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Favourites of 2008

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Originally posted over at Cyclic Defrost

An apprehensive retrospective of the moments in songs from 2008 that made the hairs on the back of my neck do strange things and/or made me squeal with glee.

Probably my song of the year regardless of the Eurovision debacle

Sebastien Tellier – Roche (0:19, after the whirring plan motor fades out and the breezy, summer synth hits)

Ahh, Sebastien. Only you could make impersonating Jesus look so effortless.

Tellier’s Sexuality makes me think of Serge Gainsbourg on a particularly amorous night with a Moog. Love. It.

Mrs Jynx – My Friend T3 (0:43 when the percussion kicks in and makes the entire midsection soar with grandeur, and again at 2:41 as the throaty, somehow human sounding ‘ah ah’ comes in)
Morgan Geist – The Shore (0:45 as Jeremy Greenspan whisper-sings “It’s okay to let it out”, a thousand teenage hearts melt in unison)
M83 – You, Appearing (3:39 that last gasp of air before the onslaught of Loveless-esque beauty in ‘Kim & Jessie’)
Jim Noir – All Right (2:09)
Inch-Time – Snow Jewel (2:19. I remember listening to this on months before the actual release, and struggled to tear myself away from the magnificent beauty of this particular moment. This entire compilation is a winner, but, this moment from Adelaide’s Stefan Panczak wins for its exquisite ability to tear my heartstrings apart.)
Cat Power – Ramblin’ Woman (1:25)
Benoit Pioulard – Golden Grin (0:33)
Daedelus – For Withered Friends (feat. Michael Johnson) (0:46)
Goldfrapp – Road to Somewhere (2:47)
Seekae – Void (2:14)

Yeasayer – Wait For the Summer (2:10)
Wiley – Wearing My Rolex (This was cemented as the most important crossover hit I can remember when I heard it in a suburban coffee shop, blasted over commercial radio. Bless.)
Friendly Fires – White Diamonds (2:57. The start of a serious love-affair with their harmonies and exquisite production.)
Air France – Collapsing At Your Doorstep (0:01)
Lawrence – Forever Anna (this is the song I write in my dreams and forget when I wake up)
Four Tet – Ringer (0:52)
Dosh – Don’t Wait For the Needle to Drop (1:35)
Raz Ohara and the Odd Orchestra – Kisses (Pantha du Prince remix) (0:01)
Apse – From The North
Beck – Chemtrails (the first Beck song I’ve truly ‘got’)
Leila – Mettle
Hot Chip – One Pure Thought (apart from the fact that no one believed me when I thought that the beat was identical to M83’s ‘Couleurs’…)
Ane Brun – Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz Remix – Dixon Edit – Ame Approved)


Neon Neon – I Lust U (2:07. Apart from the press shots and media releases, I have no idea what this album has to do with DeLorean cars)
Lindstrom – Grand Ideas (Johan Agebjorn Remix)
Geiom – Boxes that Go Beep (this one seemed to be a MySpace stream/ thing only, but was simply that gorgeous it can’t go without mention)
iTAL tEK – White Mark
Khoiba – In Every Second Dream
Antony and the Johnsons – Another World
Max Tundra – Will Get Fooled Again

A brilliant song from an otherwise disappointing/terrible album


The Streets – The Escapist

I got a lot of music for free this year. Doesn’t mean I love it any less…

Ghoul – M-O-O-N (0:56)
Faux Pas – Chasing Waterfalls/Renfield’s Dream

Tim also wins the Photoshop award of the year for this effort:

The silliest music-related story of the year

The Guardian blames AC/DC for economic downturn

Now for the albums that I couldn’t bear to play favourites with

Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (Such damn swagger, such exquisite style)
2562 – Aerial
Various Artists – Teaism
Various Artists – Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow
Children of the Wave – Carapace
Portishead – Third
Max Richter – 24 Postcards in Full Colour
Peter Broderick – Home and Float
Fennesz – Black Sea
Johan Agebjorn – Mossebo
Various Artists – Steppas’ Delight
Martyn – Vancouver 12″ with 2562’s Puur Natuur Dub and Flying Lotus’ Cleanse mix of Natural Selection


Written by lexstatic

January 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm

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You Talkin’ to Me? Diary of an Olympic Cabbie

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Nostalgia for times past provides much inspiration for You Talkin’ to Me? Diary of an Olympic Cabbie, writes Alexandra Savvides.Jamie Oxenbould

Andy (Jamie Oxenbould) is a struggling writer looking for his big break. He is also somewhat obsessed with sport. On the cusp of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Andy decides to enrol in taxi college to satiate his thirst for the Games. Based on Anthony Sharwood’s novel of his time spent as a cab driver during the Olympics and adapted for the stage by Mark Kilmurry, You Talkin’ to Me? is an enjoyable, if predictable, version of events.

Girlfriend Isabella (Catherine Moore) is progressing up the career ladder whilst Andy drives his cab around town. Necessary dramatic tension is built around her expectations and anxieties about Andy’s choice of job, but this is far from the core of the play. Instead, it is Oxenbould’s characterisation of Andy and over thirty other incidental characters that grace the backseat of his cab which becomes the main focal point of the production. Oxenbould’s ability to switch effortlessly from confused British tourists to drunken twenty-something girls is nothing short of amazing. He brings such vivacity (and stamina) to the role which results in a plethora of laughter on many occasions.

The characters which Oxenbould brings to life are incredibly well-observed, even if they do tend to lapse into stereotype. The slow-motion segments and music montages are amusing, but clichéd in retrospect; yet at the time they fit perfectly with the mood of the piece. It is easy to be cynical about this production but the performances by Oxenbould and Moore win you over with ease that all such thoughts are banished by the conclusion of the piece.

You Talkin’ to Me? works on the premise that the events of the Games are still in living memory for the audience. There are many cultural nuances and incidental details that date the production, but perhaps that is precisely the point. As Andy says somewhat predictably at the conclusion of the play, these were simpler times, and will always be looked upon favourably. This is a theatre experience to uplift rather than challenge, and a fond historical artefact of a time when a city went just a little bit crazy over being on the world stage.

Dates: 2 April – 22 May 2008
Location: Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
Price: $38 – $62
Bookings: (02) 9929 0644 or


Written by lexstatic

April 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Burnt Piano

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Samuel Beckett certainly cast a long shadow. In Burnt Piano, one of Ensemble Theatre’s productions in its fiftieth year, one woman struggles with her own personal grief and guilt through an unhealthy adoration of the great playwright, writes Alexandra Savvides.

The scene is set in Paris, in 1989. Karen Idlewild (Dee Smart) believes she was born under the star sign of Beckett’s Godot. From her birthday coinciding with the day Waiting for Godot premiered, to the names of her parents, Karen is convinced she has an uncanny connection with the playwright, reinforced even more since the death of her eldest son. Her author-father Pete (Michael Ross), long-suffering one would imagine, sits around and listens to Karen recite her journal and her thoughts about Beckett into a dictaphone. Karen’s son Jonah (Nat Jones/Nick Virgona) is living with the burden of guilt about his late brother.

The narrative of Burnt Piano relies on the lives of the Idlewild family and the revered playwright interweaving. Much to the chagrin of Pete, Karen continually forces her son to make a sort of pilgrimage to Beckett (Don Reid). Living in self-imposed isolation from adoring fans, Beckett and his wife Suzanne (Zika Nester) encounter Jonah as he is sent on a mission by his mother to deliver a letter.

The conflict between Karen and Pete provides much of the humour in the play. Even though Karen claims her father’s output was not as intellectual as Beckett’s, it seems that she is fundamentally jealous of his ability to write when she cannot even document her own feelings.

Imagined conversations with the great playwright himself only compound Karen’s delusions. Their actual meeting at the end of the play seems likely to hinge on the old adage of ‘never meet your idols’, until Beckett’s silence allows Karen to realise that what she needs to help her deal with her grief is something she has had all along.

Justin Fleming’s text is full of witty one-liners and poignant moments, even if they are obscured by the over-theatricality of some of the performances. The production also suffers from being slightly too long. As is often the case, the momentum is lost after the interval and it takes a while to rebuild the dynamic between the characters, particularly Karen and Pete.

Despite this, there are some touching moments during the play when the direction and characterisation come into their own. Nick Virgona’s performance as Jonah deserves special mention. The innocence that he brings to the role is incredibly moving, especially during his dialogues with Beckett. Don Reid’s portrayal of the playwright is sympathetic with the benevolent character that Fleming’s text aims to portray; in the end, Beckett was only human after all.


Written by lexstatic

March 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm

The History Boys

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History BoysTake one wildly successful stage play and put it on screen. As easy as that may sound, The History Boys has achieved something that most of its predecessors have failed to do – to be just as good as the original.

Alan Bennett’s award winning stage play has been transformed onto screen with a few minor changes and flourishes to the script, additional characters and new scenes. At the heart of the plot lies a group of eight young school leavers, eager to impress the prestigious Oxbridge selection board. As easy as it would be to pigeonhole each of the boys (there’s the shy, intelligent Posner played by Samuel Barnett and wild, handsome Dakin played by Dominic Cooper to name but a few of the talented ensemble) Bennett’s script allows each and every one to display traits and thoughts beyond what you would expect.

The arrival of new teacher Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) shakes feathers throughout the class, especially for fellow teacher Hector, played to perfection by Richard Griffiths. Irwin’s teaching methods are compelling, adding embellishments to the retelling of history, but it’s ultimately constructing a version of the past that is deeply entrenched in Irwin’s own beliefs.

Unrequited love and lust plays between sharp literary and filmic references scattered throughout the screenplay, adding humour and poignancy in measured amounts. Without spoiling the fun, make sure to watch out for the brilliant French scene involving the boys play acting, one of the highlights of the film. Frances de la Tour steals some of the wittiest lines in the script, even if her role seems to be more truncated than in the original play.

Though the story is set in 1983, the contemporary resonances still shine through. Sly social commentary on selection boards, the influence of politics on school systems, and the role of history itself in learning all emerge from underneath the film’s exuberant cover – some things never change with time. The rousing score and the filming technique work very well in grounding the story to a particular place and time, even though the themes are universal.

Nicholas Hytner’s understated direction allows the script to showcase the subtle, gentle elements to its character, but at times some scenes tend to last slightly longer than is expected. Whilst these scenes are riveting on stage, when transferred to screen the intimate connection with the live actors is lost. Even so, you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the play before seeing this film.

Bennett’s message, delivered ever so elegantly by Hector throughout the film, is a compelling and compassionate reason to spend some time with The History Boys. After all, learning is power.

Published on The Program, 4 May 2007

Written by lexstatic

March 17, 2008 at 6:22 am

Posted in Film Reviews, Reviews

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Alan Bennett – The Uncommon Reader

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Alan BennettAlan Bennett’s latest novella proves that often, the very best things do come in small packages.

The neatly bound, 120-odd page extended short story is the latest addition to Bennett’s already extensive catalogue of plays and monologues. The tale, seemingly implausible on first inspection, is made wholly believable by Bennett’s masterful and subversive writing style.

When the Queen of England stumbles upon a travelling library outside her palace, an entire world of literature is uncovered. Starting off with a volume borrowed here and there, the library soon turns into a regular outing on the Queen’s roster. Of course, her newfound interest earns the chagrin of her palace entourage – all except the keen kitchen-hand Norman who is well acquainted with the literary greats. He takes great pleasure in slowly introducing the Queen to works she had previously overlooked, and together they create their own little literary hideaway within the confines of the palace.

As her reading increases, her palatial and royal duties are pushed to the side. Books become almost an addiction. The Queen simply cannot go anywhere without having a book by her side. “One” must read – and read she does. Witty one-liners slowly begin to creep into the Queen’s vocabulary, and the great pride she once took in her wardrobe begins to wane. Heaven forbid the Queen wears the same brooch twice in one week, chides the narrator.

The Uncommon Reader is so enjoyable to read because Bennett takes us into the mind (even if it is fictional) of one of the most powerful women in the world. This sort of voyeurism, as it were, makes this story so compelling. Not only do we see a sense of humour behind this public figure, but a bitter-sweet sense of pathos as well. Of course, this is a very sympathetic portrayal of this fictional Queen, and some readers may well see this as Bennett’s gentle support for the monarchy. If you are able to put this fact aside, and see it as a charming piece of fiction, the rewards are plentiful – just as the Queen discovers for herself through her reading.

The Uncommon Reader is a delight to read. Brief enough to spend the afternoon with, but engrossing enough to keep you interested along the way, Bennett has once again shown why he is such an interesting writer to keep one’s eye on.

Published on The Program, 18 November 2007

Written by lexstatic

March 17, 2008 at 6:07 am

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Gotan Project – Live in Sydney (5 March 2007)

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Gotan ProjectAfter a long, rainy Monday in Sydney, one of the last places you might expect a crowd would be at the Sydney Opera House, braving the lashing winds. Yet the crowd came, filling up the Concert Hall to see Gotan Project. Fusing traditional Argentinean tango music with electronic beats, rap, samples, female vocals and a string section, I definitely underestimated the pulling power of Gotan Project. The diverse crowd is a testimony to Gotan Project’s broad appeal – this is music for everyone.

Dressed impeccably in white suits and dresses, the combined ensemble led by main members Philippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff and Christoph Muller enchanted the highly appreciative audience for over an hour, performing songs from their latest album Lunatico, as well as well-received favourites from their first album, La Revancha Del Tango. Set to a backdrop of video projections, the mix worked well in combining the undulating electronic beats and lush, sensuous female vocals.

Enormous roars of appreciation filled the rear of the hall, spreading down into the stalls as the audience recognised the first beats of songs Mi Confesión and Una Musica Brutal, a highlight of the evening. If rap isn’t your cup of tea, you might have to rethink your decision after hearing the fusion of tango and verses in Mi Confesión, coupled with the rappers on projection screen. After seeking permission to showcase a traditional Argentinean folk song not found on their albums called El Norte, Gotan Project whipped into their rendition showcasing the talent found in their piano and bandoneon players.

Unlike other artists who dress the part, the sincerity and sense of humour Gotan Project inject into their music is entirely believable. At first, the stifling atmosphere of the Concert Hall prevented many from moving to the music, though as the show progressed, and the crowd warmed to the swirling sounds, everyone seemed to relax. Resisting the urge to tango in the aisles was too strong for many – some moved surreptitiously to the beat with their heads, and one woman danced with abandon out of her seat. Unfortunately the rest of us had to wait until MC Philippe urged everyone to stand and dance to the final encore, an eclectic mix of riffs from Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, and ABBA’s Money, Money, Money resulting in grateful laughter as everyone recognised the familiar tunes.

MC Philippe charmed the crowd throughout the set with his enchanting French accent, yet when it came time to leave he couldn’t resist one more, and with a playful quip remarked “one more for the road?” As we emerged from the Concert Hall filled with the spirit of the tango, it seemed as if one more just wasn’t enough. One hundred more for the road, perhaps?

Published on The Program, 7 March 2007

Written by lexstatic

March 17, 2008 at 6:03 am

Hanne Hukkelberg – Little Things

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Hanne Hukkelberg

There must be something in the water in Norway, given the amount of truly impressive music emerging from there. Hanne Hukkelberg’s debut album is a prime example – a solid mix of jazz sensibility, instrumental experimentation and whimsical pop. Contributions from fellow Norwegians such as Jaga Jazzist and Kaada only add to the appeal of Hukkelberg’s debut.

Hukkelberg’s voice is soft and beguiling, able to flow effortlessly along the melodies she crafts, from samples collected whilst riding her bicycle around Oslo, to sounds from found objects. The unmistakable hums of a pinball machine, turning bicycle wheels and scratching dishwashing brushes make up just some of her collection of found sounds. Each element is tightly woven into her compositions paired with deft tinkerings on piano, glockenspiel, violin, banjo and accordion resulting in particularly impressive climaxes on songs like Do Not As I Do. Here, her voice seemingly weaves in and out of the melody deftly trying to avoid the beat as she sings cautionary tales – “It’s not possible to teach a kid by preaching / when you do the opposite”.

The initially discordant Balloon gives way to an elegant string section, allowing Hukkelberg to achieve the very best from her voice, sounding like she is tracing the path of the balloon she lost to the sky soaring towards the heavens. Comparisons with Björk are inevitable, and somewhat unfortunate, because Hukkelberg is truly a unique artist deserving of her own recognition.

Written by lexstatic

March 17, 2008 at 6:01 am