Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 5 Albums of 2009

Writing essay form blogs is hard; here are 5 albums that came out in 2009 that were totally amazing

5-Propagandhi: Supporting Caste
It had been quite a while since a punk album has totally floored me and reminded me why I adore that music so much. Even Yidcore's terrific 2007 release They Tried To Kill Us. They Failed. Let's Eat! failed to be an amazing listen start to finish. However, Propagandhi managed to re-cement themselves in my head as one of the greatest punk bands around today. Supporting Caste features all the quintessential elements of any good Propagandhi album; attacks on Neo-Liberalism, vegan-heavy messages and ludicrously soaring songs that aren't so much composed of 'lyrics' as they are poetry or eloquent rants. First listenings revealed the songs that are still favourites to this day, but also exposed what I viewed to be the obvious weak tracks. It wasn't until some months later when I revisited the album that I realised the subtle charm of said tracks. These songs aren't as 'punk' as earlier Propagandhi, and a few are about the importance of love or the simple joy of seeing live music. Despite this new appreciation for the non-Propagandhi style songs, the early favourites are favourites now, with song being amongst Propagandhi's absolute best. This might just be their best album and it was a terrific start to 2009's musical season.
Stand Out Tracks: Dear Coach's Corner, Human(e) Meat, Potemkin City Limits, Last Will And Testament

4-Do Make Say Think: Other Truths
I really got into heavily into post-rock over the past year or two, and Do Make Say Think, along with 65daysofstatic, capture the feelings I crave from the genre most deftly. Do Make Say Think's 2003 Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn is one of my all time favourite albums and their 2007 release, You, You're a History In Rust, was also really excellent (despite a couple of horrible production choices). Their release this year was titled Other Truths which is definitely a misnomer of a name, considering 'other' is hardly a word I would describe the album as. It is utterly essential DMST, coming across as a culmination of years of experience in their style rather than an experiment into 'other' territory. This is not a bad thing, particularly when the album features but 4 ten minute songs titled 'Do', 'Make', 'Say' and 'Think'. It is quite obvious the band were trying to make an exemplary album of their various music styles. 'Do', follows the most action heavy path, with the band doing more in ten minutes than they had done on entire albums early in their career. 'Make' is the 'build up song' that every single post-rock band knows they have to put on every album. Really though, it is an great track and ends with some of their loudest and biggest music. 'Say' is the most interesting track on the album I feel, featuring a small amount of wordless vocals and a back and forth pattern between all the instruments. It's the 'sleeper hit' of the 4 tracks, and cannot be appreciated in one listen. 'Think', naturally, is the contemplative closer; not a beautiful as Hooray Hooray Hooray! or You, You're Awesome but still very very nice. This album is Do Make Say Think doing what they know how to do, and doing it damn well.
Stand Out Tracks: Do, Make

3-The Horrors: Primary Colours
What can I say about The Horrors? Their 2007 debut, Strange House, was one of the best releases in recent times. Gothic influences, tongue perfectly in cheek, lest banal Birthday Party sounds with a keyboard tone to die for. It was with bated breath that I waited for a follow up. Primary Colours is nothing at all like what one would expect. Shoe gaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and post-punk like late 80s Cure replace the Jesus Lizard/Birthday Party sounds of the first album. Vocalist Faris does not scream at all over the album's lush, 45 minute dream tones. The keys are just as excellent, but now they're much higher in the mix, and battling with wah driven guitar feedback. The drumkit could probably be reduces to a snare, bass and crash cymbal and the album would sound the same. The album is surely not for everyone, particular people who were hoping for more of the same, but this is a seriously excellent release from a band who managed to struggle through the hype and come out on top. I would reccomend this to anyone who likes the idea of labels like 'shoe gaze', 'dream pop' and 'garage indie'
Stand Out Tracks: Who Can Say, Primary Colours, Sea Within A Sea

2-Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
Fuck Buttons' 2008 debut Street Horrrsing was one of the most life changing albums I've ever heard. It opened up a new world of electronic influenced and noise-core based music for me. Seeing them in January (after a festival, on an island, around midnight) was one of the best concerts of my life. I adore this band and make no apologies for the trendy, too-cool-for-school hype. Tarot Sport, upon first listening, was just a little too close to their debut for me. I was really wanting a totally different experience for some reason and was just a touch disappointed with having an album that sounded similar and had the same droning feedback tone as their debut. A week later though, I listened to it again and the album's been on high rotation since. Yes, the album does sound similar to Horrrsing but I now realise that this is not a bad thing. Pop sensibilities and danceable rhythms are interlaced with the pulsing, horrifying, joyous electronica they know how to do. The opening song serves a bridge between their first album and this one. By the time the last song finishes, you're tired. This is not an album, or band, for everyone. But for those who like sonic experimentation, noise music or experimental electronica, Tarot Sport is a must own
Stand Out Tracks: Surf Solar, The Lisbon Maru, Phantom Limb, Flight of The Feathered Serpent

1-ROOT!: Surface Paradise
Melbourne band ROOT!'s first album Root Supposed He Was Out Of The Question was one of the best albums of 2007, and their follow up is definitely my album of 2009. The concept album is based around the idea of the surface paradise; an idea so obvious that I will not explain it to you here. Anyone who knows anything about the band will know that it is needless to say that the album is hilarious, but the band now know how to write awesome, catchy pop songs and play their instruments damn well. The country influence is all but gone, and a straight up rock sound replaces it throughout much of the album. Clever lyrics and 'so clever they're dumb' lyrics pepper the album, but the spoken word sections are where singer DC Root really shines. I cannot recommend this album enough. To everyone. If you don't get it, it will only make me like the album more. If you do get it, they'll be your current favourite band. I can't honestly assume the album will be heard by more than a small group of dedicated fans, but we are the lucky ones. Everyone else is just slightly too deep.
Stand Out Tracks: All of them

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Top 5 Films of 2009

I don't plan on this being "that kind of blog" with nothing but best of lists, but I feel this wasn't too bad a year for movies and wanted to put my favourites out there. Apologies to those who've heard this before.

5-Where The Wild Things Are

I believe that Spike Jonze is one of the most original and brilliant directors of our time. Being John Malkovich andAdaptation. are amongst some of my all time favourite films. Naturally, I was hugely excited to hear that he was adapting one of everyone's favourite children's stories. The first trailer (above) nearly made me weep when I first saw it in the cinema. By the time the film was finally out, my expectations were through the roof. Whilst the movie didn't totally live up to them, reflecting on it, I can see that it was still a remarkable achievement and a work of art, just not exactly what I wanted. I feel the main faults of the film can be traced back to the screenplay (written by both Jonze and Dave Eggers). The film is very emotionally up and down, switching from a childhood sense of fear and abandonment to heart-warming, indie rock scored scenes of joy; which I feel was the biggest problem. I was never able to fully grasp the joy or the sorrow, because they were gone as quickly as they had came. Nevertheless, the film is a visual masterpiece and an exceptional parable of childhood feelings; it simply wasn't the story I'd prepared myself for.

4-Black Dynamite

My interest for this movie was generated entirely through Internet word-of-mouth and YouTube trailers. A loving homage to, and parody of, the Blaxploitation genre, Black Dynamite sees the eponymous character attempt to bring down a drug ring that goes much high than he thinks. The first half hour of this movie is utterly perfect, there isn't a single fault in its style or content. It's not until the halfway mark or so than it missteps slightly, delving into self-parody and telling a few jokes, rather than simply relying on its style. This seems to be a problem with nigh-on every film in this genre, but it is (thankfully) not too present in Black Dynamite. The soundtrack is stunning, with original funk tunes being cued at every possible instance, and lyrical songs coming in when the situation calls for it. Dynamite himself kicks so much ass you wonder if he'll be able to get his groove on when it comes to the ladies; (*Spoiler Wanring*) he does. The movie as a whole is hilarious and a whole lot of fun; best watched with other people.

3-Drag Me To Hell

After years of Spiderman, Sam Raimi returned to the horror genre he clearly loves, with Drag Me To Hell. It tells the story of loan officer Christine Brown being cursed by a elderly Gypsy after she refused to grant the old woman a load extension. From the very opening of this movie it is clear that Raimi has not lost his Evil Dead skill; the fight scenes are dirty and amateur looking, the camera work is quick and zoom heavy and the characters manage to both be one dimensional caricatures of horror standards, and genuinely 'real' seeming people. Like Black Dynamite, there were one or two moments in this that managed to fall into self-parody, yet they were not nearly notable enough to bring the movie down as a whole. Christine played her role excellently, as did her boyfriend, but Christine's co-worker Stu stole every scene he was in. Awkward lines, suspiciously wry facial expressions, the most hilarious quotes; pure Stu. A couple of moments in the film provided actual jumps from the audience I saw it with, and I too found a moment or two kind of scary, but this film is a fun, PG Horror romp pure and simple. No one does this better than Raimi, and this had better be a sign of Evil Dead 4 to come.

2-A Serious Man

"I didn't do anything" is the catch-cry of Larry Gopnik, a Jewish man, living in a Jewish neighbourhood in late 1960s America. No matter what he does, or doesn't do, a train wreck of misfortunes are heading his way. The film begins with Larry's wife leaving him for their friend Sy Ableman and Larry's position as an paid academic being in jeopardy. Larry's kids do not get along well with their father and his brother is ill and insists on Larry helping him out. This is all set up within the opening 20 minutes of the film, and it only gets worse from there. Larry's life is one existentialist crisis after another, and he seems to be perpetually one misfortune away from suicide. However, this is a Coen brothers film and it is very difficult not to laugh at. The entire story can be seen a parable of the biblical story of Job, or simply as the Coen brothers wanting you to feel terrible. Either way, you can't help but admire their meticulous camera work and frustratingly perfect mis en scรจne. Easily one of the smartest and funniest movies of their illustrious career, Joel and Ethan Coen clearly had a ball making this outrageously dark comedy. Can't really say much more about it without revealing key parts, but be sure to know that the ending, and very beginning, are amazing. Also, bonus points for having one of the most inventive trailers ever.

1-Inglourious Basterds

Misleading trailers, promotional art and director hype aside, Inglourious Basterds is goddamned amazing. Nothing that is written can ever do justice to a Tarantino film, and this is no exception. Split into 5 chapters, Inglourious Basterds tells two stories which only meet at the very end, and only in a minor way. One story is that of Shosanna Dreyfus, a French Jewish girl who runs a cinema and attempts to get revenge on the Nazis who killed her family, and the Basterds, a rag-tag group of Jewish soldiers taking out the Nazis guerrilla warfare style. Of course, nothing is so simple in a film "written and directed by Quentin Tarantino" Each chapter has everything to love about Tarantino but none of the self-indulgent frustration we fans may cringe over. The snappy dialogue, the subtle and not-so-subtle film references, the long, sweeping camera work; it's all there. But it is too easy to simply call this another Tarantino movie. Quentin has made a mature movie that is quintessentially him, and all together removed from him. The shots of feet do not come across as a author appeal, the soundtrack is sublime yet largely underplayed, the acting is picture perfect and largely in foreign tongues. I could write an essay on why I think it's one of the greatest and most important films of our time, and I just might, but it is without a doubt my pick for film of the year.


For years I managed to stay true to a “I have nothing to blog about” mantra; despite finding myself reading more and more blogs written by people who also had “nothing” to say. Doing a New Media heavy degree, planning on having a career somehow linked to the label and getting occasionally frustrated with 140 character limits made me realise that it was time to fall in line. I wanted to get it started before the end of the year and it seems like I have. Victory. Also, I plan on finishing an extended essay piece on Mad Men soon and figure a blog is a nice place for such a thing.