The Null Device

2007/12/31

A pair of 35 year-old identical twins met for the first time, after having been raised apart without knowing of each others' existence, as part of a psychological experiment:

"It was a relief I think for both of us that we were not carbon copies. As similar as we looked when we compared pictures of ourselves as kids, as adults we have our own distinct style."
"We had the same favourite book and the same favourite film, Wings of Desire," says Elyse. "It was amazing," says Paula. "We felt we were conducting our own informal study on nature versus nurture in a way".
Which raises the question: how do you know that the way you live, and what you accept as normal today, is not actually part of some psychological experiment?

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The Australian government announced mandatory internet filters. Under the scheme, all ISPs will have to provide a "clean" feed free of pornography, which will be the default. It will be possible to opt out of this, which will either involve requesting an unfiltered (or less filtered) feed from the ISP or, after getting one's age verified, getting an account on a government-run "adult content proxy". What it will involve is Australian internet users having the choice of having access to adult content blocked or signing a "perverts' register". Then again, the government has promised that the system will not affect download speeds (which are already lagging behind the rest of the world), so perhaps the whole thing will be quietly placed in the too-hard basket after Family First (whose votes are needed in the Senate) are satisfied that Rudd & Co. are fellow wowsers.

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And here are the top 12 gigs of 2007:

  • The Motifs, Light Music Club @ Spoon, 12/1/2007

    I caught this the day before I was due to leave Melbourne. Not only did the Motifs play, in band form (and managed to translate from the bedroom-pop format really well), but Light Music Club (now a club of one, consisting only of the amazing singer-songwriter Zoë Jackson) played as well.

  • I'm From Barcelona, Adventure Kid @ Koko, 27/3/2007

    One of several I'm From Barcelona gigs I saw this year. I listed this one despite it being at Koko (a venue I'm not fond of), because this one featured Adventure Kid, the electronica artist who did the cover of We're From Barcelona they play at the end of their gigs. He was pretty good.

  • Bis @ Islington Academy, 7/4/2007

    They're back; older and wiser, and the boys lacking somewhat in hair, but rocking just as hard. Data Panik may be no more, but Bis can still tear the roof off a venue, which they did.

  • The Blow @ The Luminaire, 30/4/2007

    Not so much a rock concert as an observational comedy routine punctuated by sharp electropop numbers with equally sharp dance routines. Khaela Maricich is an amazingly charismatic and entertaining performer.

  • Of Montreal @ Cargo, 29/5/2007

    The first of three of their gigs I saw this year; it was like a Sid & Marty Krofft TV show on (even more) drugs. One of the grandest musical spectacles of the year (well, this and the other two I saw).

  • Momus, Kumisolo, Laila France @ La Flèche d'Or, Paris, 29/6/2007

    I missed Momus' gig at Tate Modern in January, as I was in Australia then, so when he announced a Paris gig, I booked my Eurostar ticket. The gig itself was excellent, featuring a lot of classic songs, including some Kahimi Karie numbers with Laila France (who, I believe, organised the gig) helping out on vocals, and was generally a very engaging performer. The support was the kind of kawaii J-pop band you might imagine on a bill with Momus.

  • Baseball @ The Windmill, Brixton, 11/7/2007

    Cameron Potts' berzerk violin-driven punk project did a few London gigs at the end of their European tour. They rocked pretty hard.

  • Pikelet @ The Enterprise, 15/7/2007

    Pikelet is Evelyn Morris, the drummer from Baseball, doing a softer solo project, creating songs with an accordion, various percussion and (crucially) a loop pedal. When I heard that Baseball were going to be in London, I took it upon myself to organise a solo gig for Pikelet (with the help of some friends). It was a very impressive gig.

  • Rose Melberg, Harvey Williams @ the Luminaire, 10/8/2007

    An amazing bill; Harvey Williams (of Another Sunny Day and The Field Mice) coming out of musical retirement to play his hits (including a stripped-down version of You Should All Be Murdered, and Rose Melberg (of The Softies) doing a set. The highlight was undoubtedly Rose's cover of The Field Mice's The Last Letter. She said she felt uncertain about covering such a revered song, but the crowd loved it.

  • Architecture In Helsinki @ Concorde, Brighton, 16/9/2007

    One of the best AIH gigs I have ever seen. They played so tightly and with so much energy; they virtually tore the roof off the Concorde2. The encore consisted of a cover of Mental As Anything's "Live It Up". The supports were Fanfarlo, who appear to be struggling between being a Labrador indie-pop band and being Coldplay; alas, Coldplay is winning.

  • Misty Roses @ the Enterprise, 18/11/2007

    Another gig I was involved in organising; this one's for transatlantic lounge-core duo Misty Roses. They were great; the frontman, Robert, has an amazing voice and a lot of charisma, and the music itself was quite lush, like Morricone or Bacharach only with new-wave and trip-hop influences, and with lyrics about old B-grade/genre movies. The supports (Hong Kong In The 60s and Sunny Intervals) were great too.

  • Jens Lekman @ the Luminaire, 11/12/2007

    This time, Jens didn't have a backing band, but instead had a girl playing bongos and an iPod he switched in towards the end; nonetheless, he put on a brilliant show. The audience got into the spirit of it, and the entire room ended up singing a duet with him on Pocketful of Money in the encore, which was an amazing experience.

If I were to nominate a gig of the year, that would have to be Rose Melberg/Harvey Williams.

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And now, with 2008 knocking on our door, it's time for the annual lists of things of the year.

acb's top 10 records of 2007 (by order of artist):

  • Aleks & The Ramps, Pisces vs. Aquarius

    The more eclectic edge of the recent crop of great new artists coming out of Melbourne; Aleks & The Ramps play epic, lavishly structured pop songs with banjos, glockenspiels, a few synths and Casio keyboards and the odd crunchy heavy-metal chord and dry-as-dust lyrics about car crashes, paranoid schizophrenia and the sensation of waking up (un)dead. Highlights: No Sé Si Es Amor, a pretty impressive Spanish-language cover of Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love".

  • Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam

    A boundary-breaking, and very catchy, slab of left-of-leftfield psychedelic folk, sounding like a futuristic village celebration, combining a pastoral folk-rock feel with layers of instruments and electronics, along with world-music influences (one can hear elements of South African township songs in places) and quite good melodies. Highlights: Fireworks, For Reverend Green.

  • Beirut, The Flying Club Cup

    Zach Condon reprises his amazing début with a new album, with the Balkan sounds of his previous work largely replaced by those of old France, and it doesn't disappoint. Highlights: Cliquot, Cherbourg

  • Julian Nation, We Are All Writers

    Another brilliant young songwriter from Melbourne, Julian Nation is three parts Jens Lekman to two parts Lucksmiths and a bit of Stuart Murdoch, and crafts pop songs with clever lyrics and without choruses, over multi-tracked melodies with guitars, basslines, piano, glockenspiels and handclaps; his début recording is released through Book Club Records. Highlights: 1992, All The Capital Cities' Names.

  • LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

    Before New Rave™ was even a twinkle in a NME hack's eye, when there were no fluoro T-shirts in high-street shops, there was DFA Recordings and LCD Soundsystem; now, James Murphy returns with a new album, furthering his vocation of updating New York's mutant-disco sound for the present day, and doing a bang-up job of it. This album is more of a mature effort than their first album, with more solid songs; a collection of party-rocking jams, finished off with the Lou Reed-esque piano ballad "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down". Highlight: All Your Friends

  • The Motifs, Away

    An unparalleledly lovely collection of 24 pop songs (plus one remix), small and perfectly formed, written and recorded by an indie-pop genius and multi-instrumentalist named Alexis Hall in her North Fitzroy bedroom. The Motifs has since evolved into a band, have gotten support slots for well-known international bands touring Australia, and are getting much-deserved acclaim from all over the world; Away may be purchased from Japanese indie label Lost In Found, and there's now an EP out through UK label WeePOP! (which I haven't yet heard). Highlights: right now I'd say Dots and Set Of Wheels, though it's all good.

  • Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer

    This record dominated the first half of 2007; equal parts psychedelia, prog-rock and upbeat pop; funky basslines, falsetto harmonies, intricate chord progressions and layers of glitchy electronics, it's a record that can turn on a dime between being Prince and Pink Floyd (as it does, in Labyrinthian Pomp). It works as exquisitely assembled (and somewhat epic) pop music, whilst avoiding the realms of pop cliché, and the musical arrangements remains sufficiently interesting to hold one's attention. Highlights: "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger", an jolly, upbeat pop number about the narrator's nervous breakdown, followed by the lengthy krautrock-tinged epic "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal". Oh, and see them live if you get the chance.

  • Panda Bear, Person Pitch

    If someone left a stack of Beach Boys, Caribou and My Bloody Valentine records out in the hot Portuguese sunshine and they all melted together, the result might sound somewhat like this. Highlights: hard to pick one, but "Bros" is a good track, as is the opener, "Comfy in Nautica".

  • Pop Levi, The Return To Form Black Magic Party

    The bass guitarist from Ladytron makes a solo début with a sound grounded in the early 1970s, with its haze of drugs and free love; a bit gimmicky, but well-made, with some good songs, and a fun record to listen to. Highlight: From The Day That You Were Born

  • Radiohead, In Rainbows

    Much more has been said about the way this album was released than about the actual album itself, so one could be forgiven for thinking that it is all hype. However, this is not the case; this is a rock-solid return to form for Radiohead, who come back with the sorts of rain-hued sketches they made a career of. If anything, the contrast between this and Thom Yorke's (somewhat less compelling) solo album demonstrates the indispensable influence of the rest of the band. Highlights: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

As for the record of the year? That would have to be The Motifs' "Away".

Honourable mentions go to: Architecture In Helsinki, Places Like This (a pumping, funky muscle car of a record, which sounds like Cameron has been mainlining the Cookie Monster's steroid supply since In Case We Die), and Soft Tigers' Gospel Ambitions and The Brunettes, Structure and Cosmetics (two records for those who find AIH's new direction too macho); Butcher Boy, Profit In Your Poetry (the great Glaswegian tradition of indie-pop has some worthy heirs keeping it alive), iLiKETRAiNS, Elegies To Lessons Learnt (everything you'd expect from the Leeds collective; post-rock dynamics and lyrics about subjects such as the Black Death, assassinated Prime Ministers of the early 19th century and Donald Crowhurst; were they around 20 years earlier, they'd probably be classified as "gothic rock"); Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala (which has its moments, though seems to have lost some of the poignancy and melancholy of his earlier works); Midnight Juggernauts, Dystopia (which stands apart from the electropunk/wolfdisco/nu-rave crowd, as while some others are all attitude, the MJs have good songs and a pop sensibility, as well as grooves to rock the trucker hats off the trendies); Pikelet, s/t (another promising new talent from Melbourne, this time making pop songs with a loop pedal, accordion and percussion); School Of Two, s/t (slightly shoegazey lo-fi electropop from Jason Sweeney, of Prettyboycrossover and Simpàtico) and Mist & Sea, Unless (another Jason Sweeney project, this time working with Vince Giarruso of Underground Lovers).

Next: my list of the gigs of 2007.

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