Au revoir 2016 (almost)…
Oh my this is literally the worst idea I’ve ever had! A 16-part Year in Review?! One was bad enough, both from a readability and writeability perspective! Today is Part 3, inclusive of #14s in Films, TV, Albums and Books, plus the Top 16 Gigs of 2016. Let’s not waste any time!
#14 in Films…
Such was my skepticism about The Revenant that I joked beforehand that I would need to take a saline drip with me into the pictures in order to get through it. In the end, no such sustenance was required. Leo thoroughly deserved his Oscar (though I also thought he earnt gongs for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Blood Diamond) and Tom Hardy was similarly brilliant, though once again I could barely understand a word he was saying, a trademark of his that is the bane of viewers the world over. This incredible tale of loss, revenge, love, despair and, finally, optimism centres on a fur trapper in 1820s frontierland who is left for dead after a brutal bear attack. His son is murdered. He survives and sets out through horrid wintry wilderness to avenge his kin and find slivers of solace. The scenery is spectacular, the cinematography grand and captivating and the war scenes depicting the encroachment of nascent modernity on Native America unrelenting.
#14 in TV…
The second season of Red Oaks sees our young hero David return from Paris to his tennis coaching summer job at the eponymous country club and blasted headlong into a battle of wits with the sanitarium’s head honcho and his capricious girlfriend’s father, played with cavalier exuberance by Paul Reiser. Meanwhile, his newly separated parents (Scrubs’ Richard Kind and taxidermy’s Jennifer Grey) are exploring their newfound sexual freedom with gay abandon. It’s 1986 and the era of excess is speeding towards a dramatic correction, one that will see spandex substituted for plaid, synths hocked for grunge and cocaine traded in for heroin. The beauty of Red Oaks is that it doesn’t rely on nostalgia for its wellbeing. The member berries are always there fermenting in the background, but it is the characters, their identifiable motivations and relatable failures that make this show one of the best contributions to piracy since Napster.
Top 16 Gigs of 2016
It is a little known fact about me that one of my triggers is watching a video in which the audio is not properly sychronised to the action, so much so that there is a noticeable, albeit minuscule, gap between the sight of lips moving and sound being received in my aural canals. Normally, the only time I am confronted with the horror of this scenario is when I illegally download a film on my piracy machine and discover that suboptimal ripping has been employed somewhere upstream, resulting in me immediately stopping the video and either going without or trying to find a different file to illegally download. For those wondering why I don’t just save myself the hassle by renting the film in question from one of those vending machines: I don’t have a DVD or Blu-ray player. Anyways, this problem with insufficiently synched audio-to-video seems to occur most frequently in subrosa sourced films rather than TV shows, so it is not something that affects me with too much regularity, praise the Lord! So imagine my absolute horror when I am sat at the Opera House to see Anohni: Hopelessness, a concert that began with like 20 minutes and I am not even hyperbolising here, of a black and white video of Naomi Campbell walking towards and away from a camera while awkwardly hunched forward being projected on a big screen, and then proceeded for the next hour to show on that same screen a multiethnic collage of people mouthing along to Anohni’s songs but all slightly out of time. Meanwhile, Anohni is on stage covered head-to-toe in what can only be described as a performance burka, her visage completely obscured, so the audience has no idea at all if she is even singing the songs live or even if it is her on stage and not some actor or body double pulled from the Vivid Sydney crowd on the forecourt to impersonate her. This went on for the entire concert, which consisted only of songs from Anohni’s 2016 LP Hopelessness. At the end of each song, you could feel the audience’s collective anticipation for the opening bars of Hope There’s Someone or You Are My Sister, only for this febrile enthusiasm to be deflated by the sounds of yet another homogenous cut from Hopelessness. I don’t want to sound too negative, however, as I attended this concert with my two fave people in the world and I still managed to have a fairly good time, because I am always pretty happy when I’m just kicking around with them. But the point I’m loqaciously making is that this one gig doesn’t make my list of the Top 16 Gigs of 2016, which proves convenient because I saw 17 gigs in 2016, plus Splendour in the Grass, so by not including that festival or Anohni’s ghastly unsynthathon in the ranking, I can include every concert in my Top 16 Gigs of 2016. And these rankings are fairly unimportant. I love live music and can generally derive satisfaction from any show, provided the artist in question chooses not to completely conceal his or her face under layers of thick fabric and pretension.
16. Violent Soho (Enmore)
Sorry Damon, it was a good show but I lost my wallet that day in Hyde Park so wasn’t in the best of moods.
15. DMAs (Metro)
This was actually a cracking set — it’s a Group 1 field this category — but I was in the tail end of No Schoon June, my midyear month of sobriety, and the novelty was wearing thin.
14. Methyl Ethyl (Hudson Ballroom (née Plan B (née née GoodGod Small Bar)))
Twilight Driving is amazing live and the Perth lads covered Vampire Racecourse, a track from my all-time fave album.
13. Bloc Party (Enmore)
Triple J paid me for my research and on-air services with $220 (GST inclusive) and two tickets to Bloc Party and you can read my full review here.
12. Boy & Bear (Hordern Pavilion)
B&B has come a long way since I saw them rigging their own soundcheck then walking off then walking back on at Sunset Sounds in Brisbane in 2011. They don’t do encores.
11. City Calm Down (Oxford Art Factory)
Saw this with my friend Meg and we had a great time. She even humoured me while I waited around to get the band to sign my CCD tshirt with their Rabbit Run #H100 number. BTW, I have unilaterally removed the hyphen from tshirt.
10. Olympia (Oxford Art Factory)
Olympia played all her tracks plus covers of Beck’s Dreams and TV On The Radio’s Wolf Like Me. Looks like I had a big day that sunny October afternoon!
9. Coldplay (Suncorp Stadium)
Thanks Mark for organising! You can read much more about Coldplay here and Mark, text me your bank details and I’ll ping you the cash!
8. Rubens (Hordern Pavilion)
Another gig from No Schoon June, which is contemporaneous to Vejunetaria, my month sans meat, which I invented and partook in to enhance my empathy levels. Good gig by the Menagle lads and got to meet them afterwards for another #H100 tshirt signing.
7. Broods (Enmore)
Crazy night out with my pal Pete. We really shoulda stopped for a schnitzel or something. I vaguely remember a long discourse with two Scottish used bicycle vendors and some dude at Broadway Bar offering to sell me meth!
6. James Blake (Hordern Pavilion)
I don’t regret spontaneously purchasing a ticket to James Blake’s solo gig while buzzing to his Splendour set but I do regret purchasing two tickets. Having unsuccessfully churned through all my friends, colleagues and ~10,400 Beloved Followers on Twitter, I futilely stood outside the Hordern offering the spare for free to people queueing up to buy one for $90. Gig was spectacular: he is a musician at the peak of his powers and also a very fine tennis player.
5. Gang Of Youths (Enmore)
You don’t need me to tell you these guys are the real deal. Awesome live, a great bloke to boot (I met him in the marshalling area for a taping of #QandA and thanked him for his craft. He replied, “Thanks for giving a shit mate”. Him/he = David, btw) and a tour de force live experience. Only downside to this gig was the Arsenal was blowing a 2-goal lead to West Ham and had to steal a late 3-3 draw.
[Okay so I get to this point in the rankings and I realise that somehow I have failed to include a particularly good concert in my reckonings, which is uncharacteristic because I am fairly thorough about this nonsense — after all, I am mildly autistic (I have all the sociability of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man but none of the advantageous casino skill sets) — so we are going to have equal fourths. I feel as though I have lost a lot of credibility right here.]
=4. Cold War Kids (Metro)
You may remember earlier on in this section I mentioned Sunset Sounds in Brisbane. Earlier that day, I shared an elevator with Nathan from Cold War Kids and would best be described as uncaring about my love and affection. Oh well. CWK put on a stellar live show for which I was leaning against the rail, I managed to secure the setlist, and then later in the year I discovered Robbers & Cowards is named for characters in Infinite Jest. As they say in the classics, who made me a sensitive kid?
=4. SAFIA (Enmore)
Another of my setlist acquisition gigs from 2016 was Canberra lads SAFIA. Had the absolute pleasure meeting the boys in the Triple J studios earlier in the year and they are as nice as they are talented. It was at this concert I purchased a longsleeve tshirt, which is the most underrated item of clothing and the official uniform of anyone who has just gone for a swim.
3. Modest Mouse (Enmore)
MM was in fine form when they rocked up for this Bluesfest sideshow, playing all the hits except Float On and, in a moment of pure Patrician ecstasy, belting out Ocean Breathes Salty as a fan request (the fan was me). Third in a series of setlist securings, visualised in this intercalated Instagram:
2. Cat Empire (Enmore)
My birthday! Due to a communication breakdown I thought my friend Meg had purchased her own ticket to this concert and she thought I had bought one for her. This meltdown wasn’t discovered till we were having our tickets scanned at the door. As it turns out, there is a security flaw in the Enmore admittance system, which can be deftly exploited to furtively sneak in friends. Essentially, you force the checker to stuff around trying to scan the eticket on your phone until he becomes so frustrated he just pushes you through and in. Having got Meg in for free, I sure did feel guilty about then making the bar staff look after my $6 birthday doughnuts for the show’s duration!
1. Grouplove (Oxford Art Factory)
The OAF is so intimate it’s hard to conceive of a bad show when you’re packed in tight but it still requires some performance alacrity to ensure a superb gig. Grouplove packed out the Factory and then rocked all the hits, plus a cover of Sabotage, drenching the masses in a thick cover of sweat. The drummer even got out from behind the skins to sink a shoey. Apical indie pop!
Meanwhile, the Monday after the bacchanalia that is Splendour weekend, I had a day free in Byron. I went for a 10k run up to and around and back from the lighthouse, enjoyed toast with crunchy peanut butter and settled into one of the fine licensed establishments in Australia’s easternmost township to tackle the crossword, which I completed and then in a rococo flourish graffitied with a inky expectoration of all the sets I saw over the festival, with the Top 5 encircled. I then took a photo of that page and Tweeted it, and now I am reproducing that Tweet right here in embedded form:
#14 in Albums…
(Australia #1, US #1, UK #1)
The Drizzled one dropped Views in 2016. A 20-track odyssey into the mind of Canada’s openest target, Views comprises some absolute bangers like One Dance, Pop Style, Feel No Ways and Too Good; some viral faves like Controlla and Hotline Bling; the absurdist 9 (because it’s a 6 upsidedown) and a whole lotta instantly forgettable filler. Drake is admirably prolific and whether anyone can figure out the difference between a mixtape like the perfectly viable If You Are Reading This It’s Too Late and an album proper like Views is moot when the runaway sales figures show the world’s listening community can’t get enough of the former child star. As he says, Views is already a classic, and that’s despite the understated dancehall vibes. I grew up in the 90s, when accessible commercial rap fetishised fast, upbeat, major key, infectious hooks. Whether it was the overt success chasing of Puff Daddy, or whatever he’s calling himself these days, or credibility’s 2Pac, there was a desire for a track to hit your eadrums like the proverbial (or otherwise) slug to your chest. Drake demurs, and even though nothing on Views hits the awesome heights of the opening bars to Hold On, We’re Going Home, October’s Very Own is keeping the Maple Leaf flag flying and for that we can only reluctantly congratulate him.
#14 in Books…
(And but so this is a discussion of my top 16 reading experiences of 2016 so please don’t write in with any tedious commentary on how none of these books were actually released in 2016; just go get yourself a copy and enjoy it too!)
Way back in 1998, I read Running Wild for Mr Rodgers’ Year 11 English class and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had very bad skin, was overweight and very self-conscious. It was a highly emotional time for me and my fringe. Eighteen years later, in advance of a Tom Hiddlestone film (he’s so dreamy!) being released, I used a book voucher my Mum got me for my birthday to purchase High-Rise, pictured gratuitously above alongside a Megahole (locus of my current tapping out) trivia sheet, and devour in late August. Set in a retrofuturistic 1970s past, festooned with a wide array of mod-cons to make the residents of a new residential skyscraper’s lives completely and soullessly luxurious, High-Rise recounts the frantic few weeks of societal collapse as lotsa parvenus with superficially impressive middle class jobs fight to scale the heights of the eponymous habitat and take down the mysterious architect, owner and penthouse resident. It’s not perfect but it is a very funny satire on western society’s inability to find solace from within and our penchant for putting our happiness out to tender.