I’m confused

I’ll never understand the dynamics of the music industry. More particularly why one artist or band or album will get a massive push, and another won’t. I’m sure it’s to do with labels and promoters and what not, but I have trouble getting my head around it.

Case in point – Fleet Foxes. I like the band. I’ve heard enough to know that. I’m not quite as mad-keen on them as the boy is, but I like the harmonies and the music almost seems from another time. But who out there in the great, wide indie universe decided that this band should be plug plug plugged? Or, decided somewhere along the line that this music stood out more then, say, Visiter by The Dodos? I’ve heard a Dodos track played on Triple J, but it’s getting no where near the plug that Fleet Foxes is. Also, you’ll find that Fleet Foxes album in any store anywhere (Windsor Sounds even has it).

The kicker for me came while I was driving home tonight from work and heard the Fleet Foxes album reviewed on ABC 702 – wait, what? The ABC listening audience is now getting the plug? Wowow.

Who decides? I don’t think it starts with Pitchfork anymore. Or music bloggers in general. Or does it? Maybe it’s just that this is one of the only massively blogged-about albums (which it is) that has been commercial sounding enough to get this sort of push. But I don’t get why something like The Dodos wouldn’t get that push – their music is JUST as pretty, and lyrically it’s very good, and I think the percussion sounds unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.

But then maybe that’s it.

I don’t really know. All I know is that some of the bands I love will never, ever get the push that Fleet Foxes are currently enjoying over here. And while on one hand I’m a little relieved about that, on the other hand it’s kind of annoying. Momentum seems to be everything, and I wonder, if you’re a member of a fledgling band such as Dead Letter Chorus (who are SO GOOD), and you’re preparing to release your first full length album, do you lay in bed at night wondering how to find that momentum. How to find that first push, from that mysterious place, that will push you into the limelight and will make you that thing that every person must listen to and every radio station must play.

I was going to write much more tonight. About house hunting, about immune systems vs stress, and about plays about child murders that infiltrate your brain until you can think of nothing else. But then I spoke on the phone to my dad and emailed the boy and did some washing, and now it’s nearly 11.

God damn it.

Swing low sweet chariot

Two things.

First, the gravity of what something or someone means to you will never, ever be fully appreciated until you get even the smallest whiff of it being taken away. Or messed with. Or just not the way it should be. Once you get that feeling – the feeling that the ground could fall out from under your feet at any moment – you metaphorically grab hold of everything you have in your life and swear to every god there ever was that you will never, ever take it for granted so long as everything is made right in the end.

And I know it will be. It’s just that there is nothing more important in the world then your health and the health of the people you love.

Second, it’s really nice to know that your level of fandom (to the end of dorky ridiculousness) for a band and/or any of its members is shared by someone else out there in the intersphere. This blog post by Emma-Lee Moss of band Emmy The Great pretty much articulates why I have an aversion to meeting any of those musicians that I hold at pedestal height. John Darnielle included. I have no doubt I’d be a dribbling, mute mess.

I like this article for other reasons though. It manages to explain beautifully what it means for someone to have REAL charisma. It’s not about demanding attention when you walk into a room or how many 13 year old girls you can make scream and pass out. Also, it cements the absolute certainty I have about JD being one of the most fascinating people on earth. Not that I needed help there, but it’s nice to have the validation.

I’ve had a loss of perspective

Oh god. Part of me just realised that it’s only Monday, and I have FOUR MORE DAYS of work fuckedness before I get to the end of Friday.

Give me strength.

And now I’m sitting here wading through my out of control inbox, failing to stop my out of control marshmallow eating, wondering how the hell I get the balance back. Because I did get it, at some point. I remember it vividly. 40 hour weeks. Wonderful, relaxing weekends (which are still there, incidentally, but it would be lovely to make it past 8PM on a Friday without falling asleep on the couch).

There are exciting things though. Some of it is butterflies in the pit of the stomach exciting. So, tonight, while I’m archiving emails and trying to get my work inbox down to double figures, I am also thinking about these things –

• I am going to be buying a HOUSE. Can you believe it?!? Bricks and a fence and a (little) garden. And do you KNOW how long I have wanted to live in and/or around Newtown?? A really, really long time. And who knew it would actually happen.
• And even BETTER (I know WHOA) I get to share this with the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I honestly feel so LUCKY when I think about us finding each other and what the two of us are creating. Together.
• That was gushy, I know. Aha I don’t care!
• Tara is coming to visit. I am so looking forward to this.
• It looks like I might be going whale watching!
• Christian won Project Runway. Ahaha I am so lame.
• It’s a hard life when one of the most pressing concerns in your personal life is whether you should drop money on an Olsen, a Shead or a Blackman. There are some amazing Australian artists out there creating amazing Australian art you know. And we will have some of it on our brand new (to us at least) walls.
• My cold is disappearing. I CAN BREATHE OUT MY NOSE. Also – a cold with no chest infection!? Naturopath – 1. Traditional medicine – 0.

I am going to write more this week. Honest. Note to self –

• Frightened Rabbit.
• Music for cleaning.
• All the noise just gets crushed by the song.

Also, my cat has figured out how to get into my bedroom while I’m asleep. Through the closed door, by turning the MF door handle. I can’t decide if he’s some sort of crazy, feline genius, or just really persistent. I actually have to ram something behind the door now to stop him coming in. I wouldn’t mind him coming in, so long as he didn’t feel the need to sleep on my FACE.

Hooray for the internet

My days right now consist of pushing my way through piles of shite created by other people, and quelling my work-induced homicidal tendencies. So, stands to reason that when I get back to CFG HQ the last thing I want to do is talk to people. Or think about people. Or see people. Well, most people.

Bless the internet and its anonymous, informative ways.

Tonight, while pushing around the series of tubes that is the information super highway, I came across Frank Lloyd Wright. I’m not actually sure how I got there – I think I Googled a book I’d heard about (somewhere), which took me to some blog about books, which took me to a blog about, well, all sorts of things, which had a link to Fallingwater.

Wait – a house built OVER A WATERFALL!?< !

The floor will have its way it seems

Back in February 2004 I was sitting in the Canberra Theatre, amongst a very mixed and somewhat subdued crowd, experiencing the dizzying personal heights of an Ani DiFranco live show. I get that she’s not an artist every true music lover will dig, and I get that her overtly political lyrics can polarise people. Whatever. I love the woman and everything she stands for, and on this particular tour I saw her perform 3 times. Her show at the State Theatre remains one of the best live music experiences of my life.

ANYWAY, in Canberra she played a bit of an eclectic set list. She played some fairly obvious songs like Evolve and Gravel (I think) but she also pulled our Everest and some other stuff I remember being surprised about but can’t remember now. She rarely plays covers. Like, hardly ever. I think on a DVD once I saw her play a Greg Brown song, but that’s probably it. But on this night she pulled out a song called Trampoline, which was written by a singer/songwriter called Joe Henry. At the time I had no idea who he was, but he went on to produce her album Knuckle Down.

Since then I’ve learned he is a pretty incredible song writer who has plus plus levels of respect from many other song writers that I respect. I’m not terribly familiar with his music, but given his association with Ms DiFranco every time I hear/see his name I pay attention.

Noodling around on the interwebs this week I came across this article written by Joe Henry about the relationship between literature and song writing. And you know, it’s like someone has written what I’ve been clumsily trying to articulate for some time now – I think there is only a very subtle separation between writing fiction, writing poetry, and writing songs. Real songs with literary substance. Song writers like DiFranco and Darnielle and Mangum and Sheff make me feel the very same things that I feel when I read Winterson or Plath or Neruda. Sure, the melody can help your heart to soar, but it’s words to me that give it wings.

I love this –

…Vonnegut reveals the beginning and end of his tale and gives nothing away. He places the past, present and future all in the same room and defeats time as a reliable voice of reason and judgment. He identifies himself, The Writer, as a marginal character in the story, thereby removing himself from it completely. He is the singer, not the song, and the tune is singing him. He is free.

It makes me want to read Vonnegut.

Twist

First, I can’t for the life of me understand why flannelette pyjamas aren’t socially acceptable dress for every aspect of every day. Particularly for work, and particularly hot pink ones with zebras on them.

Second, hi. I am still alive, honest. The last two weeks have utterly kicked my ass, and culminated last night in me falling asleep not only on the boy, but on his birthday. Shame on me.

Happy birthday mister – you = joy.

I’ve been more then a bit absent from the interwebs. It’s not really a ‘oh man my life is far too busy being fabulous’ thing – I’m just pulled in a few too many directions at the moment. And the one direction I want to go, the one place I want to be, is the one direction unselfishly not pulling. At least, not in that annoying way.

A feel a little like I’m tilting on a precipice. The precipice of something wonderful on one hand – the idea of owning a little house in Newtown is crystallizing into a reality that’s hard to comprehend at times. But on the other hand I’m a little nervous about losing my balance and pitching over the edge – I have a feeling, if I can’t balance everything I’ve got going on right now, it will be a looooooong way down.

One day at a time though. At least, that’s the plan. Well, that, and potentially dropping a carpet bomb on my office.

That’s a bit violent isn’t it.

I gotta find time for the music. You know how much music I’ve listened to this week? Actually, my Last FM page can tell you that – sweet fuck all. Also, the definition of frustration is wanting to hear Twist by Frightened Rabbit – like, craving the song – and not owning the album.

Oh, wait. Let’s all thank the intertron gods for MySpace. And Fat Cat Records for their online ordering facility.

Driving home tonight (well, driving to work) I had all intentions of a well-written, eloquent and profound post that was at least 3 pages long. I guess two thirds of a disjointed, random bunch of words is better then nothing. Right?

Still alive.

Drowning in visa applications and stupidity.

Assuming the crash position.

Hoping/waiting/desperate for the long weekend.

And this vague little smile
Is my all-purpose expression
The meaning of which
I will leave to your discretion

The day before Friday

Bad = Dine discontinuing the only kind of cat food that your bratty cat likes to eat. Little dude is just going to have to suck it up and eat whatever other stuff I can find that resembles it. He doesn’t like anything that has chunks and/or gravy. He likes his meat all meatloaf-like. God damn it.

I would really love to find a way to buy extra hours in your day. Or trade or barter for more time. I’d easily trade these strawberries I have here, or some old LOOK magazines for an extra hour tonight. I’ve only just now sat down to really spend some time listening to music and what not, and it’s already past 11. I want to finish listening to this Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album, and I want to iron my clothes for tomorrow, and I want to make sure I have stuff together for the weekend, and I want to watch the rest of Antiques Roadshow.

Really, though, I should go to bed. I’m feelin’ a bit scratchy tonight and I know I need sleep.

I cannot form words around my relief about the fact that tomorrow is Friday. This week has been insane at work, for a number of reasons, and it only promises to get worse. Workload wise that is. How can it be so hard to find a good admin person? It seems that cheerfulness and competence don’t exist in the same person at that level. You get one or the other.

I’m SO not sleepy. And now it’s almost midnight (and no, my typing speed isn’t that slow. I got distracted). But I ought to sleep.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Mountain Goats gushing alert

At times I can be less then patient. I tend to want to rush to the end of things, and although I’m getting better in that regard, there are definitely still things in my life that I really want NOW. But I can wait. Not indefinitely, but for this moment.

One of these things I’m increasingly impatient for is a Mountain Goats tour. The reason I have, until now, been patient for this is the extenuating circumstances – JD has had his own issues of the health kind, and I’m not one to whinge and moan in this situation. STILL, even given that, I’ve been ever so patient. Really. I got over the whole tour cancellation on my birthday weekend by barely throwing my toys out of the pram, and I’ve patiently (and I would even say LESS then obsessively) been checking the forums for news of the antipodean kind. But nothing.

So I wait.

In the meantime, the fabulous people over at Daytrotter.com have bought us 4 songs from Mr Darnielle in a Daytrotter session for the ages. Well, for my ages. Or something. There is an unreleased song there that is so sweet it’ll make your teeth hurt, and the more upbeat version of There Will Be No Divorce lifted my heart and my shoulders tonight like the whole crappy day hadn’t happened. This song from The Coroners Gambit is easily in my Mountain Goats top 20 (which is quite a thing, really) and I love the way he plays this – the way he belts out that last chorus made my face crack involuntarily into a smile.

But don’t just download the songs – read the writing. I love to read what song writers have to say about their writing process, and given the personal and confronting and painful lyrics of Darnielle, I particularly love to hear what he has to say about his words. He is my favourite lyricist ever. FACT.

The article by Sean Moeller is also well written. I particularly love his dissection of Darnielle’s characters, because this truly is the strength of this writing.

The characters are at their wits ends, they are screaming at the top of their lungs, they are tearing their hair out, they are dismayed by words and actions, they are without options – or so they believe. They are thinking out loud, just letting the pent up storm clouds build and bulk into menacing thunderheads, opening the dams so the blackened hearts can spill out like ticker tape. These people that Darnielle has created are burning.

YES.

Dark matter

This post has been building up for almost a week now. I was avoiding it altogether – this is not one of those blogs that pitches for controversy. The second you weigh into this kind of debate publicly, not knowing your audience, the second you open yourself up to the flaming. But oh well. I think it’s an important debate to have.

I have been familiar with the art of Bill Henson for a little while now. I remember seeing one of this photographs at a gallery in Surry Hills when I first moved to Sydney (a crowd scene), and the image stayed with me for some time. When the Art Gallery of NSW did a (large) retrospective of his work in 2005 I went not only to the exhibition, but to a viewing of a film about his work and his creative process.

If only the greater public could have seen this film.

I was captivated by the exhibition. I was also a little disturbed by it but here’s the thing – not at ALL in a sexual way. Not in the way the world is spinning themselves crazy about this right now. The unease I felt came from the tension in the photographs – from the lighting and the landscape and the sense of doom about the images. ALL the images – the ones containing portraits of people and adolescents, and the ones that didn’t. His Paris Opera series left me breathless and his landscape photographs left you feeling a little off-centre, like the wind could whip you off your feet at any moment.

I’ve listened to and read nearly every face of this argument from the time the lid blew open on Thursday last week. While I have strong opinions on the issue, my head is also in a massive state of confusion.

First, Henson has been taking photographs of adolescents in various states (clothed or otherwise) for several years now. I have a hardcover copy of his (beautiful) book Mnemosyne – we were looking at it on the weekend and some of those images are decades old. The issue here is the sexualisation of children – but who is seeing and crying out about the sexuality in these images? Not the art world of Sydney, Australia or the rest of the world. Not the thousands of people who have seen every one of his works hanging in numerous galleries all over the world prior to last week. Not the models or the parents of the models that gave their children permission to pose. Heck, not even Cate Blanchett, a mother herself, who has come out in support of Henson this week. It is the people making the complaints that are sexualising these children. It’s a tragedy I think that we can’t look at a naked body, of any age, without automatically jumping to that conclusion. By crowing about the innocence of this girl being lost, you’re effectively stripping this model and this art of any innocence it had.

Second, the International art world is looking at us now, whether we like it or not. They are closely monitoring our reaction to this, and to the way we’re dealing with it. They’re watching our debate about censoring art and they’re scratching their heads no doubt, thinking that perhaps they were mistaken about us being more culturally mature then this.

Third, the black and white nature of this argument seems clumsy and ill informed to me. That the sexualisation of children is a heinous and inexcusable crime? Absolutely. That the naked body of a person under the age of 18 MUST be sexual? Absolutely not. Why so black and white? You could go on forever with this stuff, like the tube tops and hot pants being sold for 8 year olds in department stores. Or make up for little girls, with cherry flavoured lipstick and glitter purple eye shadow. Emanating their mothers, or the sexualisation of children? More socially acceptable but I’m confused as to why.

This article by John McDonald for the Sydney Morning Herald is well-written and articulates much more eloquently (and succinctly) what I’m trying for here.

I think there were some mistakes made though. The gallery should really look at their marketing of this exhibition – to put THAT photograph on the front of the invitation to the opening, cropped in that context, was asking for this sort of attention. I’m sure they were initially courting the hoohar, but I wonder if they realised the impact that particular image would have.

Also, for whatever reason, these photographs (at least, the ones I’ve seen), ARE a little different. Each Henson shot of a waif-like adolescent I’ve seen previous to this exhibition has been in some sort of context – either situated in an apocalyptic landscape or in amongst smashed car bodies or on the edge of a cliff in front of a glimmering horizon. For these photographs, for reasons only known to the artist, he’s stripped all the background and landscape away. The figures stand alone, beautifully lit, maintaining all the tension of the previous images, but without any sort of context at all. It makes it harder to explain. And right now the poor bastard is in the position of having to explain himself.

The media in all this has a lot to answer for. You slap the words ‘child’ and ‘pornography’ in the same headline and you’re bound to get hits and sell newspapers. And the general public seems to have been whipped up in the hysteria. The shame of it all is that if the girl in the images in question didn’t feel violated beforehand, I’m certain she does now. And I think the irony of that will be lost on most people.