Mar 7, 2020

Bill Callahan @ State Theatre

Some artists, through a long body of exemplary work, achieve iconic status. Their work feels important and vital. I do believe Bill Callahan is one such artist. He is an artist that commands respect, quietly and with surety. Thursday night at the beautiful State Theatre we were fortunate enough to see him again. For the fourth time I believe. His baritone voice and plaintive songs with emotionally strong lyrics are pure greatness. What a pleasure it was.

Mr Callahan released another excellent album last year in the shape of  'Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest'. So naturally we received a very good slice of that album. My favourites being 'The Ballad of the Hulk', '747' and 'Angela'. He tried to give a good portion of his back catalogue too including such great songs as 'Drover' and an epic version of 'America!' But the best part was when he even reached back to his days recording as 'Smog' to play us the all time classic in 'Say Valley Maker'. What a superb song that is. And I must say his band of three were superb. A subtle drummer, a double bass player that was truly in sync and best of all a lead electric guitarist that played to the strength of all the songs in the best way possible. Thanks for coming again Mr Callahan.

Set List
Son of the Sea
Too Many Birds
Watch Me Get Married
Let's Move to the Country
Say Valley Maker (Smog cover)
The Ballad of the Hulk
One Fine Morning
So Long, Marianne

Riding for the Feeling

Feb 28, 2020

The New Pornographers @ Metro Theatre

The New Pornographers are fun with a capital F. But that could possibly undersell them as they are so much more than that. Their songs brim with pathos and humanity. They are exquisitely constructed with undeniable melodies. Wednesday night at the Metro was a great pleasure to see them once again. It had been a while. But they have lost none of their touch, that's for sure. Sadly the venue was not full. But I guess they aren't really a 'hip' band anymore. Which is a shame because they are stamped with greatness and seeing them live proved it once again.

Last year saw the band released their eighth album in the shape of 'In The Morse Code of Brake Lights' and I believed it was their best in a while. Happily they played quite a few off that album and the new songs sounded great live. Especially 'The Surprise Knock' and the plaintive 'Higher Beams'. Also happily we heard a great selection from their astounding catalogue with many classics being played. 'Use It' was the first of many to get an enthusiastic crowd going. But I also loved 'The Laws Have Changed'. 'Testament to Youth in Verse' and 'The Bleeding Heart Show'. Finishing the set with 'Mass Romantic' was just the cherry on top. The band still numbers seven but this was the first time I had seen Simi Stone play with them. Of course Neko Case is a stellar singer who sets every song alight. Then there is the main man Carl Newman holding everything togther. What a band.

Set List
Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile
Use It
You'll Need a Backseat Driver
Dancehall Domine
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
The Surprise Knock
The Bones of an Idol
Whiteout Conditions
Colossus of Rhodes
The Laws Have Changed
Higher Beams
Testament to Youth in Verse
Dreamlike and on the Rush
Crash Years
All The Old Showstoppers
Adventures in Solitude
Champions of Red Wine
Play Money
The Bleeding Heart Show
Mass Romantic

Brill Bruisers
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism

Feb 23, 2020

Jay Som @ Oxford Art Factory

Friday night was the first ever Jay Som show in Sydney, or Australia for that matter. The band had just flown in from New Zealand and Friday night at the Oxford Art Factory was the first of a small run of dates in this country. Sadly the show was not sold out but for those who were there it was a special night of beautiful music. Jay Som is primarily Melina Mae Duterte, born in California with Filipino heritage. She now plays within a band of four, and this show was off the back of last year's excellent album 'Anak Ko'.

Jay Som's music is dreamy pop but with a solid base. And last year's album I think was her most substantial yet and happily she played quite a bit off that excellent record. Highlights included the title track as well the super popluar 'Superbike'. The band was really solid and some beautiful guitar jams emanted from the stage. It was great to hear the delightful 'The Bus Song' too as well as the just released new single in 'A Thousand Words'. It was a short set, about an hour, with no encore. But it was a great pleasure to see Jay Som for the very first time. 

Set List
If You Want It
Turn Into
Nighttime Drive
Anak Ko
Peace Out
Get Well
The Bus Song
A Thousand Words
Lipstick Stains

Feb 22, 2020

Allah-Las @ Paddington RSL

Los Angeles based band Allah-Las have been around for 12 years now, releasing four albums in that time. But it wasn't until 2017 that the band first made it to Australia, playing a splendid Sydney show at the Oxford Art Factory. Thursday night they were back, playing a sold out show at the Paddington RSL. I'm never quite sure where this band fits in the music world. They're certainly not a 'hip' band. Their music is evocative of classic 60s bands, but they seem to attract a young and devoted crowd.

They were truly splendid on Thursday night. Their golden guitar tones washed over an enthusiastic crowd. They are a very talented band with multiple vocalists, although Miles Michaud handles the majority of singing duties. The other standout of the band is lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian. His guitar technique, aided by effects, really ads the layer that make the band a cut above the rest. Just beautiful warm tones, exemplified by the classic track 'Sacred Sands'. This song is from their wonderful self titled debut album, an album they still lean heavily on and rightly so. They also gave us plenty from their 2019 album in 'LAHS', with 'Polar Onion a definite highlight. But it was definitely a night of many highlights.

Set List
Sacred Sands
Busman's Holiday
Prazer Em Te Conhecer
No Werewolf (The Frantics cover)
In The Air
Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)
Had It All
On Our Way
Light Yearly
Brittany Glasz
Polar Onion
No Voodoo
Could Be You

Calm Me Down

Jan 26, 2020

Best Albums of 2019

2019 presented lots of great music but I think there was only one true classic to me. Lots of very good to great music to listen to whether it was by veterans or by new artists. But one album stood clearly above the rest and that was House of Sugar by (Sandy) Alex G. The Philadelphia artist has been making music for years even though he is still very young. But his latest release was his most ambitious yet. Extremely creative and inventive but still retaining his impeccable ear for melody. Some of my man crushes released albums too. Kevin Morby made his most ambitious album to date. Ty Segall released an album with no lead guiat and yet it still rocked extremely hard and his best mate Mikal Cronin gave us another album of sublime melodies. Indie heavyweights Vampire Weekend, Wilco, Bon Iver and The National returned and showed they have lost none of their touch. Perhaps the year belonged to Big Thief who managed to release two wonderful albums in the one year and a song in 'Not' that was my song of year. Danny Brown I think is the best rapper working today and his latest album was fantastic yet again. So many amazing women making music too. Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen albums were truly spectacular and I loved records by Stef Chura, Vagabon, Hand Habits, Jay Som, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Claire Cronin and many, many more.

1. House of Sugar-(Sandy) Alex G
2. First Taste-Ty Segall
3. Two Hands-Big Thief
4. Seeker-Mikal Cronin
5. uknowwhatimsaying-Danny Brown
6. Oh My God-Kevin Morby
7. Forever Turned Around-Whitney
8. Remind Me Tomorrow-Sharon Van Etten
9. All Mirrors-Angel Olsen
10. Father of the Bride-Vampire Weekend
11. Violet Street-Local Natives
12. An Obelisk-Titus Andronicus
13. I Am Easy to Find-The National
14. Ghosteen-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
15. Eraserland-Strand of Oaks
16. Placeholder-Hand Habits
17. Ode to Joy-Wilco
18. Anima-Thom Yorke
19. i,i-Bon Iver
20. Face Stabber-Oh Sees
21. At the Party With My Brown Friends-Black Belt Eagle Scout
22. Midnight-Stef Chura
23. Undress-The Felice Brothers
24. U.F.O.F.-Big Thief
25. I'm You-Hallelujah the Hills
26. Lost Wisdom Pt 2-Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron
27. In the Morse Code of Brake Lights-The New Pornographers
28. Big Dread Moon-Claire Cronin
29. Cows on Hourglass Road-Avey Tare
30. Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?-Deerhunter
31. Buoys-Panda Bear
32. Vagabon-Vagabon
33. In the Shape of a Storm-Damien Jurado
34. Glacial Pace-Hurt Valley
35. On the Line-Jenny Lewis
36. I Need a New War-Craig Finn
37. Purple Mountains-Purple Mountains
38. Anak Co-Jay Som
39. Seeing Other People-Foxygen
40. Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest-Bill Callahan
41. Thrashing Thru The Passion-The Hold Steady
42. August-Shannon Lay
43. Nowhere Now Here-Mono
44. Plastic Anniversary-Matmos
45. Better Oblivion Community Center-Better Oblivion Community Center
46. LAHS-Allah Las
47. Warmer-Jeff Tweedy
48. Deceiver-DIIV
49. Between the Country-Ian Noe
50. I Made a Place-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Jan 25, 2020

Best Songs of 2019

What makes a great song. Well for me, it needs intelligence, passion, heart. Hopefully great lyrics. Great build ups, great melodies. Something that just makes it extra special. Many great songs in 2019 had this quality but one song had it in spades. 'Not' by Big Thief had been played live by the band for a couple of years now so it was a total delight when it turned up on their excellent album in 'Two Hands' in October of last year. The first time I heard it was on headphones and I think my heart skipped a beat when Adrienne screamed her heart out. The crashing of drums and guitars at the halfway point is surely perfection. Many other great songs saw the light of day in 2019. Danny Brown had a whole slew of them on his excellent album, whilst (Sandy) Alex G showed he is peerless in crafting melodic gems. Mikal Cronin gave us 'Undertow' which he didn't even put on his wonderful album. I could go on and on, but here is the list. Limit of three songs per artist.

1. Not-Big Thief
2. Dirty Laundry-Danny Brown
3. Lark-Angel Olsen
4. Undertow-Mikal Cronin
5. Gretel-(Sandy) Alex G
6. Seventeen-Sharon Van Etten
7. Radio-Ty Segall
8. Not in Kansas-The National
9. Dawn Chorus-Thom Yorke
10. Every Woman-Vagabon
11. Sympathy-Vampire Weekend
12. Used to Be Lonely-Whitney
13. Hollywood-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
14. Naeem-Bon Iver
15. Ruby-Strand of Oaks
16. What Happens to People?-Deerhunter
17. Show Me-Mikal Cronin
18. Cafe Amarillo-Local Natives
19. Hail Mary-Kevin Morby
20. Method Man-Stef Chura
21. Apartment Houses-Hurt Valley
22. Henchlock-Oh Sees
23. Can't Calm Down-Hand Habits
24. My Name Sounds Sinister-Hallelujah the Hills
25. Heads Gonna Roll-Jenny Lewis
26. Dylan Thomas-Better Oblivion Community Center
27. K.C. Yours-Avey Tare
28. Newspaper Gown-Damien Jurado
29. Visions-Strand of Oaks
30. Taste-Ty Segall
31. Southern Sky-(Sandy) Alex G
32. 13th Century Metal-Brittany Howard
33. My Mother & I-Lucy Dacus
34. East-Earl Sweatshirt
35. Impasse-Angel Olsen
36. Shoulders-Big Thief
37. Feel It All-Mikal Cronin
38. In Good Faith-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
39. Belief-Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron
40. Fireflies-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 
41. Shine-Danny Brown
42. Hands-Sharon Van Etten
43. Alpine Star-William Tyler
44. Placeholder-Hand Habits
45. The Torch Committee-Josh Ritter
46. Oh My God-Kevin Morby
47. Blankets-Craig Finn
48. In My Arms-(Sandy) Alex G
49. Harmony Hall-Vampire Weekend
50. Jenni-Big Thief
51. The Arms-Ty Segall
52. Days of the Years-The Felice Brothers
53. Meth Head-Ian Noe
54. Like A Shield-Claire Cronin
55. Quiet Amplifier-Wilco
56. Love Without Possession-Mount Eerie & Julie Doiron
57. Geology Dreamer-Hurt Valley
58. Theme Song-Danny Brown
59. Transparent Chart of the Heavens-Hallelujah the Hills
60. All I Do Is Lie-Stef Chura
61. Within The Gravitron-Titus Andronicus
62. Nowhere-Shannon Lay
63. The Surprise Knock-The New Pornographers
64. Polar Onion-Allah-Las
65. The Experimenter-Oh Sees
66. The Ballad of the Hulk-Bill Callahan
67. Hey, Ma-Bon Iver
68. Superbike-Jay Som
69. Giving Up-Whitney
70. At The Party-Black Belt Eagle Scout
71. (I Blame) Society-Titus Andronicus
72. Token-Panda Bear
73. Comeback Kid-Sharon Van Etten
74. Tell-Lomelda
75. Blankenship-DIIV
76. Bloodless-Andrew Bird
77. Honey-Drugdealer
78. Something to Believe-Weyes Blood
79. When Am I Gonna Lose You-Local Natives
80. Light Years-The National
81. All My Happiness Is Gone-Purple Mountains
82. Denver Haircut-The Hold Steady
83. The Dog/The Body-Sleater-Kinney
84. My Heart Dreams-Black Belt Eagle Scout 
85. Viking Hair-Dry Cleaning
86. Highway-Chelsea Wolfe
87. Sketch Artist-Kim Gordon
88. New Magic Wand-Tyler, The Creator
89. After You Comes the Flood-Mono
90. The Crying Pill-Matmos
91. Seven Devils-Kevin Morby
92. Flag at Half-Mast-Foxygen
93. bmbmbm-Black Midi
94. Boyfriends-Broken Social Scene
95. Days-Operators
96. Orphan-Jeff Tweedy
97. Forever Half Mast-Lucy Dacus
98. What It Is-Angel Olsen
99. Flood-Vagabon
100. Me and Willie-Rose City Band

Jan 19, 2020

William Tyler @ Seidler Penthouse

The Sydney Festival ain't what it used to be, but there is always one gem to find. Last year it was the incomparable Mount Eerie. This year it was Nashville guitarist William Tyler. This was Tyler's first time in Australia and it was a sheer pleasure to see him Saturday night. An even bigger thrill was the venue. Harry Seidler was an icon of Australian architecture. One of his works is an apartment complex in Milson's Point. He died over a decade ago but his daughter Polly still lives in the penthouse on the fifth floor. She graciously hires out the space for small events. It has spectacular views of Luna Park and Sydney Harbour, with marble floors and artworks by the likes of Stella and Lichtenstein. The space holds around 100 people. No photos were allowed but trust me it was a special night for sure.

William Tyler has released four albums. He has a unique style of dexterous finger picking on his acoustic guitar. He plies a battered Gibson that produces just so many warm and beautiful tones. So tonight was definitely all about the music. It's quite upbeat too, very bright tomes that sing and dance with care and joy. He does a bit of looping as well on some songs to aid the sounds he creates. My persoanl favourite was the elegaic 'Alpine Star'. A very special night on so many levels.

Set List
Not In Our Stars
Fail Safe
Kingdom of Jones
Alpine Star
Virginia Is For Loners
Gone Clear
Cadillac Desert
A Portrait of Sarah

Sarabande (Handel)/Ponotoc