March album reviews (2)

Kingswood – After Hour, Close to Dawn

After Hour, Close to Dawn comes on, ‘Looking for Love’ starts and I’m taken to a tiny, dark club with a piano on stage, little tables full of seated patrons, sipping drinks and enjoying this soulful, bluesy goodness. But hold on a minute, isn’t this Kingswood? As in, smash ya face off, ‘Yeah Go Die’, ear bleeding, scream-a-minute Kingswood? Well yes it is. And as bizarre as this experience is, I really, really like it. Similarly, having heard ‘Golden’ on the radio without a back-announce grabbed me and only later finding out who it was made me double-take. Moving from ripsnorting rock and roll to various forms of soul and blues is an awesome change of tact for the Melbourne trio – it’s not so much a follow up to Microscopic Wars than it is a re-imaging of the band. Their repertoire has been smashed wide open now, the occasional Kingswood-of-old a rare thing (‘Like Your Mother’) among arguably much more interesting material. ‘Big City’ is full country blues that, along with ‘Belle’ before it, includes some stellar harmonies; ‘Rebel Babe’ is multi-faceted, genre-hopping wonder; ‘Alabama White’ goes wild on guitar; and ‘Atmosphere’ saves the best til last, going full-gospel with grouse layers of vocals, guitar and percussion for a rousing end.

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The Shins – Heartworms

So it turns out I like to hold stupid grudges. Upon learning The Shins had a new album, the first thing I remembered about the band was that, five years ago, they ruined a blissful gig when James Mercer self-indulged in a blatantly longwinded (I’m talking looong) solo throughout the encore. Apparently I’m still bitter. I thought about that timeframe, too, and realised Heartworms is the first Shins album in five years. I wish it had come sooner, because when I listened to this beauty I forgot about hating on them so much and quickly remembered how great The Shins are. ‘Name for You’ is instant Shins gold and the right way to kick things off. It feels like a cut from Wincing the Night Away, which given the time Mercer holds onto songs for it could easily have been. ‘Painting a Hole’ is a little weirder, and a few tracks join the variation to break things up (the dreamy country nostalgia of ‘Mildenhall’ and the spacey vibes of ‘Dead Alive’). For the most part though, this disc is full of familiar pop hooks – they haven’t tried any form of reinvention, they’ve just picked up where they left off. With its stirring strings and almost Celtic vibe, ‘The Fear’ is an intriguing way to end such a happy sounding album. “I passed another pointless year,” sings Mercer. “This fear is a terrible drug / If I only had sense enough / To let it give away to love.” This is a sad song masquerading in the company of joyful ones, and it’s done very well. An intriguing way to end a stellar album.

Milky Chance – Blossom

Remember ‘Stolen Dance’? That was a killer track; fresh and interesting with an earworm hook and unique vocals. Well, while I’m not reviewing a four year old single right now, I may as well be. ‘Stolen Dance’ was followed by debut album Sadnecessary and, several singles later, sophomore effort Blossom. From breakthrough single to album number two, you’d expect to hear some growth right? Well the sad fact here is that Blossom does not do what its name suggests, and when you throw it on you’ll hear the exact same Milky Chance you were hearing everywhere in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, single ‘Cocoon’ is damn fun in its own right, but it lacks the new excitement of the aforementioned “smash hit” (I wouldn’t afford the same judgement to the wasteful follow-up single ‘Ego’). I counted three attempts to not just copy and paste on this album: ‘Stay’, ‘Bad Things’ and ‘Piano Song’. The first of these dropped percussion from the equation to produce a dreary acoustic track and the third just annoyed me for how unimaginative its title was …because it’s a song with only piano, guys… ‘Bad Things’ is pretty great, though; the band employ Izzy Bizu to sing along and it makes for a nicely rounded pop item with variance to boot – probably the album’s highlight.

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Laura Marling – Semper Femina

Laura Marling has done something pretty cool over the last 10 years – she’s become a kind of archetype for female folk acts evoking a sound of decades past. Yes, that’s a pretty specific summation, but in fact her name does often come up as an influence or comparison nowadays, to the point it’s hard to not be aware of her work in some way. Like Marling’s work before it, Semper Femina doesn’t so much sound old fashioned as it does timeless, and it’s a good demonstration of why she’s held in such high regard. It’s full of diversity, from striking string arrangements, acoustic guitar carried by rich voice, and the odd rocky moment that breaks out from the calmness across most of the record. The depth of arrangements and lyrical prowess are fairly strong here, as Marling balances the dark and light, proving now – as she did back in 2008 – that she’s writing music beyond her years. Of course, her style is quite specific and therefore will draw a quite specific listener. For all the charm and magic that comes across to one listener, another dose of Laura Marling might just be a tad tiring to another.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

This is a sexy beast of a record, and after only one listen it propped itself up as one of my favourite Spoon offerings. It’s fresh stuff for the Texans, yet so distinctly theirs; a fact that becomes quickly apparent. The first three tracks set the tone for this album: the steamy funk of ‘Hot Thoughts’, a toe into dark and broody territory on ‘WhisperI’lllistentohearit’ (something of a hangover from Divine Fits), and classy guitar work on ‘Do I Have to Talk You Into It’. The last of those, along with tracks like ‘Shotgun’, are for the Spoon purists, with driving, repetitive hooks and choruses, and Britt Daniel’s unmistakable squawk. But Hot Thoughts is more than predictable Spoon – it’s full of cool new trials and successes. The ensembles used are far more varied than before, with piano featuring heavily. There are psychedelic waves (‘Pink Up’) and deep groove basslines (‘Can I Sit Next to You’), as well as one airy, horn-laden outro (‘Us’) that delves into jazz territory far removed from what you’d expect of the band and is left to smoulder as the album ends. The album’s eclectic and a tad addictive, so get on it.

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March album reviews

Methyl Ethel – Everything is Forgotten

I really love Methyl Ethel’s song ‘Ubu’, which appears up front on the band’s second album Everything is Forgotten. The vocals are intriguing and distinctively Jake Webb’s, the hook is catchy and the chorus has one of those lines that just keeps creeping back into your head. The problem, though, is that the song contributes to a major flaw of the band’s second album. In isolation, the lengthy repetition of the lyric “why’d you have to go and cut your hair” is fun; but when batched in with a bunch of other tracks that employ a similar tactic it gets frustrating. This isn’t to say they’re musically similar – there is in fact a clever display of creative variance throughout – but to have at least six tracks refrains repeated a few too many times is kind of annoying. Sure it’s a pop technique, but it’s jarring here. They’ve chucked in plenty of neat stuff, however. ‘L’Heure des Sorcieres’ employs Midnight Juggernauts-esque synth, ‘Femme Maison/One Man House’ some messy fuzz (and transfixion), and ‘Groundswell’ an old worldly harpsichord intro, with each fronted by that unique vocal which pulled me in in the first place. I feel that in time I’ll forgive my initial criticism of this album, or at least just takes the songs in isolation. Many of them a pretty rad.

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Ed Sheeran – ÷

It’s the emo rap sob pop album nobody wanted! False, actually. Hordes of emo rap lovers wanted it. Or, pop lovers. Sobbing pop lovers? Or the Irish… Do the Irish like the English these days? I think the emo rap lovers wanted something different. Confused? I am too… Because that is what ÷ does to you. Now, the third album in Ed Sheeran’s mathematical catalogue does contain proof that he can write a fun, memorable pop song. The unfortunate thing though, is that it also contains a whole lot of other stuff. You’ve probably heard ‘Castle on the Hill’ – a perfectly rounded, rousing pop tune that reminds us that English teens love to vom (so nostalgic) – and ‘Shape of You’ (the banana shaker one). You could easily stop there, basking in the craft of two well-rounded radio favourites. But, if you want to hear Ed delve into all sorts, listen to ÷. There’s an expected list of (mostly ordinary) ballads on ÷, but there’s also an odd amount of rapping (‘Eraser’), a flawed go at sexy soul (‘Dive’), a kind of nod to Graceland (‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’), an attempted street party anthem (‘Barcelona’), and a stab at an Irish pub ditty (‘Nancy Mulligan’). While this all rushes past in a confusing blaze, nowhere is the randomness of ÷ reflected more than on ‘Galway Girl’, a rap-versed Irish fiddle love song. Now do you see why I’m confused? He’s used so much here, it’s hard to know what else is there to look forward to. Perhaps deathcore, reggae and EDM will be thrown into the mix on his future albums and π. You know, because Ed.

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Alice Jemima – Alice Jemima

These tunes may envelop you or just pass you by depending on how much attention you want to give them. On one hand, the wistful pop of Alice Jemima is a fair stress remedy and escape from the world. Electronic beats, synth and cool guitar (think the xx) combine with whispery vocals (think Lisa Mitchell) to create a dream state you can close your eyes and bathe in. It’s chilled out, summer arvo music. There comes a point where you forget to notice the songs differentiating, but try not to miss the gentle oh-so-odd reworking of ‘No Diggity’. On the other hand, if your eyes are wide open and you’re caught up in whatever else is going on nearby, the “quiet” of these songs will struggle to seep in. This is calm stuff – you have to meet it accordingly.

Holy Holy – Paint

Holy Holy’s Paint is a triumphant Australian rock album, stacked with beauty and feeling. Its paradox is that the songs sound both classic and brand new, each awash with rollicking guitar and smooth vocals that draw you further in with each track. While the band have sited American folk and country bands as influences in the past, there is a distinct Australiana about Paint that is instantly recognisable. Hints of Icehouse and The Church can be found, as can likenesses to many contemporaries who Holy Holy may just well surpass with this release – in several instances I heard a balance somewhere between a Husky-like folk and the brooding of City Calm Down. ‘Darwinism’ is an all-round brilliant track and the indie rock mastery of ‘Elevator’ contains the defining riff off the album, while added touches of progressive psychedelia (‘Shadow’, ‘Send My Regards’) and pop sensibility (‘True Lovers’) only add to Holy Holy’s conquest.

February album reviews

Maggie Rogers – Now That the Light is Fading EP

Maggie Rogers’ Now That the Light is Fading is grouse. It’s not fair, then, that there are only five tracks here. This EP is a really good insight into what Maggie has to offer – 20 minutes to show her wares and demonstrate why people should wait out for any longer catalogue additions. ‘Color Song’ – a track isolated to vocals – starts things off nice and chilled out, setting up the cool indie pop to follow in radio-friendly ‘Alaska’ and ‘On + Off’. The remaining songs flaunt more of Maggie’s gorgeous vocals captured so well on track 1, adding memorable pop hooks that make each track instantly loveable.

Elbow – Little Fictions

There are a great number of bands for which I can easily proclaim: “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.” Elbow is not one of them. The band can’t put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned. Not taking anything away from their earliest material, when The Take Off and Landing of Everything came out in 2014 – their sixth of now seven albums – it eventually launched to arguably my favourite. And they’ve delivered another dose of brilliance on Little Fictions. The rousing ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ is a formidable lead to a stellar new collection of tracks on this album, which moves between loving, joyous, uplifting, melancholy and all sorts – Elbow again delivering more feeling in 50 minutes than many bands can in a career. Along with the opener, cleverly percussive ‘Gentle Storm’, lyrically packed ‘K2’ and the stirring epic ‘Little Fictions’ are the strongest additions to a perfectly-rounded new addition to the Elbow family.

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Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

I’m of the mind that grime music is terrible, so I set the bar pretty low when first listening to Stormzy; the next act in a line of British rappers who like black clothes, swearing a shit-tonne and generally coming across as very angry fellas. Why bother listening, then? Well, I guess I just like the way he says “bewts” and throws out truth bombs like “you’re never too big for Adele” in ‘Big For Your Boots’ (And that track has been hard to avoid). I was sucked in by one track, but this is far from a standout for me. There are some funny lines littered throughout and the odd winning track (2014’s ‘Shut Up’ resurfacing and claiming best on show), but there’s too much whatever everywhere else, with ‘Velvet’ sounding snorezy, the three-minute one-sided phone conversation ‘Crazy Titch’ far too self-indulgent, and ‘Mr Skeng’ (among others) sounding no different to any other grime act going around. That phone convo suggests Stormzy is taking grime “from a second rate genre to a first rate genre.” Do I agree? Meh.

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Dune Rats – The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit

There’s a serious problem here because, evidently, the kids don’t know it’s bullshit. This is easily some of the worst local music around and having it constantly flogged on the radio is, well, bullshit. To be fair, if you’re a 15-year-old male who’s just discovered tinnies and weed, this is probably hilarious and close-to-home. But for all the rest of you that took this to number one on the Aria charts, please explain it to me? The music is appallingly unoriginal, the vocals painful to listen to, and the lyrics mind-numbing. Of course, that’s probably what they’re going for and I’ve missed the point altogether. Or maybe it’s just a complete load of rubbish and simply a Queensland thing.

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Middle Kids – Middle Kids EP

Some local talent is on serious fire at the moment. I couldn’t get over the number of female voices killing it in 2016 and I’m hoping the trend continues this year. Middle Kids’ self-titled EP is a good start. The tracks presented are an awesome representation of this Sydney three-piece and you’ll be singing along in no time. By the time Hannah’s vocals go high on ‘Edge of Town’, repeating the refrain “I’ve got something on my mind,” all you want to do is rock out hard. ‘Never Start’ follows, bringing you back to earth momentarily, only to get you similarly revved again when its own chorus rolls through. It’s not a formula, it’s a consequence of good song craft. Each song is its own entity – I wouldn’t turn one away if presented in isolation. For that, Middle Kids become very radio friendly, and an act that’s likely to draw in more fans with each offering. Generally middle kids are the unloved ones (certainly the case in my family), but I think I’m going to love these guys.

Jidenna – The Chief

Jidenna has a fair list of talents; he can sing, rap, and dresses impeccably. He has a lot to show off on his debut The Chief, which is why it comes across a tad hotchpotch. Drake’s getting rap Grammys for pop records, so maybe Jidenna is just covering all bases to avoid confusion down the track. Among the songs, there’s breathy war chanting, chats with dad, some icky auto tune, a lullaby nap, anthemic choruses, fiery rap and earworm pop – it’s all quite confusing. But despite the flip flopping, The Chief is a really fun album, full of clever lyrics, a touch of political poignancy, and memorable beats that stick with you even when not sticking to one another. All that is heavily seasoned with the man’s self-confidence –  he’s the chief, the lion, and even the better Bond (“And that lame tryna holler he a Bond wanna-be, He a Roger Moore I’m a Sean Connery, I know”).

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January album reviews

AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

Time to dress in black, paint the mascara and wail in the darkness. If that doesn’t float your boat, you could add in a listen to the new AFI record, too… (Then you’d understand our pain *cries*) Davey don’t scream no more and they’re really a guilty pleasure these days, but I maintain AFI are cool-as-hell. Having reimagined themselves in various ways in the past, album ten does just feel like a continuation of Burials and Crash Love – not any dramatic turn probably due. Its familiar riffs and overall vibe are as melodically dark as you’d expect (“We both prefer romantic murder / To erase time and my, my empty life”). Track two bluffs a surprise, acoustic guitar leading ‘Still a Stranger’ to have you thinking: “What the hell are you doing AF…” before Jade steps in and brings it back to your expectant level of high spirited, rocky sadness, complemented at many turns by Davey’s anthemic choruses. Some people ask whatever happened to them emo kids? They’re standing behind you.

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The xx – I See You

I remember I was at a festival once and my bro, standing next to me, fell over. A nearby punter/nurse exclaimed dehydration, he assured it was the result of earlier surgery, but I knew the truth – the xx did it. Was this swooning in the actual sense of the word? No. More like snoozing (“the zz”). I was really delighted to hear I See You, then. For the most part, it’s a fun record that you want to stay awake for. The xx have brightened the hell up and its paying dividends. This is an album that will cheer you up, bring you back for many listens, and even make you dance (if you’re not the I’m-too-cool-and-hip-to-possibly-dance-to-music type)! Heaps of people loved them before, but it’s only now they’ve won me over.

Austra – Future Politics

In the event you’re ever caught up in a robot space alien cowboy invasion in the middle of the desert, you now have a soundtrack for said situation by way of Austra’s Future Politics. This is a wacky trip of a record, with loads of impressive (and occasionally comical) pitch and warble. The levels seem a bit weird, with vocals and synths on par, making Katie’s voice sound like its somewhere off in the distance or lost in space. But the upside is the album having a weird way of presenting the upbeat among darker edges – quite subtly cool. There’s plenty going on here, from vast and scared (‘I’m a Monster’), trippy psych (‘Future Politics’) and soaring vocal tracks (‘Gaia’). Overall there’s an air of positive gloom that still gives you something to nod, flail lightly or just pull weird shapes to.

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Kasey Chambers – Dragonfly

I can say quite confidently I’ve never been a fan of Kasey Chambers, although that being said I haven’t heard much beyond the whiney singles of the early 00’s. I was pretty surprised then, when one afternoon Henry Wagons played an absolute corker of a tune called ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ on Double J. Heavy, rocky, soulful – the track sucked me right in. When he back announced it, I was really surprised, and with that I decided to give Dragonfly a go to see if I’d pegged her wrong back in 2001. I was kind of annoyed… I listened to the whole thing and there was a total of three dark belters! The rest was a blend of folk ballads and ramblings, old school blues, mournful country and religious nods. All bar the last of those categories are fine enough, but overall this album was not what I was sold on the radio.

2016 in review: Top gigs and albums of the year

My Top 10 gigs of 2016

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10. Band of Horses – Forum – 24 July

Rounding out my list is one from my 16 in 2016 hopefuls. Always a favourite, Band of Horses played a super fun show with a wicked set list.

9. Matt Corby – Palais – May

I expected this show to be good, but was really surprised at how entrancing the tunes were. It was a strange, but consequently very memorable, show. Corby was simultaneously engaging (that voice) but entirely switched off from the crowd.

8. Jordie Lane – Gaso – 18 March

Every show Jordie does is tops. This one stood out as the first showcasing his awesome Gassellland songs and the ditching of the hat – a new era 😛

7. Lianne La Havas – Howler – 8 December

This show was just Lianne and a guitar and it was perfect. She is such a charismatic performer, loves the crowd and engages like few others can.

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6. Brian Wilson – 3 April

This show was great for the sheer brilliance of its set list. Brian left his performance peak behind him a long, long time ago, but with a huge band and fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine at his side, a performance of 38 (!) classics was still damn impressive. Pop music has a lot to thank him for.

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5. Coldplay – Etihad – 9 December

It has to land in the list, but putting it any higher is just unfair given what monumental amounts of money went into this show. Coldplay are the stadium band of this generation and there was so much going on in this performance – runways, hidden stages, confetti explosions, fireworks, lasers, a glowing crowd… oh, and a few tunskis – it’s impossible to forget it.

4. Montaigne – Corner – 13 October

I could possibly throw Montaigne into the list twice, she’s that good live (and the twitchy-light-fest of ‘In the Dark’ at Howler was super rad), but I’ll stick with the best I saw her in 2016. Riding high on her debut and Aria noms, this was a set brimming with confidence, stellar dance moves and that amazing voice. Montaigne will be one of those “remember when she still played club shows…” kind of acts.

3. Kate Miller-Heidke and TSO – Odeon Theatre – 18 January

An interstate sojourn for a gig  right back at the start of the year. The entirety of this gig was great, but I could rate it so highly on Kate’s performance of ‘Where?’ from The Rabbits alone. Wow. Always fun and engaging, Kate’s songs lend themselves super well to an orchestra and the TSO did them serious justice.

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2. Bon Iver – Sydney Opera House – 29 May

A year ago I put together a list of 16 acts I wanted to see in 2016, which included two or three big calls. One of them – Bon Iver – actually happened and I was damn stoked about it. Not only that, it was my first concert at the Sydney Opera House. The show was experimental, clever and beautiful, a kind unlike anything else I’ve seen.

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1. Leon Bridges – Forum – 19 July

Every now and then there’s a show where everything aligns – the atmosphere and act colliding in a performance that just stands out from the rest. Leon Bridges is all kinds of performer: soulful, playful, magnetic, classy. His band is divine and his songs are so, so much fun. And all of that culminated at Melbourne’s finest venue for my favourite gig this year.

My Top 10 albums of 2016

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10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made

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9. M83 – Junk

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8. Aurora – All My Demons Greeting Me As Friends

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7. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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6. Ngaiire – Blastoma

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5. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math

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4. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious?

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3. Emma Louise – Supercry

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2. Montaigne – Glorious Heights

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1. Jordie Lane – Glassellland

Eat the World – Part 23

It’s the South American special, and the final Eat the World for the year! 52 countries in 52 weeks (actually came in early) and plenty of yummy gems along the way. In this last installment are four recipes that combo really well; the two salady ones would perfectly complement the Argentinian ribs. There’s also a Peruvian pasta that’s not what it seems… Until next time, keep on eating.

Brazil

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I didn’t think you could top a classic potato salad. Turns out this Brazilian recipe does the trick! Almost everything about this is good for you… except for the main ingredient, which is effectively potato fries. To do this justice, mix all the ingredients with the mayo prior to adding the potatoes, then serve immediately. They’ll lost the best of their crunch quite quickly.

Crispy potato salad (Salpicao)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 200 gr corn kernels
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • canola oil for deep frying
  • 4 medium potatoes, julienned
  • 2 medium smoked chicken breast, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 small green apple, julienned
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 100 gr pitted olives, finely diced
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup whole-egg mayonnaise
  • Small bunch of chives, chopped
  • Small bunch parsley, chopped

Method

  1. Heat about 3 cm of oil in a deep heavy based frying pan until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in 10 seconds. Pat the potatoes dry with paper towel, then cook in the hot oil for 5 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
  2. Blanch peas in warm water for 5 minutes until thawed. Combine the potatoes, corn, peas, chicken, carrots, apple, onion, olives, raisins and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Transfer the salad to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chives and parsley. Serve immediately, while the potatoes are still crispy.

 

Uruguay

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Wait, South American vegetarian? With no beans? Apparently it does exist, although I’m yet to believe there’s any sense of common about it. In any case, this here is a healthy and delicious escape from the meats, crammed with powerful lemon and garlic flavours. Where you don’t have carrot tops, or they’re not your thing, a parsley and coriander combo provides an alternative with extra flavour.

Roast vegetable and buckwheat salad with preserved lemon chimichurri

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 bunch Dutch carrots, green tops reserved, halved lengthways
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 3 cm-thick slices
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3 cm-thick slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 125 gr buckwheat
  • 2 tablespoon roasted almonds, crushed
Chimichurri
  • ¾ cup picked carrot greens, finely chopped
  • ¼ preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • 1 clove garlic

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place the carrots, zucchini and eggplant in a large bowl. Using the back of a knife, mash the garlic cloves and preserved lemon to a paste. Add the olive oil and fennel and mix until combined. Add the paste to the vegetables, season and toss until well coated. Place vegetables on an oven tray lined with baking paper and transfer to the oven. Roast the zucchini and eggplant for 20 minutes and the carrot for 25 minutes or until golden and tender.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 220 ml of water to a boil in small saucepan. Add the buckwheat and a pinch of salt. Cook, uncovered, for 6–7 minutes until the water has reduced to the surface level of the buckwheat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 8–10 minutes until the buckwheat is tender. Strain if there is any residual water left.
  3. For the chimichurri, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season to taste and mix. Add half the chimichurri to the warm buckwheat and toss to coat. Divide the buckwheat between plates and arrange the vegetables on top. Drizzle with the remaining chimichurri and scatter over the almonds.

 

Peru

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Sopa seca (Serves 4)

Sopa seca is a strange one, a trick. It looks like pasta as you know it, but sure doesn’t taste like it. Here you develop a nice chilli sauce, pack it with beans and top it with coriander cream. The pasta is fried, then boiled, then baked. It takes on a lot and delivers a hearty and unique dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 300 gr angel hair pasta, broken into 10cm pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 long red chillies
  • 400 gr can of tomatoes, whole or chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 ½ chicken stock
  • 400 gr canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Handful chopped coriander leaves, to serve
Coriander cashew cream
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Bunch of coriander, stalks and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Lightly grease a 30 cm x 20 cm ovenproof dish with olive oil.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pasta and fry for 2–3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towel.
  3. Place the onion, garlic, chillies, tomatoes, ground coriander and oregano in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a pan with the bay leaves and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the stock, fried pasta and beans, and season. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, breaking up the pasta with a spoon, for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the bay leaves, then transfer the mixture to the prepared dish, cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. For the cashew cream, drain the cashews, then place in a blender with the remaining ingredients and 1/3 cup cold water. Whiz until smooth.
  7. Serve sopa drizzled with coriander cashew cream and with coriander leaves scattered over the top.

 

Argentina

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A little chocolate goes a long way when you’re finishing up the preparation of these ribs. This is a decadent recipe on all counts – a thick sugary syrup topped up with red wine and finished with dark chocolate, not to mention the bathing beef ribs! Serve these with a bitter salad (I used radicchio) to balance the sweetness of the sauce. Then lapse into a delightful ribs coma…

Asado in black sauce with chocolate

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 kg asado beef ribs
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 20 gr dark chocolate, finely chopped

Method

  1. Tie each rib lengthwise with kitchen string, tying around the meat to secure it to the bone, and place in a bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, grind 3 garlic cloves, oregano, allspice, cayenne pepper and ½ tsp salt to a paste. Rub paste over ribs, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook ribs for 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add onion, celery, carrot and remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes or until softened. Add sugar and continue cooking for 2 minutes or until sugar has melted. Add tomato paste and cook for a further 2 minutes. Return ribs to pan with the wine and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to low heat and cook, covered, for 2 hours or until the ribs are tender.
  3. Remove ribs from pan and set aside. Increase heat to high, then bring sauce to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened and reduced by a third. Remove from the heat and stir through the chocolate until melted. Pour sauce over ribs, to serve.

2016 Music Quiz

Plenty of musical things happening this year. Test your memory with the quiz below 🙂

  1. What 2016 song references ‘Becky with the good hair’?
  2. And who is ‘Becky with the good hair?’
  3. Producer Tony Visconti said this about which musician in 2016: “His death was no different from his life — a work of art”?
  4. Who said: “Like, ‘Why am I trying to make all this money?’ I wanted to hook up with hotter girls. I had to date a model”?
  5. Australia’s Dami Im took out what place in Eurovision 2016 and with what song?
  6. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker collaborated with which big popstar this year?
  7. And a Tame Impala cover appeared on which other mega pop star’s album?
  8. What song most commonly accompanied the 2016 Mannequin Challenge fad?
  9. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, two members of Austin soundscapists Survive, scored the theme to which hit television series?
  10. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Adele and Michelle Obama all sang on what musical TV segment in 2016?
  11. Kim Kardashian released a copy of a phone call, revealing consent that had previous been denied in the media, for lyrics about which singer and relating to which Kanye song?
  12. Jack White, James Blake and Kendrick Lamar all contributed to what beverage named 2016 album?

Who are these four musicians?

01 faces.png

What 2016 music videos are these?

01 videos.png

  1. Which artist released their 37th album Peace Trail in 2016?
  2. Sharon Jones passed away due to cancer in November. What was the name of her band?
  3. Who released the album this year with a painfully cringey title, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It?
  4. Who sung about being Brad Pitt’s cousin this year?
  5. Eight untiled tracks appeared on whose surprise 2016 album?
  6. Australian songstresses Kira Puru, Sampa the Great and Bertie Blackman appeared as guest vocalist on what 2016 hip hop album?
  7. You Am I, Something for Kate, Spiderbait and Jebediah united in a 90s rock throwback for which festival series?
  8. Whose lyric is this: “I won’t let go / I’ll be your lifeline tonight”?
  9. Which band, who released their second album in 2016, print the postcode 4122 on all of their merchandise?
  10. The music for which musical, appearing in Australia for the first time in 2016, was written by Cyndi Lauper?
  11. Taking a break from Arctic Monkeys in 2016, Alex Turner released an album with which side project?
  12. ‘You Want It Darker’ was the final album released by which artist?
  13. Which member of KISS released an album in 2016?
  14. Which comedy band released a film and album, both called Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, in 2016?
  15. An album of which artist’s music, recorded in February and October 1976 was released in August this year?
  16. Who sang Broadway with an array of movie partners, including Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy and Jamie Foxx?
  17. How many days after the release of his final album did Bowie pass away?
  18. True or false, all of these ladies released new albums in 2016: Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Melanie C, LeAnn Rimes?

Who do these symbols identify?

04 symbols.png

  1. Track titles on whose 2016 album included infinity symbols, diamonds, an upside-down t, and the Greek letter Sigma?
  2. Adele, Justin Bieber, Drake, Beyonce and Shurgill Simpson have all been nominated for what?
  3. Whose lyric is this: “It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone”?
  4. Kylie Minogue, R. Kelly, and John Farnham all released albums in what genre late this year?
  5. Prior to his death in April this year, Prince toured Australia in February. The name of his show was ‘what and microphone’?
  6. How many times does Rhianna say “work” in each chorus of her song of the same name?
  7. Who won a total of eight ARIAs at this year’s awards?
  8. Which artist, nominated for a 2016 Libby Award for “Best Voice for Animals”, partnered with various rescue organizations to conduct a dog adoption fair at each of her concerts in 2016?
  9. Which popstars formed the judging panel on this year’s X Factor?
  10. Which Adelaide act performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Rod Laver Arena this year?
  11. Which artist released their 11th album The Hope Six Demolition Project in 2016?
  12. Who performs the theme song for and stars in 2016 film Trolls?
  13. In January, how did Motorhead front man Lemmy’s memorial service reach Cherry Bar in Melbourne?
  14. Which artist headlined Sydney’s Vivid Festival at the Opera House, performing a show titled ‘Cercle’?
  15. Which seminal English goth rock band headlined Splendour in the Grass in 2016?
  16. Whose lyric is this: “House so empty, need a centrepiece / Twenty racks a table cut from ebony”?
  17. Who released Please Forgive Me, a short film featuring several songs from their album Views?
  18. Who released two albums days apart in 2016, in order to release himself from a record label and release the second of the two independently?
  19. Global music company Live Nation bought which Australian music festivals in 2016?
  20. The State Library of Victoria, Parliament and the Melbourne Town Hall were all venues included in which music event?
  21. And during that event, Paul Dempsey and Alex Lahey performed on what form of transport?
  22. Which band performed in Sydney for the 20th anniversary of their iconic farewell concert?
  23. Acoustic versions of ‘Hotel Yorba’ and ‘Love Interruption’ appeared on whose 2016 release Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016?
  24. How many years since their album Since I Left You was the Avalanches 2016 release?
  25. SWISH and Waves were working titled for which 2016 album?

What 2016 albums are these?

03-albums

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Answers

  1. What 2016 song references ‘Becky with the good hair’? Sorry, Beyonce
  2. And who is ‘Becky with the good hair?’ Was believed to be Rachel Roy, but in fact could be any number of people
  3. Producer Tony Visconti said this about which musician in 2016: “His death was no different from his life — a work of art.” David Bowie
  4. Who said: “Like, ‘Why am I trying to make all this money?’ I wanted to hook up with hotter girls. I had to date a model”? The Chainsmokers’ Alex Pall
  5. Australia’s Dami Im took out what place in Eurovision 2016 and with what song? 2nd, ‘Sound of Silence’
  6. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker collaborated with which big popstar this year? Lady Gaga
  7. And a Tame Impala cover appeared on which other mega pop star’s album? Rhianna
  8. What song most commonly accompanied the 2016 Mannequin Challenge fad? Black Beatles, Rae Sremmurd
  9. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, two members of Austin soundscapists Survive, scored the theme to which hit television series? Stranger Things
  10. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Adele and Michelle Obama all sang on what musical TV segment in 2016? Carpool Karaoke
  11. Kim Kardashian released a copy of a phone call, revealing consent that had previous been denied in the media, for lyrics about which singer and relating to which Kanye song? Taylor Swift, Famous
  12. Jack White, James Blake and Kendrick Lamar all contributed to what beverage named 2016 album? Lemonade
  13. Which artist released their 37th album Peace Trail in 2016? Neil Young
  14. Sharon Jones passed away due to cancer in November. What was the name of her band? The Dap Kings
  15. Who released the album this year with a painfully cringey title, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It? The 1975
  16. Who sung about being Brad Pitt’s cousin this year? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  17. Eight untiled tracks appeared on whose surprise 2016 album? Kendrick Lamar, Untitled unmastered
  18. Australian songstresses Kira Puru, Sampa the Great and Bertie Blackman appeared as guest vocalist on what 2016 hip hop album? The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat, Urthboy
  19. You Am I, Something for Kate, Spiderbait and Jebediah united in a 90s rock throwback for which festival series? A Day on the Green
  20. Whose lyric is this: “I won’t let go / I’ll be your lifeline tonight”? Major Lazer, Cold Water
  21. Which band, who released their second album in 2016, print the postcode 4122 on all of their merchandise? Violent Soho
  22. The music for which musical, appearing in Australia for the first time in 2016, was written by Cyndi Lauper? Kinky Boots
  23. Taking a break from Arctic Monkeys in 2016, Alex Turner released an album with which side project? The Last Shadow Puppets
  24. ‘You Want it Darker’ was the final album released by which artist? Leonard Cohen
  25. Which member of KISS released an album in 2016? Ace Freeley
  26. Which comedy band released a film and album, both called Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, in 2016? The Lonely Island
  27. An album of which artist’s music, recorded in February and October 1976 was released in August this year? Elvis – Way Down in the Jungle Room
  28. Who sang Broadway with an array of movie partners, including Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy and Jamie Foxx? Barbra Streisand
  29. How many days after the release of his final album did Bowie pass away? 2
  30. True or false, all of these ladies released new albums in 2016: Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Melanie C, LeAnn Rimes? True
  31. Track titles on whose 2016 album included infinity symbols, diamonds, an upside-down t, and the Greek letter Sigma? Bon Iver, 22, A Million
  32. Adele, Justin Bieber, Drake, Beyonce and Shurgill Simpson have all been nominated for what? 2017 Grammy – Album of the year
  33. Whose lyric is this: “It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone”? Zayn, Pillowtalk
  34. Kylie Minogue, R. Kelly, and John Farnham all released albums in what genre late this year? Christmas
  35. Prior to his death in April this year, Prince toured Australia in February. The name of his show was ‘what and microphone’? Piano
  36. How many times does Rhianna say “work” in each chorus of her song of the same name? 18
  37. Who won a total of eight ARIAs at this year’s awards? Flume
  38. Which artist, nominated for a 2016 Libby Award for “Best Voice for Animals”, partnered with various rescue organizations to conduct a dog adoption fair at each of her concerts in 2016? Sia
  39. Which popstars formed the judging panel on this year’s X Factor? Guy Sebastian, Iggy Azalea, Adam Lambert and Mel B
  40. Which Adelaide act performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Rod Laver Arena this year? Hilltop Hoods
  41. Which artist released their 11th album The Hope Six Demolition Project in 2016? PJ Harvey
  42. Who performs the theme song for and stars in 2016 film Trolls? Justin Timberlake
  43. In January, how did Motorhead front man Lemmy’s memorial service reach Cherry Bar in Melbourne? It was streamed online
  44. Which artist headlined Sydney’s Vivid Festival at the Opera House, performing a show titled ‘Cercle’? Bon Iver
  45. Which seminal English goth rock band headlined Splendour in the Grass in 2016? The Cure
  46. Whose lyric is this: “House so empty, need a centrepiece / Twenty racks a table cut from ebony”? The Weeknd, Starboy
  47. Who released Please Forgive Me, a short film featuring several songs from their album Views? Drake
  48. Who released two albums days apart in 2016, in order to release himself from a record label and release the second of the two independently? Frank Ocean
  49. Global music company Live Nation bought which Australian music festivals in 2016? Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival
  50. The State Library of Victoria, Parliament and the Melbourne Town Hall were all venues included in which music event? Melbourne Music Week
  51. And during Melbourne Music Week, Paul Dempsey and Alex Lahey performed on what form of transport? A tram
  52. Which band performed in Sydney for the 20th anniversary of their iconic farewell concert? Crowded House
  53. Acoustic versions of ‘Hotel Yorba’ and ‘Love Interruption’ appeared on whose 2016 release Acoustic Recordings 1998–2016? Jack White
  54. How many years since their album Since I Left You was the Avalanches 2016 release? 16
  55. SWISH and Waves were working titled for which 2016 album? Life of Pablo, Kanye West

Faces: Bon Iver, Tove Lo, Dami Im, Zayn

Videos: Stayboy (The Weeknd), Cheap Thrills (Sia), High and Low (Empire of the Sun), Subways (The Avalanches)

Symbols: Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Prince

Albums: The Avalanches’ Wildflower, Snoop Dogg’s Coolaid, Green Day’s Revolution Radio, Frank Ocean’s Blonde