A top what? You must be joking.

I had a minor freak out a little while back when one of my colleagues at work mentioned that we each had to put together a top 10 list for the end of the year, and that this top 10 would then be on display for our customers, in store to pick and choose from.

So what, big deal. This may be the natural reaction for most but for me a top 10 list is something I avoid with all sense of irrationality. I just can’t do it. The closest I ever got was 2 years back weaning a ‘most listened to’ list of about 30 albums down to 15 – and that took all my effort and then some! Note that I didn’t order this list, it’s just an unordered most listened to list. Tactful!

It’s not that I won’t or can’t commit to picking a favourite (or is it and I just don’t know that yet…?) It’s that I never have just one favourite. My favourite yesterday or an hour ago can be different to tomorrow’s favourite depending on my mood, the weather, what I’m wearing, if I just heard something on the radio. You get the picture.

So how does one possibly choose just 10 albums from an entire year of output? And while we’re talking about difficult, how about remembering what was released in January all the way back here in October!

I’ll admit I enjoy perusing other people’s lists that float around in December and January. Not so much to see what they’ve picked but more as an exercise in remembering what I’ve forgotten from the start of the year. That’s the part I enjoy – revisiting the music I tucked back on the shelf a little too well and forgot about.

So, how’s this list of mine going? It’s a page full of scribble. The stuff I’m in love with now is easy to list, the music I was gushing over at the start of the year… well some of it I still gush over, other bits I need to spot to get the warm fuzzy. Then how do I choose? I’ll probably end up with two lists. One full of the things I really feel, that take me somewhere, and one that’s more work friendly – but for now here’s HTRK. I can’t get them out of my head and I’m quite happy keeping them there.

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Geoffrey O’Connor – Vanity Is Forever

The new Geoffrey O’Connor album has been one of my most anticipated releases of late. That has a lot to do with timing. Just prior to the announcement that there was to be a new album I’d gone in heavy with a revisit of the last Crayon Fields release. The disc was off the shelf and in the car and was also on strong rotation on my iPod.

When the lead single Whatever Leads Me To You dropped I liked what I was hearing and was itching for the release of the full album. Perhaps that eagerness was to blame, but on first listen of the album I was underwhelmed. Excluding the single I felt like there was no punch.

Too much anticipation can destroy even the best of things but luckily on this outing as the tracks progressed so did my appreciation. By the time I reached Idle Lover I’d softened my assessment, by Now & Then it was very much growing on me and by Like They Say It Does and Bad Ideas I knew I’d be hitting play again for an instant repeat listen, and then another…

It’s funny. The opening track So Sorry that formed part of my original dispirited reaction to the album I loved the second time around. It’s fun and cheesy and like the whole album dripping with lashings of 80s fuelled synth-pop. As always with anything penned by Geoffrey O’Connor the clever lyrics alone keep you entertained. There’ll be something you missed, didn’t hear the last time, to bring a smile to your face.

So why the initial luke-warm reaction? Maybe I was expecting an album full of tracks just like the lead single. After a few days and some stretched out listens I’m happy there’s variety and I feel this album will seep into my summer, just as All The Pleasures Of The World did two summer’s prior. It’s currently sharing prime position on the listening post with HTRK’s Work (Work, Work), but I know there’ll be plenty of other great releases before the hot weather peaks.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

On Monday night I finally saw the new Werner Herzog documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). It’s a film I was most disappointed to miss at MIFF due to scheduling so the opportunity to see it at a MIFF preview screening was promptly taken up.

This 3D documentary takes a look at the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, discovered in 1994 which contains the oldest known cave paintings dating as far back as 30,000 to 32,000 years. This film’s subject matter is fascinating. The art history and archeological significance of the cave is astounding. Add the expected Herzog quirkiness and you have 90 minutes of wonder.

I was utterly captivated. It seems implausible that with so little available footage (the crew was small, 3D cameras are sizeable and the allowable footprint in the caves is very limited) that I could remain intrigued for the length of this film. The same paintings were shown more than once but through different expert’s eyes. Each with their own passion for the piece.

I’d been conditioned to think of cave drawings as just one thing but these drawings are enchanting. They are such perfectly realised images, with feeling, depth and motion. The shading, texture and shapes of the surface have been accounted for in the placement of the drawings and the 3D allows the viewer to see this more clearly. I was completely drawn into this film.

I can understand those who see the flaws in it. How it could have easily run for half the time, how the characters chosen could have been more selectively pruned, but then it wouldn’t be a Herzog film – would it? And you either enjoy his style of documentary film making or you don’t. I for one do.

Another thing. The music. The minimalist soundtrack by cellist Ernst Reijseger is beautifully haunting and a wonderful accompaniment to the drawings and the film. It’s available on Winter & Winter. Do track it down.

Out of Tune – Mojave 3

I love this album. It’s remained a constant favourite but always gets its biggest work out during or near the warmer months. It has that feeling for me, that feeling of not so much summer but holidays, space, openness. I often take it with me in the car when I’m doing a lengthy solo drive. Just me, the car, a long straight road. Big sky, ocean or endless fields. That’s what I see in my head anyway. I’m more than happy to stick it on repeat and get lost in the audio and the air it creates.

I was surprised on checking the cover to find a 1998 date on the album. It don’t recall it being that old, or is that part of its appeal? Even when it was fresh and new it already felt of another time and place and had the power to transport you there, so its age is of little consequence.

Soak up some goodness.

Kurt Vile. Oh yes.

Last week when the Meredith line-up was announced I honed in on just one name. Kurt Vile. It was with school-girl glee that the next few hours passed. I’m surprised I pulled off ‘normality’ at work. Finally the international act I’d most wanted to tour for the last few years was coming to our shores.

My discovery of the aural pleasure that is Kurt Vile’s music came about around two years ago. That part of your brain that grabs a hold of something at first sight/listen/taste came out to play hard and there was no point fighting it. I can pretty much pinpoint when it started to the community radio play prior to ‘Childish Prodigy’ being released. It made me seek out anything else this Philly wonder may have laid his hands on. My hunting did not go unrewarded as my local indie record store was able to source his (mini) album ‘God Is Saying This To You’ but the earlier ‘Constant Hitmaker’ was to provide more of a challenge with my own internet scouring required for satisfaction. Then ‘Childish Prodigy’ was released and in the space of a few months I had three albums to flood my mind and my ears.

Putting this into context 2009 was still a time when music was at the top of my obsession heap. Film got to fight for number one spot during obvious times of the year (MIFF anyone?) but generally speaking music still took the crown. And since I’d been earning a wage with a weekend job at high school buying music consumed a fair portion of my disposable income. Bring on uni and throw gigs into that music spending mix, not a lot had really changed over the years in that sense. 2009 though was a little different in that music really jumped up a notch. I devoured more music that year than any other year I can recall. I also saw more local live music than ever before. Strangely it’s not all a total blur. There were a few artists that stood out for me that year and Kurt Vile was one of them. Two years down the track he continues to do so.

In late 2009 Kurt Vile supported Big Star in Brooklyn. You know how sometimes you just wish beyond all reason or reality that something insane could happen and you’d miraculously be teleported to another place or time? This was one such moment. I was happy to step away from reality for the night and be dropped off at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple then picked up 6 or so hours later and reinstated with real life. Not only Kurt Vile & The Violators but Big Star too. The words. They still fail.

At the start of last year there were the usual “who would you love to tour” questions floating around on social media, the same again this year. Both years Kurt Vile has been at the top of my list. In 2010 I knew there was little to no chance of this happening so I had to be content with the release of the Square Shells EP to tide me over. This year with a new album due for release I had hope. When ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ came out I wished for news of concert dates but nothing eventuated. I kept reading reports of great overseas shows, additions to well-known festivals, so many good reports, and of course his hair! It is hard to miss the hair, there’s a lot of it.

So now I wait. The Sydney show was announced, went on sale and by all accounts is close to sold out. In Melbourne with Meredith at centre stage we need to practice patience, although if I can read Mistletone’s twitter feed correctly tomorrow may be the day the all important news arrives. That news being – when and where in Melbourne does one go to see Kurt Vile play? (and when do the tickets go on sale!)

For the time being, here’s some soothing sounds to get you through the long wait for summer and the tour to hit our shores.

EDIT: So you wanna catch Kurt Vile at one of his Australian east-coast (Melbourne/Sydney) side shows? Click for Mistletone’s updated tour news!

Joining the dots

Last night I finally saw Withnail and I the way it should be seen: on the big screen, in a cinema with other patrons laughing along, a drink in hand and good company. I was at the Astor Theatre for a suitable double feature, wondering why I’d never seen it at the cinema before.

I’d watched it often enough on DVD but not when it was fresh and new, I came to the film quite late. My first experience of anything to do with the film had been without even realising it. One of my early band obsessions was Ride. By the time their second album ‘Going Blank Again’ came out in 1992 I was well and truly hooked. I was completely unaware that the soundbite at the start of track 7 “even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day” was Marwood from early in the film, or that the track title “Cool Your Boots” was another quote (Danny) from late in the film.

It’s an odd moment when you do eventually join the dots and find you’ve come to things backwards. That album is so familiar to me. It was at a time when the music I was listening to, my friends, seeing bands, going out, dancing, socialising, that was everything. I knew the soundbite was from a film, but at the time that was enough. It’s years later that I wonder why I never did wonder more back then.

So why write this now? Seeing the film large, loud, with full surround sound at the cinema really made that connection hit home. Even though I’d made it previously the size and volume, ok the volume, lets bring the focus to the sound where it’s due as that’s what really did it. I’ve already said my first accidental run-in with the film was via the audio and although I was watching the film my instinct shot me back to my first association which was listening to the music that came with that sound. I sometimes worry about the way my mind works, or wanders.

Either way what it does for me now when I watch the film or listen to the album is it makes both experiences a little more enjoyable, as I have that extra connection I missed for so many years, and that’s got to be a bonus.

So why not flash back to the early ’90s with Ride and Cool Your Boots. Enjoy!

Losing time and it’s Radiothon already?

I’m not quite sure how it happened but with the blink of an eye and the clap of a hand that four day gap that is supposed to see me rested and recuperated between the end of MIFF and the start of RRR’s Radiothon evaporated without any chance of recovery. I’m usually so good at this. I block the Monday out, sleep, eat, watch tv then sleep some more but this year I had visitors on the Monday. Ok. It was my folks and my nana. I couldn’t say no to my nana. She’s so cute, and little and frail these days. It was great to see them but boy could I have done with more sleep.

Anyway somehow Monday became Friday and worse still that lurgy I’d fought off right through the film festival made an appearance – for radiothon! Not cool. You thought that was bad. ‘My thing’, ‘the thing’ I do during radiothon is bake lots. Bring on sickness and baking stops. I mean I like to share but I draw the line at sharing germs with two dozen people via a couple of batches of cupcakes a day. As a consequence my only baking this year was for Monday’s Breaking And Entering shift. So sad.

You can’t have it all I suppose. But there is something you all can do and that’s subscribe!

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