Put your email address here for updates

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Mary Queen Of Scots

(MA15+) ★★

Director: Josie Rourke.

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Ian Hart, Jack Lowden, James McArdle, David Tennant, Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan.

"If I hear one more Mr Ed joke, I'm turning this convoy around and taking us back to Scotland."
History is interesting and filled with amazing stories and fascinating people. The tale and characters at the centre of Mary Queen Of Scots are certainly intriguing, so it's something of a surprise that this film is so underwhelming.

This is even more unexpected when you consider the talented stars on board for the two key roles, who give their all. But despite the best efforts of Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, they can't save this unfortunately dull, emotionless and fragmented saga of royals and rebellion.

Ronan is the titular Mary, and the film follows her from her return from France to Scotland in 1561 as she attempts to assert her right as the presumptive heir of the English and Scottish throne. Meanwhile her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie) is torn between the advice of her privy council and her familial affection when it comes to Mary. Soon Mary's position is under threat from all sides as she sets about trying to produce an heir to rule over both countries.

Mary Queen Of Scots flits between its two queens but with little dramatic impact. Much of the film feels like it's made up of scenes where a decision is made in Scotland, then that decision is detailed in England and a decision is made there. That decision is then discussed in Scotland and so on. That could be riveting perhaps, but none of this transpires here in a riveting fashion, partly due to a lack of context and, bizarrely, because the film never makes us give a damn about the characters.

While Ronan and Robbie (and indeed the entire cast) give excellent performances, the overall effect is one that is as cold as the hills of Scotland in winter. We never feel for anyone in particular. Even when the story's most interesting players are killed off one by one, there is no emotional weight to their deaths.

The film is also hamstrung by history in some ways. For one, its two main characters never met in real life. While I have no problem with films changing history for the sake of drama and tension, here a meeting is concocted that is utterly naff (and even laughable) and ultimately somewhat pointless, especially given what transpires after this scene. The so-called "rivalry" that's touted in the trailers sparks a little and then all of sudden we're at the end of the movie.

Instead, the story rolls on in a this-happened-then-this-happened-then-this-happened fashion. We never dwell on anything much to get a sense of emotional depth, or to feel anything. It's historically accurate in a dot-point kind of way, but I would happily trade that for something to get emotionally invested in. There is a void at the centre of this film where there needed to be some heart.

Technically, in many ways, the film is fine. It's often beautiful to look at, the costumes and make-up are excellent, and the production design is quite magnificent. But the script is lacking, which seems to be the crux of the problem. This is where the chill comes from that prevents any warmth, emotion or heart from seeping through the cold castle walls.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019


(MA15+) ★★★★½

Director: Alfonso Cuarón.

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Nancy García, Verónica García, Fernando Grediaga.

Group hug, sunburn be damned.
So what's all this fuss I hear about a Netflix movie getting nominated for a best film Oscar?

What matters is that it's a worthy nomination. The old systems are being torn down, new ones are being built, and while Roma (and The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs) got short cinema releases to appease Academy rules, these two films are evidence that streaming services are capable of pumping out Oscar-quality films.

Roma is Alfonso Cuarón's follow-up to Gravity, which saw him become the first Latin-American to win the best director Oscar and kickstarted a run that led to Mexican filmmakers winning that award four out of the last five years. He could easily continue that run here.

The film is a highly autobiographical and deeply personal look at Cuarón's youth. Set in 1970 in the Mexico City suburb of Roma, it follows a housekeeper named Cleo and the upper-middle class family she works for. Cleo tidies, serves their meals, and helps raise the children, and is as much a part of the family as the blood relatives who share the home.

But as Cleo goes about her job, her life goes through tremendous turmoil. Simultaneously, the family is going through major upheaval, and it's all against a backdrop of tumultuous times in the nation of Mexico.

Roma is an incredible blend of the everyday and the surreal, the personal and the political, the small scale and the big picture. It's a marvellous snapshot of life in a very specific time and place, but it touches on the universal themes of family. And it's as much about the bizarre and dramatic incidents that punctuate an otherwise dreary existence as it is also about the dreary existence itself, and how people keep on keeping on in the face of adversity.

It's utterly absurd in places, even laugh out loud funny on occasion, yet hits you with great emotional weight soon after. A seemingly random bushfire is the setting for a spontaneous song, an en masse martial arts group is intertwined with an important personal moment for Cleo, and there's even a bit where a man gets shot out of a cannon that is merely background noise to an otherwise mundane scene.

This is what makes Roma great - the big details going on behind the small personal ones. The Corpus Christi Massacre, in which about 120 protesting students were gunned down by a paramilitary unit is an important event, but it's not the focus of scene or what is happening in the lives of the main characters. Obviously some of the minor details in the film mean a lot more to Cuarón than the casual filmgoer, but it helps to paint a rich picture that pays off increasingly as the film progresses.

This makes for some incredible sequences, often involving a huge number of extras, and Cuarón's ability to maintain our focus on the big and the small simultaneously is exemplary. Long takes, slow pans, great depths of field, and beautifully filmed scenes mostly using natural light add to the reality of the situations. Its crisp black and white cinematography is beautiful.

Yalitza Aparicio's turn as Cleo is great, and made all the more exceptional for the fact she has never acted before in her life. She earns her best actress Oscar nod in two gut-wrenching moments, but her performance is incredibly low-key, despite her carrying the film (she's in every scene). The real MVP is Marina de Tavira as the family's mother, Sofia. Hers is the more nuanced performance, and well worthy of the best supporting actress Oscar nomination.

Could a Netflix movie win the best film Oscar come February 24? You better believe it.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Eight things about triple j's 2018 Hottest 100

The Hottest 100 has been run and won. Cue people complaining about this song beating that song, or how the winner wasn't worthy or whatever, or how triple j only plays shit these days and how much better it was 10/15/20/25 years ago.

But whether you love it or hate it, triple j's annual countdown is a snapshot of where young Australia is at musically. So let's deep dive into the 2018 list and see what it says.

The kids are alright

The majority of complaints about the Hottest 100 come from people over the age of 24. Why is this number significant? 60 per cent of voters are under 24, and 80 per cent are under 30. So if you don't agree with the countdown, it's more than likely you're not the target demographic of triple j anymore, nor are you in the age bracket of the majority of voters. With Double J replaying the Hottest 100 of 1998 the following day, you can guarantee every single person indicating a preference for the '98 countdown was over the age of at least 24 but probably 30. It's fine not to agree with the list, but so many haters need to take a step back and think about whether they're the target audience any more and just how the list is formulated, ie. by tens of thousands of young people expressing their opinions about the music they like.

Topping and tailing

Ocean Alley pulled off a rare feat by placing at #100 and #1 in the countdown. This has only happened once before - Powderfinger did it in 1999 with These Days at #1 and Passenger at #100. That year, Powderfinger had four songs in the poll; the same amount as Ocean Alley. Four other bands have won while having four songs in the countdown - Kings Of Leon (2008), Chet Faker (2014), Flume (2016) and Kendrick Lamar (2017). The only band to win and score more songs in a Hottest 100 is Queens Of The Stone Age. When they topped the poll in 2002 with No One Knows, they had five tracks from their monster album Songs For The Deaf in the countdown.

Guitars are still a thing

A common complaint about the Hottest 100 (and triple j in general) is the lack of guitars heard these days. So least test that out. Seven of the top 10 featured guitars, five of those prominently. In terms of "proper guitar music", I'd say at least 30 tracks fall into that category. Sure it's down from the peak of six strings back in 1998, but guitar music, and by extension rock, is far from dead on triple j.

Slowing down and getting sad

My colleagues at the ABC put together this fascinating distillation of the changing face of the Hottest 100. The tl;dr version (you really should read it though) is that the average tempo of songs in the countdown is slowing down and the tunes are getting mellower and sadder, yet they are also getting more danceable. Rock is declining, with indie taking its place. Throw in all the down-tempo electronica and pop getting around and you can see the trend. Also, I just wanna point out I noticed last year that yacht rock was on the rise and bam, Ocean Alley won. Just sayin'.

2018 vs 1998

Aside from rock loosening its stranglehold on the countdown, there was a really noticeable difference between the 2018 Hottest 100 and the 1998 one which sister station Double J played the following day - a sense of humour. Novelty songs have pretty much disappeared from triple j all together, but even having a wink and nod at the audience is almost unheard of these days. 1998 was obviously topped by a song having a laugh (The Offspring's Pretty Fly For A White Guy) but scan through the list and the LOLs abound - Custard, Regurgitator, They Might Be Giants, the multitude of tunes from South Park's Chef Aid soundtrack, Eskimo Joe, Barenaked Ladies, Harvey Danger, TISM, Adam Sandler, Frenzal Rhomb, and Pauline Pantsdown were all having a giggle at various parts in the poll. There are no such rib-ticklers in the 2018 countdown. When did music get so serious?

Something for the oldies

So the demographic of triple j is under 24, but the bands are getting younger too. As this triple j breakdown notes, there were a bunch of teenagers in the 2018 Hottest 100 - 16-year-old Kian (at #20 with Waiting), 16-year-old Ruel (#87 Younger and #89 Dazed & Confused), and 17-year-old Billie Eilish (#8 When The Party's Over, #17 Lovely, #46 You Should See Me In A Crown). But what about the veterans? Hilltop Hoods, who first appeared in the poll way back in 2003, had their 18th and 19th entries (which isn't far behind all-time leaders Foo Fighters and Powderfinger on 22 songs), Kanye West and Arctic Monkeys (first appearances: 2005) scraped in at #98 and #95 respectively, while The Wombats and The Presets (first appearance: 2007) were back again.

100 Warm Tunas is still an inexact science

As I mentioned in this prediction blog about the Hottest 100, social media aggregator 100 Warm Tunas is one of the best indicators of what is going to go down on Hottest 100 Day. But it's far from perfect. While it nailed #1, it was way off in other places. It had Luca Brasi's Clothes I Slept In at #28 (it was #118), Trophy Eyes' You Can Count On Me at #27 (it was #93), and Waax's Labrador at #23 (it was #88). For what it's worth, all of those songs are on the heavier/rockier end of the musical spectrum. It did get seven of the top 10 correct, although only one was in the right spot (to be fair that was the all-important #1). Still, they did better than me - I only picked five of the top 10, with none in the right spot.

Where were the winners?

Last year, six previous winners returned to the countdown. This year only three champions were back for more - The Rubens, Kendrick Lamar, and Vance Joy. But there are a couple of good winning streaks still running at the moment. Peking Duk and DMA’s have racked up songs in the past five countdowns, which puts them halfway towards The Living End’s 10-year streak (appearing consecutively from 1997 to 2006). Meanwhile Amy Shark, Cub Sport, Tash Sultana, Thundamentals, Vera Blue, and Drake have all had songs in the past three countdowns.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Who will win triple j's Hottest 100 of 2018?

Ocean Alley
The Hottest 100 is back. It's on January 27 and will once again deliver what triple j listeners deem to be the best songs of 2018, creating a musical time capsule for years to come.

It will also bring with it much debate. There will be the typical whingeing from people who don't even listen to triple j anymore and who preferred it in the '90s when they played more Pearl Jam and Chili Peppers and who haven't caught up to the fact that triple j is the national youth broadcaster and thus keeps up with the youth and not ageing morons whose musical tastes haven't moved with the times. Get over yourselves, haters.

This year's race doesn't look as one-horse as last year, although there's still a strong favourite in Ocean Alley's Confidence. But when it comes to picking a winner, there are three key indicators - the bookies, social media vote counter 100 Warm Tunas, and ARIA chart performance. The first two are somewhat obvious and are usually pretty close (although 100 Warm Tunas said Amy Shark was gonna win in 2016).

The chart thing is like the icing on the cake, but only five times out of 25 has the Hottest 100 winner failed to chart in Australia. In fact, the past seven Hottest 100 winners reached the ARIA top 10. So ignore these tea leaves at your own risk.

Let's look at who might win this year.

(All stats and odds were correct at time of publication.)

Ocean Alley - Confidence

Odds: $1.70 (favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #1
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: This yacht-rock earworm is favourite with the bookies, and 100 Warm Tunas, which is a good position to be in. It's not as strong a favourite as Humble last year, but Warm Tunas has it receiving about three per cent more votes than #2 (from a sample size over 4000) which is a sizeable lead in the scheme of things. Ocean Alley also have Hottest 100 form, cracking the countdown for the first time last year with The Comedown at #49. Their album Chiaroscuro also came in at #2 in triple j's Album Of The Year poll, which bodes really well. And as I mentioned in last year's summation (see #7), yacht rock is king.

Why it won't win: If it won, Confidence would be the first song since Knights Of Cydonia in 2007 to do so without cracking the ARIA singles charts, which means a distinct lack of crossover appeal for the casual triple j listeners. Chiaroscuro also stalled at #15 on the ARIA charts and dropped out of the top 50 after just three weeks. Maybe the charts don't mean so much these days, but it would still be bucking a trend. And can a yacht rock tune really take #1?

Childish Gambino - This Is America

Odds: $3.75 (second favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #2
ARIA Charts: #1

Why it will win: Few songs had the cultural impact of This Is America and its incredible video in 2018. It went to #1 on the ARIA charts, has had close to half a billion views on YouTube, and Gambino AKA Donald Glover has a sizeable Aussie fan base. And with Redbone going #5 two years ago, there's a lot of love in particular from the triple j set. If anyone's going to upset the favourite, it's Gambino's This Is America.

Why it won't win: Eight months is a long time in pop culture, and the tsunami-sized impact of This Is America sadly feels more like a ripple now. The bookies and Warm Tunas have Gambino at #2, which is the probably the best indication he won't win. Plus maybe there's some resentment out there because he cancelled his 2018 Australian tour.

Ruby Fields - Dinosaurs

Odds: $7 (third favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #3
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: A solo female winner is well overdue, and Ruby Fields is the best placed of the women to do it. This tune's confessional lyrics and that full band 20-second thrash with only a minute to go make it a pretty memorable song. Fields is also one of triple j's own - she was discovered through triple j's Unearthed page, and she's been given plenty of love from the station. In what could be the closest year for a while, being third favourite might be enough.

Why it won't win: Fields wasn't in triple j's 50 most played artists of 2018, and she was eighth most played on Unearthed Radio, which might mean she hasn't fully graduated to triple j. She's never bothered the ARIA charts, and she still only has an EP and a handful of singles to her name, so it seems like her star is still on the rise and maybe her best is yet to come. All the same, expect a very high Hottest 100 debut from this Sydney singer-songwriter.

Fisher - I'm Losing It

Odds: $12 (fifth favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #6
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: The bookies rated this highly when betting opened (it was third favourite), probably on the back of the Aussie DJ's Grammy and ARIA nominations for this rave party banger. It didn't trouble the main ARIA chart, but it did go #1 on the ARIA club chart, which may count for something. Plus Fisher has been doing the dance festival rounds pretty heavily this year, and this seems to be the electro track of the year.

Why it won't win: Dance music is still pretty polarising. Unlike hip hop which has crossed over to just about all corners of triple j's listener base, dance is still seen as a bit of an outlier to many. Sure Flume won a couple of years ago, but that was more pop than this. There's typically a raver in the top 10, and this is it for this year, but it's not going to #1.

DZ Deathrays - Like People

Odds: $24 (eleventh favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #13
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: The Dee-Zees have been on the rise for a while now, and this is their best track to date. Oddly it's the fourth and probably final single from their album of this year Bloody Lovely, which has already boasted a Hottest 100 entry (Shred For Summer, #66 last year). This would be their third appearance since debuting in the 2014 Hottest 100, so maybe it's time. If nothing else, it's probably time for a rock song to win again - that hasn't happened since Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire (if you don't consider The Rubens' Hoops rock, and no one does). And what about the video with Murray Wiggle in it - surely that's worth a win in itself?

Why it won't win: As noted above, rock hasn't won in a decade. If a rock track is going to do it this year, it's this one, but it has no real crossover power. The bookies initially had it sixth favourite but it's slipped as Hottest 100 Day has drawn closer. The Warm Tunas' social media collator puts it in a thick clump of more than a dozen songs separated by only a per cent or two in terms of total votes. That means it's just as likely to miss the top 10 as place fifth on those numbers.

Amy Shark - I Said Hi

Odds: $8 (fourth favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #4
ARIA Charts: #6

Why it will win: Was there a bigger female pop star in Australia last year? I don't think so. She was the 10th-most-played artist on triple j in 2018, and her debut album landed at #1 and is still in the ARIA top 20 after nearly six months. Then there were four ARIAs. She's also got recent Hottest 100 form, coming in at #2 two years ago. This pop anthem would be a worthy winner.

Why it won't win: Her massive album didn't make the top 10 in triple j's year-ender album poll, which is not a deal-breaker but a worry. This song also got flogged on commercial radio, which can be a double-edged sword. It didn't hurt Gotye in 2011, but it's a fine line between crossing over and getting a bit of tall-poppy backlash. Also she would be only the second artist (after Kendrick Lamar last year) to win after previously finishing #2.

Bring Me The Horizon - Mantra

Odds: $18 (equal eighth favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #8
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: Hip hop has finally had a win, so maybe it's time for metal? If it's going to happen in 2018, it's going to be Bring Me The Horizon that does it. While they're sounding further and further from metal these days, Mantra is the heavy song that's palatable enough for the non-metal fans, which might be the thing that gets them across the line. The band has six previous entries in the Hottest 100, including three in 2015. Maybe this is BMTH's year.

Why it won't win: In the '90s, there was one heavy tune in the top 10 most years, with the genre peaking in 1997 with Tool's Stinkfist reaching #2. But metal hasn't made the top 10 since System Of A Down's Chop Suey reached #3 in 2001 - as "alternative rock" has waned, metal has also slunk back to fringes. BMTH will likely return metal to the upper end of the countdown (top 10 no doubt), but the weird thing is that Mantra probably isn't heavy enough - its poppier inclinations have likely alienated too many old fans to get the votes needed.

Wafia - I'm Good

Odds: $16 (seventh favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #5
ARIA Charts: N/A

Why it will win: 100 Warm Tunas rates this really highly and it's odds have steadily climbed in recent weeks. It's the pump-up positive anthem of the broken-hearted for 2018 (like the opposite of Dean Lewis' Be Alright), and there's something zeitgeisty about it. There's a strong female contingent vying for top 10 spots this year, so maybe it's a roll of the dice as to who's got the goods. And I'm Good only came out in August, which makes it a lot fresher than a few other songs on this list.

Why it won't win: The bookies didn't rate it (but it has firmed up) and Warm Tunas has it at the top of a very thick peloton vying for fifth. Wafia wasn't in the 50 most played acts on triple j in 2018, I'm Good didn't chart, and she's still only a couple of EPs into her career. This is the dark horse, but Wafia probably has bigger tracks in her future.

Also likely to do well: 

Skegss - Up In The Clouds
Odds: $71
100 Warm Tunas: #14
ARIA Charts: N/A

Mallrat - Groceries
Odds: $18 (equal eighth favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #7
ARIA Charts: N/A

The Wombats - Turn
Odds: $26
100 Warm Tunas: #10
ARIA Charts: NA

Dean Lewis - Be Alright
Odds: $21 (10th favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #9
ARIA Charts: #1

Travis Scott - Sicko Mode
Odds: $14 (sixth favourite)
100 Warm Tunas: #11
ARIA Charts: #7

Broods - Peach
Odds: $28
100 Warm Tunas: #12
ARIA Charts: N/A

Waax - Labrador
Odds: $251
100 Warm Tunas: #25
ARIA Charts: N/A

Thundamentals - I Miss You
Odds: $41
100 Warm Tunas: #15
ARIA Charts: N/A

Rufus Du Sol - Underwater
Odds: $67
100 Warm Tunas: #17
ARIA Charts: N/A

G Flip - About You 
Odds: $76
100 Warm Tunas: #20
ARIA Charts: N/A

Ocean Alley - Knees
Odds: $48
100 Warm Tunas: #16
ARIA Charts: N/A

And my prediction for the top 10

  1. Childish Gambino - This Is America (this may be more wishful thinking)
  2. Ocean Alley - Confidence
  3. Amy Shark - I Said Hi
  4. Ruby Fields - Dinosaurs
  5. Wafia - I'm Good
  6. Bring Me The Horizon - Mantra
  7. DZ Deathrays - Like People
  8. Dean Lewis - Be Alright
  9. Fisher - Losing It
  10. Broods - Peach

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Seven amazing songs you won’t believe missed the 1998 Hottest 100


There were a lot of great songs in the 1998 Hottest 100 (and you can hear them for yourself when the countdown is replayed on Double J on January 28). But there were also some not-so-great songs (we’re looking at you Pretty Fly For A White Guy).

So what if some of those not-so-awesome tunes (umm, Adam Sandler?) made way for some bona fide classics? Here are seven songs that you won’t believe missed the 1998 Hottest 100.

Fastball - The Way

Marcy Playground, Harvey Danger, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fuel… the 1998 countdown had its share of bands that we never heard from in a big way ever again. But what about poor old Fastball? Their hit single The Way from the wonderfully angstily titled album All The Pain Money Can Buy was all over triple j that year. With its bar room piano and hints of rockabilly guitar, The Way spent an impressive 26 weeks on the charts, peaking at #14. Maybe its tale of an old married couple ditching everything and heading off on an adventure didn’t resonate with the young Hottest 100 voters of the day, but they’ll get it eventually if they haven't already by now.

BONUS FACT: The lyrics are based on the true story of an elderly couple who decided to head to a festival despite one of them suffering Alzheimer’s and the other recovering from brain surgery. The story, sadly, doesn’t end well.

Air - All I Need

Pop quiz: which Air song didn’t make it into the 1998 Hottest 100?
All I Need
Kelly Watch The Stars
Sexy Boy
All of the above

Amazingly, the answer is d) all of the above. While the electronica in the countdown runs the gamut from the bangers (Josh Abrahams & Amiel Daemion's Addicted to Bass at #16) to bona fide masterpieces (Massive Attack’s Teardop at #26), there was apparently no room for anything from Moon Safari, the classic debut album from Air.

BONUS FACT: The French duo called upon US singer Beth Hirsch to sing on All I Need because she was living nearby in Montmartre. Nicolas Godin, one half of Air, said her vocals “made us sound like a space-age Carpenters”.

Gerling - Death To The Apple Gerls

Having garnered some triple j buzz for their 1996 EP A Day Of Research, the trio known as Gerling entered Charing Cross Studios in Sydney and threw together their compellingly eclectic debut album Children Of Telepathic Experiences. The record bounced from spacey electronic voyages to jagged guitar rockers, with a key example of the latter being their shouty single Death To The Apple Gerls. But despite a spirited performance in October ‘98 on Recovery (which also showcased their attempt to make backpacks a must-have fashion accessory), the song couldn’t crack the Hottest 100. It took until the following year for them to finally break into the poll with Enter, Space Capsule which reached #45 - the first of three Gerling tracks to make it into the Hottest 100.

BONUS FACT: Darren Cross from Gerling went on to work with Kylie Minogue, The Avalanches, and Jagwar Ma, while bandmate Burke Reid has produced everyone from DZ Deathrays and The Preatures to The Drones and Sarah Blasko. Rounding out the trio is Paul “Presser” Towner, who is now a visual artist known as Dead Galaxy.

Refused - New Noise

How does a great song miss out on making it into the Hottest 100? Typically it’s because we mere mortals haven’t realised the song’s true greatness until much too late. Such is the case with Refused and their rallying cry for innovation and creativity New Noise. These Swedish punks released their portentously titled album The Shape Of Punk To Come in 1998 but it bombed with the critics and record-buying public alike. Halfway through a poorly received US launch tour, Refused broke up. It seemed no one was ready for the adventurous places they were taking hardcore and heavy music, which involved electronica and even jazz. Yet The Shape Of Punk To Come became hugely influential, eventually becoming regarded as a classic.

BONUS FACT: The Shape Of Punk To Come reportedly sold just 1400 copies in 1998 in the US. By 2015 it had sold 179,000.

UNKLE feat. Thom Yorke - Rabbit In Your Headlights

Thom Yorke made two appearances in the 1998 Hottest 100 - at #82 guesting with Drugstore on El Presidente, and at #55 on his band Radiohead’s lullaby for a simple life No Surprises. But there was a third song involving the Yorkester (sorry, probably no one calls him that) that could have easily made that cut. His moody collaboration with UK electro act UNKLE wasn’t a huge hit, but it became fairly ubiquitous due to Jonathan Glazer’s mesmerising film clip. A Rage regular at the time (and to this day), the clip helped elevate the single to the highly respected place it holds today.

BONUS FACT: The man in the film clip getting hit by cars is French actor, Denis Lavant. He would late appear in a mini promo clip for the Radiohead song Identikit.

Lauryn Hill - Doo Wop (That Thing)

In 1998, Lauryn Hill emerged from the ashes of The Fugees and a relationship with bandmate Wyclef Jean like a phoenix. With her debut (and still only) solo album The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill, the singer would start racking up the accolades, including a couple of Grammys and a place in history - Doo Wop (That Thing) became the first rap song by a female vocalist to reach #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. But Hill couldn’t manage a place in the 1998 Hottest 100, much like a lot of the great hip hop of the day.

BONUS FACT: Hill’s ex Wyclef Jean made the ‘98 Hottest 100 though thanks to the South Park Chef Aid track Bubblegoose. Sometimes there’s no justice in the world.

Gomez - Get Myself Arrested

When UK band Gomez took to Australian stages last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Mercury Music Prize-winning debut Bring It On, this was the track that drew the biggest singalong. But that record failed to lodge a single song into the Hottest 100, despite boasting such great Gomez singles as 78 Stone Wobble, and Whippin’ Piccadilly. Either or both of those could have made this list, but for singalong value alone it has to be this bouncy mix of reggae upstrokes, burnt-out slide guitar, and reckless euphoria. It’s certainly the song the 30-something and 40-something punters seemed to choose on Gomez’s most-recent Aussie tour, the ageing crowd voting with their voices and then some.

BONUS FACT: Gomez made it into the Hottest 100 just four times over their 20-year-plus career.


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Mary Poppins Returns

(G) ★★★★

Director: Rob Marshall.

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, David Warner, Jim Norton, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Mary Poppins: too good for chairs.
Fifty-four years is a long time to wait for a sequel. Not that anyone has been specifically hanging out for the continuing cinematic adventures of Mary Poppins, but the passage of half a century makes one thing very clear - if you're going to start meddling with the lengthy untouched legacy of a bona fide classic, you better know what you're doing.

Fortunately Ms Poppins and her magical ways are safe in the hands of Marshall, who makes this his best film since he leapt from stage to screen with Chicago. He's ably assisted by David Magee's faithful but thankfully modern script, and a catalogue of excellent songs from Marc Shaiman and  Scott Wittman.

But this would all count for nought if not for Emily Blunt, the perfect Poppins for this whimsy-filled throwback to a bygone Disney era.

This belated sequel set 25 years on finds the children of the first film - Michael (Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Mortimer) - fully grown. The recently widowed Michael has three kids of his own now (Annabel, John and Georgie) but is struggling to keep the family above water. His biggest problem is the imminent seizure of the family home due to an unpaid loan.

Enter Mary Poppins, floating in on a kite, to help light the way for the Banks family in yet another dark time.

In some ways, this is even better than the original, which has its charms but also its weaknesses. For one, Mary Poppins Returns has a much stronger plot that goes pleasingly beyond its predecessor's "learning to be a family" storyline.

The sequel's "save the family home" plot adds increased tension and drama, but also incorporates some of the diversionary goofiness of the original and makes it contribute to the story. This includes Admiral Boom, the animated sequence, and even Mary Poppins' ability to fly - instead of being entertaining oddities, these become important plot points with payoffs, which is smarter writing.

Returns is not flawless. It's too damned long, and you feel it most in a handful of the musical moments. Trip The Light Fantastic, while impressive, seems to go on forever, while a diversion to visit Mary Poppins' cousin Topsy (Streep) is okay but ultimately cuttable.

Most of the song sequences are great though, and the music and lyrics are wonderful. Particular highlights are the two tunes appearing in the classically drawn animation section - A Cover Is Not The Book and The Royal Doulton Music Hall. The first is a wonderful showcase for Miranda as lamplighter Jack, while both are key moments in a flawless turn by Blunt.

In what must have been a daunting role, Blunt absolutely nails it; not just the singing and dancing but also the subtle comedy and the quiet drama required for the performance. She heads a killer cast, with stand-outs including the three kids (Davies, Saleh and Dawson), Whishaw, and a restrained Firth in an atypical role for iconic star. The under-rated Mortimer is charming in a sadly under-utilised role, but two key cameos will warm the heart.

The film looks great, with the right mix of magic and murk. Its 2D animated sequence is particularly excellent, and overall the visuals somehow appear modern yet faithful to the original.

In fact, "modern yet faithful" pretty much sums up why this whole movie works so well. It's true to its predecessor, but it manages to find new things to say and do that don't feel out of place. I'd even go so far as to say it's better than the original in a lot of ways. And that's a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious achievement.


PS. A final somewhat irrelevant thought. Where was Mary Poppins when Michael Banks' wife was dying? Surely that would have been a perfect time for the supernanny to help the family she seems so connected to. Admittedly, that's probably a film too dark for Disney, but it's hard to fathom how "losing your house" compares to "losing your wife/mother-of-your-children" in terms of hour of need, which is when Poppins' supposedly appears. Anyway, just a thought. As you were.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The best albums of 2018

As selected by an ensemble of south-west Victoria's most talented musicians, artists, media personalities and other D-list celebrities!

In my previous life as a journalist at a particular newspaper, I would compile an end-of-year list in which I got a bunch of the top musos and musically-connected people from my region to share their favourite albums of the year. Rather than let that tradition die, I've migrated it to my blog and upped the ante by inviting even more of my super-talented friends to take part.

Hopefully you can find some great music to listen to here, including some of the great music created by some of the selectors (links are everywhere, people!).

So behold - talented people sharing their favourite music of 2018.

Nancie Schipper

1. Soccer Mommy - Clean
"My love for Soccer Mommy began when I first heard the title track Clean on the radio and immediately Shazamed it. Quickly it grew into an obsession with her clever lyrical jabs and DIY approach to indie rock/pop music. The entire album is a masterpiece, with each song being just as good as the last. Forget top album of 2018, this is THE album I will never stop raving about. Standout tracks: Your Dog & Wildflowers."

Ball Park Music - Good Mood
Eves Karydas - summerskin
Jack River - Sugar Mountain
Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
Mallrat - In The Sky EP
Middle Kids - Lost Friends
Taylor Swift - Reputation
Tia Gostelow - Thick Skin
Tiny Little Houses - Idiot Proverbs

Liam Barling (Aika)

1. Beach House - 7
"I can't say anything about this LP without sounding like a wanker."

2. Mildlife - Phase
3. Grouper - Grid Of Points
4. Takecha - Deep Soundscapes 
5. Brian Eno - Music For Installations
6. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - IC-01 Hanoi
7. Blood Orange - Negro Swan
8. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
9. Masayoshi Fujita - Book of Life
10. Pusha T - Daytona

Brady Jones (Red Eagle, Gutsy As!!)

1. Tropical Fuck Storm - A Laughing Death In Meatspace
"This has been the hardest year in sometime to nail down a top 10, let alone trying to rank it in order from 1 to 10. After much consideration however, I feel like it would be a crime to not give the highly coveted number one of Brady Jones’ Top Ten Albums of the Year to Tropical Fuck Storm’s debut. The first track, You Let My Tires Down also happens to be one of the best songs of the year. In summary, this album is dripping in best and you should listen to it. Thank you."

2. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
3. Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens
4. La Luz - Floating Features
5. King Buffalo - Longing To Be The Mountain
6. All Them Witches - ATW
7. Graveyard - Peace
8. Sleep - The Sciences
9. White Denim - Performance
10. Oh Sees - Smote Reverser

Andrew Kirkland

Gaz Coombes - World’s Strongest Man
"Great follow up to Here Come The Bombs. Gaz Coombes is one of the few writers who keeps evolving sonically and in the studio while keeping the melodies, hooks and awesome guitar sounds happening. Probably my favourite live show of the year too at The Corner. Gaz get's the nod!"

Laura Jean - Devotion
Johnny Marr - Call The Comet
Midnight Oil - Armistice Day (live)
The Glorious - Kings
White Denim - Performance
Tina Harrod - City Of Longing
The Fearless Flyers – The Fearless Flyers
Gretta Ray - Here And Now
Death Cab for Cutie - Thank You For Today

Joe Gardner (Aika, Mr John McKensie, Red Eagle)

1. Emma Louise - Lilac Everything 
"I just like it... 'cause."

2. Damien Jurado - The Horizon Just Laughed
3. First Aid Kit - Ruins
4. Israel Nash - Lifted 
5. S. Carey - Hundred Acres 
6. Jeff Tweedy - Warm
7. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
8. Colter Wall - Songs Of The Plains
9. Ólafur Arnalds - re:member
10. Tug - You're Not Exceptional, Man

Jono Colliver (Dr Colossus, Gums, Money On Verema)

1. Gurrumul - Djarimirri (Child Of The Rainbow)
"I don't think the true nature and legacy of this album will become evident for another 20 years. It's a record that forces you into a different headspace almost immediately. Both driving internally in an introspective reflection but at the same time echoing the earth, the natural and the divine. It's void of English, void of standard structures and is both ethereal while maintaining some deeply rooted human fundamental sounds. Incredible."

2. Ghost - Prequelle
3. Turbonegro - RockNRoll Machine
4. The Presets - Hi Viz
5. Sleep - The Sciences
6. Father John Misty - God's Favourite Customer
7. Didirri - Measurements EP
8. Sun Kil Moon - This Is My Dinner
8. Dwarves - Take Back The Night
9. Emma Louise - Lilac Everything
10. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

Cooper Lower

1. Matt Corby - Rainbow Valley
"This record is delicate, nuanced and addictive. It almost sounds like flowers growing. The melodies are well crafted, and the lyrics are loaded with wisdom and perception."

2. Hozier - Nina Cried Power EP
3. Didirri - Measurements EP
4. Shakey Graves - Can't Wake Up
5. The Kooks - Let's Go Sunshine

Gus Franklin (Southern Ocean Sea Band, Sheahan Drive, Gramps, Architecture In Helsinki)

1. Grand Salvo - Sea Glass
"Paddy Mann’s impressionist lyrics drift over delicately lilting and dreamy nylon string acoustic guitar strums and intimate vocal delivery, while interweaving orchestrations of amazingly recorded kora, qanun (Persian dulcimer), koto, piano and strings. Half-remembered descriptions of childhood trips to the ocean and a life-changing personal experience culminate in an overwhelming listening experience. This album is like reading a great novel, each twist and turn of phrase and melody stringing together the threads of a meta-narrative that is as perspective-shifting as it is enjoyable."

2. Dear Nora - Skulls Example 
3. Gurrumul - Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)
4. Tove Styrke - Sway
5. Nu Guinea - Nuova Napoli
6. Marlon Williams - Make Way For Love
7. Robyn - Honey
8. Laura Jean - Devotion
9. Sarah Davachi - Let Night Come On The Bells End The Day
10. Foxwarren - Foxwarren

Cobey Fletcher (The Alamo, Mr John McKensie)

1. Lucero - Among The Ghosts
"Their darkest but most balanced album to date. Still my favourite band."

2. Fraser Gorman - Easy Dazy
3. Mojo Juju - Native Tongue
4. Juanita Stein - Until The Lights Fade
5. Phantastic Ferniture - Phantastic Ferniture
6. Freya Josephine Hollick - Feral Fusion
7. Marlon Williams - Make Way For Love
8. Houndmouth - Golden Age
9. Nathaniel Rateliffe & The Night Sweats - Tearing At The Seams
10. Mr John McKensie - Room No 20

Jordan Lockett (Southern Ocean Sea Band, Silverkane, Gramps)

1. Tove Styke - Sway 
"The best pop album since Taylor Swift’s 1989.  It’s upbeat happy melodic musings become earworms for days, enticing you back for more. It’s the most I’ve played an album in years. This album has more hooks than a tackle box. It’s empowering and calming... like an abstract painting from Wassaly Kandinsky. It has huge dynamic shifts... My wife described the album as 'shifting from a tropical paradise to a safari stampede'. Highlights: every track except Vibe (ironically it has no vibe)."  

2. Janelle Monàe - Dirty Computer 
3. Ryan Downey - Running 
4. Christine & The Queens - Chris
5. Kurt Vile - Bottle It In 
6. Nu Guinea - Nuova Napoli
7. Paul Kelly - Nature 
8. Mary Lattimore - Hundreds Of Days 
9. Paul McCartney - Egypt Station 
10. Confidence Man - Confident Music For Confident People 

Jacob Pugh (Runk)

1. Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y & The Alchemist - Fetti
"Freddie Gibbs proves again and again he is one of the most consistent rappers alive. This collaboration with Curren$y was unexpected, but within a few seconds of this record opening, it becomes pretty clear how necessary it was. In the era of autotune-drenched vocals and ratchet trap beats, Fetti is undeniably gritty and authentic. The Alchemist’s atmospheric production marries perfectly with Gibbs' no-nonsense flow and Curren$y’s laidback drawl. ‘Willie Lloyd’ might be song of the year." 

Travis Scott - Astroworld
Flatbush Zombies - Vacation In Hell
Metro Boomin - Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Freddie Gibbs - Freddie
Young Thug - On The Rvn EP
21 Savage - I Am > I Was
Lil Baby - Street Gossip mixtape
Shotta Spence - 1012 EP mixtape
MF DOOM & Czarface - Czarface Meets Metal Face

Adam B Metal (The Departed)

1. The Midnight - Kids
"I have found myself gravitating to synthwave more and more the past few years. I was initially drawn in by the novelty of its sound, how each song triggered nostalgic feelings of old movies and popular songs from the era. However Kids is the first album of the genre that takes the idea of nostalgia and makes it about more than just old movies and neon lights. It tells stories of a time when life was simpler, like heading out on your bike all day to meet with friends to have adventures and play video games together. It may not be the most banger-filled album they’ve made (and it's a tad short if I’m honest) but the journey Kids takes you on is a memorable one."

Thrice - Palms
GosT - Possessor
The Ascended - Awaken Within
Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Fox Capture Plan - Capturism
At The Gates - To Drink From The Night Itself 
Perfume - Future Pop
Kalax - Kalax (2017)
The Haunted - Strength In Numbers (2017)

Andre Pangrazio

1. Nils Frahm - All Melody
"It’s a perfect bed of sonic sound to lay on."

2. Tommy Guerrero - Road To Knowhere
3. Mansur Brown - Shiroi
4. Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo
5. José González - & The Brite Lites At Svenska Grammofonstudion
6. Bill Frisell - Music IS
7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - IC-01 Hanoi
8. Beach House - 7
9. Brian Eno - Music For Installations
10. Cat Power - Wanderer

Daniel Miles (ABC)

1. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
"I agonised over my top selection a bit, but there’s something about the melancholic vulnerability of this record that sucks me in. There’s a bit of Dylan, a bit of Lennon and a lot of Tillman in this that tickles the fancy and keeps you humming his hook-filled ditties. There's also a weird sense of empathy and privacy in some of his lyrics that doesn't hit voyeuristic. Me like."

Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
Moses Sumney – Black in Deep Red, 2014
Screaming Females – All At Once
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Matt Corby – Rainbow Valley
Didirri – Measurements EP

Jack & Michael Fitzgerald (Capricorn Records)

1. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats - Tearing At The Seams

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino
Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing
Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Look Now
Amen Dunes - Freedom
Leon Bridges - Good Thing
No Mono - Islands Part 1
Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks
Kurt Vile - Bottle It In 

Brady James

1. Architects - Holy Hell
"Since losing their lead guitarist Tom Searle to a lengthy skin cancer battle the band have been working to honour his memory through songs that he never had the chance to finish. Tom features posthumously on the album and the single Doomsday which directly deals with his battle. A beautiful, loud, touching sendoff and a confident continuation of form for Architects."

Bring Me The Horizon - Amo
Mac Miller - Swimming
Aurora - Infections Of A Different Kind
Token - Between Somewhere 
Post Malone - Beerbongs & Bentleys
Xxxtentacion - ?
Travis Scott - Astroworld
Death Grips - Year Of The Snitch 
Cardi B - Invasion Of Privacy

Matt Neal (Doctor & The Apologies, Gutsy As!!, The 80 Aces)

1. Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy
"I only just discovered this is a complete re-recording/reworking of Car Seat Headrest's (AKA Will Toledo) 2011 album of the same name, which is a messy lo-fi affair. This new attempt is huge and epic and gives the songs the grandeur they deserve. It's still noisy and maintains the charm and whimsy of what is an incredibly coherent and excellent collection of songs. And while pretty much any album in my top five could have been #1, no other record gave me as much joy as this one. It's filled with every great pop guitar chord change you can think of, performed with the greatest amount of release and euphoria. An album so good they made it twice." 

2. Screaming Females - All At Once
3. Tropical Fuck Storm - A Laughing Death In Meatspace
4. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
5. IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
6. The Breeders - All Nerve
7. Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens
8. White Denim - Performance
9. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
10. Middle Kids - Lost Friends