Dec 30, 2006

Laura, Pivot, The Instant @ Spectrum



Spectrum in Sydney is an excellent venue to see bands, intimate and welcoming it certainly puts out a good vibe. Friday night was therefore an excellent time to catch 3 local bands as 2006 winds down to a close. Melbourne band Laura was the headline act and they were truly superb. They have only recently released their second long player "Radio Swan Is Down" and their set comprised quite a few tracks off that excellent release. Playing as a five-piece, minus cellist Carolyn Gannell, the band created an amazing atmosphere of sonic sounds based on 3 guitars, drums and keyboards. Nearly wholly instrumental each song seemed to build and build before releasing itself. Also the cinematic backdrop just added extra beauty to the music. If you like guitar based music that contains melody and power be sure to check this band out. You can listen to some of their tunes at their My Space page.
MP3: Every Light

Set List
It's Kind Of Like The Innocent Smiles You Get At The Start Of A Relationship
Before You Fuck Everything Up
We Should Keep This Secret
Levodopa
Non Serviam
Every Light
We Are Mapping Your Dreams
Fugitive
I Hope
Is There No Help For The Widow's Son?

To be honest I hadn't heard much Pivot before so I was looking forward to seeing them live based on their excellent reviews they have received. I found I really enjoyed their blend of post-rock, electronica and even jazz influences. Richard Pike is an amazing guitarist, he seemed to get everything that is humanly possible out of a guitar, whilst occasionally switching to keyboards. His brother Lawrence was also a very innovative drummer providing great texture to the sounds produced. I think i need to buy some of their music.
MP3: Make Me Love You

Opening act The Instant also made a good impression with their 3 guitar and drums instrumental sounds. Hailing from Newcastle, I would describe them as having a sound somewhere between Mogwai and By the End of Tonight. Their music was quite forceful but they still managed to sneak in quieter moments as well. I think i need to check them out more as well.
Check out My Space for some tunes.

You can see more photos of the night at Flickr.

Dec 28, 2006

Favourite Films of 2006

If it is at all possible I try to see one film a week during the course of the year. You could say my type of film is one that is well written, with strong characters, hopefully not star driven and relying on action sequences or special effects. Sometimes the plot to me is secondary to the richness of the characters presented. I particularly like large ensemble casts and do prefer something that is unpredictable or unconventional. If a film was directed by Robert Altman, Jim Jarmusch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson or Hal Hartley there is a fair chance I will like it. So to my 10 favourite films of 2006. It was very difficult to narrow it down to ten, I had to leave out films I enjoyed such as "A Prairie Home Companion", "Flags of Our Fathers", "Junebug", "Walk the Line", "A Scanner Darkly", "Fast Food Nation", "The Wind That Shakes the Barley", "Tristram Shandy", "The Departed", amongst others. Also half of these films were released internationally in 2005, but of course they didn't reach our shores until this year. I have left "Babel" off this list, as I have only just seen it and I would like more time to ruminate on it. I would say there is a fair chance it will appear on next year's list.

1. The Squid and the Whale, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Now I may concede that there were important films released this year, dealing with bigger matters, but no movie gave me more enjoyment then this one. The story of a Brooklyn family tearing itself apart, it is as once darkly funny and heartbreakingly tender. Jeff Daniels and the magnificent Laura Linney have never been better. Based on the director's own experiences as a teenager, I think this gives it the human element that makes it so special.

2. Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee.
Now "Crash" was a good movie but this should definitely have won the Oscar. Centred around 2 terrific performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie is incredibly moving about a love that no one is allowed to speak of. Rewarding on every level the journey these men take will leave you enriched and touched at once. The cinematography is truly spectacular as well. Oh and if I hear one more "Brokeback" joke I will throw up, people grow up.

3. United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass.
A movie that had to be made outside Hollywood, no recognisable stars made you concentrate on the film instead. I shudder to think of Bruce Willis leading the passengers revolt. Everyone knows the story and I can understand some people not wanting to see it. But as a piece of verite cinema you will not find better. The cast are truly special and the tension built up in the film will leave you speechless for the final 20 minutes.

4. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, directed by Tommy Lee Jones.
Mr Jones' directorial debut was a surprising delight of 2006. He has crafted a richly rewarding tale of justice, friendship and revenge set on the Texas-Mexico border. Eschewing all forms of stereotype, it is a modern day western that retains the human touch. This film for me managed to get better from beginning to end, by which I wanted to see more. Barry Pepper has never been better as the border patrolman who learns a very valuable lesson.

5. The New World, directed by Terrence Malick.
My favourite film of all time is "The Thin Red Line", the director's previous, his take on the futility of war and the folly of man. So any new film from Mr Malick should be treasured. Dismissed by some as too slow or impenetrable, I found the story of Pocahontas and John Smith to be endlessly fascinating and at times breathtaking. A Malick film will normally not concern itself with plot but focus on the characters instead. A breath of fresh air in the glib world of Hollywood franchises, if you are looking forward to Spiderman 3, this isn't probably for you.

6. Little Miss Sunshine, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
Everyone who I have spoken to seems to have loved this gem of a movie. A family, literally on a journey, the characters are so richly drawn it is hard not to love this film. Toni Collette and Steve Carell are particularly outstanding as brother and sister trying to make sense of the drama encircling them. At times extremely funny it still manages to tug at your heart without ever resorting to cliche. Oh yeah, the soundtrack features Sufjan Stevens and Devochtka.

7. Capote, directed by Bennett Miller.
Three words, Philip Seymour Hoffman, are enough for this film to make my final list. His performance is truly stunning. In portraying the iconic writer Truman Capote he shows why is quite possibly the finest actor on the planet today. He actually makes Capote quite an unsympathetic character but it is impossible to take your eyes off him.

8. The Road to Guantanamo, directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Part drama, part documentary, this is a must see for all those concerned with the state of our world. The true story of 3 British Men of Pakistani heritage wrongfully imprisoned after their capture in Afghanistan is as close as you will get to a real life experience on the big screen. I came away feeling angry and yet inspired by the courage showed by the men involved. Michael Winterbottom is not only prolific but also the most versatile director working today.

9. Jindabyne, directed by Raw Lawrence.
For me this was the best Australian film released this year. Powerful, mature and multi layered it managed to depict a slice of Australian life in a true and moving way. A story of deception that ultimately tore a small town apart, it featured wonderful performances from the entire cast. Laura Linney was her usual great self but John Howard and Deborra Lee-Furness have never been better. The cinematography was special as well.

10. Syriana, directed by Stephen Gaghan.
Now this was a Warner Bros movie, with an all star cast, but thankfully due to George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's involvement it turned out to be a thought provoking and intelligent affair. The story of international espionage and oil dealings is very prescient for these times.

Dec 27, 2006

Babel

With so much happening in the Music World of late I haven't had the chance to take in as many films as I usually do. But I commonly find that this time of year we are introduced to many fine films. One that has just opened and that I was excited to see was Babel. Fortunately I was not let down as this film managed to deliver on so many levels. If you have seen Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's two previous films "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams" and enjoyed them, as I did, then you should be able to find a lot to enjoy in "Babel." Telling four stories, that in the end intertwine, this is a beautifully filmed (Rodrigo Prieto) piece, finely acted by its ensemble cast. Filmed in 3 countries, Japan, Morocco and Mexico, we watch a deaf-mute Japanese girl struggling with her past, two young Moroccan boys whose actions have dangerous consequences, an American couple holidaying in Morocco that realise they need each more then they knew and a Mexican woman trying to do the right thing but endangering herself and the children she is caring for. I will not tell you more about the plot as it would spoil the experience of delving into these rich characters. But the thing I took most from the film was its theme of lack of communication. A lot of the characters in "Babel" seem to talk to each without listening, whether through different languages, inability to understand each others needs and motives or as in the simple case of "Chieko" a reality of being unable to speak. The cast is uniformly excellent and although Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are exemplary as the American couple it was some of the lesser actors who shone for me, especially Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza. This is a meaty film that requires your full attention, although a little slow in the middle section, it builds to a dramatic climax that will leave you feeling enriched and hopefully rewarded by the experience.

Dec 24, 2006

Wolf Parade - I'll Believe in Anything

A Christmas treat, my favourite song of 2005, can't wait for new Wolf Parade in 2007.

Dec 23, 2006

Merry Christmas and Random Thoughts

Merry Christmas everyone, as mentioned before in a previous post, i want to thank anyone who has found the time to read my daily missives, it makes me feel like I'm not wasting my time.
Plenty to look forward to in the next couple of weeks. M. Ward Modest Mouse and the Mountain Goats are all here in early January, so that should be huge. I am also looking forward to seeing Alejandro Inarritu's new film Babel which opens on Boxing Day.

At the moment I am currently listening to a few things old (Ryan Adams, Songs: Ohia, Low, Of Montreal), that I missed out in the past. Also some new stuff, 2006 that is, (Peter Bjorn & John, Jenny Lewis, Golden Smog, Beach House) that I'm enjoying as well. I think I will find that 2007 will be busy catching up on 2006 as well as listening to new releases. One release that is really making me happy at the moment is "Nowhere to Run" a new EP by California band Port O'Brien. I discovered them through the excellent site Catbird Seat. I plan to review them in full after the Christmas break. Here is a tune again from the EP.
MP3: I Woke Up Today

Also as a treat here are two songs from two of my favourite bands, both songs have Christmas in the title although they are not typically Christmas songs.
MP3: Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas-Okkervil River.
MP3: Xmas Curtain (live)-My Morning Jacket.

Dec 21, 2006

2007, more to report

After yesterday's post I realised I only scratched the surface on what was coming out in 2007. Thanks to More Cowbell you can read an exhaustive list here of some of the releases to look forward to in 2007. A few that have me salivating are Interpol, New Pornographers, Radiohead (sorry for forgetting them Sean), Gillian Welch and The Wrens. Thanks for comments, any more suggestions are welcome. Most exciting Australian release I think would have to be Architecture in Helsinki. But the three i omitted yesterday that have definite details and should be big next year are the following-

You, You're a History in Rust-Do Make Say Think
The image at the top of the post is the cover for this extraordinary Toronto band's fifth record. Their previous "Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn" is a superb example of stunning Instrumental guitar work, so hopefully the new one will measure up upon its release in late February on the excellent Constellation Records label.

National Anthem of Nowhere-Apostle of Hustle
Sean has already posted on this, but for any fan of the thriving Toronto scene its worth talking about again. Andrew Whiteman's (Broken Social Scene) follow up to "Folkloric Feel" will hopefully see him reach a bigger audience, he is a remarkable guitarist.

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank-Modest Mouse
I have no earthly idea how i forgot this upcoming release from one of my favourite bands. After their long overdue exposure with "Good News..." I just hope Isaac and the boys can retain that fierce desire to write good songs and not become lazy. Here is a live version of a new song.
MP3: We've Got Everything

Dec 20, 2006

Looking forward to 2007

As the year draws to a close and we look forward to Christmas, i thought it would be fun to check out what we have coming up in 2007. But first, I noticed Pitchfork Media produced their list of Top 50 Albums of 2006 today. I check in with Pitchfork every day, i find it a good source of news and i do enjoy their generally well written reviews. Sometimes they bash a band I like and they seem to dislike Bloggers, but on the whole they seem to get it right and if you don't agree with them, then hey it's just another opinion. On the whole i found myself nodding my head in agreement with their choices, except i expected to see Aloha and Final Fantasy. My only major issue is with the choice of "Silent Shout" as number one. I'll admit i don't own this album and I have only heard about half the tracks, but they did nothing for me, just cold, soulless, repetitive music. Maybe I'm wrong, can someone help me out?

So onto 2007, I think i will be catching up on records I missed this year and going to plenty of shows, but there are big releases on the horizon and here are some I'm excited for-

Wincing the Night Away- The Shins
Due for release in late January the masters of pop return for their third full length. They have a lot to live up after their first two shimmering releases but the reports seem good on this.
MP3: Phantom Limb.

Some Loud Thunder-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Also due for release in late January, the wunderkids of 2005 return with their second effort, seemingly waiting for the backlash. I for one am rooting for them, I loved their first record, I admire their independent stance and I think Alec Ounsworth has and is a unique voice.
MP3: Underwater (You and Me)

Friend and Foe- Menomena
This is one I'm really excited about, this Portland, Oregon trio make unique music which is very hard to pin down. Due in January, I think this will give them a much bigger audience.
MP3: Wet and Rusting

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone-Explosions in the Sky
This Austin, Texas quartet make music which just flattens me, their instrumental sounds are shattering and exciting, so a February release has me quivering already.
MP3: Welcome, Ghosts

Cassadaga- Bright Eyes
The Omaha prodigy returns in April with his first in two years, again another artist that some people seem to like taking a shot at, why do people enjoying hating?, this hopefully will see Conor continue to grow. Helped by M. Ward and Gillian Welch, I haven't heard a track yet.

Drums And Guns- Low
Dave Fridmann is back to produce the Minnesota natives eighth full length. Again i haven't heard anything but Sub Pop say it will satisfy Low fans.

???????????-Voxtrot
I shouldn't include this but the very thought of a debut full length Voxtrot album just has me spinning. Apparently they are recording now and hopefully will have something out in 2007.
This track is just a demo version they are hosting and probably won't be included on the album.
MP3: Sway

Neon Bible- The Arcade Fire
How do you possibly follow up "Funeral", an absolute all time classic. Well let's hope the Montreal giants can do it. The weight of expectation will be huge, but I have everything crossed that they can deliver the goods. The first sneak preview track has my seal of approval.
MP3: Intervention

  • So there is plenty to look forward to, plus there are new albums on the horizon from Bloc Party, Of Montreal, Deerhoof, Calla, RJD2, Andrew Bird, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, amongst others. Also newies from Spoon, Wilco and Wolf Parade are rumoured. What have you heard or are excited about coming out?

Dec 17, 2006

Best 40 Albums of 2006

2006 will go down for me as the year of Spencer Krug. Wolf Parade's "Apologies to the Queen Mary" was my pick of 2005 and my favourite songs off that record were Spencer's, although i loved Dan Boeckner's input as well. So for Spencer to be involved in two of my favourite albums of the year gone by makes him my man of the year.
So before i get to my list a few observations I'd like to make-
  • I have only been writing for a couple of months so I'd love to thank anyone out there who has dropped by or left a comment, I really appreciate anyone finding the time to read this.
  • A lot of bloggers seem to debate over best vs. favourite, they seem to be the same to me, your favourite records have to the best, just stick to what you love i think.
  • I have seen a lot of shows this year but without doubt the best i saw was Broken Social Scene at the Metro, just a life changing show for me. Other ones I enjoyed were Sleater-Kinney, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Dears, TVOTR, Death Cab For Cutie, Okkervil River, Jason Molina, Animal Collective, Midlake, Band of Horses and New Pornographers.
  • I haven't included EPs on this list, so Voxtrot, Little Ones, Lovely Sparrows, Tokyo Police Club and Born Ruffians didn't make the cut.
  • I decided to start at number one and work my way down and have kept the comments relatively short, I have also included an MP3 of perhaps a lesser known song off the top ten albums.
  • The first 3 on the list, to me are landmark albums that will stand the test of time and will continue to resonate for many years to come.
1- Shut Up I Am Dreaming-Sunset Rubdown
Hands down best of the year, will listen to this in 20 years, perfection, Spencer Krug has managed to create a record which sounds like no other, lyrics of amazing complexity and humanity, music that takes your breath away, and yet you get the feeling he could do it in his sleep, lucky bastard.
mp3: Swimming.

2- Return to Cookie Mountain-TV on the Radio
A beast of a record, soulful, funky, eye opening, a band that wants to make sure you are listening, Tunde's vocals will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
mp3: Blues From Down Here.

3- YS-Joanna Newsom
Breathtaking, ambitious, a quantum leap for the harpist, only 5 songs but they contain a complexity which is rare today, some are put off by her voice, don't count me in that group, and she's here in January.
mp3: Emily.

4- Some Echoes-Aloha
Sumptuous, intelligent pop rock, near perfect melodies, gets better with every listen, this band should have a much bigger profile, just love them.
mp3: Weekend.

5- Gang of Losers-The Dears
Welcome to Murray Lightburn's world, he offers a gateway for people who feel a disconnection with the refuse that is popular culture, epic songs of love, hate and regret.
mp3: Bandwagoneers.

6- Be He Me-Annuals
Absolutely stunning debut album, deserving of all the acclaim, layer upon layer of lush melodies, infectious grooves and great variety.
mp3: Father.

7- Everything All the Time-Band of Horses
Another great debut, although from experienced musos, will break your
heart with its beauty, contains "The Funeral" which is enough in itself for me.
mp3: St Augustine.

8- He Poos Clouds-Final Fantasy
Owen Pallett is a treasure, music that is indescribable, don't ever get comfortable with his music as you never know what he has in store for you, his strings will move your heart.
mp3: He Poos Clouds.

9- The Trials of Van Occupanther-Midlake
Midlake jump from skewered rock to lush anthemic songs that hark back to another era, if you don't feel better after listening to this record then I can't really help you.
mp3: Head Home.

10- Destroyer's Rubies-Destroyer
In a sane world Dan Bejar would be listened to on every radio station in the world, to say this isn't even his best work says something about his back catalogue, who else would open a record with the nine minute epic that is "Rubies", a song writer without peer.
mp3: European Oils.

11- Beast Moans-Swan Lake
Much anticipated, a meeting of 3 unique talents, a little uneven, but the middle section is as good as you will hear, challenging, dense, rewarding, could rise up the list in time.

12- The Crane Wife-The Decemberists
Their major label debut sees them retain their idiosyncratic charms, ambitious and clever, "The Crane Wife" cycle will move even the most cold of hearts.

13- Return to the Sea-Islands
The Unicorns are dead, long live Islands, pop songs that are so creative i have never tired of them, another Canadian treasure to enjoy.

14- Post-War-M.Ward
His best work yet, fully fleshed songs, running the full gamut of folk, country and rock these songs will have your heart and mind and feet all fully engaged.

15- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood-Neko Case
If there is a finer singer then Neko, i would like to meet that person, her country rock songs soar underneath her majestic voice, can't wait for the tour.

16-Skelliconnection-Chad Vangaalen
The Calgary native lives in his own world but has created something special with his blend of electronica, folk and pop, i feel his next one will be a masterpiece.

17- Gulag Orkestar-Beirut
Young American channels Eastern Europe and comes out smiling, beautiful and honest songs that feel like they are timeless.

18- You in Reverse-Built to Spill
The icons of guitar rock prove they still have plenty to offer, epic songs
with Doug's trademark riffs that still deliver, glad to have my band back.

19- Tell Me-Catfish Haven
Tell me what year this was made, doesn't matter, this just has to make you smile, George Hunter can sing with the best of them.

20- Ships-Danielson
Listen to this over and over and then tell me if you can remove it from your head, strange and beautiful all at once, Daniel Smith is a unique voice.

21- Gypsum Strings-Oakley Hall
Country comes to big city, a blend of guitar noise and country rock, amazing riffs and great interchange of vocals between Rachel Cox and Patrick Sullivan.

22- The Body, the Blood, the Machine-The Thermals
Oh if all music was this impassioned, this intelligent, power punk for a jaded world, would kill to see them live.

23- Get yr Blood Sucked Out-Viva Voce
Intoxicating blend of garage rock, blues, folk and pop from a two-piece that sounds double in size, and Anita Robinson's vocals will make you swoon.

24- Boys and Girls in America-The Hold Steady
Although not as great as Pitchfork made out, The Hold Steady carry the torch for intelligent, literate rock which isn't creating new sounds but still makes you want to dance.

25- Broken Boy Soldiers-Raconteurs
Time to make this your full time band Jack, honest hook-ridden songs that remind us what a talent Jack White is, oh and Brendan Benson doesn't do a bad job either.

26- Yellow House-Grizzly Bear
Deserving of all the acclaim it is receiving, Grizzly Bear make hypnotic music which demands your full attention, a couple of weaker tracks are outweighed by the great ones.

27- Meek Warrior-Akron/Family
Strange and beautiful, harmonies to die for, sounds like no other.

28- So Gone-Evangelicals
Only just discovered this, the Oklahoma trio have crafted a delightful pop record that will grow upon you with every listen, a band going places.

29- Granddance-Dappled Cities Fly
Australia's best band release Australia's best record, simple as that.

30- The Letting Go-Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Not the finest work from the songwriting genius but still is better then most
music released this year, unique and oddly beautiful as usual.

31- Micah P Hinson and the Opera Circuit-Micah P Hinson
Could be the next Will Oldham, this 24yo Texan has a great story to tell and
he tells it beautifully, stirring evocative music.

32- The Greatest-Cat Power
The perfect voice returns with band in tow, not as heart-breaking as previous releases but more joyous and soulful.

33- Robbers and Cowards-Cold War Kids
Great debut for this much written about band, contains "Hospital Beds", which is enough to make this list, bluesy passionate rock, augurs well for the future.

34- Bitter Tea-Fiery Furnaces
The brother and sister are creating music which sounds like no other, if only someone would edit their records, but there are gems through out.

35- Two Thousand-French Kicks
Escaping the hype, this New York band doesn't reinvent the wheel, they just deliver finely crafted pop rock with good hooks.

36- Ladyhawk-Ladyhawk
Southern rock from Vancouver, contains "The Dugout, one of the year's catchiest songs, these lads can rock with the best of them, Duffy Driediger's voice is amazing too.

37- Fading Trails-Magnolia Electric Co.
The amazingly prolific Jason Molina delivers another fine record.

38- Get Lonely-Mountain Goats
Hard to follow "The Sunset Tree", but John Darnielle still managed to create a very fine record with his trademark lyrics and unique delivery.

39- Oh No Oh My-Oh No Oh My
Catchy pop gems, similar to CYHSY, this now Nashville based band looks to have a very bright future.

40- Welcome Back Dear Children-Arizona
Eclectic, diverse record, delightful rhythm and melody, with great vocals, very promising debut.

  • these records i also enjoyed in some way in 2006 but didn't make my final list-
Drum's not Dead-Liars
Avatar-Comets on Fire
What the Toll Tells-Two Gallants
Song of the Blackbird-William Elliott Whitmore
Roots and Crowns-Califone
The Sun Awakens-Six Organs of Admittance
Happy Hollow-Cursive
Awoo-The Hidden Cameras
Springtime Can Kill You-Jolie Holland
Carnavas-Silversun Pickups
Mr Beast-Mogwai
Rabbit Fur Coat-Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Swift Feet for Troubling Times-Ohbijou
All This Time-Heartless Bastards
A Hundred Miles Off-The Walkmen
Appreciation Night-Bound Stems
Just like the Fambly Cat-Grandaddy
Are We Not Horses-Rock Plaza Central
Head Home-o'Death

Dec 16, 2006

New Pornographers @ Gaelic Club

To complete an amazing week of music at the Gaelic Club, or i should remember to say Theatre, Canadian power pop masters The New Pornographers put on a great show last night.
I find myself continually listening to their 3 albums, so i was very excited to see them last night and i was not disappointed. They started with a bang by tearing into "Sing Me Spanish Techno" and "The Laws Have Changed", two of my favourites. Other highlights were great versions of "Streets of Fire"and "Testament to Youth in Verse". They ripped through 15 songs in a hour before leaving the stage. The magnificent Neko Case used her soaring voice to great effect, taking turns with Carl Newman to belt out the vocals. They returned to play not one but two encores, taking requests from the audience, before playing two great renditions of "Execution Day" and the closer "Breakin' the Law". My only quibbles with the night, were i think maybe they could have throttled back a bit on the forceful approach to the songs, towards the end it was hard to keep up with the pace of it all. Also i thought at some points Neko's vocals struggled to be heard above the music. However all in all a wonderful night as i found myself singing along to every song and thoroughly enjoying myself in the process.

Set list (from memory-could have a few out of order)
Sing me Spanish Techno
The Laws Have Changed
Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
The Bleeding Heart Show
Mass Romantic
These Are The Fables
Testament To Youth In Verse
Streets Of Fire
From Blown Speakers
All For Swinging You Around
Twin Cinema
The Jessica Numbers
Its Only Divine Right
Use It
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism

Mystery Hours
Graceland
Execution Day

The Fake Headlines
Breakin' The Law

Video: Sing Me Spanish Techno.

Dec 15, 2006

New Arcade Fire

The planets must really be aligned at the moment, first we have Midlake, Band of Horses and New Pornographers visit Sydney in one week, then Neko Case is touring in January and now there is a sneak preview of a new Arcade Fire song from their new album which is apparently called Neon Bible. Thanks to Gorilla vs Bear, i found this out today. If you go to Neon Bible, you can ring a number and listen to the new track "Intervention". I tried it but it wouldn't connect, see if you have any luck. Here is a live version of the track recorded for KCRW, this is a stripped back version of the song, apparently the studio version has pipe organs and is quite incredible, anyway this sounds pretty decent to me.
MP3: Intervention.
Neko Case Touring

I'm so excited, not only are we privileged to see the New Pornographers tonight, but now the great lady herself Neko Case will be doing her own tour of Australia at the end of January. You can read a full report here. This is one show i will definitely not miss. Other great news is that her Austin City Limits show recently released on DVD will be getting a CD release in January. You can read a full report at Pitchfork.

Dec 14, 2006

New Beirut, New Songs, An Old One Too

Beirut's debut album "Gulag Orkestar" for me was one of the best releases this year. Vibrant, fresh and full of new sounds, Zach Condon returns in January with an EP, "Lon Gisland".
Here is the first track off said EP. Elephant Gun.
  • Another artist to keep an out for is Ola Podrida. Formerly from Austin, but now based in Brooklyn, its the brainchild of film composer David Wingo. His music is very quiet but moving. Sourced this news from An Aquarium Drunkard, look out for a self titled album some time next year. Go here to listen to some of the tunes.
  • California based Port O'brien have a new EP out named "Nowhere to Run". You can buy it from their website. I can highly recommend it. Here is a track from it. It sounds like Akron/Family with a little Arcade Fire thrown in. MP3: I Woke Up Today.
  • I love My Morning Jacket to death. Here is a track from an old classic, The Tennessee Fire I'd like to share with you. MP3: The Bear.
  • A lot of lists are popping up everywhere at the moment. If you want to it all in one hit I can highly recommend the enormous list that Largehearted Boy has put together. You can find that here. Also worth checking out are these ones at Refinery and Said the Gramophone. The latter is absolutely worth reading in full, the writing is truly superb.
  • Oh yeah, only one day until The New Pornographers at the Gaelic Club, do not miss this one, I can't wait.

Dec 13, 2006

Tapes 'n Tapes @ Gaelic Club


When i read a Pitchfork review for Minneapolis band Tapes 'n Tapes earlier in the year, my curiosity was piqued. They scored an 8.3 and were compared to Pavement. Now the Stockton slackers basically shaped my listening world, so i needed to investigate. Upon buying "The Loon" i thought, they aren't Pavement but have crafted an entertaining well written debut which has provided solid listening throughout the year. Sure they haven't reinvented the wheel, but i was keen to see them when they announced they were touring. Now they didn't provide the emotional highs of Midlake and Band of Horses but for one hour they gave their all and had the crowd absolutely in the palm of their hands. Singer Josh Grier even commented that he was glad to see an audience dancing and not standing with their arms folded. The rhythm section of Jeremy and Erik were very tight and Josh attacked the lead guitar with the same fervour as his singing. They opened with "Just Drums" and "The Iliad", the first 2 songs off "The Loon" which had the crowd hooked already. They then proceeded to play most of the tracks off their debut, except my fav "Crazy Eights", before closing with "Insistor" and "Jakov's Suite" which had everyone in a frenzy, so much so that one enthusiastic woman briefly flashed her top. My pick of the night "In Houston". Oh, also they didn't bother with an encore, played hard for an hour, left nothing in the tank, you can't ask for more. Will I be listening to them in 10 years, who knows, but tonight was fun.

More photos here.

Set list
Just Drums
The Iliad
Beach Girls
In Houston
10 Gallon Ascots
Icebergs
Buckle
Manitoba
Cowbell
50's Parking
Omaha
Insistor
Jakov's Suite

MP3: Cowbell
MP3: Omaha

Dec 11, 2006

Beast Moans-Swan Lake

To say i was excited when i first heard of Swan Lake's creation would be a massive understatement. Spencer Krug and Dan Bejar I consider to be two of the unique talents working in the world today. Spencer just floors me with his emotional depth and i could listen to Dan sing the telephone book if he felt like it, throw the in the unique talent of Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes) and it's a potential potent mix.

I thought I would be able to find a copy pretty soon upon release, but i've had to wait until now to hear the album in full, if you would indulge me i decided to do a track by track review-

Widow's Walk
A gentle introduction, then Dan comes bursting into song over pulsating guitars, which speed to a flourish at the finish, nice track, but not startling

Nubile Days
Spencer's first song, very upbeat for him, simple, guitar and voice to the forefront, with drums in the background

City Calls
Carey's first song, for those not familiar with Frog Eyes he can difficult, i like this one, nice keyboards, Dan comes in halfway through, so more of a group effect, this one will grow with time

A Venue Called Rubella
Dan sings, but it feels like he is singing a Frog Eyes song, so that is a nice combination, keyboards and drums combine well to give it an eerie feeling

All Fires
Blogged everywhere, this song is as great now as when i first heard it, Spencer's unmistakable voice is just perfect for this exquisite song about love and devotion, full of religious images, it has simple instrumentation but great emotional depth

The Partisan But He's Got to Know (mp3 removed)
Unmistakably Carey, bold, forceful featuring his unique voice, but then at 2.30 it stops and Spencer comes in quietly and the song builds, before Carey rejoins, very haunting song, then an overlap to-

The Freedom
Love this one, Dan's anthem in his unique way, his beautiful guitar, mentions "city of daughters", a previous Destroyer song, deliberate? who knows, if you like Destroyer this one's for you

Petersburg, Liberty Theater, 1914
Again there is no break from the previous, a quiet drumming leads to Dan singing quietly, before Carey joins in, almost psychedelic, the drumming continues throughout, hypnotic, dense and i think one of the three best tracks

The Pollenated Girls
Another Carey song, slow and rhythmical, solid but not spectacular

Bluebird
Crashing drums give way to Spencer singing about bluebirds, as cymbals and guitars duel beneath, a good song for most people but Spencer can do better

Pleasure Vessels
Very dense song with Carey's vocals buried in the background, heavy guitar chord at the forefront, a real grower, better with each listen

Are You Swimming In Her Pools? (mp3 removed)
Be still my beating heart, i think in time this will eclipse All Fires as my favourite, would fit nicely anywhere on Shut Up I Am Dreaming, it demonstrates Spencer's ability to write complex anthems that build and build until they reach an emotional climax. At 3.20 when Spencer almost whispers it really soars, the voice dominates the whole song over a hypnotic guitar line

Shooting Rockets
A mystery this one, sounds like Dan singing a Frog Eyes song, quite harsh in sound, a jumble of voices and sounds, this one could easily have been left out i feel

So there you have it, a complex, dense, stirring record, combining 3 unique voices. Will they do it again, who knows? My breakdown is this, 3 absolute pearls, 5 very good songs, 4 good songs and one that hasn't registered with me yet, which by my count is a success.

Beast Moans- i give it 8/10, one of the ten best records this year, with plenty of room to grow.
This review could undoutedbly be considered biased, because of my affection for the people involved but i am writing this as a fan and i don't mind showing my love.

If you don't like any of these artists involve, i suspect you won't like this at all.
Beast Moans demands a lot of attention and repeated listens to gain full benefit, I'm just glad there are musicians in the world who still dare and don't take the easy route.

Buy from Jagjaguwar or Insound.

Dec 10, 2006

Band of Horses @ Gaelic Club


" Early told a lie Afraid to be blind Now go for a while Shut off the world Shut off to all I'm yours I'm yours", these words from "Wicked Gil" i was incessantly singing to myself on the way home last night from the Gaelic club after seeing Band of Horses put on a joyous show. Thanks to the Meredith Music Festival, this week in Sydney is just a cavalcade of great bands, i think i should just camp out in Devonshire Street for the week. As you might know Matt Brooke left the band a few months ago, but main singer-writer Ben Bridwell looks like he has no intention of letting the momentum slow. With four other members, playing very tightly, they tore into "The Great Salt Lake" and "Weed Party" and the venue, although not quite full, was rocking. Ben was very amiable throughout, chatting away and seeming like just a very pleasant fellow indeed.
Playing a few new ones mixed in with most everything off "Everything All the Time" it was a great show indeed, highlighted by a blistering "Funeral". I think i'm a sucker for great American rock, in the vein of My Morning Jacket or Catfish Haven, gorgeous melodies, rollicking guitars and soulful vocals. The best music there is i believe, a great night without doubt.

I have a few more photos at flickr.

Set list
The Great Salt Lake
Weed Party
Our Swords
The First Song
Part One
a new song?
The Funeral
Wicked Gil
a new song (solo) ?- this was really nice

encore
Monsters
Too Soon? (not sure if this is new)
Chained and Bound (Otis Redding cover)- i could be corrected on this

MP3: Wicked Gil.

Oh also they have moved back to South Carolina, officially they are from Seattle no more.
78 SAAB were very good beforehand, melodic rock with a country flavour.

Dec 9, 2006

Midlake @ Gaelic Club


If you want histrionics from a band don't see Midlake. If you want strutting, showmanship and flamboyance don't see Midlake. If you want melody after beautiful melody do see Midlake. If you want intelligent, heart warming music do see Midlake. If you gather by this that i enjoyed Midlake last night at the Gaelic Club you would be right. The Texas band put on a superb show, highlighted by their wonderfully crafted songs that were warmly received by the lucky crowd in attendance. They started with the very sweet "It Covers the Hillside" before moving to the sublime "Young Bride". I was also pleased they played 3 tracks from "Bamnan and Slivercork", especially the joyous "Kingfish Pies". The music is certainly dominated by keyboards and singer Tim Smith moved effortlessly from guitar to keyboards through out the set. Of course they played "Roscoe" but i think the highlight was definitely "Branches" which just floored me. Tim returned to do "Chasing After Deer" in the encore which was delivered acoustically. They reminded me in a way of The Shins, in that they basically concentrated on playing the songs, with little banter. And also Tim Smith is similar to James Mercer in this way, master songwriters who seem very immodest of their immense gifts.

Set list- from memory so forgive any mistakes
It Covers the Hillside
Young Bride
In This Camp
Balloon Maker
Kingfish Pies
Some of them are Superstitious
Branches
Van Occupanther
We Gathered in Spring
Roscoe
Bandits
Head Home

encore
Chasing After Deer
You Never Arrived

You can view more photos at my Flickr
MP3: Head Home

Dec 7, 2006

Arizona

This post is about Arizona the band not the state. I recently got my hands on this Brooklyn five piece's debut record and i am glad i did. I Guess I'm Floating really gave them big wraps back a few months ago, but since then they haven't received a lot of publicity. "Welcome Back Dear Children" is the name and i think the best way i can sum it up is eclectic. I posted on "Splintering" yesterday, a monster track, one of the best of the year, in my opinion. However that only gives a hint at the sound of the rest of the album. The opening track "Te Amo Tanto" is a gentle opening featuring Ben Wigler's falsetto voice, before giving way to "Some Kind of Chill" which is a languid, hazy sixties feeling song which is simply glorious. The band have managed to create an interesting mix of styles and they certainly don't let you feel bored. Another highlight is "Somersby", which features some great riffs and is one of their rockier moments. I certainly feel this is a very promising debut and Arizona is a band to keep an eye out for.
MP3: Some Kind of Chill.
MP3: Away.
Best place to buy is at Insound.
The artwork is from Inaspoon.
Also if you visit Milk Milk Lemonade he has some new tracks to listen to.

Dec 6, 2006

5 More Songs, CYHSY, Random Notes, etc.

After posting my favourite songs of the year the other day, i kept thinking of all the great songs i excluded, like "Roscoe", "Wolf Like Me", "Rubies" and many, many others. So i thought i would throw up 5 more songs to round things off, but i instead i have chosen 5 that are perhaps a little under exposed, although still very special in my opinion-

Splintering-Arizona.
A complex elegant song that really holds your attention throughout, this NY band have really carved about a niche for themselves.

You're Only Lonely-Micah P Hinson.
This song floored me with its emotional depth, a real grower, than it builds to a tumultuous finish, a rare rock moment for Micah.

Here's Your Future-The Thermals.
Short, to the point, music can still be made like this. Hutch Harris makes you believe.
"God reached his hand down from the sky
He flooded the land then he set it on fire
He said, "Fear me again. No, I'm your father.
Remember that no one can breathe underwater"

Grey Skies-Catfish Haven.
This song absolutely smoulders, slow sparse build up, then George Hunter barely whispers into the microphone, drums kick in, just a sensational feeling song.

Time That Bald Sexton-Danielson.
Unique, strange, exciting too. A slice of life, multi-layered, very rewarding.
"When folks refuse to see how much is too much
I shall turn away and to thee"

  • I'm sure in the next couple of days, the blogosphere will be awash with the new Clap Your Hands tracks from their forthcoming album, due for release at the end of January. If you go to their website you can listen to 2 tracks they have put up for free download in advance. I won't bother posting the songs here as i'm sure you will see them everywhere shortly. I for one, really enjoyed their debut album, and although the haters seem to be out there, i think they produce exciting music and i am eager to hear the new one, "Some Loud Thunder". As for the leaked songs, i really like "Underwater (You and Me)", a very melodic pop song, whilst "Love Song No. 7" is a bit of a curve ball, but i think will grow on me. One more thought, whether you like the band or not, i think you should admire their independent status, i think they are a genuine band and not some manufactured studio creation.
  • A ton of best of 2006 lists are appearing at this time of the year, some i have enjoyed recently are at Gorilla vs Bear, Chromewaves and at Wolf-Notes. For those not aware Wolf-Notes was formerly Good Hodgkins, so if you link to that site it might be time to update. Also Largehearted Boy has just put up a nice list today.
  • I plan to post my list next week, after this weeks slew of amazing shows, Midlake, Band of Horses and Tapes 'n' Tapes all coming up, should be great fun.

Dec 3, 2006

Best Songs of 2006

Ah, its December already, where does the year go. I have been thinking about the year gone as the time flies by. I have been working on my favourite full length albums, which i hope to post on in a couple of weeks, but i thought i would write about my 10 favourite songs of the year gone past. I know its an almost impossible task, narrowing it down to ten, let alone omitting all those songs that i haven't heard, but here goes anyway, in no particular order, except the first one-

This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life-Born Ruffians.
Insanely catchy, this Toronto trio have had me playing this song nonstop since i first heard it. It starts with the drums, crashing into the song, before giving way to Luke LaLonde yelps and howls. It will make you want to dance straight away, then before you know it, its all over and instantly you hit rewind.

Bleary Eyed-Annuals.
It starts with a guitar gently strumming, then joy sets in, adam baker starts singing and the pulse starts racing, so infectious, then at 2.13 the drums come in and the song goes up a notch.
"Green-leaf dawn implies something sweet in mind"

Hospital Beds-Cold War Kids.
The Piano intro just kills me every time i hear it, than Nathan starts wailing about and it sets the scene for a bluesy stomping killer song. Great combination of voice, guitar and piano.

Weekend-Aloha.
If you want to hear a perfect pop song listen to this one. Shimmering, intelligent pop with amazing heart and soul. What a killer hook, this band from Ohio just delivers in spades.

The Funeral-Band of Horses.
I just haven't tired of this song. Opens softly and slowly, then at 1.21 the guitars chime in and a song of melancholy that ultimately is uplifting will break your heart.
"I’m coming up only to hold you under I’m coming up only to show you wrong"

Postcards From Italy-Beirut.
Thank You Zach Condon. A charming glorious song, a total change of pace for me, but it sways and glides on the back of brass. Just simply beautiful.

Rise Up In the Dirt-Voxtrot.
Channelling the best of British pop, via Austin, this young Texan group show how to write a pop song that has everything a great song should contain. Sweet vocals, tight rhythm section and a killer chorus.

All Fires-Swan Lake.
Spencer Krug, can do no wrong, a heart wrenching song that encapsulates everything i think you need in a song, sparse but effective instrumentation, sublime vocals.
"All fires have to burn alive to live"

To Go Home-M. Ward.
M. Ward, Neko Case covering Daniel Johnston, enough said. Oh, one more thing he's touring here in January, heart pounding already.

Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings-Sunset Rubdown.
Pretty obvious but i cannot exclude greatness of this magnitude. This song is a journey of incredible depth, i think it will have the ability to resonate in 20 years.
"And if I fall into the drink,
I will say your name, before I sink.
So… don’t make a sound.
Don’t make a sound."

I realise there are tons of great songs that didn't make this list, but if you don't get something from these songs, then maybe we see the world in a different way. But I hope you enjoy.

Dec 2, 2006

Newish Midlake, New Menomena

Midlake will be here in Sydney in six days, very excited about that, now on top of that i was happy to hear the 2001 EP Milkmaid Grand Army recently. Self released and only selling 1000 copies, it now sees the light of day after the band's success in the past couple of years. Closer to the eccentricity of "Bamnan and Slivercork" then the lush sounds of "The Trials of Van Occupanther" it nonetheless shows off the prodigious talent of the Denton, Texas pop masters.
Here is the first track off the re-release.
MP3: She Removes Her Spiral Hair.
Buy at Amazon.

A record to have the pulses racing in early 2007 will surely be the Barsuk debut of Portland experimental trio Menomena. Their 2004 release "I am the Fun Blame Monster" was a hidden gem of unique sounds. "Friend and Foe" looks to see the band continue their growth judging by the first track to get a public airing, Wet and Rusting.
Also how cool is the artwork by Craig Thompson.
MP3: Wet and Rusting.

Dec 1, 2006

Heartless Bastards

If all great bands have great names then this Cincinnati trio have won half the battle. Luckily their second release "All This Time" contains a lot of great music. The key to Heartless Bastards is without question the voice of Erika Wennerstrom. It soars, it whispers, it gets under your skin. You could compare it to Janis Joplin and you might be somewhere in the neighbourhood. Still the band play with some style, its real old school rock and roll, but it never feels cliche. I don't know but it seems something only American bands can do properly at the moment.
You can buy from Fat Possum Records, but i did find a copy at JB-HI-FI.
MP3: Searching for the Ghost.
MP3: Came A Long Way.
Live in the Lounge at WOXY.
  • Only ONE MORE WEEK until Midlake.
    Polonaise in winter Snowshoes and hunters
    Carry the goods in for you
    Darkness and forest
    Grant you the longest
    Face made for porridge and stew