Category Archives: Music

Things of 2013

Front Page

I’m now 29 and I have no kids. No property or other investments, either. I would like all of those things at some point in the future, but they aren’t my priority at the moment. I’m more interested in travel and pursuing new opportunities in my career. Round up a few other 29-year-old New Zealanders and see how many say the same thing.

Most of what follows is about me.

Music

The best twenty seconds of a song I heard this year were 3:10 to 3:30 of ‘The Red Wing’ by Fuck Buttons, from the album Slow Focus.

My music listening habits never really developed past the age of 16, when I got my first computer. I come across a new album and listen to it once or for months on repeat. Slow Focus was my favourite album of the ten or so new ones I heard this year. James Blake’s Overgrown would be next, and I also really liked Nothing Was The Same by Drake.

The steady accumulation of layers and abrasions on ‘The Red Wing’ reaches a glorious, spine-tingling apex about halfway through. My second favourite twenty seconds of a song are also from ‘The Red Wing’ as it starts to devolve from 6:10 to 6:30. The album as a whole is relentlessly dark, loud, and repetitive; it calls to mind the twisted sensations of being off your face in a dark nightclub, or the sick emotion that accompanies losing something important you can never get back. It drags me through a 45-minute catharsis. My kind of music.

Oh, the best New Zealand album I heard this year was Anniversary Day by JP Young. It would be my favourite album of the year but it came out in 2012. I recommend you go and listen to (and maybe buy) it now, especially if you have any connection to Wellington. It is a genuinely great album, poetic and easy to get along with.

Politics

In my dictionary (the excellent WordWeb), the first definition of ‘politics’ is Social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power. No wonder it fills so many pages in the newspaper and minutes on the airwaves. Not here, though.

Sport

Wellington Indoor Sports Shed 1

From in front of that massive, stunted goal in Shed 1 – about waist-high and about a third of the width of the pitch – James rolled the ball out to me. I was just on our team’s side of the halfway line, the opposition goal about fifteen metres behind me. We were ahead, but we’d just conceded a goal and needed to regain control of the run of play.

I leaned back slightly as the ball reached me and tapped it with the outside of my right foot to MHS, who was over by the left sideline. As he put his foot on the ball and drew a defender, I spun round and sauntered into space a few metres downfield. Just as I was nearing the penalty spot, with no defender near me, MHS took a couple more touches and tapped the ball past his marker, into my path. In my peripheral vision, I sensed two things: one, the opposition goalkeeper was positioned slightly to the left of the centre of the goal, back near his line; two, an opposition defender was rushing at me from my right.

As the ball ran in front of me, I controlled it with one touch from my right foot and – judging that I had less than a second in which to act before I would be tackled – snapped a left-footed shot along the ground, past the oncoming defender, and into the bottom right corner of the opposition goal.

The exact same sequence of events could have happened a hundred years ago, albeit on grass rather than turf and with a plain leather ball rather than a bright yellow plastic one. I will remember it for decades, just as I remember my chipped goal from near halfway in a second XI match at high school and a perfectly timed flick off my pads for four from the first ball I faced in house cricket. Such moments in our sporting lives are timeless.

Film

I seem to be getting more bored with the movies. I went dozens of times this year, more than I have since about 2006, and I always enjoyed myself from start to finish, whether it was any good or whether the dude behind me provided a running commentary throughout (as happened in The Hunt and at least one other film I can’t remember). But I rarely left feeling inspired to talk about what I’d just seen, or to think about it a week later. The prime example of this was Hyde Park on Hudson, a film so bland I barely remember seeing it.

Good films I saw this year included 20 Feet From Stardom, The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, Fast & Furious 6, Gravity, The Hunt, Like Father, Like Son, Mr. Pip, Much Ado About Nothing, The Place Beyond the Pines, Wadjda, and (if I’m allowed this one) Lawrence of Arabia in glorious 4K at The Embassy. Despite its flaws – particularly a lack of balance between its three parts – The Place Beyond The Pines has stayed with me, proving that striking a resonant tone in film is less tangible than the technical combination of good characters, dialogue, cinematography, sound, and editing. The Place Beyond The Pines only had these things in patches, but I haven’t forgotten it.

Mia Farrow | Cloud Atlas

Casting a wide shadow over all my cinematic joys this year was the disappointment that Cloud Atlas was not released in cinemas in New Zealand. The distributor must have gotten cold feet at the prospect of selling Kiwi audiences on a three-hour epic with six ongoing storylines painted in broad archetypes, which seems like a fair decision when I look at that sentence, but Cloud Atlas somehow fulfils its extraordinary ambitions and offers a new kind of multi-layered spectacle in film. I watched it at home, alone on the couch wearing headphones, oblivious to a storm raging outside. It was the best new film I saw this year, and when a stranger says they also loved it, I feel like the film is recommending that person to me.

Tech

A couple of months ago, someone did a memorably recognisable impression of me. They held a smartphone close to their face, jabbed it with their index finger, and muttered, “Just… fucking… work!”

The way I treat the technology in my life has become a good indicator of my mood. The more accepting I am of my phone becoming unresponsive or my laptop shutting down unexpectedly, the better my overall frame of mind. If I’m already frustrated, I swear and click the mouse harder and bang my foot on the floor. I apologise to my colleagues for this.

The fact that my use of electronics can be seen as a barometer of my psychological state suggests how deeply I’ve involved these objects in my daily life. When you spend more than half of your waking hours with someone, or something, some irritation is inevitable. But if I lost them, it’d be like losing one of my senses.

Yellow shoes, walking

Books

In August I went to the launch of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, putting one foot in the world that knows her as ‘Ellie’. She complimented me on my yellow shoes, and I asked her how she was feeling. “A bit overwhelmed, to be honest,” she replied, looking around at the faces and wine glasses packed tighter than ever into Unity Books. This was a couple of months before she won the Booker.

After the launch, Nik and Ant and I discussed what a positive occasion it was. A good person being celebrated for an amazing feat of creativity. I still haven’t finished reading the bloody thing because I am so terrible at reading books, but it really is great, and I will get there.

Travel

In September I went to Brisbane, and in December I went to Nelson. First holiday was alone, second was with a companion. The weather was great for both.

Walking at Anchorage, Abel Tasman National Park

People

I think it has to be Tara, four months in, as wonderful as my colleagues, friends, and family are. She plucks snails off the footpath and places them safely in the bushes. She attempts to identify each bird she sees: “Thrush? Female blackbird?” She is comfortable speaking to strangers on the phone. She writes good emails. She gives excellent gifts. Our conversations flow easily, weaving from meaning to silly madness and back. Perhaps I am overly observant, but she means a lot to me.

Also, the Internet has a slightly diminished role in my life right now but I was lucky enough to get to meet Charles, Dan, Kathleen, Isabel, Martyn, Naomi, Neha, Reena, and Sarah this year – all people I came to know about through Twitter, and who have all been teachers in some way or another. Each year brings more new connections, and some old ones rekindled. Many bleed happily from one medium into another: Twitter, then Facebook, then a coffee shop or a pub. There will no doubt be more new people in 2014 – more good people, and more effort not to spread myself so thinly.

*

Thanks for coming and looking at this. The years are all arbitrary but regardless of what has happened in 2013, I hope 2014 is all right for you.

Leave a comment

Filed under 'Best Of' Lists, Film, Music, New Zealand

Wore a Kanye West t-shirt to the ballet

I have no qualifications for writing about Swan Lake performed by The Royal New Zealand Ballet with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, other than that I saw it and was wearing this t-shirt:

SWAG t-shirt and lollies

(File Photo)

Like many others, perhaps including a majority of men about Natalie Portman’s age, I became interested in ballet — particularly Swan Lake — after seeing Black Swan. As much as I love that epically unhinged film, Tchaikovsky’s music is what has sustained my interest in the years since. I must’ve listened to the whole score a hundred times; in particular, it provided a surreal soundtrack to my daily train commute in South India, clarinet and strings waving in sync with the branches of coconut palms.

From our seats, we were lucky enough to be able to see into the orchestra pit.

St James | Wellington | NZSO | Swan Lake

St James Theatre, Wellington

And when the lights dimmed, and that familiar musical phrase opened the performance, I already had my money’s worth.

Up went the curtain, and the best dancers in the country moved their perfectly toned, muscular bodies with transcendent grace. Between the music and the movement, I wasn’t really sure where to look. My tendency in describing art to others, especially visual art, is to focus on a particularly memorable aspect or moment and let that speak for my overall impression. This is very hard to do with a consummate performance featuring the life’s work of two dozen dancers, world-class choreographers, designers of three-storey sets and 20kg costumes, and an entire orchestra. How can I omit the flautist’s precise notes, the ornate headdress at stage left, the way liquid nitrogen ripples beneath Qi Huan’s feet? If I don’t mention that heartbreaking key change in the final scene, or Odile’s 32 fouettes, can I even say I’ve seen Swan Lake?

One dancer stood out. My companion later told me that she’d earned 100% on a Royal Academy of Dance exam when they were in the same teenage class in Tauranga. Her name is Katherine Grange and she danced in such a way that I could imagine her succeeding in any chosen passion; she just happened to choose dance. As much as anyone else on stage, her performance showed me something I hadn’t previously realised: ballet is a genuine feat of acting, and facial expression is a key element. The feet and arms need to be technically exceptional, but it’s the emotion in the way they move that carries the audience along.

Some of my favourite films, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lost In Translation, make a point of telling the story (or long stretches of it, at least) with images and music rather than words. In ballet, I think I’ve found an art which is based entirely on this principle. “Would you like to go to the ballet again?” asked my friend as we debriefed over a beer. My eyes widened. “Absolutely.” If the human species had three hours to demonstrate our capabilities to visiting alien dignitaries, a full performance of Swan Lake would do the trick.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, New Zealand

Grizzly Bear Live: Keeping It Up

I have now seen Grizzly Bear perform live. I would show you a photo taken by me of the band performing but the venue bastards were particularly vigilant about NO PHOTOGRAPHY PLEASE SIR THERE’S NO PHOTOGRAPHY, so here’s a photo of their set list by Ollie Labone (via Blog On The Tracks):

Photo by Ollie Labone

So how was the gig? It was INCREDIBLE. Never seen anything like it.

Most bands set themselves up on stage so that each member has a clearly defined space. Drummer up the back, singer up the front, guitars either side is the norm – a kind of diamond shape, or maybe in New Zealand a Southern Cross shape. It can give a sense that each band member is keeping their own part of the sound afloat, rather than working consciously with the rest of the group. With the kinds of songs most bands play, this is okay.

Grizzly Bear line up across the front of the stage to share the performance equally. Even Chris Bear, who is an astoundingly good drummer, is up front. (Admittedly, tour keyboardist Aaron Arntz hangs out up the back, but he at least got to sprint around the Opera House during ‘While You Wait For The Others’). You can see each of them, and everything they do, clearly. It’s like being shown all the angles and all the secrets of a magic trick. Their music certainly seems magic to me – all unusual time signatures, multi-part harmonies, and deft instrumental touches, cohering into a majestic whole.

As musicians, Grizzly Bear are like jugglers, with a number of song elements in the air at any given time. Chris Bear sends up kick & snare drum hits, which come down a Chris Taylor bassline. The bassline is built upon by Dan Rossen’s guitar, and Rossen’s voice is joined in harmony by Ed Droste (and, quite often, by the rest of the band). Taylor switches from guitar to brass to woodwind, Bear from sticks to brushes, while Rossen’s and Droste’s subtly distinctive voices interchangeably pick up and pass on vocal melodies. Grizzly Bear work space into their songs, and give each other space to move in them. Their careful placement of different sounds into that shared space seems so natural and intuitive, but I’m sure they must work extremely hard to figure the songs out in the first place, let alone be able to perform them so perfectly.

Unlike with some other bands, I felt like every member of Grizzly Bear played always for the song and never for themselves. Their songs are so rich and layered that if they hold anything back, the performance won’t work. Somehow, through their consummate individual skills and a four-part hive mind, it all stays aloft.

… I’ve made a Grizzly Bear concert sound like maths. It was, but it was so much more. They appear to take real joy from the art of performance, and I think we in the audience all felt that joy too.

They were also surprisingly relaxed between such moody and complex songs. “Who’s going to Boyz II Men? You guys don’t know about that? Boyz II Men on this very stage. There’s only three of ‘em, but still, Boyz II Men. I’d fuckin’ see that. You guys should go along, tell me how it is.” And into ‘Cheerleader‘: “God let it go, it doesn’t mean a thing / Chance and sow, nothing changing…” And afterwards: “That was our cover of ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men.”

They rocked, too, and most of the crowd at least bobbed around in their seats throughout. I bobbed particularly hard to ‘Yet Again’, a current favourite:

and pre-encore closer ‘Sun In Your Eyes’, just spectacular:

Two weeks ago, I saw Radiohead live, and that was a moment of completion in my life. But I can’t remember seeing a better or more complete musical performance than Grizzly Bear at the Wellington Opera House.

2 Comments

Filed under Music

Radiohead (Live) (Life)

I have now seen Radiohead perform live. Just look at how close I was!

This was the fulfilment of a long-held dream. I liked Radiohead through my childhood (Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer), wore them like a protective layer through my adolescence (Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief), and evolved along with the Radiohead sound as an adult (In Rainbows, The King of Limbs). No other band has been as important to me in my life as Radiohead, and no other musician or group of musicians has consistently held my attention for so long. I’ve relied upon them to enthral, inspire and motivate me for as long as I’ve needed them. Their music is a comfort zone in my life.

To see them perform live, as I did last night, was something I never imagined would actually happen. I almost had a chance in Japan in 2008 but skipped off to India instead, and as much as the band’s members have spoke positively about New Zealand, they hadn’t been here to play since the OK Computer tour of 1998.

But then, in the final encore, there was Thom Yorke singing ‘Idioteque’ right in front of me – this is really happening, happening – and it was happening, and it had happened, finally.

They didn’t play ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, or ‘Karma Police’, or ‘House of Cards’, which I was kind of hoping they would. They didn’t play anything at all from either Pablo Honey or The Bends. But they DID play ‘Separator’ and ‘Reckoner’ back to back – probably my two favourite Radiohead songs – and finished up with stellar renditions of ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Idioteque’. Other highlights included ‘Kid A’, ‘Airbag’ and ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. ‘Myxomatosis’ (dedicated to “Mitt fucking Romney”) and ‘Feral’ were also surprisingly good.

The point is that there are so many good Radiohead songs that it doesn’t really matter if they missed a couple of your favourites. And to see them actually playing in front of you, as tight and professional as you can imagine for a group that uses a lot of guitar noise and computer input, was like having these songs assembled before your eyes and ears. Which is incredible, because to me – and most of the audience, it seemed – Radiohead’s songs are more than just familiar; they’re part of who I am.

I loved seeing all the little things you don’t get from a recording. The way Ed O’Brien would look at other members of the band and smile at seeing them lose themselves in the music. The twisting, hopping dance moves of Thom Yorke. Jonny Greenwood’s fringe flailing along with his rangy arms, running up and down a guitar like Hendrix. Phil Selway’s serene face as he executed complicated drum manoeuvres. Colin Greenwood hanging out up the back with Selway, quietly doing his thing.

It seemed like everyone was very happy to be there. We smiled and gave each other space. The whole crowd sang along to Paranoid Android. Security guards passed water along the front line. You hear a lot about good vibes but it’s rare to actually sense them; at this Radiohead concert, the arena was filled with our collective excitement at seeing some of the great musical minds of our time.

A Twitter person said (1 2 3) that she lost her ticket outside before the concert. Beginning to panic, she hunted around for an hour to no avail. Then she checked the ticket counter… and someone had handed it in. I imagine that person finding a ticket on the ground, considering how gutted they would feel if they lost their Radiohead ticket right before the show, and immediately taking it to arena staff.

I also imagine that person gained some of their empathy from listening to Radiohead songs. I know I did.

3 Comments

Filed under Music, New Zealand

Tracks I never tire of: ‘A Higher Place’

‘A Higher Place’ by Röyksopp, 2001, from the album Melody A.M.

Röyksopp had two big hits from their debut album Melody A.M, ‘Eple’ and ‘So Easy’, both of which appeared on almost every chillout compilation album for the next few years, and both of which had great videos.

They were decent enough tracks, and listening to them had a similar effect as popping sheets of bubble-wrap. Save for the high-pitched, bleeping melody of ‘Eple’, they weren’t that challenging, and they were a little bit fun, and they passed the time, but there wasn’t much more to them. Same deal with most of the rest of the album. For me, though, one track on Melody A.M. stood out as seeming to come from somewhere deeper, darker and more mysterious, and it was appropriately titled ‘A Higher Place’.

Röyksopp waste no time on ‘A Higher Place’. It kicks off with a three scene-setting drum hits and then goes straight into the main loop – a simple percussion sequence embellished by a few soothing synth chords, a constant floating, shimmering motif and, eventually, some minimalist vocal samples. It quickly establishes an offbeat-yet-driving tone and, apart from the subtle loop variations and chord changes, mostly stays there. The few repeated synth gestures are sporadic at first but become more frequent as the song continues – a steady, subtle escalation. There is no hint of verse or chorus, only variations on the same four-bar phrase – poison for some, but just the kind of thing I love.

The lyrics are simple – “take you to a higher place” – but ‘A Higher Place’ doesn’t necessarily take you all the way there. What it does is even better, something the best music (and art in general) manages to pull off: it suggests the existence of such heights rather than presenting them to you explicitly. The track is as ecstatic as the best scenes in Hitchcock films are scary, where the horror is suggested rather than shown. Röyksopp seem to bring you a glimpse of something out of human reach, just enough to get a sense that it’s out there, just for a few minutes.

There is one moment, at 2:44, that is among the closest to a metaphysical paradise as I know in contemporary music. The beat drops off and then all the synth and vocal samples dissipate, leaving a quick moment of silence before – the beat drops again, slightly more complex than before, with a new chord as a landmark to shift the tone a degree out. It’s a moment infused with subtle wonder, deflating my ego in a single beat and just forcing me to listen.

Read about more tracks I never tire of here.

1 Comment

Filed under Music

Music, An Anchor for Memory

Right now I’m listening to ‘Province’ by TV on the Radio and it’s hot and humid, but the feeling inside and around my body is bitterly cold. The sounds of music and exploding crackers are pretty much constant outside from the three separate temple festivals going on near my house in this little tourist town in rural India, but through these headphones, the song takes me back to an inner silence deeper than most I’ve known.

Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio’s second album, came out in 2006 and I bought it the same weekend it was released. It was the middle of winter and I was living in Christchurch – yeah, that place that got hit by a big earthquake a month ago, but not as big as the one in Japan, but still pretty big.

I was living in the centre of town, in a building which apparently no longer exists, and working just a few minutes away next to the city’s main landmark: Christchurch Cathedral, and its Cathedral Square. I walked that 750 metres to work and back hundreds of times over a year and a half living in that flat, and while the brilliant blue skies and pleasant, dry and warm summers were wonderful, I’ll always remember Christchurch for its winter.

Christchurch winters aren’t desperately cold by global standards, hitting probably -5°C most nights in the July that Return to Cookie Mountain came out. This was cold enough for me, though, having grown up in the warmer North island, but luckily there was a trade-off: of the hundred bone-chilling nights of each year, one (or maybe two if we were very lucky) would be covered with real snow.

To warm that chill in my bones in the evenings, I’d take my CD player and listen to something as I walked. The walk to work was only a song’s worth, or half a song if I was listening to Orbital, and while I sometimes had my earphones in as I walked in the door of the souvenir shop I worked at, I usually felt like I was being a bit gratuitous. I mean, how hard could it be to walk five minutes without a personal soundtrack to occupy me, to handle the world outside my home without cutting out its sounds and replacing them with something which seemed more like part of me?

The walk to the video shop, however, was different. I would go to Alice in Videoland every Thursday evening to drop off last week’s rentals and pick up new ones. Wednesday and Thursday were my days off back then, my weekend, and I could hardly think of a better way to spend an hour than browsing the shelves at Alice’s. And being a full fifteen minutes away, I could fit in three songs, making the CD player a much more reasonable option – and for a good month or so, those three songs were the first three tracks of Return to Cookie Mountain.

I’d throw on my long black jacket, shove the CD player in the inside pocket, lock the flat behind me and press play as I got out into the street. Shuffling my gangly, poorly conditioned limbs along those gold-tinged, immaculately paved streets with TV on the Radio in my ears was pretty much perfect. I’d go into and through a near-empty Cathedral Square and as I came out the other side to cross Colombo St; a gust of icy wind from the Port Hills would throw my hair up and cool my face, and I’d wrap the front of my coat closed to ward off the cold.

Right about then, Province would start up. And I’d listen to it, Adebimpe, Malone and Bowie wailing about love in harmony as I walked on down High St Mall and then High St, past that cafe (whose name I’ve forgotten) I ate at with Ed and Rach, past Helen’s design studio, the song closing out just as I stepped off the street and into Alice’s – ah, heaters – the new releases there, as always, to greet me.

And I never forgot that feeling, somehow, without ever thinking about it. The music gave me an anchor on which to hang the cold, the coat, the flat and the paving stones, the cathedral and Alice’s, all those feelings enveloped by the sounds in my ears. On those 15-minute walks, ‘Province’ took on its own private meaning for me, one which I didn’t realise at the time: it would be the song that took me back to a certain time in my life, a particular feeling, the subtly indescribable emotion and physicality of it.

It’s simple, really. The memory is stronger than the song, but as an element of my life which remains constant however far I get from the memory, the song is what brings it all back. That’s to say, I can listen to ‘Province’ today in my hot house in India and it will still be the same ‘Province’ as it was four and a half years ago on the cold, dry, clean streets of Christchurch. The memories, dormant in this magnificent organ called a brain, come flooding back as clear as ever when I hear those simple chord progressions struck firmly on the piano.

It isn’t classical conditioning, but I’m sure there was something I concurrently studied in psychology classes that matches up. I see songs like ‘Province’ as an anchor on which I hang my memories, and it may have only been a flash of a millisecond back in 2006 where I felt the music, the cold, the city and everything else that stayed with me, but sometimes that’s enough to bring it all together and cohere into a memory that stays with you for the rest of your life.

Now, tell me your musical anchors.

(My brother wrote about this ages ago, so check out his post too. I give him the credit for getting the idea out first and for being an inspirational older brother who inadvertently plants ideas in my head.)

7 Comments

Filed under Music, New Zealand

Imprints: 127 Hours / Cee-Lo Green / Phoenix / CocoRosie

127 Hours (2010, dir. Danny Boyle): Another work of style with just enough substance from Boyle. You probably know by now that it’s a true story about a dude who gets his arm trapped under a rock in a remote canyon, and is faced with a horrible choice. James Franco is good, the film is decent and certainly uplifting, but I’d class it as merely an above-average time-passer. (W) Worth a Look.

Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer (2010): Could never live up to my expectations after seeing one of the greatest videos of the years, which features his ‘Fuck You’ to delightful effect, but this is a listenable combination of throwback to Motown-era charm and Gnarls Barkley-ish chopped-clean production. Bright Lights, Bigger City is the best walking or driving song in a while. (W) Worth a Look.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009): I’m still so enraptured at the way track 4, ‘Love Like A Sunset’, was used in Somewhere that when I try to listen to this album, I can barely get past it without hitting repeat. OK, the other songs are good, some of them very good, and I really like this album, and you should listen to it. ‘Love Like A Sunset’ is just ridiculously epic. (R) Recommended.

CocoRosie – La maison de mon rêve (2004): First heard of CocoRosie when they performed the best song of the 00s live with Quinn Walker, but only picked up on their debut album lately – it’s really good, discordant at first glance but quickly altering the way I interact with the world around me. The use of a Godzilla toy’s roar on opener Terrible Angels is a perfect example of their experimental, carefree sound. Don’t know what the rest of their output is like but if it’s the same feeling with better production values, sign me up. (R) Recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Imprints, Music

Imprints: Yi Yi (A One And A Two) / Robyn / Kylesa

Yi Yi (A One And A Two) (1999, dir. Edward Yang): Brilliant, meditative work about a modern Taiwanese family, their lives and loves, their work and their (almost total lack of) play. Each member of the family signifies a different time of life, from the 8-year-old boy to the 80-something grandmother. The boy’s speech at the end is extraordinary, perhaps worth watching again and again. (H) Highly recommended.

Robyn – Body Talk: this is the collected, 15-track final album released a couple of months ago, not any of the 8-track mini-albums released earlier. And it’s pretty good. Quite reminiscent of Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, but with plenty more sass and attitude. It isn’t as memorable as Madge’s effort was, which is one of my favourite dancepop albums, but Body Talk is solid and has enough catchy hooks to keep you coming back a few times. None Of Dem is probably the highlight – thanks Rua for showing it to me first on ye Beates Reality. (W) Worth a look.

Kylesa – Spiral Shadow: I first listened to this while ‘playing’ the hilarious ‘game’ Progress Quest, and it fit the mood perfectly. It’s sludgy and a little doomy at times, but a perfect foray for a non-metaller like me into the genre as the prettier and more hopeful aspects help me to stick with it. It isn’t a sticky mass of distorted guitar, either; it has distinct and memorable tracks. Still haven’t figured out exactly what they’re saying, but I like it. (R) Recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Imprints, Music

Imprints: ‘Paprika'; Amy Winehouse, ‘Back to Black’

Paprika (2006, dir. Satoshi Kon): This fine director’s last film as usual demonstrates his metaphysical insights, this time on the nature of dreams and reality, and uses the potential of animation to create art that really wouldn’t be possible in any other medium. Vastly superior to that other dreams-within-dreams movie that came out earlier this year, give this a chance and be prepared to just go along with the ride… understanding everything isn’t absolutely crucial. Recommended.

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black: I don’t know exactly why I never gave this a go before; probably my distrust of anything too popular. Well, it’s tragic, artful, beguiling and flat-out incredible. Her songwriting is raw but very poetic, and she has this incredibly captivating swagger and charisma. There are a couple of more filler-ish tracks, but they’re still good, and the highlights – like ‘Rehab’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ – just have me sitting and shaking my head in astonishment. Jools Holland said she has one of the best voices of anyone of all time, and he knows what he’s talking about. Essential.

1 Comment

Filed under Film, Imprints, Music

Tracks I never tire of: ‘These Words’

‘These Words’, by Natasha Bedingfield, 2004, from the album Unwritten


I was 19 when ‘These Words’ came out and dominated C4 and commercial radio for a few weeks. It had a catchy up-tempo beat, great lyrics (about struggling with writer’s block in the studio), Bedingfield’s strong and passionate voice and a classic video. All these helped me to love it, but what makes me never tire of it is the memory of one of the funniest, and most embarrassing, episodes in my life.

My good mate Tommy and I were on our way out to Taylors Mistake, a beach/peninsula just outside of Christchurch, to go fishing. He had picked me up around midday in his car and, with the summer sun high in a cloudless sky, we wound the windows all the way down and turned the radio up to full volume. The Rasmus – ‘In The Shadows’. Usher – ‘Yeah’. OutKast – ‘Roses’. It was going to be a great day.

Then ‘These Words’ came on. Perhaps it was the heat, but we went a little crazy – not merely singing along, but singing along to each other, gesticulating and grinning widely as we pulled up to an intersection on Moorhouse Drive. With the car idling, we put everything we had into our performance, our voices striving to reach Natasha’s high pitch. The world around us dissolved as we lost ourselves in it.

Halfway through the chorus, as our voices reached a crescendo, I noticed that a car had pulled up next to us. I froze. Then Tommy looked, and he froze. It was FILLED with hot girls – five of them, all staring at us in disbelief… and laughing uproariously.

For those that don’t know the lyrics to ‘These Words’, the chorus – which we were singing at full volume, as we looked into each other’s eyes, when the girls pulled up – goes like this:

These words are my own, from my heart flow
I love you I love you I love you I love you
There’s no other way to better say
I love you
I love you

Of course we stopped singing. Then, after a few seconds of begging the lights to change, now, please now, we started laughing too. And every time I’ve heard the song since, I’ve remembered that moment of sheer panic, followed by the realisation of how hilarious and absurd we must have looked.

Tommy and I never saw those girls again, but we’ll always have ‘These Words’.

View the music video and hear the song by clicking here. Thank you, Tommy, for being a good sport and allowing me to announce this to the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music