Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy review

Chances are you've already read about Kanye West's new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy somewhere else, and you're probably well aware that virtually everyone is praising the album as a modern masterpiece, even Pitchfork gave it a perfect 10.0.  I wasn't even aware that he had a new album out, so you can understand why I am a little late in churning this review out.  Aside from the fact that Kanye spent  over 3 million of Def Jam's dollars in recording the album (there are eleven guest vocalists on "All of the Lights") and the "controversial" artwork was supposedly "banned", I am failing to see what makes this record any more important than West's previous efforts.

I'll be the first to admit, I am not well versed in hip hop.  That being said, the first thing I noticed about this album is that it is sonically heavier, with distorted guitars, fuzzy basslines and grittier beats assaulting the listeners ears at every turn.  There is a lot of layering present that isn't normally found in hip hop music, lending a depth to the music that is both immersive and engaging.  Despite these things, I just can't agree to call this album a masterpiece of it's generation.  If you were to conduct a search on Pitchfork to see all of the albums that have received a perfect 10.0, you will find that almost all of them are reissues of classic albums by bands like Radiohead, The Beatles, Beastie Boys, The Rolling Stones, and Elvis Costello.  The reason these albums have received the elusive perfect score on Pitchfork is because the albums have withstood the test of time.  Will Kanye's new album do the same?  It is hard to say.  Despite the move forward, it doesn't seem as though this album does anything to be truly regarded as a breakthrough album, not for hip hop and certainly not popular music as a whole.

The weaker points on the album consist of some of the so-called "rhymes", which end up sticking out like a sore thumb.  On "Gorgeous", Kanye claims that "the same people that tried to black ball me/forgot about two things, my black balls".  Umm, right.  I also find it difficult to separate the album's themes and subject matter with how Kanye acts in real life.  This album is, essentially, a self-indulgent piece (just look at the video for "Runaway", which also marks Kanye's directorial debut) that explores the reasons why Kanye can be a complete asshole, whining about trivial shit on Twitter and getting drunk and causing scenes with other celebrities.  The reason he can do all those things, the reason why he can act like a spoiled child is the simple fact that people will buy his record and invest their own time and energy into his celebrity persona.  Throughout the album Kanye talks about how he doesn't care about people and what they think of him, and how he has somehow transcended "haters".  What he fails to realize is that all of the "haters" are the people who buy his albums.  So I guess that question that remains is, who is the bigger fool, us, or him?

The bottom line is that Kanye has successfully made a good record.  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a record that has all of the hooks that will make it popular, but the real reward is in listening to each song carefully, and more than once, to discover and appreciate all of the nuances that truly make it an outstanding hip hop record.  I just wouldn't go so far as to call it a masterpiece.  Michael Jackson made better pop records, and even though Kanye desperately wants to emulate his idol, he is still falling just a bit short.

Kanye West - Runaway

Kanye West (feat. Kid Cudi & Raekwon) - Gorgeous

Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Friday, November 26, 2010

Daft Punk - Tron Legacy (OMPST) review

Daft Punk hasn't released an album of new material since Human After All in 2005.  Since then, the French duo has dabbled with videogames and released a live album, a remix album, and a compilation album.  In March 2009 the wait for new material had ended with the announcement of Daft Punk being commissioned to score the upcoming film Tron: Legacy.

The highly anticipated album opens with a low, foreboding humming noise that gradually builds into a symphonic string arrangement that is epic in scale, however, it isn't anything you haven't already heard in a number of other film scores.  This sweeping introduction leads into the first truly original piece of music, "The Grid", which continues with the ominous tone via industrial beats that lumber along while a voiceover from film star, Jeff Bridges, recites a bunch of technojargon about circuit boards and of course, the grid.  All of this leads into Bridges' line about how he has dreamed of the world of computers until one day, he "got in".  It is at this point that the string arrangement that drives the first track morph into something wholly electronic.  It is the same melody, but instead of man manipulating instrument, machine has taken over.  Much like the characters in the film, we, the listeners, are immersed into the world of the computer.

It becomes clear from early on that this is not the Daft Punk we are used to.  The soundtrack is not simply composed with a pair of synths, a drum machine, and a bunch of spliced samples from the 70s.  This soundtrack marks a step forward in Daft Punk's sound as they use an 85 piece orchestra to help them create and explore an entirely new musical frontier.  There are so many high points on this album I could easily give each one of the twenty-two tracks (24 if you get it from iTunes) its own separate write up.  But even then it wouldn't do this score justice.  I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of film scores, in my opinion divorcing a score from the film that it was created to accompany causes it to lose some of the emotion that is initially attached to it.  With the Tron: Legacy soundtrack however, each track builds upon the next, creating a musical representation that could easily stand apart from the film.  It is so grand in scope that I would go as far to say that this will easily become one of those soundtracks that every music fan must own.

The string arrangements and the orchestra utilized in the soundtrack appear on almost every track, however what makes this soundtrack a compelling listen is the marriage of traditional instruments and electronica, and how the two intermingle to create a truly organic sound that is both impressive and epic.  Daft Punk have managed to craft each song with the mechanical calculation of a computer, without sacrificing the immediacy and intensity of human emotion.  If the film is half as fun as this soundtrack, then I think it will be well worth the cost of admission.

The Tron: Legacy soundtrack will be released December 7th, 2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving back in the United States and I have to admit that I am more than a little disappointed that I won't be around to partake in the festivities this year.  I am hoping I can have a sort of Australian mock Thanksgiving, but it won't be the same.  For those of you who don't know, Thanksgiving is an American holiday (there's a Canadian one too, but it's not as good) that originally gave thanks for a bountiful harvest but has since gone on to include expressions of thankfulness and gratitude for family, friends, etc.  Oh, and football (the American variety).  And parades.  Read about it here if you're really curious.

Anyway, I'll be brief today and just say that I made a little mixtape for everyone to enjoy this Thanksgiving.  There is only one "real" Thanksgiving song on the mix, the rest of the tracks are songs that I felt were appropriate in the honor of giving thanks.  I explain why each track was included below, so if you're curious, read up.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  1. Adam Sandler "The Thanksgiving Song" - self-explanatory.
  2. Madness "Our House" - every year my entire family comes to my parents house to celebrate Thanksgiving so I felt this song was appropriate.
  3. Mystery Jets "Flash a Hungry Smile" - Thanksgiving is the one holiday where it is expected that you stuff yourself with food, and most people are flashing their hungry smiles all day before dinner.
  4. The Faces "Ooh La La" - this song reminds me of good memories with family and friends.  In slow motion, of course.
  5. Kings of Leon "Taper Jean Girl" - My cousins and I always tend to have a few (heaps) of "adult beverages" throughout the course of the day, and this is a great party song.
  6. Fang Island "Daisy" -no matter how we drunk we get, it's okay because it's a holiday.
  7. Passion Pit "Sleepyhead" - supposedly eating turkey makes you tired because it has high amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that breaks down protein.
  8. The National "Mr. November" - Thanksgiving is always on the last Thursday of November!
Download the Thanksgiving 2010 mixtape here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

James Blake - Klavierwerke EP review

According to Dummy Magazine, James Blake's new EP, Klavierwerke, is supposedly "some of the best new music you'll hear today".  I beg to differ.  Of all the reviews that I have read about this EP I have yet to find one that says something negative about this collection of "songs".  I realize that in saying this I am welcoming an abundance of nasty comments from people who think, for some reason, that James Blake is some kind of mastermind.  They will belittle me and say that I don't "get it", or that the music "transcends" criticism.  I'm sorry to burst your bubble.  To me, the Klavierwerke EP is little more than the sounds of someone who needs to stop sitting in his bedroom fidgeting with sequencers and keyboards.

The British born Blake got some recognition with his last EP, CMYK, which showed some promise, using samples from 90s R&B tunes in a somewhat familiar U.K. dubstep manner to create catchy dancefloor singles.  On the Klavierwerke EP, however, Blake opts for a more minimalist approach, using little more than his piano and his own voice, which is fitting since Klavierwerke literally means piano work in German.  The title is a bit deceptive (maybe that's why he opted for it to be in German), since those expecting something like his cover of the Feist song "Limit to Your Love", will be gravely disappointed.  Instead of something more traditional, Blake takes a cut and paste approach with all of the four tracks that appear on this EP, single piano notes are looped over and over, sparse vocalizations are mechanically manipulated and elementary games of patty cake are arranged together in such a way that it evokes some kind of faux importance in the ears of listeners who just so badly want this EP to be good.

In regards to all of the reviews floating around in cyberspace that are praising this EP as being "the next big thing", I have to throw in my two cents and disagree.  Pitchfork asserts that "few artists are stretching the boundaries of dance music wider than he [Blake] is right now", which begs the question, who, exactly is dancing to this?  And of course, what, exactly does this "dancing" look like?  If you answered the really messed up girl/guy who dresses like a hobo?   The one who doesn't wash his/her hair?  The one swaying slightly from side to side in the club while a lit cigarette dangles precariously out of the corner of his/her mouth?  The one who looks as though they might pass out/projectile vomit at any moment?  I would have to say that you've probably already heard this record.

Overall, James Blake's Klavierwerke EP sounds like the tinkerings of someone who left his final project in his music production class to the last minute and spent the entire night before it was due recording a bunch of glitchy plinks on the piano and running his voice through a filter in Garageband.  It's experimental, ambient, pitchy, droning, twitchy, conflicted and full of incongruities.  Do yourself a favor, don't buy into the hype, and by all means don't listen to me either.  Listen to the EP (check out the embedded video below, go to youtube and go to James Blake's channel to listen to all four songs for free) and make the decision for yourself.

James Blake - Limit To Your Love (Feist cover)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Salem - King Night review

Salem is a Chicago-based band whose first official release, an EP titled, Yes I Smoke Crack, earned them recognition as a "bloggable buzzband", released their debut album, King Night, on September 28th of this year.  It seems as though this band has come out of nowhere and made a huge splash in the online music community for a number of reasons.  Let us take a moment and review these reasons in case you're not familiar:

1. The title track off of King Night is released/leaked, Pitchfork.com bestows a "best new music" tag on it, making hipster panties around Brooklyn suddenly go moist.

2. The Pitchfork review was incredibly positive, but more importantly, described the bands sound as "rape gaze", which understandably got some people angry and they retracted the "rape gaze" label and started calling it "witch house" (which, admittedly, is pretty terrible for a genre name).

3. A bunch of reputable music critics jumped on the Salem bandwagon, including the New York Times, giving their music "glowing reviews".

4. Salem is labeled the "worst modern buzzband" by Hipster Runoff after Salem's live "performance" at SXSW (see video below).

So, what do I think of the album?  It's hard to not be influenced by what other people before me have already said, but since pretty much everyone has been calling Salem misunderstood "geniuses", it's safe to say that you don't have to worry about me being peer pressured.  First thing's first, I don't hate the album.  I think that there are moments on King Night which are beautiful, haunting and intimate.  I think that, at their best, Salem succeeds in crafting music that seems authentic, which makes it deeply affecting and sometimes moving.

The problem lies in the difficulty I had investing myself into the songs.  The entire album is dark.  It is depressing.  There are no moments that twinkle beneath the murky water.  King Night is a difficult listen, as the hip hop drum machines skitter across each track and the low key ambient synth lines do little to lighten the mood, you begin to wonder if the way you feel is similar to what a heroin addict feels as he is going through withdrawal.  That being said there is something captivating about the music.  There is something that embraces you and pulls you into the void, and even though the album and lyrics embody virtually everything ugly in society, there is something comforting about the shared suffering of the human condition.

The lowest points on the album, for me, would have to be the tracks that are ruined by "frontman" Jack Donoghue as he "raps".  Thankfully this happens rather sporadically, since his voice sounds like an 11 year old kid using a voice filter while playing XBOX Live.

In summation, there are a handful of tracks that are ethereal and moody enough to provide some rather compelling listening, however it is hard to take this band seriously, especially when you consider their live performances (see video below) or their minstrel show-esque rapping "skills".  It seems to me that Salem has managed to employ some rather effective reverse marketing by making themselves seem like assholes who don't give a shit about making music or having fans (when asked about what they thought of getting booed off stage, the band claimed that they "totally don't care"), and that has resulted in massive media coverage.  Most reviewers are claiming that Salem makes music that just isn't accessible to everyone and that some people are simply unable to " get it".  I have to disagree with that logic, but I will admit that the game they are playing has worked pretty well for them so far.

Salem - King Night
Salem - Asia

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Young Prisms - Friends for Now review

I have to admit that what initially intrigued me about this record from San Franciscan quintet, Young Prisms, was the not-so-safe-for-work album art.  Once I got past my prepubescent hang up of ogling what surely is a contender for the perfect alternative breasts, I decided to give the pretty translucent purple record a spin.  On their MySpace page, Young Prisms claim that their sound is "shoegaze", a subgenre of music that originated in the U.K. in the late eighties.  The name comes from the sight spectators saw when they went to see these bands live, since their music incorporated so many effects pedals, the band members were constantly looking at their feet.  I have never seen Young Prisms live, but I can imagine how the shoegazing label applies.

Young Prisms use the two guitar approach commonly found in shoegaze music, neither one assuming a "lead", rather both guitars play heavily distorted riffs over one another to create an amorphous, reverberating melody that echoes throughout, and ultimately drives, the entire song.  The vocals are washed out and subdued, being used by the band as another instrument, rather than to convey any real meaning with the lyrics.  The heavy handed wails of the guitars and the striking dissonance that is achieved in the songs without sacrificing melody is both impressive and welcome, as the record sounds cohesive without compromising the illusion of chaos.

The album opens with "Friends for Now", a borderline instrumental song that does little to introduce the band or the album, as the second track, "If You Want To", could have just as easily opened the album and probably would have done so more effectively.  The songs that favor melody over the sometimes oppressive, neo-psychedelic monotony present on some tracks are the obvious standouts on the album, most notably the song "Sugar".  As the album progresses, you'll find that you should have gotten stoned or perhaps really drunk before you put it on, as you'll find it easier to get lost in the layers and layers of distortion and feedback.

The constant lo-fi drone of the guitars and the rather mediocre drumming start to wear a little thin by the end of the record, and with the exception of one or two tracks, the average listener will probably find it hard to discern between the ten tracks present on the album.  Friends for Now is a record that should be played loud, or ideally, heard live if you want to do it any justice.  So, if you're a fan of the shoegaze genre and you are in the market for a new pair, try Young Prisms on for size.  Just be aware that one size doesn't always fit all.

Young Prisms - Weekends and Treehouses
Young Prisms - Sugar

Friends for Now by Young Prisms is out January 18th...preorder here.

Alternatively, consult their MySpace page to check out upcoming gigs, if you're lucky enough to catch them live you can pick up an advance copy of the album on vinyl.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girl Talk - All Day review

On November 15th, preeminent mash-up artist Girl Talk (a.k.a. Gregg Gillis) released his fifth album, All Day, via free download by the Illegal Art record label.  The album marks the end of a two year wait since Gillis' last critically acclaimed album, Feed the Animals.  Utilizing a reported 372 samples (of other artists work, but we'll get into that later), All Day was released as a seamless 71-minute single mp3 file, as well as 12 separate tracks for "easier navigation".  Let's take a moment to thank Mr. Gillis and Illegal Art for having the foresight to break the tracks up, because unless you're at a party or the club, I seriously doubt anyone would want to listen to this all the way through in one sitting, even if the Illegal Art website states that the album is "intended to be listened to as a whole".

Much like Girl Talk's previous releases, there are individual songs that are a blast to listen to.  These tracks are catchy, and often blend and blur genres so effectively that while your booty shakes, your mind marvels at the ingenuity behind it all, especially when you hear how he manages to couple Miley Cyrus' "Born in the USA" and M.O.P's "Ante Up" on "That's Right" and how it all bleeds seamlessly into Portishead's "Sour Times" and Big Boi's "Shutterbugg" on "Jump on Stage".  That being said, anyone with an audio editing program like Audacity will undoubtedly be wondering if they too, with the right amount of determination and creativity, could have created a mash-up album just as good.

This isn't to say that Mr. Gillis isn't creative or talented.  I'll be the first to admit that I have little knowledge or exposure to the underground mixtape sub-culture.  What I do know about it is that it originated in the early days of hip-hop, primarily with kids who had no idea what they were doing, but they knew what they liked to hear.  Fast forward a few decades and the word "mixtape" is thrown around pretty loosely.  Mixtapes are still very much a part of the underground musical community, and are even responsible for launching the careers of some of today's most bankable music superstars like 50 Cent.

What I find most interesting is the way mixtapes are produced.  Most mixtape creators (Girl Talk included) use unauthorized samples of other artists work, something the New York Times has labeled, "a lawsuit waiting to happen".  In today's climate, where the RIAA hasn't met anyone it wouldn't consider suing, the mixtape opens up interesting discussions regarding what is and isn't illegal to do.  Girl Talk has often cited Fair Use, a doctrine in United States copyright law that is a "limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders."  It's complicated, but this is usually in regard to things like criticism, reporting, teaching, etc (you can read up on it here), not for sampling and subsequently making money.

While Girl Talk gives away his albums for free via download off of the Illegal Art website, consumers can still purchase a physical copy of the album on sites like Amazon and in record stores or opt to "make a donation" before downloading the album.  I seriously doubt that Mr. Gillis is splitting those royalties three hundred and seventy three ways.

Overall, All Day is a fun record.  Mr. Gillis certainly has an ear that spans virtually every genre, so you know that every song is going to have a little something for everyone, which is exactly what you need when you're throwing a party.  Just do yourself a favor, download the 12 track version.

Download All Day here.
Check out a list of all of the samples in All Day here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Miami Horror - Illumination review

Here in Australia summer officially starts on December 1st, however it starts getting warm (and sometimes unbearably hot) well before then.  Miami Horror released their debut album, Illumination, on August 20th, just shy of the first day of Spring, and it's appropriate.  As the rain clouds and cold weather moved out of the way for the warming embrace of the sun, a four-piece from Melbourne released an album that basically bashed people in the head with its unwavering "light" based imagery.  Name of the band, Miami Horror.  Miami = sun, surf, beaches? Check.  Title of the album, Illumination (that one pretty much speaks for itself doesn't it?).  Album art, a Red Giant hovering over a peaceful landscape? Check.  Lyrics that reference the sun or light in some way, shape or form? Check. If the music itself was a small child's primary school art project, every song would be covered in glitter glue and have neon ribbons jutting off in every direction.  However, it should be expected.  This is a dance record.  Sort of.

I'll be the first to admit that when I'm in a bar and a catchy song comes on that almost every patron knows and dances along to, I'll be the one guy you see in the corner with his arms folded across his chest tightly clutching a bottle of beer in one hand.  In the privacy of my own home, however, I have moves that would literally astonish and amaze.  With that being said, we can eliminate the idea that I simply don't like this kind of music.  In actuality, I love it.  And apparently so do Australians.  The indie/dance/synth/new wave revival or whatever you want to call it certainly is not new, and there are a plethora of bands who do it very well, Cut Copy, Passion Pit, Daft Punk, Pnau, are just a few that come to mind.  Miami Horror doesn't attempt to cover any new ground, instead relying on the paths pioneered by other bands before them to deliver the goods.  Is this necessarily bad?  Not in the least bit.  When Miami Horror hits a high note, it is slick, catchy, and a lot of fun.  Tracks like "Holidays", "Moon Theory" and "Sometimes" really capture the essence of the album.  Thumping bass lines, catchy choruses, arpeggiated chords and plinking synths weave seamlessly together to create instant dance floor bliss.

Illumination's weak points come in the form of the slower tracks.  Songs like "Echoplex" and "Imagination" seems as though someone just turned the tempo way down in an effort to stretch the song out for as long as possible.  The lyrics, well, let's just say they're what you would expect from a dance album.  Overall, Miami Horror's Illumination is a good summer record, catchy, fun songs to spin on the stereo while you're sucking back stubbies from your esky.

Here is a track from Miami Horror's 2008 EP Bravado, courtesy of rcrdlbl.com...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bizarre Music Videos

Once upon a time, one of the main ways people were exposed to new music was by watching music videos.  This was a simpler time, when MTV actually aired music videos instead of "reality" shows and VH1 had interesting programming based around music, like Storytellers (I should note that this show still airs, albeit sporadically), and Pop-Up Video.  Most people would probably argue that the music video era is dead, that there simply isn't any outlet for exposure via the music video medium.  In a way, they are correct.  The only channels that are dedicated to airing music videos are often bundled up in expensive digital cable or satellite packages, and let's face it, most people would rather hop on the internet than sit through blocks of programming that might play songs they don't care for.

So, just as video killed the radio star, the internet has killed the music video star.  Interestingly enough, this has not caused musicians to abandon music videos, with sites like YouTube, musicians and music labels now have a new way to reach potential fans and consumers.  The problem that presents itself is that the videos are no longer thrown into a rotation by the programmers of a television station, instead the videos are uploaded and only viewed on demand.  This has caused bands to make interesting and sometimes bizarre music videos that will get the internet community talking about them, in the hopes that people will be curious about the video enough to have a look.

Strange music videos have been around for a long time, one only has to hop on YouTube and check out the videos for Tool's Stinkfist, Radiohead's Paranoid Android, Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy, Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun, Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up, or The Avalanches' Frontier Psychiatrist, to name just a few.  Since their inception, music videos have provided musicians with an outlet to further brand their sound or to promote some kind of concept or cause, and sometimes bands create videos that are just downright bizarre to generate some buzz and hopefully convert some new fans.  The following three videos are strange and sometimes disturbing, but it got me talking about it, and my bet is that you're going to check them out, so I guess these bands are doing something right.

First up, Miami Horror "Holidays"

Miami Horror is a band from Melbourne who are getting quite a bit of airtime on Triple J. Certainly the least bizarre out of the three, as it's quite tame after the initial shock around the 30 second mark.

Yeasayer "Madder Red"

Yeasayer has quite the track record for weird music videos, but the one for their newest single, "Madder Red", takes the cake. The video opens with Kristen Bell in bed, luring us into a false sense of security and then HOLY SHIT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?!

Beach House "Walk in the Park"

This video opens up with your average down on his luck wolf-boy and his longing for your run-of-the-mill alt girl, but things become increasingly weird until events culminate in...a sandwich?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Small Black - New Chain review

I got my hands on a copy of the debut album, New Chain, from Brooklyn-based band Small Black back in October when it was released, but trying to listen objectively was proving to be rather difficult.  With so much blogger bullshit (blogshit?) floating around about so-called "chillwave" bands, I found it to be somewhat of a chore to give this album a thorough listen from start to finish.  This isn't to say I don't like "chillwave" music, quite the contrary, however when the internet gets a hold of an idea (or in this case, a genre), it can be trying to separate ones own impressions and opinions from that of the masses, hence why this review is coming at you a little late.
With all of that being said, let's get down to the album.  I was impressed with Small Black's self-titled EP, which was like electronic glitter hiding underneath an incessant wave of distorted sound.  It was familiar, yet oddly other-worldly, accessible but distant, you get the idea.  The electro-thrashings and subtle melody of "Despicable Dogs" made it interesting to listen to, something new to be discovered with every listen.  With New Chain, the band sticks with this formula.  "Camouflage", the album opener, is a jarring yet agreeable song with a slightly off-kilter hook that leads perfectly into "Search Party", a 1980's New York City cocaine anthem.  "Photojournalist" is a bombastic, trippy affair, with a drugged out chorus that will undoubtedly have fans singing the lyrics that they think they hear in unison.  It's not all electro-pop goodness however, as New Chain does have a couple of faulty links, songs like "Crisp 100s" and "Light Curse" plod along without ever really going anywhere.  Overall, the album certainly lives up to the "chillwave" name, so if you're a fan, definitely check this one out, otherwise it might be wise to simply download a couple of the standout tracks.

Small Black - Despicable Dogs

Friday, November 12, 2010

Girls - Broken Dreams Club review

I managed to have a listen to the brand new Girls EP, Broken Dreams Club, about a week ago, but for various reasons I have been putting a proper review on the back burner.  I really enjoyed their debut album, Album, so I naturally assumed I would enjoy this new offering from the band.  Clocking in at six songs and just a tad over 30 minutes, it is a rather substantial effort, and well worth a purchase.  It should be noted, however, that this new EP is a more relaxed, subdued listen than its jangly-guitar driven predecessor.  Broken Dreams Club finds the duo swapping fuzz boxes for slide guitars and distortion pedals for brass sections and organs.  Notably absent is the sunny, summer party pop of songs like "Lust for Life", instead being replaced with Elvis Costello-esque lamentations of love and life.  It all feels vaguely familiar, especially when Christopher Owens sings "and they'll never know the times you cried in your bedroom/about the times you cried in the classroom/about your mother or your father or the way you got your broken heart" on the opening track, "Thee Oh So Protective One".  It feels as though these songs were written with a Sadie Hawkins dance in mind, particularly if none of the girls in school asked you to go with them.  Overall, Broken Dreams Club is worth a listen and definitely worth a purchase if you've got $10 bucks eating a hole in your pocket, just don't put this EP on if you're throwing a party.

Broken Dreams Club is out November 22nd...pre-order at Amazon.com

Head over to the bands website to grab an mp3 of the song "Broken Dreams Club" (email required)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Australian Colloquialisms

So I have been in Australia for quite some time now and I have had numerous opportunities to bask in Australia's rich culture and become friendly with the denizens of the "Land Down Under".  I feel as though most Americans opinions of Australian people are limited to the actors and actresses we see grace the big screens at our local cinemas, and we know virtually nothing of Australian culture or how people act and behave here.  Fret no more because I am going to give you a crash course on Australian culture.  Basically, the United States and Australia are exactly the same.  We're allies.  We help each other spy on each others citizens.  We both have Kentucky Fried Chicken (see video below)!

That is not to say that Australia and the United States do not have their differences (as you could probably tell from the video, they're not as concerned about potentially racist advertisements, mainly because the culture of Australia is to not take anyone or any group too seriously).  Australia tends to be more laid back than America, and certainly isn't afraid to make fun of itself...

*An Anzac is someone who served in the Australian or New Zealand military*

As I mentioned before, Americans and Australians are very similar.  One difference that stands out the most for a lot of people back in the States are the accents.  Australians, like Americans have different accents depending on where they are from, however since most Americans have little exposure to Australians, they don't see that the "Australian accent" varies quite a bit.  Living here has exposed me to dialects and slang that I never knew existed, and since I did not want to be misconstrued when I spoke (i.e. didn't want to piss someone off by calling them "buddy"), I decided to comprise my own version of an Australian Dictionary.  It's true that Australians speak English, but a lot of the slang they employ is quite different to what Americans are used to.  The following words and definitions are the words I have encountered along with the definition I was given by the person who spoke the word, and I assure you, they are all regularly used words  phrases.

Stubbie - bottle (usually beer)
Bottle-O, Bottler, Bottle Shop - package store/liquor store
Bogan - an unkempt person, someone who does not value academic or monetary pursuits
Savvy B - Sauvignon Blanc (wine)
Shocker - surprising
Heaps - a lot
Esky - cooler/ice chest
Cheers - thank you
Mate - friend
Carpark - parking lot
Park - parking space
Goon - cheap wine
Goon Sack - the bag of wine found in boxed wines
Budgie Smuggler - speedo style men's swimsuit
Feral - a blanket term for someone or a group of people who are off putting because of dress or behavior.

As I encounter new phrases or words I will update the Australian dictionary, which you can find on the right under "Pages".

A little bit of trivia before I go, Ben Folds used to live in the same city as I reside in now (or maybe he still lives here, I'm not sure).  Anyway, after living here for a while, I finally know what he's talking about in this song.

Ben Folds - Adelaide

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Videogaming in Australia

I've been playing videogames for quite some time now.  I have been to Cookie Mountain.  I've made numerous trips to Silent Hill.  I've fought zombies and unraveled vast government conspiracy theories.  I've fought as a Special Ops super soldier and saved mythical kingdoms.  Videogames have allowed me to live out fantasies and become immersed in unique worlds.  Videogames are not only entertaining, but they are interactive art.  According to the 2010 Entertainment Software Association "Essential Facts", the average gamer in the United States is 34 years old and has been playing videogames for 12 years (check out some more interesting videogame facts here).

As technology advances games are becoming more and more cinematic, interactive movies that offer hours and hours of entertainment.  I wish that I had more time to play videogames, but all I can manage to squeeze in these days are a few rounds of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 online.  That being said, one of the things I have noticed here in Australia is that videogames, both consoles and games, are ridiculously expensive, sometimes being twice the cost of the same game back in the States (if the average Playstation 3 game is $60 new in the U.S., here in Australia you can expect it to be between $109-119)!

So when Call Of Duty: Black Ops, the follow up to the best selling Playstation 3 game of all time, comes out here in Australia on Tuesday, I will not be purchasing.  Instead I will buy it in America for $54.99 and ship it over here, which will cost considerably less than purchasing it here for twice that amount.  Why does Australia jack up the prices of their games so much?  I suppose it's because they can.

While you mull that over, check out the definitive Call Of Duty: Black Ops review below.

And finally, here is the opening theme to what I consider to be some of the best music in videogames courtesy of Akira Yamaoka and the Silent Hill franchise.

Akira Yamaoka - Silent Hill

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Amateur Australian Cyclists

Apparently heaps (Australian for a lot) of Australians do think that they are Australia's next cycling champion because now that it is Spring, the amateur cyclists are out in droves.  When I first arrived in Australia, I noticed that cycling seemed to be fairly popular here, but now that it is a bit warmer out, it seems as though I grossly underestimated Australia's penchant for cycling. 
There are many amateur cyclists roaming the streets and they are as diverse as they are many.  Old, young, man, woman...they all pedal their hearts out.  They often showcase their enthusiasm for the sport in groups, tight knit cycling clubs basking in the Australian sunlight, feeling the smooth pavement under the rubber of their tires as their legs pump like organic pistons.  They are totally committed to cycling, they are one with the road in a way that cannot be attained by operating a motor vehicle.  They are a fusion of man and the will to be fit but also reach a particular destination in doing so.  They spare no expense when reveling in their passion, donning full body Lycra racing suits, lightweight aerodynamic helmets, fingerless gloves to combat perspiration and ensure a steady grip, and of course, those special expensive-looking cycling shoes that lock neatly into the harnesses of their pedals.  Their bikes are not just the forgotten mountain bike in the garage or the old Schwinn collegiate hanging up in the shed, instead, their steeds are top of line racing cycles, perfected machines that are often more expensive than my last car.  Truly amateur athletes, hearing, and rising to the challenge.
More often than not, the "cyclists" are middle-aged, overweight men with disposable incomes who have taken cycling on as a hobby, or as a "way to get in shape".  Coming from Connecticut (where I would sporadically see the lone cycling enthusiast), I asked around to see if I could determine why, here in Australia, there was such a huge influx of amateur cyclists.  I was told that when the Tour De France came through Australia, all of these people were "inspired" to get into shape, etc.  Apparently their interest wanes a bit and then resurges, since at certain times of the year you see more of them than at other times.  Good for them for taking some initiative I suppose.  Below are a couple of songs I enjoy running to, but I suppose they would be equally good for cycling.

Wolf Gang - Lions In Cages
Queen - Don't Stop Me Now
The Pass - Cross Walk Stereo

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Not a single Trick or Treater...

 So Halloween has come and gone here in Australia (and by this time, in America as well), and while we had a good time at not one, but two Halloween parties, it just didn't feel the same without the incessant doorbell ringing of sugar-starved children.  It seems that the only people who have really embraced Halloween in Australia are people in their late teens and twenties, solely because they want yet another excuse to throw a party, but who can blame them?  Anyway, above is the first pumpkin that Rhiannon has ever carved in her entire life, a pretty faithful Jack Skellington, if I do say so myself.
Rhiannon and I were Rick Deckard and Pris from Blade Runner.  I think our costumes came out pretty good (Rhiannon's trumped mine for obvious reasons).  I start work tomorrow at Myer, which is like a big department store here in Australia.  I guess my days of sitting around and riding the chillwave are over.  No more all day sessions of COD: MW 2 online.  No more pretending that "I'm a writer".  It is kind of a bittersweet day.  I'll be making money, which is good, but I won't have the freedom to spend all day doing whatever I want (i.e. see above).  I'll keep you updated on how it is.  In the meantime, I am wondering if anyone watched the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC Halloween night.  If you did then you know how awesome it was, if you didn't, watch the trailer below and frantically search the internet/local television listings to watch it.