Oct 30, 2007

OMG, Wayne is Stunned, Delighted, Faints With Delight, Needs Oxygen...

Well I am as happy as this kitten. This has been well reported here and here. But this is so exciting I just HAVE to say something. Firstly after the Big Day Out lineup became the Big Let Down (except for the awesome Arcade Fire), I was a little pessimistic about any exciting new shows in the new year. Bur fear not, for there is now an avalanche of goodness coming our way.

Today the St Jeromes Laneway Festival lineup was announced. Holy Cow, it is incredible.
Okkervil River
Kevin Drew
The Panics
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Presets
Dan Deacon
The Holidays
Via Tania
Little Red

Words fail me at this point. Tickets go on sale November 8.

The mighty Wilco are returning. March 18 at the Enmore Theatre. Yes!

All Tomorrow Parties' Don't Look Back series is coming to Australia. The legendary Sonic Youth will be performing their landmark "Daydream Nation" at the Enmore on February 18. More of this series is coming to Australia. November 1 will see more announcements. This is the same date that the Sydney Festival will announce its program. I just hope they have something special lined up. Please!

Just read on Pitchfork that the awesome Jagjaguwar have signed Bon Iver and will be releasing his "For Emma, Forever Ago" in early 2008. This album is currently out of print, but what I have heard from it is suitably awesome. So we will all get the chance to hear it in 2008.
MP3: Skinny Love-Bon Iver

Also received the new Zookeeper album in the mail recently. "Becoming All Things" is truly a magnificent piece of music. I look forward to giving it plenty of spins in the coming months.
MP3: Becoming All Things-Zookeeper

Oct 29, 2007

Dirty Dishes-Deer Tick

Live at Cakeshop, New York, during CMJ, on 18th October. This is "Dirty Dishes" from Deer Tick's new album "War Elephant" which I am quite enjoying at the moment.

Oct 28, 2007


Control is a stark and devastating portrait of a young man whose life was cut short by his own hands. The story is tragic and harrowing. Thankfully in the hands of first time director Anton Corbijn, this film about the short and sad life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis is beautifully handled. Filmed with incredible skill and care I was left feeling anguished by this biopic's crushing humanity and deliberate sadness. Admission one: I was and am a massive Joy Division fan. As a teenager I was struck by the agonising poetry and majestic music of the fabled Manchester band. So any film concerning this subject will be welcomed by me, but conversely I also have extremely high hopes that any film will live up to this lofty subject. I can safely report that the film is a resounding success, aesthetically and emotionally. As a drama of human crisis and as a tale of a band that took the music world by storm.

Anton Corbijn, the world renowned photographer, makes his first film about a subject he first shot back in 1980. His choice to film in Black and White is amply rewarded. It is truly a beautiful looking film, with many shots lingering long in the mind. It is obvious to witness the photographers' eye he uses to delicately frame each shot. Control begins in Macclesfield in 1973. Curtis is a Bowie obsessed student who writes poetry and seems to have some ambition to be a singer. It is here he meets his future wife Deborah, whom he would marry 2 short years later. The film moves forward to Manchester, where Curtis meets Messrs Sumner, Hook and Morris. Soon they would form Joy Division, welding the desolate poetry of Curtis onto the sparse arrangements of Sumner. The film does an excellent job of capturing the magic of Joy Division. In the many live scenes, the actors actually perform the music and they are quite accurate in their portrayal. The scenes are frenetic and passionate, unyielding and realistic. But this film is essentially the harrowing story of a young man who lost the will to live. He feels pressure from all sides. His young marriage is in tatters as he has an affair with a Belgian embassy worker, he suffers from epilepsy and he is having massive conflict with the growing fame of his band. Of course the end is tragic and by the conclusion of the film you will be left drained by the sorrow emanating from the screen. The cast, mostly unknown, is excellent. Sam Riley bears an uncanny resemblance to Curtis and he does the hardest thing for an actor. Enable empathy for a largely unsympathetic character. Because despite Curtis' enormous gifts, he comes across as a distant and sometimes cold person. He seems to invest no passion in his marriage and daughter. The whole exercise of performing live seems a battle for him, and yet you still care. For a young man who was still coming to grips with his adult life and circumstances. Samantha Morton is also impressive as his devoted wife Deborah, who tries her best to remain faithful to a man that increasingly escapes her touch. If you are fan of Joy Division this excellent film should serve as a reminder of their everlasting impact. If you are not, see it anyway. As this is an accurate portrait of an artist in crisis, one who succumbs in ruinous fashion. Heartbreaking.

"I could live a little better with the myths and the lies,
When the darkness broke in, I just broke down and cried.
I could live a little in a wider line,
When the change is gone, when the urge is gone,
To lose control. When here we come."

Oct 27, 2007

Ben Kweller @ Gaelic Club

Honestly, Ben Kweller is a great performer. Honestly. That is the key word. For Mr Kweller won't wow you with pyrotechnics or complex lyrics or breathtaking melodies. But he writes very solid rock/pop tunes which he performs with consummate ease and earnest passion. Last night at the Gaelic Club was just a fun night in the company of someone with the sole aim of entertaining you. And entertain he did. Jamming a lot of songs into a fast paced hour, he covered material from all 3 of his albums. Ably backed by a bass player and drummer, Ben switched effortlessly from electric to acoustic guitar to piano. The songs played on piano were definitely a highlight, especially a beautiful rendition of "Thirteen", which just followed the stunning "On My Way". I think I really enjoyed the slower paced numbers which were allowed to breathe, although songs like "Hospital Bed" and "The Rules" were great fun too. Just a fun night out, in the hands of a charismatic and enthusiastic performer.

Playing in support were The Holidays, who I missed, and Pork Pies, who I caught. Pork Pies is a solo acoustic project of Jai Pyne, singer of the The Paper Scissors. Despite only playing a short set, Jai demonstrated once again that he is without peer as a singer in Sydney. Apparently he is releasing an EP in 2008, which should be something to look forward to judging by the excellent quality of the songs he played last night, which also included a stunning rendition of The Paper Scissors' "Grammar". Just one other thing, his performance would have been more enjoyable if the crowd could just SHUT UP for one second. Please show some respect for the performer and those wishing to enjoy the performance. PLEASE!

Set List

How It Should Be (Sha Sha)
I Need You Back
I Gotta Move
I Don't Know Why
Make It Up
Fight (new song)
??? (new song)
Family Tree
Walk On Me
On My Way
Hospital Bed
The Rules
My Apartment
Red Eye

Penny On The Train Track

Oct 25, 2007

Two Gallants - Despite What You've Been Told

Wonderful new song from the latest Two Gallants album. Enjoy!

Oct 24, 2007

Emily Jane White

Allow me to introduce you to Emily Jane White. Quite simply, she sings like an angel. An angel streaked with equal parts darkness and beauty. If you listen to her voice you will become ensconsed in its glorious timbre, its unyielding stature. Emily is from San Francisco and she has honing her craft for a few years now. Collecting stories and memories, enough to fill her debut album "Dark Undercoat", which is to be released November 6 on Double Negative Records. Comparisons are always odious, but her voice bears a striking similarity to Chan Marshall. This will hopefully give you some idea of her style. And a comparison to the very fine Ms. Marshall can not be a bad thing. There is a quiet strength to "Dark Undercoat". Many of the tracks linger and swirl around your mind. Often slow paced, this lets you sink yourself slowly into many of the songs. This is never more evident on the slow burning title track or the stark "Dagger". Other stand out tracks include "The Demon" with its glorious piano and "Wild Tigers I Have Known" which has a strong emotional resonancy. There is quite simple instrumentation on this album, which lets the voice take centre stage. Ms White plays piano and guitar on each song and she has a back up of mainly bass and electric guitar with cello occasionally thrown in. "Dark Undercoat" is a fine debut album. Although there is probably not a great deal of variance between the tone of each song, they are beautifully performed and sung, indicating a bright future indeed.

MP3: Hole in the Middle
MP3: Wild Tigers I Have Known

Oct 23, 2007

Cotton Teeth-The Snake The Cross The Crown

" I wanna live on the stage, I wanna play the guitar, And I wanna get paid. But no responsibilities please. I wanna do what I want, And I wanna get paid." So goes the opening refrain to "Cakewalk", the stunning first track of "Cotton Teeth". It is perhaps apt, because this band does not seek glory, it instead delivers satisfaction and joy. This is the second album by The Snake The Cross The Crown, but the first I have heard. It won't be the last, because in a great year for authentic, organic music, this band does it as well as anyone. I have to say that "Cakewalk" is a superbly gorgeous opening. A plaintive cry floats over the top of gently picked banjo, before the song breaks out into quite heroic guitar jams. Thankfully the rest of the album is no letdown. This band has produced music with immense heart and substantial flavour. It is not revolutionary but it is evolutionary. The Snake The Cross The Crown are continuing that great American tradition of folk and country rock. There are ballads here, but also swinging tunes and deliciously subtle songs with tremendous artistry. The band has been honing their craft for quite a while, originating in Alabama, then California, but now (according to their MySpace) Transamerica. And you can feel it in their music. There is an expanse and breadth to their songs that generate great warmth and hope. This is best exemplified in "Gypsy Melodies", a song that Creedence Clearwater Revival would be proud of. Other highlights include the epic "Electronic Dream Plant" which features delectable piano and soaring melodies. Then there is "Behold the River", a ravishing song which is almost spiritual by nature. The vocals of Kevin Jones are very impressive too, showing tremendous range. Whilst his lyrics are not terribly intricate or complex, they are mainly stories and reflections, they definitely suit the music. So, if you are ready to move on from the latest hair cut or are sick of yet another inane remix this could be the band for you. If you desire more then a repetitive beat and are looking for songs which are rooted in the earth, then I can recommend "Cotton Teeth".

MP3: Behold the River-The Snake The Cross The Crown

Oct 22, 2007

Michael Clayton

I am eternally grateful that George Clooney uses his star power to produce smart, thoughtful adult drama. Michael Clayton, his latest film from his production company Section 8, continues that tradition. It is a film well told, adroitly acted and occasionally insightful. Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a "fixer" for a monolithic New York law firm. He was previously an attorney of distinction, but for 15 years he has done the jobs needed for his employers, expediting situations and making sure their clients' needs are met. His latest task is to protect and shepherd Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), a high powered Attorney who has come to the end of his tether. Edens has been defending UNorth, an agrochemical company, for six years against a $3 Billion Class Action. Although a superb lawyer, he is sickened by the corporate machine he is defending and suffers a nervous breakdown. As Clayton enters this murky world, he starts to question his world too. UNorth is a multinational giant, whose chief counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) is going to any measures to ensure the viable future of her employer. This is a story of corruption of power, loss of ideals and shady dealings. It has probably been told before. Big corporations seek to crush the little people, that sort of thing. But this film still manages to tell it quite well. Having said that, the film is also the story of a man lost. Clayton feels like his life has become worthless. He has next to no savings, due to poor investments and a encroaching gambling habit. Also he is recently divorced, although a ray of light for him is his intelligent and thoughtful son, with whom he has a strong bond. I would describe this film as worthy. It is generally well acted, especially the mesmeric Swinton, and tightly directed by first timer Tony Gilroy. It manages to hold a measure of tension and suspense, whilst never managing to connect on a substantial emotional level. It is perhaps, one for the mind, rather then the heart. Still a worthy ambition, I would say that any film should aspire to.

Oct 21, 2007

New Music From Zookeeper

As the year starts to wind down (hasn't it gone quickly), there would appear to be no more absolutely essential releases to come. But, there are always surprises. And it would appear that Zookeeper have something special in store. Chris Simpson formed Zookeeper in Austin, Texas after a two year hiatus from music. After releasing a 5 song EP that was beautiful and touching in a lo-fi way, they now return with their first full length, "Becoming All Things". It is due for release on November 6 on Belle City Pop. Judging by the first two songs to hit the universe, it is certainly one to look forward to. These two songs are full of heart and soul. A glorious blend of folk and rock. I can particularly recommend the title track, quite majestic.

MP3: Trumpets-Zookeeper
MP3: Becoming All Things-Zookeeper

Some other tunes spinning at the moment-
MP3: Islands Forever-Siberian
MP3: Truck-The Octopus Project
MP3: For Emma-Bon Iver
MP3: A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise-Phosphorescent
MP3: Guns of Navarone-Maritime
MP3: That's That-Cass McCombs
MP3: 2080-Yeasayer

Oct 19, 2007

Cruel Guards-The Panics

"Cruel Guards" is the third album from The Panics and it is most assuredly a triumph. Mature, sprawling, soulful and grandiose it is definitely one of the best releases by an Australian artist in 2007. Hailing from Perth, there is a wide open feeling to their music, it feels like the perfect sort of music for a road trip. Just wind the window down and the let the glorious melodies wash over you. This album certainly begins with a statement, the majestic "Get Us Home" starts with a startling drum roll and sweeping strings before settling into a lush and beautiful song. Thankfully the next five songs keep up the quality. "Ruins" and "Creak"are bright and pleasurable. All jangling guitars and swooning organs, backing up the rasping vocals of Jae Laffer. By the time you arrive at the heavily played single "Don't Fight It" (a grand song itself) you will be feeling content and agreeable. For this is music full of heart and soul with a certain element of earthiness thrown in for good music. And although these songs soar, lyrically there is an air of melancholy. Themes run through out the music of lost and finished relationships, regret and broken history. Decay and dissolution. I believe this combination gives the music a certain gravitas that will certainly give the songs a long shelf life. Perhaps one criticism is that after a stellar opening run of six songs, the concluding 4 songs, whilst good are not of the same quality. Still, the album is certainly a pleasure to be enjoyed. It actually reminded me, in tone and texture of the classic Australian music of The Church and The Triffids. This can not be a bad thing, can it?

Cruel Guards is now out on Dew Process and you can listen to the album here.

Oct 18, 2007

Away From Her

Away From Her is comparatively simple but eternally complex. More importantly it is numbingly tender, deeply moving and impeccably acted. This outstanding film represents the directorial debut from the gifted Canadian actress Sarah Polley. She also wrote the screenplay, based on a short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro. Polley has done a remarkable job, eschewing all artifice to create a realistic and touching look at a couple enduring the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been married for 44 years, but recently she has become forgetful and distant as the disease takes hold of her. He is happy to support her in anyway, but she feels a burden to him. So she takes the step of placing herself in Meadow Lake, a care facility. As each day passes she forgets more and her relationship with her caring husband becomes a distant memory. As this happens she forms another relationship with fellow patient Aubrey (Michael Murphy). An action that her husband somehow rationalises as he realizes that their world together is in inevitable decline. This film is short on plot, but overflowing on character. We witness a story about the bonds the love, the slow erasure of memory, the passing of time. As stated, the acting is superb. Christie is elegant and moving as the brave wife whose life is slipping away from her. Pinsent is great beyond words as the stoic, supportive husband. Whilst Murphy, an Altman regular, is remarkable in a role where he is speechless through out the entire film. Thankfully this film is far from maudlin. It has moments of wry humour and conversations that are so realistic you feel like you have just stumbled into them half way through. A film with a big heart and a clear mind, it is a stark and direct reminder of the power of cinema.

Oct 17, 2007

The Panics - 'Don't Fight It'

Wonderful song from one of the best Australian albums of 2007. Buy "Cruel Guards", you won't be disappointed.

Oct 16, 2007

Is Person Pitch The Greatest Album Of 2007?; Pitchfork Thinks So, Debate!; And A Quick Peek Into The Future

Reviews and ratings. Opinions and ideas. We all have them and they are equally valid. Despite the sometimes shrill objections to Pitchfork reviews, I think on the whole they are generally well thought out and considered. Do I agree with them all? No. Are they sometimes obtuse and pretentious? Yes. Do they often favour pure experimentalism over pure song writing? Definitely. But, in the end they are just opinions and they often hit the mark and create debate. Just today they gave "In Rainbows" a 9.3. As I have stated I think the praise generally for this record is a little over the top. I like it but it's not making me need to return to it continually. I would say it is over rated, but I often think people misconstrue that phrase. You can still like something, but say it is over rated. I think that just means you think general public perception is way too high. So I went through the Pitchfork files and have compiled a list of the top scores given out through the year. I used 8.5 as a starting point. Panda Bear's "Person Pitch" is so far the top score and I can't disagree with that, as I believe it to be a sublime work of artistic genius. As there are no more major releases on the horizon, it might stay at the top. You can probably guess my number one record of the year (hint: it's Canadian) but "Person Pitch" will rank extremely highly. There are plenty of fine albums that scored between 7.5 and 8.5 including "Neon Bible" and some albums that I love I think are under rated, especially "Plague Park" (7.2, this must be a joke). Also every album I review or listen to are ones I bought, so there are always plenty of albums that I haven't listened to. And might never get around to.

So a list of the top scores so far in 2007 (my thoughts in brackets)

9.4 Person Pitch-Panda Bear (spot on)
9.3 Strawberry Jam-Animal Collective (spot on)
9.3 In Rainbows-Radiohead (too high)
9.2 Sound of Silver-LCD Soundsystem (too high)
9.1 Mirrored-Battles (too high)
9.0 Night Falls Over Kortedala-Jens Lekman (no idea)
9.0 From Here We Go Sublime-The Field (no idea)
8.9 Kala-M.I.A. (no idea)
8.9 Friend Opportunity-Deerhoof (way too high)
8.9 Cryptograms-Deerhunter (no idea)
8.8 The Reminder-Feist (about right)
8.8 Fluorescent Grey EP-Deerhunter (no idea)
8.7 The Stage Names-Okkervil River (about right)
8.7 Graduation-Kanye West (absolutely no idea)
8.7 Spiderman of The Rings-Dan Deacon (no idea)
8.7 Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band EP-Joanna Newsom (a little high)
8.7 Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?-Of Montreal (too high)
8.6 Boxer-The National (too low)
8.6 The Shepherd's Dog-Iron & Wine (a little high)
8.6 Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters-The Twilight Sad (too high)
8.6 You Follow Me-Nina Nastasia & Jim White (no idea, but I want to buy this)
8.6 And Their Refinement of the Decline-Stars of the Lid (no idea)
8.5 Random Spirit Lover-Sunset Rubdown (way too low)
8.5 Liars-Liars (a little high)
8.5 Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga-Spoon (too low)
8.5 Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper (about right)
8.5 Return of the Mac-Prodigy (Mobb Deep) (absolutely no idea)
8.5 Friend and Foe-Menomena (too low)
8.5 Disco Romance-Sally Shapiro (huh?)
8.5 Tears of the Valedictorian-Frog Eyes (a little low)

Well, that is a lot of "no ideas" and I buy a hell of a lot of music. My thoughts on the year will be revealed in December. And I think it has been an amazing year in music.

The future...
As said before I don't see any major releases for the rest of the year, although I still have CDs on order that I haven't listened to yet. Including albums by Two Gallants, Deer Tick and a few others. Here are some albums that might interest in the upcoming months and some monster releases that we can anticipate in 2008...
October 2007
Hello, Avalanche-The Octopus Project
Little Amber Bottles-Blanche
Smith-Tokyo Police Club
November 2007
Hvarf/Heim-Sigur Ros
Shelter From The Ash-Six Organs of Admittance

Covers II-Cat Power
The Bedlam in Goliath-The Mars Volta
Do You Like Rock Music?-British Sea Power
Heartland-Final Fantasy
(Untitled)-Stephen Malkmus
In The Future-Black Mountain
(Untitled)-The Mountain Goats
(Untitled)-Wolf Parade

Oct 15, 2007

Cease To Begin-Band Of Horses

Voices connect. Voices move us. Voices make us glow with kindness and affection. Which voices? Whose voices? Sometimes you can't describe it, you just know. Well know this, I love Ben Bridwell's voice. Its high, lilting refrains melt my core. If Band of Horses had a different singer, a lesser singer, they would still be good, but they would not separate themselves from the pack. Thankfully Mr. Bridwell's pipes are soft and gorgeous. Heartfelt and tender. Last year "Everything All The Time" was on high rotation for most of the year. If for only one reason. It made me feel good. Its majestic harmonies and captivating melodies were combined with jangling, foot stomping guitar chords. A winning combination. Now they return with the dreaded second album, "Cease To Begin". Will it change your life? No. But it will beguile and charm you and once again give you those warm and fuzzy feelings that good music delivers. Sometimes that's good enough isn't it? Well written songs with their hearts on their sleeves and their passion in the right place.

The eternally simple but oh so effective "Is There Is A Ghost" kicks things off and its simple repeated refrain will entice right through to its ecstatic end. My favourite track follows, the quite glittering "Ode to LRC", which is a beautifully sung song about small towns. Its oft repeated line "The World Is Such a Wonderful Place" will melt even the most cynical heart. It's delivered with not a hint of sarcasm and I think that is the key to this band. Their songs are quite simple in structure but there is an underlying charm and purity of heart that is hard to resist. There are some other grand ballads on show here. "No Ones Ever Gonna Love You" and "Marry Song" are both honest and sincere. There are also some up tempo numbers, that while they don't have the pure magnetism of a "Wicked Gil" or "Great Salt Lake", are still quite effective. Probably the best effort is "The General Specific". Although it probably doesn't hit quite the heights of their debut, "Cease To Begin" is a fine follow up. The combination of glorious vocals and jangling guitars still makes for a good recipe. If you taste It, I think you will find its charms enticing.

MP3: Is There A Ghost

Oct 14, 2007

One Year On; Whalebones and Stuff; Radiohead (They Seem Popular); La-La-La-La-La-La

This is actually a day late, but what the hell. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of myself starting this blog. It's been quite a ride and I have received so much pleasure and joy and I have many people to thank. First off, my nephew basically built this thing and this wouldn't exist without him. There are also a few close friends who encouraged me and pushed me into starting this. I am so glad they did. The basic idea that I would just write about my passions in life has been quite thrilling for me. The best thing though is the fact that I have made many friends through my humble writings. Some in person and some through the World Wide Web. This has been so gratifying on so many levels. To live and work in basically mainstream society you sometimes wonder if you are only one who listens to the music you do, sees the movies you do, have similar outlooks on life. Now I know I was not alone. I feel that I have become part of a bigger community that appreciates creation, originality and beauty. Animal Collective, not Australian Idol. Half Nelson, not Harry Potter. So to all those people who have linked to me or left comments or just passed by, I sincerely thank you. For regular readers you probably realise I have quite a fixation for all things Spencer Krug. Well I have been thinking lately, thanks to a very special person who I met through this blog, that "I'll Believe In Anything" is quite possibly my favourite song ever. It encapsulates everything I want from a song. Thrilling beyond belief, lyrically heart stopping, profoundly original, musically inventive and just basically an affirmation of life. I just wanted to share this with you. I actually think a song this good, deserves its own post, something for the future.

So anyway, Spencer is touring Sunset Rubdown again on the back of his opus genii "Random Spirit Lover" and he has already produced a new song (pictured above, lyrics sheet from a show this week in Brooklyn). It could be called "Icarus" and it is understandably magnificent. A fantastic site called Trendwhore has a recording of their show at Pop Montreal. This is a great site for wonderful recordings of so many great artists. The recent taping of a The National show is especially breathtaking. When are they going to announce a Sydney show by the way?
MP3: Icarus (live) -Sunset Rubdown

Whalebones are from Seattle. Quite frankly they are very exciting. Raw and rugged, wild and woolly. Big sounds, big ideas. I have just ordered their second EP "Morning Man" from Lucky Horse Industries. Here are a couple of tracks that you should like if you desire music with passion and grandiosity.
MP3: Blood Bank-Whalebones
MP3: Don't You Know-Whalebones

Bon Iver is a name I have been seeing pop up on many blogs lately. After doing some further investigation I found Bon Iver is Justin Vernon and he recorded his album "For Emma, Forever Ago" recently in Wisconsin. What I have heard of the album is starkly beautiful and extremely tender. The album is currently unavailable, but with all the good press he has received recently it looks like hopefully a wider release is on the way.
MP3: Skinny Love-Bon Iver

This is just a recommendation. Ariana Lenarsky is a young singer from California. Her recent history includes singing some vocals on "Ash Wednesday", the wonderful album from Elvis Perkins. She is currently unsigned, but has some wonderful songs up on her Myspace. Worth checking out if you like music in the style of Joni Mitchell or Fiona Apple.

Unless you live under a rock or in a cave you would realise by now that Radiohead have released a new album "In Rainbows" this past week. It has been quite exciting to read all the reactions and I do admire the band's original idea of producing and distributing their music. It does seem that is has obliterated most other music news this week. Which I think is a shame for an album like "Random Spirit Lover" which I believe is a vastly superior piece of work. My reasons for saying that; I think "In Rainbows" is very good but not the masterpiece that it seems to be getting praise for. I am what you might call a Radiohead admirer but not lover. I do have all their albums, except "Pablo Honey", and I seem to have different opinions to most people on their body of work. I think "OK Computer" is a seminal album of lasting influence but I think "The Bends" is better (It contains my favourite RH song, Fake Plastic Trees). I find "Kid A" a cold and distant listening experience but I love "Amnesiac" (Pyramid Song is amazing). And "Hail to the Thief" just did nothing for me. So my thoughts on "In Rainbows". I think it doesn't contain a bad song, but I don't feel there are many great songs. The two that I think are great are "Videotape" and "Reckoner". I was told "Nude" was unbelievable but it's not living up to the billing at the moment for me. I think for me, the album lacks that earthly, soulful, gritty feeling that I search for. Probably a song like "All I Need" approaches that feeling and it continues to grow on me. So I will probably look out for rocks through my window for criticising the critic proof Radiohead, but this is my considered opinion. A fine album from a landmark band, but not one that is moving me deeply. Just my opinion, but if you want revolutionary sounds pick up a copy of "Strawberry Jam".

Oh, one last thing. The new Panics album is seriously good. I can recommend you buying "Cruel Guards" when the chance avails itself. Make sure you catch them on their national tour with the wonderful Whitley.
Beirut - Cliquot - From the Flying Club Cup

If you love music, please buy The Flying Club Cup. Here is one of the many highlights of the album. Owen Pallett sings on Cliquot on the album but it is Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste here. The Flying Club Cup have all the videos for the album available on their website.

Oct 12, 2007

Sunset Rubdown - The Mending of the Gown

Live from the Bowery Ballroom in New York on October 9. An almost acoustic version (no drums). Simply stunning. Further proof that Spencer Krug has left everyone eating his dust.

Oct 11, 2007

The Flying Club Cup-Beirut

Elegantly luxurious. Luxuriously elegant. Rich and beautiful. Beautiful and rich. Music of another era. Music for today. "The Flying Club Cup" (try saying that 3 times quickly) is like lying on a thick shag pile carpet whilst someone (hopefully the love of your life) feeds you strawberries dipped in chocolate. The second album from Beirut is rich in taste, full of warmth and deliciously effulgent. Whilst "Gulag Orkestar" was a trip through the Balkans "The Flying Club Cup" is a journey through France circa 1910. But fear not, for this is no dusty period piece. Maybe the boy wonder, Zach Condon can describe it best.

"I was listening to a lot of Jacques Brel and French chanson music-- pop songs shrouded in big, glorious, over-the-top arrangements and all this drama-- and that was in some sense unfamiliar territory to me. So I started buying new instruments and relying on things I wasn't necessarily comfortable with, like French horns and euphoniums, carrying these big, epic big brass parts that I used to do all on trumpets, and working with accordion and organ instead of all ukulele-- very much throwing myself in the world of classical pop music, I guess you could say."

The effort is definitely worthwhile, the arrangements on this record are quite superb. Lush and resplendent, displaying the writers' intent. For each song to evoke a different French City. There is a veritable orchestra of instruments on display here. Strings of every variety and horns of every sort, plus mandolins and organs and bouzoukis and many I have forgotten. On mostly every track Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy adds his exquisite Violin playing. He even takes the vocals on my standout song "Cliquot", august and triumphant. There are plenty of other great songs to sink into. There is just an effortless flow to the music here. "Nantes" will give you a good start with its vibrating rhythms and "A Sunday Smile" is effortlessly graceful. One song that is stoking my fire is "Guymas Sonora". It makes you feel like grabbing your partner and waltzing across the floor with a smile on your face and a hop in your step. Actually the whole album is perfect for slow dancing or just reclining on your favourite sitting chair. Other highlights are the sumptuous "The Penalty", the mournful "In the Mausoleum", the deep sighs of "Cherbourg" and the delightfully wicked title track to finish the suite off superbly. This is an album to savour, swaying with a glass of red wine in your hand. This music is not life changing, but it is definitely life affirming.

MP3: A Sunday Smile

Oct 9, 2007

Random Spirit Lover-Sunset Rubdown

A man. At a piano. Inspiration. A revelation. An irrational and unconscious burst of creativity. Where does this come from? Do the artists know themselves? Craft will only take you so far. Only pure and faultless artistic creativity will manufacture art of a supreme nature. In the wide ocean of musical endeavour there is lot of plankton and backwash and there are few shining beacons guiding us to shore. Sometimes a beacon shines so brightly it obliterates all that surrounds it. Spencer Krug is a beacon, guiding us all safely, whilst we try to keep our heads above water. In a world of 2 minute pop wonders, soporific charlatans and droning dullards Spencer Krug shows us all that one person can create art that is supremely intelligent, inventive and indescribably beautiful. If you thought "Shut Up I Am Dreaming" was a work of pure artistic gold, you were right. Well, "Random Spirit Lover" is even better. A manuscript of perfectly formed strokes, it will astound you with its profound depth and breath taking and glorious beauty. This is an album in the true sense, each and every song is in the right place. Each track seamlessly merges into the next, creating a tapestry of richness that is seldom achieved. Here is my track by track review-

The Mending Of The Gown
A joyous, triumphant song of tremendous momentum. This really kicks off the album perfectly, a splendid romp with great backing vocals from Camilla. This song name checks the album title and like many other songs on this masterpiece I still have no firm grip what Spencer is singing about. Just know this, it is beautiful and monumental.

Magic Vs. Midas
Quite, hushed tones greet us. Spencer barely whispers into the microphone over the top of minimal instrumentation. A song about deception and trickery, the piano here is just gorgeous and the drumming will sweep you away about two thirds in. This song continues to grow on me, Spencer's plaintive singing will scorch your heart.

Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days - MP3
A pounding, throbbing song. An instant classic, Spencer veritably spits out the lyrics of a man who has led the high life but who now has fallen to earth. When he sings "I’m the one who sat at your capture and let the snow fall on this whispering rapture" your heart might skip a beat. This song changes gears over and over till it explodes with delight. A blast of glorious ecstasy.

The Courtesan Has Sung
Rhythmical and syncopated, themes of actors and whores abound. Almost choral like, this song echoes back and forth. One of the best sounding songs on the album, it has an almost mediaeval feel. An absolute grower for sure.

Winged/Wicked Things - MP3
An epic song, amazing power is channelled through powering guitar work. Seems to be about the chaotic nature of love, but then what do I know? This is thrilling music, enough power to fill an entire energy grid.

Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns
In comparative terms, a lesser song. But still evocative and intriguing. Slow and ethereal, Camilla takes the vocals. Somewhat dirge like, it probably doesn't quite stand up to the magnitude of the rest of the album, but does serve as a nice interlude.

The very definition of a grower. A noble tale of a proud beast, this song builds and builds, starting gracefully with piano before ascending to an emotional overflow at the end. This song showcases one of the things I love about Spencer Krug. His songs are impeccably timed and when he hits an emotional high, he hits it like no one else.

For The Pier (And Dead Shimmering)
Sumptuous, epic and sheer heart palpitating resplendency. Delicious and delightful. A harp like instrument (zither perhaps?) kicks things off. This song shimmers and glistens before exploding into joy when Spencer sings "I'll be out until the shimmering dies" (goose bump time). To me this is a song of epic love and devotion, a cry of sacrifice and surrender. Beauty never sounded so good.

The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life
Yeah, we know, song of the year. Pounding drums and a clarion call will have your spine tingling. Epic is an understatement. A mystery wrapped in a riddle, full of humour and wit, at its worst it's guaranteed to make your head spin. At its best it will make your heart burgeon and burst.
"Will you live in the physical world?
With the sun setting low and the shadows unfurled
Can you live with the way they make you look unreal?"

Setting Vs. Rising
A breather, only a short song. Delightful and tender. A look at how you view the world. Do you see the sun setting or does your imagination picture it rising somewhere else. Glorious piano abounds on this song too.

Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!
A force of nature, a tempestuous outburst of cyclonic impact. Thrilling and threatening all at once, quite majestic and magnificent. The theme of actors return, seems to be about stripping an actor of his vestiges and asking him to walk naked into the world. Will quite possibly kill to see this played live.

Child-Heart Losers
A perfect end. Tranquil and unruffled, Spencer sighs and murmurs with Camilla backing him up. Indescribable beauty, I swoon with awe. I pause and hit repeat.

Complete and consummate. Majestic and monumental. Personal and intimate. A statement of beauty and elegance. A band maturing before our very eyes. A complete band too, drums, vocals and guitars all ably assist Spencer Krug in achieving his accomplishments. I think "Shut Up I Am Dreaming" was a more direct and personal statement, but "Random Spirit Lover" has many more layers. Lyrically the themes are stories of grandiose actions and epic encounters, but each line of each song has a meaning, that although mysterious, unfolds a personal story too. There is just so much on offer here. The attention to detail is impeccable and Spencer's voice has never sounded better. If you think he is just yelping and howling, think again. For his is a voice that clarifies, elucidates and illuminates. It is a vein of pure gold. Whatever you need from a piece of music "Random Spirit Lover" will deliver it to you in multitudes. The frightening thing is, I believe Spencer Krug has only scratched the surface of his innate talent to infuse us with his sublime gifts. Spencer, where did you learn to sing with such grace?

Oct 8, 2007

The Shepherd's Dog-Iron & Wine

For starters, I haven't had much Iron & Wine in my record collection. For no other reason then that I can't buy every CD released (although I do try). Although I was probably also a little hesitant to buy into another softly spoken type. But the reports were good that "The Shepherd's Dog" represented a change of direction for Sam Beam's music. Backed by a full band the bearded one was expanding his sound a great deal. So my verdict on his new record. I believe he has produced a well crafted, beautifully sounding album, with great attention to detail. Basically it is an enjoyable listen, but not essential listening in my opinion.

For those that have heard "Boy With a Coin", it is a fair representation of the fuller sound on display here. Its relentless clapping rhythm will easily get under your skin. Definitely a highlight of the album. The opening two tracks are also pulsating affairs, particularly "White Tooth Man" which features a pretty hypnotic sitar to drive it along. Certainly a feature of the songs that are expansive in sound are the exotic sounds that Sam Beam employs. There is touch of Indian mysticism and West African beats at work on several of the tracks, especially the intricate rhythms featured on "House By the Sea". Another feature of this album is the vocal of Sam Beam, his gentle lilting voice is very easy to listen to and, I think, bears an uncanny resemblance to Sufjan Stevens. However he doesn't have Mr Stevens' unique ability to pierce your heart and some of the slower paced songs have a similar feeling and therefore fail to register with me. Two exceptions are "Resurrection Fern" which is lush and tranquil and the closing track "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" which is heartbreakingly beautiful (see lyrics below).

I was a quick wet boy
Diving too deep for coins
All of your straight blind eyes
Wide on my plastic toys
And when the cops closed the fair
I cut my long baby hair
Stole me a dog-eared map
And called for you everywhere

Have I found you?
Flightless bird, jealous, weeping
Or lost you?
American mouth
Big bill looming

Now I’m a fat house cat
Cursing my sore blunt tongue
Watching the warm poison rats
Curl through the wide/white fence cracks
Kissing on magazine photos
Those fishing lures thrown in the cold and clean
Blood of Christ mountain stream

Have I found you?
Flightless bird, brown hair bleeding
Or lost you?
American mouth
Big bill, stuck going down

MP3: Boy With a Coin
MP3: Innocent Bones

Oct 7, 2007

My Day With the Hoff and The Stones (And I Don't Mean David and The Rolling Variety)

Last Thursday night I attended the first Folk Art night at Candy's Apartment. Presented by Dead Letter Chorus it was a good night of local music, with good tunes being played in between (they played Wolf Parade, a great sign if there ever was one). If I can digress for a moment, why does every pub, night club, public space seem to have as its background music a combination of techno, house, dance music or extremely lame r 'n' b. When did bad music become the soundtrack to our lives? I don't expect to hear Sunset Rubdown when I walk into a pub, but what is wrong with a song? How about a Beatles song or a Spoon tune? At least something decent. Something people can sing along to, you know, the power of song. Anyway back to Thursday night. The definite highlight of the night was a young band from the Blue Mountains, Painted Stones. Playing as a four piece, they revealed a great combination of acoustic and electric guitars, touching on various points of folk, pop and country. I really enjoyed the melodies they were able to produce and lyrically they were very strong too.

Well yesterday I somehow saw them for the second time in two days. I went along to the Hope Street Markets in Surry Hills, a place where young designers show off their wares. They also had live music upstairs, where I caught Painted Stones. This time they delivered a two man acoustic set and they impressed again. They started with The Mountain Goats' "Game Shows Touch Our Lives", a gutsy attempt which they managed to pull off. Despite a pretty rude and loud crowd (the bane of all music lovers) their set was full of delight and heart. This young band shows a real flair for writing songs and If you can, I would suggest seeing them live if they come your way soon. You can check out tour dates and some recorded demos at their MySpace.

Earlier yesterday afternoon I attended an event at the Sydney Theatre Company. This week their latest production Riflemind opens for a two month run. Written by Andrew Upton and starring Hugo Weaving, it is directed by the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yesterday I saw a screening of the Betrand Tavernier film 'Round Midnight. It tells the story of a Tenor Sax player who leaves New York to play Jazz in Paris, where he finds acceptance whilst still trying to battle his demons of alcohol and drugs. The film was very languid and atmospheric, but I found it lacked any dramatic edge. Plus Jazz music leaves me cold, it always seems to me about the notes played rather the song created. Anyway following the film Messrs Hoffman and Upton were involved in a panel discussion where they talked about the themes of the film and how they related to the play Riflemind. Themes of addictions in life, to music and other substances and the inability to let go of the past. If somehow you ever get the opportunity to hear Philip Seymour Hoffman speak, don't hesitate, just do it. The man has a voice like dripping honey, he thinks very carefully about everything he says and then he profoundly elaborates on his ideas. Honestly I could have listened to him speak forever. I really look forward to seeing Riflemind, just one wish, Mr Hoffman could you make a guest appearance?

Oct 6, 2007

Dr Dog To Tour Australia

I was quite keen this year to attend the Meredith Music Festival in country Victoria. But I was quite disappointed with the lineup announced, so I put that idea on hold. Now it has just been announced that Philadelphia's Dr Dog have been added to the lineup. I'm still not going but thankfully Dr Dog will be playing shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for your listening pleasure. Pleasure is right, for this band is all about that word. They create joyful, happy music, full of soul and sway. Their album of this year "We All Belong" has become a favourite to play in my household. It is uncomplicated music but it involves a bunch of well written tunes comprised of plenty of heart and passion. I think you should definitely check out Dr Dog if they play in your city.
MP3: Worst Trip

Tour Dates
Tuesday, December 11- The Zoo, Brisbane
Thursday, December 13- Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Sunday, December 16- Northcote Social Club, Melbourne

Oct 5, 2007

Control Trailer

Control opens in Australia on October 25. About the life of the late and great Ian Curtis, definitely on the must see list.

Oct 3, 2007

Whitley - 'I Remember'

Sean posted this recently, but what the hell. This brand new video, shot in Japan, is from Whitley's debut album "The Submarine". Australian album of the year, for me. Whitley are supporting The Panics on their upcoming national tour. Make sure you catch them both at the Annandale on November 16.

Oct 2, 2007

Arcade Fire Are Coming To Australia; Or Why I Still Won't Be Attending The BDO (In Other News, This Is Spencer's World and We Just Live In It)

Well of course by now The Big Day Out initial lineup announcement is out there for every one to see. My opinion is this. ARCADE FIRE ARE TOURING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The rest of the lineup leaves me pretty disinterested, however. First things first. It seems a "cool thing" for some people now to bash Arcade Fire. I have no idea why. I can tell you one thing, If you have seen them live you will be converted forever. Their energy, passion and sheer bravado makes them a very special band. I just hope that when they play a sideshow they will be playing at somewhere like the Metro Theatre or Enmore Theatre (nothing bigger please). This is the only place I will be seeing them, for the BDO experience I now find an uncomfortable one on so many levels. Plus I honestly think the lineup is a little lack lustre. I know Rage Against The Machine are there to sell tickets but reformations always smell bad to me and I know this appears sacrilegious but Bjork has never stoked my fire. There is an amazing amount of love for her but I just have never connected with her. Don't hate me for this, please. I guess LCD Soundsystem and Battles are cutting edge and highly praised but their music leaves me cold. I will see Billy Bragg if he does a sideshow and I can see The National maybe filling a slot now that they are touring at the same time. Ah, The National. I haven't been this excited about a band touring for a long time. In recent months "Alligator" and "Boxer" have been getting heavy duty play in my home. Please Matt, come and play at the Annandale or even the Hopetoun (a man can dream can't he).

So I could name a couple of bands that I would love to play at a BDO. How about Two Gallants (ferocious and passionate) or Akron/Family (their new album is amazing and they look great live). Then I thought, what other bands would I love to see somehow make their way down here shortly. Of course the legends themselves Built to Spill are coming in January. But who else should come. Here are a few more suggestions-
Explosions in the Sky (never seen them, they could shred my ears)
Spoon (hey, you said you were coming, how 'bout it Britt?)
Okkervil River (I know some one who is dying to see you Will)
Blitzen Trapper (hey, aren't they original and exciting?)
Animal Collective (Noah, I really need to hear Chores live, please!!!!)
Menomena (hmm, maybe a spot at Laneway would make sense)

Oh yeah- WOLF PARADE (above and beyond everyone everyone else. Why? Because this is the greatest band on the planet. See I'll Believe In Anything and die, I say)

Hmm, Wolf Parade. I think Spencer Krug is in this band. Do you realise that Random Spirit Lover is released next week? Locally, on Spunk Records. Believe me when I say this. This is music from another universe. My upcoming post on this thing of beauty could rival The Magna Carta for length. Pitchfork just gave it a very positive review. Although 8.5 seems a little low for me.
Pitchfork review
Recent interview with Spencer Krug

Some tunes to enjoy-
Winged/Wicked Things-Sunset Rubdown
General Lafayette-Ravens and Chimes
We Ask You To Ride-Wooden Shjips
My Tears Cure Cancer-Capgun Coup
Innocent Bones-Iron & Wine
The Hand That Held Me Down-Two Gallants
Wild Tigers I Have Known-Emily Jane White
Is There A Ghost-Band of Horses

Oct 1, 2007

American Hearts-A.A. Bondy

Quiet discoveries are nice. To find music that is not built on hype but instead the strong resolve of great song writing. A.A. Bondy I discovered courtesy of Pop Headwound and I am very grateful. For "American Hearts" is music beating with a strong heart and fiery spirit. For those of you that desire sounds that are pin fired to the broad canvas of pure American music then I can easily recommend this beautiful slice of music. Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama Mr Bondy previously led a band I know little about named Verbena, when he went under the moniker of Scott Bondy. This album was recorded within a month in Palenville, New York in January of this year. The end product is a soulful mix of folk and country. Sad songs of despair still manage to lift your spirits due to the gentle melodies and warm and generous voice of the singer. Some tracks are quite dark, such as the opener "Killed Myself When I Was Young" and "How Will You Meet Your End?", whilst others such as "Lover's Waltz" and "Vice Rag" are deliciously uplifting. The cornerstones of the album, for me, are the title track which is so earnest it will stay with you for days and "Rapture (Sweet Rapture)" which is starkly uncompromising. This is a great new voice in American songwriting, sincere and mature there is a quiet beauty at work here.

Available for purchase from Superphonic Records.
MP3: There's A Reason
MP3: Vice Rag
José Gonzaléz - How Low

From his new album "In Our Nature". I look forward to seeing him in Sydney in December.