Monday, March 30, 2009

This is amazing!

Emiliana Torrini

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This is really cute, although it probably reinforces the base cultural stereotype that all Icelandic women are like Bjork, albeit at 80% strength. It also reminds me of this:

I've taken a while to get into Me and Armini, probably because it's a bit too subtle for my more brutal musical tastes, and I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that a colourful clip has reignited my interest. Which reminds me of a sobering moment over Christmas, when I was watching KylieX2008 with my 20 month old niece. 

I noticed that she was dancing along with intensity, but only, apparently, because the line of 8 men dressed in colourful space suits reminded her of the Wiggles, except for the amyl I imagine. This was of course a zeitgeist moment, because only a few months later K was hooking up with the Wiggles for the masterful Monkey Man (see below). 
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Skip to 2:57 for the most exhilarating bit of pop I've heard this year. This makes me happy.
I had a very vivid dream this morning that Britney Spears was in some Lord of the Rings-style landscape, where she had 155 babies. It then unfolded that Lynne Spears was somehow capturing these babies in strange holding-camps. Unsettling. Thoughts?

So, so cute!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is this perhaps Kylie's sans William Baker vision?

Ha! How those smooth opening sounds and Ricky Martin long-sleeved man-tops take me back. Also amusing how the two other band-mates are systematically hidden behind the slightly more hot one. But I'm mostly struck by the marginally-too-aggressive lyrics. As in, there seems to be a lot of talk about subverting someone's autonomy. Lots of talk about "getting something".

I do occasionally watch the Today show in my zombie-wake-up window between around 7.10-7.40. It provides a safe "nothing" space, akin to those lost minutes in the shower when you're not quite ready to admit it's over and the trudge to work begins. I can't say I *enjoy* it though. In fact it's quite painful to watch, mostly because, since the days of Jessica Rowe, Today has been acting like the more serious aunt unsuccessfully trying to crack wacky jokes 'cause her zestful sister (Sunrise) was getting all the attention. 

It's also painfully conservative, with Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic playing the Mum and Dad role, as in the awful 9am with David and Kim, and Sunrise -- like the classic older guy newsreader, younger girl reader couple, which makes us feel more comfortable because its, like, nuclear. BUT, the most interesting thing is that Karl, it seems, has been "Koched". As in, at some point over the last few years, someone evidently decided Karl was too boring and serious, and asked him to act like David Koch. And now he's acting all alpha male, making wobbly sports commentary, vaguely sexist comments, acting all Dad-like when interviewing younger women, and making bad jokes. Very unpleasant. And I still haven't forgiven Lisa Wilkinson for her days on Beauty and the Beast, in which she apparently represented some kind of "new" feminism that even at the time seemed a bit shaky. I do sound full of bile.
Monday, March 23, 2009
And while briefly sidetracked on the topic of news, this is really cute. I have an odd respect for CNN guy Anderson Cooper -- even though he is kind of ridiculous (e.g. reporting from war-torn provinces in buff-chest revealing t-shirts, daredevil reporting etc.), I think he's actually pretty darn funny, and has a keen pop culture appreciation. As evidenced here. And how cute is Ellen when she loses, awwww.

I am completely gob-smacked by tonight's Four Corners interview with Marcus Einfeld, the $77 parking fine former federal court judge. Watching it reminds me of the lie-spirals I occasionally found myself caught in back in primary school, but on a terrifying scale. Most compelling, however, was watching Four Corners' reporter Sarah Ferguson ruthlessly pound him with straight-to-the-jugular questions... mostly, "do you regret not paying the parking fine?" Anyway, this reminds me of how much I love hardline ("fierce") ABC journalists, which I will now rate in order of admiration:

1. Leigh Sales

2. Liz Jackson

3. Sarah Ferguson

4. Ali Moore

5. Emma Alberici

Aside from being greeted by bumblebee#2 on the 96 ("buzzing along", with luxurious seating, a touch of French flair, and none of that Siemens teeth-grinding shudder), what also made me happy today was my wealth of new music. Particularly:

I'm loving Yes so far, but particularly this... No one does sentimentality like the PSB, and this definitely feels like a return to form. Even with some cutely naff PSB rhyming ("pain", "rain"), its polished yearning for the past gives me goosebumps. And I think working with Xenomania has been a really good move -- they haven't thrown away their sound, and it feels nicely fresh.

If I was working for Kylie's team, I would be very worried that I've decided not to buy her new remix album. I AM her core audience, and if I turn my back it's a very bad sign, unless she can win over some of the more vapid drones on her forums. But I did download this... I initially loved Boombox because I thought the lyric was "give me OCD", which would have been *wicked*, but I think it's actually "give me your CD". Oh well. But hearing K mouth the words "Let it drop, make it rock", as improbable as that is, has a certain magic to it. I really, really want her to be hardcore. The lyric also formed one of the best bits of KylieX2008, in the first section of the following, before Can't Get You Out of My Head:

Then there's Jenny Wilson which I'm still getting my head around, Animal Collective and Fever Ray, courtesy of Elanor, but that's not for here. All of which provides a pleasant buffer from boring things like divisional restructures, standard deviations and plumbing.

More Roisin Murphy...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Sarah Ferguson look...

Mia Farrow meets doillie...



Air France v. Shirley Temple...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
NEWSFLASH: Miley Cyrus' real name is Destiny. Destiny Hope to be exact. Which adds a new twist to the best lyric of 2008: My best friend Leslie said/ Oh, she's just being Miley...

Actually, See You Again needs to be acknowledged as one of the watershed moments of 2008, announcing as it did that tweenpop was where musical excitement was *happening*. Although the greatness of See You Again stems from the way in which it seems so very inappropriate for tweenpop, namely the slightly been-around-the-block lyrics, such as:

I've got my heart set on you and I'm ready to wait/ I have a heart that will never be tamed...

I've got a way of knowing when something is right/ I feel like I must've known you in another life/ Cuz I felt this deep connection when you looked in my eyes...

Does that sound like 15-year old speak? To be fair the chorus does ("the last time I freaked out, I just kept looking down... the next time we hang out, I will redeem myself..."). But the effect of this alternating old-young-old-young verse-chorus pattern is to set up an uncomfortably predatory vignette (to steal your dancefloor observations, Catherine). Here it is one more time...

New Jenny Wilson!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
What a pleasant surprise. Love and Youth was the soundtrack to my restless 2008, and a very fitting soundscape to accompany protracted crises about getting older, lack of direction, indecision, deadening of the soul etc. Its talk of 'crazy summers' led me toward my bizarre and slightly ill-conceived European adventures, and brief parting from The Government. But what seductive lyrics for anyone of a romantic disposition:

Anyhow, I know the truth. It's what they call Love and Youth.

Sold my bed, no need to sleep these nights/ Walking round in search for stars these nights/ The sky is perfectly brown instead of black/ Let my shoes lead me forward, please bring me some luck.

Crazy summer/ Hot breeze/ Don't care about what people said.

Then the summer comes/ Hey, ain't that the roughest time the roughest of times/ Sun bleached hair/ No matter what you've just got to have fun...

See how easy it is to stitch these into a narrative leading all the way to Stockholm? (strategically ignoring any irony) Very easy. I love L&Y's breeziness, humour, but also its edge of melancholy -- anyone who has the time to write a concept album idealising love and youth is presumably writing about it from some distance. And it's just so romantic! As in romance in the unformed, unfocused way -- the romance of what might happen next. In Sweden.

Let my shoes lead me forward...

So back to my pleasant surprise that there's something new out. Have to pick it up tomorrow, but I have to say I'm actually a bit weirded out by the single, The Wooden Chair. At this point it's hard to separate the music from the imagery, but as a package its pretty full-on. For one thing, the clip's very Judy Garland TV-special (as in severe and draggy), with none of the lightness of Let my shoes lead me forward. The song's growing on me very, very quickly, but it's also quite severe, particularly the dramatic chorus (which for some reason reminds me of mid 90s Des'ree crossed with Jenny Morris. Don't ask why). But how very, very exciting!

More Kylie produce!

Monday, March 16, 2009
But seriously, where except G-A-Y would men actually be wearing Kylie's new fragrance for men? Unless it becomes a sort of scent-based code (thinking of The Swimming Pool Library's "Trouble for Men"). 

Nice to see her with her latin lover, although something about her slightly Marks & Sparks hair extensions, cod-coy looks and lace "bingo-wings" (to quote her) concealing top veers a bit close to the "tipsy aunt at family function cracking onto teenager" look she launched here:

I know it seems I'm coming down a bit hard on K at the moment, but my absolute respect for her is entirely critical. I still think Spinning Around is a bit crass, I don't like her album filler, and even though I claimed to like Red Blooded Woman for a period, that was after lots and lots of effort, and I've since thoroughly renounced it.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I feel an obligation to post this. Hmmm.

My god I've had so much coffee I feel like my insides are floating on a cloud above my head. So anyway, Kathy Griffin. I've always written her off as screechy and annoying, but My Life on the D List is inspiring some newfound admiration. Here's her infamous Anderson Cooper "outing" during their new year's coverage on CNN. I'm not actually convinced she's referring to him, but the fact alone that she's uttered "knock the dicks out of your mouth" on CNN is special enough.

I've been going through a bit of a Roisin Murphy phase at the moment, finally getting into Ruby Blue, and reigniting my love for Overpowered, which seems very close to the perfect fusion of complex emotion and beats. But there's also something amazing going on in the fashion department that needs to be acknowledged:


1970s Cher meets Edina Monsoon...

Knitting with Bjork?

Omen of death descends in London?

Foreboding spider creature chic?

But this I love. Alot of her best work seems to be about long-term relationship entanglement, presumably working through her breakup from, you know, the Moloko guy. And this clip just gets me -- all the shots of her alone in empty domestic scenes, with that thinly concealed madness that she does so well (apparently she is a little loopy). Particularly like the bit at 2.08 where she's eating her cereal, but then slides the plate away because what's the point

Wow, I didn't think this would actually happen, but now they're doing ads together? They do seem like a dangerously co-dependent couple, considering they're unable to do anything career-related without their "other halves". Also v. amusing that Delta felt the need to whack her gold record front and centre...

An alternate Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Wow. This was just on Rage, and I'm speechless. There's something about horseriding in a clip that seems of another age... as does smiling uncontrollably throughout.

Glitter tears! Awesome!

Apparently the new Freemasons' single featuring Sophie Ellis Bextor was debuted at the Mardi Gras afterparty, although I was either in bed, eating Maccas on the way home, or having a moment outside to regain my sense of personal space. I worry that SEB's heading for a more Dannii trajectory of guest vocals on random tracks followed by long periods of hibernation. Although, to be fair, SEB's been doing baby stuff, and a Rimmel ad is something Dannii could only dream of. I just feel that Sophie's a wasted talent...

But on the plus side she pulls off the London career girl look quite well...

And speaking of, how have I never seen this...

History suggests that K will endorse anything for enough $$ but the thought of her driving herself around in a sub-$30,000 car strikes a somewhat false note, at least without her PA Leanne lurking somewhere nearby. Actually, K would have to be one of the most advert friendly stars around. Off the top of my head, she's done stuff for British Airways, H&M, her "Parfum", her bedding apparel, Agent Provocateur, LoveKylie, Tous, Pepsi, Evian, and Audi (she's got a contract stipulating she can only be driven in their cars). And lets not forget the $4 million to perform at the opening of that Marcosesque end-of-the-world-and-we're-sipping-champagne casino monstrosity in Dubai. Still, thankfully she's never sunk to the lows of Destiny's Child with their McDonald's sponsored Destiny Fulfilled... And Lovin' It tour. 

More $$ for the coffers...

If U Seek Amy...

Friday, March 13, 2009
The new vid is here... and I kinda like it. The first section's standard Britney post-My Perogative sleaze, but I quite like the 50s house wife ending. Not that it's particularly complex, but any sign of depth in Britters' work carries extra weight because of its usual absence. And here's to all those, myself included, who found the "hidden" meaning of If You Seek Amy surprisingly hard to decode...

Taylor Swift @ Billboards

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I've only actually heard two of her songs, and didn't really know what to expect, but Taylor Swift's arrival in Melbourne brought with it an Obamaesque air of change. Despite the unfortunate Billboards setting, and despite the fact that she really does look like a fox (as in the animal, rather than a "foxy" fox), she has completely won me over: such energy, such showmanship, such unfiltered glee, such poise. For a moment I felt that this millennium could indeed bring hope. Highlights included:
  1. The crowd: Judging by the high-pitched squeals and the fact that even I was ID'd, this was a young crowd, hilariously composed of teenage princesses, Tamworth blow-ins in cowboy shirts and gay men in cowboy shirts.
  2. Her big reveal: See the youtube link below for an example, but her big costume "reveal" was priceless, as was the look on her face of "yep, I really did that!!".
  3. The tap dogs influence: Yep, percussion on garbage bins.
  4. Her messages of hope: I was feeling kind of glum about the future, but now that an 18 year old's told me change is on the way, I believe it.

Costume reveal...

And Billboards bin banging!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hee hee hee...

"Happy Mardi Gras, F***ers!"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oxford St. Chemist: Lube, Water & Berocca.

I've just returned from my first Mardi Gras, whch for a generally bookish, retiring type is quite an achivement. I've always found Sydney to have a kind of frontier town vibe, with street brawls and wenches potentially spilling out of of ale houses. The former is quite accurate, of course. On our first stroll down picturesque Oxford St we walked past a pub, only to walk back two minutes later to find police tape, litres of blood and a broken bottle on the pavement. A few blocks down,  a "police response unit" was attending to something unspecified but sinister. At this point a young girl walked past and screamed "Happy Mardi Gras FUCKERS!!", which I think handily sums up Mardi Gras' mix of aggression and festivity. 

The actual parade (or at least what I could see of it behind two bitchy French girls on crates) was a mix of the heartwarming and the confusing. Heartwarming: Matthew Mitchell, police, firefighters, SES, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), various schools (!!) that had entered floats against homophobia, humanitarian orgs etc. Confusing: State Rail, Pump Water, and various other components of "the" gay lifestyle... There's a complex mix of the commercial and the political playing out at Mardi Gras. Its got a highly political history, and its existence alone has a political effect. But on the other hand the gay lifesyle being embraced (by the sponsors more than the community orgs) is a narrowly defined one, heavily tied to consumption,  drugs, drink, leisure etc. Which is fine, but interestingly, and judging only from the crowd around me (lots of families, mums, dads, etc.), alot of people were there to witness a spectacle of excess rather than to support equality per se

At the afterparty, which admittedly was catering to a particular slice of the market, it felt like  a zombie flick filled with shiny shirtless men, all gym-buffed, hair only in the right places, appropriate tan etc. Funny that in an event embracing diversity, everyone looked exactly the same. But anyway, my queer politics are horribly convoluted, and it is kinda cool that Mardi Gras can so thoroughly take over Sydney, even if the reality of it is just a little bit skanky. Oh, and the surprise guest was no other than Tina Arena, which brings me to the second part of my Sydney advernture...

Tina Arena, Live in Concert

I've never quite called myself a Tina fan, but I've followed her career from Don't Ask days through Simon, the ultimate Tina fan. The latter part of her career I've found much more interesting, not only because some of her French stuff is really good, but also because she's emerging as quite the survivor where others would have fallen quickly against the Sony sword. As in, after she lost her deal with Sony here she snagged a new one with Sony France, then went on to record Songs of Love and Loss independently and license it in Australia through EMI -- its impressive watching her navigate the industry. It's also been heart-warming watching her find her self (and career) in France, and return home re-born with a new style and confidence, which is a pretty compelling narrative (think Sabrina).

The tour's in support of Songs of Love and Loss 2, which follows on (somewhat cynically, perhaps) from the first volume which, being covers-mad Australia, sold very, very well. Accordingly half the night was covers, and then the rest was greatest hits with a bit of French stuff thrown in. First of all, she really can sing. It's rare to get her combination of technical proficiency and emotional range. Second, she has really, really, crazily obsessive fans. Thirdly, she is slightly unhinged. When she talked, she talked, going on about her "journey" from sleep overs in Dandenong to Prisian haute corture, but all in most profound way.  As... in... everything... was... said... slowly... to... suggest... meaning. She also displayed a taste for Toni Childs-style earth woman dancing which was both endearing and unsettling. While my impression was positive, there was a sense that she's probably better than this tour. It felt as if she was enduring an Australia that doesn't appreciate that she really is a big star, albeit somewhere else.

But this, of course, is how I'll always remember Tina...

Thursday, March 5, 2009
WHAT! WHAT! WHAT? William Baker did Britters' costumes? TRAITOR. I guess. Bit confused about what his actual role was -- all I can deduce is that he was "one of" her stylists. And here's a reaction from the always toxic Kylie forums... "Britney... beware!! or before you know it, you'll end up having granny hair". Ha!

Circus opens!

This snuck up on me... Had no idea opening night was upon us. Hard to gauge from photos alone, but they don't look promising. Despite Jamie King at the reigns (Confessions creative director), Britters' tours are always a bit crass, if you ask me. Aside from a sense that she's melting down throughout, they normally evoke Janet Jackson Rythm Nation era, but with a touch of the Mickey Mouse club. Very robotic and saccharine. And this is nitpicking, but she always does this ridiculous dance move where she struts forward,  and points each arm out in either direction making some kind of "hey" gesture, as in the bottom part of the image below...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Annoyingly I can't embed these, but are the clips to PCD's I Hate This Part and Backstreet Boys' Incomplete not eerily similar? Key moments are Backstreet Boys' cutting to images of someone alone in the ocean as they sing 'in an ocean all alone', and at 1.52 minutes in I Hate This Part where PCD seamlessly insert a dance sequence into their ballad, presumably to give the (non-singing) girls something to do.
I was enduring one of those hideously awkward getting-to-know-you tutorial conversations today (incidentally with a guy studying organisational psychology who referred to mental health clinics as "nut houses") when I was asked what music I like. Normally I would make the effort to mount a firm defense for my discriminating embrace of pop, but to lessen the general awkwardness, I did a quick mental scan for appropriate music to mention -- all I could come up with was that I had "eclectic taste". "Not like Britney?", was the response. As I switched off my ipod which was, at the time, playing Britney's whimsical Unusual You, I acknowledged that I would not necessarily reject such music, but then flagged Morrissey as something on current rotation. I have no conviction.

Madonna vs Cyndi

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Back in January I started a lazy pop cultural wrap up of 2008 and got as far as
Sticky & Sweet and KylieX2008. Yes, many other things happened last year, but these were such obviously monumental events they deserved primary consideration. But as it's, like, March, I thought I'd continue sifting through the wash-up of a quite significant year in pop...

You know something's going on if two groundbreaking female pop icons forged in the mid-8os, both recently turned 50, release albums within months of each other. And while I remember thinking when these came out that they seemed such different approaches for mid-life pop stars to take, there's actually some structural similarity between the two that makes their apparent differences even more interesting. 

Most obviously, Madge's
Hard Candy is a take on R&B, whereas Cyndi's thrown her lot into eurodance (which is, funnily enough, where Madge was positioning herself with Confessions on a Dance Floor). When I first heard that Madge was going to be working with Timbaland and Timberlake I was a little worried -- why would she follow up something groundbreaking by jumping on a bandwagon that had already passed? Well, there's always some method to Madge's near pathalogical fascination with the new. It turns out Confessions just didn't sell well in the US. On a business level, I guess it would make sense to claw back the American market by givin em' what they want, but artistically it seemed quite regressive that she would sell herself out to hit-makers who were already beginning to lose their sheen.

While I can say with utter certainty that the result, Hard Candy, is awful, I'm still intrigued by it for reasons unknown. I think the awfulness stems from the improbability of a 50 year old control freak singing:

See which flavor you like and I'll have it for you
Come on in to my store, I've got candy galore
Don't pretend you're not hungry, I've seen it before
I've got turkish delight baby and so much more.

This sounds creepy, but something about it keeps making me think of menopause, although I'm sure that's some sick preoccupation of my own. 4 minutes seemed similarly disingenuous, with it's half-hearted and vague eco-message (messages which always seem a bit off from Madonna and her 'nannies, assistant driver and a jet'). To boot, she sounded completely bored throughout, except, interestingly, in the excellent Give it 2 Me -- I always believe Madonna more when she's singing about getting what she wants, working hard, and screwing over whoever gets in the way. But most of it was bad R&B dross. So, so, sad, and a commercial failure, which proves once again that you don't crack America by making music you expect America wants. But still my fascination. I think it's cause I secretly want to believe that Madonna remains eternal, and if you listen to select moments and don't actually look at her, you can just for a second believe she's unstoppable.

Even though Cyndi Lauper's Bring Ya to the Brink was a no-apologies dance record, it was Max Martin who she turned to for some of its best bits, which suggests that its quirkiness was coming from her own input rather than producer smarts. It also means that, in terms of turning to the hit-makers, Lauper wasn't that different to Madge in her method. Martin's Into the Nightlife has one of the *best* choruses I've heard in a long time, and while some songs veered into anonymous disco, her personality's so winning they're saved from complete banality. But most satisfying were the more ballady moments (e.g. Echo), where she proved she's still able to project fragility and vulnerability with the same kind of authenticity she showed with Time After Time and True Colours. Considering Madge's obsession with youth, it's funny that Bring ya seems like a much younger record -- I can actually believe that Lauper would, you know, go out and stuff, whereas Madge seems like she might be taking tips from Lourdes. If Hard Candy is a steely career women botoxed to oblivion (or perhaps some Patty Hughes from Damages type creature), Bring ya is the fun and kooky art teacher who never works out but still goes clubbing on the weekends. Or something.
How have I not watched this before? Why have I not wagged lectures before? The Drs seems to be a new The View-style medical issues show, covering serious medical issues through "Hot Topics" style chats, in which the doctors of dubious qualification switch from anecdotes about their 2 year old being cute at soccer practice, to "evidence-based" medical research with great dexterity. For example, "Notox", the Next Generation of Botox that uses some bodgy laser thing that seems like those similarly bodgy home use laser hair removal/ laser hair enhancement laser things. Sold! But seriously, it's as if soon our only source of information will be The View-style Hot Topic chats.

I also find it curious that all of these "Doctors" feel it is necessary to wear their operating room gear (whites? blues?) in the studio -- as if they could be called out at any second....

Monday, March 2, 2009
Can frippery survive in the real world?

With flexible government working arrangements, it can.

But nonetheless, as the clock ticks towards my return to "The Bureaucracy", the need grows to document the frivolous and pointless. A few more things:

1. Natalie Bassingthwaite has debuted at no.1!! End of days? Or an extension of the unexplained popularity of Human Nature et al and their banal cover albums. Being a cover album, they at least had the luxury of choosing kind-of decent songs (although presumably cheap, cheap, cheap kind-of decent songs). But Nat's do actually sound like Rogue Traders off-cuts, which is a very confronting concept. Maybe she represents the triumph of careerism after-all... the Tracy Flick approach to stardom?

2.  Ellen Degeneres is 51!? I find this hard to accept... and makes me realise how old Madonna seems through trying to seem young. I should remember this in 20 years time (and opt-out of the obvious path towards Madonna-style ageing that lies before me??)

3. I love Joy  Behar  from The View for bringing up the issue of gay teen suicide. She would be my ideal hip New York aunt.

4. And finally, I often forget about this, but Holly Valance's absolutely disasterous second album kick-off single really was very, very good. And I love her humourless donning of a Ramones t-shirt.

Sunday, March 1, 2009
Ben Cousins' fashion legacy?