Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s nearing the end of the year. This can either be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on how your year has been. For me, well…that’s another blog. In the meantime though, it’s time for the greatest hits of 2015!

MUSIC
It was a pretty decent year in music for me. I saw a whole list of bands, including Foo Fighters, Rise Against, Fleetwood Mac and, of course, Anathema. My best friend introduced me to a few new bands (Acid Bath, Moonspell and A Forest of Stars, to name a few) I discovered a few myself, and there were some new tunes from some old favourites, most notably the albums from Circa Survive (Violent Waves), Dead Letter Circus (Aethesis) and City and Colour (If I Should Go Before You). But for me, my favourite album of the year was someone I’d never heard of before. It is Hozier’s self titled album that I find myself returning to again and again. I impulse bought the album after I heard the song Someone New on a music channel on television, and haven’t regretting it for a minute. There’s something about his lyrics that just resonated with me, and he has a voice that I find ceaselessly listenable. Plus, Irish. That will almost always win you points.

BOOKS
I’ve kept a record of every book I’ve read since 2011 and this was by far the worst year I have had since I started. I put it down to a couple of things. First of all, I’ve been busy. I know that sounds like a cop out, but I work during the week, sew on the weekends, and life just has a habit of getting in the way. And I’ll be honest, of the 21 books I’ve read, I actually hated most of them. I loved Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven really struck a chord with me. If I Stay makes the list as well, and despite not particularly liking the characters all that much, The Girl on the Train was intriguing and entertaining. But everything else I read was either really bad or not that worthy of note. So hopefully, next year the books will pick up their game. I have a few lined up to be read (like…thirty), so I’m expecting good things from the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Emma Donoghue and Ben Aaronovich. Hopefully they won’t let me down.

FILM
I watched a lot of films this year, but I’ll narrow it down to the ones that were actually released in 2015, or we’ll be here forever. One on the major stand outs for me was Chappie. Neill Blomkamp once again brought his imagination and genius to the party and effortlessly blew most out of the water. The title character was a curious mix of lovable, formidable and childlike. And in what can only be called a solid supporting performance, Hugh Jackman proved that it actually is possible to hate him. (I mean his character by the way; he was thoroughly loathsome). Dark Places get a mention in this list too, because anything Gillian Flynn related will always get a mention in any list of my favourite things. Charlize Theron played her role to perfection, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a look. The comic book nerd in me loved Avengers: Age of Ultron because well…who doesn’t love a bit of action adventure comic adaptations? And for Mae Whitman alone, and her monster voice in the film I’ll round out this list with The Duff. There are no horror films in there, and the last one is certainly not my usual taste but you gotta have a bit of diversity!

So there it is. Off the top of my head at least, these are my top picks for entertainment for the year. I’d love to hear your favourites!

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Impulse and Strings

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Do you ever just do something completely on impulse, without giving it any forethought or adding in any logic? Of course you do, you’re human (one presumes), and unless you’re incredibly unadventurous or, like, exceedingly prudent, there is a chance you’ve done something completely spur of the moment at least once in your life. Yesterday, I did one of those impulsive things. I bought a violin.

Now, if you read my blog regularly, you will know that I own a guitar and still only know how to play two chords. I have had my guitar for almost twelve months now, and most of the time it sits against the wall and stares at me forlornly, longing for me to play with it. Only when I’m not insanely busy doing other things, and have the motivation to practice, do I pick it up and try to play. And then there’s the ukulele (yet another impulse purchase, actually). I bought it a few months back because a) it was cheap, b) it was red and c) I figured that with only four strings, it would be easier to learn and play. And then that, like the guitar, sat against the wall, where it remains to this day doing nothing except be really vividly red.

Evidently, when it comes to impulsively purchasing string instruments, I have approximately no control. And so the instrument family keeps growing, and so does my guilt at neglecting them. It’s probably a good thing that I never have any intention of having children. Now, logic states that I should learn to play one of the instruments that I already own before I try and learn a new one. But alas, as with my penchant for buying more books instead of reading the stack on my shelf, I similarly suffer from an inability to say no to buying things that I might onedayeventuallymaybeifI’mnotbusy get around to. The thing is, I have all these grand notions of never working in retail again, and living off a career of making things and creating stuff, and writing, and playing in a fabulously wonderful band. But my problem is that the Elegant Fox is still early days, and my writing is a somewhat stunted process and, whilst I am not a terribly bad singer, I am actually not instrumentally talented in the least.

So, to be honest, a new violin is a not entirely clever use of money I could probably be spending on other more important, less impulsive things. Like buying a new car for instance. But they’re such pretty instruments, and you don’t understand, I need it. Plus, in my defence, a close friend of mine does actually teach the violin and has promised to take me on as a student. So, if I actually have someone to help me in the early stages, there is a higher likelihood that I’ll actually put in the effort to learn. That’s how it works, right?

In any case, it should get delivered next week, so we’ll know soon enough how this newest venture into musical creativity will fare!

House Made Introductions

A person’s house tells a lot about them. You can always tell the people who tidy for company from the people who don’t. You can usually tell if someone supports a particular sporting team, or if a girl spends ten minutes or three hours in the bathroom. It’s the little things we don’t really notice that tell people the most about us. I can be completely summed up to a stranger by five things in my house. Which is to say, someone I don’t know could walk into my house today and leave after ten minutes with a fairly good notion about the kind of person I am.

Firstly, when you walk into my house, is the typewriters. They’re right at the front door, sitting atop some bookshelves that house a rather significant collection of books. This is the first thing people see. You can deduce one of two things from these cute little vintage pieces. I am either a) a pompous hipster with a penchant for buying vintage items to make myself seem cool or b) I am a writer (and aspiring author) with a deep and profound love of the written word, and a genuine interest in writing implements from history. It’s the latter, by the way.

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Secondly, as you make your way through my house – and by that I mean taking about a step and a half into my lounge room – you will see the large collection of books stacked slightly precariously atop a small but varied DVD collection. Now, in addition to the bookshelves when you first walked in, these thirty odd books will tell you that I am a voracious reader, with a tendency to buy books in bulk and happily make my way through them at my own leisure. That stack has been, at varying levels, a part of my living arrangement for the last six years. At least.

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Before you move onward, to the right is my bedroom. There, on my side table is my iPod, plugged into the dock and playing music (Amorphis at the time I took that photo). My iPod is perpetually playing. There are very few things I do, without the accompaniment of various styles and genres of music. Everything from Metal (the likes of Dimmu Borgir, Opeth and Dark Tranquillity to name a few) to instrumental pieces, progressive rock to folk and blues. I have what one might consider an eclectic taste in music, and I can’t go through my days without some musical motivation.

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Take a couple more steps and you will find yourself in my kitchen. To the right is my sewing room, where you will find a dressmakers mannequin wearing an almost finished gown of my own design, just awaiting the final touches to complete. Now, this is pretty obvious. Mannequin, almost completed project, fabric everywhere, sewing machine on the table; I sew, guys. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

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You don’t even need to take any more steps here, because on the wall outside the sewing room door, hanging in my kitchen is a canvas print that reads ‘Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On’. This could be admittedly taken a couple of ways. Perhaps I enjoy entertaining? Nope. Maybe I am a coffee drinker? Nuh uh. I drink copious amounts of tea. Can’t live without it, I am truly a writer cliche. I have about thirty different kinds of tea in a cupboard specifically designated for it. So I suppose, perhaps the fifth item should be my tea cupboard, but the canvas is more obvious and frankly, if a stranger were to go through my cupboards, I would find that unforgivably rude.

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And that’s about it. Oh, of course there are other things, if one cared to pay attention. The collection of Pop Vinyl figures that indicate a love of pop culture and geekery, the empty fridge that tells you I am a lazy cook, the prints on the walls that let you know I am a collector of cool art. My house is very Amy. There is no way you would walk in and mistake me for a footy loving jock, or a smoker or a painter or a cat lover. We make our space our own and sooner or later, that space will inevitably tell others who we are. So what does your house say about you?

Anathema, 2015

Last night, most people were out and about, kicking on with Halloween celebrations. I myself was invited to two different parties. But I didn’t go to either of them, and for me Halloween was a definite afterthought. On any other year, I’d have been out partying with the rest of them. But this year was different. This year, I spent Halloween with the members of Anathema.

For those of you who don’t know (and I assume most of you won’t) Anathema is a death/doom metal turned progressive rock band that my best friend introduced me to a year or two ago. They have since become one of my favourite bands and so when they announced an acoustic tour earlier this year, I jumped straight on and secured myself a ticket. The night kicked off with a VIP meet and greet with vocalist and guitarist, Vincent Cavanagh and female vocalist, Lee Douglas. They were lovely and accommodating and signed a bunch of stuff. Once that was out of the way, we were allowed in to the stage.

The support act was a guy called Mark, who sang and played guitar with a female singer and a beautiful redhead cellist. I confess, I spent almost the entire set watching her, a) because she was right in front of me, b) because the cello is a hauntingly beautiful instrument and she played it flawlessly and c) because she was delicate and dainty and absolutely fucking stunning. I wanted to marry her a little bit, I’m not going to lie.

When they left and the curtain closed to allow Anathema to set up, I hung out at the stage with a few people I’d met that night. We’d kind of formed a little group I guess, strangers joined by the love of a band. A Russian girl, a German woman, an English woman and myself. Sounds like the punchline of a bad joke, huh? But socially awkward little Amy managed to not make too much of a fool of herself.

And then it was time. I cannot describe to you the emotions that were running through me. Being an acoustic gig, it was just Vincent, Lee, and Daniel Cavanagh (guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist) but it was absolutely sensational. The acoustic nature of the performance made it more intimate, I thought, and I was able to properly immerse myself in the spectacular performance. Lee’s vocals were simultaneously haunting and powerfully evocative. Daniel informed us at one point that she had won best female singer in the UK three years in a row, and seeing her on stage, it was easy to see why. She effortlessly projected volume and hit notes that gave me goosebumps. It was a thing of beauty.

Vincent similarly gave a powerful vocal performance. He has that same ability to give me goosebumps, and the emotion in his voice was even more awesome to hear live. And I was endlessly fascinated by his guitar playing. The beauty of the acoustic set was that I was able to properly hear all the instrumental genius, as well as the vocals, and it was an aurally stunning performance.

Daniel was directly in front of me for most of the show, and like I had with his brother, I found myself watching his hands on the guitar. Entirely self taught (as he later told me) his ability to play multiple instruments blew me away. There are simply no words to describe what an affecting performance they all gave last night, and my only regret is that my best friend wasn’t there with me to share in the wonder and beauty of it. They were all very engaging too, and between the banter tossed back and forth on stage, and the little jokes and comments at the crowd, it really felt like we were a part of something wonderful. It was…incredible.

When the show was over, we got a chance to speak to Daniel, as he hadn’t been at the earlier session. We talked about how he’d taught himself to play instruments as a kid, how he always knew music is what he was going to do. When I left, he kissed my cheek, gave me a hug and wished me happy birthday. I could not think of a greater way to ring in turning twenty three, than to watch and meet one of the most amazing bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving.

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Why I Suck at Being Creative

I am a writer. Writing is just kind of the thing that I do…when I’m motivated and inspired. I am a creative person but I am also, unfortunately and to my detriment, an incredibly lazy person. So, most of the ideas that I have in regards to creative pursuits other than writing are often thought of with great excitement, right up until I lose interest. And it’s not because I don’t want to do these things, it’s because I get frustrated about the fact that I can’t.

Last year, I bought myself a sewing machine. As a small woman with a big bust, I often find it difficult to find cute clothes in my awkward size. So I figured I would start making my own clothes, or at least learn the ability to fix the clothes I’ve already got. And I did…for a while. I make aprons and skirts and once I made a vest without a pattern. But that is as far as I’ve gotten. I haven’t done any sewing in months, and my poor neglected machine is sitting in the back room gathering dust. It’s not that I WANT to ignore it, but I have so little time and in order for me to create, I need to have time. Thus, my sewing has ceased.

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This year, I finally purchased a guitar, something I have been talking about for years. As a self proclaimed singer without a band, I figured the best way to create music would be to learn an instrument to accompany my vocals, since I know very few musicians I would be comfortable enough to ask to help me. I’ve had the thing probably six months, and I know two chords. I know, it’s a horrible effort! But every time I try to sit down and practice, something gets in the way, and I have yet another would-be creative outlet gathering dust. So naturally, last week I bought a red ukulele with the same intention of learning, just to make things harder for myself. Silly Amy.

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And then there’s the typography. As expressed earlier, I am a writer. Some people are blessed with the ability to draw or paint or sketch, and I love those people and envy them in equal measures. I can draw stick figures with disproportionate breasts and that’s about it. But I love words, the way they work and sound and look on paper, and I decided a few weeks ago that I would look into the art of typography. My ultimate goal would be to write short poems or sayings, write/draw them up creatively and sell them. You know how far that went? I haven’t even purchased a how-to book to get me started.

And then, of course, there is my writing. Blogs aside, I haven’t written in months. Again, time is an issue but more and more I realise it’s an excuse. I can make time. I write best at night, when the not so silent silence of my house soothes me and simultaneously thrusts me unceremoniously into a creative frenzy. And yet, my laptop remains beside my bed – yup, you guessed it – gathering fucking dust.

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I will make no grand claims here. I will not pretend that I’m going to take up all my creative pursuits at once and throw myself wholly into tackling them because that would be a lie. I won’t, and you all know I won’t. But I will tell you this; I am going to get out of bed, eat, shower and dress. And I am going to look at my guitar, and I’ll walk past it. And I will glance down at my laptop and then ignore it. And I will go out to my back room, take up my sewing machine and alter some dresses I’ve been meaning to fix for two months. I’ll start small and hey, maybe I’ll inspire myself to keep going. Wish me luck!

Metal Mornings and Amping Up (Ha!) For a Day of Retail

I think the music you listen to, has the incredible ability to affect your mood at any given time. If I’m hating the world and want to do nothing but curl up in a ball and cry, sometimes listening to sad, slow sounding songs just makes me more miserable. At other times, it makes me feel better. This morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I’ve been going through a tough time lately, and despite the fact that the last couple of days have been better, I apparently relapsed into a less than pleasant state of mind. So this morning, when my alarm went off at seven – a good five hours later than when I awoke – I turned it off, rolled over and pulled the covers over my head.

For a solid hour, I waged an inner battle with my own sense of responsibility. Despite the fact that I knew I didn’t have a choice but to get up, I remained firmly where I was; my stubbornness and lack of motivation winning against any modicum of adult that I have managed to obtain since officially earning that title. When I finally resigned myself to the fact that I did have to get out of bed and go to work, it was with no small measure of discontent that I threw the covers back and got up. In the ten minutes I had allowed myself before I had to leave, I went through the motions of brushing my teeth, getting dressed and collecting the necessary items, going about my morning as if I were in a trance. It wasn’t until I got in my car that I started to feel even a little awake.

I usually plug my iPod in when I get in my car, but I have a cd in the player too, in case I can’t be bothered with the iPod (for example if I’m only going on a short drive and it’s not worth the hassle). Up until recently, I was playing Emarosa’s most recent album, Versus. Although I do love the songs, there are only ten or so on the album, and after a few weeks of listening to the same thing, I was pretty sick of hearing them. To counter this musical rut, I changed things up yesterday, and put Opeth’s Blackwater Park on instead.

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Hailed (by me at least) as one of Opeth’s greatest musical achievements, Blackwater Park is certainly one of my favourite albums. And this morning, it had the benefit of gearing me up for a day of retail that I would otherwise rather have spent in bed, wallowing in my own despair. I turned the volume up as loud as I could without making my speakers crackle and revelled in the wonders of Mikael’s vocals and the phenomenal power of instrumental genius. There’s just something about metal music that gets me pumped. By the time I got to work, I felt like I could single handedly take on a ten tonne giant, and so the prospect of facing a day full of customers seemed infinitely less daunting than it had at 8:19 this morning.

The only problem with listening to metal the whole way to work is that I was so in the mood for heavy music, I wanted to plug my iPod in at work and play more of it when I got in store. Not that I would have been bothered by that, but somehow I doubt customers would be as willing to approach the shop. Then again, maybe that’s the solution.

Save the Palace Theatre

Oftentimes my blogs are a tad rambling and more than a touch negative, but they’re usually just my thoughts on certain generic things. This time, on a much more serious note than usual, I would very much like to talk about an issue that is incredibly important to me, and to over 25,000 other people. (Look at me, getting all involved in current affairs.)

We all love live music. There’s a certain atmosphere to it; all those people who may have nothing else in common, coming together in mutual love of music and to headbang to the songs of their favourite bands. There’s something about feeling the bass thump in your chest, yell-singing out the lyrics to your favourite songs and fist pumping in the mosh with a crowd of other music fans that is indescribably amazing. Live music gigs are about the only times I am comfortable in large crowds and that is because all anxieties and (most) animosities are sung and air punched out in the (literal) heat of the moment. The last gig I went to was just last week, when I went with a friend to see Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus. On a side note, those two bands are the reason we started talking and I found it rather poetic that the bands we bonded over ended up being the first live gig we ever went to together. The opening night of the tour and the show we attended was held at the Palace Theatre on Bourke St in Melbourne.

And here is where that issue I was talking about comes in; the proposed development of the Palace Theatre site. In June of 2012, it was revealed that the site had been sold to Chinese property investment firm, Jinshan Investments, who planned to tear down the Palace and replace it with a complex of apartment buildings and hotel rooms. Now, I don’t know a lot about the economy or anything even remotely political but to me, there’s something wrong with tearing down that building and replacing it with something else. Especially something as metaphorically cold and impersonal as a hotel. Hotels are everywhere but the Palace is one of a kind.

The current building was opened in 1912, after the Douglas Theatre, which had occupied the site since 1860, was destroyed by a fire in 1911. The building has stood there for over one hundred years. Though going through a series of different names since it was built, it was renamed the Palace Theatre in 2007 and has since become one of Melbourne’s most popular live entertainment venues, literally hosting hundreds of acts each year. In addition to the old school charm and atmosphere of the building, the venue is iconic to Melbourne. Tearing it down is not only an affront to the live music scene, it is destroying something that is as much a part of Melbourne as the Melbourne Athenaeum Theatre or the Flinders Street Station.

I have been to three gigs at the Palace since 2011, twice to see Anberlin and the third time so see Karnivool and DLC last week, as I mentioned earlier. The multilevel structure has charm, character and a distinct, impossible to replicate environment. To lose such a cultural and musical icon to some generic hotel would be a shame. For everyone who has seen live music at the Palace or even people who just don’t want to see a boring modern change to the historic Bourke St precinct, I urge you to sign the petition and save the Palace Theatre.

For those interested and willing, I’ve posted the link below for your convenience. And seriously guys, if I can get involved in something, then surely you can too.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/381/189/786/save-the-palace-theatre/