Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: Juno Original Soundtrack


The soundtrack to this year’s plucky teen comedy Juno is like a visit from some old friends you haven’t seen in a while, arriving at your doorstep with an awkward smile, many stories to tell and a tendency to drift off into the amusingly nonsensical. As they warm your heart and tickle a smile onto your face, you'll be left wondering how you survived as long as you did in their absence.

Kimya Dawson, candidly-honest anti-folk heroine and front woman of The Moldy Peaches, provides the very heart of the film’s music. Her candour permeates through her sweet, sharp, nostalgic guitar playing and often provides lyrics that could be spoken by the movie's namesake herself. ‘Anyone Else But You’ is a particular gem on this compilation. A cover of an original Moldy Peaches song, it is tenderly reinterpreted through the refreshingly unpolished voices of Ellen Page and Michael Cera, part-time musician and self-confessed music nerd.

Other treats include classics such as the dulcet tones of Buddy Holly crooning ‘Dearest’, the child-like piano melody of The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Sticking With You’, and Barry Louis Polisar’s country-tinged jangle ‘All I Want Is You’, dripping with earnestly endearing lyrics that could melt the hearts of even those who staunchly oppose Dolly Parton-esque love songs . Chan Marshall offers the unflinchingly vulnerable 'Sea of Love'; almost sounding like Canadian folk songstress Feist's older sister in her vocal delivery. Scottish indie darlings Belle & Sebastian also make an appearance, offering upbeat, acoustic melodies such as ‘Piazza, New York Catcher’. Antsy Pant's adorably metaphorical 'Tree Hugger' contains lyrics worth writing down in permanent marker on every available space possible; it's charm in the visible laughter of Kimya Dawson through her words, and stumbled-over French phrases.

Even Sonic Youth find their place in the group with a nebulously dreamy cover of The Carpenters’ hit ‘Superstar’. Additionally, the playful, tenacious vocals of Antsy Pants contribute to the underlying, innate rebelliousness and unabashed nature of Juno. The soundtrack thus presents a heart-felt amalgamation of the clashing personalities, both in the film and in the voices of the musicians, as they struggle to find acceptance and stability in their lives, regardless of their age, or the gap that it might wedge between them.

One thing is for certain, however: the charm and irresistibility of this soundtrack is resilient, refusing to wear thin even after numerous listens, assuring you a sort of new and improved outlook on your life, thanks to a hand-picked bunch of bands and musicians that should certainly be a part of every fervent music lover's life.

Rating: (4/5 apples!)

P.S - When you snag yourself a copy, please, please, please enjoy the album, and every song on it, unattatched to the fact that is probably on every wannabe hipster's top five favourite soundtracks of all time list, okay?

A sampling of one of the most lyrically eloquent songs from the collection:

Antsy Pants - Tree Hugger

(The flower said "I wish I was a tree"/The tree said "I wish I could be a different kind of tree"/The cat wished that it was a bee/The turtle wished that it could fly really high into the sky/Over rooftops and then dive deep into the sea)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Next Best Alternative #1

Meet John McCauley, a hard-working 21 year old musician based in Rhode Island. Not only has he been striving to build a name for himself by distributing home-made CDs, playing small festivals, bars, in your best friend's loft apartment and everywhere else possible, he's actually done us all a gigantic favour and given the worn-out 2007 summer anthem 'Beautiful Girls' by Sean Kingston, a sweet blues-y, acoustic feel that far surpasses the original. If you're like me and could hurl the nearest stereo, television or perhaps even well-intentioned person who in poor taste, begins to belt out/wail the chorus of King's infuriating sing-a-long, you will really, really appreciate this far more tolerable, tasteful version. Thus, being the first in what I hope to be a long-running series of the Next Best Alternative.

And while you're at it, give John's first officially released record, War Elephant a listen!

Listen to clips here!
Download Deer Tick's version of Beautiful Girls

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Feast Fit For A Bookwork (2008)

January/February 2008 Reading List

Already read:

Waiting to be read/finished:

In honour of the new year, I've decided to set out on this crazy, ridiculous mission which involves reading 52 books this year - that's right, one book for every week of the year. I've made a rough list of 30-something books I've already got in mind to get around to finally reading. Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum and Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (which I'd been meaning to read since I was fourteen) were funny, smart, honest, and really enjoyable to read. I really missed reading those sorts of novels; the type that isn't littered with over-the-top language, instead simply coming across as a close friend coming clean to you, and only you.

Books I am looking forward to reading, re-reading and/or finishing: No One Belongs Here More Than You, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, Screwjack, White Orelander, A Million Little Pieces, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Some songs about books by some excellent bands:

Spoon - The Book I Write (via Untitled Records)
Say Hi To Your Mom - They Write Books About These Sorts of Things
Joanna Newsom - The Book of Right-On (live)
Modest Mouse - Bukowski (via Anyone's Guess)
Camera Obscura - Books Written For Girls (via Anyone's Guess)

What has everyone else been reading, or wanting to read, this year?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Song of the Day

Today's song belongs to one of my favourites, Canadian indie pop band, Stars. This song has marvellous lyrics (see: 'Don't know who I am/but I'm here with you/Alive'), an infectious piano melody and great, great vocals. They are playing shows across Australia throughout February & March, which I will unfortunately be unable to attend, but all the more for the rest of you kids to rush out, get tickets and experience the amazingness that is this band, live, right in front of your eyes. Yes.

Listen to Krush (from The Comeback EP, 2001)


27th Feb 08 @ Spectrum, SYDNEY
28th Feb 08 @ East Brunswick Club, MELBOURNE
29th Feb 08 (w/ Broken Social Scene) @ The Zoo, BRISBANE
01st March 08 (St. Jerome's Laneway Fest) @ The Zoo, BRISBANE
02 March 08 (St. Jerome's Laneway Fest) @ Reiby Place, SYDNEY

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Like A Version.

For those of you that don't reside in Australia, Like A Version (obviously, a parody of the Madonna song) is a segment featured on local radio station Triple J. It involves some of the country's best bands and musicians, and more recently, international ones, too, playing acoustic versions of their favourite songs. Sort of like BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, except I feel there's a lot more integrity involved in the re-interpretation of the song as opposed to seeing which flavour-of-the-week indie band will do another cover of a Nelly Furtado track.

Over the past three years, the segment has seen the likes of well-reputed indie acts such as Tegan & Sara, Spoon and The Mountain Goats to lesser-known local musicains such as Starky and Bertie Blackman. The compilation really helps both local and overseas fans appreciate the local music scene in Australia, and proves that songs are the most meaningful when stripped down to barely nothing.

If you're a sucker for covers and new takes on old favourites like me, this one's for you. For a limited time only, I'm offering up both Vol. 1&2 of Like A Version. Get it while it's hot, kids!

Like A Version - Vol. 1 (Part 1)
Like A Version - Vol. 1 (Part 2)

For a full track listing, head over to this page.

Like A Version - Vol. 2

For a full track listing, visit this page.

Friday, January 4, 2008

No One Belongs Here More Than You (Preview)

An excerpt from one of the best books of 2007 is below. If you aren't really aware of how amazing Miranda July already is, prepare yourself. If you, like me, have yet to read this book (my excuse? I've been on a waiting list since last year from my local library), let this be an excuse to run to the bookstore right now and grab yourself a copy.

This Person

Someone is getting excited. Somebody somewhere is shaking with excitement because something tremendous is about to happen to this person. This person has dressed for the occasion. This person has hoped and dreamed and now it is really happening and this person can hardly believe it. But believing is not an issue here, the time for faith and fantasy is over, it is really really happening. It involves stepping forward and bowing. Possibly there is some kneeling, such as when one is knighted. One is almost never knighted. But this person may kneel and receive a tap on each shoulder with a sword. Or, more likely, this person will be in a car or a store or under a vinyl canopy when it happens. Or online or on the phone. It could be an e-mail re: your knighthood. Or a long, laughing, rambling phone message in which every person this person has ever known is talking on a speakerphone and they are all saying,You have passed the test, it was all just a test, we were only kidding, real life is so much better than that. This person is laughing out loud with relief and playing the message back to get the address of the place where every person this person has ever known is waiting to hug this person and bring her into the fold of life. It is really exciting, and it's not just a dream, it's real.

They are all waiting by a picnic table in a park this person has driven past many times before. There they are, it's everyone. There are balloons taped to the benches, and the girl this person used to stand next to at the bus stop is waving a streamer. Everyone is smiling. For a moment this person is almost creeped out by the scene, but it would be so like this person to become depressed on the happiest day ever, and so this person bucks up and joins the crowd.

Teachers of subjects that this person wasn't even good at are kissing this person and renouncing the very subjects they taught. Math teachers are saying that math was just a funny way of saying "I love you." But now they are simply saying it, I love you, and the chemistry and PE teachers are also saying it and this person can tell they really mean it. It's totally amazing. Certain jerks and idiots and assholes appear from time to time, and it is as if they have had plastic surgery, their faces are disfigured with love. The handsome assholes are plain and kind, and the ugly jerks are sweet, and they are folding this person's sweater and putting it somewhere where it won't get dirty. Best of all, every person this person has ever loved is there.
Even the ones who got away. They hold this person's hand and tell this person how hard it was to pretend to get mad and drive off and never come back. This person almost can't believe it, it seemed so real, this person's heart was broken and has healed and now this person hardly knows what to think. This person is almost mad. But everyone soothes this person. Everyone explains that it was absolutely necessary to know how strong this person was. Oh, look, there's the doctor who prescribed the medicine that made this person temporarily blind. And the man who paid this person two thousand dollars to have sex with him three times when this person was very broke. Both of these men are in attendance, they seem to know each other. They both have little medals that they are pinning on this person; they are badges of great honor and strength. The badges sparkle in the sunlight, and everyone cheers.

This person suddenly feels the need to check her post office box. It is an old habit, and even if everything is going to be terrific from now on, this person still wants mail. This person says she will be right back and everyone this person has ever known says, Fine, take your time. This person gets in her car and drives to the post office and opens the box and there is nothing. Even though it is a Tuesday, which is famously a good day for mail. This person is so disappointed, this person gets back in the car and, having completely forgotten about the picnic, drives home and checks the voice mail and there are no new messages, just the old one about "passing the test" and "life being better." There are no e-mails, either, probably because everyone is at the picnic. This person can't seem to go back to the picnic. This person realizes that staying home means blowing off everyone this person has ever known. But the desire to stay in is very strong. This person wants to run a bath and then read in bed.

In the bathtub this person pushes the bubbles around and listens to the sound of millions of them popping at once. It almost makes one smooth sound instead of many tiny sounds. This person's breasts barely jut out of the water. This person pushes the bubbles onto the breasts and makes weird shapes with the foam. By now everyone must have realized that this person is not coming back to the picnic. Everyone was wrong; this person is not who they thought this person was. This person plunges underwater and moves her hair around like a sea anemone. This person can stay underwater for an impressively long time but only in a bathtub. This person wonders if there will ever be an Olympic contest for holding your breath under bathwater. If there were such a contest, this person would surely win it. An Olympic medal might redeem this person in the eyes of everyone this person has ever known. But no such contest exists, so there will be no redeeming. This person mourns the fact that she has ruined her one chance to be loved by everyone; as this person climbs into bed, the weight of this tragedy seems to bear down upon this person's chest. And it is a comforting weight, almost human in heft. This person sighs. This person's eyes begin to close, this person sleeps.

Copyright © 2007 by Miranda July

Weekend Mixed Bag

These songs have been making the unbearably hot days, my lack of employment, and anxiousness about what things will be like a month from now barely noticable. So yeah, they're kind of awesome.

Vampire Weekend - Walcott (via YSI)
The kings of kwassa kwassa really know how to make you dance. Whilst these private school kids have a college education from the prestigious Columbia University tucked under their arm, they also have an amusingly diverse set of musical influences ranging from African pop music to classical music to punk to reggae. They make it worth, though, and somehow come up with a gem of a song like this. One to watch for 2008.

Klaxons - It's Not Over Yet (Gentleman's Driver Remix) featuring SoKo
I don't really know very much about SoKo except that she is a twenty-something singer-songwriter/actress with an adorably strong heavy French accent, and a great sense of style. Whilst through her earlier demos, hints of Moldy Peaches' frontwoman Kimya Dawson can be picked up, this paticular track is an exclusive remix for British new-rave poster boys, the Klaxons. SoKo's vocals offer a sense of vulnerability that comes from her sweet, little-girl voice, and the thumping bass make it a perfect track for the weekend. Enjoy!

Semisonic - Singing In My Sleep
I discovered this one a few days ago, and it is perfect for those who miss the ancient craft of quality mixtape-making. Listen to the lyrics closely, and make this the opening track on a mix for someone special.