Category: music

100 for 2000 – #84. Robert Forster – The Evangelist

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2008 – #4. Robert Forster – The Evangelist
(Yep Roc)

The Go-Betweens are one of my all time favourite bands. When Grant McLennan, one of the two main songwriters, died in 2006, it hit me pretty hard. By that time, I knew a lot of his friends and got to meet him a couple of times. His partner in crime for many decades, Robert Forster, declared the Go-Betweens dead. He took his time to write his first solo album, some songs he co-wrote with McLennan before his death. It’s a gorgeous album about life, death, friends and hope. I loved it.

I discovered the Go-Betweens from a book – Clinton Walker‘s masterful study of Australian music in the 80s called Stranded. I read it in high school, discovering these bands like Radio Birdman, the Bad Seeds and the Saints in print, before I heard many of their records. The Go-Betweens appeared often throughout the book and something really hit me about the band. They were the wussy guys, the arty ones. They talked about old films, french writers and other weird, pretentious things. They had girls in the band. Anyway it fit into my aesthetic. Out of that great scene in the Australian 80s, the Go-Betweens really grabbed me.

I bought all the albums, and read David Nichol‘s excellent biography. From there, I clearly felt like I knew the guys, right? My first ever over 18s gig was seeing Forster and McLennan at the Basement in Sydney. They were my world.

Most people prefer Forster – one of those silly things you do when you love a band, picking favourites – but I liked them both. I couldn’t deny all those great pop songs that McLennan wrote, even though Forster looked so much cooler. I managed to find some of their solo recordings, but never really got to know them. So I wasn’t really prepared for how good the Evangelist was.

McLennan‘s influence is all over this album. Forster shows a directness, and a simpleness in his songwriting and melodies. And the emotional honesty and the intimacy…out of this world. With very little instrumentation, there’s nothing separating you from the heart of these songs. For such a clown, Forster being so open is disarming – and fascinating.

The masterpiece is Demon Days. Half written with McLennan, it’s simple and direct, with it’s swaying chorus of something’s not right/something’s gone wrong. The ballads really make up the heart of this record. A Place To Hide Away and the title track are Forster‘s best songs in years. The Evangelist, a psuedo apology to his wife for taking her out of her home, is especially touching.

It’s not all slow and dreary either. Pandanus was the single, and shows Forsters love of the Velvet Underground has not abated. In fact, for an acoustic record, it’s surprisingly varied. That’s very, very hard to do.

I love Robert Forster, in that misguided but rewarding way some fans love their heroes. Together with Grant, they were my friends. They were equally as dorky as me, and they did the things I wanted to do. So above and beyond the details about this record, I’m so happy that Robert is ok. That this album was so good, and that he is still making music. An old friend is back on his feet again.

[Looks like there were no videos for this album…shame]

100 for 2000 – #83. Youth Group – The Night Is Ours

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2008 – #3. Youth Group – The Night Is Ours
(Ivy League)

This is the fourth time Youth Group have been written about since I started this decade list. I’ve been trying to figure out which are the songs and bands of the decade, and using this little exercise to help. One clear winner so far is Youth Group, my favourite Australian band. No one came close, and they knocked it out of the park again with The Night Is Ours.

Their last record, Casino Twilight Dogs, was huge on the production and the pop hooks. This record strips it all back. It’s darker, murkier and out of focus. It was recorded on, of all things, a disused ship docked on Sydney Harbour. The isolation and ocean imagery lives through the entire record. It’s a weird record, in a wonderfully moody and mysterious way.

Amazing to chart this band’s journey. They started as the poppiest of the indie pop bands, and four albums later, here we are, with bizarre, jagged, indie-dance of things like Two Sides. The album is bookended with two of the most dramatic things they’ve ever done. The slow burning Good Time greets us, with nary a guitar in sight, and ends with the rush of What Is A Life?

My favourite song on here is one of Toby Martin‘s best. Babies In Your Dreams is a piano ballad about having kids – a wonderful melody, a mystery and some of Martin’s best lyrics.

The lines go deep
The dough is set
We harden into our parents

One of many great images that permeate this record. Martin‘s definitely found new life in his lyrical muse. Lines come out at you…

Others are cruxifix.

Your lips speak Italian

I wonder, if he’s still with his wife?

It’s a dense record of such moments. It’s a beautiful, twilight record. It’s  great one to put on as you leave work, the sun is starting to set, and you’re far from home.

I’ve gone on about this band a lot. They mean a lot to me. It seems they are taking a break right now, and I hope it doesn’t last. I’m not sure if they fulfilled their professional dreams, but they made four perfect albums in the last decade. There’s only a handful of bands in the history of music can say that.

If you had 40 lives/you’d get it right by the 39th. How someone comes up with such stuff is beyond me, and I’ve marveled at that talent for a decade. Youth Group’s All This Will Pass.

100 for 2000 – #82. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of the Understatement

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2008 – #2. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of the Understatement

Alex Turner really is the second coming of Jay Farrar. A young, dour, serious but poetic man, who has managed to make 4 albums in 4 years (much tougher now than it was in the early 90s). That Turner also did it from the top of the mountain only makes this feat more impressive. And like Farrar‘s Uncle Tupelo, whose third record smashed expectations on what that band could do, so too does Turner make an about face on his third outing. He’s made a classic orchestral pop record in the vein of Bacharach or Scott Walker.

Of course, Turner is not alone here. His pal Miles Kane is an equal partner, and their love of this era of music pours through. And they update the template. The high drama of say, Dusty Springfield, is added to with the odd well placed jagged guitar chord and rock ‘n’ roll drums. It never sounds like it’s lost in time – it’s a modern record.

Yet it’s a million miles away from Arctic Monkeys (or Kane‘s band, the Rascals). The live gigs, at the Roundhouse and Royal Albert Hall, with full orchestra, were sights to behold. Two young men in suits, holding court in such prestigious venues, huge orchestrations and singing their wee northern hearts out.

So, the gimmick is great, and captivating. But there is also a turn in the songwriting. Two new weapons are now in Turner’s arsenal – beauty and mystery. Leaving behind the quick-fire spell-it-all-out of the monkeys behind, and let loose on classic melodies and chord progressions – this is not just an orchestra singing about Arctic Monkey type things.

And it’s all about women. The drama of them. Of love and young love in particular. Words unsaid. Hidden feelings. It’s a dark, noir world. Beautiful but unhinged women, tough men with mortal hearts. It all comes together in Turner’s best ballad to date – My Mistakes Were Made For You. The trippy film clip and the holes in the lyric all help paint this picture.

This album was released at the start of 2008 and sustained me through the year. I loved it and listened to it a lot. By the end of the year, I came back to it. Those regrets, that it-was-not-to-be attitude of the love songs, or anti-love songs, drew me in. By the time I got to the last two tracks – the lovers troubled farewell of Meeting Place, and the one-last-look-back of Time Has Come Again – well, I’m a mess.

It’s just amazing this album exists, and it got to number one. NME kids listening to such Bacharach-ian pastiches like Meeting Place? Brilliant. What balls these young men have. And for it to be so brilliant. So classic, yet so new. I guess the future of this side project is in doubt. But that mystery and beauty survived to the next Arctic Monkeys record, and for me, the story continues…

The amazing clip for My Mistakes Were Made For You, directed by Moss from the IT Crowd!

100 for 2000 – #81. She & Him – Volume One

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2008 – #1. She & Him – Volume One

She & Him. Volume One.

I loved this album when I was in love with this girl.

Now she is gone and I don’t listen to this album anymore.

I lost her, and I lost this too.

Maybe one day I’ll listen to it again.

100 for 2000 – #80. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #10. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(Puppy Love)

I’ve made a smart playlist on my iPod for 2007. And what a year it was! It seemed like more than any other year so far, I was spoilt for choice. So many great records. I was in love with music. Yet, looking at the songs and albums over and over, I kept coming back to this, the Walk Hard soundtrack. Regardless of the film, it’s one of my highlights of 2007. In fact, the only reason it comes in at number 10 is because the film worked against it.

If you have not seen it, you must watch Walk Hard now. On paper, it’s a Walk the Line/Ray parody. But it’s so much more. It’s star, Dewey Cox, is like a Forrest Gump of music history (except famous), and we follow him through every musical cliche from the 50s on.

Cox suffers abject poverty, a too young first wife, Daddy issues, the teen revolution, number one records, drugs on the road, protest folk, LSD, disco, punk, TV shows and finally, 00s era come back. It is pretty much the synopsis of many musicians biographies, but it’s played for clever laughs.

So yeah, the decade had other great movies as well. What sets this soundtrack apart? In my mind it’s the greatest comedy soundtrack parody thing since Spinal Tap. These songs are destined be classics in the comedy genre.

The soundtrack opens with the Marshall Crenshaw (Marshall Crenshaw!!!!!!!!!) penned title track, a cool Johnny Cash type manifesto song. But after that, it follows the trick of the movie, parody-ing the cliche history of music in order. It really, really sounds like a George Jones or Merle Haggard best of that’s chronological.

Oh, but the songs are great. And subtle too. It’s not cheap gags. Written mostly by Mike Viola and Dan Bern, these guys know that the music is funnier when played 100% straight.

The 50s bubblegum of Take My Hand (risque in the 50s), some country duets and Cash-like mariachi stuff kicks us off. When we hit the 60s, we are well and truly off. Let Me Hold You (Little Man), Hey Old Guy and Dear Mr President are some of the finest protest songs about midget rights, the elderly and racist sentiment ever.

Better still are the Dylan pastiches (Farmer Glickstein and Royal Jelly). Played utterly straight, except with absolutely nonsense lyrics. You’ll never listen to Gates Of Eden the same way again. Throw in a Beach Boys circa Smile era Black Sheep and the late career song that sums up his whole life – Beautiful Ride.

The music and production are flawless. No thought was spared. Slide guitars, pianos, trumpets – every cliche is played upon. And special call out to John C Reilly, a man who loves to sing, who nails every single song.

Removed from the movie, I have played many people these songs and they’ve loved it. You have to be some degree of a music nerd to get the full pleasure. But if you are, then you have to hear this. And see the movie too.

Dewey lives! An actual live gig to promote the movie, with a nice Dylan ramble. Not great audio, but you get the idea how great the songs are.

100 for 2000 – #79. Travis – The Boy With No Name

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #9. Travis – The Boy With No Name

8 years on from the Man Who, the album that made them household names (and the album I just voted as the best British album of the last 30 years for the Brits), Travis did a conscious turn back of the clock. After the dark and moody 12 Memories, they teamed up with Nigel Godrich again, used their old logo, and made a proper Travis album.

Except it kind of wasn’t. If anything, it’s a sequel to that pair of albums they made years earlier (The Man Who, The Invisible Band). That existential angst has matured, as the band now had kids and wives themselves. Whereas they have at times traded in anger, sadness and quiet frustration, here on The Boy With No Name, there is a bit more intelligence, a resigned sigh, and fitting in with the world.

It’s a small difference, but a big one for a fan. As the Man Who and the Invisible Band were great albums for a confused, sensitive young man in his late teens/early 20s, so does this album sound great for that same guy in his late 20s.

(I guess, in way, you can also say the fire has gone out a little)

The two big singles really surround this point quite nicely. Closer is one of Fran Healy‘s very best moments. Neil Finn should be jealous. A beautiful, mature, it’s-just-you-and-me-and-I-love-you song of great intimacy yet wide appeal. It’s adult contemporary – not something you’d expect from a band once touted as the new Radiohead (I hate Radiohead, in case you don’t know). The other single, Selfish Jean, is a boppy pop rocker with a beat knicked from You Can’t Hurry Love. But it’s a farewell to a woman who doesn’t know what she wants, and it’s time to put those childish things away.

The songwriting is really, really top notch. This album got many luke warm reviews, but some really out of the world reviews as well. Those who gave it time really heard the songwriting. It’s Healy doing what he does best. Battleships, My Eyes (a song for his son), the utterly unbelievable 3 Times And You Lose… all great. Just, not pop radio material. But that great intimacy that they are so great at, it’s all here. More than most bands, these guys sound like they are singing just for you.

So this is another record I carried around with me a lot. And I know there were cooler records that came out in 2007, but truth is, I kept coming back to this one. The last track in particular, New Amsterdam, was a headphone favourite. It’s some Healy only, a pretty folk melody and some non sequitur stuff about Paris, New York and travel. In my mind, seeing the world, it was all mumbled up just the same. Somehow, all those random images now have this random song as a soundtrack.

I guess this album didn’t do very well for the band, and they have now taken their career back into their own hands. They got their records back. They started their own label. Healy‘s got a solo record due. I’ve liked every album to some degree, but this like Woody Allen coming back and doing one more screwball comedy with Diane Keaton. This could be the last time Travis sound so classic. And from their older place, it sounds like a goodbye.

100 for 2000 – #78. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #8. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Spoon had been in my life a long time. Since The Way We Get By ruled the radio a few years earlier, they always seemed like the kind of band I should like. With Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, I finally got there.

Part of the reason is Jon Brion, who, I guess, is my producer considering how many albums he’s been involved in that are listed here. I heard about this collaboration and was eager to hear the results. The song that came out of those sessions was The Underdog. Mariachi-ish trumpets and a variation on the Spoon beat, it caugh everyone’s ears.

In retrospect, this was Spoon‘s shot at (indie) success. These expensive, polished recordings pushed them to the next level (as of this writing, the follow-up debuted at number 4 in the Billboard charts). And they pulled back on the minimalism, and embraced widescreen concerns. Their catchiest songs, and sounding like a million bucks.

IT’s a nice mix of the electronica stuff I was getting into, and indie rock. The Ghost Of You Lingers sounds like LCD Soundsystem. That driving beat made this the most danceable guitar album I heard in a long while. Just try and keep still to Rhythm & Soul, or Finer Feelings.

As usual, I have no idea what the songs are about. There is a general, mysterious cool around Spoon’s lyrics. They are usually quite accusatory – which is much like the jagged guitar work. But none of that matters. Britt Daniels has a one of a kind rock ‘n’ roll voice that makes everything sound compelling anyway.

So kind of odd then that my favourite track on the record is a cover. Don’t You Evah was originally written by an obscure NY indie band the Natural History. But it brings everything on the record together. That driving rhythm, that great voice, those nonsense lyrics, that Jackson Pollack guitar work. It’s fun to dance to too.

So it was a long courtship, but I’m finally there with Spoon.

I might like Don’t You Evah more, but that film clip is awful. The one for the Underdog rul

100 for 2000 – #77. Crowded House – Time On Earth

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #7. Crowded House – Time On Earth

I’ve loved Crowded House all my life. Certainly since I got to Australia, and since I started using English as my primary language. I woke up every Saturday morning early to see where Better Be Home Soon was charting when I was 7. I danced in my bedroom to Locked Out (a minor hit thanks to Reality Bites). I bought Recurring Dream when it came out, and watched the news over and over when they announced they would split. I was there with them when they did, steps of the Sydney Opera House, that magical night. I followed Neil Finn, felt my heart break when Paul Hester died, and after all that, I had no idea what the hell to expect from a new Crowded House album.

Maybe it should have been the third Neil Finn solo album. But with Hester‘s death, I guess Crowded House was on the brain. Having worn out every note of those 4 original albums, I was surprised and relieved that this album is great as well.

For the man who wrote Something So Strong, and co-wrote Weather With You and It’s Only Natural, I forget sometimes that Neil Finn‘s default setting is melancholy. And this is mainly a sad, winter record. I don’t think it really confronts Hester‘s death directly, but it does skirt around with mortality.

It’s not as strongly melodic as some of Finn‘s previous work, but neither was Together Alone or Temple Of Low Men. It’s subtler, but the songs are, without a doubt, still there. The gentle, floating, sad-faced opener of Nobody Wants To leads us into the first single, the urgent and anxious Don’t Stop Now. She Called Up, by far the poppiest thing on the album, hits you in the face, before settling into a series of masterfully crafted ballads. Amongst these is the ‘noble’ Pour Le Monde.

The electronica experiments have faded away. And following on from the great Everyone Is Here, it’s a pretty straight and honest recording, with a bit of strings here and there. At 14 tracks, it’s one of the longest albums Finn‘s ever out his name on, and maybe it could have lost a couple of tracks.

My favourite track though, is You Are The Only One To Make Me Cry. It’s just so well written it drives you nuts. For a songwriter, this is showing off. It is just so great. Just like I think Message To My Girl is a superior re-write of his brother Tim‘s Stuff And Nonsense (very similar, chord wise, structure wise), YATOOTMMC sounds like an update of Tim‘s All I Ask from Woodface. String-heavy, reflective and gorgeous, and one of Finn‘s best lyrics.

At the time of this writing, there is a new album due in a few short months and Australian tour dates. I’m excited for what can come next.

Crowded House – Don’t Stop Now. Their first new song in 10 years.

100 for 2000 – #76. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #6. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

All My Friends. That spectacular, breakout song from LCD Soundsystem‘s excellent second record Sound Of Silver. That’s how I came to this record and this band (band? Can I call them a band?).

This is pretty far removed from the kind of stuff I normally listen to. I don’t mind the odd electro single, but a full album? And so few of them have made me seek out the album. But the thing about electronica is that it’s sounds great and paints great imagery. Whereas James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem uses electronica sounds and textures, but wields them with the craft of a master songwriter. His spot-on concerns match the accuracy of Elvis Costello.

So, lets start with All My Friends. Could the song be more acclaimed? Such differently snobby music worlds as Pitchfork and Mojo both voted it their songs of the year. And it’s amazing – 7 and a half minutes of jagged piano rushing by, as Murphy contemplates getting older, the value of friends, not understanding the pop charts and how we live our lives. People started covering this song immediately, and by the time it was a single, the b-sides were covers by Franz Ferdinard and John Cale. The Franz version is actually pretty great as well.

History and criticism aside, this song is one of my favourites as well. There’s been a running thought in my head in the last 4 years (and perhaps even longer) – I will never have all my friends in one room together. And when I heard this song, that idea got wrapped up in it. As the years go by, it’s all about friends. And being away, and maybe for the rest of my life, wherever I go, part of me will always be missing someone. And often, tipsy, in a bar, having a moment to myself, Murphy’s voice runs through my head.

If I could see all my friends tonight

All My Friends is a big song and it overshadows the rest of the album. But it’s all great. North American Scum, the first single, has Murphy declaring he knows all the anti-American cliches already, so you can save them. Since when has irony, sarcasm, unreliable narrators and subtext been used so fully on an electronica album? The other song that no review can go by without mentioning is Someone Great. It sounds like a death song, but maybe to an ex-lover? Or a friend that our hero fell out with? I’m not sure, but whatever that line about being smaller than my wife imagined – for some reason that image sticks.

I picked up the first two LCD Soundsystem records around the same time. Although this is the better one (by a mile), I do have to quickly mention Losin My Edge. One of the greatest debut singles of all time. With an iPod, you just put the whole artist on shuffle. Which is really how I got to know this band.

This is a radio edit or something. You really need to hear all 7 or so minutes of All My Friends. One of the key texts of the 00s. I hear it being ripped off everywhere already.

100 for 2000 – #75. Josh Pyke – Memories & Dust

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #5. Josh Pyke – Memories & Dust
(Ivy League)

This album, Memories & Dust, is an odd one to talk about because Josh is a friend. And saying that I really like this album would end in an ass kicking.

So, we’ll resort to point form, once again.

– I really do love this album.

– I really liked Josh’s music before, and wasn’t sure what he would do when he finally made an album. It was great to see how he stepped up.

– Favourite track is Lines On Palms. I really love the lines

Sometimes I know who I am
What I’m doing
And what things might become

It’s such a wonderfully healing song. Although it occurs to me that if a friend gave you this sort of advice or wisdom over a beer, you’d probably punch him.

– I understand on many levels why it made sense to put Middle Of the Hill on here – but it was still wrong. It actually detracts from the album. Same thing goes for Vibrations In Air.

– Lets not even talk about the UK version of the album.

Let’s leave it there. Maybe in a few years, I can write a bit more about this.

Josh Pyke’s Lines On Palms. A great song.