Tom Ravenscroft's music blog

Drunk pirates or sombre storytellers? Listen here to Australia's most enchanting new band.

Over the past few years there has been a steady and rather welcome increase in good music coming from Australia, a country that previously was either failing to make much of note -- or, as I suspect, was just not bothering to tell us about it or send it overseas.

Recently the likes of C W Stoneking, The Drones, the Middle East, Circle Pit, Civil Civic and Fabulous Diamonds have been filling my ears with joy. But until now I have never heard Australian folk. And I have yet to experience anything else that sounds so very Australian as the Doomed Bird of Providence.

The voice is slightly startling at first. I think this might just be that I've never heard an Australian group that retains their accent; I wish it would happen more, there is nothing more annoying than groups that adopt ye olde English folk voice, a voice that only a small number of people in the West Country and people that name ales still actually speak.

Their album is called Will Ever Prey and recalls tragic, dark tales from Australian history with a strange sort of snarled beauty. It does at times sound like the work of drunk pirates and I won't lie: not all of you will like it. Here's a track from the album:

The Doomed Bird of Providence - Fedicia Exine by frontandfollow  

There are long periods in which the music on the album sounds very traditionally folk, but the dramatic periods of awkward, slightly out of tune, bowed strings are what I was so enchanted by. At times it's a little frightening and I don't get to say that often. More Australian music, please.

Tom Ravenscroft's radio show is on BBC 6 Music at 9pm every Friday. He writes a monthly music column for the New Statesman and blogs here every Wednesday

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The worst Oscar-winning films of all time

How hated movies have grabbed their space in the spotlight. 

Whilst the biggest surprise at last night’s Oscars was undoubtedly the part where they weren’t sure who’d actually won Best Picture, Suicide Squad also raised a few eyebrows. The critically-panned superantihero non-classic managed to take home an Academy Award, albeit in the category of Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Which raises the question: is Suicide Squad the worst film to have ever won an Oscar?

Obviously, the quality of a film is an ultimately subjective measure. Suicide Squad is someone’s favourite movie; every film is someone’s favourite movie, except for Sex Lives of the Potato Men. But if we want to get an "objective" view, one was is to look at a measure of the critical consensus, like Tomatometer on the website Rotten Tomatoes, which counts the percentage of good and bad reviews a film has received from critics.

Here, Suicide Squad ranks at a lowly 26 per cent (with such glowing lines as the Wall Street Journal’s “an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment”), which is one of the lowest scores an Academy Award-winning movie has ever received. But not the lowest.

Michael Bay’s historically dubious epic Pearl Harbor, which managed a win for Best Sound Editing, has a rating of just 25 per cent. As well as its Oscar, Pearl Harbor won Worst Picture at "anti-Oscars" The Razzies, the first film to do so that also had one of the real awards.

This kind of "technical" award is a good route to unlikely Oscar glory. Middling John Lithgow-meets-Bigfoot comedy Harry and the Hendersons isn’t remembered as an award-winner, but it took home the gold for Harry's makeup job. It can sometimes be overlooked that most films are a massive team effort, and there's something heartwarming about the fact people can get still be rewarded for being very good at their job, even if that job is working on a mediocre-to-terrible movie.

Still, if no-one working on the actual film does their job right, you can always get someone decent to write a song. The not very good (score: 33 per cent) eighties "steel welder wants to learn ballet" movie Flashdance took an award home for the Giorgio Moroder-composed title theme. He would also later bring home a much better film’s sole award, when he penned Top Gun’s Take My Breath Away.

Picking the right song is how what may be the lowest-rated Oscar winner of all time did it: The Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor melodrama The Sandpiper has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 10 per cent, but win it did, for the song The Shadow of Your Smile (which isn’t even actually very good; Burt Bacharach’s What's New Pussycat? was robbed.)

Even an Oscar winner that is praised by contemporaries can be undone by the cruelty of time. One of the lowest-scoring winners is 1936’s Anthony Adverse, at just 13 per cent - not only did it win for Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress, Best Soundtrack and Best Editing, it was nominated for Best Picture. But however praised the historical epic might have been at the time, because Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews from online media, it does not appear to have dated well.

Perhaps awards can only ever reflect the critical mood of the time - Singin’ In The Rain has a 100 per cent Tomatometer score, but took home no Oscars. Best Picture that year went to The Greatest Show On Earth, now judged a 44 per cent mediocrity. Perhaps by the 2080s film critics will be stunned that the newly re-appreciated acting masterclass Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest only won for its visual effects, be baffled that the lauded classic Suicide Squad wasn’t a Best Picture contender, and be absolutely 100 per cent certain that Jared Leto was the finest actor of his generation. Maybe the apocalypse wouldn’t be so bad after all.