2017 – A year in music

After spending 12 hours in the car yesterday driving back from Sydney (where I spent Christmas, my Birthday, New Year’s and my 10th anniversary), I’ve had a bit of time to think about this post.  And in the end, I decided that there will be a few different parts to this post: I’m going to go through my Top 10 albums released in 2017, and I’ll give you a link to what Spotify says is my Top Songs of the year.

So, to start, my Top 10 Albums of 2017.

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10. Hiss Spun – Chelsea Wolfe (Sargent House)

I’ve been a fan of Chelsea Wolfe since we featured her in No Heroes a number of years ago. I’ve enjoyed her move towards a more polished and slightly more industrial sound. This album really drew me in because of the way it moves between all the different ways that Chelsea can sound. On ‘Spun’ it’s a sexier side of her that we haven’t seen before, which on ‘The Culling’ things go a bit heavier and a bit weirder, and then ‘Particle Flux’ goes quite electronic. Not to mention Troy Van Leeuwen was involved in quite a bit of the guitar work, which gave some tracks an almost California desert vibe.

9. Unholy Rush – Mindsnare (Resist Records)

Guys, Mindsnare pulled one over on us this year. This seminal Melbourne band started off the year by announcing that they were releasing a couple of 7-inch records, which I ordered given that Coop and myself are both huge bans. So the records arrive in a much bigger package than expected because THEY RELEASED AN ALBUM AND IF YOU ORDERED THE 7-INCHES YOU GOT THE ALBUM FOR FREE! It was great. It was everything I expect from Mindsnare – fast, heavy and very amenable for headbangs.

8. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar (Top Dawg Entertainment)

It was always going to be difficult for Kendrick to back up the incredible To Pimp A Butterfly, but I think he did a pretty good job on DAMN. It’s got a different vibe to TPAB but what he did was continue to cement his position as one of the most clever and important wordsmiths of this generation. To top it off, ‘DNA.’ is an absolute banger with a killer video!

7. Process – Sampha (Young Turks Recordings)

I have been following Sampha since he first started appearing on SBTRKT tracks (like this gorgeous song). It was only a matter of time before he released his own album, and this debut is a masterpiece. It is haunting, emotional, soulful, and is a pure demonstration of a songwriter – both music and lyrics – that is coming into his own. ‘Blood On Me’ is my favourite track on the album, but ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ brings me to tears nearly every time I listen to it, especially when you start reading into why it took so long for this young British guy to release his own music. Incidentally, this was one of the few concerts I went to last year and to see him execute these tracks live was something special.

6. META – Ylva

OK, full disclosure is needed here: one of my good friends is in this band. That said, if I don’t like your music I will tell you (just ask my brother), so you can take this album’s inclusion on this list as it’s intended – this is not only one of the best albums of the year, but is one of the best albums I’ve heard from a local metal band in quite a while. It is everything I love about this genre of metal (I guess it’s post-metal): crushingly heavy, best listened to loudly, sprawling, with moments of melody that take your breath away (I’m thinking particularly of the track ‘Widowed’). This album was a fair time coming, and it definitely validated it’s place on the list within a very short time.

5. Thousand Mile Stare – Incendiary (Closed Casket Activities)

I mentioned in a previous post that I got pegged as the hardcore punk writer when I was writing about music, but I haven’t really been interested in hardcore for quite a few years. Then this album dropped and it reminded me what this genre can be and what it can do and how it can make you feel. I particularly enjoy the vocals which at moments remind me of Zack de la Rocha early in the days of Rage Against The Machine. It’s passionate, it’s angry and is very much a rallying call against apathy.

4. Heartless – Pallbearer (Nuclear Blast)

Another post-metal album made it onto the list, but one I listened to consistently from the moment it was released and I can see it being something I come back to for the rest of my life (that list is pretty short as I have a tendency to be obsessed with things for a period and then forget they exist). It’s just perfect! Heavy, sludgy and with moments of real beauty. Just do yourself the favour and go and listen to it. Right. Now.

3. Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels (Run The Jewels, Inc.)

Can Killer Mike and El-P do anything wrong? No, probably not. The production on this album is flawless. The tracks are the best kind of earworms you can have. The lyrics are punchy and angrier. And ‘Legend Has It’ is one of the best videos I’ve seen in years. I will still jump on YouTube just to watch it. Other stand ours include ‘Hey Kids’ and ‘Panther Like A Panther’.

But just watch the video for ‘Legend Has It’ right now…

2. The Underside Of Power – Algiers (Matador)

This album is quite different to their debut, but they retain their place as one of the most important bands I’ve listened to in the last five years. Not only are they totally undefinable in terms of the genre they fall in – there’s elements of punk, electronic, indie rock, hip hop, gospel, soul running through their work – but they are also completely unapologetic and open in their politics. You just have to listen to their lyrics or follow their social media accounts to see this. It’s this kind of surprising music that I find myself most drawn to right now. Anyway, check out the song below. If it piques your interest then definitely check out the album …. And the self-titled debut as well.

1. The Dusk In Us – Converge (Epitaph)

Look, this was inevitable, but the best album released in 2017 (in my humble and totally biased opinion) was Converge’s new one. I waited FIVE YEARS for it to drop and it gave me everything. Complex rhythms – check. Sheer, face-shredding brutality – check. Rise and fall between the fast and the slow, the melodic and the discordant – check. This is Converge doing what they do best and taking it to the next step, as they have done on every release since Jane Doe. I listened to the title track on repeat driving home from work about seven days in a row, just singing along at the top of my lungs. I became horrified by the discordance of ‘Murk & Marrow’ while listening in the dark through headphones. There’s a reason these guys are my favourite band, and this album proved why.

If you want to see a list of the songs I listened to the most in 2017, you can check out this playlist:

November Monthly Playlist

There are two very important passions in my life. You’ve already been introduced to one – food. But the second, which is just as important, is music.

I’ve worked as a music journalist. I ran my own magazine for a while – it was called No Heroes and a group of us worked on it for a solid 20 issues, which you can check out at the link.

It’s interesting to me, and possibly as a result of this magazine, that I became pinned as a person people could come to if they wanted someone to write about heavy music (punk, metal, hardcore, all that kind of thing). But there is so much more to me, to my tastes and to my likes and dislikes. I don’t think there is a genre of music I don’t enjoy. If I think of my favourite artists they run from Radiohead to Converge to David Bowie to Kendrick Lamar to Vivaldi.

To show this, I got inspired by some of my friends and started a little project on my Spotify account (which you can find and follow just by searching my name). From January this year I started creating monthly playlists to show what I had been listening to that month. The entire broad, weird scope of it.

So here is November…

This isn’t a very accurate representation of what I was listening to in November as I was pretty much listening to new album’s from Converge (probably my all-time favourite band) and YLVA (a new band from Melbourne who, in the purposes of full disclosure, feature one of my good friends) on repeat.

The Silo Art Trail

I am not above admitting that I watch Masterchef or that I can be convinced of things because I see them on that show. Masterchef in 2017 was my introduction to the Silo Art Trail. It’s a 200km stretch of road heading north between Rupanyup and Patchewollock. At the time we drove through, there were five pieces completed, with plenty of imitations cropping up around the country. And in recent weeks a sixth silo has been completed by the incredible Kaffeine at Rosebery.

The artworks were completed by artists from as close as Melbourne, from Brisbane and even from as far away as Russia.

We were coming to the trail from Adelaide so the first stop was Patchewollock and the amazing piece by Fintan Magee of a local farmer. This theme of the local being represented on these huge scale artworks was one that was repeated on almost every artwork we saw. The colour and vibrancy of Magee’s work was what was most striking to me. And to my dad as well, who declared it his favourite when I recently showed him photos.

 

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From there we moved on to Rone’s  piece in Lascelles – a dual portrait, one on each silo, of a local farming couple. I’m a huge fan of Rone’s art, and fortunately there is a lot of it to see in Melbourne. But this is the largest scale I’ve ever seen his work on. The level of detail in his portraits is always astounding to me. Look at the cloth and the buttons on the shirt of the male farmer, for example.

 

Silos

 

The silos at Brim are the first and most famous (they are the ones that were featured on Masterchef). This time four portraits of locals painted by Guido van Helten. As the first, these set the template for the rest of the towns on the trail to follow (and even the template for silos as far flung as Western Australia).

As a sign at the site says, van Helten spent a few weeks in the Wimmera talking to farmers and gaining inspiration for the large scale artworks he wanted to paint. He painted for a month between December 2015 and January 2016, working in extreme heat and dealing with the weather from thunderstorms to dust storms.

The four images are super powerful and, like Rone’s pieces, are full of a level of detail that blows my mind. Every shadow, every fold in the fabrics of the clothes, every line on a face.

 

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Adnate is one of my favourite street artists. His work is all over Melbourne, from the Dalai Lama in the backstreets of Fitzroy to the portraits of Aboriginal children all over the town. The portraits of the children are particularly my favourite so I was so happy to see this theme reflected in his silos, with a twist. This work would feature both the young and the old, the children and the elders.

We got to Sheep Hills in the latter stages of the afternoon, when the light was starting to fall and soften as the sun headed toward the horizon (which was slightly concerning since we still had one more silo to see). But the afternoon light really brought out the colours in this piece. Everything seemed really vibrant, especially the eyes of the children which to me looked like they reflected the landscape they were looking out over. I got a little bit emotional looking at these.

 

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So we did make the final silo in Rupanyup before sundown. Julia Volchokova, or Julia Woolf, took a different approach with her image of two local young people playing sport – netball and football.

 

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These are very, very small towns that are entirely dependent on the farming that surrounds them. We were there on a Monday and by far we were the youngest people at each of the sites we visited. A lone VW Caddy among Grey Nomads in their RVs and 4WDs towing caravans. It’s incredible to see, in less than a year, what tourism has brought to the towns. A couple of the towns had gift stores selling souvenirs of the silo for that town (I wish I bought a tea towel or two). It will be interesting to see what another year brings.

 

With Kaffeine’s piece finished and reportedly a second phase of works being organised, I am very keen to get back on the road and revisit these sites.

Day4 in Adelaide – A story of two food experiences

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Here’s the thing about day four of my Adelaide road trip – both the highlight and the lowlight were food related (isn’t it always?). First the lowlight. Pie floaters, another South Australian culinary institution are gross! A pie drowning in pea sauce? WHAT IN HELL WAS I THINKING? Never again.

But the highlight was so unexpected and so unobtrusive it kind of blew my mind. But first I need to give you some background.

When I was a kid growing up in Sydney, we had a little corner shop at the end of our street. It’s gone through a handful of owners over the years, but there was a period where it was owned by an Asian family and they made the best damn hamburger I’ve ever eaten. I’m not talking about your gourmet burger. I’m talking about your local milk bar, Australian burger. The kind of burger that’s just a beef patty with lettuce, tomato, caramelised onions, BBQ sauce and beetroot (always beetroot). If I was feel a bit fancy I would put a potato scallop/potato cake on it, just because. The owners sold up that shop around the time that I finished up in high school, and I have never had a milk bar burger as good since then.

Until Adelaide.

Another friend told us to check out this little take away shop in North Adelaide called the Blue & White Café . It’s apparently been there since 1954. I normally never order burgers from these kinds of joints because they inevitably lead to disappointment, so I’m not sure why I did this day. Maybe it was fate? But I am so glad I did because that burger took me straight back to that time when that Asian family owned the corner shop and made the best burger I’ve ever eaten. This burger tasted the same as my memory.

The patty tasted the same – it wasn’t overly spiced, it had the right amount of char from the flat-top grill and it was succulent. The bun was the perfectly fine, regular hamburger bun that you buy from the supermarket, complete with sesame seeds. There was the right ratio of ingredients, especially the sauce.

It’s amazing when a food memory is so powerful that it destroys your experience of similar foods to the one in the memory. But it truly is mindblowing and emotional when you find a food that matches it. I’m glad this memory found it’s match.

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Melboure to Adelaide and back again

Back at the beginning of August, my partner and I went on a five day road trip to Adelaide, coming back via the Silo Art Trail in North West Victoria.

We’ve been together for almost 10 years at this point, but this was the first time that the two of us had actually gone away together. We had made a few trips to Sydney, but that was to visit my family. This time it was just the two of us.

The first day we spent on the road from Melbourne to McLaren Vale. This meant a lot of time in the car, but it did cement that our typical road trip food is whatever the local bakery can supply us with. My partner is a fussy eater and a vegetarian to boot, but at the least he can have a salad roll. My bakery treat of choice is usually a pie. And some kind of pastry. Always pastry.

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We stopped off along the way to take photos of things by the side of a road – an old building that had been turned into a massive antiques barn in Beaufort, the terrifying Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge, a rock formation that bizarrely has been turned into a place for people to graffiti on, and a pink lake. There was a Makatron piece in the middle of nowhere. Then there were the massive silos painted by Guido van Helton in Coonalpyn that we drove through in the pitch black night and definitely did not expect to see – we weren’t expecting painted silos until at least day five.

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We stopped for the night in McLaren Vale before my Straight Edge, non-drinker partner took me to wineries (which I will talk about in another post) the next morning. We wandered around the beaches in Port Willunga, ate at a bakery in Morphett Vale that was so warm and friendly, especially when I tried my first Kitchener Bun.

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I was told by a friend that a Kitchener Bun was one of those must-try, South Australian delicacies. It’s essentially like a cream bun, but instead of being a sweet bread stuffed with cream and raspberry jam, they do the same to a bun with more of a doughnut texture. The bun is even rolled in sugar before being filled. It was all my pastry dreams in one creation.

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Wine regions are some of the most beautiful parts of the world to me. The symmetry of the vines, even when they’re bare, always take my breath away. Quite a few vineyards had oxalis blooming between the rows so the bright, yellow flowers were visible from the road. Not to mention the olive trees that lined the roads, heavy with fruit – I definitely bought olives at one of the wineries.

That evening we made our way into Adelaide, spending the evening together wandering around a city I had only ever visited for about an hour before, on the way to a work conference in the Barossa.

So the third day was my first full day in Adelaide. After a sleepless night, we got up pretty early to go get breakfast from Jamface at Adelaide Central Market. Poh Ling Yeow is one of my all-time favourite Masterchef alumni, so it was great to sample her food, even if it only was granola and a Melting Moment cookie.

Markets are one of my favourite places to wander around. I love seeing the different types of food on display – like the selection of sausage at the Bratwurst stall. And before you ask, no I was not brave enough to try the Bum Burner.

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My partner had to work half the day, giving me the opportunity to spend some time wandering the city by myself and do things I enjoy that he has no interest in, like visiting the Art Gallery and the Museum, and doing a little shopping at places like Clarity Records. I got to eat a delicious lunch at a little katsu place tucked away in a tiny arcade off Rundle Mall. I had a drink in a great bar/book exchange around the corner from the hotel where the cocktails all had a decidedly literary theme (which definitely appealed to the librarian in me).

Dinner that night we splurged a little and went to Melt Pizzeria. We shared a Bianca (mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, rosemary) while my partner went with his traditional Margarita and I had the Jamon (tomato, mozzarella, rocket salad, prosciutto). It was absolutely worth the little splurge, especially as I had been craving this type of traditional style, wood-fired pizza for a number of weeks. I always say – give in to your cravings when you can!

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After another sleepless night (these were thanks to the beer garden the hotel backed onto), I was left to my own devices (read: sleep) while my partner took himself on a bit of a wander around the city to take photos. I was up and ready to go by the time he got back, however as it was a Sunday morning and it took us forever to find somewhere to have breakfast because nothing was open at our end of town. We were down near the University of South Australia and there wasn’t a café in sight. I would have settled for a McDonald’s hashbrown or three at that point, especially as we had a big day planned.

On the upside, the wander gave us the opportunity to indulge in a little street art stalking around the uni, which would set the tone for the rest of the day since we were heading to Port Adelaide to check out the artwork around the town that had been painted as a part of the Wonderwalls Festival. Port Adelaide is a really pretty little town, and the mix of the old buildings with the art was a cool juxtaposition.

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I’m going to leave the post here for now because I’m going to spend a whole post talking about the culinary highlight of day four. And day five was the Silo Art Trail, which is a whole post unto itself.

If anyone has any questions about my trip, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Why food?

Why food?

I find it fascinating that when you meet people and you start talking about your interests, people are quick to ask why you have that particular interest.

Well in almost everything. Because I’ve noticed I never get asked that when I say that food is an interest. It seems to be almost just accepted as, “OK, Sarah has an interest in food” or dismissed as me buying into “foodie culture”.

But, for me, it goes a lot deeper than “just food”, and when you get to know me in my entirety it starts to make sense.

I love learning. I always have. And the things that I am particularly interested in – history, sociology, art, eating – all lend themselves really well to studying food. Think about ramen, for example. It’s a food that is absolutely ubiquitous with Japan and Japanese culture. But delve deeper, and you start to see that it was a food developed post-WWII to cheaply and efficiently feed a starving population. Those flour-based noodles didn’t really exist in Japan until after the war when the US were importing massive amounts of flour into the country. Stories of history, politics and popular culture can all be told by one food.

It goes even further than that, back into my family history.

I’m approximately half Italian. It’s a bit of an over-simplification (which I will talk about in future posts) but it’s a good starting point for knowing about me and my family. My mum is a great cook – she learned from my Nonna (her mum) and her Nonna (my great-Nonna). My Nonna was a chef. The food from her tables is legendary. She learned from her mum (my Great-Nonna) and also her brother in law. Needless to say, my Great-Nonna was also a great cook. I think it’s genetic.

I learned a few things from mum, especially about baking and sweets, but a lot of my culinary knowledge came from hours spent watching my Nonna in the kitchen and my own self-education (again, that love of learning). I spent a lot of time with my Nonna and Nonno when I was a kid, so food was a common connection between all of us. My Nonna would prepare and feed us ridiculous amounts of food. Her lasagna was the things dreams are made of. The family table was a way for everyone to all be together.

Being in another state to my family, food is a way for me to connect with my family when we’re not together. It’s a way for me to connect with my Nonna who is no longer with us.

These are the lessons that food has taught me. It brings people together. It’s a common language that we can all speak. It is so full of emotional connection that is impossible to deny.

That’s why food.

Photo is me, circa 1985, demonstrating a love for charcuterie even back then.

So here we are…

Someone once said that starting at the very beginning was the very best place to start.

I’m not so sure about that.

Starting has always been the hardest place for me. I prefer to jump right into something, with no introductions and no preambles, but things don’t work that way. So here is my attempt at an introduction.

Hello, my name is Sarah. Some of you might know me from when I used to run a music magazine called No Heroes. That’s been dead for a while now, and I’ve been struggling for the last few years trying to figure out what my next thing would be.

I’ve got a few projects in the works, that you will be introduced to through this blog, but ultimately this blog is about me. It’s a way for me to get into words the things I have been thinking, working on and enjoying. It’s the result of many people telling me that I need to get back into writing, that I need to expand upon my Instagram feed (@honeycombroadmap) and that people should know about some of the things that I talk about with my friends.

It’s been hard trying to pin down a focus, as there are so many things that interest me – food, music, art, travelling, history – so there will be a bit of everything. If you’re interested in one thing, but not something else, feel free to use the tags to find the content you’re interested in.

I’m not sure where this is going to go, but I’m excited to see where it does.

 

Photo taken by me of a wall by in Port Adelaide, August 2017. Piece by Mimi