Feb 25, 2017

Explosions In The Sky @ Sydney Opera House

Glorious, magnificent, sumptuous. Five men from Texas totally and utterly immersed in the making of music. Epic sounds and huge emotions. Explosions in the Sky can summon thoughts and emotions without uttering a single word. Thursday night at the Opera House was my third time seeing them and each second of each show was a thrilling ride. There is quite simply no one like them in the live arena.

Guitars rise and fall, drums crash. They are totally in sync with each other and you can physically see them feeling each and every note. And they take the audience with them, in joyous symphony. I still can't quite figure out how they make their guitars sound like they do. They speak to them and they speak back. It's a beautiful sight and they truly stir up inside anyone who has the privilege of seeing them. Everything was near perfect, the set list was a feast for all. By the time they closed with the epic mountain that is 'The Only Moment We Were Alone' it was clear to all that we had again witnessed something extremely special.

Set List
Catastrophe and the Cure
Logic of a Dream
Greet Death
First Breath After Coma
The Birth and Death of the Day
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Colors in Space
Your Hand in Mine
Disintegration Anxiety
The Only Moment We Were Alone

Feb 5, 2017

Sydney Laneway Festival 2017

The Laneway Festival has always been on the cutting edge. It has grown in size but still managed to be at or near the forefront of modern music. I will say however that in recent years it has veered more into the territory of electro and pop with 2015 reaching its zenith. So much so that I didn't go. 2016 I had to skip as well as I had work commitments on that day. But 2017 I was back and even though the headliners didn't really interest me there were several acts I was very excited to see. Overall I had a great day despite it being very hot. Crowds weren't over bearing and easy to navigate. Food options were outstanding (Belle's Hot Chicken being a huge winner) and the Callan Park venue is nice and pleasant. Some of the acts I enjoyed (beside the three standouts below) were White Lung, who were fierce and hard. Their music isn't really in my wheelhouse but I enjoyed them live. I also enjoyed the beautiful stylings of Julia Jacklin. She has a wonderful choice. One act I wanted to see were Gang of Youths. But they overlapped with Car Seat Headrest so I only saw their last two songs. The crowd was loving them but I have to say the vocals were mixed way too low which was a disappointment.  Then there were three acts I loved in huge amounts.

Car Seat Headrest were easily the biggest talent on display on the day. Will Toledo is a musical prodigy and they really connect with their audience. Their songs have everything. They are epic, anthemic, thoughtful and emotionally and intellectually powerful. They are already great and really needed to be given a later slot than the one they enjoyed.

Set List
Fill in the Blank
Shivers (The Birthday Party cover)
Destroyed by Hippie Powers
Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An)
Motorway to Roswell (Pixies cover)

Whitney are just makers of beautiful music. Their songs are just laced with gorgeous melodies. The band fit in so well together. Guitar work is sublime and the trumpet tops off everything nicely.

Set List
Dave's Song
No Matter Where We Go
Red Moon
Golden Days
On My Own
The Falls
Magnet (NRBQ cover)
No Woman

Camp Cope are from Melbourne. Camp Cope are extremely talented. The three piece write songs of stark emotion and hit you hard in the head and the heart. Lead singer Georgia has a voice to move mountains. Whilst bassist Kelly-Dawn is outstanding. They really deserved a later slot than 12 noon. So much talent.

Set List
Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steel Beams
Keep Growing
West Side Story
Flesh and Electricity
Stove Lighter
Lost (Season One)

Feb 3, 2017

Whitney @ Oxford Art Factory

Oh sweet melody. Whitney Thursday night at the Oxford Art Factory was a glorious night indeed. The young Californian band are on our shores for Laneway Festival, armed with beautiful tunes from their splendid debut album. With only one album it was a short but oh so sweet night filled with joy and beauty.

Lead singer Julien Ehrlich started the show by creeping up close to the front of the stage to serenade us with a Dolly Parton cover. Only lead guitarist Max Kakacek joined him but soon the whole band was with us as they launched into the rest of the night. First song was one of my favourites in 'Dave's Song'. The rest of the night was just complete joy. Just superb melodies and great wads of jangly guitar with a trumpet thrown in for good measure. Kakacek's guitar was a highlight with amazing chords being plucked. Whilst the band has the unique situation of the lead singer being also the drummer with his kit pushed to the very front of the stage. Ehrlich's voice is quite something. It's a falsetto which often cracks and creaks. It's not perfect but it is perfectly suited to the music.He was also very charming, always chatting between songs with a smile of delight on his face. Th encore was supposed to be four songs and then they remembered they had played one at the start of the night. So we actually received the Dolly Parton song again before they ended the night with the utterly magnificent 'No Woman'. It was a truly great night, a reminder of the beauty of song in every way possible.

Set List
Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can) (Dolly Parton cover) 
Dave's Song
No Matter Where We Go
Red Moon
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (Bob Dylan cover)
Golden Days
On My Own
The Falls

Light Upon The Lake
Magnet (NRBQ cover)
Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can) (Dolly Parton cover) 
No Woman

Jan 29, 2017

Best 50 Albums Of 2016

Looking back I felt 2016 was a particularly strong year for music. In many genres and styles. Two albums for me though stood above the rest and I had a hard time deciding on my number one. In the end I went for the impossible beauty delivered in the third album by Kevin Morby. I loved it in total. Each song speaking to me in a very personal way. Elegant melodies and heartfelt lyrics, it was a complete joy. Close behind was the inspired album by Car Seat Headrest, their proper label debut. It was a thrilling and exciting ride with epic melodies and bang in your heart moments. But there were other great albums released. Bon Iver returned with a highly creative and very personal album. Whilst Danny Brown absolutely slayed with what I believed what was the best in hip hop in 2016.

Another superb album in 2016 was when Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam (Vampire Weekend) combined for an exemplary album of sublime soul. Beyonce went above and beyond in her field of music, whilst Explosions in the Sky returned to show they had lost none of the magic. On the local front it was very exciting to see The Avalanches finally return after such a long time away with an album that was outstanding in every way possible. Outside of that it was slim pickings locally, although I did love the debut album from Melbourne's Camp Cope. Speaking of debuts it was exciting to hear great first records from Whitney, Pinegrove and Big Thief. All combining to make 2016 a very special year.

1. Singing Saw-Kevin Morby
2. Teens of Denial-Car Seat Headrest
3. 22, a Million-Bon Iver
4. Atrocity Exhibition-Danny Brown
5. I Had a Dream That You Were Mine-Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
6. Wildflower-The Avalanches
7. The Life of Pablo-Kanye West
8. City Sun Eater in the River of Light-Woods
9. New View-Eleanor Friedberger
10. The Wilderness-Explosions in the Sky
11. Lemonade-Beyonce
12. Light Upon the Lake-Whitney
13. Away-Okkervil River
14. My Woman-Angel Olsen
15. My Best Human Face-Moonface and Siinai 
16. Life in the Dark-The Felice Brothers
17. A Band is Something to Figure Out-Hallelujah the Hills
18. You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To-Richmond Fontaine
19. A Weird Exits-Thee Oh Sees
20. Sunlit Youth-Local Natives
21. case/lang/viers-case/lang/viers
22. Blue Wave-Operators
23. Painting of a Panic Attack-Frightened Rabbit
24. Vicious Times-Gambles
25. Cardinal-Pinegrove
27. Emotional Mugger-Ty Segall
28. Our Puram-Pfarmers
29. Misery-Cullen Omori
30. Skeleton Tree-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
31. True Sadness-The Avett Brothers
32. Camp Cope-Camp Cope
33. Thought Rock Fish Scale-Nap Eyes
34. Painting With-Animal Collective
35. Is The Is Are-DIIV
36. A Moon Shaped Pool-Radiohead
37. Schmilco-Wilco
38. Masterpiece-Big Thief
39. Preoccupations-Preoccupations
40. The Hope Six Demolition Project-PJ Harvey
41. The Ridge-Sarah Neufeld
42. The Past Is Not a Flood-Hospital Ships
43. An Odd Entrances-Thee Oh Sees
44. Calico Review-Allah-Las
45. Waltzed in From the Rumbling-Plants and Animals
46. We Disappear-The Thermals
47. Sorrow-Colin Stetson
48. Visions of Us on the Land-Damien Jurado
49. Skip a Sinking Stone-Mutual Benefit
50. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung-Ryley Walker

Jan 26, 2017

Car Seat Headrest @ Oxford Art Factory

Sometimes it just feels right. Perfect. Emotionally correct and powerful. An artist comes to you and you can't even imagine life without them. Car Seat Headrest is one such artist. The young prodigy is Will Toledo. Started as a solo bedroom project he churned out album after album of incredible music that was starkly original and stunningly brilliant. He caught the attention of esteemed label Matador and they asked him to put out a compilation of re recorded older songs. 'Teens of Style' captured me and I was hooked. Then in 2016 he made his label proper debut with the sublime and truly wonderful 'Teens of Denial', an album of stunning brilliance. But imagine having the chance to see them live.

So Wednesday night at the Oxford Art Factory it came to being. It was to be the first show on their Australian tour and also their first show outside the US. It nearly didn't get started though as Will was here but the other three members were flight delayed. But thankfully they made it. The show was pushed back an hour and they basically rushed straight from the airport to the gig. And they slayed. A quick soundcheck and they launched into 'Vincent'. For an hour this band excited and stunned with a high energy and ecstatic gig that was thrilling and amazing. A great crowd sang to every word and danced with joy. 'Maud Gone' was impossibly sad. 'Fill in the Blank' was outrageously good. And 'Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales' was just, well wow you just had to be there. A Pixies cover ended the night in triumph. This band is the future of music. They have songs of extreme melody and glaring wit. And they rock hard, epic and triumphant. A beautiful thing to witness. Music is all powerful and emotionally important and last night was a pleasure unlike few others.

Set List
Fill in the Blank
Maud Gone
Destroyed by Hippie Powers
Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Sober to Death
Cosmic Hero (with Sweet Jane)
Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An)

Motorway to Roswell (Pixies cover)

Jan 24, 2017

PJ Harvey @ ICC Sydney Theatre

This was a complete performance. An utterly thrilling, compelling display by an artist who had something to say and said it perfectly. PJ Harvey has just returned to our Australian shores and her Sunday night show was magnificent and glorious.

Everything was in total symmetry and cohesion. From the opening seconds as bass drums serenaded the band on stage to the last curtain bow. Ms Harvey hardly uttered a word, except to introduce her band, but she was totally focused on giving us a complete show. Her last two albums have been concept albums, beautifully structured with the theme of the state of England and the USA being the focus. In light of this the opening part of the set showcased these two albums and the songs projected greatly in the live arena. Especially the haunting 'The Glorious Land' and the emotional 'Medicinals'. I think my favourite song of the night though was the beautifully melodic 'The Devil' although when PJ raised the roof with the epic '50ft Queenie' it had a great competitor. Oh, by the way her band was magnificent. Nine of them, all men, in complete sync with one truly great and spectacular woman.

Set List
Chain of Keys
The Ministry of Defence
The Community of Hope
The Orange Monkey
A Line in the Sand
Let England Shake
The Words That Maketh Murder
The Glorious Land
When Under Ether
Dollar, Dollar
The Devil
The Wheel
The Ministry of Social Affairs
50ft Queenie
Down by the Water
To Bring You My Love
River Anacostia

Highway '61 Revisited
Is This Desire?

Jan 21, 2017

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ ICC Sydney Theatre

Nick Cave is truly an Australian music legend. His reputation as a performer and songwriter is immense and well held. Over many years he has thrilled us with his poetry and passion. Recently tragedy struck him when his son died in a shocking accident. After a period he returned to record an album of dark and stark beauty in 'Skeleton Tree'. Naturally there had been a time of laying low in the live arena. But now Cave and the Bad Seeds have returned triumphantly, touring Australia and playing 'Skeleton Tree' songs for the first time live.

Friday night in Sydney they played the brand spanking new ICC Sydney Theatre as part of Sydney Festival. It was our first time at the venue and I was impressed. It has a rather large front standing area and high arching seating behind. Large but still somewhat intimate. As for the show, well it was pretty amazing. They opened with the exquisite 'Anthrocene', with Cave sitting alone at the front of the stage. They would open with three 'Skeleton Tree' songs and in total they played all bar one on the night. They went down a treat but of course it was the older songs that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Especially for me the supremely hectic 'From Her to Eternity', it slayed totally. As did the epic 'Jubilee Street'. 'The Ship Song' was radiant beauty whilst 'The Mercy Seat' assaulted us with incessant anger. An encore was highlighted by a fire and brimstone 'Stagger Lee', rounding up a two hour plus show that had everyone enthralled. Cave is truly a magnetic performer. Intimidating and thrilling. He commands a stage like few performers ever have. We have seen him and the Bad Seeds a few times now. It surely won't be the last.

Set List
Jesus Alone
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Jubilee Street
The Ship Song
Into My Arms
Girl in Amber
I Need You
Red Right Hand
The Mercy Seat
Distant Sky
Skeleton Tree

Jack the Ripper
Stagger Lee
People Ain't No Good
Push the Sky Away