My Favourite Music of 2014

Favourite Pop Tracks:

Caribou – ‘Can’t Do Without You’

Caribou_Our_Love‘Can’t Do Without You’ perfectly introduces the stellar Our Love, Dan Snaith’s sixth album under the Caribou brand. A fun club track, it perfectly synthesises the styles exhibited on previous Caribou LP Swim and the dancefloor-oriented tracks which characterise Snaith’s other musical moniker, Daphni. Club music infused with real emotion.

Modest Mouse – ‘Lampshades on Fire’

A ‘Dashboard’ retread from the Good News for People Who Love Bad News sessions. As samey and, dare I say, lazy as this comeback single feels, its catchiness is undeniable. I’ve missed Modest Mouse so damn much during their ridiculous eight-year hiatus, and welcome their forthcoming release. My body is ready.

Kele – ‘Doubt’

Though I’ve no doubt (pun unintended) that Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke approaches his dance music with conviction, I’m still yet to find it all that engaging. Trick lead single ‘Doubt’, however, is slinky and moves with purpose.

John Frusciante – ‘Fanfare’

I’ve written before about my limited patience for Frusciante’s avant garde stuff, but ‘Fanfare’ – and half of Enclosure, the LP it’s drawn from – I can get behind. Frusciante’s newfound penchant for experimentation clashes head-on with his pop sensibilities, with catchy and unexpected results.

Sticky Fingers – ‘Gold SNAFU’

‘Gold SNAFU’ is the perfect summertime track: it’s laid-back and sports a catchy, whistled refrain. Kudos to Dylan Frost, too, for penning memorable lines like ‘sexy as a slippery water slide’. Sticky Fingers expand their sound while honouring their roots. An Australian band whose evolution I’m enjoying.

The Autumn Defense – ‘I Can See Your Face’

The Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘I Can See Your Face’ is my standout track from The Autumn Defense’s fifth album, Fifth. Pat Sansone and John Stirratt’s warm vocals gel with summery production, making this romantic folk throwback shine.

Chet Faker – ‘Gold’

Chet Faker’s had a monstrous year, with sold-out shows and copious radio play. (His year even culminated in the netting of the Best Male Artist and Best Indie Release ARIAs, which he so graciously accepted.) It’s great to see a local boy make good, though I’m not quite sold on his début LP Built on Glass. (I found it a little tedious. See: the aptly titled ‘Lesson in Patience’, which opens with two minutes of wailing and goes precisely nowhere).

Still, dude can write solid pop tracks. ‘1998’ and ‘Cigarettes & Loneliness’ are contenders, but ‘Gold’ is the definitive bright spot. I’m curious to see what he does next. No diggity.

Michael Jackson – ‘Slave to the Rhythm’

Hesitated putting this on here thanks to the dubious motivations behind this release, but ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, originally written in 1990, is a catchy reaffirmation of Jackson’s pop-writing talents. (Like he needed one.)

Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – ‘Uptown Funk’

bruno-mars-uptown-funk-videoThough it may not reach the same magnitude of cultural hit (due in part to the forever shifting tides of popular music), ‘Uptown Funk’ is, for my money, the most infectious, hook-laden pop song since ‘Hey Ya’. This song is an unparalleled party: all killer, no filler. Even the bridge is an absolute jam.

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 My Favourite Albums of 2014:

  Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams marks Adams’ first release since the stripped-back, hiatus-shattering Ashes & Fire (one of my favourite records of 2011), and largely continues in the same artistic vein. It features a fuller sound than Adams’ last release, but straddles the same adult/contemporary line – not a bad thing. This self-titled release exudes confidence and cohesiveness. It also features some of Adams’ most mature songwriting efforts to date. It’s hard to believe this is the same hyperactive brat who wrote Love is Hell and Rock n Roll.

Foster the People – Supermodel

In 2011, Foster the People burst onto the scene with Torches, a potent pop début with a cache of surprise hits. The album netted the band a legion of global fans and, with the pressure high, it took them three years to follow it up.

Supermodel arrived to a warm but comparatively modest reception. Its singles failed to make the same splash as Torches mega-hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ and the album largely fell through the cracks.

Admittedly, it took me awhile to warm to Supermodel. It’s a reflexive, considered album, and is less immediate than its predecessor. Here, the band broadens its scope, trying on different stylistic hats. It’s a slower, more experimental affair – and consequently a richer experience. Punters will be greatly rewarded if they invest the time. Continue reading

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Guest Speaker Recap: Jessica Alice, Poetry Editor/Podcaster

Just a quick one today. Man flu’s descending, and I’ve underestimated how big a commitment these recaps would end up being! Let’s get into it. (I’m also terrified Mrs Ruby-White an anonymous follower will break my fingers if there’s any further delay.)

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ABOUT JESSICA

A couple of weeks ago, NMIT’s Writing and Publishing students were visited by Jessica Alice, another talented multi-hat-wearing young professional. Jessica is a self-described generalist: a writer, poet, editor, podcaster extraordinaire, and The Lifted Brow’s Poetry and Short Prose Editor. She is also the coordinator of the National Young Writers’ Festival and has been variously affiliated with Voiceworks (kicking myself for not getting involved with these guys!) and Express Media; independent young women’s magazine, Lip; the Darebin Council; and Kill Your Darlings. Jessica spoke highly of these experiences, but is especially fond of her current Brow role because of its autonomy and increased responsibility. Traditionally, The Lifted Brow has not had much of a poetry focus, but this is something Jessica is rectifying.

Throughout her presentation, Jessica enthusiastically spruiked a few art and culture ventures – not for any agenda; she simply wanted to help connect people with great art. She recommended the pop culture podcast Bring a Plate, and encouraged those interested in feminist writing to check out SCUM, an online literary magazine which she describes as the ‘punk kid sister of The Lifted Brow’. SCUM, for which Jessica is also an editor of poetry, has a DIY aesthetic, punk sensibility and penchant for favouring lesser-known writers. This last point’s especially important; like high school social groups, lit journals can be cliquey and insular.

Spoken word is another of Jessica’s passions, and she cited community radio as a great medium for enthusiasts. In particular, Melbourne station 3CR has been a great support throughout much of her early career. It’s through this involvement with community radio that she first developed an interest in podcasting.

PODCASTING 101

Surprisingly (at least to me), a majority of the audience professed an interest in podcasting, so Jessica took the presentation in that direction. She was kind enough to give us a primer, and I will relay some of that information now. Podcasting – (indulge me; I know you learnt this in 2005) – is a revolutionary media platform that is similar in practice to radio, but has far broader applications thanks to the internet. Its popularity can be attributed to its ease of use, as only minimal, basic tech is required to podcast (unless you’re an audiophile). (Tangential aside: ‘Podcast’ is a verb, right? I have no idea! I’m so far removed from this culture! It’s like someone asked the whitest person in the room to articulate the history of the hip hop movement.)

Unlike other New Media formats (i.e. YouTube), podcasts are audio-only; audiences cannot physically see the speaker. I believe I heard somewhere that video podcasts are called vodcasts, though that might’ve been a fever dream. Anyway, podcasts effectively remove image from the equation, allowing audiences to focus solely on content.

Podcasts can be streamed or downloaded, and are usually hosted on dedicated servers. Unlike radio listeners, podcast fans can enjoy content at any time – even while completing work or chores. Podcasts are highly accessible nowadays, particularly with the popularisation of smart phones and portable audio devices.

PODCASTS AND LITERARY JOURNALS

According to Jessica, most of the major Australian literary journals (Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Overland, Going Down Swinging, to name a few) currently produce podcasts. It’s seen as a more progressive medium than blogging or feature writing, and a time and cost efficient way for journal staff to create new and engaging content.

Podcasts also allow listeners to become involved with journals, to get a taste of their work and grasp their identity, without necessarily having to purchase their products. Obviously buying and supporting literary journals is ideal, but this can be difficult for monetary or logistic reasons. Regrettably, journals are sometimes seen as an unjustifiable expense – particularly in our current economic climate. In other cases, they can be difficult to purchase because of limited print runs or remote buyers. Though obviously no substitute for a bonafide print or electronic literary journal, podcasting is an interesting and inexpensive way to involve yourself with journals and stay abreast of their developments.

TIPS FOR NEW PODCASTERS

For anyone interested in doing their own podcasts, Jessica endorsed the following software: Garage Band (native Mac program), Audition, Audacity (limited functionality, but a good starting point) and Cool Edit Pro (expensive, but with more comprehensive features). In lieu of a proper (and often costly) recording setup, Jessica recommended using your laptop’s built-in microphone. Of course, you must first ensure a quiet working area. Shut all doors and windows, and soundproof your computer or recording device by covering it with a sheet (high thread-count Egyptian cotton is a nice touch). This will reduce the echo echo echo, reverb and muffle some outside interferences, like dads who scream unnecessarily during televised football.

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‘It’s okay, guys! I’m soundproofing!’ Continue reading