People entry (the blog post that just keeps on keeping on) It's not a retraction. It's an amendment regarding the saxophonist, Colin Stetson, who is actually an incredible player. We saw him at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne (what a great venue, kind of like L.A.'s Greek Theatre but with less pot smoke). His bass sax solo was actually a highlight of the performance and nothing like the solos I remember from various 80s power rock tracks.

I am sorry, Adam, Nikki and Reens, but I have now heard this album a gazillion times: digitally; on vinyl (thanks to McNutty's relentless rotation); and now live and I remain pretty much unmoved. I concede that the music and orchestration are very considered and deliberate. Also, it was amazing to hear an intimate four-piece evolve into a band whose fullness of sound could fill the Bowl. That was terrific and, in fact, when they played earlier tracks, like "Flume" they suddenly sounded very simple (and, to coin a phrase, a bit strummedy strum strum).

I did try, guys. I like the band, I just don't like the songs.

I am genuinely thrilled that Bon Iver has hit the big time. Their first album really touched me. It's kind of surreal to see all these kids at the gig who love this band based on their second album - one that sounds nothing like what I knew of these guys - but good for them all the same. Best of luck. Keep up the doodling and all that.

For those of you who have found yourselves smitten with Bon Iver's Bon Iver... Rino has thoughtfully deconstructed the album here.

For those of you just don't dig that 80s stylin', Jonathan is the man for you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Passenger, "All The Little Lights" (Album Review)

Full disclosure: this album was produced and recorded by one of my favourite people*. So on one hand, I am no stranger to Mike Rosenberg a.k.a. Passenger. On the other, it made me pay extra attention to the production of this album in a way I rarely do.

Rosenberg is a British (semi) ex-pat. He divides his year between the UK and Australia, busking on the streets and living the dream of The Endless Summer. The first thing that struck me was a vocal resemblance to Damien Rice and an evident affection for Cat Stevens. Rosenberg's voice has a really distinctive timbre but unlike Rice, he rarely belts out his tunes but sweetly talks us through his different stories and life lessons. He is also quirkier. You could imagine him at the pub sharing anecdotes from the road over a pint with the likes of Josh Pyke, Lior, Darren Hanlon and fellow northerners, Mumford & Sons. He is very much of this ilk.

I had only heard Passenger in the form of a pared-back acoustic session with Rosenberg accompanied by just a guitar. It was a real treat to play the album for the first time and hear it fleshed out with with strings, bells, horns and vibraphones. The first track, "Things That Stop you Dreaming", opens with a cello and violin that immediately evoke Rosenberg's UK heritage and make for a very uplifting opening. If you listen carefully, you'll hear these reappear subtly throughout various tracks on the album in what is a beautiful and understated mix. There is far more orchestration here than on your conventional Aussie folk-pop album.

The three stand-out tracks for me are the opening number I just mentioned, "Let her Go" and "Patient Love". "Let Her Go" opens with an quiet tinkle but once the guitars and drums kick in, followed by those gorgeous strings, this song really soars.

"Patient Love' appears half way through the album and arrives at just the right moment. Lyrically, Rosenberg leans towards life lessons (no doubt gleaned from his time on the road), sayings and aphorisms: "life's for the living so live it, or you might as well be dead"... "You only know you love her when you let her go"... I admit, I did get a bit fatigued by the rhetorical tropes and generalities. There are a few tracks that are explicit in the personal stories they tell (such as the jaunty "Staring at the Stars") and "Patient Love" delivers that intimacy I was hoping for. Plus it has the most gorgeous and tender vibraphone harmonising gently in the background. 

The album has a really cute coda - the inclusion of a live version of "I Hate" from the Borderline in London. As a fellow, relentless optimist, I love Passenger's positive world view. Even when he devotes an entire song to all the things that piss him off, you can tell it comes from a position that there is so much to love and enjoy in the world, why do we spoil it with useless rubbish? (But not in an irritating, Michael Franti way). This live track also reveals what a charming live performer he is and this is what has earned him such a loyal following on both sides of the globe.

Check out an acoustic version of "Let Her Go" below (sounds great but the there is quite a distracting big furry monster in the background!) and album is available for download on itunes...

* Chris Vallejo is the owner of Linear Recording Studios in Sydney, Australia. He has produced and/or engineered the likes of Josh Pyke, Empire of the Sun and INXS to name but three. He also plays a mean bass guitar and is responsible for enabling my delusion that I could actually play the drums.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Songs for Beginners (Beginning Again)

Ever wonder where Blogley got it's title?
It was thanks to the delightful Emma Magenta and a tea towel which,
alas, is no longer available.

Songs for Beginners finally has a post!

It only took 11 months.

As a human being, I am slightly time-poor (which you may have noticed given Blogely, here, is lucky to be updated on a quarterly basis). This means "Beginners' " original intention is a little too ambitious right now. I will, however, be updating it with fun music-related facts as the world reveals them to me.

So please stop by sometime if you're ever bored and find out What Katie Heard recently. Also feel free to correct me on any of my "facts". I'd do more research but Series 6 of 30 Rock has just hit the torrents.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Moon (And: Melvis)

Week one in Melvishas been pretty action-packed. With the aid of beers, bands, brunches and bike rides, I have been ticking off my list of Melbourne Cliches at great speed and quite enjoying it.

I have actually lived down here for short periods of time before and, while I am trying to make the whole experience feel new and exciting, I do have occasional flashes of Melbourne Past.

Speaking of memories, let's segue seamlessly into the song I'd like to play for you this week...

"Memories (Someone We'll Never Know)" by Clint Mansell.

Between Clint Mansell, Max Richter and Olafur Arnalds, pianos have been rocking my itunes for a while now. Perhaps "rocking" is the wrong word... how about "lulling it tenderly into a state of sadness and occasionally hopeful melancholy"...

Is that a thing?

Either way, I urge you to get your hands on this soundtrack. The film had been recommended to me by friends for years (thanks especially to Jimmy for the most recent nudge to finally download it). It's a very simple film, a sparse sci fi drama that twists unexpectedly and touches on themes of humanity memory and loneliness in a pretty intriguing way. It was, however, the soundtrack that really led me to the film. I think Mansell might just be the most exciting composers in contemporary cinema and I thought I should see the film before I listened to his album.

Score works best in films when you don't even notice it, you just feel it. I didn't notice the music at all in the film, I just knew that it was making me feel a deep sadness and I loved it.

Also, Sam Rockwell is incredible. Can Hollywood please cast him in more movies (for me to watch three years after they come out)?

"... How can I hurt so much for something that was never mine?"
Sam Bell, Moon

How, indeed.

™ Rino Breebaart. But I'm going to keep it if that's ok?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Resuming Transmission... (And: So long, Sydney)

Let's see if I remember how to do this.
*cracks knuckles, blows dust off keyboard*


So it looks like I haven't updated the ol' Blogster here in a quarter of a year. Big apologies to anyone who stopped by in that time in the hope of a two minute procrastination and was bitterly disappointed by the lack of fresh content.

Blogger has a cute feature which tells you how many hits you have each week and what search phrase the hitters used to find you. Apparently a bunch of people have been visiting in search of:

"Bad sax" (which has appeared too many times to be the typo I assumed it was)
"Bon Iver bad sax"
"Bon Iver Phil Collins"
and (my personal favourite) "Why do people like Bon Iver?"
I'm not sure I could answer your question, anonymous visitor. But thanks for stopping by.

My excuse for blog slackness includes a crazy work schedule and a bunch of travelling. So I guess I was not having enough fun to blog and then I was having too much fun. Right now I am packing up our Sydney pad, about to move to Melbourne and thus oscillating between Fun and Not Fun on a minute-to-minute basis.

Current packing status:
26 boxes.
29 hours of 30 Rock.
1.5 bottles of Pinot.

(If I do the maths, Fun seems to be winning.)


(Fig. A)

Now looks like this:

(Fig. B)

I promise to write properly as soon as there is a (Fig. C).

It will hopefully look like (Fig. A) but with a 3000 postcode.

See you soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Earth Division EP (Or: Well hello, my pretty)

I am going to be honest. I played Mogwai's last album, Hardcore Will Never Die..., about five times and then completely lost the little interest it piqued. I assumed (as I do at least twice a year) that our relationship was over. The idiosyncratic guitar is too familiar and the epic noise too exhausting. In fact, just yesterday I cleaned out Podley's postrock catalogue to make way for more Simon and Garfunkel. I then mentally congratulated myself for graduating from that period of my life (I believe it is called stunted male adolescence, I am still not quite sure how I got stuck there) and getting on with becoming my mother.

So when an email arrived from Mogwai this morning to let me know that their EP was out and streamable, I ignored it and went back to work. That is, until Ads emailed me an hour later about it and used the phrases: "Wow" and "unapologetically pretty".

Wow indeed.

This EP is the most unexpected lovely surprise. All strings and piano and... is there a way to say 'maturity' without sounding condescending? I urge you all to stream it immediately. I have already played it more times than HWDBYW and have no plans to end its rotation any time soon.

You can find it here at soundcloud.

Track 1 ("Get to France") is like Danny Elfman without the whimsy. Curious, pretty and gothic all at once. It's gorgeously addictive.

Track 2 ("Hounds of Winter") Vocals and a harmonica! Think Sparklehorse but with more layers and contours. Unashamedly sad and lovely.

Track 3 ("Drunk and Crazy") The noisy one.

Track 4 ("Does This Always Happen") A familiar Mogster melody elevated by stunning strings and piano.

I am a little bit in love with this already and really hope the album runs wholeheartedly in this new direction. I cannot wait to hear it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Love Song Dedication...

Did someone listen to a bit too much Qantas inflight radio? Maybe. Something about high altitudes makes me crave easy-listening music and Anne Hathaway films.

However, I'm only a couple hundred metres above sea level right now so this owes more to some genuinely happy-making news than to low air pressure.

This one goes out to two of my favourite lovebirds. Not only did they just secretly elope but they are 13 weeks up the duff!! You know who you are. That child couldn't have two more clever, charming and lovely parents. And goddamn will it have a fine head of hair. I wish you so much happiness on this awfully big adventure.

Take it away Stevie...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paris (And: C'mon Irene)

If only there was some way to talk about Paris that was not completely obvious. It's an exquisite city brimming with culture, you say? Great food and wine and populated by people who know how to enjoy life? Well I never. Anyway, I think we could all live there very happily and this is, of course, my latest fantasy.

The only set-back being my (lack of) language skills. At one point I said to a taxi driver: "Je suis desole. Je ne parle pas Anglais". Which translates to "I am sorry. I do not speak English". Luckily we have the universal language of pointing and nodding. And I was with locals who took wonderful care of me.

(Sorry, Ali, I only had my iphone with me but here is a preview of coming attractions for you in just 6 weeks!)

Meandering through The Marais

more meanderings...

Paris just being Paris.

Notre Dam.
Arty, non?

The Louvre.
Have been here before and just played on the grass this time round.

The tower from A View to a Kill and Superman 2.

Garden of my apartment in The Marais/3rd Arrondisment.
Big thank you to Pip, Eric and a very new and adorable Charles for hospitality above and beyond.
Vous me manques déjà*

The. Best. Hot. Chocolate.

Could not be further from the truth.

But that was yesterday. Today, I am in NY, stocking up on bottled water and tealights in preparation for Hurricane Irene. She is taking a little while to arrive and I have already eaten 50% of my provisions (ie. a packet of Reese's pieces). Clearly, I am not someone to be relied on in a crisis. Let's hope she gets in and out of here quickly and with minimal impact.

*Thanks Google.

Monday, August 15, 2011


4 days until the end of this project.

6 days until

9 days until

12 days until I'm back here

14 days until

(and a much anticipated reunion)

and finally...

21 days until

That's a shame - the final city is the least photogenic.
We've been talking about moving to Melbourne for a while now (approximately 10 years for me). We thought it might be a good compromise between Sydney and New York - possibly more of a compromise for Team NY than Team Sydney but a good one nonetheless. Clever McNutty has landed himself a job down there for a little while so we're going to test the waters. After a year in Williamsburg I think I am well prepared for Brunswick.

Meanwhile, the next few weeks bring cocktails with old friends and cuddles with new babies.
I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Only Living Girl in NY

I miss music. My friend Jimmy asked me what new bands are rocking my itunes at the moment and I was sorry to say that the only thing I am listening to these days is the sound coming out of my Final Cut Pro. Most of our score is actually Explosions in the Sky knock-offs so it's not all bad.

But I've recently decided to revisit Simon and Garfunkel. While technically not "new", it is a very recent addition to my ipod (my, how obsolete that word sounds in the age of iphones and ipads). I wanted a quintessential New York band to provide a soundtrack to what is left of this adventure. I thought it would be a sweet and folky accompaniment to daily Manhattan wanderings.

It took a few listens to shake the feeling of being the protagonist in a Wes Anderson film walking significantly through the second act turning point. Once I got past that, I discovered something. So many of their tracks are deeply sad. I don't just mean the songs like "Sound of Silence" that have a reputation for being tear-jerkers or the love-gone-wrong numbers like 'I am a Rock". In fact "Rock" is one of the least sad and most playful - Simon is well aware that his heartbreak defiance is wishful thinking. Loneliness, memories and mortality gently trickle through so much of their music.

The song that I can't stop listening to is "The Only Living Boy in New York". It dawned on me that I had actually been thinking about this track since Rino published this piece a few months ago. The post is characteristically insightful. I didn't initially realise it was a song written for Art Garfunkel. As Rino notes, it is one of the warmest, kindest and most loving letters of friendship ever committed to song. Perhaps I am being overly sentimental because I am far away from the one I love but I think this is a stand-alone beautiful track.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Against All Odds (... I'm Reconsidering Phil Collins)

Don't be alarmed.

I know we've talked about This American Life here before. Not to harp but it really is incredible storytelling. Each weekly podcast is, without fail, an engaging listen but every now and then an episode shines through and touches your heart, makes you laugh uncontrollably or leaves you pondering for the rest of the week.

The latest podcast* not only did all of that but combined all of Blogley's favourite themes:
Music; Love; Ira Glass; and The Magnetic Fields. Had I been drinking a chocolate milkshake at the same time, my heart may well have exploded.

The theme for the episode was "Break Up". All four stories were wonderful but the main story by Starlee Kline was about how, when her boyfriend broke up with her, she found so much comfort in sad love songs that she decided to go write one. She had no musical skills or experience so she got in contact with the maestro of Heartbreak Pop - Mr Phil Collins, himself.

This story is pure delight. Collins is disarmingly honest about his heartbreak and failure in love (he had just finalised a divorce at the time she contacted him) and supportive of Starlee's efforts. One of the highlights was discovering that Michael Bolton is to Phil Collins what Phil Collins is to most of humanity: cheesy and overblown. Michael Bolton is Phil Collins' Phil Collins!

Collins had been the drummer in Genesis and had never gone out on his own. When his first wife left him he was so devastated, it drove him to write the breakthrough album that made him one of the most wealthy and famous pop stars in the world. He jokes that he only wrote it because he thought when she heard it she would take him back. And even now, when asked if he had to choose, he would still take the relationship over anything else.

Aw Phil. You charmer.

But maybe he's right: we all do have that one person you never quite shake. Maybe you have a few. Either way... there is no song you can write, no book you can publish, no film you can make, no artwork you can craft, that can ever make them want you back. Not even if you're Phil Collins.

The most we can hope for is that in the act of creating we get so caught up in the process that we eventually forget why we were making it in the first place.

I have nothing against Phil Collins. I don't care that he destroyed Genesis as I never listened to them. That said, I would never buy an album. The most I can offer in support of Phil is that when "In the Air" comes on the Nanna FM station I tune into in the car, I don't switch stations. However, I can't bring myself to upload a Phil Collins music clip. It would be condoning him and therefore a recent Phil Collins tribute album disguised as a Bruce Hornsby tribute album that the indie music press is shamelessly fawning over. I know you know what I am talking about.
But I can offer this:

I can't watch this without crying with laughter. I have no idea how an ad creative even conceived of this let alone got it past the Hadrian's Wall that is agency and client politics. It is a feat of advertising.

* I did some follow-up research and it seems this story originally aired in 2007. Starlee Kline, if a random google search ever leads you here, your story was poignant and charming. I hope your song achieved everything you wanted from it and your broken heart has healed.

In unrelated news, my research led me to discover that Ira Glass is twenty years older than me! In my mind everyone, no matter how accomplished, is probably 32 years old (in fact, especially if they are accomplished. I blame John Ottman for my warped perspective on achievement/age. He edited The Usual Suspects at 26. When I found that out - at 27- I realised it was all over for me.) Digression. The point is, Ira, I love your work. And your spectacles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Block Party (Giglio Festival, Williamsburg 2011)

... then some nights you come home to find a massive Italian carnival on your street.

I did wonder why there was a water slide parked outside our apartment for three days.

Roebling and N8th (or: Fixed Gears by Night)

Gee wiz.

Italian man in white pants sings Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" with sax accompaniment. His voice was good but the night belonged to the trousers.

Jesus loves a saxophone solo.

Some graffii lurking behind the festivities.
An eerie reminder that life is not all zeppoles and cannoli.


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