TOP PICK / Music
Helplessness Blues \ Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
The long-awaited second album from these Seattle-based ragamuffins isn’t a great leap on from the last one, but who would want that? The pastoral beauty of their early work is intact, with the folky tunes given a more ambitious arrangement. There’s a hymnal quality throughout, Robin Pecknold’s layered vocals echoing around some pagan temple while young maidens circle a maypole. If The Wicker Man is ever remade as an indie romcom, at least the soundtrack will be top notch.
Despite its miserablist title, this is a far summerier record than its predecessor. Gone are the pristine, icy songscapes and in their place the green shoots and long afternoons of better weather. Even the title track resounds with optimism, rattling along with gusto as Pecknold declares “I’ll get back to you some day soon”.
Overall, the album recalls the happy simplicity of ’60s pop folk, somewhere between the delicate harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel and the Byrds’ jangly wall of sound. Still, as lush as the instrumentation is, the album is most moving when at its simplest. On stripped-back track The Shrine/An Argument, as Pecknold’s solitary voice reaches for places it hasn’t yet touched, we’re deep in goosebump country.
Timeless, touching and given to transporting a listener to wondrous places, this is beautiful stuff.
Force of Nature \ David Suzuki \ Opens April 28, Cinema Nova, Rated PG
There’s little obvious appeal for Australian audiences in this doco about Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki. There are few shocking statistics or portents of climate catastrophe and we hold little in the way of cultural connection with the man himself.
Still, there is one very good reason to see this film and, fittingly, it’s David Suzuki. An avuncular, endearing and frequently emotional presence, Suzuki is an irresistible guide through his 75 years. Having lost his grandparents to Hiroshima, been interred in a Canadian prison camp, and found himself caught up in civil rights and environmental struggles, Suzuki is able to take us on a very personal journey through modern history. Indeed, he reveals his deep and abiding connection with nature stems primarily from the discrimination he suffered as a Japanese Canadian who only spoke English. When no one else will talk to you, it seems only natural to go make friends at the swamp.
Suzuki’s honest, heartfelt reflection on the world and his place in it – as distraught at the devastation at Hiroshima as he is the extinction of bluefin tuna – makes his story an absorbing one, even if you’ve never sponsored a panda or tied yourself to a tree. This is an affecting, intimate portrait of a remarkable human being.
Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper La Mama Courthouse, Opens April 29,
Thurs-Sat 8pm, Wed and Sun 6.30pm
Returning for a repeat season, this one-man production examines the life of an apiarist from his grandson’s perspective. Leaving aside its insights into the lives and loves of a beehive, this is a touching, subtle examination of family, loss and getting old. Tim Sitz plays both himself and his grandfather Lloyd, using conversations about bees to tease out their sometimes awkward relationship. For Beckmann, the life of a hive appears to be a metaphor for ageing, as a queen is eventually booted out and a new generation rises up. An immersive piece of theatre, the play seats its audience within Beckmann’s granny flat, with our host offering samples of beer, wine and – of course – honey. Tasty.
Dr Who ABC 1, Saturday April 30, 7.30pm
Ignore all that royal wedding malarkey (for God’s sake, ignore Channel Ten’s William & Kate telemovie), a far more important British institution returns to the airwaves this week.
New Doc Matt Smith still has the whiff of fresh paint, having only recently departed David Tennant’s trainers, but he already looks to be the best Time Lord since, you know, the curly-haired one with the scarf. At once young and ancient, incisive and clueless, Smith seems genuinely possessed of the necessary bonkers gene. That his sexy redhead ladyfriend has a penchant for short skirts won’t hurt the show’s popularity, either.
Of course, it’s not just the leads that have changed. A new writer has seen the big, colourful drama of recent years left behind in favour of something a bit smarter, a little darker and a whole lot stranger. The new template, pushing ever further into fairytale and fantasy, seems to owe much to Pan’s Labyrinth, employing a similar blend of childish innocence and mythical horror.
As you’d expect from the writer of last year’s Sherlock, the plots twist and buckle magnificently, while the dialogue crackles with more wit than most other shows (even those aimed at viewers tall enough to ride the scariest of roller-coasters). While last season was something of a halfway house, what we’ve seen of the new series feels like a bold statement of intent, its creators keen to fully explore the show’s possibilities.
After all, this is a show that can go anywhere and be anything, as long as it’s all rollicking good fun. With children growing up on this stuff, it’s easy to believe tomorrow’s television makers will keep us in good hands.