Some things I’ve been enjoying of late!

A/N: If you subscribe to this blog via email, you may have seen this post come up before… I accidentally pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of the ‘save draft’ one, and when I ‘trash’-ed and tried to continue working on it from there, it republished it again! Sorry – please ignore them!

Right now, I’ve just started work on a couple of other, more ambitious posts, which I’m hoping will go up at least by the end of January. But in the meantime, I thought I’d muse on some of the pop culture – the TV shows, books, movies, and (of course) music – I’ve been enjoying over the past few months!

Firstly, though, I just want to say a few words about Leonard Cohen and the relentlessness of this year’s obsession with making cool people pass away. I only started to delve into Cohen’s work a few months ago – after watching a documentary made on him in the mid-’60s that my mum and I found in our favourite record shop – but he quickly became one of my favourite artists. Mum and I spent the past couple of months enamoured with his beautifully atmospheric music and poetry, and we’d only planned a couple of days before the news to listen to his newest album, You Want It Darker, together. And so we were both saddened to hear that – so soon after we’d begun to really discover his work – that he’d passed away. He will be sorely missed.

Music

Unsurprisingly, I spend the vast majority of my time reading about music. (I don’t run a food blog, after all!) It’s from this constant reading that I unearth many of the bands I haven’t yet discovered – a method that has lead my to some of my favourite artists in the world – and these past few months have been no exception on this front. Here are some notable examples:

  • Big Star: It’s been a while since I stumbled across my first Big Star song in the middle of an art class in March, but it wasn’t until I acquired a copy of their first two albums on CD that I began to delve fanatically into their discography. The band’s music is so beautiful – filled with jangling guitars and chiming harmonies, with all the twinkling prettiness of a sunny Spring day – and their story – filled with failure and tragedy, until not so long ago when their records found themselves buried deep in the collective consciousnesses of the majority of post-1985 alternative bands – fascinating. I’ve barely stopped listening to their Third album, and founding member Chris Bell’s solo compilation I Am The Cosmos, since, and I think they may be my favourite band along with Sonic Youth right now. (Bowie doesn’t really count as a “band”, does he?)
  • The Smiths: I was entirely unable to see the appeal of The Smiths – sans Johnny Marr’s guitar skills, which I’ve always appreciated – up until about a month ago. This change-in-heart was the culmination of two events: the first one involving me reading an article about Morrissey’s musical and literary influences and thus realising that I liked about 9/10ths of the artists and authors he mentioned, and the second one being me listening to ‘How Soon Is Now?’ with headphones and then thinking it was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard. I’ve since discovered that The Smiths were every bit as musically and melodically beautiful as Marr’s guitar skills had previously suggested to me, and that Morrissey’s voice and lyrics are not actually as annoying as I had found them before, but are instead rather interesting and funny. The Queen Is Dead has been my album-of-choice while drawing and painting for the past month, now! (I still love the Cure though. I can’t choose between the two!)
  • Lydia Lunch: I’ve found Lydia Lunch rather fascinating for a little while, now – her almost gothic aesthetic, her “I could care less” attitude, her involvement in the “no wave” movement (one which I find just as fascinating as well). I’ve been listening to her album, Queen of Siam, on constant repeat for a few months, and I find her music just as fascinating as I do her image. It’s so cool! It has all the arty, underground rebelliousness of the New York punk movement that preceded her no wave – but amplified, and with all the experimental spirit and dark mysteriousness that, say, the Ramones (as much as I adore them!) lacked. Plus, she worked with Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard – who are kind of national treasures here in Australia – so she gets extra points for that too. She’s so cool – go look her up now, and be inspired!
  • Blondie: I think I may have written Blondie off as a disco band in the past, which may explain why I didn’t delve into their catalogue until a few months ago. However, I haven’t let this late start stop me in developing a fanatic obsession with their music and their image. There is something infinitely fascinating about them – the way they added pop sensibilities and glamour to the CBGB scene and yet retained all the punk attitude of their contemporaries is the epitome of cool. Parallel Lines must be one of the most perfect albums of all time because of this – it’s sleek and poppy, but still alternative-ly self-assured and outspoken. And their image deserves kudos too – there is kind of a streetwise glamour to it, dirty and brassy yet beautiful and glitzy, which is my kinda thing. Plus, Debbie Harry is also a major role model of mine both stylistically and as a female musician.

TV: Twin Peaks

It took me four months to watch every episode – Fire Walk With Me included – of Twin Peaks. I started it knowing vaguely of its “cool ” status, of how it involved cherry pie and saddle shoes and some girl being murdered and “wrapped in plastic”, and of how David Lynch was involved in it and how he had also directed Mullholand Drive and of how (as much as I enjoyed it) confusing that was and how I wondered if it would be like that as well. But by the time I finished, I was completely and totally enamoured by it. It’s been well over a month since I watched the final episode, but I miss its presence in my weekends more than I’ve ever missed a TV show before… Perhaps the reason for this is of how utterly fascinating and enthralling the show’s narrative is. Exploring the devastating fallout after the murder of seemingly-flawless homecoming queen Laura Palmer, the way that its creators (Lynch and Mark Frost) explore the duality of Twin Peaks’ quaint small-town outer, and the greed, lies and pure evil that haunt it, is edge-of-your-seat thrilling. And many of its characters – some that you are destined to adore like no other from their first scene, others that you endlessly loathe and yet find compelling as a consequence – must be among the most well-developed and enthralling (and well-dressed! Case in point: Audrey Horne) in all of TV history. Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for the show is perfect, both for mirroring the show’s many atmospheres and as music in itself, too. It is simultaneously the funniest, saddest, most beautiful, most frightening – and undeniably among the best – thing I’ve ever watched. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to see how everything will pan out in the new Season 3 set for release next year!

ggs

And a quick word on the other TV show set in quirky, small-town America where all the main characters have coffee addictions – Gilmore Girls! Its special new season finally came out the other week, and while I won’t be able to watch it for a while as I don’t have Netflix (no spoilers please, then!!), my obsession with the original series – I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve watched it – has ensured that it’ll more than likely be well worth the wait! I can’t express how glad I am to welcome some of my favourite fictional characters ever back (though did they ever leave?) into my world, as demonstrated by my rather melodramatically excited reaction to the trailer. I can’t wait to see what they’ve all been up to over the past nine years – but I especially hope that Jess and Lane are still as perennially cool as when we last saw them, and that the former is as great an author as his last appearances in the original series suggested he was destined to be (team Jess! team Jess!), and Lane is back playing in a band…

Book: Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Joan Didion)

To quote an essay I penned on the book for my English class:

There are some books which are destined to entirely engross and change the course of your life. These books are perhaps the most beautiful, the most eloquent, the most thoughtful thing you’ve ever laid your eyes across, and you know – almost as immediately as you dive into the first chapter – that it will force you to spend the rest of your life rereading it on endless loop and quoting its every word to everyone you meet. I have been lucky enough to have been blessed with a couple of books of this ilk within my life. Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is one of these. Perhaps it is the greatest of them all.”

Right now, I’m convinced that Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion’s first non-fiction anthology, published in 1968 – is the greatest book I’ve ever read, and perhaps one of the greatest ever published. To me, it is almost perfect – Didion’s writing style is the most eloquent thing I’ve ever read, filled with adjectives and infinite wisdom and mystery alike; she writes of the fractured, deceivingly glamorous American “cool” that I have long been fascinated by, of a contrasting collection of figures and characters to endlessly intrigue, and of all the things both internal and external that she has come across in her personal life to which many a reader will scream “Yes! I relate!” over and over to their bedroom walls; it is also unapologetically feminine, something I hadn’t really come across in a book before and a quality that I – as a young woman – find beautiful. I’ve never been so enthralled by a piece of literature before.

Movie: Heathers 

Here are three of the many reasons why Heathers is my favourite movie, second only to The Man Who Fell To Earth:

  • It’s one of the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. The script has some of the wittiest, fast-paced one liners ever written – laced with the most ridiculous black comedy, and clever enough that they never insult the audience’s intelligence – and its merciless satire towards almost everything the world held (and holds) dear is often so cruel it’s hilarious. I don’t think anything’s made me laugh so hard, ever. Here is a good list of only a few of the script’s highlights! Plus, the plot is so twisted and kind of comically disturbing that’s it’s funny.
  • It stars Winona Ryder. ‘Nuff said. (This is coming from someone who, for a few months, watched almost exclusively movies featuring her. She is the best.)
  • And how real it is. For all of its hilarity – and its disturbing plot – Heathers is actually one of the most brutally accurate portrayals of high school that I’ve ever seen in the media. Never once does the movie romanticise or censor it – instead, it shows it exactly like it is, and the movie is all the more intelligent, confrontingly authentic and powerful for it. A reason related to this that I feel deserves a special mention of how ruthlessly disparagingly it displays the concept of high school social ladders, something that must’ve been pretty brave for a world where an originally-quirky Molly Ringwald ends up with the preppy rich kid and an even more quirky Ally Sheedy ends up being transformed into a total it-girl! The very ending – the bit where Veronica walks through the corridor (without giving spoilers away!) – is the absolute best. It’s both great humour and social commentary!

As with pretty much everything else mentioned in this post, I could talk about my immense love of Heathers for years, but let’s just leave it at a paraphrased quote from the movie itself: “It’s beautiful.” (You can deduct whether this is sarcastic or not yourself!)

And so that’s what I’ve been into over the past few months! What about you?

And just before I sign off, I thought I’d mention that today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death – hope you’re resting well, and thinking of you!

Pictures Of You…

 

PattiSmithHorses

The cover of Horses is a good example of truly great rock photography (taken by Robert Mapplethorpe)

Let’s face it: it is rare to become a fan of a band simply because the music is pretty good. While, of course, the music is a massive catalyst in such a decision, we become invested in our favourite artists for a myriad of reasons – and often, the visual chops of said artist is one of these. Think about it – it is difficult to picture the early Beatles without their Pierre Cardin-designed collarless suits, glam-era David Bowie without glittery, flamboyant catsuits and bright-red platform boots, The Sex Pistols without their Vivienne Westwood designed garb, The Cure’s Robert Smith without his teased hair and copious amounts of eyeliner… But of course, it’s a little difficult to be fascinated by a band’s visual presentation without seeing them first. And unless you’ve been lucky enough to see one of the above in real life, it is at this point that the world of rock photography enters the picture. (Pun intended.)

london calling.jpg

Joe Strummer (taken by Pennie Smith)

When I mention ‘rock photography’, I do not mean the kind that consists of the unimaginative awkwardness equal to that of your Grade 5 school photo. I mean the kind that appears to effortlessly capture the spirit of what music is all about – think the cover of Patti Smith’s Horses, the freezeframe of Joe Strummer about to smash his guitar that eventually became the cover of London Calling, that photoshoot of Bowie and his lightning bolt makeup…  So today, I’m going to name and showcase a few of my favourite rock photographers – the masters of capturing the spirit of rock’n’roll – and I’ll say a few words about them, too. Though, as they always say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Mick Rock

Most famous for photographing: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Syd Barrett

Contrary to what regular readers may assume, I didn’t discover Mick Rock’s photography via his extensive Bowie work, but through his photoshoot for the cover of Syd Barrett’s debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs. There is something so mysterious and magical about these photos – Syd (wearing smudged kohl and a pair of old velvet flares) sits among his hazy and delightfully cluttered flat, somehow effortlessly capturing the spirit of his work.

But it was his Bowie shots that made him my all-time favourite photographer. The pictures he took of Bowie throughout the early ’70s are glittery, glamorous insights into the heady worlds of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Each shot manages to translate the theatricality, the otherwordliness, the arty intellectuality, the freakish beauty of his work into what are (in my opinion) some of the greatest photos of all time. Of course, Bowie (well aware of the value of utilising both sound and vision) was photographed many times by countless photographers – but very few others managed to instinctively get what he was all about and freeze it within a few frames of film.

But then – then – I discovered that he took pretty much every famous picture of every iconic glam artist, too! His shots of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno – alongside the Bowie ones – take the dangerously dark glamour of the movement and turn it into something we can still find infinitely fascinating and a little rebellious today. And apart from this, he also took a myriad of other incredible pictures of every other artist of the time you can think of – Queen, The Stones, Blondie, The Ramones, The Runaways, The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux… No wonder he is referred to as “the man who shot the ’70s”!

http://www.mickrock.com/

Bob Gruen

Most famous for photographing: New York punk, John & Yoko – but also every other artist you can think of

Even if you don’t know who Bob Gruen is, you most certainly know his work – he was the guy who not only shot that famous image of John Lennon wearing his ‘New York City’ shirt, but who actually gave John said shirt in the first place! Gruen shot almost every other iconic artist of the era as well, seemingly turning up at every show that passed through New York (where he is from). Among his other famous shots include a “multiple image” of Tina Turner and a picture of Sid Vicious with hot dog mustard all over his face, but he’s also photographed everyone from Led Zeppelin to KISS to Dylan to Green Day to the Beastie Boys to Sly Stone to Elvis Costello to [insert first artist off the top of your head here]…

Asides from this, Gruen was a regular at New York’s most iconic venues, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City – so consequently, he also shot a who’s-who of New York underground music throughout the ’70s and ’80s! He photographed native artists like the New York Dolls, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Devo, Plasmatics, Television and Blondie – on top of non-natives, like Nina Hagen, the Pistols and The Clash – performing to their equally-fascinating audiences, juxtaposing their fashions and reactions alongside the artists themselves. In a way, Gruen is to punk what Rock is to glam – he effortlessly captures the sweaty, intimate passion that defined much of the New York scene in a way that few others have mastered. But everything he’s shot has this too. His images never fail to remind you what rock’n’roll is all about…

http://www.bobgruen.com/

David Bailey

Most famous for photographing: The Stones, Lennon & McCartney

It’s probably kind of a stretch to refer to David Bailey as a “rock photographer” when most of his legacy stems around his relationship with models such as Jean Shrimpton and the like. But perhaps it is his background as a fashion photographer that makes his pictures of a few of the biggest stars of ’60s rock so interesting and great.

My favourite of his many photoshoots is the one he did with John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the beginning of 1965. The pair are photographed in the richest tones black-and-white film can produce against a starkly cold, white background – and though the photos are obviously staged, there is a candidness to the pictures, something that seems to transcend whatever a normal photo can capture. But perhaps Bailey was always more famous for picturing The Stones; asides from shooting Mick Jagger a number of times, he also took many of the band’s album covers, including their self-titled sophomore effort, US release The Rolling Stones, Now! and most famously Aftermath. Other musicians he’s shot include Marianne Faithful and Alice Cooper.

http://www.visualartists.com/artist/davidbailey/

Janette Beckman

Most famous for photographing: British punk and new wave

While Bob Gruen was capturing New York punk, Janette Beckman was busy photographing the various circles among the British musical underground at the same time. Like him, she managed to shoot a who’s-who of her scene, her work encompassing artists like Siouxsie Sioux (the subject of her first photoshoot), Public Image Ltd, The Jam, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Undertones – even The Who! She also captured a number of American artists who passed through town, too, such as Lydia Lunch, The Cramps and Debbie Harry. Beckman also shot a number of images of young people in Britain at the time, illustrating the assorted tribes – punk, mod, ska, and so on – that found themselves scattered around the country at the time, and later went on to shoot a bunch of hip hop groups in the ’80s.

In contrast to Gruen and Rock, her images rarely show her subjects performing onstage – instead opting for staged shoots and backstage candids – but this doesn’t stop her from capturing the spirit and ethos of the movements around her. Her shots capture the passion and philosophies of the artists in fascinatingly inventive ways – the way she captures the feeling of the music is perhaps only precedented by Mick Rock. Her work is quirky and endlessly interesting, an incredible document of much of the greatest music of the time.

http://janettebeckman.com/

Brad Elterman

Most famous for photographing: candid shots of a who’s-who of ’70s rock’n’roll

Unlike the other photographers in this list, Brad Elterman did not become an official photographer until a few years into his career. This is illustrated by my favourite story about him – of how, in 1976, he was denied a photopass into Bowie’s recording studio during the making of Station to Station, so instead opted to wait outside the studio and ambush Bowie and his crew as they left that night. Despite this, though, he still managed to photograph a heap of major faces in ’70s rock’n’roll, and in a way that many of his official counterparts would be incapable of.

Elterman’s shots are candid and compelling in a way that more professional photoshoots are not. He so easily shows the emotions and lives of his subjects – his pictures are relaxed and fun, and they capture a certain realism about the whole thing. He’s photographed everyone from Joan Jett to Bowie, Dylan to John and Yoko, Michael Jackson to Joni Mitchell, and there is just something so special about each! There is no-one who has shot the rock’n’roll world with his unbelievably unique eye before or since, and it is this that makes his work so great…

http://www.bradelterman.com/

And so, who are your favourite rock photographers? What are your favourite pictures of rock music? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Making Mixtapes: Autumn Edition

I know, I know, it's a massively-cliché stock photo... But hey! At least it's pretty!

I know, it’s a cliché stock photo… But hey! At least it’s pretty!

Late Autumn and early Winter is my favourite time of year – the searing heat of Summer turns into breezy, hazy sunshine, that soon finds itself becoming a satisfying brand of icy, crisp cold. Everything just seems so dreamy, so magical, so perfect. So maybe the climate is to blame for the fact that almost all of my favourite musical memories occur somewhere within the cooler months of the year. And considering that, in Australia, we are entering the final weeks of Autumn, I thought it would be especially appropriate to make a ‘mixtape’ of a few of these today!

‘Penny Lane’ – The Beatles

I remember the day I bought my first Beatles album (1, for the curious): it was the 10th of July, 2013. I’d never heard anything so thrilling in my short life, and I listened to it on endless repeat for the remainder of the year. The day after The Purchase, however, I was hanging out with my best friend at the time, a more seasoned Beatles fan who actually introduced me to them in the first place. We spent much of that afternoon listening our favourite songs, dancing and chanting the words we knew. I remember picking ‘Hello Goodbye’ and ‘Help!’ – and I remember that she picked ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Yesterday’, among others. But she also picked ‘Penny Lane’, a song I was yet to hear, then. And as I listened, there was something just so magical about the song – whether it be its surrealism or inventive band arrangement or the beautiful melody of the lyrics – something that moved me like no song had before… I couldn’t have had any idea as to how monumentally that moment would change the course of my life. I wouldn’t be a rock’n’roll fan without it.

‘Sugar Man’ – Rodriguez

I first learnt of Rodriguez – a cult musician who created quirky, psychedelic folk in the early ’70s – in April 2014, via a documentary on his life that lead to a major resurrection of his work. His discography fascinated me from the first listen – partly because it reminded me of The White Album, but also because it was ‘weird’ in a way I didn’t yet know music could be. The best-know track off Cold Fact – his debut – is a freakishly beautiful folk song called ‘Sugar Man’ – whirring synths and woodwind arrangements accompany his echoey guitar and his voice, which is only describable is incredible… At a time when I felt that listening to artists other than The Beatles equated betraying them, his music became one of my favourite things in the world.

The following Spring, I saw Rodrgiuez play in my hometown. It was my first proper gig, and what a great one it was! He still sounded incredible, and to this day I consider it one of the greatest nights of my life…

‘Sunday Morning’ – The Velvet Underground

I first heard the phrase ‘Velvet Underground’ on the night that Lou Reed died – everyone was talking about him, and though I remain mildly annoyed that I only got into his work afterwards, it was through this that I learnt of his first band. I never felt compelled to listen to them, however – that was, until, I first heard a cover of ‘Sunday Morning’ one night, in May 2014. I felt like I knew it (I didn’t), like it and I were meant to be – and it happened to be one of my mum’s favourite songs. As we listened, she told me of how The Velvet Underground had played a part in the the soundtrack of her 20’s, and she told me to go and look the original version up. The next day, I did just that, and its immense beauty captivated me – it is hard to explain in words the affect it had. The Velvets have continued to captivate, inspire and influence me ever since…

‘Lust For Life’ – Iggy Pop

In the Winter of 2014, my mum and I decided we’d listen to CDs in her car instead of the radio. So we sifted through the glovebox, and found – among the stacks of children’s novelty albums and musical soundtracks – the soundtrack to Trainspotting. We inserted the CD into the player, and soon enough, this ferocious rhythm burst out of the speakers – and then this sneering, couldn’t-care-less voice joined it all, too. ‘Lust For Life’ was dangerous, tough, fiery, in a way that I didn’t realise music could be. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the next thing about Iggy Pop, that my days of blasting ‘Search and Destroy’ and ‘1969’ at maximum volume were still years off, that I hated punk rock; I wanted to dance. I was hooked.

‘Isn’t It A Pity’ – George Harrison

By the middle of 2014, I’d officially listened to every Beatles song, so I’d begun to delve into their solo catalogues as well. One particularly cold and dark July day that year, I was sitting – or shivering, rather – in an apartment in Melbourne  when I finally decided to listen to All Things Must Pass. There was something so dreamy, so warm about the album – it was the definition of ‘ethereal’, and it seemed so bright, in contrast to the dark clouds that loomed outside my window. I was introduced to ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ that afternoon – a song that was perhaps the warmest, the most shimmery of them all, and one that I’ve loved ever since. It is the perfect song for dark, cold Winter nights…

‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ is perhaps the definitive late-Autumn song. The warm, twinkling beauty of the guitar and Buckley’s beyond-incredible voice seem to be the sonic equivalent of the hazy, dying heat of Australian Aprils. Like the weather, the song seems like something of magic, too. I first heard it in June or July 2014, after my guitar teacher told me about it. All I remember was how overwhelmed I was, of how I thought it sounded almost as beautiful as my favourite Beatles songs. There weren’t too many songs that made me cry, then – but this was one of them.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ – The Beatles

It was August, 2014 when I decided, rather innocuously, that I was going to listen to Revolver one afternoon. This, of course, wasn’t an uncommon decision at the time – Revolver was my all-time favourite album, after all. So I placed it on the turntable, and I began to listen. Everything seemed perfectly normal to me – until I reached ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. I’d listened to it a thousand times before, but that afternoon I felt something I’d never felt before. I realised just how incredible, how beautiful the song – and the album – was; I became entirely overwhelmed by this immense love for the music. I’d been a music fan for a while, at that point – but it wasn’t until that day that I realised how powerful it was.

‘Waterloo Sunset’ – The Kinks

In the March of 2015, I borrowed a biography on The Kinks from a nearby library. I found their story fascinating – not always in a good way, yet endlessly interesting nonetheless. And, I mean, I’d heard ‘Waterloo Sunset’ countless times before reading the book, but I’d never appreciated it – I’d always liked their early garage ventures (‘You Really Got Me’; ‘All Day and All of the Night’) more. But as I read, I realised that Ray Davies is a certified songwriting genius, and I felt compelled to listen to it properly. And of course, I also realised how wrong I’d been to take it for granted, and by the time it was through, I’d concluded that it was among the greatest songs of our time. I do, after all, have ears…

‘The Real Me’ – The Who

I first heard Quadrophenia in the Autumn of last year. On May 19th – Pete Townshend’s birthday – to be exact… At this point in time, I was becoming a massive Who fan – I’d read Townshend’s autobiography, I’d played my CD of Tommy so many times that the fancy gatefold had started to ever-so-slightly fall apart… But Quadrophenia blew my mind like no other Who album ever had. It was ambitious, but it was also one of the greatest I’d ever heard – it was so passionate, so expertly crafted, so captivating, and oh, how I loved the brass arrangements! ‘The Real Me’ was what started it all – everything about it was so energetic, so flawlessly recorded and it made you want to dance, too. To this day, it’s my favourite Who song.

‘Miss Amanda Jones’ – The Stones

Some Kind of Wonderful – not The Breakfast Club, not Pretty in Pink – is my favourite ’80s movie. This is for a number of reasons; mainly because the protagonists are both quirky outsiders who, unlike PiP‘s Andie and TBC‘s Allison, never compromise who they are – but also for the fact that one of the characters is named after a Stones song. ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ (the song in question) is ridiculously underrated – it’s a seemingly conventional rock song on the surface, yet Keith Richards’ fuzzy guitar turns it into a darkly psychedelic freak-out. It also happens to be on my favourite Stones album, Between the Buttons. It’s the most perfect song for a movie about two people who never apologise for not ‘fitting in’ – it’s so freaky, yet it’s so great… I listened it on repeat all through the coldest, darkest Winter days last year!

‘Old Man’ – Neil Young

Like ‘Hallelujah’, Neil Young’s music is, to me, the sonic equivalent of the beauty of late Autumn. His voice, his guitar, his songwriting style all resonate with the most beautiful melancholy warmth that is so innately satisfying to the listener. Harvest is easily one of my all-time favourite albums because of this. And ‘Old Man’ happens to be one of my favourite songs, too. There’s just something about it – his achingly beautiful voice, the thoughtful lyrics, its catchiness, the exquisite guitar, backing vocals… It really is the perfect song to listen to as the final rays of sun shine on your back, as Summer draws to an end.

‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ – The Only Ones

Before the beginning of last year, I hated punk rock. But then I watched a documentary on Joy Division and decided it wasn’t so bad – and that Unknown Pleasures was amazing. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to the Only Ones that I grew to love it.

In the Winter of last year, my mum found her Only Ones album in her vinyl collection, and we decided to play it sometime. But first, we looked up ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. I was instantly hooked. Listen to the song: the gritty power chords, the pretty melody. I decided it was one of the greatest I’d ever heard, and consequently, I finally felt compelled to listen to the punk bands that I’d read so much about. In hindsight, the Ones aren’t actually that punk (though this does nothing to diminish how much I like them). But they were an incredible gateway, and for that I owe them a lot!

‘Gloria’ – Patti Smith

I’d read a lot about Patti Smith, and of how Horses was supposedly one of the greatest albums of all time. So last July, I bought it. I wanted to see if it was really that amazing. I placed it in my CD player as soon as I had the chance – I turned it up loud, sat nearby and pressed ‘play’. The first track began innocuously enough, and it confused me; wasn’t Patti supposed to be punk? Why is it just piano chords? But then, she sang the first line: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.’ There are few times in my life where I’ve felt as liberated, as incredible as I did in that moment. And of course, ‘Gloria’ turned into the most incredible rollercoaster ride of poetry, bohemianism and her unique brand of minimalist rock. By the time it faded out, my life would never be the same again.

‘Suffragette City’ and ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – David Bowie

Funnily enough, David Bowie was one of my first musical discoveries – I became a music fan in 2013, after all, a year in which his presence was unavoidable. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I actually began to listen to him, and before August 2015, I really was only a casual fan. But the first Bowie song I loved predates that August by a couple of months – ‘Suffragette City’. I first heard it in an episode of Gilmore Girls, yet I didn’t realise how amazing it was until I listened to it minus the context of my favourite TV show. It is hard to forget how it blew my mind – how edgy and thrilling it sounded, how I couldn’t keep my feet still, how I couldn’t stop grinning for the entire duration of the song, how I couldn’t help but scream ‘Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!’ with him. I promptly added it to my last ‘Making Mixtapes’ post (from last July), and in one draft, added that I soon hoped to become more than a casual fan of his work…

By the time I heard ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ – only a few months later – I was well beyond casual fandom. I’d seen the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition a couple of weeks beforehand, and he’d stormed into my life and almost entirely changed how I saw the world. I’d spent those weeks in a daze, so overwhelmed by his art, and I listened to him whenever I had the chance. Hunky Dory was among the first of his albums that I discovered, and there are few I love as much as it. I fell in love with ‘Pretty Things’ on my first listen – I loved the chords, and the singalong chorus, and his juxtaposition of darkly philosophical lyrics and upbeat melodies. I remember listening to it at school all the time last year, feeling cool and comfortable in myself in a way I hadn’t really experienced before. He made me realise that I didn’t have to change myself, that I didn’t have to ‘fit in’ to be comfortable in my own skin.

‘Teen Age Riot’ – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was first recommended to me at the end of 2014. I tried listening to them then – and I decided I liked one of their songs (‘Sunday’) but that they were too ‘weird’ for me. But as 2014 turned into 2015, and as my music taste became progressively freakier, I tried again that Winter – but this time, I adored them. ‘Teen Age Riot’ is a song prone to obsessive fanaticism, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s magical, hypnotic – as Kim Gordon chants about ‘sweet desire’ to clashing guitars, and as Thurston Moore frantically sings its lyrics to punky, noisy rhythms. It’s one of the songs that enters and changes your life so fast – one that you’ll listen to on endless repeat while chanting the lyrics by heart. It’s so unconventional, yet it’s so rewarding. I’ve proudly called myself a Youth fan ever since my first listen.

 

‘Kiss Off’ – Violent Femmes

When it was announced that the Violent Femmes were on the bill for this year’s WOMADelaide (a music festival I’ve attended every year since I was 8 or 9), my mum and I were so excited. I’ve been a Femmes fan ever since she played me their 1991 album, Why Do Birds Sing, in the Spring of 2014. But in the months that lead up to the festival, I dived deeper and deeper into their catalogue, and listened to their classic debut on constant repeat for at least a month or two… ‘Kiss Off’ was my favourite track off it, even if mainly for the frantic chant of ‘Everything! Everything! Everything!’ at the end of the bridge.

And of course, their set at the festival was every bit as amazing as I expected. I sang the lyrics to almost every song, dancing madly and raucously applauding at the end of each. I even managed to get my CDs signed by bassist Brian Ritchie afterwards!

‘Just Like Honey’ (The Jesus and Mary Chain)/’Boys Don’t Cry’ (The Cure)

For some reason, these songs are linked in my mind. I first (deliberately) heard them, back to back, while working on an assignment for my Music class a month or so ago. ‘Just Like Honey’ was first: it appeared as a ‘recommended video’ on YouTube, and I decided to listen – I’d been meaning to try the Jesus and Mary Chain for a while, after all. I had high expectations for the song, yet I couldn’t have predicted how amazing it would be: the booming drums, the guitar (so laden with gritty effects that it seemed to shimmer and twinkle), Jim Reid’s flowing voice, the melody. It was just so impossibly pretty – it sent shivers down my spine. I haven’t been able to get enough of it since!

Despite trying multiple times, I’ve never been able to ‘get’ The Smiths – so perhaps that’s why I only began listening to The Cure earlier this year. On the day that I discovered ‘Just Like Honey’, I’d only listened (yet also really liked) to a couple of their songs – so when YouTube recommended ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ after ‘Just Like Honey’, I thought I’d try it, too. I wasn’t surprised to discover I loved the song, as well – Robert Smith’s voice sounded so great, and I loved the hook that ran between the verses. I ended up singing it to myself for the rest of the day, and right now, it’s definitely among my favourite songs…

‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ – Big Star

Sometimes it takes only one song to entirely fall in love with a band’s discography. ‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ is one of those songs. I first listened to it a month or so ago, during my Art class, as the Autumnal sun poured through the window and onto my sketchbook. Its beauty entirely overwhelmed me. And it really is beautiful – the achingly exquisite guitar, Alex Chilton’s stunning voice, the dreamy backing vocals, the lyrics, the chiming, pretty melodies… It is one the most perfect songs in history. It’s just incredible.

‘God Only Knows’ – The Beach Boys

Last month, my mum and I went to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds. We decided, quite literally, a few hours before, but it was certainly among the better decisions we’ve made… While we may have been sitting in the back row, and Brian’s voice mightn’t have been so great anymore, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Just knowing that the man sitting in front of the white grand piano on stage wrote one of the greatest albums of all time was enough. As one would expect, the performance of ‘God Only Knows’ was one of the greatest moments of the night – the silence, the admiration that spread through the theatre was spine-chilling. At its end, we all gave him a standing ovation – and then he told us to sit down so he could start the next song!

‘Here Comes Your Man’ – Pixies

I feel like I came to the Pixies kind of late. I was so busy obsessing over Sonic Youth that I almost forgot about the other definitive 80s’ alternative band. Yet, not too long ago, I listened to Doolittle for the first time with slightly strange expectations – I wanted it to be amazing, but I never thought it could equal Daydream Nation. But as I played it, I became more and more hooked as the album progressed – their combination of arty noise and conventional melodies fascinated me. ‘Here Comes Your Man’ must be my most-played YouTube video of late – there is something so great about Black Francis’s voice on the track, the pretty, poppy melodies in the context of, well, the Pixies… So I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since, and you know what? I reckon I like them just as much as SY!

‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ – David Bowie

Despite the fact that I’d been beyond excited about it since rumours started spreading of its existence, I didn’t listen to Blackstar on the day it was released. I’d preordered it on vinyl as soon as the chance was available, and I knew it was going to be incredible – so I decided I would wait until my vinyl arrived, so I could truly appreciate its greatness on the first listen. Of course, between its release and its arrival on my doorstep, something happened: it was announced that David Bowie had passed away. That night, a lot of things flew through my head as I tried to contend with my grief – one of these things was an incredible regret, as I’d never have the chance to listen to the album without its now-apparent context…

My copy of Blackstar arrived a week later, almost to the minute. It sat on my record player for a couple of weeks, but eventually, I worked up the courage to play it. This was a strange experience; musically, I loved it, yet I found it incredibly difficult and emotional to listen to, as well. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’  was perhaps the pinnacle of this – it was such a great song, yet it also happened to the most melancholy on the album. Yet, I still love it. It sounds like the future, so heady and positively intergalactic – proof that Bowie will always be 20 years ahead of the rest of us. A few weeks ago, a music video was released for it. It was so beautiful – surprisingly uplifting, too – and I gained even more of an appreciation for the song. As I watched the video, it proved to me that my sadness at his passing would never lessen the incredible way his art makes me feel – it remains too powerful, too brilliant for that…

‘Perfect Day’ – Lou Reed

And so, I find myself at the beginning, again. I, too, first heard this on the Trainspotting soundtrack – yet unlike ‘Lust For Life’, it wasn’t love at first hearing. ‘It’s not as good as the Velvets,’ I remember telling my mum at the time. Yet, at some point – last year? this year? – something really changed. Because now it – a song recorded by one of my favourite artists and produced by another (Bowie!) – is among my all-time favourite. It’s so incredible, so beautiful, so moving. I’d be glad to spend any day with this song, perfect or not…

So, what are your go-to songs as the cold weather begins to set in? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

You can listen to the whole thing here!

And here’s an appropriately-themed song to finish off…

My Favourite Albums of 2015

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Well, finally… This post has been 3 months in the making, haha. Alas, here it is…

I was really disappointed with this year’s triple j Hottest 100. For a supposedly-prestigious countdown of the year’s best alternative tracks, this year’s edition consisted almost entirely of EDM. I find it saddening that this is what triple j (previously huge supporters of our local alternative scene) has come to – a stream of soulless, forgettable club music, that, in the end, is really ‘pop’. To quote The Church’s Steve Kilbey’s article on the 100 for The Guardian, “I thought triple j would have a lot more edge than this smooth, manufactured fare.”

I don’t, however, feel that this accurately represents the year that was. For in my opinion, 2015 was the greatest year for music since at least the mid-’90s. Though my thoughts that the EDM trend had faded were obviously incorrect, there were plenty of inventive, affecting releases to make up. The keyboards and synths of 2014 faded a little – guitars making a triumphant return to the alternative arena in their place; the ‘album’ made a huge comeback, so many of the following carefully sequenced as only the greatest pieces of musical art are; many now-“retro” genres (psychedelia, grunge, old-school punk and folk) experienced perhaps their greatest rebirths in recent years, creating work easily as good as those of their predecessors. And while my faith in the current music scene was thrown into jeopardy a good number of times, the following 10 albums (and so many more, too!) more than reassured me. Perhaps 2015 will go down in history as my generation’s ‘1967’ – for I know that so many of these albums will be seen as classics and will change lives in years to come. So here goes…

(I should also mention that this list is by no means complete. There’s still a lot of albums from last year that I haven’t yet been able to listen to! Perhaps there will be a follow-up to this post at some point…)

10. Currents (Tame Impala)

currents tame impala

Currents was easily the album I anticipated most on this list. However, I was a little disappointed. Though I remain a fan of Kevin P. & Co’s work, the swirly guitars that had drawn me to their discography had been replaced by club-worthy synths and drum machines. Their fascinatingly-weird brand of psychedelic rock was now pop.

Despite this, I still loved Tame Impala’s latest effort. Kevin Parker far from neglects the idiosyncratic, kaleidoscopic edges of Lonerism and Innerspeaker, each track still sounding as hypnotically psychedelic and, well, a little out of place as the work that preceded it. Each track swirls through your mind, a showcase for Parker’s incredible musicality, his voice sounding like John Lennon on Revolver, the synths a suprisingly-earcatching hybrid of Spiritualized and pop music. It is just so much more inventive and weird than so much of the stuff it is lined up against! Currents proves Parker’s status as music’s residential genius right now is more than deserved. His work truly is among the greatest of our time.

START WITH: ‘Cause I’m A Man’

[BUY]

SEE ALSO: I Went To See Tame Impala!

9. Depression Cherry (Beach House) 

depression cherry beach house

After a 3-year break, Beach House were famously prolific in 2015 – following up August’s Depression Cherry with October’s Thank Your Lucky Stars. And perhaps it was just the anticipation (and the velvet cover…), but the former wins out for me.

Depression Cherry is exquisitely delicate and positively other-wordly from its first chord. Listening to it is like being caught in the most beautiful dream – the instrumentation subtle yet lush, spellbinding, ethereal. The synths, like sonic gossamer, flicker and swirl around your mind, embellished with jangly lead guitar, sheer bells and dreamy vocals. It is so calm, so gentle, so warm, and will undoubtedly leave you spellbound after the first listen…

START WITH: ‘Beyond Love’

[LISTEN/BUY]

8. Slow Gum (Fraser A. Gorman)

slow gum fraser a gorman

Good news – there’s more where Courtney Barnett came from! Fraser A. Gorman is an artist signed to Milk! Records (the record label Barnett and her partner Jen Cloher began in 2012), and his 2015 debut – though not receiving the same incredible success of hers – is just the best, too!

Slow Gum is steeped in old-school folk and Americana (the cover even evoking The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan!), also taking cues from – as his bio notes – artists like Transformer-era Lou Reed and Big Star; yet it doesn’t rehash the past. In true Milk! Records style, his lyrics are charming and quirky, telling stories reflecting love, life and what it’s like to be a young Australian right now. The music is equally charming and quirky – it’s laidback, slightly sleepy, nostalgic yet anticipates what’s to come. It’s driven by the greatest acoustic guitar, a fiddle (!), surprisingly rock’n’roll drums, glowing electric organ, lead guitar that goes from Neil Young to Courtney Barnett in the space of a song, pretty harmonies, and his vocals are like a sweeter, Australian Bob Dylan. It’s just so great – the kind of thing you’d listen to as Summer comes to its end, that you’d sit in the sun on Sunday morning and sing along to over coffee and toast. A painfully-underrated cut from last year that deserves your attention!

START WITH: ‘Shiny Gun’

[LISTEN/BUY]

7. b’lieve i’m goin down… (Kurt Vile)

blieve im goin down kurt vile

I’ve never previously counted myself as a fan of Americana music, but as soon as I heard the beginnings of b’lieve i’m goin down…‘s ‘Pretty Pimpin’, this was completely irrelevant. Maybe it’s the song’s guitary stomp, which makes you want to immediately get up and dance, or Vile’s idiosyncratic vocals and rambling lyrics, or something else entirely – but I found it deliciously addictive, and have barely stopped listening since.

This brand of quirky, introspective folk rock is just as great throughout the remainder of b’lieve i’m goin down. The music is raw, welcoming and hooking – boasting some incredible fingerpicking, a lead guitar that sometimes lays in its country roots but more often finds itself in territory dominated by tougher rock’n’roll – that goes from wailing to stabbing between tracks, subtle keys, a banjo. Vile’s voice is delightfully unusual and slightly deadpan in its stylings, yet the melodies he sings are the kind you’ll be humming for days to come. The lyrics he writes are wonderfully rambling and contemplative, recounting an inner monologue in his fascinating manner. Another record that you’ll fall in love with on the first listen, and one that won’t leave your turntable/MP3 player for weeks to come!

START WITH: ‘Pretty Pimpin’

[BUY]

6. Quarters! (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard)

quarters king gizzard and the lizard wizard

Beach House weren’t the only overly-prolific band of 2015. In fact, last year’s release schedule for infamously-prolific psych rockers King G & Co. was fairly normal! True to form, the band released two albums last year: Quarters! in May, and Paper Mache Dream Balloon in November… Unlike the latter album (which was announced to much fanfare and met with great anticipation), Quarters! came out quietly in late Autumn, not even released on CD. The album only contains four tracks – each of them precisely 10 minutes and 10 seconds long! – and is a lot simpler than the Tame Impala/POND cuts to which they’re compared. But this does nothing to diminish its undeniable greatness.

Quarters! consists of some kind of dreamy, psychedelic magic, the kind that will leave you spellbound with its incredible beauty. It’s not overpowered by outlandish busy-ness, like POND and Tame Impala, instead celebrating its weirdness in a starker – yet just as satisfying! – manner. Jangly jazz chords play softly throughout each of the four cuts, paired with soulful vocals, hazy guitar arpeggios, gentle reverb, shimmering keys – making for space-agey doo-wop tunes and giddy, experimental freak-outs and foggy folk tracks, the kind of things fit for the fading warmth of Australian Autumns… And while it’s still heaps of fun (KG&TLW have always been unapologetic about the fact that they’re among the silliest bands around), the album is perhaps more affecting than its successor – the kind of music that digs deep into your mind, that becomes a favourite that you’ll play until it wears out, that makes you want do stuff yourself. It quietly accepts its freakishness, and celebrates this – and that’s why it’s so good. The album is so brilliant, so strange, so fascinating – you’ll never get tired of it!

START WITH: ‘God Is In The Rhythm’

[LISTEN/BUY]

5. Man It Feels Like Space Again (POND)

man it feels like space again pond

POND have always garnered a number of comparisons to Tame Impala, not least because 3/5ths of its current lineup have been touring members of the latter act. But although POND’s 2015 effort did not receive the accolade of Tame Impala’s, I have to say that I prefered it – considerably.

Man It Feels Like Space Again is a delightfully spacey, exciting affair, stumbling from track to track in a hazy, psychedelic dream. Each is drenched in effect – dreamy reverb, unsettling synthy strings, chugging phasers, erratic fuzz -, driven by brilliantly eccentric drums, layered with floaty vocals (mixed lower than usual – sometimes practically inaudible – but to great effect!), embellished with the prettiest, spaciest guitar, echoing – and even rivalling – the madly psychedelic moods created by many artists in the late-’60s. It’s unpredictable – ranging from glammy disco cuts to foggy waltzes – and so weird, so much more experimental than many of its contemporaries. Dominated by a ‘more is more’ philosophy, it swirls from the speaker, bursting at its sonic seams with with its bizarreness. With each listen, you’ll notice something new – it really never gets old. Man It Feels…, despite its relative obscurity in comparison to Currents, is just so much more weird, more interesting, more unpredictable, more fun. And that is why I’m still listening to it so much, over a year since its release…

START WITH: ‘Elvis’ Flaming Star’

[BUY]

4. Feels Like (Bully)

feels like bully

Listening to Feels Like is a little like running back to the ’90s, when the majority of alternative bands employed guitars to play their brands of punk and grunge instead of poppy synths, and when the most acclaimed female musicians were more Kim Gordon than Beyonce. But that’s kind of simplistic – for Tennessee punk band Bully’s debut LP sounds too fresh, too great to be but a mere throwback.

Feels Like begins with the visceral, thrilling ‘I Remember’, which rips through your speakers with its ferociously loud guitars, whirlwind drums and singer Alicia Bognanno’s howls and screams. The rest of the album is the same – a collection of impassioned punk anthems, ready-made for playing on constant repeat. The music is fierce and relentless, thrashing itself through each song, reminiscent of Sonic Youth, Pixies, early Sleater-Kinney. It is inaccessible, yet kind of anthemic, and it’s punk – refreshingly hard and edgy, and just as good as the bands that inspired it. Alicia Bognanno’s voice is just the best, too…  And Bognanno’s lyrics are undeniably brilliant – like the Slits before her, she writes relatable lyrics that effortlessly capture the thoughts and anxieties of so many girls, the kind an introverted, teenage music-geek would scribble all over their schoolbooks and quietly quote to themselves in their bedrooms. And Feels Like is the kind of record that celebrates what it’s really like to be a teenager in this world, painfully relatable, and why I, for one, love it so. It is one for playing on constant repeat until you wear it out, and one for quietly sneaking onto a party playlist to prove that you’re cooler than everyone else. And one that once you start, you won’t be able to get enough of…

START WITH: ‘Trying’

[LISTEN/BUY]

3. Ivy Tripp (Waxahatchee)

ivy tripp waxahatchee

Listening to Waxahatchee’s Ivy Tripp is like crowding around a fire on a particularly cold Winter’s day. It is warm and inviting, quirky and impossibly pretty. Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) compiles each instrument – the guitars, keys, synths, drums – in a delightfully “DIY” manner, the kind of thing you’d record with your newly-formed indie band in your bedroom (but in the greatest way possible). It seems so delicate, fragile, yet leaks with passion and independence. And her vocals – so strong, yet so flowing – must be among the most beautiful I’ve heard. The kind of record you’ll fall in love with as soon as the first chord begins, and that demands to be played on repeat for years to come.

START WITH: ‘La Loose’

[LISTEN/BUY]

2. No Cities To Love (Sleater-Kinney)

no cities to love

2015 marked the return of the incredible Sleater-Kinney, a band of three immensely talented women whose mix of scuzzy guitars, powerful vocals, catchy melodies and confident lyrical matter have continually inspired and reassured many a girls’ (myself included) love of rock’n’roll, as well as establishing themselves as among the greatest rock bands of our time. No Cities To Love not only reiterates these statements, but establishes itself as among the band’s best records yet.

Cities flings itself from track to track with an incredible excitement and energy, almost never matched by newer bands. Carrie Brownstein’s and Corin Tucker’s guitars thrash at each song with a fuzzy, murky dissonance that barely anyone else bothers to create these days, and Tucker screams her vocal lines with a phenomenally ferocious passion (think X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene). Each song is raw and raging, possessing an energy – a fire – reminiscent of the ’70s greatest punk albums; yet each is anthemic, too, prime for party playlists and bedroom sing-alongs. Cities is an incredible rock record: a piece of raucous, fast-paced rock’n’roll that never fails to satisfy, that raises your adrenaline as soon as the first chord lifts off. A set-to-be classic.

START WITH: ‘Price Tag’

[LISTEN/BUY]

1. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Courtney Barnett)

sometimes i sit

It would easy to suggest that my love of Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think and Somtimes I Just Sit lies mainly within its obvious homage to ‘retro’, guitar-driven rock, but this would be lazy – for it is so great on so many levels. Barnett slays her debut LP, laden with the wittiest lyrics, a voice among the uniquest in music today and tight, tough instrumentation, creating what is undeniably now a modern classic.

Barnett’s music is so incredibly refreshing in a world where Justin Bieber and gone-solo boyband members top the charts. Her lyrics are astute and entertaining, ramblingly poetic, simple and humble yet funny and smart. She manages to turn the most mundane of human experiences into interesting and often hilarious stories, penning lyrics you’ll sing until you can quote them at a second’s notice. She sums up what it means to be a young Australian in an almost disturbingly-accurate manner, recounting scenarios we know all too well with her proudly-displayed accent – so while Barnett has achieved international success, her work perhaps means most to all the young Australians who identify best with it. It is nice to hear your own accent, to hear slang you use every day in music you love, rare in a world ruled by America and Britain. She has easily become among the most important voices in music today.

To boot, Sometimes‘ incredible lyrics are backed by an equally-great band. The music crackles with such a rich exuberance, bursting with fun and fuzz-pedals. Barnett plays a mean guitar, thrashing it just like her grungy heroes. And paired with the help of drummer Dave Mudie and bassist ‘Bones’ Sloane, she creates a brand of indie rock so much rawer than that of those around her, echoing Australia’s longstanding love of garagy guitars, yet creating her very own sound at the same time. Think Nirvana, but funnier. But Sometimes isn’t retro, outdated – it’s fresh, made for the 21st century, and unlike most music out now, inventive and original. It is this – Barnett’s originality, her quirks, her (as SPIN put it) “low-key brilliance” – that has already cemented her debut as a classic, alongside Horses and Violent Femmes. And it is this that will ensure that it remains so, for years to come…

START WITH: ‘Pedestrian at Best’

[LISTEN/BUY]

SEE ALSO: I Went To See Courtney Barnett!

Albums I’m particularly anticipating this year include Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression, The Drones’ Feelin Kinda Free, Sunflower Bean’s Human Ceremony, Glitterbust’s (Kim Gordon’s new band) debut, Adelaide noise-rockers Horror My Friends’ Stay In, Do Nothing – but I feel that Bowie’s Blackstar may have already taken out #1… (I guess we’ll have to wait and see!)

Did you listen to any new music in 2015? What were your favourites? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

(Also, if you’re viewing this on the site, you may notice that I’ve made a few cosmetic changes! Hope you all like them! The drawings in the header are ones I’ve done myself over the past year…)

And so this is Christmas…

Merry Christmas! (via pinterest.com)

Merry Christmas!
(via pinterest.com)

I have an admission to make: I haven’t been in the Christmassy mood this year. Blame this on the fact that I’m Australian. Aussie Christmasses basically consist of hot weather  (this year in Adelaide, it’s set to be just below 40 degrees Celsius) and following traditions started in England and America that are probably more suited to weather around the 40 degree-Fahrenheit mark. Blame this also on the world’s mad rush that begins with the festive season, and the stress of leaving one’s house that ensues. Oh, how I’d love a cold, calm Christmas…

But considering today is Christmas Eve, my Christmassy apathy is something I am going to change. And I’m going to go about this one of the few ways a music blogger knows how: with some Christmas tunes! So here are some of my favourite festive-themed tracks… Enjoy!

‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’: The Beatles

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir

‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’: David Bowie & Bing Crosby

‘Father Christmas’: The Kinks

‘Christmas’: The Who

‘Merry Xmas Everybody’: Slade

‘Jesus Christ’: Big Star

‘Ghost of Christmas’: The Manic Street Preachers

‘Winter Wonderland’: Cocteau Twins

‘Christmas Wrapping’: The Waitresses

‘Santa Claus’: Throwing Muses

‘Got Something For You’: Best Coast and Wavves

If you’d like to listen to the playlist in its entirety, here it is!

So, what are your favourite Christmas songs? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and a great final week of 2015! 🙂

10 Of The Beatles’ Best Vocal Performances

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

One of my favourite things about The Beatles is how they never had a lead singer. Each member had opportunities to sing, and with this, they brought their four contrasting perspectives to the band’s music. And of course, they had two of the greatest rock singers of all time: Paul, his voice one of the few with technical merits in rock music, and John, traditionally rougher, yet arguably more passionate and raw. So with all this, it is hardly surprising that there are plenty of stunning moments in The Beatles’ discography when it comes to vocals. So today, I’m naming a few of my favourites! So, in no particular order:

‘This Boy’ (B-side to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, 1963)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘This Boy’ was the public’s introduction to the three-part harmonies that John, Paul and George would practise together, and what an introduction it is! The three sing absolutely beautifully together, their contrasting voices fitting perfectly. John’s lead, too, during the bridge is wonderfully passionate and raw. Although ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’s cultural impact was obviously considerably larger, it is these vocals that make the B-side musically superior, in my opinion.

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is perhaps the best example of John’s vocal abilities. Each section of the song – spanning from surreal psychedelia, to hard rock, to (somewhat satirical) doo-wop – demands a different kind of singing, and John handles this task with ease. Changing swiftly from low to high, and switching styles – from heavier, rockier vocals in the middle, to a lighter falsetto tone in the end – to suit each section’s respective genre, his vocals are especially wide-ranging and impressive here.

‘Helter Skelter’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: Paul

‘Helter Skelter’ is among The Beatles’ heaviest songs – of which there are many, of course, but few as influential as this. Often regarded as one of the first metal songs, it is easy to see why. Alongside the relentless instrumentation is Paul’s vocal. Much like his Little Richard impersonation from earlier in the band’s career, but with more bite, Paul screams the lyrics like a true metal singer. Dirty, menacing and raw, they are arguably the best part of a song that foreshadowed Zeppelin’s debut album by several months…

‘Because’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘Because’ is the last Beatles song to feature John, Paul & George’s famously magnificent three-part harmonies. Each Beatle’s voices were overdubbed twice, creating a chorus of nine voices in total, adding to the overwhelming beauty of arguably the prettiest ballad on Abbey Road. The kind of vocals that send tingles down the listener’s spine, the song shows that even when the band was rife with infighting, they still possessed a musical chemistry that most bands can only dream of.

‘Girl’ (Rubber Soul, 1965)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals on ‘Girl’ are almost hypnotic. Like with ‘Oh! Darling’ for Paul (see below), the song contains one of John’s most passionate performances. He doesn’t just sing the lyrics; he conveys them – acts them, almost – with such an emotion, a sadness and yearning for the girl that the narrator will never have. They highlight the complexity and beauty of the song, adding to the magnificence of one of John’s best ballads.

‘Here, There and Everywhere’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: Paul

One of my Beatles songs – and probably my favourite Paul-penned one – ‘Here, There and Everywhere’s vocals are delicately beautiful in style, much like the song itself. Paul’s dreamy lead highlights the song’s exquisiteness; however, his vocals are not the only stand-out, in my opinion. John and George’s Beach Boys-inspired backing vocals are stunning, too, and aid in bringing a beautiful song, regardless of its arrangement, to a truly ethereal level.

‘Long, Long, Long’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: George

‘Long, Long, Long’, in my opinion, has George’s best Beatles vocals. A soft, “floating” folk song, George’s singing is understated and gentle, suiting the track excellently. However, during the middle eight, the vocals become more intense and stirring, in a way that his singing had never been before. The vocals are perhaps the best part of a song that has long (no pun intended!) been among my Beatley favourites…

‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Everybody’s…’ is another of my favourite Beatles hard rock songs – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s incredibly fun to listen to. John’s vocals are essential to this quality. Whilst not as rousing as, say, ‘Girl’, they are perfect for the song; quite high, and slightly rough (in a good way), they are just as fun as the music itself. Together with the great guitars, they help make one of my favourite songs on the White Album!

‘Oh! Darling’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: Paul

Each day for a week before recording ‘Oh! Darling’, Paul would go to Abbey Road each morning and practise the song to roughen his voice, as he felt it was too clear beforehand. And boy, was it worth it! Paul’s vocals on ‘Darling’, to me, are his most passionate and are perhaps his best. Like with ‘Helter Skelter’, he screams the words, but with an emotion that was missing a little from the former. They give the song a feeling that makes it among the best on Abbey Road.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals sound fittingly lazy on ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. Of course, ‘lazy’ in the best possible sense – he sighs the lyrics tiredly, yet passionately, like someone who has recently been woken, and is pleading to be left alone. However, he adds the right amount of effort to his performance, making it particularly good. As with ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, the backing vocals are also a highlight – delightfully whimsical, they, too, suit the lazily psychedelic vibe of the song.

 

What are your favourite Beatles vocal performances? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

My 15 Favourite Albums on the 16th

Reading through the most recent posts of my blog post feed this morning, I found many people had participated in the #top15onthe15th tag, and listed their 15 favourite albums. And I decided I’d add my opinion to the mix, too! Of course, it is well and truly the 16th in Australia, now, but anyway… This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. My full list of all-time favourite albums would probably only fit on ten rolls of toilet paper, and narrowing it down to 15 was certainly hard! But anyway, in no particular order…

Revolver (1966) The Beatles (1968): The Beatles

Revolver the white album

Revolver is easily my favourite album of all-time. Featuring everything from dark, mysterious psychedelic rock, to a garage song with searing hot guitar, to spellbinding, well-crafted ballads, it possesses a special kind of magic. It was the album that made me realise just how special The Beatles – and music, in general – are. ‘Genius’ is oft overused, but it certainly applies here.

Compared with the perfectionism of Sgt Pepper, The White Album isn’t technically good at all. But technicality and perfectionism has never been an essential requirement in good rock music, and the album is perhaps one of the best embodiments of this. Sprawling from proto-metal to soft folk to avant-garde musique concrete to vaudevillian jazz to good-ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll, it transcends genres. Whilst it’s certainly self-indulgent in parts, this contributes to the unconventional vibe of the album. And that – its eccentricity –  is what makes it so great.

Hunky Dory (1971) & The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972): David Bowie

hunky dory ZiggyStardust

Hunky Dory is a work of musical art. Displaying Bowie’s eclectic gift for songwriting – ranging from the pop of ‘Changes’, to the flamenco-infused folk of ‘Andy Warhol’, to the music hall-inspired ‘Oh! You Pretty Things, to the glam-rock of ‘Queen Bitch’ – each song is perfection. Lyrically, the album contains some of Bowie’s best, his unique imagery and way-with-words particularly evident on tracks such as ‘Life on Mars?’ and the aforementioned ‘Queen Bitch’. Utter genius!

There isn’t a single song I don’t love on Ziggy Stardust. Bowie tells the story of a rock star who takes it all too far – subject matter rarely broached by a popular musician – with surrealist imagery, his voice (ranging from the screaming passion of ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’ to the almost-lazy tone of ‘Suffragette City’), thought-provoking lyrical matter and guitars, drums and saxes that absolutely rock. It’s easy to see why it affected teenagers so much at its original release, and why it continues to do so – myself included – today…

Tommy (1969) & Quadrophenia (1973): The Who

Tommyalbumcover quadrophenia

Tommy was my first Who album, and continues to be the one I listen to the most. Whilst its narrative is more disjointed and less plausible than that of Quadrophenia, this is definitely accounted for with the music. Containing everything from the falsetto beauty of ‘See Me, Feel Me’, to the hard rock of ‘Go To The Mirror!’, to the (successful!) ambitiousness of the album’s instrumentals, it is certainly one of the band’s best.

Quadrophenia is definitely my favourite Who album. With it, the band reached levels of emotion, passion and musical virtuosity that would be the highest they’d ever reach. The tracks are something of songwriting genius, again arguably the best of The Who’s career. And though the story is incredibly sad, it’s ability to move listeners only serves as a testament to its power and importance.

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967): The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

An unpopular opinion here: Satanic Majesties – The Stones’ psychedelic experiment – is almost universally hated, by both fans and the band themselves. And yeah – the lows are unarguably very low (‘On With The Show’, anybody?), but its highs are incredibly high, as well. From the driving hard rock of ‘Citadel’, to the baroque pop of ‘She’s A Rainbow’ and – my favourite – the hypnotic, hazy psychedelia of ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, it is moments like these that make it so good.

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967): The Velvet Underground (featuring Nico)

the velvet underground and nico

The Velvet Underground and Nico was the first non-Beatles album to affect me, and it’s easy to see why. Incredibly edgy, yet with its share of exquisite beauty; the voices of Lou Reed and Nico delightfully nonconformist; the lyrical matter still controversial to our 21st-century ears, it was totally unlike anything I’d heard before. Ranging from out-of-tune protopunk to the prettiest ballads, it is truly a masterpiece.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): Pink Floyd

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is – unlike the lengthy prog. rock of Pink Floyd’s later work (which, of course, are ‘gems’ as well) – is a psychedelic gem. The album patents a brand of wild, cacophonous psychedelia – heady and deeply rooted in the underground. Syd Barrett’s lyrics, too, are wonderful. Whimsical and naïve, they add a level of childlike innocence to the music. As much as I love the band’s prog era, it is – hands down – my favourite Floyd album.

The Doors (1967): The Doors

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover

The Doors’ self-titled debut is often regarded as their best, and my opinion is no exception. An intriguing mix of psychedelia and jazz, the music is mysterious and dangerous; Ray Manzarek’s organ, in particular, adds a layer of shimmery beauty to the tracks. And of course, Jim Morrison’s lyrics are as well-written and fascinating as usual, his voice a contrast to the trends of the time…

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970): John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

JLPOBCover

John’s first post-Beatles solo album is a stark contrast to Abbey Road, the last album the band would record together. Musically, it’s pared back to tough, basic hard rock (with a couple of exceptions); lyrically, it’s a mixture of realism, denouncement of authority and a recurring theme of his painful childhood. But it’s contrast to The Beatles is, again, what makes it such a great album. John had moved on, and he had begun to make great art on his own.

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015): Courtney Barnett

sometimes i sit

Though only released in the March of this year, Courtney Barnett’s debut studio album quickly has become among my all-time favourites. I don’t know what it is about it – whether it be Barnett’s wonderfully witty and intelligent lyrics, her Australian accent, the music itself (a brand of grungy rock’n’roll rarely heard these days) – but it is impressively good, and will likely be listened to by indie fans alike many years from now…

Horses (1975): Patti Smith

PattiSmithHorses

I picked up Horses at a nearby record shop on a whim, a few months ago, to see if I agreed with all the accolade. I inserted it into the CD player, and turned it up loud. ‘Gloria’ began, with its serene piano chords and Smith’s famous lyric of “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. The music soon turned into unique arty punk, something which intrigued me. I felt a sense of liberation – maybe it was Smith’s lyrics, or her singing (which reminded me a little of my own), or her successful merging of bohemianism and punk. But anyway, I knew it was my kind of music. And I’ve loved it ever since.

Attack and Release (2008): The Black Keys

attack + release

Though The Black Keys have forever been plagued by comparisons to The White Stripes, it is with Attack and Release that they prove these claims blatantly wrong. Helped by their then-new partnership with producer Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse), it is the perfect mix between psychedelia, blues rock and punk, perhaps my favourite genres ever. Easily my favourite Keys album!

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (recorded 1968, released 1996): various

Rolling_Stones_Circus

This one’s self-explanatory. There is so much to love: a John Lennon-fronted supergroup (featuring Keith Richards on bass and Eric Clapton on lead guitar) playing a searing version of ‘Yer Blues’, an electrifying Who performance of their mini rock-opera, ‘A Quick One While He’s A Way’, a set from The Stones themselves, featuring a spine-chilling slide performance from Brian Jones and a rendition of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ seven months before its release… Virtually my musical dream!

So, what are your favourite albums of all time? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

6 Of My Favourite Covers By The Beatles

(Via billboard.com)

(via billboard.com)

Over the course of their career, The Beatles recorded a total of 25 covers. Not that many, when put into the context of the band’s 219-song-strong catalogue. And mostly consisting of rock’n’roll songs from the ’50s and Motown tunes from the early ’60s, all of their non-originals (sans ‘Maggie Mae’ from Let It Be) stem from the early period of the group. But although some – such as ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Please Mr Postman’ – are deservedly well-known, many remain overshadowed by the sheer quality of John, Paul and George’s original work. However, in my opinion, among The Beatles’ covers are some of the band’s best moments! And so, here are six of my favourites…

6. ‘Baby It’s You’

Although Rubber Soul and Revolver are generally regarded as the band’s “turning point”, ‘Baby It’s You’ (a cover of The Shirlees’ 1961 song, found on Please Please Me) is perhaps The Beatles’ earliest experimental moment. Foreshadowing Soul by nearly three years, the song features a solo from a half-piano-half-xylophone instrument named a celesta played by George Martin. Relatively unknown even now, the instrument’s usage in a pop song would have been practically unheard of in early 1963! Asides from the celesta, the song also plays host to a beautifully raw and passionate vocal performance from John. One of the best cuts from Please Please Me.

5. ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’

Originally a medley that Little Richard would play live (featuring both his own song, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’, and KC Lovin’s 1952 track ‘Kansas City’), The Beatles’ version of ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’ features one of Paul’s best vocal performances. One of several Beatles tunes which he sings in his high, screaming ‘Little Richard voice’, Paul nails the style perfectly! The guitar, sharp and exciting, also serves the song very well, and there’s something about those backing vocals…

4. ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

Beginning with a killer piano riff, The Beatles’ cover of Barrett Strong’s 1959 song only goes upwards from there! Sometimes referred to as the second coming of ‘Twist and Shout’, Ringo’s relentless drumming and George’s dark guitar add a gritty drive to the song that The Beatles had never created on record before. Paul’s enthusiastic backing vocals, too, add to the energetic power of the song. But the highlight of the tune is John’s stunning vocals – like ‘Twist and Shout’, he screams the lyrics with such persistent stamina. And that is what makes the song for me.

3. ‘Long Tall Sally’

Also originally by Little Richard, The Beatles’ cover of ‘Long Tall Sally’ is one of the band’s rawest rock’n’roll moments! Like with number 5, Paul’s impressive vocal performance is the high point of the song – amazingly high-pitched and rock’n’roll, they completely contradict the melodic ballads that Paul is stereotypically known for. The two guitar solos (played by John and George, respectively), too, are wonderfully gritty, and John’s rhythm guitar at the end is awesome…

2. ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’

A Smokey Robinson cover from With The Beatles, the slow soul of ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ is in contrast to most of the songs on this list. But it is, yet again, the vocals that make the song. John’s vocal performance is exquisitely soulful and impassioned, conveying the emotion of the song perfectly. Fitting flawlessly alongside George and Paul’s parts, the band’s chemistry is on full show here.

1. ‘Twist And Shout’

‘Twist and Shout’ is unarguably one of The Beatles most powerfully raw songs. John infamously lost his voice after recording the iconic vocals, and you can hear the band’s adrenaline throughout the song! Recorded in merely one take, John’s rough, intense vocals practically epitomise rock’n’roll. And the guitar, bass and drums are such impressively energetic, especially when the fact that it was recorded at the end of a 12-hour session is taken into account. In a way, the song – the final track on Please Please Me – foreshadows the chaos, the cultural changes and (more) great music that The Beatles were still yet to bring to the world…

What are your favourite covers by The Beatles? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

My Ranking Of The Beatles’ Movies

the beatles movies

One of my favourite things about The Beatles is their movies. They’re not cinematic masterpieces, or anything, but they have a certain loveable charm about them. Watching their movies has become something of a ritual for me, and I’ve loved them ever since I’ve been a fan!

So today, I thought I’d rank The Beatles’ movies in order, from least-favourite to favourite. Of course, this is only my opinion. But anyway…

5. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

MMT_poster

Paul made a lot of good decisions in the late-’60s. Like Sgt Pepper, or his distrust of Allen Klein. Magical Mystery Tour was not one of these. The film has the honour of being the only Beatles film I dislike.

The movie makes no sense, whatsoever. I’m still yet to work out what the wizards are about – did they plan the mystery tour, or are they there for no reason at all? And what about the “view” during the ‘Flying’ sequence? What filmic purpose does the stripper fulfil? Who are the people on the bus supposed to be? I presume much of the comedy consists of The Beatles’ inside jokes, but as the viewer is not privy to these, they are left to wonder what on Earth is going on. The movie’s considerable lack of a storyline, however, is the film’s most serious downfall. This does not help the consistency of the film, and much of, if not all, of the scenes seem to have been filmed for the sake of it. Its incoherent & amateurish atmosphere made it quite cringeworthy to watch in parts, and I found it to mostly be a product of badly-made self-indulgence.

There are, however, some highlights. I’ve always loved the ‘Blue Jay Way’ song sequence, for the wonderfully-psychedelic camera work, and the fact that the choreography in the ‘Your Mother Should Know’ scene actually worked is pretty cool, too. And, of course, the music is simply wonderful – boasting tracks like ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Fool On The Hill’ – and the accompanying album is perhaps one of The Beatles’ best. However, I felt the positives were somewhat outweighed, and that its status as “one of the most expensive home movies ever” is justified.

4. Let It Be (1970)

lib

I really like Let It Be. The Beatles must be the only band to have such a fly-on-the-wall documentary featuring such a seminal part of their history behind them, and for that, I’m very grateful!

There is no denying that the film is incredibly difficult to watch in parts. Over its course, you watch the band fall apart before your eyes. You see Paul become more domineering, and more desperate to keep The Beatles alive. You see George become increasingly disillusioned with the band. You see the affect that John’s heroin addiction at the time was having. And oh, I felt so much pity on poor Ringo, who’s clearly fed up with the other three’s almost-constant fighting.

However, the good moments are really good. Classics like ‘Two Of Us’, ‘Across The Universe’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Oh! Darling’ – and even tunes like ‘Octopus’s Garden’ – are created within the film, and watching their evolution is fascinating viewing. And of course, the last 20 minutes of the film consists of the famous Rooftop Concert, one of the most iconic moments in music history. The Beatles’ live performance is stunning, especially considering that they’d been confined to the studio for the previous three years. The magic between the four is enthralling to watch, and the reactions of the surrounding residents are incredibly interesting, too. I find it sad that the only way you can watch the film currently is on bad-quality bootleg, though it’s a must-watch for any Beatles fan!

3. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

ahdn

A Hard Day’s Night is arguably the best Beatles film. Rotten Tomatoes ranks it as the fifth best film of all time, and it has been credited with inventing both the mockumentary and the music clip. It has also been said to have influenced the way that movies and music performances were filmed, too. The Beatles’ humour is at its sharpest and wittiest, their music at its most joyfully poppy and the band at the height of their teenage-orientated success.

The Beatles had never acted before A Hard Day’s Night, but there are so many great moments within the film. My favourite is perhaps this scene featuring George – the humour is so sarcastically cynical and deadpan, and it’s absolutely hilarious! Other favourites of mine include the scene in which John plays with a toy boat in the bath (so ridiculously silly that it actually works) and the scene where The Beatles visit a club, and the concert at the end of the film. The movie’s influence on music clips is also clear to to the modern viewer – the various techniques used in the ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ sequences make for a swift departure from miming the songs, which was commonplace at the time. The faux-documentary presentation of the storyline also invented the “mockumentary”, and the irony and sheer ridiculousness of some of the band’s antics clearly influenced future films, such as This Is Spinal Tap. And of course, the music is great, too. The movie’s accompanying album of the same name was the only Beatles album to consist entirely of Lennon/McCartney songs, and though they are still reasonably poppy and “people-pleasing”, it’s clear that The Beatles were beginning to become the influential pop-culture icons they were to end up.

I had the pleasure of seeing A Hard Day’s Night in a cinema, last year, in HD and surround sound. It was a truly amazing experience, and I discovered a new love for the film. Perhaps the only reason it isn’t higher in my ranking is that it lacks the nostalgia that 2 & 1 have attached with them, for me.

2. Help! (1965)

beatles-help-poster

Help! – The Beatles’ second foray into the film industry – is not technically as good as A Hard Day’s Night. The humour isn’t quite as intelligent, and there’s a faint junket vibe wafting around it. However, I’ve always loved it.

The film, at various points, almost leaps off the screen in its vibrant technicolour. The Beatles’ apartment (furnished with a modernist aesthetic still considered stylish today), in particular, is displayed in comically bright hues of green, blue and orange. When an Eastern cult – the central villains of the movie – attempt to douse Ringo in their sacrificial paint, a river of red spills over the image. The stunning whites of the Swiss Alps glint in the ‘Ticket To Ride’ sequence, and the blue, sunny skies of the Bahamas provide contrast. Leading heroine’s Ahme’s costumes are shown in shades of rose-pink, turquoise and glimmering silver. The innovative and influential filming of scenes such as the ‘Another Girl’ song sequence feature a hint of proto-psychedelia, highlighting the changing times. The Beatles’ music featured in the film shows the end of their early era, predicting the changes that would come with the soon-to-follow Rubber Soul. The movie includes tracks like the folk-rock genius of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, the keyboard-driven rock of ‘The Night Before’, the beautifully guitar-driven ‘You’re Gonna Lose That Girl’ and, of course, ‘Help!’ itself, and the A-side of the accompanying album is one of my favourites of all time. And whilst the humour isn’t quite as intelligent as that of its predecessor, A Hard Day’s Night, the movie certainly has more than its fair share of witticisms and proto-Python skits. Some wonderfully-funny one-liners stemmed from the script, and of course, the entire film itself is a product of satire. It’s hilarious!

Help!, all in all, is a ridiculously funny and influential movie, showcasing some of The Beatles’ best tunes and foreshadowing their future direction. It was my original favourite Beatles film, and I must have watched it more than twenty times over the past two years!

1. Yellow Submarine (1968)

Beatles_Yellow_Submarine_move_poster

Yellow Submarine, in my opinion, is something that the other Beatles films aren’t; a cinematic masterpiece. And though the band were barely involved with it – only featuring for a few minutes at the end of the film – it has become my favourite Beatles movie.

Perhaps the most endearing point about the movie, for me, is its animation. Even more colourful than the bouncy technicolour of Help!, and psychedelically surrealistic & wildly chaotic, the movie is still considered mindblowing viewing over forty-five years after its release. Featuring highlights like the bold pop-art of the ‘Only A Northern Song’ scene, the darting flapper-throwback of the ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, the contrasting minimalism of the ‘Nowhere Man’ scene and the futurism of the ‘It’s All Too Much’ sequence, the film is unarguably one of, if not the, most beautiful films of all time. The music, too, is exquisite – though much of the film consists of previously-released masterpieces such as ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the aforementioned ‘Nowhere Man’, the original songs are mostly darkly psychedelic, creative gems, including ‘Hey Bulldog’ and (the also aforementioned) ‘Only A Northern Song’ and ‘It’s All Too Much’. The humour, though overshadowed by the extraordinary visuals and music, is also stunningly funny. Many of the jokes consist of Beatle-themed puns, which any Beatles fan will appreciate, though many of the other jokes are wonderfully witty and sharp. The movie is clearly a product of its era, centring around a message of peace, love and good music. Some may argue that this is a negative, though I disagree. In a way, it is such an essence of its time that it hasn’t dated at all.

Yellow Submarine is a deserved classic. Innovative, mindblowing and a work of art in a way the other Beatles films are not, it is an exquisite piece of film history. The film was my first Beatles movie, and I’ve loved it ever since.

What’s your favourite Beatles film? How would you rank them? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Making Mixtapes…

The disappearance of mixtapes is sad, in my opinion. Making someone a YouTube playlist of their favourite tunes is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t seem to have as much thought and effort behind it. Plus, nothing beats listening to “physical” music.

So, in keeping with my mixtape-ish mood, I thought I’d make just that! Of course, for the sake of the Internet, a YouTube playlist will have to do, but anyway… And in keeping within the general theme of this blog, my mixtape will consist of all the songs from the ’60s and ’70s that are most important to me. So, here goes…

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Here There and Everywhere’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Anthology 3 Version)’ & ‘Long, Long, Long’: The Beatles

Revolver

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is perhaps my most important Beatles song. I first heard it in late 2013, and was captivated by its psychedelic, lazy vibe, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. But in August 2014, I was listening to Revolver on vinyl, and the song came on. I felt a love for the music that I’d never felt before, and I realised just how special it was. I’d called The Beatles my favourite band for over a year prior, but it was only then that I knew what it meant…

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is my current favourite Beatles song. I love how, in under three minutes, it covers the history of rock’n’roll. Stretching from psychedelic imagery to Zeppelin-esque hard rock to a doo-wop parody, plus one of John’s best vocal performances, it’s definitely one of The Beatles’ best!

‘Here, There & Everywhere’ was one of John’s and Paul’s favourite Beatles songs, and it’s my favourite Paul-penned song. It has such a delicate vibe to it. The vocals from all parties are hypnotically beautiful – not to even mention the drums, and bass… A wondrous song!

‘Long, Long, Long’ & the Anthology 3 version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ are both folky, George-written tunes from the White Album era. The former has long been a favourite of mine. In contrast to the cacophony of ‘Helter Skelter’ before it, it’s a beautifully peaceful tune, with the wonderful guitar, organ and drums among its highlights. The latter song is my favourite version of the tune. Whilst I love the official version, with its Clapton-played lead guitar, there isn’t much better than the gentle acoustic guitar and the shimmery organ of the Anthology 3 version, for me…

‘My Generation’, ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me’: The Who

Thewho-therealme1

Though I love the musical work from each Who member on ‘My Generation’ (John Entwistle’s bass, in particular!), my favourite part of the song is the lyrics. Where I live, among the mainstream media’s favourite pastimes is criticising anyone under the age of 30. ‘My Generation’, like the generations before who listened to the song, made for a good antidote to their criticism & generalisations.

‘The Real Me’ is my favourite Who song at the moment. Like most of their tunes, the guitars/bass/drums/vocals are amazing – one of my favourite things about the band is how each band member was really good at what they did. The perfect opener to one of my favourite Who albums, Quadrophenia!

‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me‘ are both from Tommy, my other favourite Who album.The former is a rocker, with a standout rhythm guitar performance from Pete Townshend. It’s only recently that I began to listen to it more “in-depth”, but since I have, it has quickly become a favourite. The latter in contrast, was one of my original favourites. Roger Daltrey’s falsetto vocals and Keith Moon’s drums during the “listening to you” chorus, in particular, make the song a very deserved classic…

‘Stray Cat Blues’, ‘No Expectations’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ & ‘Midnight Rambler (Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out version)’: The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

‘Stray Cat Blues’ & ‘No Expectations’ are from The Stones’ 7th album, Beggar’s Banquet. I’ve been listening to ‘Stray Cat Blues’ almost exclusively for the past few days. It’s edgy; it’s hard; it’s great! The instruments and vocals are all awesome, and I love it. ‘No Expectations’ is another favourite. Brian Jones’s slide guitar on the song is one of the last things he did with The Stones. It’s beautiful, and only proves Brian’s musical genius.

‘Under My Thumb’ & ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ are from my favourite Stones period, the mid-’60s. Despite the horribly misogynistic lyrics, I love ‘Under My Thumb’. The fuzzed bass and stabbing guitar are great, but the highlight of the song is definitely Brian’s marimba riff. And ‘2000’ is my favourite song on The Stones’ album that everyone loves to hate, and I love to love: Their Satanic Majesties Request. The mellotron, the keyboards, the guitar & the vocals bring a song by a primarily R&B band to sound more like Pink Floyd… Probably my favourite Stones song!

My dad introduced me to Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, and ‘Midnight Rambler’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album. I love its rawness. But the most special bit about it, for me, is the cry of “Paint it black, you devil!” at the end. Dad and I joked about it for months, and continue to do so…

‘Venus In Furs’, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ & ‘Sunday Morning’: The Velvet Underground

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‘Venus In Furs’ was my original favourite Velvets song. I remember being captivated by the cacophony of violas, guitars and drums the first time I listened to it. To this day, it’s one of my very favourites. I tried to cover it whilst busking earlier this year, with less-than-successful results…

It was only recently that I realised the beauty of ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’. I never really liked Nico’s songs on The Velvets’ debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and ‘Mirror’ is one that she sings. It was only after listening to Beck’s cover of the song for his Record Club project that I realised how beautiful the song is. I particularly like the guitar part!

‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ is one of the rockier songs on Nico, yet is just as great. After the beauty of ‘Sunday Morning’, it’s refreshingly hard and punk-esque. I’ve always loved the song, and continue to do so today!

‘Sunday Morning’ was the song that introduced me to The Velvets, and perhaps the first non-Beatles song to have an impact on me. After hearing a cover of it on one of our favourite shows, my mum played me the song. And so began my love of a wonderful band…

‘White Light/White Heat’ is the title track of The Velvets’ second album. The songs are less “beautiful” than The Velvet Underground and Nico, but are no less experimental. It’s a tough, distorted avant-garde rock tune, and its influence on punk rock is easy to hear…

‘The End’, ‘L.A. Woman’, ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ & ‘People Are Strange’: The Doors

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‘The End’ & ‘Alabama Song’ are from The Doors’ self-titled debut. ‘The End’ is often regarded as one of The Doors’ masterpieces, and for good reason! Jim Morrison’s lyrics are some of his best, and the mysterious, psychedelic vibe that floats throughout the song is magical. The ending, with Jim’s infamous Oedipal spoken word section and rhythmic usage of the f-bomb, is also intriguing and helps create a magnificently climactic ending to the album. ‘Alabama Song’, in contrast, is a cover, but I love it all the same. Jim’s vocal performance on the song is one of my favourites, and I love Ray Manzarek’s pulsating, off-beat organ!

‘L.A. Woman‘ is the first song I can remember. One of my first memories is of my parents playing the song, and of being appalled once being informed that the song included the word ‘damn’! The album of the same name was in high rotation during my childhood, too. And now that I’m older, it has since become one of my favourite songs…

‘People Are Strange’ has always fascinated me, ever since I first heard it last year. The song was such a departure from any Doors stuff I’d heard before, at that point. Perhaps my favourite part of the song is the guitar, though the piano and, of course, the vocals give it quite a different vibe. It’s quite an understated song, and I like it a lot!

‘Welcome To The Machine’, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, ‘The Gnome’ & ‘Wish You Were Here’: Pink Floyd

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‘Welcome To The Machine’‘Wish You Were Here’ are both from, well, Wish You Were Here. The former is the song that introduced me to Floyd, and what made me a fan. I remember listening to the song last year – its hypnotising synths, the swirling vocals. It completely blew my mind, and I remain in utter awe of it. And ‘Wish You Were Here’ speaks for itself, really… The acoustic guitar that runs throughout the song is beautiful, and I love David Gilmour’s vocals, too. It’s easy to see why it’s perhaps Floyd’s best-known song!

‘Interstellar Overdrive’‘The Gnome’ are both from Pink Floyd’s debut, and the only album with input from Syd Barrett, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ is an edgy, almost-overwhelming psychedelic cacophony. A favourite of mine since watching a video of Pink Floyd performing it live in 1967 with their notoriously-incredible stage show, I find the combination of experimental guitars, organs and drums captivating! ‘The Gnome’ is perhaps not a Floyd masterpiece. However, I’ve always loved the song, and it never fails to make me smile. My favourite part of the song is Barrett’s lyrics – they’re quite simple, and they almost read like some kind of whimsical fairytale, which I love!

‘Get It While You Can’: Janis Joplin + ‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’: Big Brother and the Holding Company

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Whilst Pearl is not my favourite Janis Joplin album, it was the one that introduced me to her work. And ‘Get It While You Can’ is my favourite song on Pearl. Much like the rest of the album, it features a prominent organ part, which adds an almost psychedelic element to the song. And of course, Janis’s vocals are amazing!

‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’ are both from my favourite Joplin-fronted album, Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company. ‘Piece Of My Heart’ not only features yet another amazing Janis vocal performance – but the guitar is great, too! The guitarists in the band – Sam Andrew and James Gurley – were ridiculously good, and I have a huge appreciation of them, as a guitarist myself. ‘Turtle Blues’, too, is one of my favourites. Janis’s vocals again go without saying, and the piano is awesome! One can only imagine what Janis would have gone on to do…

‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ & ‘Tangerine’: Led Zeppelin

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For a while, I thought of Led Zeppelin as a bit overrated. Then I heard ‘Dazed and Confused’. I listened attentively to Jimmy Page’s “weeping” guitar; John Paul Jones’s almost-mysterious bass; John Bonham’s thrashing drums; Robert Plant’s vocals, which I consider to be some of his best. And I’ve loved Zeppelin ever since.

I don’t know what it is about ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, but I really like it. I love the keyboard riff that runs throughout the song, and the drums, and the lead guitar, and the vocals, but even then… Maybe it’s the memories – it’s on Led Zeppelin IV, my first Zeppelin album, and it’s also featured in Almost Famous, a film I love. Either way, though, it’s a great song!

And I took my ‘tangerinetrees99’ from ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, but you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered that Zeppelin had a song named ‘Tangerine’, a few months ago! I was even more pleased after listening to the song itself (one of the band’s folkier tunes), which I enjoyed. It’s now one of my favourites…

‘All Day And All Of The Night’ & ‘Sunny Afternoon’: The Kinks

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‘All Day And All Of The Night’ was among my top-5 songs of all time for ages, and still remains one of my favourites. The fuzzed guitar riff, Ray Davies’ snarly vocals and Dave Davies’ flashy solo all make for a great rock’n’roll classic! It was perhaps this song that turned me onto the harder rock which I now also enjoy.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ is my current favourite Kinks song. I read someone comparing it to ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, the other day, and I can certainly see the similarities. The lazy vibe, paired with the bassline and another great Ray Davies vocal performances, make for a great song!

‘Suffragette City’: David Bowie

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‘Suffragette City’ is my favourite Bowie song right now, and the first one I consciously enjoyed. Throughout last year, the song would often appear on iTunes Radio, and I immediately liked it. The guitar, in particular, is great, and I can’t help but smile whenever I hear it!

‘Gloria’: Patti Smith

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‘Gloria’ begins with understated piano chords, but soon turns into an exciting, protopunk epic – the perfect opening to Smith’s highly acclaimed debut, Horses. Although I only listened to the song for the first time about a month ago, its impact on me is huge. ‘Gloria’ is what hooked me on Horses, and what inspired me to check out the rest of Patti Smith’s work. She has quickly turned into one of my favourite artists – for her unique brand of alternative rock, for her fascinating punk poetry. And as a female musician myself, she is one of my biggest influences, alongside Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Courtney Barnett.

‘God’: John Lennon

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‘God’ is my current favourite John Lennon song. I absolutely adore John’s vocals, and his piano – whilst not overly complicated and intricate – is perfect for the song. Ringo’s drums are great, too. And though I certainly believe in The Beatles, the lyrics are such typical John, and I love them all the same…

‘What Is Life’: George Harrison

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‘What Is Life’ was the first George solo song I ever heard. Way back when I got George and Ringo confused in pictures (!), I absolutely adored the song and would turn the radio up really loud whenever it came on. A couple of years on, I still find that guitar riff utterly irresistible!

‘Our House’ & ‘Helpless’: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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‘Our House’ was my favourite song for the year before I discovered The Beatles. It was always played on the radio, and the melody, in combination with the piano, must have appealed to me. It was only recently that I began to realise how great the song is, and it has since become one of my favourites, again…

‘Helpless’, however, is my current favourite Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. Written and sung by Neil Young (who has one of my favourite voices, ever), it’s a wondrously beautiful, yet somewhat sad, ballad. I particularly love the lead guitar and, of course, Neil Young’s vocals.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’: Bob Dylan

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‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ is far from my favourite Dylan song. But it has an important place in my musical history, for it was the first song I learnt to play on guitar. Guitar has since become a huge part of my identity. There is little more I enjoy than playing my instruments, and playing has given me a greater understanding and love of the music I’d begun to like beforehand. So thanks, Bob!

And there. Here’s the entire playlist mixtape:

If you were making a mixtape of the songs most important to you, what would you put on it? Be sure to tell me in the comments!