Homebake Incentive 2008 Grand Final

I know I've gone on about this competition, quite a bit, but if you're looking for a sample of rising talent in Sydney, you won't find much better. The grand final will be held over two nights, at The Hopetoun Hotel, with 4 bands playing per night. Here's a quick overview of who made it to the final 8:

Night 1 - Monday 3rd Nov

Jordy Lane
Jordy Lane's music has two very distinct sides. There's the warm, soft and downright gorgeous side, seen on tracks like Gallileo, and then there's the erratic, often-confronting electronic side. I'm not sure if he's found the right balance yet, but already he's produced some impressive music. Here's a track that showcases both his sides.

The Neighbours


Songs For Surgery
Songs For Surgery may only just be starting out, but I can already sense big things. Their demos already show they can deliver in a variety of styles, including fast-paced, edgy rock, melodic indie riffs and even slower, building songs. On stage, this translates to a great show. They've been picked up by a highly regarded Sydney engineer and will be putting out some tracks soon. Look forward to them.

Sunny Afternoon


Papa Vs Pretty
You can't talk about Papa Vs Pretty without mentioning the amazing talents of Tom. This guy can write, he can sing, he can play guitar, he can play keyboards and he can do them all insanely well. You have to come see them just to see him in action. As a band, they have an incredibly mature sound for a bunch of high school kids. It's a dark style of rock, with the occasional electronic flavouring. Though I wish they would move away from their Joy Division cover (which is actually good) because they have such excellent original material.

Citizen No. 1


Sui Zhen
Sui Zhen speicalises in mega-cute pop music. Her delicate vocals and soft instrumentation can be deceiving because she can also be quite powerful. When joined by her band, the sound is a lot fuller and together they produce a fun-filled show that will have you smiling without fail.



Night 2 - Tuesday Nov 4

Seekae make instrumental electronic music. Such a fact would normally put them well out of band competition chances and beyond my personal interests. And yet in this case, neither is true. Seekae's music has a certain charm about it. It's like a warmer, friendlier version of Pivot. When Seekae are on the ball, they're outstanding. But they still have some improving to do, because when they're not on, they can be pretty boring.



The Statics
As far as raw energy goes, The Statics take the cake. The enigmatic Pat Delohery, with his wild on-stage persona and sudden falsetto outburts, really manages to bring the band alive. Their music, which a is mix of sloppy, Pavement-esque rock and electric dynamism, always entertains.

Space Unicorn


Deep Sea Arcade
Deep Sea Arcade's quirky blend of pop music has been working wonders in and around Sydney. Through a steady supply of shows they've managed to build a decent following and gain fairly widespread respect. It's no surprise though. This is intelligently layered music, moving in such strange and foreign ways. It's truly worthy of the title 'unique'.

Crouch End


Elana Stone Band
Elana Stone is the only one here that I'm still yet to see. As such, I can't really offer much of an opinion. But the two things I do know, that she is the sister of Jake Stone and has an incredible voice, have me very intrigued.

Beautiful Sound



Most Likely: Papa Vs Pretty
If I was organising Homebake, this is the band I'd want most out of these 8. Their youth and their energetic set make an instantly lovable combo that would undoubtedly win over early arrivers. They've already played Parklife so they're no strangers to the festival scene.

Most Deserving: Deep Sea Arcade
Deep Sea Arcade's music is like nothing else. It's a little bizarre but its also awesome. They put meticulous thought into the sounds of their guitars and vocals and the result is some highly addictive music. It's unsuspecting, but there's definitely an audience out there. If anyone deserves a big break, it's these guys.

Left-field Chance: Seekae
It really depends on the tastes of who's judging, but if Seekae put on a stellar show, I have this niggling feeling that they could sneak through. When done right, their music is the sort that everybody loves. It's got character, it's got direction, and of course, its got plenty of cool sounds.

Download all 8 tracks

a normal amount of stars

ok, just to fill people in. ‘Shoplifting from American Apparel’ is a novella written by Tao Lin and published by Melville House. Tao is giving shit away to people who write 1500+ word blog posts about him and/or his book (relevant link here). If you live in Australia you have to write 2000+ words to cover postage from North America. Peter has let me hijack his blog for this because I told him I wanted to “win shit on the internet where you need a blog and I don’t have a blog”.

What you are about to read is 2000+ words about Tao Lin/’Shoplifting from American Apparel’ that I will have to belt out pretty fast because there are only 26 winners worldwide and slots are going fast; I will probably mention hipsterrunoff.com, Brandon Scott Gorrell and Soren Kierkegaard as well, and possibly L. Wittgenstein – these last two I usually cringe at when I see them dropped them in non-academic print – I just want people to know that. I may also use first-order logical notation in which case natural language explanations will be provided. If this stuff doesn’t interest you, you can get out right now by clicking here; although I hope to make it interest you enough to possibly buy Tao’s book or at least google him: this does seem to be the purpose of the whole exercise after all.

Chances are that if you do buy and read SFAA you might find it boring. I guess this depends upon what else you read and how often, and also whether you have a particular front to keep up somewhere; but still not much really happens in this book (…although the main character Sam does get arrested twice and the first holding cell scene with the drunk man is very funny and I’ve read it aloud to four people, which I don’t ever do…). Not that ‘nothing happening’ and getting bored is necessarily bad, boredom is an aesthetic decision/response same as any other after all, and the process of getting bored while reading SFAA does allow you think smug little things like, ‘man, what a relief to be reading something that doesn’t want to wow me about life all the time’. And, ‘man, most people are always trying to be 100% interesting in their facebook/twitter updates when life, man, life just doesn’t work like that. Life, life is misguided Gchat conversations’, and other similar things. Plus embracing boredom is eternally hip/anti-mainstream in any decadent culture, so reading SFAA and cultivating your boredom will make you cool/hip, aware, and accepting of how ‘nothing ever happens’ and how twitter/facebook allows everyone to build 100% interesting narratives about themselves that are false compared to their real lives, which are probably boring.

So anyway, say you did read SFAA and it was mostly boring but still insightful and helped you grow your boredom and was possibly even ‘a mirror’, what are you going to do next? This is an important question in general, and particularly important, I think, to Tao Lin and SFAA.

I’m going to start with the “in general”. Caveat lector.

I think it is safe to say that boredom is quite possibly the most authentic state of existence for people living in developed nations. As far as I can figure out The Greeks didn’t get bored, they didn’t have twitter/facebook/Gchat + hi-tech gadgets but they still found things interesting, in particular they found existing interesting. Imagine being an ancient Greek, waking up, looking at shit and going what makes this work? what is motion? what is change? Really deep things. Imagine, lying down at night, looking at the stars with minimal-to-no light pollution and thinking “well, this is a mindfuck. what are those things up there? how do they move? is there an underlying pattern – like, overall? where do I fit in this ‘cosmos’ everyone is talking about…….” There are subtle inconsistencies in this image, but you get the picture.

After the Greeks and before the invention of the internet there was enlightenment science. Enlightment science answered heaps of shit The Greeks had begun asking themselves however many years before – well, it at least re-framed them. The cosmos was no longer layered top to bottom like the original Donkey Kong with man merely on the earth, and was instead found to be massively 3D, like Mario 64, and man, sorry, ‘Man’, like Mario, was the centre of the universe/cosmos/order of things. You think the stars were a mindfuck to The Greeks, well try self-consciousness to enlightment/post-elightement thinkers, OMFG, imagine sitting at your mahogany desk, popping/unscrewing an ink bottle, picking the crust from yesterday’s quill and sitting down to descibe the dialetic of your insides – the universe within. Imagine self-reflexivity/self-consciousness still being new, still being interesting. Imagine having to know Latin and wait for months/years to receive replies to your ideas from friends across Europe. Imagine having the inkling that the whole of existence was made up of atomistic ‘monads’ and not being able to wikipedia it. OMFG. You’d just have to go with it.

Today existing/existence is fairly passe. Everyone does it. There is nothing special about it anymore. You can split existing between yourself and people like you, and people who Heidegger would have called Das Man, “The They”; people who construct 100% interesting life-stories about themselves via social networking tools/the internet: but then you’re just being smug…

Existing is the level playing field. There are no underlying patterns (…speaking of SFAA there is a very funny chaos theory/polyryhthmns passage which I don’t read to others and just enjoy for myself…), there are no actually existing Gods to fall back on, and if you ‘get self-conscious’ unexpectedly you can always whip out your phone and pretend to text someone. All there is is ‘nothing ever happens’ and ‘immense meaninglessness in the scheme of things’. Let this get to you in any way and everything gets boring, find a book like SFAA and you suddenly get bored + aware = hip/counter-cultural, and on-to-something abt life. And then you have have to do something else…

This now + future = choice, is what I think is particularly important to Tao Lin and his work, and is maybe the main reason why you should google him/buy his stuff. When the general tenor of life is boredom and you know this, how you construct meaning from experience becomes very important. And it is an all the time thing.

Need I mention SFAA is about stealing from a multi-national corporation?

‘Shoplifting from American Apparel’ is a carefully constructed piece; you get that feeling first time through and it becomes even more apparent if you read it twice while keeping the themes from the first reading in mind (which it is possible to do in one day, depending on the day). Everything inside SFAA is meaningful, in and of itself; it is tight. Tao’s main character Sam operates upon life like a mathematical function, selecting, from an infinite range of possible ‘life events’ over roughly two years, a set of happenings big (relatively (‘two parts shoplifting arrest’) and small (relatively (‘five parts vague relationship issues’)), and invests in this set of happenings within the book a carefully constructed meaning, meaning against an otherwise meaningless and arbitary world.

To transcend’ is a loaded concept for almost anyone who cares to use it, but particularly I think for American fiction writers. But say you’ve read through SFAA once and got bored/aware, should you read it again you might see that what it really hits at is transcending boredom, whether it is possible and how to do it…

On the possibilities of transcending boredom however, Tao is mute. This is something I really like about the novella and it is where I think it derives its delicate narrative tension from, more than anything which ostensibily happens within the piece. I think that for all the kudos Tao Lin’s ‘minimalist Millennial realism’ has received on the internet (and he generates a lot of talk on the internet, this itself being a prime example…) the fact that he doesn’t ever claim or seem to have transcended boredom is why his writing strikes such a cord. This is also what separates his writing from other similar types of writing that could be accused of wallowing in depression. I never throughout the two times I read SFAA got the feeling Tao or Sam was smugly enjoying feeling depressed, if anything I felt that each event within the novel is couched in terms of its possibilities to relive depression/boredom, and is assessed according to a set of rules which it is the reader’s job to find out.

Which brings me nicely to the another aspect of SFAA which I also like; it’s porousness. That SFAA is both tight and porous is singularly impressive and evidence of the kind of weird intense labour which must have gone into producing it. There are, within SFAA elements which it would be possible to describe as plot holes. Some of these, as I’ve mentioned before, it is possible to weave into an internally coherent narrative within the text itself the second time through, others it isn’t, and no amount of reading the book will give you any insight into what is going on (Sam emails a popular website a photo of cash, for seemingly no reason…), instead, if you want to know what is happening, which lets face it, being knowledgable about fine points of detail is a central desire of many/most people including myself; whether their/my particular knowledge is ‘meaningful in the scheme of things’ and ‘actually useful’, or not – then you are going to have to do a little googling to find clues as to how/why some of the seemingly loose aspects of SFAA actually fit within the unique set of rules within which Tao’s character of Sam plays the game of existence.

Tao Lin seems to know this; read many of the other entries to this competition and you’ll see they mostly paraphrase a lot of the stuff/information you can easily find out about him on the internet and often use language obviosuly cribbed from hipsterrunoff.com, Tao himself, and other similar writers. It’s ridiculous if you actually think about, it is as if Tao Lin has sensed the enjoyment of faithful and discerning research into the whys and hows of his work/net persona, and then got a number of people to collate a lot of the available information in one spot. I think it’s safe to say Tao Lin actually does get this ‘high-concept’ when planning things, especially promotion/self-promotion.

I would like to point out that operations of faithful and discerning research into the life and works of authors is a general concept which also applies to current and historical events, and to people you actually meet in real life – it is not some Tao Lin specific thing. What just might be Tao Lin specific about it, at least in my opinion, is that he is publishing in independent print in an age of omipresent communications technology, and he manages to do so with a moral urgency capable of seducing readers into doing a little work to find out just what this guy is on about. I like that.

This said, you could argue that buying and reading something like SFAA takes on an ethical dimension, which is really what all good/meaningful literature does….

That said, whether I can generalise the above statement in relation to SFAA in particular is debateable, at least in my head; mainly because I don’t want to be too fawning, but also because I don’t really have the word count left to argue it out acutely. I might just leave off on this point.


how i will relieve boredom’ by Tao Lin (if anyone is hanging for Kierkegaard & Wittgenstein stuff I promised at the beginning you should be able to find it in here. If you know where to look…)

‘'the gimmicks of american apparel vs. the gimmicks of urban outfitters’ by Brandon Scott Gorrell (unrelated note: I left out the first-order logic stuff; I think it is discernable within the post, but more as a structural thing)

Some follow for all

Well apparently you can now follow this blog. Look for it in the left sidebar. I'm not quite sure what it means, but hey, you can do it!

Update: More following. Yay! http://twitter.com/openyoureyes

Flamingo Crash - Triangle Island

Flamingo Crash have been bouncing in and out of my favour for a couple of years now. I saw them once or twice, here and there, but never really followed up. But then I caught them at the FBi birthday gig and was quite impressed. It was a fun, energetic set, filled with some really cool songs. They were like an Australian version of Hilotrons. That probably doesn't mean much to most of you, but for a fanboy like myself, it was great. If these guys had an album, I was buying it. Well that was the plan anyway. Instead, I forgot on the night, and when I went to their myspace I didn't feel the same magic. They were subsequently cast from my mind. Luckily though, things weren't left to me, because a few weeks later my house mate bought the album and I've come to love it.

This album has been fortunate in the attention it has received. It made it into my CD player at a time when I was busy messing around with a new computer. So everytime it finished, I would be so caught up in doing something else that rather than bothering to queue up a selection of albums, or putting on something new, I would just press play again. This happened again and AGAIN. It got to the point where I'd heard it about 15 times in the space of 3 days. I got to know it incredibly well and best of all, I never got tired of it. Flamingo Crash have put together a great selection of 10 tracks, each with its own charm and all combining into a suprisingly killer album.

Beijing Holiday - Possibly the biggest characteristic of Flamingo Crash's sound is the heavy contrast between the sparse rock guitars and the techno keyboards. It's a really jumpy sound and great for getting you moving. I particularly like the way this song builds into the chorus, with a moment of almost heart-stopping silence, before being swept up by some awesome keyboards.

Mountains - Ah the infamous track 8. Everytime it comes on, I snap out of whatever I'm doing and think 'Ooo I like this song. Is it track 8?' And sure enough, it is. There's something really soothing about it, especially in the context of the whole album. A moment of solace in a world of chaos.

This is just a mere snapshot, and to be quite honest doesn't to the album must justice. If you hear anything you like, either here or on the myspace, I'd strongly recommend getting Triangle Island.

Mystery Jets

The previous Mystery Jets album came and went without making much of an impression. But after hearing (and seeing) some of their new songs, I might just have to give them another chance. Haha brilliant.

Ernest Ellis

Ernest Ellis is a relatively new band out of Sydney, playing their first show just two weeks ago. I managed to catch the end of this set, and was quite intrigued with what I saw. What struck me most was the diversity of their sound. Each song seemed to remind me of a different artist. If you head to their myspace, you can hear a TV On The Radio song (Want For Anything), a Sea And Cake song (Holiday) and even a Bit By Bats song (Bad Blood). I don't make these comparisons in a negative way either, because not only the similarities are subtle, but these are all great bands to be channeling. The varying sounds are combined well to create some rather interesting music. It's early days yet, but Ernest Ellis certainly have my attention. They've also got the attention of Dew Process so expect to be hearing a lot more of them soon.

Bad Blood