Having only run this blog for just three weeks today, I have a long list of music I’d love to write about. I’d firstly like to apologise, as this review is for an album that was released in March 2015. However, it is an album that has sat very well with me, and I believe it needs to be written about. Death Cab for Cutie are one of my all-time favourite bands. I was first introduced to this band when a friend of mine had spent some time in the USA on holiday, returning with a CDR full of bands he had discovered while there. One of these bands was Death Cab for Cutie, with tracks from their third album The Photo Album, which had just been released. After hearing this music, I was instantly hooked. I went out and bought the album the very next day, and a few weeks afterwards I also bought their first two albums. Two years later I was blessed with the release of the fourth album, which I purchased the week it was released. Furthermore, as if destiny was poking its head out to greet me, one of my other favourite bands, Something for Kate came back from a US tour, and announced a national tour with Death Cab for Cutie as the support. Seeing my two of my favourite bands playing together was a significant moment for me and my close friend who also loved both bands. As Death Cab had never toured in Australia prior to this, and not many people knew of them, my friend and I were able to be up the front without much effort, and we took in every single note from Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla’s guitars, every intricate drum fill and incredible syncopated rhythm from Jason McGerr. It was a magical evening. Over the last fifteen years, Death Cab for Cutie have been played endlessly in my car and on my headphones. I also saw them again a few years later when they played The Forum in Melbourne. This gig was very different to the Something for Kate show, as this time, it was sold out, packed to the brim; full of raging Death Cab for Cutie fans. The same close friend of mine was also there for a second sitting, but this time we stayed towards the back, as too many people were playing karaoke up the front, as Death Cab for Cutie are the kind of band that incites irrational screaming of every lyric by diehard fans; clearly more die hard than myself.
Their eighth studio album, Kintsugi is unfortunately also a farewell to their guitarist and in-house producer, Chris Walla. The album was produced for the first time by an outsider to the band, Rich Costey, who has previously produced the likes of Muse and Foster the People. The first four tracks of the album accurately demonstrate a classic Death Cab for Cutie sound. ‘No Room in Frame’, commences with soft and gentle floating sounds and a serene back beat to introduce Gibbard’s charming vocal lines. The snare is switched on and the song starts rolling along with McGerr’s astonishing ability to make the hi-hat an instrument all on its own, with his complex syncopation, which is an essential element of the trade mark sound of DCFC. When the song fully kicks in, it sits very comfortably as a typical DCFC song. Similarly, ‘Black Sun’ runs its course with an equally multifaceted and interested drum beat and pumping arpeggiated chords on the guitar. The guitar solo is a fuzzy and glorious mess of rhythmic and simple notes that fit well in this track. ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’ is fast paced and edgy. In the first verse there is a distinctive syncopated guitar rhythm, while the second verse relies solely on Gibbard’s voice before the bass and drums come back in, leading to the second chorus. ‘Little Wanderer’ is a gentle and restrained pop song which fills the ears with a splendid mix of creamy silvertones.
‘You’ve haunted me all my life’ is a calm mid-point of the LP, that has a tender and woolly bassline, which Nick Harmer propels through the second half of the track. The laidback sentiment continues with ‘Hold No Guns’, which is simply an acoustic guitar and Gibbard’s bare and unprocessed vocals. ‘Everything’s a Ceiling’ opens with an 80s-esque synth and yet another example of McGerr’s uncanny ability to use a hi-hat well. The track picks up with a syncopated and muted guitar, leading towards an intriguing bridge and solo and ending with a fuller sounding final chorus. ‘Good help (is so hard to find)’ brings back their more ‘pop’ sound with a range of stimulating and varied guitar lines and a pumping and jiving bass line. ‘El Dorado’ again highlights McGerr’s ability to draw the listener in with his highly unique drum patterns. The chorus is rich in harmonies and gentle strums of the guitar. ‘Ingenue’ commences with an interesting sampled vocal sound, followed by a gentle bass fuzz and slightly distorted vocals. The track slowly builds up, with extra layers of guitars added to create a full and thick sound, which sounded amazing in my Bose headphones, and then the track gently pulls back towards the end. ‘Binary Sea’ concludes the LP with a velvety piano and gentle guitars and held back drums. This track explicitly took me back to the sound of their fourth album, Transatlanticism, and pleasantly brings the album to a close.
While I am absurdly biased in reviewing this LP, I have found it to be a solid record which has a good mix of sounds, and is a big step up from their last album, Codes and Keys, which was not as strong as their previous work. It is encouraging that the band has returned after an extended break to produce a high quality album that hopefully reignites the passion they have provoked in their countless fans from their earlier albums.
The recent and very tragic passing of Carrie Fisher has shocked the world. She has inspired many with her heroic portrayal of Princess Leia in the film franchise Star Wars, as well as her prolific writing abilities, both in books and script writing, and her public advocacy for mental health awareness. It could be argued that her role as Princess Leia was the ground breaking for its time. She was not portrayed as a damsel in distress, but rather a rebel fighter with enough gumption to battle alongside Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Perhaps, with the exception of super heroes, Princess Leia may well have been the first strong leading female character in a Hollywood film. Fisher’s character was a significant element in the slowly changing attitudes towards women in films. Despite this landmark development in cinematic history, her character was still peppered with sexual innuendo from Han Solo, and she essentially became a love interest in the film to a male lead role. In the last two installments of the Star Wars franchise, there has been a timely change with regards to the portrayal of female lead roles. Daisy Ridley’s character Rey and Felicity Jones’ character Jyn, are both strong formidable heroines in their own right, and have been portrayed in a way that has not required them to play a love interest to a male character. Rey and Finn, from The Force Awakens, and Jyn and Cassian, from Rogue One, demonstrate that a relationship between a female and male lead characters can be built upon respect and mutual desire to ‘get the bad guys’, rather than one of sexual tension and the potential for love. The difference between the original Star Wars and the last two films, is that The Force Awakens and Rogue One both tell a central story of a female lead character, unlike Star Wars, where Leia played second fiddle to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
Daisy Ridley’s character Rey and Felicity Jones’ character Jyn, are both strong formidable heroines in their own right, and have been portrayed in a way that does not have required them to play a love interest to a male character. Rey and Finn, from The Force Awakens, and Jyn and Cassian, from Rogue One, demonstrate that a relationship between a female and male lead characters can be built upon respect and mutual desire to ‘get the bad guys’, rather than one of sexual tension and the potential for love. The difference between the original Star Wars and the last two films, is that The Force Awakens and Rogue One both tell a central story of a female lead character, unlike Star Wars, where Leia played second fiddle to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. It would be highly appropriate and beneficial if Carrie Fisher was, at least in part, remembered for her crucial contribution to changing attitudes towards women in lead roles in films.
The OA premiered on Netflix just over ten days ago, and within a day of its release there was a buzz on the internet. I didn’t seem there was any marketing prior to this outside of a trailer released only a few days prior. The series was created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, who had previously collaborated on the film Sound of my Voice. Brit Marling also plays the lead role of the character the ‘OA’. In true Netflix fashion, I binged this show in a few days. The first episode peaked my interest, however I was unsure if it was going to be brilliant or terrible. As the episode progressed, I became hooked, desperately wanting to know more, to unravel the confusing sub plot. The show commenced with the main character, the OA, or Prairie, who was previously blind, waking a hospital bed after at attempted suicide, and subsequently, had miraculously re-gained her eye sight. Her parents quickly attended the hospital to pick her up, where it is revealed that she had been missing for the last seven years. Upon returning to her home town, she enlisted a group of five people – four teenagers and a high school teacher, claiming she needed their help. This group then met in an abandoned house each night, allowing Prairie to retell her life story and we, the audience, slowly piece together her story up to that point.
The show delved in to a number of supernatural themes that revolved around the concept of near death experiences. Each episode left the viewer wanting even more answers as critical points of Prairie’s story are revealed. Unfortunately, the season finale was a significant letdown, and only left the viewer with even more questions, in particular, how a second season could adequately answer them. The nature of this show means I cannot reveal any plot points without divulging essential spoilers, but if you enjoyed Stranger Things, you may enjoy this.
D.D Dumbo is the pseudonym of musician Oliver Hugh Perry, a solo artist based in Castlemaine, a regional city, just over an hour north-west from Melbourne. I first got in to D.D Dumbo when my wife purchased his debut EP ‘Tropical Oceans’ on vinyl for my birthday. I was instantly hooked. D.D Dumbo has recently released his debut LP ‘Utopia Defeated’, which has been widely acclaimed, both in Australia and internationally. Utopia Defeated opens with a sweet drone in ‘Walrus’. The pulling and pushing of sampled vocals makes the listener want to sway their head in complete elation. The track breaks about half way through with an acoustic guitar and reverb drenched drums, leading to what appears to be a vocal solo, leading in to a final section. This track is a pure delight, and a unique way to commence the LP. The track ‘Satan’ announces itself as an Arcade Fire-esque boogie. ‘In the Water’ provides a stunning respite for the listening, with gentle acoustic guitar and well-tempered vocals, which leaps straight in to ‘Cortisol’, which has elements of the early 2000s electro-pop movement, sounding somewhere between Cut Copy and Midnight Juggernauts. ‘Alihukwe’ has an interesting percussive line that feels like a speed up Afro-beat version of Mirror Drawings by Kid Sam, which morphs in to a synth laden enchantment which then fades in to obscurity. ‘King Franco Picasso’ twitches between bursts of space and buoyant staccato melodies, followed closely by ‘The day I first found god’ and ‘Toxic City’, which shift the listener beyond four walls, and in to a Sunday morning sun filled deck, with warm toast and jam. ‘Brother’ erupts with 1980s-esque surges of whimsical eastern-flavoured refrains, and ‘Oyster’ concludes the LP in a poignant and tranquil manner. D.D Dumbo has established himself as a foreboding artist, with lush and intricate arrangements, akin to the likes of Gotye. ‘Utopia Defeated’ is available now through the label 4AD.
The Duffer Brother’s (Matt and Ross Duffer) breakthrough science fiction / horror masterpiece ‘Stranger Things’ was more a television event than just another TV series. The story commences with the disappearance of a young boy in a small town in Indiana in the US, while the three closest friends of the missing boy meet a young girl who presents with unusual abilities. Together they aim to find out what happened to their friend. The show was set in 1983 and the Duffer Brothers have managed to make the show look and feel like it was filmed in 1983. At times, it feels like you are re-experiencing E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Stand by Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goonies. Throughout the eight episodes there were countless references made to iconic films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it appears as if it is a tribute to this era. The dark and mysterious creature seems like a creation direct from Ridley Scott’s Alien, and at times, the young girl behaves and looks like Stephen King’s Carrie. The opening credits are haunting, with a dark and brooding analogue synth soundtrack, created by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, from the band S U R V I V E, with visuals of the words Stranger Things floating around the screen, as if created on an Amiga computer. The soundtrack is highly fitting with the popularization of synthwave music in recent times, with bands like Timecop1983.
Stranger Things has attempted to do what the film Super 8 could not. Both Stranger Things and Super 8 have attempted to recreate an early 1980s Steven Spielberg’esque science fiction extravaganza that sees young children faced with immeasurable encounters and challenges. When Super 8 was released, there was a lot of hype surrounding the film, that at the time, it was paying homage to the early 1980s Spielberg era, and while it was a good film, I don’t believe it lived up to the hype. On the other hand, Stranger Things has been praised world-wide for its ability to take viewers back in time to this period. For anyone in their late thirties or early forties, this was a magical time to be a child, and this nostalgia is the reason why this series is so exciting for anyone in this age bracket. Furthermore, the accessibility of Netflix meant that viewers were able to binge watch this show. I am waiting with bated breath for the second season, due some time in 2017. I hope that it delivers in the same way the first season did.
On a rough average of once every two or three years, I find myself reading a book that I simply cannot put down. A book which distracts me from my usual Netflix binging. A book, which draws me in, and consequently I find myself staying up well past my bedtime, reading. A book that results in me making flippant recommendations to anyone who shows any interest in reading. Earlier this year, while in an airport, I rushed in to a bookstore and hastily grabbed the first book I could find with an award sticker on the cover. In this instance, it was the 2015 Pulitzer winner, ‘All the light we cannot see’ by Anthony Doerr. I rushed out of said bookshop thinking ‘ well if it’s good enough for a Pulitzer, then it must be OK’. A few days later, I found myself lost in this book. I instantly fell in love with Marie-Laure and Werner. I quickly realised that these two characters were destined to meet, and I could not wait to find out how this would occur. Doerr’s mastery of managing multiple points of view and interchangeable timelines made the book a thrilling read. Furthermore, each ‘chapter’ was short and to the point, resulting in a glorious page-turner. While Marie-Laure was blind, Doerr’s words aptly captured her intricate sense of hearing and touch, as she navigated her way through the streets of Paris and Saint-Malo. Similarly, Werner’s journey through Nazi training and his short lived field work captured a unique perspective on the second world war, one which is seen through the eyes of seemingly innocent young people, who had been brainwashed and recruited for the delivery of yet to be conceptualized horrors. Doerr’s intricate descriptions of Saint-Malo, pre and post-bombing, and the abrasive training camp in Schulpforta were breathtaking. Subsequently, I have made plans to read Anthony Doerr’s other titles as a matter of urgency.
Australian’s love affair with downloading films and television shows illegally is less about breaking the law and more about a public statement about services and affordability. Notably, the catalyst for the public spotlight on torrenting was the availability of the HBO series Game of Thrones. The issue with Game of Thrones is the restriction of only Foxtel subscribers being able to access the series. However, the Netflix exclusive series House of Cards was also aired on Foxtel. If Foxtel would ‘play the game’ more alongside the likes of Netflix and Stan, and not hold exclusive broadcasting rights over certain content, then perhaps illegal downloading wouldn’t be such an issue. Furthermore, when looking at the streaming services Netflix, Presto and Stan, if a consumer holds accounts with all three providers, they still have a limited amount of choice with regards to new release movies and television shows. With regards to films specifically, a consumer can get around this issue by having Apple TV, but this means that if a consumer wants to do the right thing and have legal access to content, they essentially need multiple subscriptions. However, US citizens have access to a lot more content on the US Netflix. While an Australian consumer can utilise a VPN to access the US version, it came become a pain in the next for using through a television (for people who don’t want to be limited to watching content from a laptop or iPad). I also believe that a crucial component of this debate lies in affordability. Renting a film from Apple TV is quite expensive, and in some cases, more expensive than in the good old days of going to a rental DVD store. Moreover, if you love a movie and want to own it, you can expect to pay over $30 for a Bluray copy. If prices for purchasing physical and digital copies of films are reduced significantly, then perhaps people would be less inclined to use services such as The Pirate Bay. Most people want to do the right thing, and in many ways, torrenting is a public protest to inflexible and outdated models of film and television distribution. Today’s news regarding the impending blocking rights of major Australian ISP’s will have little effect on people’s desire and ability to torrent content. It is the opinion of The Clifton Review that perhaps our film and TV content providers need to rethink their business models, and perhaps this should apply to the industry more broadly.
When I saw the announcement that Something for Kate, You Am I, Spiderbait, Jebediah and The Meanies were playing A Day on the Green, I became extremely excited, giggling with joy. The bands of my youth were all getting together to play a festival, which felt like a festival just for me. I couldn’t believe it. My late teens and early twenties were flooded with music from the aforementioned bands. It’s quite funny, as when I was in my twenties, and A Day on the Green had started, I brushed it off as an ‘old peoples music festival’, and now, I am that very much that old person attending the old persons festival. My wife and I drove to the Mt Duneed Estate on the 12th of November, on the outskirts of Geelong, ensuring we were there early enough to set up shop. The shop being the front row in the seating section. We set ourselves up with drinks and food and took in our front row position. The DJ was spinning tracks at what appeared to be an unbelievable volume, and we started to question whether the front row was a good choice, however the bands would go on to prove that yes, the DJ was bloody loud, louder than the bands themselves! The weather forecast was not great, and within our first hour of being at the festival, we had been rained on, and the wind was so strong that my then full beer was blown away, with an almighty spray on to a number of punters that were near us.
The Meanies were the first to grace the state. I have never personally been in to The Meanies, but I have seen them many times in the past at a number of venues around Melbourne. The last time I saw them was for the ‘last ever’ gig at The Tote, which was also headlined by Spiderbait. While I’ve never paid The Meanies too much attention, they were a lot of fun on stage, and it was great to see them on such a big stage. Walking around the festival grounds between sets was a great experience, as it is not very often that everyone else is around the same age as me, it felt really nice, and honestly made me feel like I was in my twenties. It felt like it was the early 2000’s. I guess this is the idea behind A Day on the Green, and I thank them whole-heartedly for the experience. To think I used to brush off this concept in my youth, only to come around full circle in my late thirties.
The second band to play was Jebediah. I have only seen Jebediah one other time, at the Meredith Music Festival, quite a few years ago now. Just like back when I saw them at MMF, they played a whole set of hits. I’ve never owned a Jebediah album, but I knew every song they played, which says a lot about the impact they had. Tracks like Feet Touch the Ground, Military Strongmen, Animal, Jerks of Attention and Fall Down were crowd pleasers. I do own two Jebediah releases mind you. I bought the split EP they did with Something for Kate in the late 1990’s and the single to the track ‘Animal’. I absolutely loved watching them, and went out and bought CD’s the very next weekend as a result. Spiderbait were the middle act. Their second album ‘Ivy and the Big Apples came out when I was in Year 12 in school, and was in part, the soundtrack to my final year of schooling, and it was great to relive some of their great songs. It was during the Spiderbait set that the ‘seating’ arrangements began to unravel. However, the security guards were very insistent that the chairs were tidied up after each set and that everyone ‘had their place’ to sit. This was very much appreciated by my wife and I, as we were the owners of front row seats. At the end of the Spiderbait set, we head up the back for the signing Something for Kate were doing. I wanted to be a big music nerd and get a photo with my hero’s. I’ve since discovered that this is a feature of A Day on the Green festivals, which I think is an amazing idea. However, I wish I had brought my copy of the SFK / Jebediah slit EP, to get signed by both bands. You Am I were second last, a band I have seen many times during my younger years, and as always, they were in fine form, busting out a loud and rocking set. The headline act for the night was Something for Kate.
Something for Kate were the soundtrack of my twenties. I was a slightly obsessive fan, owning every single release on top of the albums. I even bought a few releases on vinyl. I cannot count up the amount of times I’ve seen this band, as I have essentially gone to see them tour every time they released an album as well as seeing Paul Dempsey solo at least six or more times. It was during their set that I really felt the impact of the front row seats; although by this stage, the seating arrangement had become meaningless. I was quite happy that my wife and I could lean against the barricade and enjoy the music. Overall, it was a thrilling experience, and well catered for with the options for food and drinks. I’d definitely do another Day on the Green.
I have recently stumbled upon a genre called synthwave. Music that makes me feel like I’m eight years old, watching Tron or The Goonies on Channel 6 In fact, it’s as if I’m watching Tron and The Goonies at the same time. In particular, I have been flooding my ears with Timecop1983.
My journey to this point in time originated with my obsession with the Netflix series Stranger Things. The opening music for Stranger Things was pure genius, and in my mind was an essential part of the show’s esthetic. Timecop1983 has been relentlessly releasing music for the last couple of years. It seems they have three releases that have all been released this year alone. Perhaps this is because of the 'electronic / on a laptop vibe' that allows this artist is able to pump out a seemingly endless list of golden tunes. Lovers EP, Pt 1 was my first experience of the band. I fell in love after one listen. Very recently, I have had a few close friends hassle me to listen to this music, assuring me that I would not be disappointed. They were right.
My second experience was the Running in the Dark EP. It is amazing music to listen to on headphones. This music has made me feel both happy and energised. I feel as if I need to write a film script, set in the 1980s. I feel like I need to wash Mr Miyagi’s cars, to save Sarah Connor, and to ride Artex across Fantasia, to destroy The Nothing. The synth’y goodness is at times, too much to handle. Perhaps I need to watch my dosage in the near future. A stand out track is Dimensions from the Running in the Dark EP. I implore everyone who is over the age of thirty to check out Timecop1983. ASAP.
In 1994, I was fourteen years old. My life revolved around being in Year 9 at high school. However, in Newcastle, there was another fourteen year old that was at the beginnings of a very different life to me. Daniel Johns was thrust in to stardom and public scrutiny from a very young age with his band Silverchair. I have followed this band closely, being the same age as Daniel, I have always been fascinated with them. At times, I have looked up to Daniel as a prodigy, as he accomplished things that I never could. I could not have written and recorded a whole album of songs when I fourteen years old, let alone, write and record songs that defined a generation. At the age of nineteen, he was touring the world for their third album Neon Ballroom. I was just starting my second year of university, not really sure what I was doing with my life. Daniel, on the other hand, had his future mapped out with his commitments to the juggernaut that was Silverchair. In his late teens and early twenties, he suffered through an eating disorder and reactive arthritis. By the time he was twenty-two, he had released four number one albums, which have sold millions of copies worldwide. I can’t personally imagine the intense pressure he must have felt throughout the time, pressure to write good music, perform well and I’m sure, there was also a pressure to look appealing for his countless fans, which I can only speculate, may have been linked to his eating disorder.
About the author
Observations and opinions of popular culture, covering everything from music, film, television, people and other things.