(Image above: Sydney Harbor Bridge from Dr-English.net)
In honor of all of our loyal Aussie customers, we decided to focus our reviews this week on Australian items!
Keep reading for all our Oz-inspired reviews…
Listen to This:
(Image above: Empire of the Sun taken from Myspace.com/Empireofthesunsound)
Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream; Label – EMI, October 2008
When I asked my musically-minded friends for ideas about a hot new Aussie album, they all pointed me to Empire of the Sun’s Walking on a Dream. I am now totally smitten. It’s everything I could ask for in an album – fresh, catchy, danceable, loaded with 70’s & 80’s inspired beats, lyrically challenging, and instrumentally daring. I can’t stop my feet from bouncing when I listen to the ever-so-poppy, stand-out title track. It’s got that Phoenix ‘If I Ever Feel Better‘ driving rhythm mixed with the Scissor Sister’s tinny, falsetto sound. The tracks are starry and ethereal, but never overly self indulgent or pretentious. Walking on a Dream is melody-driven electronica at its best.
Empire of the Sun are Luke Steele (of the awesome band Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (of Pnau). Together, they create a dreamlike atmosphere with stirring vocals, electronic soundscapes, and haunting vocals that are at once disturbing and fun. The track ‘We Are the People’ is a synth-laden dance anthem, showcasing Steele’s falsetto talent. ‘Standing on the Shore’ is a more layered, lingering attempt, complete with chanting backing vocals and spacey guitar riffs.
The album has an undeniable summery vibe, a welcome feeling in late January Pittsburgh. Every time I listen to the album, I imagine it’s August, the days are long and hot, and something amazing is about to happen. And then I hit repeat.
(Images above: bottom left from Arts.gov.au, others from Murielsweddingmovie.com)
Muriel’s Wedding – PJ Hogan, 1994
I know some of you are sighing right now, but how could I resist? Best cult chick flick ever. Muriel’s Wedding is the story of a socially awkward ugly duckling obsessed with ABBA and fixated on the idea that someday, the man of her dreams will come and whisk her away. Muriel Heslop lives in the dreadfully boring town of Porpoise Spit with her overbearing, emotionally abusive father and ineffective mother. She fills her days fantasizing about a glamorous wedding, so when a sexy South African Olympic swimmer approaches her about a marriage of convenience, she jumps at the chance.
Muriel’s Wedding is on the surface a comedy, but it deals with some seriously dark issues like suicide, cancer, and the chronic disappointments of life. Muriel is a representation of our innermost selves: the scared, shy part of our psyche that we must overcome in order to reach our goals and follow our dreams. At times, she needs a little help (primarily from her zany pal Rhonda), but Muriel eventually lets her heart guide her. The movie could be read as a cautionary tale, warning us that following our dreams and indulging in our hopes doesn’t always end happily, but I prefer to think of it more as a realistic fairy tale. Sometimes, even in the real world, dreams do come true.
Make This…And Then Eat This…
If you’re looking for a sweet Australian treat (no, not Dunkaroos) that’s cheap and easy-to-make, look no further than these chewy biscuits with a built-in history lesson. First called Soldier’s Biscuits, these originated in Australia during World War I and are still very popular there! ANZAC (an acronym used during WWI for troops from Australia and New Zealand) biscuits were sent by Army wives and mothers during the war because they worried the troops weren’t getting enough nutrition. The caveat was that they also had to last a two-week, unrefrigerated voyage overseas.
You may notice there are no eggs in this recipe. This is because many of the poultry farmers had joined the war and eggs were scarce. That’s why the binding agent in these biscuits is golden syrup, which is a liquid sweetener derived from sugar cane juice and popular in the UK and Australia. I used the following recipe from allrecipes.com, but I substituted a mixture of blackstrap molasses and light corn syrup for the golden syrup, which is hard to find in the United States. Because there were no eggs and I substituted Earth Balance for butter, this recipe is easily made vegan!
These are really, really simple to make; most of the ingredients I already had around the apartment and it only took about twenty minutes total with preparation and baking time. However, be warned when letting these guys cool off; they like to stick to the pan. I took a little nap when they were cooling, and when I woke up, my spatula and I fought an epic battle.
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 3/4 cup flaked coconut
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (I substituted Earth Balance!)
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup (I went with 1/2 tbs blackstrap molasses and 1/2 tbs light corn syrup)
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut together.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the syrup and butter together. Mix the soda and boiling water and add to the melted butter and syrup.
- Add butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoons on greased cookie sheets (or baking paper).
- Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
Watch This Too…
(Image Above: J’amie posing at the Formal taken from imeem.com)
Summer Heights High
Chris Lilley caused quite a stir with his mockumentary of an Australian public school, Summer Heights High, when it premiered in Australia in the fall of 2007. A dollop of controversy, a hefty portion (I’m still thinking about the biscuits) of critic’s praise, and a Logie Award (Australia’s equivalent to the Emmy) later, it finally made it over here to the United States, where it premiered on HBO. I was promptly hooked.
Summer Heights High, which was filmed on-location at a real public school in Melbourne over a semester and featured the students as supporting actors in the show, follows three characters, all played by Lilley. Ja’mie is a ‘mean girl’ on an exchange program from a private school, Mr. G is a self-centered drama teacher trying to organize the school’s annual show–a musical about a dead student, and Jonah is a ‘Year 8′ with discipline problems and a love for break-dancing.
Some of my favorite mockumentaries involve music (Christopher Guest’s Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind or Yacht Rock) and this is also the case with Summer Heights High. This series is completely worth watching if only for witnessing Mr. G create the super catchy and ethically questionable songs of “Mr. G The Musical.” And then there’s the hilarious inappropriate disaster of the final show, complete with dogs suspended from the ceiling and students dancing with giant foam pills. So, so wrong, but so funny.