Everything I watched in 2017

03/01 Lions for Lambs
05/01 Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
06/01 Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
09/01 Practical Magic, Gilmore Girls season 2, Einstein’s Biggest Blunder
10/01 Mad Max Fury Road
13/01 Nathan For You Season 1
15/01 Mozart In the Jungle
18/01 Series Of Unfortunate Events Series 1
20/01 Nathan For You Season 2
28/01 A Simple Plan
04/02 Beautiful Girls, Rick And Morty Season 1
05/02 The Jungle Book, Robots,
06/02 La La Land
02/03 Gilmore Girls Season 3
04/03 The Craic, Moonlight
06/03 Star Trek Enterprise Season 1
07/03 Trevor Noah Afraid Of the Dark
09/03 Children Of The Revolution
10/03 Logan
15/03 Rick And Morty Season 2
20/03 T2 Trainspottin
22/03 Ken Burns: Prohibition
04/04 Gilmore Girls Season 4
01/05 Keanu
15/05 The Good Dinosaur
08/06 Enterprise Series 2
10/06 Don’t Worry Baby
30/06 The Secret Life Of Pets
02/07 The Leftovers Season 2, Doctor Who Series 10
09/07 Love Sick Season 2, Spider-Man Homecoming
15/07 Veep Season 6
19/07 Star Trek Beyond
22/07 Steve Jobs
23/07 Angie Tribeca Season 3
25/07 Hunt For the Wilderpeople
01/08 Sing Street
08/08 X-Men Apocalypse
15/08 Star Trek Enterprise S3
18/08 Orange Is the New Black S5
19/08 Fleabag
20/08 Knight Of Cups
22/08 Long Strange Trip
24/08 Danny Says
28/08 Game Of Thrones Season 7, Shampoo
29/08 The Nice Guys
30/08 Miss Stevens
01/09 Everybody Wants Some!!
04/09 Glow
15/09 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
17/09 Hologram For The King
20/09 Wet Hot American Summer
23/09 The Firm
25/09 Married To the Mob
28/09 Narcos Season 3
29/09 Night Owls, War Machine, Fargo Season 3
01/10 30 Minutes Or Less, Walk Of Shame, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
02/10 Jerry Before Seinfeld, Throw Mama From The Train
04/10 Long Shot
09/10 Star Trek Enterprise Season 4
10/10 I’m Dying Up Here Season 1
11/10 Gilmore Girls Season 5
12/10 Baby Driver
15/10 Love And Friendship
16/10 Rick And Morty Season 3
20/10 The Lobster
22/10 Kingsman The Golden Circle
24/10 Thor Ragnarok
1/11 Death Of Stalin
13/11 Trumbo
14/11 Me Earl & The Dying Girl
23/11 Call Me By Your Name
27/11 A Bronx Tale, The Big Sick, A Trip To Spain
30/11 Silicon Valley Season 4
1/12 The Founder, Mickey Blue Eyes
10/12 Wonder Wheel
12/12 The Crown Season 1, Brooklyn Nine Nine S4
16/12 Gilmore Girl S6 (the worst)
17/12 The Last Jedi
21/12 Passengers
24/12 The Hidden Fortress
25/12 The Meyerowitz Stories
26/12 Doctor Who Xmas, Arrival
27/12 Little Men
28/12 Alan Partridge Welcome To The Places Of My Life, Big Fat Quit of the Year 2017
29/12 Alan Partridge Mid Morning Matters,
30/12 Mindhunter Season 1
31/12 Black Mirror S4

Long Time Running (2007) – The Tragically Hip

Long Time Running (2007)
The Tragically Hip
Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicolas de Pencier
Netflix (outside of Canada)

I am probably a rarity when it comes to The Tragically Hip. I am a casual fan. OK, maybe a little bit more, but they are a band that are loved for everything they did, or completely ignored. That usually correlates to how Canadian you are, and a teenage (pretentious) exploration of Canadian music led me to them, the biggest band in Canada. It also helped that they were on Warners, where I worked for a while. In Australia, we valiantly tried to release singles like My Music At Work to deafening indifference.

This documentary tells the story of one moment in the band’s history – the final ones. Lead singer and lyricist Gord Downie was diagnosed with a brain cancer. Against the odds, the band rallied for a bunch of farewell concerts around Canada, which became huge, national events. Downie died, shortly after the documentary was released.

There’s a lot of story to tell, and the film takes us through the personal rather than the musical. There’s a lot about the sickness, the decisions made, the effort to learn songs, and the feelings of everyone involved. Only in the very last minutes of the film do we get anything close to a performance of a full song. This is not a way to discover the band’s music. This is also a loving portrait, not a critical assessment. Don’t expect skeletons here.

Where this documentary works best is the feels. At one point, Justin Trudeau turns up, and he is emotionally overwhelmed (Trudeau was in tears when he announced Downie’s death). There’s seas of fans singing along to every song, saying goodbye to their hero. This was a band that had their rabid fanbase, and this film is for them.

The other important part of this film is serving as a portrait of Gord Downie. His lyrics, and his worldview, is much of what gives the band their special flavour. And we get a lot of time with Gord, and him being Gord. We get to see him get dressed, with two socks sown together as a neck tie. The way he kisses and hugs his band mates. And in a touching interview for this film, talks long about life and mortality. He is a special man.

The film takes us through the decision to tour, the planning of the tour, then the tour itself. It ends with their final show in Kingston, a huge event beamed into public parks throughout Canada. There’s lots of tears fans singing along to the big hits when they finally come, like Grace, Too and Ahead By A Century.

This is a special moment, captured. Very few people get to face their death head on, and even fewer have a platform like being the biggest band in their country. It’s not a great place to discover the music, or hear some great music.

3/5

My Favourite Albums Of 2017

1. Charlie Fink – Cover My Tracks

Easily, easily my favourite album this year. A quiet, intimate little story telling album, that at places sounds like an extended tribute to Leonard Cohen, but the man can sing and there’s lots of colour. Best are the stories, the lyrics and the rush of images and hope. Unabashedly joyous without being naff, and timeless without sacrificing hooks. I’m still finding new moments of wonder in it every time. The best track is still the first, Firecracker, a simple story, beautifully told, culminating in an image as memorable as anything I’ve ever heard or read.

2. Real Estate – In Mind

Comes in seconds simply due to the number of plays. It’s like Television grew up in a stable family and got some sun. Long blissful jamming matched with long blissful lyrical nonsense. Everything here is serving mood and tone, and they hold it down for a whole album without getting boring. You can hear all the influences but still its own thing. If you like minute-plus intros, you’ll love this album.

3. Elbow – Little Fictions

I’ve always liked Elbow, but as I get older they make more and more sense. Go figure. The band create an inventive, emotional bed for Guy Garvey to be all wise and insightful. And they songs seep in, with incredible hooks, matched with an incredible way that Garvey sees the world. He’s mellowed with age too, and his kitchen sink love songs were the perfect antidote to 2017.

4. Toby Martin – Songs From Northam Avenue

A big change from Toby’s normal inventive pop, he collaborated with a bunch of musicians in Western Sydney to write songs about those suburbs. It leads to a more scrambled, rickety take on Martin’s pop smarts. Far more relaxed and sweet than his previous Love’s Shadow, there are great escapist moments – the single Spring Feeling is a real highlight and doesnt end up where you’d expect.

5. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

Marling continues to be on time – she’s done the Joni Mitchell folk period, and is now two albums into her Joni Mitchell sonic experimental period. This album seems to be a compilation of her last fee years. There’s jazzy songs, intimate acoustic songs and rocking electric songs. She also still sings with the experience of an 80 year old, spinning anachronistic stories about women in strife, and the living of life. Reliable, but let’s hope she mixes it up again.

6. John Kennedy – JFK & The Midlife Crisis

Not sure what I was expecting from a John Kennedy album in 2017, but he has delivered a pleasure of an album. So many of the songs here that sound like they should be radio smashes, with big choruses, and big hooks. His obsession with our place is not lost with plenty of Sydney, almost none more than the wonderful Peter Says, which mentions the Cat Protection Society in Enmore. His voice is sounding particularly great too.

7. Alex Dezen – II

Dezen made my favourite album last year. This doesn’t consistently reach the heights of the last one. It’s still a hopelessly sad album, matched with a more upbeat set, some are truly danceable. Simply put, a couple of duffers on this one, but then also moments of amazing beauty, like New York To Paradise, imagining his mother in heaven and getting her dreams. The themes continue from the last self titled album, and a nice book end. Heartbreaking honesty, without the Ryan Adams type posing, and actual song craft.

8. Paul Kelly – Life Is Fine

Every decade or so, Paul Kelly decides to make a crowd pleaser. And reminds us he can kick pop rock ass, if he only cared to. Life Is Fine is this decade’s collection – so fun, so soulful, so sexy. The first three tracks – Rising Moon, Finally Something Good, Firewood And Candles – are about as great as any Paul Kelly singles. Unlike his contemporaries (Walker, Finn, et all), Kelly has always been more red blooded, and he really lets that part of him shine. Surrounded as usual by a kick ass band, with plenty of Vika And Linda. Album cover of the year too.

9. Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

Cloher probably knew her new album would be greeted with a big audience, with the success of her label. And in many ways, she has delivered a year one album – restating all the excellent things about her music, uncompromisingly. Restless, repetitive guitars mixed with beautifully thrown away lyrics. It’s less about intimacy, more about big statements. It’s matched with an energy that suggests these songs will be a lot of fun live (the album is incredibly captured).

10. Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott – Crooked Calypso

Three albums in four years, all of them huge chart successes in the UK. Heaton has found a fourth life (after the Housemartins, The Beautiful South and his solo career), and he is revelling in it. Writing for Abbott has brought a sweetness to his songs, and as usual he writes them with more energy and speed than anyone else his age. This album is even more indebted to Northern soul, and the big gospel-ly numbers probably reflect the large rooms they play. He’s still a grumpy old fuck – an unapologetically working class, anti-authoritarian, cynical, bitter bastard. But he makes it sound such fun. The soundtrack to dance with the madness of this year.

Here’s actual music videos from these albums, and 10 other albums/EPs I liked this year.

Mojo Reviews Challenge #014 – Dave Edmunds – Chronicles (1994)

Dave Edmunds
Chronicles
1994 – Connoisseur Collection

Dave Edmunds has always been a bit of a Zelig like figure for me. He is associated with and hangs out with a lot of artists I love. But I have never explored his music.

I, of course, know two songs. Both were hits and written for Edmunds – Girls Talk by Elvis Costello and I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock N Roll) by Nick Lowe. He is scattered on various compilations (Live Stiffs, the Stiff Records box set, etc) I own, and guested on other records that I his name didn’t front.

I guess what kept me away from Edmunds was that he wasn’t a songwriter, and he didn’t have a special point of view. He just sang cool songs of others. Listening to this compilation, it is very compilation-y. This is a classic 90s best of where they just filled the disc to capacity.

This album is filled with familiar songs. They are all covers – John Fogerty’s Almost Saturday Night, the classical piece Sabre Dance (heard in lots of films) and more. The songs sound pretty good, Edmunds is a fine player and singer. I drift towards the less produced stuff like Crawling From The Wreckage.

In the end, I already had better versions of these songs. And for me, these songs are OK – they all seem to touch upon good time 50s rock n roll, which is not my favourite genre. It’s riff heavy, simple lyrics – I know people who love it, and they are the biggest Dave Edmunds fans I know. It is nice to have a great version of Girls Talk. The version of I Knew The Bride is fine.

After this, I’m not rushing out to buy a whole lot of Rockpile or Dave Edmunds albums. This pub rock era of British music was full of filler, and if this is the best, then I’ve heard it before. It ticks a box, solves a mystery. I’m sure he’s a blast live, he looks neat and has a good voice. His frequent collaborator Nick Lowe talks about Cruel To Be Kind (which Edmonds plays on), saying it was simply his turn to have a hit. Edmunds, he just kind of had a turn.

Everything I watched in 2016

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Based on a thing that Stephen Soderbergh does. Ironically, I watched nothing by Soderbergh this year. No repeats listed. TV shows show the date I finished the season.

01/01 Bloodline
14/01 Down With Love
16/01 Casanova 70
17/01 Transparent Season 2
20/01 Only Connect Season 11, Theory Of Everything
23/01 Maron Series 1
24/01 Worlds Fastest Indian, The Beast Of No Nation
29/01 Mozart In the Jungle series 1
30/01 Jupiter Ascending
06/02 Mozart In the Jungle series 2,
07/02 The Red Shoes
13/02 Big Eyes
14/02 Boytown
15/02 2012
16/02 Twelve Chairs
24/02 A New Leaf
27/02 While We’re Young, Hannibal
28/02 Men At Lunch
02/03 Canadian Bacon
04/03 X files season 10
06/03 High Crimes
09/03 Whip It
13/03 Heart Of Darkness
16/03 Marnie
20/03 Holy Rollers
26/03 House Of Cards Season 4, Jimmy Carr Funny Business
27/03 Megamind
31/03 Grace And Frankie Season 1
07/04 The Parole Officer
17/04 Narcos
19/04 Creation, Better Call Saul Season 2, Swimming Pool
22/04 Best Of Enemies
23/04 Around the world in 80 Days, Mad Dogs (series 4), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (series 2)
24/04 Love Is Strange
27/04 Good Bye Lenin
29/04 Fever Pitch
28/04 All Or Nothing
01/05 Aloha, Larry Sanders Show Season 1
07/05 Hot Tub Time Machine 2
08/05 Fish Tank
11/05 Any Given Sunday
14/05 Cunk On Shakespeare
19/05 Sherlock Jr
20/05 Larry Sanders Season 2
21/05 Terri
22/05 Transporter 2
02/06 Tomorrowland
04/06 Mission Impossible 5, Deadpool
06/06 Gasping, Frankie Boyle Laugh Like You’ve Never Been Loved
15/06 x&y, The Wrecking Crew, Out of Towners, Robin Williams Remembered
18/06 Cobbler
20/06 Catfish, Fright Night (2011), Neil Young Journeys
24/06 Absolutely Anything
25/06 Charlie Bartlett
26/06 Irma La Louce
27/06 Dear White People
28/06 Spotlight, Hail Caesar, The Martian
29/06 The Larry Sanders Show season 3
30/06 Superheroes A Never Ending Battle, Man Up, Kingsman, Top 5
1/07 Wild Target
02/07 Marty
06/07 Look Who’s Back
07/07 American Ultra, What We Did On Our Holidays, Ted 2
09/07 What If
12/07 Heavens Gate
18/07 Man From Uncle
21/07 Special Correspondents
28/07 She’s Funny That Way, The Thomas Crown Affair
30/07 Larry Sanders Season 4
01/08 Stranger Things
4/08 Scrotal Recall, A Most Violent Year
08/08 Focus
09/08 Angie Tribeca Season 1
10/08 Straight Outta Compton
12/08 The End Of the Tour
14/08 Jurassic World
15/08 Mr Holmes
16/08 Larry Sanders Season 5
22/08 Bojack Horseman Season 1
30/08 Bill
01/09 The Dressmaker
02/09 Road To Perdition
06/09 Larry Sanders Season 6
07/09 Love And Mercy
09/09 The Lost Honor Of Christopher Jeffries, Bojack Horseman S2, Westworld, The Big Short
10/09 Creed
14/09 Angie Tribeca Season 2
15/09 Downloaded, The Losers
19/09 Vacation
25/09 Brooklyn Nine Nine Season 3
27/09 Roadies, I Am Road Comic, Lavender Hill Mob
28/09 Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2
07/10 Houdini
15/10 American Gangster, Ex Machina
23/10 Narcos Season 2
28/10 Black Mirror
29/10 Wait Until Dark, Minions
30/10 Good Dinosaur
1/11 Doctor Strange
5/11 Into The Inferno
7/11 Yes Man
17/11 Justice My Foot
19/11 Zootopia
25/11 Our Brand Is Crisis
28/11 Man On Ledge, People Places Things
30/11 Arq, Blunt Talk Season 1
6/12 John Wick
12/12 Gilmore Girls Season 1
16/12 For The Love Of Spock
17/12 Snake In Eagle’s Shadow, Star Wars Rogue One, A Grand Night In The Story Of Aardman,
23/12 Mississippi Grind
25/12 Mr Mum
26/12 Doctor Who: The Return Of Doctor Mysterio
27/12 The Man in the High Castle season 1
29/12 La La Land
30/12 Overboard
31/12 2016 Wipe, Cunk On Christmas

The Best Albums of 2016

A few notes on 2016.

I pretty much didn’t hear any chart music. There’s a longer conversation to be had about the large number of people who love music, who would claim music is their lives, but don’t come across what’s trending. But another time – but this list is definitely just the records I somehow come across or knew about.

Listening habits were strange this year. I listen to more podcasts than music. But the iPhone 7’s 256GB storage meant I could finally load 130GB or so of music on there and I’ve gone back to listen to a lot of old stuff. I probably listened to more Lorenz And Hart than Wilco.

I’m not sure if this was a good year for music. For completely self-centred reasons, I found music to be largely lacking in the emotional solace I was looking for. Maybe because it has been a tough year with no easy answers. But the artists who should be providing wisdom were lacking. It ended up being personal stories, and personal records that resonated with me. It’s such a simple trick, one often forgotten, that sometimes all art is about is connecting to another human.

As usual, no friend’s albums on the list, excluding wonderful albums by Adam Gibson and the Ark Ark Birds, Bryan Estepa, Katie Brianna, Jason Walker, The Nature Strip, Fallon Cush and many more.

1. Alex Dezen – Alex Dezen

alex-dezen-alex-dezen-cover

This is supposed to be a top 10, but this album I’ve listened to more than the rest of the ten combined. This album is 2016 for me. Dezen was the frontman of The Damnwells (who made my 2nd fave album of 2011) and this is his first solo album. with no commercial restraints or ambitions, he kind of went for it here. It’s an inventive pop/singer songwriter effort, and Dezen plays just about everything.

But the songs. Dezens drags out the demons. Like Revolver, an album pinned by three gorgeously melodic ballads, this album at its heart is the three gut-wrenching ballads; ‘I Don’t Want To Be Alone’ – about how his fear of time trumps his fear of death. It is his mother’s least favourite song. ‘I Have’ – as beautiful song about (in part) not looking at your phone when a friend plays you their music. And ‘Ode To Ex-Girlfriends’ is the kind of novelist detail of stunning lines and memorable images.

There’s a failed marriage, a disappointed mother, and an absent father all taken through the wringer. From the complicated feelings about the killing of Osama Bin Laden to a guitar he shouldn’t have sold. 10 wonderful short stories that I will go back to over and over in years to come.

Songs: Ode To Ex-Girlfriends, I Don’t Want To Be Alone, I Have

2. Sarah Watkins – Young In All The Wrong Ways

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Sarah Watkins of Nickel Creek fame has released solo albums before, but this is a wonderful, rocking, fun album with plenty of heart. If there’s strands to this album it is confidence and empowerment. Watkins is pretty clear on what she wants (‘Move Me‘), which regrets to bury (‘Young In All The Wrong Ways‘) and walking away from bad situations (‘One Last Time‘). It’s an utterly charming album.

In Nickel Creek, she was already the best singer in a band of great singers. There’s not a lot of her trademark fiddle, but she translates that musicianship easily into the guitar, creating stunning moments of power and intimacy when needed. On the track, ‘Like A New Year’s Day‘, was by far the best song-for-making-me-feel-better of 2016. A simple story of a drive to a friend’s house to relax and unwind – the softest kiss of music all year.

Songs: Like A New Year’s Day, One Last Time, Move Me

3. The I Don’t Cares – The I Don’t Cares

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Paul Westerberg teams up with Juliana Hatfield on a rocking new duo, pushing Westerberg to make exactly the same kind of album he’s been making for 30 years. And god it’s a good record. It sounds like it was again recorded in Westerberg’s basement, with lyrics that sound tossed off yet impossibly cool. A heart tangled up by the opposite sex, in a teenage milkshake way. There is, kinda, nothing personal going on here. But it sure is sweet.

It’s hard to know who this album is for. It sounds like a teenage party record – but I don’t think this duo’s audience has parties anymore. So there’s a layer of nostalgia here – this is the type of music, and songs, I used to like when I was a 17 year old discovering The Replacements. A nice place to visit.

Songs: Kissing Break, Back, Just A Phase

4. John Prine – For Better, Or Worse

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John Prine‘s long career got a boost in 1999 with In Spite Of Ourselves an album of duets with the (then) hottest female singers of the alt-country set. That title track became a standard – there’s twenty couples somewhere playing the song right now. For Better, Or Worse is the sequel, with some newer country singers, alt-country but a memory.

The joy of this album is hearing (and discovering) these old duets, usually from the 1930s (‘Falling In Love Again’) to the TV honky tonks of the 1960s (‘Mr & Mrs Used To Be‘, originally by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn). The songs are a snapshot of love from a different era. Married early, lots of alcoholism and fighting – you can’t help but think it’s a slightly more honest portrayal of a relationship than, say, The Bachelor.

The other real highlight from this album is how it sounds. Clear as crystal, laid back Bakersfield country. It sounds like one mic, recorded live, with great musicians. Pretty sure Hank (who has a song covered here, and whose granddaughter Holly Williams sings on a track) would have done it this way. Let’s hope there’s a third volume in another 17 years.

Songs: Falling In Love Again, Mental Cruelty, Just Waitin’

5. Emmy The Great – Second Love

emmy-the-great-second-love-1500

One of my favourite albums ever is Central Reservation by Beth Orton. Her album this year was a return to electronica – it was a bit underwhelming. Which is a long way around to Emmy The Great, another  British singer songwriter, who dived into electronica and came out with something dramatic, deep and lovely.

I guess she was probably on the path to being a nice indie pop person, in the vein of Kate Nash. I really loved her last album. But it seems like a break-up (with her famous boyfriend) and discovering America has made something more interesting. I always find the best electronica creates this distance between the listener, and then great songs or great ideas break through with more impact. Newly single Emmy tells fascinating tales of finding her feet again. One arresting image (one of many) is being taken to a bar where the drinks cost more than music.

Songs: Social Halo, Swimming Pool, Algorithm

6. Wilco – Schmilco

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Wilco were once my favourite band. But around 2009, after seeing about 150 shows and sitting through too many noodle-y versions of the same songs, I drifted away. I bought every record since, listened to each a few times, they were fine. I wouldn’t say Schmilco is a return to form, but it’s closer to what I like about the band – acoustic, slow, thoughtful, tender, basically American Beauty.

I’d be pretty happy if this band pumped out one of these records a few times a decade, mixed with a couple of rocking ones or whatever. It’s like Neil Young. Happy to hear what he’s up to, but I love Silver And Gold and I love Prairie Wind. Schmilco joins Sky Blue Sky as laid back hippie Wilco. It’s not their best work – but it’s what I like.

Songs: Cry All Day, North American Kids, If I Ever Was A Child

7. Teenage Fanclub – Here

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No one’s had a good year, and we’ve all needed comfort. Hello Teenage Fanclub, the biggest comfort band there is. I’m not sure this album breaks any new ground. In fact, the last three Fanclub records seem to refine what they do. There’s a song on here called ‘Hold On‘. Initially, I was disappointed – they already have a (great) song called ‘Hang On‘ – thinking the well was dry. But you can’t have too many hugs, and if anything, we need these quietly positive songs even more.

I once remarked that all my favourite songs say the same thing – life is hard, but with you by my side, we can leave this bad situation behind. Teenage Fanclub mine that idea at medium heat, and it’s the joy of slowly sinking into a warm bath. Not that the album is boring – it’s full of great riffs, great solos, and great singing. It just doesn’t feel the need to show off. Who wants to start a TFC covers band?

Songs: Darkest Part Of The Night, I’m In Love, Thin Air

8. Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger

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I’ve always had Paul Simon. So when he sings, on this album, about looking for Proof Of Love, I feel like I’ve been looking for the same thing for decades. Through ‘Homeward Bound‘, ‘America‘ to ‘Outrageous‘ and ‘Questions For the Angels‘, his search for human connection has soundtracked my own. Which is to say – I’m utterly blind to this man’s faults. I guess I can see he’s a bit short.

The old crowd (boomer era critics) praise the latest Simon records for their adventurous sounds and strange touches. It doesn’t actually sound that much different to your run of the mill indie band, say like Magnetic Fields. The strange buzz of feedback and the odd sample are hardly adventurous. But he’s still a phenomenal writer, a cataloguer of love as it gets old and remains strong. And there’s a healthy Randy Newman-esque cynicism and quite a bit of humour – in his own way. Wristband tells the story of being locked out by security for one of his shows, but he turns it into a bigger thought like a great master can do. and how can you beat a line like – “most obits are mixed reviews.”

Songs: Proof Of Love, The Werewolf, Wristband

9. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

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Whitney‘s debut record has made some best of lists, and yeah – it’s a bit hipster nonsense. But the album sounds amazing – and it’s very fun. It’s not a head record – it’s one for the hips and one for the feet. I know they are supposed to sound 70s, but it really sounds like a 90s band doing 70s – like Sloan or Phoenix. Or more modern precedents like Real Estate or Avi Buffalo. This was the record most likely to make me break out into a dance when on my headphones.

Maybe having something to say would detract from what this album is trying to do – it’s not a lyricist trying to get a worldview across. It’s a broadly romantic record, with more than a little sweetness. But it’s more about that trumpet, that rush of bass and that high lonesome vocal. It’s fun, and let’s hope there’s more in them.

Songs: No Matter Where We Go, No Woman, Dave’s Song

10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

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The first album by The Last Shadow Puppets is one of my favourite albums, a perfect surprise of an album. This album, 8 years (i.e. the entire Beatles recording career) later, is like another band entirely. Gone is the heartbroken Scott Walker, and back is Alex Turner’s desperate need to be Nick Cave. Like the last several Arctic Monkeys albums, there’s a lot of dramatic and dangerous women.

This is more Bowie (they’ve been covering ‘Moonage Daydream‘) here than Bacharach, with much heavier guitars and tempos. Iggy Pop, Queens Of the Stone Age, the Bad Seeds at their baddest…all mixed in here. From their videos, they look like they may have learnt drugs. It’s a ballsy, crazy arrogant album. When Turner and Kane decide to write tunes – like the magnificent ‘Miracle Aligner‘ – the album really shines. But it’s fascinating anyway.

Songs: Miracle Aligner, Sweet Dreams TN, The Dream Synopsis

Here’s a YouTube playlist of my favourite 2016 songs that had videos. It includes tracks from the ten above.

The Four Types Of Racism

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There’s so much conversation about racism right now. The rebranding of white supremacists as alt right and using Nazi salutes, to Noel Pearson’s accusation against the ABC. Peter Dutton’s comments about the Australian Lebanese community, arguments over the Racial Discrimination Act, Birth Of Nation, Oscars So White, Brexit, Le Pen, TrumpCups, Eagles Of Death Metal, BoycottHamilton, Bendigo Mosque, Doctor Strange, Reclaim Australia, One Nation… we didn’t start the fire.

Often it is easy for people to diminish, deflect or deny allegations because racism is so broad. It’s easy to show you’re not a racist by pointing out many types of racism where you don’t fit. For most people, racism looks one way, and it’s this particular type of explicit, implicit psycho. But for me, there are four distinctive, classifiable types.

Let’s look at the four types of racism, shall we? Hooray! Photoshop!

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Let’s look at some quick examples of each, before discussing them.

Group A – Careless, Personal

This is the good old “you have very good English!” – or

“I have lots of black friends” – or

“I am 1/8th Chinese, so I am a victim too” [a real thing a US film critic said to me]

There’s plenty more examples. People not trying to be harmful or hateful, and it’s in a completely personal level. It’s less about what is said but how it’s used. We will get back to it, this is the group I will talk about the most.

Group B – Deliberate, Personal

This is the guy who told me, at Marrickville Station a couple of weeks ago, to fuck off back to my own country (he was a junkie and didn’t look like Peter Dutton but I can’t be sure).

It’s is this guy – PJKilby (who claims he was hacked)

Or this guy, who also claims he was hacked.

Sometimes it is said in hateful jest. Sometimes it is said in just hateful hate. It’s both the words and the actions.

And again, this woman in Chicago.

Group C – Careless, Institutional

There are many institutions that through carelessness have drifted into racism. #OscarsSoWhite, and their ridiculous policy for new members, meant they will always reflect the views of a small group.

A lot of work places I know, in particular progressive media companies, talk diversity. This is to address some of the institutionalised racism that has come out of carelessness more than anything else.

Silicon Valley has many problems. #BlackLivesMatter is a more extreme example. The argument over Australia Day, the Washington Redskins, etc.

Group D – Deliberate, Institutional

This is the stories I’ve heard (dated, but from recent history) that a prominent major network in Australia had an edict to put no black or Asian people in their creative and crowd shots (the Channel rhymes with ‘Channel Nine’).

Obviously, there are bigger examples, some of the biggest nightmarish marks on the history of humanity. Genocide, Apartheid. The White Australia Policy. Brexit (mostly).

This is when a minority group is kept down with a crushing power of an immense institution. The people who fought against this, in any form, was fighting such big odds. They are heroes.

A picture of dumplings I'm using to break up the sections.
A picture of dumplings I’m using to break up the sections.

These four groups aren’t binary (or whatever the four version of binary is). Even amongst each group there is scale. Large complex issues like Brexit can run the gamut. Yet, they are all connected, and feed into eachother.

So I’m going to run through each one again, with some commentary.

Group A – Careless, Personal

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This is the group most easily associated with harmless. But this is in many ways the most common form. And it leads and feeds into the other groups.

Take the example of Australian Rapper Pez. He wrote a thing on Facebook where he wanted to say something positive, and inclusive. And that he got teased at school as well, and knows how it feels, that we are connected by our differences. Everyone, let’s calm down.

I want to be nice to Pez, because he’s not trying to be hateful. I’m sure he’s a cultured, smart, inclusive person. But that’s a shitty comment.

Racism isn’t about being made fun of for your characteristics or background. It’s about being discriminated for your characteristics or background.

Pez appears to be around average height. Maybe at some point, someone called him average-o. Sick burn. But as far as I’m aware, people of average height aren’t getting paid less than people of below average height for doing the same job. There’s no one burning down an Average Height Place Of Worship.

(If you’re the very, very special kind of person who in your mind goes to the place where you go – well, that’s not true in basketball, where height is used as discrimination, then you’re very tops and this article isn’t for you).

People make fun of each other. People have to talk to each other. You might accidentally offend someone. It’s all good. But stereotypes starts here. Belittling starts here. The cloud of inferiority that descends over a child’s eyes as they realise they are different and won’t fit in, starts here. Being called whitey a few times doesn’t reflect the other groups of racism. And because you’ve felt Group A, doesn’t mean you know how it feels – or feel any of the down-the-line discrimination.

Sometimes I talk to friends who claim Europe is way more racist than Australia. I have to point out it’s because you suddenly aren’t the majority, and you are actually now just treated like everyone else (by the French).

It’s a shitty thing. I tend to forgive the person who compliments me on my English pretty quickly (and granted, I am brilliant with language). But I’d rather they didn’t, because it empowers the other groups here. And with social media, these comments travel wider and faster.

Another, more damaging example, is when real life Scream painting Peter Dutton spouts his divisive opinions in the media.

I grew up in Australia at a time when my people and my upbringing was a target. And the news regularly reported on rhetoric of politicians mulling revoking citizenship of former refugees, or other crazy shit.

I’m older and I understand it was a political football, and pandering to the stupid. But when I was younger, it made me feel like that passport and citizenship I have is temporary, and I will always be a second class citizen in this country.

Dutton, who looks like someone left the Grim Reaper out in the sun, is not really thinking of hurting someone. He’s being careless, to appeal to worst in our society.

Group B – Deliberate, Personal

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This could almost be split into two groups. Jokes and insults.

Hey, can’t you take a joke? (Note that most people who have to descend to this level of discourse usually cannot take a joke. I mean, does Dutton’s face suggest he has ever laughed?)

Jokers might think it’s harmless, but it’s definitely a deliberate act of slander. I do go back to the above group and say the key is discrimination. Jokes about Swedish people loving flat packed furniture, as far as I know, hasn’t led to much anti Swedish groups forming in regional Victoria. Bendigo is safe to open an IKEA.

But jokes about Aboriginal people being drunks. Or women being sluts. Or muslims being… well, we should all just stay away from Muslim jokes for a bit.

There is, of course, a more explicit, deliberate, hate. We see it all the time, the rise of right wing coupled with camera phones. Footage of people attacking people in public places seems to be product of this era. It will be our hula hoop.

Of course, this should never happen. It’s interesting, post Trump, how much analysis has gone into Trump voters. And how economically depressed they are, and how they’ve lost that factory job, and how they are just good people. It’s a bullshit excuse for shit behaviour.

Let’s not forget undecided voter poster child Ken Bone, who it turns out made some pretty racist comments on social media. He’s not necessarily a skinhead terrorising the corner shop owned by an Asian couple in a 90s film cliché. He seemed harmless. But he’s a racist little weasel.

Group C – Careless, Institutional

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This group seems to be where all the progress is focussed. It’s easy to understand – it’s an easy win, and easy to feel good about yourself #youdidit.

Groups A and B nudge, or push, the divisions in our society. And representation takes time to catch up. But with some work, and a clear focus, we can make our institutions and our media reflect our society. #weneedtocometogether

This is shakey ground. When I think of the face of Australia, I’m sure it’s not the same as Reclaim Australia’s, or maybe even anyone else’s. So who decides? And inclusion isn’t necessary enough on its own.

Noel Pearson laid a claim against the ABC for its portrayal of Aboriginal culture and people as ‘racist’. In particular, that they are usually represented as down trodden, lesser members of society.

I don’t agree with Noel, but I’m of course nowhere near taking the brunt of what that representation means when it takes form in an audience. But I do take the point that if we never saw an Aboriginal person with a drinking problem on TV again, it might lead to some positive gains (but is that the role of arts? Is the answer at the end of this slippery slope?).

Doctor Strange is a racist old 60s comics, from Marvel, home to a lot of racist stereotyping. The portrayal of ‘the east’ in that film isn’t great, but there was controversy about casting Tilda Swindon in the role usually played by an old Asian guy. Would casting an old Asian guy be worse, as it plays on a bad stereotype?

It’s about the audience in the end. It’s about seeing people of all colours and kinds in all positions. Not only does diversity make logical sense (smart, talented people can come from anywhere), it fights off Groups A and B. It’s worth noting here that for a while, people would ask me if I was the Asian guy in the Harold and Kumar films. So even not playing a stereotype isn’t always helpful. Volume might be the answer. If there were actually dozens of Asian Australians on TV, men and women, some comic, some drama…then we would stop a lot of Group A at least (or not).

There is a lot of movement here, because this group is easy. But there’s a lot of work. People get defensive about institutions they work for, and people take offence that somehow they aren’t doing their job. I remember one work place, when faced with diversity, looking at their own team and pointing out how diverse they were, within Europe, if you go back a couple of generations. They missed the point.

The Australia Day issue is a touchy one for some people. People feel like they are being personally accused of racism. The same happens with the Washington Redskins problem. The institutions haven’t kept up. We need to change.

Group D – Deliberate, Institutional

dutton

That just about every podcast I know did a Donald Trump special (as did I), that everyone is so worried and anxious, comes from the fact Group 4 has reared its head, like the big boss at the end of a video game round.

There is so much hate and tension, fuelled by Groups A, B and C (failure in C to turn the tide), that it leads to D. And boy do we have several D’s in power right now.

Once they happen, Group D are almost impossible to fight. How do you fight a problem like Nauru? All the protests, all the condemnations, all we know about the abuse that takes place there.

The rise of the white supremacist movement that is alt right is Group D. They’ve taken their ignorance (Group A), and has turned into into hot hate, blaming everyone else for the problems and impotence (Group B). They’ve felt emboldened by the world at large (Group C) so they’ve started their own organised movement of hate (Group D).

I know I feel powerless to stop it. Sure, I can write. Sure, I can call my local whateveritis. Sure, I can start a petition. All that means nothing.

But I can vote. And I can kick Peter Dutton in the balls if he has any (actually they are probably quite large, considering the backwards racist crap he spouts).

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Group A – one more time

Are Trump voters racist?

Well, yes.

They might not (all) be actual Klan members themselves, but they at the very least fall into Group A. Their action is carelessly harmful, and empowers the other shittier groups.

Anyone who thinks PC has gone too far fall into this group. People think being against PC isn’t racist because they think racism is Reclaim Australia – Group B – and nothing else. You might think it’s harmless, but it’s a stupid thing to do in and of itself, and it leads to further discrimination.

I guess….one can do something stupid, and not necessarily be characterised as a stupid person. So I guess one can probably make a racist act without necessarily being characterised as a racist person. I guess.

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So…

The problem with these groups is, of course, they are all different. But they have the same reductive name, meaning they get confused and conflated. Allow me to suggest how we should describe these groups going forward (or don’t, up to you).

Group A – racism
Group B – racism
Group C – racism
Group D – racism

See what I did there.

As we try to put the condom back on the exploding madness that is the current political climate, its clear that once again the best option was avoidance altogether.

So try not to be racist, OK?

Mojo Reviews Challenge #013 – Victoria Williams – Loose (1994)

Where I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

184433_1_fVictoria Williams
Loose
1994 – Mammoth

I’ve been quietly looking for this album for around 20 years. Victoria Williams came into my world in two ways. One, the moderately famous Sweet Relief compilation that was a tribute to her, featuring huge bands like Pearl Jam, Buffalo Tom, Lou Reed, Lucinda Williams and others. The other was the wonderful song that the Jayhawks, and her husband Mark Olson, wrote about her.

That Sweet Relief tribute came about because Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Musicians don’t have health care, and her plight became a lightning rod for musicians in the 90s to set up the Sweet Relief Fund, to help musicians without health care. The fund still exists today, 23 years later, and still helps people.

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Loose actually comes after that tribute record, which had covered songs from her early albums. I’ve not heard those albums, but this one is apparently bigger and more ambitious. At a full 16 tracks (oh, the 90s…), and featuring a massive array of famous stars, it was designed to break Williams into the mainstream. It failed miserably.

The early 90s were full of eccentric records – it seems it came down marketing and personality. And Williams is a wonderful weirdo. I was expecting a low key folk-y, countryish, Freakwater-y album. But third song in, we get Harry Went To Heaven, which sounds like Kate Bush fronting a hotel jazz band. There’s a cover of Louis Armstrong‘s What A Wonderful World, with a string quartet. And maybe because I hear it in every female singer with a guitar, but the jazzy stuff sounds like jazzy Joni Mitchell. Which is only a good thing.

There’s more than a little 90s alterna-rock here. Crazy Mary was the single (and was covered by Pearl Jam) and by far her most famous song. A dramatic character study like, say, Luka, with big strings and a buzzy guitar and weird spoken verses, it doesn’t sound anything like a hit.

Williams, from her album covers, looked beautiful. And she would marry one of my favourite songwriters, Mark Olson of the Jayhawks. Their 1995 album Tomorrow The Green Grass is amongst my favourite albums, especially when I was 17. The second song was Miss Williams Guitar, a tribute to Victoria. I am still, today, so in love with that song that through transitive properties, it carries over to Victoria.

There’s a bit of Jayhawks on this album. Olson plays on it, and that soulful country mix almost makes this sound, in some places, like an early Jayhawks album with a different singer. Olson and Williams share a sweet duet called When We Sing Together.

Overall, the album is lovely. I feel like if I bought this album when I was 17 like I should have, when I was most obsessed with albums that sounded like this, this could possibly mean a lot more to me. I probably would have worked out the chords to these songs, jammed them with friends, put them on mix tapes.

Williams and Olson packed their bags after this and moved out to Joshua Tree. Olson left the Jayhawks, and that was a big issue in itself. But I bought many of the albums the pair made under the name The Original Harmony Creek Dippers, pretty much the most lo-fi albums you’ve ever heard. But as a songwriter in my teens, I had the fantasy of being a hermit, hiding in the country, me and a beautiful perfect singer, making little homespun albums. Williams and Olson lived that dream. It broke my heart when they broke up in 2006.

Loose is a sweet album, with lots of character and charm. Far too much to make her the next Lisa Loeb or Gwen Stefanie or whoever the label might have been thinking. As we are not in the 90s, it could easily lose 4-6 songs. But perhaps that’s the nice thing about those 16 track albums – more room to be weird. It’s far more jazzy than I anticipated, which I like.

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Lazy Susan – songs Lost: B-Sides, Unreleased, Demos & Live Out Now

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A band I was once in, and am in again, have released a new album. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember Lazy Susan from lots of Triple J airplay around the late 90s. Having been several years since their last album, the band has compiled 2 albums of rare material under the title Songs Lost.

Volume 1 covers B-Sides and Unreleased stuff. It features the single Square One.

Volume 2 covers Demos and live recordings.

Lazy Susan (and me) will be performing live for the first time in six years at Lazy Bones in Marrickville on 10th September. Find out more at the gig’s Facebook Event.

Here’s the new video of Square One.