Tag Archives: music

Wide open road music

They say when you return to a place you once lived it always looks smaller. Sadder. Less impressive than you remembered.

I’ve just returned to an album I bonded with and listened to regularly. It was a permanent part of my car collection (on cassette!) when I was commuting to university and my first year in newspapers. I haven’t listened to it, in its entirety, for more than 15 years.

Born Sandy Devotional from The Triffids features some totally trippy and menacing tracks of heartache, hurt and loneliness. There’s also one of my all-time favourite songs, Wide Open Road.

It sounds bigger and better than ever to me today. With my teen years ever distant, the lyrics have gained new meaning – essentially a short story in each track. It’s not the sort of album I’d listen to daily (too melancholy!) but man, I’m glad it’s been re-released.

As a kid from the bush it always felt like an album spiced with the dust of remote rural Australia and steeped in an appreciation of the vast distances people travel seeking somewhere to belong, live and love. Fifteen years down the track, it feels like the soundtrack to a Tim Winton novel – quintessentially West Australian.

If you’re heading out on a long rural road trip, give it a spin. I reckon it will give you chills.

Here’s my favourite track, sometimes hailed as one of the best Australian songs ever. You’ve gotta love the Interweb. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this clip before…


One of the things I learned during my time as a daily journo is that everybody loves a list story. Whether it’s Top 10 Ways to Avoid Cancer or Top Five Films of the Year, people will read it. To all the web editors out there, it’s a guaranteed way to boost eyeball traffic, surpassed only by headlines such as Win Win Win…. (and other words that most firewalls will block.)

Being a sucker for a list story myself, I read all the Top Albums of 2008 stories and, following my hunches, purchased a couple of the most consistently critically acclaimed for my iPod. One of them strikes me as OK but not what I hoped for. The other got a lukewarm initial response but has subsequently sunk into my bloodstream. I’m starting every day with it. I like the album cover, love the title and am drawn to the story of the creative process.

Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ apparently flowed from from a band bust-up, romantic break-up and illness. Muso Justin Vernon headed off to a remote snowbound cabin for three-months’ R & R – but ended up recording an album in seclusion, playing all the instruments and doing all the harmonies himself. It’s raw. The lyrics are elusive. It’s folky and far from rocky. I really like it.

The author part of me is envious of the idea of three months locked away with nature. Silence is golden. It helps clear your head of the white noise of phones, traffic, television and other distractions. With patience and silence, creative ideas can germinate safely without being lost.

The dad part of me knows three months’s seclusion is highly unlikely.

The social part of me recalls that I once went solo wilderness camping for four days and was practically talking to trees in that short period. How would I cope with three months away?

I find myself wondering about the ‘Emma’ from the album title too. I wonder if she’s heard it and how she has responded. She’s apparently a past love of Justin Vernon’s and that gets me thinking of unrequited and lost love. It’s corny but I understand why so many poems and songs are written about loves that never eventuated. I guess it’s because the enticing, addictive possibility of true love will never be tarnished by actuality.

And I wonder about the scars we leave behind when relationships founder. ‘For Emma’ suggests Justin Vernon has collected a few.

Anyway, if you want to see Bon Iver doing their thing laid back and unplugged, check out these beautiful clips from Paris. Great stuff.


Sometimes there are moments of harmony amid the clamour of our lives. Splinters of time when sounds, sights, tasks and tastes seem to align.

While I was working on Book 2 I had a couple of those moments. Book 2 is set at a lighthouse, near a cemetery. Its themes include death, mortality, grief and love. So when I heard Coldplay was releasing an album entitled Viva la Vida or Death and all his Friends, I knew I had to own it. With songs such as Cemeteries of London and 42 (with its very apt lyrics), there seemed to be a real synergy with what I was trying to do in Book 2. I love the album and played it a lot in between writing sessions. Indeed, I was thinking of including a lyric from one of the tracks in Book 2 until my agent advised that the copyright fee would most likely bankrupt me…

Another album that begged attention was Chimney’s Afire by Josh Pyke. I didn’t own any of Josh’s music and didn’t really know it. But when I heard it was his second album and the first single would be The Lighthouse Song it seemed to be a “snap” moment. I bought it. Liked it a lot. Am very glad my creative energy brought me to it.

The book I intend to start writing next is set in Tokyo and Melbourne. I wonder what that story will bring into my life.