journalism

On Lorde’s “Green Light” and its brave ugliness.

The first time I listened to Lorde’s Green Light, I wasn’t sure if she’d got away with it.

Growling right at the lowest end of her register, battling with an almost disastrous chord change in the chorus, the Kiwi kid of Royals acclaim had me crying “What the hell are you doing?!” sooner than she had me singing along.

No surprises that Jack Antonoff was involved – the sparse, pop-savvy verse will conjure references to Taylor Swift’s 1989 with little effort. And, like 1989, the experimentation ultimately paid off.

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Because by some devilry, that chorus works. While the initial shock might have cooled our enthusiasm for a second, Lorde brings it all flooding back with a dance refrain that will be flailed to on many a drunken night – and let’s be honest, some sober ones too.

I may have been bamboozled for a moment or two, but those seconds of shock and uncertainty were some of the most exciting of my day (I know, I live a wild life). Who dares to let these rough edges show, on radio of all places? Who dares to create something so uncomfortable, in the name of art? Not many artists who get airplay, that’s who.

And this, time and again, is why Lorde stands out. Because she refuses to shy away from a little ugliness, that little ugliness that is an inescapable and very real part of life, and which gives her art all the more credibility and daring.

TV Review: The Right Note

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The panellists of The Right Note, including: (L-R) Rod Yates, Lindsay McDougall, Danielle McGrane and Bernard Zuel. (image source)

This show so delightfully fits its title, there is really no need to say anything more.

But The Right Note, a new original TV series focused entirely on album reviews, live performances and interviews with up-and-coming musicians, is my new favourite way to spend screen time – so hear me out.

Our panellists are the best in the business: The Sydney Morning Herald‘s senior music writer, Bernard Zuel; editor of Rolling Stone Magazine Australia, Rod Yates; and entertainment journalist for Australian Associated Press, Danielle McGrane. Aussie rocker and long-time Triple J presenter Lindsay “The Doctor” McDougall hosts and contributes to the conversation, guiding us through the show with easy warmth.

Each episode includes commentary on the latest music news, three album reviews from the experts, and a live performance and interview with fresh, usually off-beat acts. At 35 minutes a pop, The Right Note is a quick injection of new music, presented by people with opinions worth listening to.

It’s a show for people with broad musical taste, too. Everyone from Pete Doherty to the Rolling Stones gets a look in, and as they wrap up each session the panellists drop recommendations for ‘albums you may have missed’…so whether you happily paddle down the mainstream, or proudly discover tunes ‘before they were cool’, chances are you’ll find something to your liking.

With the authority and perceptiveness of Stratton & Pomeranz’s At The Movies (ABC), and the easy lounge room discussion style of The Book Club (also ABC), The Right Note would surely be welcome on, well, our national telly channel. Surely that deserves 5 stars.

You can watch every episode of The Right Note, or just bite-size vids of the interviews and performances on Skipi TV, HERE.

Michael Buble: Nobody But Me (Deluxe Version)

michael-buble-nobody-but-me-2016-2480x2480Album: Nobody But Me (Deluxe Version)
Artist: Michael Buble
Label: Reprise Records
Released: October 21, 2016

RATING: 2.5/5 STARS

Michael Buble has been around long enough to hone his template to perfection; so while it is both comforting and disappointing to discover I could have written this review just as accurately without actually listening to his latest record, it is certainly not a surprise. Nobody But Me is yet another perfectly crafted album of knee-melting ballads, toe-tapping jazz, and pop tunes of the sweetest vanilla. Admittedly, there’s less of the latin influence I danced to incessantly when To Be Loved hit the shelves, and the brass blasts are fewer and smoother than those of its predecessor, but for the most part Nobody But Me is of the same mould.

There’s the uplifting but forgettable pop original (I Believe In You), the cheeky rock ‘n’ roll number (Nobody But Me), the guest cameo (Meghan Trainor, on Someday), the deliciously scathing revenge song (I Wanna Be Around), the no-brainer classic covers (My Baby Just Cares For Me, My Kind Of Girl), the classic cover that didn’t really work (God Only Knows…how much better this version could have been, were it not so slow and stilted) and thankfully, the gorgeous reimagining of a vintage sound (On An Evening In Roma). In between these certainties lie a few slower and/or ordinary numbers (The Very Thought Of You, Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow) that fill the gaps and carry us to the bonus tracks, if you’ve chosen the deluxe version for your purchase (not a terrible idea, as Take You Away is a fun little cha cha).

Consistency is usually reassuring, but this time around it’s made me restless to hear a little more daring from Buble. He must certainly be applauded for maintaining a fresh sound – and for offering new material alongside the classics – but Nobody But Me continues the trend of over-production in his more recent work. Gone is the rawness we heard in 2007’s I’m Your Man, and where is the innovation that created that extraordinary jazz cover of The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love?

While the radio stations will likely delight in the cutesy ukulele that accompanies Buble and Trainor in the safe ray of sunshine that is Someday, I’ll listen to On An Evening In Roma and dream of bygone days when Buble’s albums oozed with nuance and romance.

On repeat lately (#1)

The Trouble With Us – Marcus Marr & Chet Faker

Marcus Marr + Chet Faker = beautiful, crazy-cool pop. I’m a sucker for a groove and this is a good ‘un.

 

Skeleton – Gabrielle Aplin

Punchy pop-rock with a slick vibe, finds a ballsy mid-ground somewhere between venom and broken-hearted indignation.

 

Style – Taylor Swift

Send help, I’ve been possessed by the (darn good) mainstream.

 

All Night – Slum Sociable

Sensuous, dance-influenced indie-pop that was probably written at 2am. Listen when in languid mood (perhaps after a glass or two of red).

 

I’m Growing A Beard Downstairs For Christmas – Kate Miller-Heike ft. The Beards

Amongst the piles of mass-produced, soulless Christmas cheese (*coughsKylieMinoguecoughs*), this gem flips the bird to all the fakery of modern society. And it’s catchy as all get-out.