Jan 29, 2014

Arcade Fire @ Qantas Credit Union Arena

If Arcade Fire didn't exist then someone would need to invent them. They are a crashing thump of endless humanity. A never ending well of excitement. A planet load of fun. There is a very good reason why they are considered one of the finest live acts on the planet. Each and every show feels like a special one off event. Each show creates a new disciple. Spread the word people, Arcade Fire are just something out of this world. Which I find curious, because I believe the whole is greater then the sum of the parts. Sure they are extremely talented, but there are weaknesses. Win Butler is a good but not great singer. Their melodies are sweeping but not especially intricate. Lyrically they range from inspirational to bombastic. But, but when you add it all together it's as good as music gets. And when you place them in the live arena it can sometimes feel life changing.

Arcade Fire, like most acts, have evolved over the years. In 2013 they returned with album number four in "Reflektor". The album, to my mind, was a qualified success. There were some great songs there but also some average ones. The band was trying for a sound that was more rhythmical with synthesizers taking a more prominent role. I admired their approach but perhaps not the execution. How would they play out live. Well, it worked and it didn't. After Win, Regine and Owen (yes that was Owen Pallett) opened on the side of the dance floor with "My Body Is a Cage" the band launched into the title track of their new album. This song has left me cold but live it grew another leg. Its deep rhythms pounding a hole in the dance floor. However I found "Flashbulb Eyes" and "Joan of Arc" to feel as stagnant live as on record. Wedged in between was the classic "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)". Somehow I think this was a mistake. I think this powerhouse would have better placed at the end of the night. But after this the night flowed with raging adventure and excitement. Win serenading us on piano with "The Suburbs" was superb and new songs such as "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) and "Afterlife" were quite stunning live. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" was just irresistible and "No Cars Go" near tore my head off. I think this was my highlight of the night. Of course "Rebellion (Lies) was received with rapture and the confetti during "Here Comes the Night Time" just added to the party atmosphere already created. By the time the all world "Wake Up" closed the night we were totally and utterly in the hands of Arcade Fire. Even in a large setting I felt an intimate connection to everyone there. Somehow, even as the band have gained a larger audience with every album they still manage to make you feel as if you are part of secret club that no one else knows about. That I think is their ultimate magic. Human glue.   

Set List
My Body Is a Cage (stripped down snippet; just Win, Régine and Owen in the crowd)
Flashbulb Eyes
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Joan of Arc
The Suburbs
The Suburbs (Continued)
Ocean of Noise
It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
No Cars Go
Keep the Car Running
Normal Person
Rebellion (Lies)
Devil Inside (INXS cover)
Here Comes the Night Time

Ready to Start
Wake Up

Jan 27, 2014

Colin Stetson @ Circus Ronaldo Tent

Sunday night was our last Sydney Festival event for 2014 and it was a great way to go out. Extraordinarily talented Canadian saxophonist Colin Stetson displayed a range of talents rarely seen. Anyone who knows me could attest to the fact that the saxophone is not an instrument I love. But Stetson plays the saxophone unlike anything I have ever seen. He uses circular breathing to create sounds that sometimes are unearthly. Frankly it's really hard to describe without you being there. Suffice to say that the music is entrancing and quite bewildering. He uses two saxophones, a bass and an alto. Both to great effect. Some sounds are hard and harsh, some are lilting and beautiful. All of it was unique.

Set List
Among the Sef (Righteous II)
A Dream Of Water
High Above a Grey Green Sea
Who the Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)
To See More Light
Part Of Me Apart From You

Jan 26, 2014

Cat Power @ Circus Ronaldo Tent

Cat Power is an interesting proposition. One of the greatest voices of our generation, she has produced music of the highest quality and some of the strangest and unsettling live performances of recent history. Many years ago I fell in love with her music and that supreme voice. Her songs were heart breaking and so real they hurt to be honest. But I had heard her live shows were likely to melt down in front of your eyes. And so it proved when I first saw her a couple of times close to a decade ago. She would stop songs halfway through, kneel down behind her piano and generally panic on stage about numerous things. In between the music was great but yes, so frustrating. We later learned that she was fighting various demons, some fueled by alcohol. She would in time clean herself up. Become more accustomed to the bright lights of stage. Confidence grew, but I also think the quality of her music went down. It felt friendlier, more likeable but nowhere near as compelling. When it was announced that Chan would be added to the Sydney Festival to play a couple of solo intimate shows I was intrigued and hopeful. Maybe this would be worth going too. The magic of the old songs combined with a new found confidence.

The result was somewhere in between. I attended the early show on Friday night at the Circus Ronaldo Tent. On the small stage there was a piano and an electric guitar. Chan Marshall, with short cropped dark hair, entered the stage and went straight into the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy classic "Wolf Among Wolves". It was a great start. A voice of such character and strength. But Chan still feels like performing live is hard work. She seems to lack confidence. A shyness you could say. She would fret over guitar tunings and microphones. Smiling apologetically, although the audience was offering nothing but encouragement. But thankfully these days the show goes on. No melt downs, just occasional lapses. Some songs, such as "Norma Jean, would start and then stop. But she gets through most of them. And boy was it worth it. Those songs. THAT voice. "Names" and "Maybe Not" on piano. "Say" and "Good Woman" on electric guitar. It's enough to make you cry. I felt like it anyway. Chan Marshall is a gift to us. It's sometimes hard to unwrap and you are never sure what you will receive but in the long term it will all pay off.

Set List
Wolf Among Wolves
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Great Expectations
The Greatest
I Don't Blame You
Norma Jean
Can I Get A Witness
I Found A Reason
Maybe Not
Shaking Paper
Good Woman
Baby Doll

Jan 25, 2014

Kurt Vile @ Circus Ronaldo Tent

So my Sydney Festival journey continued at midnight on Thursday night. Kurt Vile, this time solo, in the small and intimate Circus Ronaldo Tent in Hyde Park. This was my first time in this venue and it was a great experience. We sat on bench seats, tightly jammed together around an octagon shaped stage. It was late. I was very tired, but it was so worth it. Kurt was playing sans Violators with just an acoustic. He had an electric behind him but he never touched it. Instead relying on his exquisite skills on the wooden instrument of beauty. What a show it was.

Vile is an extraordinary talent. His complex finger picking manages to ply unique sounds from his guitar. His songs wax and wain, going through subtle chord changes and melodies. I think "Feel My Pain" and "Too Hard" were my particular favorites on the night. Although it was great and maybe surprising to hear the epic "Goldtone" performed solo. Plus we also received "Baby's Arms" on this occasion. Vile never says much, barely mumbling a few thank yous. But this man's guitar speaks for itself. 

Set List
Smoke Ring For My Halo
Ghost Town
Feel My Pain
Too Hard
Laughing Stock
Peeping Tomboy
Dead Alive
Baby's Arms

Playing Guitar With a Dead Hand?

Jan 24, 2014

Big Star's Third @ Enmore Theatre

Big Star. So influential. Almost legendary. Long gone. Well, sort of. Thursday night at the Enmore was a celebration of them and in particular their third album sometimes known as "Sister Lovers". I only came to Big Star in recent times. I had heard them name checked several times and I had loved the song "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements. But it was only in the last couple of years that I had delved into their music. Firstly "Third/Sister Lovers", then the earlier albums and finally the documentary released last year. It's a fairly tragic tale of course. Small band from Memphis releases debut album to much love and little sales. Two more albums would follow but not get a proper release until years later. Founding member Chris Bell dies at age 27. Years later two more pass away including the main man Alex Chilton. But drummer Jody Stephens and the music live on. The 'band' as such was Stephens, Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Ken Stringfellow. They were joined by a great string and horn section, plus Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey to round out the band. Throw in two great singers in Bret Harris and Skylar Gudasz and you have a fairly potent talent pool. But wait there was more. Allow me to explain.

Firstly Stringfellow opened the night with "Nature Boy". Then a parade of guest singers would be introduced to sing lead vocals on each of the album's tracks. Singers were local and overseas, each providing their own unique voice to these unique songs. Kim Salmon was great on "Kizza Me" and the simply amazing "Holocaust". The ever flamboyant Tim Rogers was rousing on "O, Dana". Kurt Vile only sang on one song. He needed a lyric sheet to ply "Stroke I Noel". He was good but I think his voice suits his songs more in particular. The great Chan Marshall (Cat Power) was sublime with "Nightime" and "Femme Fatale". She is definitely though still a strange presence on stage with her awkward mannerisms. But oh that voice. Dave Faulkner strutted his stuff on "Big Black Car". I think my favourites though were Mike Mills leading the way on "Jesus Christ" and Bret Harris nailing it on "Kangaroo". Then every one joined the stage to group sing "Thank You Friends". Some contributions were better than others and like most tribute nights it had a slightly shambolic feel. But there was so much heart and love on display that it was a joy to see these songs performed live.

After a short break we were given another hour's worth of music with a smorgasboard of Big Star tunes. Some worked better than others. My favourites were Harris on "I'm With Love With A Girl" and Gudasz on the completely glorious "Thirteen". She was also great with "Morpha Too". As was Tim Rogers flailing us with "Give Me Another Chance". Mills was also popular when he led the chorus on the much loved "September Gurls" before we were graced by Edwyn Collins on "The Letter", which Chilton had made a hit with The Box Tops. This was quite simply a satisfying night. Legendary music performed with much love and soul and heart. Who could ask for anything more?  

Set List
Nature Boy
Kizza Me
O, Dana
For You
Jesus Christ
Big Black Car
Stroke It Noel
Blue Moon
Femme Fatale
Dream Lover
You Can't Have Me
Thank You Friends

Daisy Glaze
I'm With Love With A Girl
You And Your Sister
February's Quiet
Back Of A Car
In The Street
There Was A Light
Way Out West
Morpha Too
Give Me Another Chance
I Am The Cosmos
Till The End of the Day
September Gurls
The Letter

When My Baby's Beside Me

Jan 23, 2014

Kurt Vile & The Violators @ Paradiso Sydney Town Hall

You don't enjoy a Kurt Vile gig I believe. You experience it. Best sometimes just to close your eyes and let the waves of guitars wash over you. Waves and waves of beautiful guitars. So Wednesday night proved as Kurt Vile played to a sold out house as part of the Sydney Festival. This was also my first time to see a show inside the Sydney Town Hall. They have dubbed it "Paradiso" and it was quite apt. Something special to see a show like this in a setting like this.

Kurt Vile's reputation has increased markedly over the last couple of years as he has gone from small time guitar hero to critically acclaimed guitar hero. With his Violators in tow this was somewhat of a victory lap, with an enraptured audience hanging on every drum beat and every guitar chord. It was a good move opening with the opening song from his latest opus. "Waking on a Pretty Day" is nine minutes of pure guitar opulence. A veritable feast of loping and sinewy guitar wizardry. Soon he gave us "On Tour", which was quite simply guitar greatness. But probably the highlight of the night was when Vile played two songs solo on his acoustic. The girl, who knows more about guitar playing than I do, commented that Vile plays his guitar with open tunings, which is apparently more complex and difficult. He certainly is a remarkable guitarist and this was definitely a sight to behold. Soon the band rejoined him and they assaulted us with the crunch and rock of "Hunchback" and "Freak Train". Then Vile closed solo once again with the majestic "Too Hard". As he sung "Life is like a ball of beauty that makes you wanna just cry, then you die" I think we all managed to melt a little inside.

Set List
Wakin on a Pretty Day
KV Crimes
On Tour
Jesus Fever
Peeping Tomboy (solo)
Feel My Pain (solo)
Freak Train
Too Hard (solo)

Jan 18, 2014

Best 50 Albums Of 2013

So, yes. It's a bit late. But here, finally is my final review for 2013. Albums. Yes, albums. Those long things with songs. Sometimes albums even have themes and are meant to be listened to in full. With a connection between each and every song. The way the artist intended. This review will be shorter than usual. As mentioned before I find time illusive these days. Time to blog is a hard thing to do. So many bloggers have stopped recently. I guess for a combination of factors. Fatigue. Time. Change. Growing older. I think I will continue, but not in a regular fashion. I still consume as much music as before. But I just won't write about it as much. So what did I consume in 2013. Plenty really. But one album stood above all. A near perfect blend of melody and melancholy, my two favourite elements in music. "Modern Vampires of the City" by Vampire Weekend was a sheer delight from start to finish. An album of surprising depth and supreme beauty. And those melodies. That production. What else? Local Natives produced an amazing second album. Spencer Krug returned with a heartfelt and emotional album that was simply superb. Kanye West dropped an album out of nowhere and it was a fiery statement indeed. American guitar gods made statements all year. Albums full of pathos and depth. Matthew Houck (Phosphorescent), Kurt Vile, Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall, Kevin Morby were great reminders to me why American music rules my heart and mind. In fact most of this top 50 was born in the USA. But that's how I see it. I really enjoyed some new discoveries this year. Mainly lo-fi quietly spoken albums. Such as Gambles, Mutual Benefit, Campfires and Jackson Scott. The Australian scene produced some gems. Dick Diver and Whitley in particular. I also enjoyed efforts by Bitch Prefect, Absolute Boys and Scott & Charlene's Wedding. And Nick Cave returned and reminded us all that there is still fire in the belly. Some acclaimed albums left me flat. I will never understand the appeal of Daft Punk. And the much anticipated Arcade Fire album swung quickly between and great and average. A mixed bag in my opinion. And Lorde and Haim somehow received huge acclaim. To me they were pretty albums with precious little depth. But all in all I would say 2013 was a solid year. One masterpiece. 8 or 9 great albums and a host of good to very good. And still we push on. Searching, waiting, anticipating. We already have new albums by Woods, The War on Drugs, The Men, Kevin Drew and Sharon Van Etten to look forward to in 2014. Keep it coming!

1. Modern Vampires Of The City-Vampire Weekend
2. Hummingbird-Local Natives
3. Julia With Blue Jeans On-Moonface
4. Wakin On A Pretty Daze-Kurt Vile
5. Muchacho-Phosphorescent
6. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You-Neko Case
7. Yeezus-Kanye West
8. Sub Verses-Akron/Family
9. MCII-Mikal Cronin
10. New Moon-The Men
11. Destruction In Yr Soul-Hospital Ships
12. Harlem River-Kevin Morby
13. Soft Will-Smith Westerns
14. Trouble Will Find Me-The National
15. Monomania-Deerhunter
16. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace and Magic-Foxygen
17. Calendar Days-Dick Diver
18. Pedestrian Verse-Frightened Rabbit
19. Sleeper-Ty Segall
20. Repave-Volcano Choir
21. Love's Crushing Diamond-Mutual Benefit
22. Old-Danny Brown
23. Trust-Gambles
24. Reflektor-Arcade Fire
25. Evil Friends-Portugal. The Man
26. Floating Coffin-Thee Oh Sees
27. Doris-Earl Sweatshirt
28. Wondrous Bughouse-Youth Lagoon
29. Slow Focus-Fuck Buttons
30. Even The Stars Are A Mess-Whitley
31. Magpie and the Dandelion-The Avett Brothers
32. Nobody Knows-Willis Earl Beal
33. Carrier-The Dodos
34. The Terror-The Flaming Lips
35. Caveman-Caveman
36. Carey's Cold Spring-Frog Eyes
37. Law And Order-Jonathan Rado
38. Push The Sky Away-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
39. The Silver Gymnasium-Okkervil River
40. The Beast In Its Tracks-Josh Ritter
41. Nightmare Ending-Eluvium
42. Overseas-Overseas
43. Blood Oaths of the New Blues-Wooden Wand
44. Fade-Yo La Tengo
45. Home Life-Andrew Cedermark
46. Temperate Touch,Tropical Tears-Stolen Violin
47. Kveikur-Sigur Ros
48. American Kid-Patty Griffin
49. Cruise Your Illusion-Milk Music
50. Afraid of Heights-Wavves

Jan 16, 2014

Best Of TV 2013

Television in 2013 again produced some real high points. If you wish it call it a 'golden era' then I'm all for that description. It was the final season of Breaking Bad and what a finale it was. A near perfect series ended with intelligence and the usual amount of tension. Mad Men, despite what a few may have said, maintained its high standards. 2013 was the year we finally got into Game Of Thrones. We watched all 3 seasons in a binge. It's quite addictive. Homeland I think jumped the shark. I watched season 3 but it wasn't the show of old. Ray Donovan and House of Cards were two new shows I really enjoyed. And Ricky Gervais returned to form with Derek. So yes, 2013 was an especially good year.

1. Breaking Bad
2. Mad Men
3. Girls
4. The Newsroom
5. Boardwalk Empire
6. Parks and Recreation
7. Portlandia
8. Ray Donovan
9. Game of Thrones
10. Shameless
11. House of Cards
12. Modern Family
13. Top of the Lake
14. Redfern Now
15. Veep
16. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
17. Derek
18. New Girl
19. Treme
20. Justified

Jan 15, 2014

Chris Thile @ Famous Spiegeltent

A very good friend of mine contacted me last week about a Sydney Festival show. We had tickets to other events but not this one. It was in fact one show I had marked as a 'maybe' but didn't buy tickets to. So I thought why not. Any show in the Spiegeltent is a great Sydney experience and hopefully the music would match the setting. It did. Genius mandolinist Chris Thile intrigued, delighted and bewildered us for over a hour. 'Twas truly a great experience.

Thile is a member of The Punch Brothers and formerly the now defunct Nickel Creek. His mandolin playing is hugely acclaimed and he lived up to the billing. It's hard enough I believe to play your own music, a blend of folk and bluegrass, for an extended period of time on a mandolin. But to tackle Bach would seem extremely daunting to me. Thile released an album last year covering Bach sonatas and partitas. So half of this show was Thile tackling Bach. And it was amazing. So intricate and complex. Truly astounding. He also plied some covers. A Louvin Brothers song and "Fast As You Can", the Fiona Apple tune. He also gave an unscripted unplugged encore on the steps outside, another Louvin Brothers song, which was a treat to be sure. Thile was also very charming and personable on stage. So all in all a great night indeed.

Jan 14, 2014

Favourite Films Of 2013

Somehow 2013 felt a mixed year for film. No absolute masterpieces but surely many fine ones. Not a great year for Australian film but some great releases in the American and European independent scene. Argo started the year by winning Oscar for Best Picture. Then later in the year Gravity proved that a big Hollywood film can be successful both critically and commercially. Terrence Malick gave us a new film and it divided critics. I thought it was pretty great although not his best work. Some smaller films I really enjoyed were Fruitvale Station, Mud and Short Term 12. But they just finished outside my top ten. My number one film of the year was one I saw at the Sydney Film Festival. It later thankfully received a small cinema release. Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell was an emotional and cinematic journey that stayed with me for days. There are a stack of films to look forward to in 2014. Let's hope for greatness.

1. Stories We Tell, directed by Sarah Polley.
A near perfect and deeply moving documentary from the great young filmmaker Sarah Polley. Polley has crafted a multi layered and very personal look at her family history, told with humour, pathos and perspective. It is warm, funny, direct and emotional. It is about stories and history and then so much more. It questions, probes and seeks truth in an original and enlightening way. Filmed with great care and heart.

2. Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee.
The most visually stunning film I have ever seen. The mix of CGI and 3D is at a level never seen before. The mystical, fantastical story of Indian boy Pi lost at sea with a Bengal tiger is wondrous and sublime. It's a fantasy film with heart and smarts rarely seen. It explores the various aspects of spirituality without ever becoming preachy. This is an easy film to love for many reasons.

3. Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Completely superb and totally endearing. A charmer in every sense of the word. Great Gerwig is luminescent as Frances, a young woman navigating through the travails of modern day life in New York. Her comic timing is uncanny in this finely tuned and impressively written gem of a film. Shot in glorious black and white it is honest, truthful, funny, sad and utterly winning. A win for heart and soul in modern day cinema.

4. American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell.
Ambitious and just flat out hugely entertaining. David O. Russell has done it again. He always tackles varied subjects and directs films that are full of flair, humour and heart. This latest one is no different. The cast is amazing. Lawrence and Bale are just flat out great and Bradley Cooper is perhaps even better as the FBI agent trying to entrap corrupt government officials. A great soundtrack just makes it even better.

5. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
High quality, compelling cinema. Kathryn Bigelow has directed her greatest film about the long process to find Osama bin Laden. Over 10 years we follow Maya and the CIA as they painstakingly follow clues and use detainees to finally find their target. This is slow burning, meticulous drama that treats its audience with utmost intelligence. A fine cast, led by Jessica Chastain, adds up to a satisfying and imperative film.

6. Rust and Bone, directed by Jacques Audiard.
Spectacularly honest and brutally real it packs an intense emotional punch. Jacques Audiard is a great film maker who has triumphed again. Marion Cotillard is superb as Stephanie who has to overcome an horrific injury. She befriends Ali, a brute of a man who is unloving but extremely compassionate. This film strikes a chord all the way through with its depiction of loneliness, belonging and trust.

7. The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Powerful, disturbing and compelling drama. This superb film depicts a teacher in a small Danish town who's life is turned upside down when he is accused of child sexual abuse. Mads Mikkelsen shines in the lead role as a man who is persecuted and left to fend for himself. Gripping and sad all at once this film will leave you angry at how lies are spread and truth distorted when better judgement should be used.

8. Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell.
David O. Russell has always imbued his films with a strong vein of humanity and offbeat kind of humour. He does it again here with an extremely well written and carefully directed film about mental illness and bonds of family and love. He has leaped into the mainstream, but still gives us intelligence and hard edges. This is not a romantic comedy but rather a tough drama with comedic touches.

9. Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino.
Bold, brazen, wildly funny. Exciting. Everything you expect from a Tarantino film and more. The story of Django, a rescued slave in 1860, set on revenge is a thrilling cinematic ride. Fox is excellent as Django as is Waltz as bounty hunter Schultz. This is filled with all the Tarantino trademarks. Snappy and intricate dialogue, perfectly staged action scenes and violence.

10. The Spectacular Now, directed by James Ponsoldt.
This beautiful and generous film exceeded my expectations. It is so honest and open that by the finish I was in open awe at its excellence. Sure it's another teen coming of age story, but this film is handled with such surety and skill. Sutter is the popular kid who's basically a goofball. Aimee is the shy intelligent girl who he accidentally meets. In the end, after many trials and tribulations, they are extremely good for each other.

Films I plan to see in 2014-
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf Of Wall Street
12 Years A Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Past
Blue is the Warmest Colour

Jan 12, 2014

Beyoncé @ Barclays Center

For the record we saw Beyoncé at the Barclays Center on December 22.
For the record the Barclays Center is a spectacular venue.
For the record Beyoncé is a spectacular performer.
For the record I have a new found respect for the talent of Beyoncé. 

Set List
Run the World (Girls)
End of Time
If I Were a Boy
Get Me Bodied
Baby Boy
Naughty Girl
Freakum Dress
Why Don't You Love Me
Love on Top
Survivor (Destiny's Child cover)

Crazy in Love
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)

Jan 11, 2014

Best Live Shows Of 2013

If a couple of years ago you had told me that in 2013 I would see Godspeed You! Black Emperor AND Neutral Milk Hotel I would have considered you crazy. Crazy!!!! I never seriously thought I would have the chance. Especially the latter. But I did. And only ten minutes from our home at the Enmore Theatre. So there was never any real doubt which two shows would be my favourites in 2013. Strike that. They would be amongst my favourite shows ever. So that was enough to make 2013 pretty damn special. But there was other delights to enjoy. Laneway Festival was great again. And Vivid has its moments. Sadly Harvest Festival, where Neutral Milk Hotel were pegged to play, was cancelled. Probably destined not to return. And then the year ended on a high with seeing Phosphorescent and Beyonce in New York. Or Brooklyn to be more precise. Live music I still heart you.

1. Neutral Milk Hotel @ Enmore Theatre
This show was quite simply a landmark in my live music going life. Every thing was perfect and plenty of tears were shed as we watched these mythic legends.

2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Enmore Theatre
Speaking of legends. I was in raptures the whole night.
3. Woods @ Goodgod Small Club
Perfect songs in a small and intimate setting.

4. Phosphorescent @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
A perfect night out in Brooklyn. And he covered Vampire Weekend!
5. Mount Eerie @ York St Anglican Church
Yeah, Phil Elverum in a church.

6. Beach House @ Enmore Theatre
This started the year off in melodic blissful fashion.

7. Wilco @ Sydney Opera House
We have seen them countless times. Not complaining at all.

8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Enmore Theatre
Fire and brimstone. Raging rock and roll.

9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Sydney Opera House
See above.

10. Bruce Springsteen @ Allphones Arena
3 and a half hours of classic rock and roll.

11. Divine Fits @ Manning Bar
Saw them at Laneway too. Love you Dan and Britt.

12. Animal Collective @ Enmore Theatre
This band is majorly important to me you could say.

13. Vampire Weekend @ Metro Theatre
My first time seeing them. Won't be the last.

14. Frightened Rabbit @ Oxford Art Factory
Such a great band live. Always deliver the goods.

15. Local Natives @ Metro Theatre
Two albums in and totally killing it.
16. Sounds Of The South @ Sydney Opera House
Greats of today took us back in time with great results.

17. Father John Misty @ Metro Theatre
Charisma overload.

18. Mikal Cronin @ Goodgod Small Club
God this man can write a song.

19. Deerhunter @ The Hi-Fi
They have greatness stamped all over them.

20. Sharon Van Etten @ Famous Spiegeltent
I think I'm in love.

Jan 10, 2014

Vampire Weekend @ Hordern Pavilion

Add these two ingredients together. Melodies that never quit. THE best album of 2013. Equals fun unending and undying. That is Vampire Weekend. A band I was once quite ambivalent about is now a band I can't get enough of. A band that has produced three albums of luminous quality and the third one is the best one yet. A modern classic if you will. I saw the band just under a year ago and the fun was simply bursting out of the room. This time around they played a larger venue in the Hordern Pavilion and on the back of the new classic album it was quite simply a fantastic show. Fun from start to finish.

Honestly if you slight this band as light or trivial you are doing yourself and the band a major disservice. Vampire Weekend not only write songs of immaculate melody and rhythm but lyrically they continue to grow. There is a huge amount of depth and pathos on display. Songs like "Step" and "Hannah Hunt" are close to perfection and genius. Not to mention "Ya Hey" or "Obvious Bicycle". Then you have a song like "Unbelievers" which was probably the highlight song of the night for me. So that's just the new album and that in itself would make for a great night. Then if you add in gems from the first two albums it all adds up to a concert of indisputable fun. How can anyone resist the charms of "White Sky" or "Cousins" or Oxford Comma". By the time "Walcott" closes the night, as is usual, we are sailing into the night high on a night of exquisite and joyous music. This band is just flat out wonderful.

Set List
Diane Young
White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Finger Back
Everlasting Arms
California English
Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)
Ya Hey
Oxford Comma
Giving Up the Gun
Obvious Bicycle

Hannah Hunt

Jan 9, 2014

Best Songs Of 2013

So, finally, some reviews for the recently departed 2013. First, songs. Many great ones released in 2013. The melodic gems of Vampire Weekend. The guitar stylings of Kurt Vile. The sledgehammers of Kanye West. But it was one song I kept returning to. The sheer beauty and glorious nature of "Song For Zula" had me in rapture from beginning to end.
So, yes, basically, song of the year.
Below is a list of my top 100 with artists limited to 3 songs each.

1. Song For Zula-Phosphorescent
2. Step-Vampire Weekend
3. Blood on the Leaves-Kanye West
4. You & I-Local Natives
5. I Saw Her Face-The Men
6. Girl Called Alex-Kurt Vile
7. November 2011-Moonface
8. The Woodpile-Frightened Rabbit
9. Hannah Hunt-Vampire Weekend
10. Wakin on a Pretty Day-Kurt Vile
11. Nearly Midnight, Honolulu-Neko Case 
12. Colombia-Local Natives
13. Turn Away-Mikal Cronin
14. Until The Morning-Akron/Family
15. Monomania-Deerhunter
16. Weight-Mikal Cronin
17. Only Natural-Smith Westerns
18. Happiness-Eluvium
19. New Slaves-Kanye West
20. Come Back To Life-Hospital Ships
21. Breakers-Local Natives
22. Bugs Don't Buzz-Majical Cloudz
23. Chum-Earl Sweatshirt
24. Dancepack-Volcano Choir
25. Man-Neko Case
26. Julia With Blue Jeans On-Moonface
27. 3AM Spiritual-Smith Westerns
28. Dropla-Youth Lagoon
29. Brainfreeze-Fuck Buttons
30. A New Anhedonia-Phosphorescent
31. Safe Side-Gambles
32. Kush Coma-Danny Brown
33. Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is the Ark-Moonface
34. 1Train-A$AP Rocky
35. Jubilee Street-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
36. Don't Swallow The Cap-The National
37. If You Leave and If You Marry-Kevin Morby
38. Advanced Falconry-Mutual Benefit
39. Afterlife-Arcade Fire
40. Sea of Love-The National
41. Where's The Time-Caveman
42. Side A (Old)-Danny Brown
43. Obvious Bicycle-Vampire Weekend
44. Ohm-Yo La Tengo
45. Leather Jacket II-Deerhunter
46. Alice-Dick Diver
47. Byegone-Volcano Choir
48. Too Dry To Cry-Willis Earl Beal
49. On Blue Mountain-Foxygen
50. The Truth-Dr Dog
51. Confidence-The Dodos
52. Hive-Earl Sweatshirt
53. Other Boys-Eleanor Friedberger
54. Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)-Arcade Fire
55. Caroling-Eluvium
56. Mute-Youth Lagoon
57. Normal Person-Arcade Fire
58. Hold My Liquor-Kanye West
59. State Hospital-Frightened Rabbit
60. Peace of Mind-Mikal Cronin
61. Hero Brother-Sarah Neufeld
62. Everything Is My Fault-Wavves
63. Try To Explain-The Flaming Lips
64. Shuggie-Foxygen
65. Hidden Xs-Fuck Buttons
66. XO-Beyonce
67. "Let's Play"/Statue of a Man-Mutual Benefit
68. Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster-Thee Oh Sees
69. Outsider Blues-Wooden Wand
70. Slow Train-Kevin Morby
71. Plastic Soldiers-Portugal. The Man 
72. Isjaki-Sigur Ros
73. Trust-Gambles
74. Lost Folk Song-Hospital Ships
75. Swimming Pool-TRAAMS
76. Pink-Slips-Okkervil River
77. Supermoon-The Men
78. She Don't Care-Ty Segall
79. The Quotidian Beasts-Phosphorescent
80. No-Room-Akron/Family
81. The Missing-Deerhunter
82. San Francisco-Foxygen
83. Calendar Days-Dick Diver
84. I'll Never Be Happy Again-Eleanor Friedberger
85. At Home-Andrew Cedermark
86. Ain't That The Way-Divine Fits
87. Master Hunter-Laura Marling
88. Not Ready To Stop-Ola Podrida
89. Dixie Cups and Jars-Waxahatchee
90. Cadillac Desert-William Tyler
91. Strawberries 1 + 2-Thee Oh Sees
92. Sea Of Air-Portugal. The Man
93. New Lover-Josh Ritter
94. Oh, Suzanna-Jonathan Rado
95. Cakelakers-Indians
96. Miles, Miles, Miles-Kevin Morby
97. Cornelia and Jane-Yo La Tengo
98. Do I Wanna Know?-Arctic Monkeys
99. Lonely-Danny Brown
100. Oregon Geography-Blitzen Trapper

Jan 7, 2014

Phosphorescent @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Any show overseas carries that extra special element. Especially if that show happens to be in a city as dramatic as New York. When that show happens to be Phosphorescent then it's a double whammy. This was certainly an extra special night. Even more so as it was solo. There were to be three more shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg that were all sold out and full band shows. But we picked the solo show hoping it would be really special. And it was!

"Muchacho" is easily one of my favourite albums of 2013 and it was a distinct pleasure to see these songs, and older ones too, played solo on electric guitar in such a beautiful setting. Matthew Houck would prove to be a gracious host and very generous. Basically the whole night in Brooklyn was near perfect. When you can write a song as great as "Song For Zula" then that is probably expected. And then when you cover Vampire Weekend I was floating on air.

Set List
Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction) (recorded)
The Quotidian Beasts
Terror In The Canyons (The Wounded Master)
A New Anhedonia
Song For Zula
A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise
Muchacho's Tune
Lost Name
Ya Hey (Vampire Weekend cover)
Cocaine Lights

Los Angeles
Mrs Juliette Low
My Dove, My Lamb