Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Calling the Oscar Nominations

While far from an exact science, I cannot stop myself from theorising about how the Academy will award the films of 2014, so I'm mainly doing this for my own purposes. I will of course revisit and revise this list up until the day of the Academy Awards, but now, after months of listening to podcasts, following blogs and Twitter accounts, and hours before the announcements, here are my picks for the Academy Award nominations:


Best Picture
American Sniper
Boyhood
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Nightcrawler
Selma
The Theory of Everything


Here, I expect Boyhood to be rewarded. Birdman will give it a close run but I think the others are also-rans. Good chance Whiplash may sneak into this list too which would be great. The pool of voters expands and diversifies every year, which has been great news for independent film companies. By far the largest division of the 6000-odd voters is the Actors Branch who often reward actor-friendly directors and actor-turned-directors, which explains why Clint Eastwood is highly likely to feature here.



Best Director
Richard Linklater - 'Boyhood'
Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu - 'Birdman'
Wes Anderson ' 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
Morten Tyldum - 'The Imitation Game'
Ava Duverney - ' Selma'


Very close call. It’s hard to leave out Clint Eastwood, who, even when he's just being OK gets waves of adulation from the actors in the branch thinking this might be the last chance they can show their respect. I'm picking Innaritu to take this one. Birdman is audacious and stylish and you canNOT avoid that style wherever you look. Selma was looking much stronger in November, but support for it has tailed off over the last few weeks. Though few agree, I (cynically perhaps) feel the chance to award an African American female director who has made a widely-applauded film, is too good a chance to pass up.


Best Actor
Michael Keaton - 'Birdman'
Benedict Cumberbatch - 'The Imitation Game'
Jake Gyllenhaal - 'Nightcrawler'
David Oyelowo - 'Selma'
Eddie Redmayne - 'The Theory of Everything'

This is an incredibly tight race, with a good four or five other actors who could sneak in – it would be brilliant to see Tom Hardy make an appearance for 'Locke' or, more likely, Steve Carrell for 'Foxcatcher' or Ralph Fiennes for 'Grand Budapest Hotel'. Last year Tom Hanks was meant to be a shoo-in for 'Captain Phillips' and many thought Robert Redford would make it for single-handedly starring in 'All Is Lost'. Despite it not being remotely his 'time', this is Michael Keaton's to lose. Bradley Cooper may knock out Gyllenhaal or Oyelowo for his lead role in American Sniper, he's certainly incredibly popular amongst the Academy. Redmayne is his closest competition. Again, I'd love to see Gyllenhaal surprise everyone, 'Nightcrawler' is certainly his strongest role yet and the Academy would certainly be able to relate to characters such as the one he portrays.

Best Actress
Amy Adams – ‘Big Eyes’
Felicity Jones – ‘The Theory of Everything’
Julianne Moore – ‘Still Alice’
Rosemund Pike – ‘Gone Girl’
Reese Witherspoon – ‘Wild’


Many are saying Jennifer Anniston will win a nomination with her ‘look Academy, no makeup!’ turn in ‘Cake’, which barely anyone has seen and still fewer are rating as any good, and there’s a good chance she will. Though the Globes and other awarding bodies will want the glamour and clicks that giving her a (quite possibly worthy) nomination, I’m going with Amy Adams. Marianne Cotillard could sneak in for 'Two Days One Night', which no one would begrudge her. Rosemund Pike got huge attention for 'Gone Girl', Witherspoon (the only one likely to challenge) also loses the makeup for 'Wild', which is apparently great (even better is her role as a producer for both 'Gone Girl' and 'Wild'), and Felicity Jones is the magnificent true star of 'The Theory of Everything', but Julianne Moore has this one in the bag. She’s adored far and wide, she’s paid her dues several times over, and she has the 2014 trifecta of starring in the box office-storming 'Hunger Games', the Cannes-winning 'Maps to The Stars', and this incredibly tough role as an Alzheimer’s patient. The Oscar has been considered hers since it was previewed early last year. 

Best Supporting Actor
Edward Norton – ‘Birdman’
Ethan Hawke – ‘Boyhood’
Mark Ruffalo – ‘Foxcatcher’
Robert Duvall – ‘The Judge’
JK Simmons – ‘Whiplash’



If JK Simmons doesn’t take this home there’ll be an outcry. Likely to be the only Oscar given to 'Whiplash', his titanic, divisive role is undoubtedly worthy of the win. Yet another acclaimed Ruffalo performance will likely go unrewarded, Hawke’s commitment to Linklater's project is outstanding and Norton and Duvall show how little effort they need to expend to get results. 


Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – ‘Boyhood’

Emma Stone – ‘Birdman’
Keira Knightley – ‘The Imitation Game’
Meryl Streep – ‘Into the Woods’
Rene Russo – ‘Nightcrawler’


A good chance that Laura Dern could knock out Rene Russo for her role in ‘Wild’ but either way this is likely to go to Arquette, who carries so much of the emotional heft of 'Boyhood'. Knightley makes the most of her part and she is embracing challenging roles in a way few would have expected a decade ago - she may be performing a nominated song come Oscar night too. Russo is an absolutely casting coup in 'Nightcrawler', and Streep...well, yeah. What did you expect?


Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash


Many say ‘Wild’ could also get in the mix here, which could be a good sign of the Academy’s (very) gradual gender balancing – especially if it came at the expense of 'American Sniper', which many critics have found ethically problematic, and just a bit rubbish. My money is on The Imitation Game, as it is an amazing story, if not particularly brilliantly told.


Best Original Screenplay
Boyhood
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler
Selma


A tough call, I’m picking 'Boyhood', though 'Grand Budapest Hotel' could claim a win here, and 'Birdman' could easily take it given how much critics have warmed to it. 'Nightcrawler' is a masterwork in documenting the capitalistic headrush of Los Angelean sociopathy, but its unrelenting bleakness is perhaps not seen to be as artfully assembled as the open-sourced approach of Linklater and his actors.




Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki – ‘Birdman’
Dick Pope – ‘Mr Turner’
Robert Yeoman – ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
Roger Deakins – ‘Unbroken’
Oscar Faura - The Imitation Game

Not much of a contest here. Lubezki is very likely to take this, though Deakins has been long, long overdue and Angelina Jolie’s ‘Unbroken’ – widely cited as an Oscar frontrunner for much of last year could see some well-deserved love here. 'Mr Turner', which was widely thought to have been a vehicle for Timothy Spall has divided audiences, though no one has a bad word to say about how beautifully JMW Turner's world is portrayed, wisely choosing not to echo Turner’s style. 


Best Editing
Boyhood
Birdman
The Imitation Game
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whiplash


An errant category at the best of times, Best Editing has seen some odd films rewarded over the last decade and it is far from a category used to pad out the award numbers of the Best Picture winner. The seamless edits of 'Birdman', the formal precision of 'Grand Budapest' (or 'Gone Girl' even), the decade straddling weaving of 'Boyhood' or the ricocheting cross-cutting of 'Whiplash' are all frontrunners. For me, 'Boyhood' gets it by a nose. 


Best Costume
Belle

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Selma


This is a tricky one, but I think 'Maleficent' will sneak over the line. The Academy rarely rewards faithful adaptations of eras or times, preferring their winners to stick in the memory. The colours and designs are so strong and true to the hyper-real nature of the story I think either this or 'Into the Woods' will take it, though no one would begrudge the brilliantly detailed and controlled 'Grand Budapest' taking this too. 



Best Hair and Makeup
Foxcatcher
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Grand Budapest Hotel


'Maleficent' and 'Into the Woods' could easily turn up here too, but obvious transformations regularly trump subtle work when the Academy rack their collective brain for what strikes them as striking work. Steve Carrell certainly fits this bill for his work in 'Foxcatcher', and this is likely to be as close as he gets to his first Oscar. 



Best Original Score
The Theory of Everything
Interstellar
The Imitation Game
Gone Girl
Unbroken


This category is a very tough call. Would be wonderful to see Mica Levi's score for 'Under the Skin' make a surprise appearance, but previous winners tend to dominate this field. Don’t be surprised to see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for 'Gone Girl', Hans Zimmer’s notably (and appropriately) unsubtle work on 'Interstellar', Alexandre Desplat’s 'Unbroken' score (one of the few widely-commended aspects to the film), and the Golden Globe winning 'Theory of Everything' score by Icelandic minimalist Jóhann Jóhannsson. He’s the favourite, just ahead of Desplat, and I’m picking him too. It is a beautiful score.



Best Original Song
Glory – ‘Selma’
Everything is Awesome – ‘The Lego Movie’
Yellow Flicker Beat – ‘The Hunger Games Part I Mockingjay’
Split the Difference – ‘Boyhood’
Lost Stars – ‘Begin Again’


The smart money is on Glory, which won the Golden Globe, though how anyone can get Everything is Awesome out of their head long enough to consider anything else is beyond me. Opportunity from 'Annie' is also a strong chance for making this, as is the title track to ‘Big Eyes’.



Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Birdman
The Imitation Game
Interstellar


If there’s one thing you remember about 'Grand Budapest Hotel' it’s the look and the intricate work done with mise en scene. If it’s rewarded anywhere it will be here. 'Into the Woods' has a strong chance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see 'Maleficent' turn up here too, probably at the expense of 'Interstellar'.



Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Fury
Unbroken

Musicals are often rewarded here because gee it's hard to mix music and speaking together. Therefore, despite the hue and cry of 'Interstellar', the distant and intense explosions of 'Fury', the echoes of gunfire and the panicky static of 'American Sniper', 'Into the Woods', like 'Les Miserables' is most likely to be rewarded here.



Best Sound Editing
Interstellar
Whiplash
American Sniper
Guardians of the Galaxy
Unbroken


Big showy efforts and blockbusters tend to be rewarded here, so this is likely to be a showdown between 'Interstellar' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. 'Whiplash' has been generating a lot of love over the final few weeks, and it is a peerless job, though the canvas may be too small to earn the nomination. 'The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies' and 'Fury' could both show up here strongly too.


Best Visual Effects
Interstellar
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Godzilla


Could be that the 'Transformers' and 'X Men' efforts make it in here too. 'Planet of the Apes' was a brilliant and widely-lauded achievement and ran very well at the box office, which may get it over the line. It would be surprising for The Hobbit not to take home anything in its final installment, but the effects weren’t notably better than The Lord of the Rings’ ten years ago. 'Interstellar' is a narrow favourite, which is surprising given the underwhelming critical response to a film that couldn't help but be compared to '2001'. Still, there is much love for Christopher Nolan in the Academy and this may be their best chance to give him a nod. 


Best Animated Film
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The LEGO Movie
Boxtrolls
Big Hero 6
The Tale of Princess Kaguya


Anyone who saw 'The Tale of Princess Kaguya' has been left struggling to explain the beauty of what the hand-drawn film and its wild mixture of nostalgia and ground-breaking intricacy, but then very few people have actually seen it. Far more likely is the blockbustering 'LEGO Movie' or the much-loved and widely-seen 'How To Train Your Dragon 2', which took the Golden Globe. Likely to be out of these two, I’m picking 'The LEGO Movie' as this did very well outside of the US too, where an increasing proportion of the Academy hail.



Best Documentary Feature
Citizenfour
Finding Vivian Maier
Life Itself
Last Days in Vietnam
Keep On Keeping On



‘The most thrilling movie of the year’ was, by many accounts, the documentary about Edward Snowden, 'Citizenfour'. That the producers are currently being sued and having accusations of assisting Edward Snowden hasn’t tarnished its chances and it has been a real surprise. There’s a very good chance of ‘The Case Against 8’ turning up here and the universally-acclaimed ‘Virunga’, I see the biggest competition coming from the Roger Ebert documentary 'Life Itself', which was interestingly assembled, as if addressing accusations of playing to the Academy before it was even made.



Best Foreign Film
Ida
Force Majeure
Leviathan
Wild Tales
Timbuktu


Despite ‘Force Majeure’ being one of my (and many other’s) Top 10 films of 2014, the slow, elegant and surprisingly short ‘Ida’ is a clear favourite amongst prognosticators here. 'Leviathan' was a surprise winner at the Globes, especially as it is a ‘slow Russian film’, which has never been the easiest proposition to sell to a time-starved Academy member deciding which of the dozens of screeners they’ve been plied with is most worthy of their attention. My money is still on 'Force Majeure' as it is such a strong story and with one of the most memorable scenes of recent years.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wrapping up 2014 in End of Year Lists


I spent most of 2014 as an observer and occasional participator rather than a recorder. My new full-time journalism course and new job at a newspaper meant I saw fewer gigs and interviewed fewer musicians than before. Admittedly, I also wrote an awful lot about things besides music. Because of this I am putting little stock in this year's lists. As with every year, there are too many blind spots to render it of much use rather than keeping score of the year's releases and cultural tendencies. Benji may be a depressing listen for many, but as an achievement in storytelling and mining a seam of songwriting rarely sought in this day and age, it's a massively impressive work. Sonically, A Sunny Day in Glasgow seem to remain one of the most under-appreciated bands currently working. The cross-continental collective sound like they're breaking new ground with every release and this was a real surprise. The divisive song Seasons by Future Islands seems to be feted so highly because it must surely appeal to a great many music nerds to see a fearless, charismatic man on stage with a slightly receding hairline. It's a cracking song, though the album doesn't quite hold up all the way through. Caribou's Our Love does, though it never touches the heights of opener Can't Do Without You. Alvvays were on repeat for much of the year, though their infectious indie pop is unlikely to win fans to the genre despite being well-reviewed.
Anyway, these are the records that made 2014 for me:
 
TOP TEN ALBUMS
1. Benji SUN KIL MOON
2. Sea When Absent A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW
3. Our Love CARIBOU
4. Alvvays ALVVAYS
5. Cyro APHEX TWIN
6. Run the Jewels 2 RUN THE JEWELS
7. The Long O PETER ESCOTT
8. Lowtide LOWTIDE
9. Makthaverskan II MAKTHAVERSKAN
10. Atlas OWLS OF THE SWAMP


TOP THREE MISCELLANEOUS ALBUMS
1. L For Leisure JOHN ATKINSON (Soundtrack)
2. L’amour LEWIS (Reissue)
3. Spiderland SLINT (Reissue)


TOP TEN SONGS
1. Marry Me Archie ALVVAYS
2. Can’t Do Without You CARIBOU
3. Oppressive (The Best Gay Possible) PET SHOP BOYS
4. Seasons FUTURE ISLANDS
5. Joy HIDEOUS TOWNS
6. Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) RUN THE JEWELS FEAT. ZACH DE LA ROCHA
7. No Thoughts CLOUD NOTHINGS
8. Asleep MAKTHAVERSKAN
9. Easy Money JOHNNY MARR
10. Style TAYLOR SWIFT


BEST NEW ARTISTS
1. L-Fresh the Lion
2. Hideous Towns
3. Alvvays
4. Blair Dunlop
5. Viet Cong


TOP FIVE WEBSITES
1. guardian.com.au
2. messandnoise.com
3. icheckmovies.com
4. letterboxd.com
5. lindywest.net


TOP FIVE INTERNATIONAL ARTIST GIGS
1. Dolly Parton ETIHAD STADIUM
2. Suzanne Vega MELBOURNE RECITAL CENTRE
3. Johnny Marr CORNER HOTEL
4. Blair Dunlop SPOTTED MALLARD
5. Parquet Courts LANEWAY FESTIVAL


TOP FIVE AUSTRALIAN ARTIST GIGS
1. The Stickmen CORNER HOTEL
2. Love of Diagrams CORNER HOTEL
3. Kirin J Callinan LANEWAY FESTIVAL
4. Jack Ladder  CORNER HOTEL
5. Dynamo CHERRY BAR


TOP FIVE TV SHOWS
1. Fargo
2. Media Watch
3. True Detective
4. At the Movies
5. Sherlock


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TOP TWENTY MOVIES
1. Frank
2. Under the Skin
3. Her
4. Nightcrawler
5. L For Leisure
6. Force Majeure
7. Nymphomaniac Vol I
8. Sunshine on Leith
9. We Are The Best
10. Blue is the Warmest Colour
11. Whiplash
12. Interstellar
13. Black Coal, Thin Ice
14. Gone Girl
15. The Theory of Everything
16. Edge of Tomorrow
17. Predestination
18. Cavalry
19. The Grand Budapest Hotel
20. It Follows


TOP FIVE RADIO SHOWS/PODCASTS
1. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews – Radio Five Live
2. Serial - NPR
3. Screen Talk - Indiewire
4. In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg – BBC Radio 4
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5. From Our Own Correspondent – BBC Radio 4


THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES AWARD
Alt-J. I listen to it, I frown at it, and I just don't get it.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR
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“I don’t think anybody, me included, knew it was illegal.” - Rebekah Brooks

PREDICTION FOR 2015
The Calgary band Viet Cong will blow up, and Taylor Swift's Australian tour to break records.

 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Live Review: RECLINK COMMUNITY CUP

Elsternwick Park, 22 June, 2014

A happy, scarf-toting crowd ambles into sunny Elsternwick Park as the sound of Lou Reed sneering about life in New York pours from the PA.

After the kid-tastic entertainment of Elmo & Friends, first act of the day Fraser A Gorman draws a curious audience into the shadow of the stage. Gorman’s breezy windows-down-volume-up style of country rock belies his smart lyrics and rich voice, qualities that elevate “animal country jam” Shiny Gun and the outdoorsy Dark Eyes. A sterling piano-driven cover of the day’s theme song Perfect Day tinkles and booms before Gorman’s recent single Book Of Love.

The Smith Street Band’s ruckus bursts across the oval like a splintering hangover, their ferocious dry guitars and muscular energy a wake-up call to latecomers. Singer Wil Wagner, a man not afraid of swearing loudly and clearly in front of awestruck, earmuffed toddlers, drives the gutsy furious set and yanks up energy levels as kickoff approaches.

At half-time Saskwatch, who boast nearly a football side’s worth of members, blast their addictive brand of brassy funk. New single A Love Divine and recent release Born To Break Your Heart are both excellent examples of pop soul. Their cover of Gorillaz (ft Lou Reed)’s Some Kind Of Nature is a deft tribute and slots nicely into a set that sounds as if Amy Winehouse had necked an E made a comeback record. 

“Enough of that,” says MC Jonnie von Goes, dragging attention away from the recently completed footy game (which the Rockdogs won by nine points). “There were young people for Elmo, slightly older people for Fraser A Gorman and The Smith Street Band, slightly older people for Saskwatch and now we’ve got really old people for this one! A bushfire couldn’t kill them. An atrophied liver couldn’t kill Paul [Stewart]. They’re indestructible! They are Painters & Dockers! Who the fuck are you!?”

Stewart plays the belligerent court jester in shorts and buttoned suspenders, slapping his arse and poking out his tongue. “Ha! We’re still alive, believe it or not,” he says before introducing a searing, explosive take on 1991’s New World Order. Saskwatch join them for You Know You’re Soaking In It, which is dedicated to ex-manager Lobby Loyde and “the Australian who donated me their liver”. Kill Kill Kill sees the Rockdogs cheerleaders join and immediately make every gig not featuring cheerleaders seem lame. With most songs dedicated to a deceased friend and a burst of The Angels’ Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, it’s a poignant, arse-kicking, life-affirming set. Exciting Burundi rappers FLYBZ step up for Painters & Dockers’ Let’s Give It A Go and win many new fans. Nude School is dedicated to Christopher Pyne. The typically excellent Reclink Community Cup music programming emerges victorious yet again.

Monday, June 23, 2014

JIMMY SCOTT, July 17, 1925 – June 12, 2014

The starstruck author and Jimmy Scott. San Francisco, February 23, 2010
American jazz singer Jimmy Scott died Thursday June 12 at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada aged 88.

Described by the New York Times as ‘the most unjustly ignored American singer of the 20th century’ and by Madonna as ‘the only singer who could make me cry’, Scott was highly influential despite never achieving the success of those who worshipped him.

A close friend to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and many American jazz legends, Billie Holiday cited Scott as her favourite singer. Such was their closeness Scott officiated as Holiday’s family at her funeral.

Known for his distinctively ethereal contralto and uniquely laconic phrasing, Scott was diagnosed with Kallman’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that prevented him from reaching puberty, effectively making him a castrato.

His distinctively androgynous voice can be heard on early recordings such as Lionel Hampton’s 1950 hit Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool and Charlie Parker’s Embraceable You, both widely played records that omitted his name and mis-credited him respectively. Scott is best known for his appearance in the TV series Twin Peaks singing David Lynch’s Sycamore Trees.

Scott’s diminutive stature, effeminate appearance and unusual voice – symptoms of his disorder - cast him as an outsider and lead him to be the victim of physical and verbal abuse for much of his life. Singers Frankie Valli, Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson all cite Scott as a key influence.

In 1955, Scott signed a recording contract with Herman Lubinsky’s Savoy Records that bound him to Lubinsky for life. Lubinsky claimed the rights to all of Scott’s work, even after he left the label.

Scott’s first album Falling In Love Is Wonderful, produced and funded by Ray Charles was withdrawn within days of its release due to a threatened lawsuit from Lubinsky. Scott’s second album, 1969’s The Source was similarly derailed.

Unable to record or release music until Lubinsky’s death in 1975, Scott took menial jobs and remained in obscurity until rediscovered singing at the funeral of singer-songwriter Doc Pomus in 1991. Also present at the funeral were Seymour Stein, owner of Sire Records, who signed him immediately, and Lou Reed, who regularly featured him on albums and tours. Director David Lynch wrote Scott into the final episode of his TV series Twin Peaks in 1991 after chancing across him in an adjacent room in a recording studio.

Interviewing Scott in 2010, he said, “My life is such a human interest story. Even Ray Charles said mine was more interesting than his! Ray said it was more compelling not only because we both lost our mothers at a young age - he was blind and I had my thing - but he was lucky. He was in the right places at the right time. I wasn’t, you know?”

Scott’s first ‘comeback’ album, the Grammy nominated All the Way, came when he was 67 and was the first of ten albums released between 1992 and 2004. He was the subject of Matthew Buzzel’s 2003 documentary Jimmy Scott, If You Only Knew, and David Ritz’s biography Faith In Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott.

He was the recipient of numerous jazz awards including the NEA Jazz Master award, the Kennedy Center’s ‘Jazz in Our Time’ award and NABOB’s Pioneer award in 2007. Scott was inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame in October last year.

Live was where Scott excelled and where he felt most at home. Scott’s performances include the inauguration of both Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 and Bill Clinton 40 years later as well as the wedding of Nick Cave.

At a 2010 show in San Francisco, Scott – permanently confined to a wheelchair after a fall since 2007 – held the small audience effortless spellbound. Arms flailing, his body possessed, he inhabited ballad after ballad as if living them anew. It was a rare concert to not feature tears in the audience and often onstage.

“A lot of people come into the business not knowing what to do or how to project,” he said. “They don’t realize they’re telling a story. I feel if you’re singing a song it has to mean something. It has to make sense. That’s why I protect what I have in it. Good songs should touch you and make you think about what you’re doing with your life. A lot of times I got caught on the wrong end of bad deals, that’s it. You have to overcome it. I’ve been there, I’ve felt those blows, but you overcome. You have to. You can’t give up.”

Scott is survived by his fifth wife Jeanie.


Friday, May 30, 2014

THE LYNCH MOB: why is Twin Peaks so influential on Australian music?

How did a bizarre TV show from the ‘90s become a badge of underground cool in the Australian music scene?

This article was originally published for ABC's Double J website

Twin Peaks was a popular show in 1990-91 with a US audience of 34 million. The show’s co-creator David Lynch was already an Oscar-nominated auteur when he set about writing it with Mark Frost. While its game-changing cinematic qualites were appreciated at the time, what is truly remarkable about Twin Peaks is how this otherworldly creation influences other art forms, now more than ever.

The cult TV show, set in 1989, concluded with an enigmatic quote from Laura Palmer’s doppelganger: “see you again in 25 years”.

In the show’s fictional world, that time is now.


The Sound From Another Place

Ever since Australia became the only country to send Julee Cruise’s 'Falling' to the top of the charts in 1991, local bands have been looting the show for inspiration in a way only matched by the Scandinavian metal scene. Why this is fictional town is yet to release its grip on the Australian imagination is one of its most profound mysteries.

"There’s something very exotic about a small town in America," says singer-songwriter Sophia Brous, ahead of her performance in the star-studded In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited show at London’s Barbican Theatre. "It’s a like an inverse version of Crocodile Dundee. We like stepping into the cold austerity of a town like that, it’s like a holiday."

Isobel Knowles, member of the Icypoles and formerly of Architecture in Helsinki, thinks of Twin Peaks in similarly cinematic terms.

"Australian cinema often tells stories about people and places which seem light and happy on the outside but have dark undercurrents," Knowles says. "This darkness goes very deep and it’s never resolved. It’s not necessarily as overt as Twin Peaks, but it’s always there."

Knowles also links the show’s setting to its Australian appeal.

"In Twin Peaks, the forest is a giant aspect. The Australian wilderness is inherently creepy, and having grown up in Australia it's impossible to dissociate environment from history. Maybe this is another reason it's so appealing to Australians."

Brous agrees. "In Australia, we’re on this island on the other side of the world and there’s a sense of inquiry from being far away. We’ve gravitated towards different scenes, like the growth of punk, or industrial…the development of someone like Nick Cave for instance. In Melbourne especially, because of stations like RRR that represent new and interesting forms of music, there’s been platforms for new and interesting stuff."


That Show You Like Is Going To Come Back In Style

New and interesting stuff is what grabs attention in local band scenes and Easter eggs for Twin Peaks fans litter current gig guides. Psych rockers Vicuna Coat and hardcore combo Flesh World are both named after clues in the show. The big mystery of the series ('Who killed Laura Palmer?'), led to the name of pop-punk act Laura Palmer.

Psych band White Lodge and defunct shoegazers Ghostwood (whose members turn up in Jagwar Ma) both take their names from locations in the show, while post-rockers Laura and Adelaide country-pop quartet The Audreys are happy to let their names suggest it. Less-obsessive fans can spot the influence in electro duo Peak Twins.

Songs like ‘Leo Needs a New Pair of Shoes’ by Ben Frost and ‘The Fish in the Percolator Song’ by Hobart new wavers hMAS – both created away from a world populated by bands looking to drop hip references – are particularly interesting examples.

But it’s not just about clever pop cultural references - bands are mining Twin Peaks for musical inspiration.

Melbourne indie-pop group the Icypoles recently grabbed international attention for their cover of 'Just You', a saccharine love ballad written by Lynch and played by three of the show’s troubled teens.

"'Just You' is this pop song stuck in the middle of this beautiful, moody world," says Knowles.

"To most people, a song is just a snapshot or a short moment, but at the same time, it becomes its own thing after that point. This mix of pop music and cinema matched with a lot of the work I’d been doing as an artist."


Diane, make a note

For those who directly work with Lynch – such as the headliner of this year's DARK MOFO festival, Chrysta Bell – there is the danger of being reduced to a muse, of his identity overtaking their own.

"There will be a risk of that if I don’t kill it on the new record," Bell says, "But there is no downside to the endorsement. If I didn’t enjoy discussing him so much then the only downside would be being asked about him more than people ask about me. But I truly care for him and respect his talent, so that’s not an issue. It’s a win-win."

Jazz legend Jimmy Scott, who sings Angelo Badalamenti and Lynch’s Sycamore Trees in the series' surreal final episode, is similarly confident about working with Lynch.

"David Lynch saw me and wanted to use me," Scott says. "He said he liked my aura. I didn’t understand the storyline at all. He had me in a dark room, in a suit and bow tie singing to a dwarf," he laughs. 


Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song

The show’s soundtrack lives on in music by artists like the Dunes, the Paradise Motel, early HTRK and most bands described as ‘dream-pop’.  Brous says it’s the liminal state between dream and reality Lynch explores that so many find appealing.

“He’s someone who’s very into the threshold between the subconscious and the conscious. He often uses these ethereal, bell-like voices that flow in and out of… that through you, it’s like music flowing through you. He’ll have someone like Jimmy Scott with a strange and beautiful tone, and use these unusual sounds. He knows the voice is naturally the most expressive instrument there is, and that we respond to it unlike any other.”

The unusual, always appealing to a creative and subversive arts scene that feeds on a revered international influences like Lynch, is still yet to become usual. With Lynch himself increasingly focusing on his own music instead of film, his appeal to an Australian artists isn’t dying anytime soon.

As Bell says, “any artist that really digs Lynch’s thing and delves into his work will probably end up with some influence in her own creations. It’s such a strong spice, it can’t help but make it’s way onto your dish. At least a few sprinkles. Sometimes more.”