Friday, August 29, 2008

Of The Planets' Alignment

It's time for some productivity, so as promised I'm gonna give y'all some more themed playlist goodness.

The Solar System In Song - A Planets Playlist

They Might Be Giants - Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas)
Let's start with the big fella to which this system is named after, and what better way to honour him than with the best educational song to ever grace these ears. It's no real surprise that 'the two Johns' (Flansburgh and Linnell of TMBG) would go on to make albums for kids considering they covered this cute tune. They make tongue-twisting science fun, and that's a rare talent indeed.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - On Mercury
Originally titled 'Lemon Trees On Mercury' which is quite a psychedelic title considering the lyrics are Antony Kiedes' usual brand of brilliant nonsense. Really like the horns punctuating the mix also, kinda like ska - but less brash and more funky. Chili Peppers, Funky? Well i never.

Air - Venus
French electronic duo make reference to the old chestnut "men are form mars, women are from venus." In a sound that's one part sci-fi, one part warm instrumentation and all parts effortless cool. Which is strange considering how close to the sun Venus is.

Eskimo Joe - Planet Earth
Quite an easy pick really and not to be confused with the Duran Duran and Prince versions. Despite the lovely shuffling pop, i've always struggled to make sense of Eskimo Joe's lyrics. "Out in the stars, up in the sky/There's a thing that they all talk about/It's called the opposite, and how it works" is a case in point.

David Bowie - Life On Mars?
Bowie's re-write of Sinatra's My Way is a no-brainer. Mike Garson's piano leads the charge on a musical extravaganza that demonstrates a thrilling artist at the peak of his powers, the thought of life on the red giant might be a mere rumination in a sea of drama, but when the music's this good - you need no other justification to include it.

Cave-In - Jupiter
Train's Drops of Jupiter certainly springs to mind, but while this act is perhaps the least known on this list - i can think of no better song that captures the immense size of this giant than this slice of drone-rock complete with widescreen guitars and barrelling drums.

R.E.M. - Saturn Return
From their underrated album of 2001, Reveal, this hints at the loneliness and solitude of the planets, floating up there in the vast expanse of space. A melancholy and mysterious song.

Jimi Hendrix - Uranus Rock
There are many artists who went the cheap and easy option of the "Your Anus" joke, to which i reply "No Thanks." Instead we have the guitar virtuoso's rare bootleg jam. Cue usual guitar wizadry, albeit poorly recorded.

Nicole Atkins - Neptune City
Ms. Atkins is an excellent up and coming singer-songwriter, and if her album of the same name is anything to go by - she's a talent to watch. With lush orchestration that Rufus Wainwright would be proud of and a voice that's the right side of yearning, another song to do the planets proud, even if it is devoid of watery references.

Clare & The Reasons - Pluto
I know officially speaking that Pluto isn't a planet anymore, but that's exactly what this song is about - "Pluto i have some frightful news dear/In The New York Times/ They've just reported you've been overthrown/from your solar throne for good." Don't know about you but i always pictured Mickey Mouse's cartoon dog anyway.
Be sure to check out nobody move! for all your music news and nicities. Till next time...

Monday, August 25, 2008

For Those About To Laugh...

So yeah... the Law Revue, yeah it was a good time had by all and a selfish, egotistical chance for me to flex my soundtrack skills - and it seemed i did ok, cause some people have been asking what it was playing. Pretty surprising really as the majority of these songs only got 9-10 seconds airtime between sketches.

Sure i took the time to edit them so we got straight to the best bits, but still, i'm glad people noticed them as it achieved the task of distracting them from the transitions on stage. Plus i'm not sure if a lot of people picked up on it, but the music definitely contained references to the sketches they followed, or preceded. Most of these are probably impossible to pick up without the sketch running order - so i've cheekily mentioned it where appropriate.

So below is as comprehensive a list of all the music from Animal Emissions: The 2008 Melbourne University Comedy Law Revue as i could achieve. Basically the only stuff that's missing is the interval and post/pre-show music as it was random every night. Oh, and finally, as usual i've added links where available and a big thanks to the providing servers/blogs/artists. Usual rules apply.

Opening Video - The Torch Relay
Doves - Pounding
Robert Tepper - No Easy Way Out
The Bangles - Eternal Flame
Tetris - Korobeinki (Dance Remix)
Anamanaguchi - Power Supply
(i pushed from pretty early on to have this as the opening music - and i got my wish - ain't being a director grand?)

Avril Lavigne - Sk8er Boi
(came after the Hotmail sketch which originally obliquely referenced Avril, till it was cut down to just the BOI gag - plus i liked the idea of a shitty song to throw people off the scent of the good music to come)

weezer - Pork & Beans

Brad Fiedel - T2: Judgement Day Theme
(preceded the Pterrorism sketch - and what better way to set an army meeting than the industrial drumming of Arnie's finest hour)

Henry Mancini - Baby Elephant Walk

The Cribs - Men's Needs
(coming after the Gollum sketch and Gandalf coming out of the closet, what better way to soundtrack a homosexual reading of Lord of the Rings?)

The Features - Blow It Out

Akon - Smack Dat (Instrumental)
(aka Graph Dat)

Bobby Womack - Across 110th St

Dropkick Murphys - I'm Shipping Up To Boston
(the same catchy music that soundtracked the Departed trailer)

Cold War Kids - Hang Me Out To Dry

Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead (Instrumental)
(Toby's Dead, Toby's Dead, hi you've reached the Browns...)

Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook
(at one point this was a contender to open the show, but instead it was better suited to come after Zork the Fruiterer - whose alien gibberish links to the title)

Kate Nash - Dickhead
(after Flex Guy, because violence against women does indeed make one a dickhead)

Meat Loaf - I Would Do Anything For Love (But I won't Do That)

The Galvatrons - When We Were Kids

The Heavy - That Kind Of Man
(after the first creepy dad sketch, because that kind of man would def. be anal enough about margarine and such matters)

Cameo - Word Up

Savage Garden - Truly, Madly, Deeply (Instrumental)
(the backing track for The Dad Joke Medley "is that C# ?")

Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

M.I.A. - Paper Planes
(setting the scene for the Chasing Cars party, firstly because it's such a contrast, and secondly because its quite ridiculous that the person DJ'ing would follow such a cool song with...)

Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
(It warms my heart to think there may be a few people who will not think of Gray's Anatomy after hearing this anymore, but instead of a girl breaking down at a party)

Bloc Party - Hunting For Witches
(after the infamous Mangina sketch, i don't think anyone was paying attention to this reference, but basically Sketch Hunting - Hunting, geddit, geddit?)

Asia - Heat Of The Moment
(conjoined twins making out - oh the sexual tension! cue 80's power ballad)

The Hoosiers - Worst Case Scenario
("there's some uh... there's some shit in the butter" - see title)

Arctic Monkeys - Fluorescent Adolescent
(came after the Monkey Subject selection sketch - the reference should be obvious)

Captain Planet Rap/Chopin's Funeral March
(setting the scene for Mati's funeral with the memorable TV theme being cut off by the highly recognisable Funeral March)

Ennio Morricone - Vita Nostre
(i (half) seriously want to have this playing at my own funeral, Morricone's score to The Mission always seems to hit the right nerves - plus there's the whole South American setting)

Go West - King Of Wishful Thinking

Muse - Starlight
(I think it was in last year's show and pretty much every playlist anyone's ever made since its release. In a word, ubiquitous.)

The Flaming Lips - The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
(For me, it just sounded a bit like the "ows" that punctuated the preceding Whack-An-Alligator sketch)

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake excerpt
(Half of the success of the Helmetface video can be boiled down to this excellent soundtrack choice, all credit to Al Harkness, beautiful, tragic, and really, really silly)

Heavy Metal Poetry
(The juxtaposition of classical music and Dream Theater's This Dying Soul created the visual punchline that was Heavy Metal Poetry)

The Beach Boys - I Get Around (Instrumental)
(aka I Get Aroused, this was EXTREMELY difficult to get a hold of... that is all)

Girl Talk - Still Here

MGMT - Kids
(this song will forever be associated with the show, and that my friends... is a very, very good thing)

I've got a ton of ideas for posts and playlists in the future so i thought i'd just give you a little teaser of coming attractions
Coming soon to Al's Music Rant:
Songs about Jesus
Around The World In 80 Songs
The Planet/Rainbow Playlist
and i'll start winding towards my picks for the best albums and tunes of '08

Stay tuned, cause in the words of D:Ream, things can only get better.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This is not the time to sign a lease

Well, it's been nearly 3 months to the day before there was any action on this space, and for good reason, i was putting on the funniest show in Melbourne! ( and it was a resounding success raising over $11,000 with all the proceeds going to the Starlight Foundation! Hooray!

Which means that pretty much everything else in my life took a back seat - including my fave blog, but what better way to get back on it than with a first impressions account of a new album from one of my favourite bands...

If this is all news to you, i wouldn't be surprised. Basically Bloc Party held a webcast on August 19th in which they, 'did a Radiohead,' spilling the beans on a finished and fresh to be released album - Intimacy. And no sooner than the 21st of August!

So basically it's available for order now from so if you've got any sense you'll go buy the download and pre-order CD for AU$21, with the CD to ship by Oct 27th - which is presumably when the physical copy will be available in stores. So what are you waiting for, go get it

So now that you've secured your copy or perhaps still waiting to decide - whatev - let me press on, my download finished mere minutes ago and i'm listening to the ten brand new Bloc Party tracks as i write this to you now. So without further ado...

1. Ares
Named after the Greek God of War and surprise, suprise the opening salvo is a whinging shout of "war, war, war" as a crowd of Keles give a wry state of the nation address over some buzz-saw guitars and a drum break highly reminiscent of Chemical Brothers' 'Let Forever Be.'
At around the 2 minute mark it breaks down into a quiet breathing section where Kele hums angelically, but it doesn't last for long before what sounds like a looped manic scream kicks the main riff back into the end.

2. Mercury
You've probably heard the lead single by now, and it's as big a leap from Flux as that single was to the A Weekend In The City material, and since this is still my first listen through - i can't 100% guarantee that it's indicative of the album as a whole - but it's still a ripping dance track - particularly when those malicious horns kick in. Kele's really enjoying the manipulation of his voice too. Love it or Hate it - this is the new Bloc Party sound.

3. Halo
Aha the first taste of what the press release was hinting at when it
said "some songs are Bloc Party at their most wildly experimental,
while other tracks are simply classic Bloc Party, fitting in seamlessly amongst fan-favorites "Helicopter," "Banquet" and "So Here We Are"
And so it seems here - duelling guitar lines over a rolling drum beat. It sounds very Helicopter on initial listen - and more lyrics of yearning from Okereke - talk of lips and fingertips over Silent Alarm style riffage. Nice.

4. Biko
The first sign of a slower number as a looped guitar appergio fills the air, and Okereke's falsetto soon follows. I think i just heard a reference to "the river Styx" - the river to the underworld, along with Ares and later track titles it seems Mr. Okereke has been reading up on his Greek mythology. After a few verses a heavy bass opens the gate to a programmed drum track. It's clear that
Jacknife Lee's influence (one of the producers along with Paul Epworth who did the band's debut) is all over this - a slow-building number with electronic leanings.

5. Trojan Horse
For the really impatient - this is available on the band's MySpace (and contains yet another reference to Greek Mythology). It sorta feels like a sequel to Hunting For Witches, a rabid guitar line against a drum and bass part. Great opening lyric too, "you used to take your watch off before we made love/you didn't want to share our time with anyone." Later Russel Lissack offers a ripping guitar solo which pushes Matt Tong into overdrive- a trick repeated towards the song's climactic finish. The album's title, Intimacy, seems to become it's theme too. Lyrics so far (from what i can catch) are about unrequited love, yearning or lust for others, and the resulting frustration.

6. Signs
Now this is interesting. A clutter of what sounds like xylophones, wind chimes and glockenspiels in interesting textures before some subtle synths form the harmony underneath. In a word: twinkly. Like Biko a few tracks before it's a nice respite from the heavier and more energetic sound of the album so far. Kele offers a delightful melody that soars lovingly over the musical backdrop. Much like Mercury B-Side, Idea For A Story, this reminds me of mid-90's Bjork. A soft bed of strings adds to the texture before it winds towards its close.

7. One Month Off
Kicking straight back into a powerful drum line and some industrial sound fx before a choppy riff cuts in over the top. Stop-start guitars make up the chorus - slightly reminiscent of Banquet and the breakdown of Uniform, a cool little synth embellishes the second verse. The chorus offers a challenge "I can be as cruel as you/i can fight fire with firewood," before descending into some tricksy time signatures and electronic ornamentation- think Hunting For Witches' cut-up intro. The breakdown at the end gets all Silent Alarm before getting really Weekend In The City. A nice balance.

8. Zephyrus
Named after the Greek god of Wind (see a pattern yet?). A cooing loop and some faint yelling take the stage before a thumping bass track take over as Kele's familiar yelp swings in again - so far so Radiohead. The rhythm track builds with clicks and snaps. The chorus brings in some washes of synths and keyboards sounding a bit Where Is Home? followed by a choral/mellotron breakdown who then punctuate the second verse. This is sounding very cool and slightly grand. Particularly because the choir aren't going away. Feels like we're building to somthing HUGE. It doesn't quite hit its peak but very haunting none the less

9. Better Than Heaven
An airy vocal wafts over a distinctive dub feel in the bass and drum part - sounding a lil' like an update of Price of Gasoline. Soon enough some buzzing synths, extremely bassy piano and twinkling guitar fill out the sound. Some chanting like lyrics too that swap between speaking and singing, "Much too, much too typical/much too much too." We're about a minute and a half from the end and the full band kick in - very cool as they race against a competing electronic part, but that dark, brooding texture remains.

10. Ion Square
The longest track on the album by a good minute or so, and intially it sounds a bit like I Still Remember, but with insistent and repeated guitar/piano chords. Some straight 4/4 drums build a chugging pattern, but the overall feel is a glossy ballad - with all the trimmings - the length ensuring a steady momentum.

Well there you have it.

Firstly, I think this is going to a bit of a grower, and while much of the heavier sound and faster tempos create an immediate energy - there's some subtler textures and tweaks here and there - not least Kele's voice being manipulated into strange configurations on a couple of tracks.

As a progression from A Weekend In The City - it's probably not as radical a departure as Mercury suggested - but it's a departure none-the-less, there seems to be an attempt to fuse the Silent Alarm dance-rock textures with AWITC's electronica and experimentation, though i have to confess it sounds more like the latter on the first spin. Using both Paul Epworth and Jacknife Lee on production duties cements this idea, though without full credits it's unclear as to who's doing what.

Still in context it's amazing that this four-piece were unheard of five years ago, and are now really attempting to do something special with their musical direction and career as a whole, while the distribution technique is becoming a little unsurprising (NIN, Sigur Ros, Girl Talk etc.), it's still a big risk and a brave advancement from any band. And such a productive rate - their third album in under four years - including those between album singles (Two More Years, Flux, Mercury).

Overall this is still one of the most interesting records I've heard yet this year. But then again, there have been more than a few...

...i'm of course hinting to higher productivity on Al's Music Rant from now on.

Watch This Space.