Monthly Archives: December 2013

Best Albums Of 2013

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#10: Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

The drawled, confident ‘Forget about it’ immediately draws you in, and Parquet Courts keep you there for the album’s duration. It’s straight-up, uber-cool garage punk rock from the Brooklynites. It’s effortlessly catchy and instantly enjoyable, and the stoner lyrics suit the laid-back vibes perfectly. ‘Borrowed Time’ is the clear standout, encapsulating everything that’s good about Parquet Courts, while the rest of the album kinda blends together in a brilliant, carefree mess.

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#9: Local Natives – Hummingbird

Following up their stunning debut was always going to be tricky, but Local Natives did it just right. They virtually disappeared for ages, took their time, and wrote a mature and refined followup that kept all the good bits and introduced many more. ‘Heavy Feet’ and ‘Black Balloons’ are just as catchy and infectious as anything off the debut, while the heart-wrenching ‘Columbia’ is by far the most emotional song the band have written, surrounding the death of a band member’s mother.

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#8: Born Ruffians – Birthmarks

Born Ruffians finally grew up. After two (brilliant) albums filled with teen angst and the highly relatable troubles of growing up, Birthmarks sees frontman Luke Lalonde actually dealing with having grown up. On ‘Needle’ he bemoans: “When I was a boy / I wished that I was older / Wished that I was taller, tall enough to see / See the things I see today / Now I wish they’d go away / Now they’ve led me far astray / Stray from what I need”, and is almost directly addressing much of the lyrical content on their debut, Red, Yellow & Blue. Along with this newfound maturity, there’s some damn good songs. ‘Rage Flows’ is impossible to not play on full volume, ‘6-5000’ is a little gem, and ‘Permanent Hesitation’ is the most experimental and interesting song the band have ever created.

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#7: Los Campesinos! – No Blues

Another stellar release from the Brits, filled with their trademark raw, vocal, and catchy sounds. There’s no weak link throughout it, and the likes of ‘For Flotsam’, ‘Selling Rope’, and ‘Avocado, Baby’ rank easily among some of the band’s best work. The latter also contains one of the lyrics of the year: “A heart of stone / Rind so tough it’s crazy / That’s why they call me the avocado, baby”. 

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#6: Kurt Vile – Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze

Never has an album title described its contents as well as Kurt Vile’s latest offering. Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze is a laid-back, hazy, and relaxed jaunt that you wish would never end. It’s perfect to fall asleep too, and that’s not an insult, it’s just so damn nice. There isn’t really a better way to sum it up.

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#5: Cloud Control – Dream Cave

Following in the footsteps of Local Natives, this is how you follow up a hugely successful debut. The Blue Mountains four-piece relocated to the UK for Dream Cave, and produced a unique, polished and highly addictive record that shows the band’s full potential. ‘Dojo Rising’ is a vintage Cloud Control song, filled with Alister Wright’s intimate and personal lyrics, while ‘Promises’ deserves all the praise it is getting right now.

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#4: Arctic Monkeys – AM

An Arctic Monkeys album is always divisive. There’s those that will never go past their youthful, hyperactive debut, those that settle on the more refined Favourite Worst Nightmare, or those weirdos who thought their long-haired, QOTSA-esque Humbug was their best work. AM was as divisive as ever, with some lauding it as what the band has been working towards for their whole careers, and others saying that it’s flat out boring. Well, AM is pretty darn good. ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘R U Mine’ provide the strongest start to any album of the year, while ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ delivers the biggest shock of the record, not living up to its name at all but definitely providing an enjoyable alternative. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ follows in the same vein as the openers, while ‘Knee Socks’ sees a much appreciated intervention from none other than Josh Homme.

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#3: The National – Trouble Will Find Me

The National are just one of those bands that will never, ever let you down. They’re absurdly consistent while also reinventing and adding to their sound, and Trouble Will Find Me is no exception. There’s a bit more edge to the sound, with more heavier moments than seen on previous efforts, typified on ‘Sea Of Love’ which builds heavily before quickly stripping it all away for the refrain of ‘If I stay here / Trouble will find me”. ‘I Need My Girl’ displays the Dessner brother’s envious talents, and like every other National album, there isn’t a bad song on it.

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#2: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

It was with great trepidation that many listened to the eccentric Canadian’s fourth album. You never know what to expect with a new Arcade Fire album, with each drastically different from the last. Reflektor is just an hour and a half of extremely talented musicians jamming and messing around, and it’s brilliant. The title track sets the tone early, a jolly and highly danceable anthem with backing vocals from Bowie, while ‘Here Comes The Night Time’ is by far the catchiest song of the year. It’s one of those albums that needs to be listened to from cover to cover and, frankly, it’s records like these that keep the album format going.

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#1: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

It’s pretty rare for the best album of the year to be released way back in February, but the New Zealand-come-American’s second effort is impossible to look past. On II Ruban Nielson consolidates on the fuzzy goodness of his debut and builds on it to create a swirly, melodic and hugely complex record that is as addictive as it is layered. The lyrical content is heavy-hitting and relatable, focusing on the period of time Nielson and co spent touring their debut, where he claims they were “killing themselves”, and focusing on this separation from his wife and young child. There’s hardly anyone that could say they haven’t felt like Nielson does when he sings: “I wish that I could swim and sleep like a shark does / I’d fall to the bottom and I’d hide til the end of time” and “It’s a strange old state of mind / Memories they mess with my mind”. The production is just perfect for what it needs to be, made even more impressive by the fact it was all completed in Nielson’s basement home studio. The guitar work stands out across every track, with the catchiness of ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ or the Beatles-esque rock of ‘One At A Time’. Unknown Mortal Orchestra made something truly special on II, and it’s one that you find yourself always going back to over the whole year. A brave, interesting and complex release from one of the most talented musicians going round at the moment.

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In The Hot Seat

Everyone has that one friend who always says how well they’d do on a game show.

That’s not me.

My general knowledge definitely isn’t my pride and joy, and the pressures of being on camera and in front of a live audience has been known to get me on the very real verge of self-combustion.

But after seeing a friend win $200,000 on Millionaire: Hot Seat, I thought: ‘Hey, I could really go $200,000 right about now’, and just went for it.

I instantly went online and filled out the application, which involved a very quick and quite easy five questions, as well as your general name, age, education etc questions. It was all done and sent off within five minutes, and I didn’t really think much more of it.

About a month later I was reminded of it when I received an email reply telling me to come on down for an audition at the University of Melbourne, which turned out to be less of an audition and more of a qualifying test of my question-answering ability, which I promptly failed.

In a full lecture auditorium, thirty questions in the traditional Millionaire format were put on screen, and we all had to answer them on a scrap piece of paper. They involved a drastic mix of stupidly easy questions and absurdly hard ones, and by the end of it, I was already assuming my short-term Millionaire dream was well and truly over.

And I was half right.

We found out that the cut-off limit to move onto the next stage of auditions was 20 answers out of 30, and in my typical ‘close but not good enough’ tradition, I got 19 of those darn things right. Filled with a mixture of amusement and embarrassment, I slowly trudged out of the auditorium in my own special version of a walk of shame.

But in an M Night Shyamalan-esque twist, I was quickly pulled aside by a staff member, and told to stick around for a ‘survey’. After seeing all the others that were also plucked out of the depths of despair, it became obvious that the survey didn’t actually exist.

After being by far the odd one out in a room filled with middle-aged and older individuals, I was now surrounded by other youngsters, and a handful of adorable oldies. We were the unique ones, the different ones, at least by Millionaire’s standards.

I was finally being rewarded for giving in to my game-show greed at a relatively young age.

We were whisked away to a smaller room and told they we had a second chance, and then instructed fill out a multitude of papers with the expected questions: ‘what are your hobbies?’, ‘‘what’s your most interesting story?’, ‘do you know any famous people’, and, of course, ‘what would you do if you won a millionaire dollars?’.

This was the first time that I’d actually even considered this question, and I genuinely had absolutely no idea what to answer. I still can’t remember what I actually wrote down, and I don’t know the answer to this day, but apparently it involved fixing a fence in my backyard so alpacas stop invading.

We then did a quick interview to camera, telling one interesting story that Eddie could talk about on the show, and we were all done. Leaving this audition felt quite similar to the online one, I quickly returned to the real world and didn’t really think much more of it. It all felt like some sort of hilarious imaginary land that never really led to anywhere.

It was a much longer wait this time, but one day in a tute at uni I got a call from the show organiser, who happily informed me that I was scheduled to appear on the show in two weeks time, and a confusing mix of absolute fear and pure excitement filled my body.

The night before the shooting consisted of thoughts of ‘oh god why did I do this I’m so nervous I’ll probably sweat so much Eddie will slip over and hit his head and then I’ll be the sweaty guy that ruined Eddie’s career’, and of trying to repress and notion at all of actually winning any money at all.

I was instructed to bring three different outfits, which was a definite struggle, and to wash my hair within 48 hours (also a struggle). I decided to do a bit of studying beforehand, mostly to settle the nerves, with the odds of actually looking at something that gets asks about as likely me getting on Deal Or No Deal. I looked at Australia’s Wikipedia page, because no-one wants to be that guy that gets a basic history question wrong about his country, as well as the ologies, a list of phobias, and past Australian and American leaders. Ultimately it did more to distract me than actually prepare me for the next day, but this was probably just as useful.

I steeled myself all day that I’d be happy if I just got one question right, any question at all, so I could have that claim to fame forever. But as with most things in life, deep down, you think of all the possibilities, the glorious ‘what ifs’.

When there’s the opportunity, however hilariously minuscule, to change your life in the space of half an hour, it’s sure as hell going to be the only thing on my mind. It’s not every day you have your chance, but there it was, and you can’t help but dream.

Where would my first holiday destination be? Should I cry on national TV? Will they let me hug Eddie? How will I get out of all these joke deals I’ve made with people to give them a cut of the winnings?

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With a 8am start time, the actual filming day was all a bit of a blur. After signing all the paperwork and going through the basics of how to answer questions and the like (you’d be surprised how much footage they have of people doing it wrong) we were put through a mock-up version of the filming, with a fake Eddie to boot.

Apparently the hardest part of the filming is right at the beginning, where the camera focuses on you for about 15 seconds and you have to awkwardly smile and wave at it, although by the end of the day I’d probably say the hardest bit is answering the questions.

Mercifully, I was in the first group to be filmed, and didn’t have to stew in my overwhelming nerves for too long. After my first experience with make-up and having most of my carefully planned outfits rejected, I was finally on set as Eddie McGuire strode happily in.

I got onto the hot seat for the $1,000 question. I’d be training myself for this moment, thinking about what I’d say, how I’d look, make sure to laugh at Eddie’s jokes. And the moment finally came. “It’s time for an ad break.” Well shit.

After the painful break, it was finally time to get going, and the first question was relatively simply. “Where on your body to you get a bunion?”. I could relax a little. This was an easy one.

At least I thought it was.

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It really is true, what they say about second guessing yourself with the pressure. Although I was immediately positive that you get them on your feet, a thousand thoughts crept rudely into my mind, playing with my confidence and suddenly there was only a few seconds left. Thankfully, I locked in B, and got the question right. Cool, there it is, that’s all I want to do right? But it doesn’t work like that.

Watching back, I honestly don’t remember saying that I’d never had a bunion on national TV, but hey there it is.

It’s at this point that advised everyone I know to stop watching, that was the highpoint, the peak of my short-lived television career. And it was about the glamorous world of bunions.

The next question was about a company that I’m still not quite sure exists, so I quickly jumped in with my new-found ability to pass, and got the hell out of there. After watching a lot of the people I’d met throughout the day drop out or pass as well, I got back in the hot seat with only three questions left.

I quickly sank back into the surprisingly uncomfortable hot seat. Eddie smiles at me like we’re longtime friends. The lights dim. I quickly tried to work out what the odds were of me completely guessing three questions right. I couldn’t do it. Hopefully it wasn’t a maths question.

“What is the name for a reddish-brown horse?”

Whelp.

Horses are definitely not my strong suit. I rode one once for a primary school birthday party and had a minor skin reaction and nearly fell off twice so I’m not really all that endeared to the animals. And now I hate them.

I had absolutely no clear. I couldn’t even answer whether they were all, in fact, names for horses. But hey, it’s still a one in four chance right?

After some brilliant deduction, where I actually knocked an option out because I didn’t like the sound of it (Piebald does sound pretty stupid), I rushed it and locked in C, Pinto. In reality, I thought it kinda sounded like red wine which worked in with reddish-brown, but on TV I was much less eloquent, merely saying that I liked the sound of that one.

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Eddie was merciful and quickly told me it was wrong, I stood up, shook his hand, walked off to the side of the studio, and it was all over. It was a confounding mix of relief, and a dawning sense of disappointment, a waste of what was, in all likelihood, a once in a lifetime chance.

But I’m still glad I did it. I got to meet Eddie, confirmed that I cannot spontaneously combust from sheer nerves, and it’s a damn good conversation starter.

I think the biggest thing that I took out of the whole experience was a newfound sense of courage and impulse, to try out new things and just see where they lead, and that it’s not always bad to take myself so far outside of my comfort zone that I can’t see my happy place (a couch, TV snacks, and Police Ten 7).

And an intense dislike for horses.