Mar 31, 2007

Words Are Dead - Horse Feathers

"Words Are Dead" is a startlingly beautiful debut album from Justin Ringle and Peter Broderick, otherwise known as Horse Feathers. It was released late last year, but I only purchased it recently and if I were to redo my top albums list from 2006 it would sit comfortably in my top 20. Even though I appreciate the well written pop tune and atmospheric instrumental, a shot of Blues or even genius experimentation, a la Panda Bear, I find myself lately listening to predominantly the type of music that stirs the heart. Whether it be Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Wilco, Okkervil River or Songs:Ohia, the type of music that relies on heartfelt sounds and lyrics. To me this type of music transcends any trends or fashion and is the sort of music that you can return to time and time again. Well Horse Feathers make music like this. I guess you could call it modern folk. Using a variety of instruments including violin, piano, banjo and saw, this band swings from gently rhythmical folk to hush quiet mournful ballads. Justin Ringle's voice is unique, he has beautiful pitch, sometimes hitting the high notes but always inviting you into the songs with his haunting tone. Each and every song will hold your interest and they are all relatively short with only one going longer then 4 minutes. I honestly couldn't pick a favourite. But if I had I would go with "Eyes Full of Roses", a bruised, intense song that is lyrically honest and musically stark. It gives you a fair idea of the beauty this duo can create. If you desire an intense, honest experience buy "Words are Dead".

You can purchase at Lucky Madison or Amazon.
MP3: Dustbowl
MP3: Falling Through the Roof
MP3: Blood on the Snow

Mar 30, 2007

California Soundz

According to various reports California, if it were an independent nation, would be the fifth largest economy in the world. A state of infinite possibilities, it has always seemed to me to be lacking in musical highlights. Since those kings of slacker rock Pavement burst out of Stockton and gave their musical genius to the world, I have found myself looking to other US states for my musical experiences. Grandaddy shone briefly for a while but states like New York (obviously), Washington, Oregon and of course Texas have provided great artists that have delighted me and the musical world. Even Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois have provided highlights. I could be wrong here but this is the impression I have received based on the music I buy. However in the last year I smell a renaissance. Los Angeles has received a lot of publicity through the deeds of Cold War Kids, Silversun Pickups, Parson Redheads, The Broken West amongst many others. Of course the hugely talented Comets on Fire and Joanna Newsom have also provided delights as well in their unique ways, but today I am concentrating on a few younger bands from the Bay Area that have caught my attention.

The Morning Benders are from Berkeley and judging from their just released second EP "Boarded Doors" they are going places very quickly. Started by Chris Chu this four piece write intelligent, very catchy pop songs that will have you humming along and tapping your feet in no time at all. Each of the five songs on "Boarded Doors" are little gems, each one having a different texture and sound. There is something of the melodies of The Shins in their stylings and although there is a giddy exuberance the songs never feel light weight.
You can purchase "Boarded Doors" at their My Space.
MP3: Damnit Anna
MP3: Last Today

Santa Cruz is home to Bear on Bear and these four guys are also making a lot of noise. But its definitely good noise. Ramshackle, rollicking pop is their forte and they have just self released their first EP. Self titled it contains just 5 songs but they show a great deal of promise. The hyper song "Magpies" is my favourite but there is plenty on offer on the other tracks. They also show that they won't be easily pigeonholed with the final song "Thunder" a slow burner that is almost epic in nature with layered guitars and quivering vocals.
To hear or purchase visit their My Space.
MP3: Magpies

Also hailing from Berkeley are The Attachments. They number four as well and have also just released their first EP, a self titled effort that contains 6 songs. And for good measure their lead singer Ben Urwand is originally from Sydney. Their music doesn't contain a lot of tricks, its just pure, effective pop music that would make a great driving soundtrack I believe. In fact they sound to me like they have stepped out of the 60s to deliver some sweet goodness. My standout track is definitely "F-Train Girl" which is a beautiful song that shows the band branching out, it will interesting to see where their musical development goes.
My Space
MP3: F-Train Girl

Here are some more tracks by Bay Area Bands worth listening to-
Fluids-The Old Fashioned Way
Static-Tempo No Tempo
Like I Do-Minipop
Big Red Boots-Fiction Like Candy

More from California, from the new and the established-
Hospital Beds-Cold War Kids
Kissing Families-Silversun Pickups
Full Moon-The Parson Redheads
Down in the Valley-The Broken West
Lovers Who Uncover-The Little Ones
Dogwood Rust-Comets on Fire
Endless Shovel-Rogue Wave
Trance Manual-John Vanderslice
Waves of Grain-Two Gallants
Tree Bones-Port O'Brien

Mar 29, 2007

Wilco - Radio Cure (live)

Do you realise in about 3 weeks Wilco will be HERE? This song has recently become my favourite song off their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Mar 27, 2007

Armchair Apocrypha-Andrew Bird

"Armchair Apocrypha" is most definitely a triumph for Chicago's Andrew Bird. In 2005 he released "The Mysterious Production of Eggs" to much acclaim, although I will admit it took quite a while before I succumbed to its subtle charms. It eventually expressed itself to me as a delicate, complex album of beautifully crafted sounds. But after seeing him live a couple of months ago I appreciated this man's unique talents even more. Those live shows were also a preview of his new songs. And they were most definitely an immediate hit with me. I think the biggest difference to me with Andrew Bird's new album is that this one is grander of style. The songs feel more epic and painted with grander brushstrokes, perhaps losing the gentle intimacy of "Eggs..." but delivering fuller, more impressive songs.

"Fiery Crash" is a warm, gentle start to this beautiful album. Its rhythmical beat is in contrast to the tale of impending doom. But this is typical of the album or his other work for that matter, beautiful lush sounds coupled with complex, often dark stories. Stories that are lyrically complex vignettes of life. There is also a supreme elegance to Mr Bird's work, his deeply resonant voice is combined with gorgeous instrumentation. Of course his violin is a soaring instrument of divinity and then you have his whistling, oh it knocks me out every time. Speaking of elegant, that is an apt description for "Imitosis", a reworking of "I". Honestly there is not a weak track on this album. But highlights for me include the back to back charmers "Plasticities and "Heretics", the slow burning epic "Armchairs", the ethereal instrumental "Yawny and the Apocalypse" and the jaunty "Scythian Empires". BUT there are 3 songs that will raise this record into greatness. "Dark Matter" comes out swinging and knocks you flat, a powerful song about the dark side of the mind. "Simple X" is all bleeps and bloops and eerie whistling, also seeming to be about how the mind can exist in various states according to your will. Then there is "Cataracts", quite simply I believe his most emotionally charged song he has written. Violins weep and the whistling will just break your heart. This song soars until it crumbles gently in your ears. Just a damn beautiful song. Trust me, buy this album, it is complex, mysterious, intelligent music that you will fall in love with.
MP3: Heretics
MP3: Simple X

Cataracts lyrics-
When our mouths are filled with uninvited tongues of others
And the strays are pining for their unrequited mothers
Milk that sours is promptly spat
Light will fill our eyes like cats

And they shall enter from the back
With spears and sceptres and squirming sacks
Scribs and tangles between their ears
Faceless scrumbled charcoal smears

Through the copice and the chaparral
The thickets thick with mold
The bracken and the briar
Catch weed into the fold

When our mouths are filled with uninvited tongues of others
And the strays are pining for their unrequited mothers
Milk that sours is promptly spat
Light will fill our eyes like cats
Light will fill our eyes like cats

Addendum (or what I'm feeling musically this year):
Amazing (makes me feel giddy with excitement upon every listen, close to perfection)-Do Make Say Think
Great (music of the highest order, every song has something to offer)-Arcade Fire, Explosions in the Sky, Menomena, Andrew Bird
Very Good (some great songs, very enjoyable, but just short of greatness)-The Besnard Lakes, Modest Mouse, Odawas, Eluvium, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Good (enjoyable, but not earth shattering)-The Shins, Woods
Need more listens to evaluate- Low, Mouthful of Bees
Disappointing (have tried and doesn't float my boat)-Bloc Party, Deerhoof, Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem
Don't own (and unlikely to invest in, for various reasons)-Air, Apples in Stereo, !!!, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Kaiser Chiefs
Out Now (in process of procuring or will look to buy soon)-Panda Bear, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Elvis Perkins, Apostle of Hustle, Calla, The Ponys, Son Volt

Confirmed releases (within the next four months, looking forward to with much excitement)-Bright Eyes, Kings of Leon, Frog Eyes, Grails, Wilco, The National, Handsome Furs, Voxtrot, Interpol, The White Stripes, Spoon (its called Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga but I find this very hard to believe).
On the Horizon (later in 2007, but no details yet)- Final Fantasy, Band of Horses, Islands, The New Pornographers, Oakley Hall, Beirut, Animal Collective, Stars, Gillian Welch, Okkervil River, The Wrens, Wolf Parade (hold me down, need restraint).

Mar 26, 2007

Arcade Fire on The Culture Show

Any Day I can post on Arcade Fire is a good day. Nice interview and then stay for the end as they cover "Guns of Brixton"

Mar 25, 2007

We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank-Modest Mouse

In January, after many years of waiting, I finally saw Modest Mouse live in concert. I came away with mixed feelings. I was so excited to have witnessed the power and grace of Isaac Brock live and although I enjoyed the show something didn't quite sit well with me. I think upon reflection it was that the new songs just sounded uninspiring. Now I am glad that a song as catchy as "Float On" gave Modest Mouse the chance to reach a bigger audience but if "Dashboard" was "Float On" (mark II) then I wasn't very hopeful that a new album would live up to their enormous back catalogue. Plus the other songs weren't exactly setting my ears on fire.

So I have to say that I am very pleased to report that Modest Mouse haven't lost it and that "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" is a very fine album that sits well within their body of work. I would even say that whilst it is no "Lonesome Crowded West" or "The Moon And Antarctica" it is more impressive I believe then "Good News For People Who Love Bad News". I think it has more depth and passion, whilst perhaps not having some of the more catchy tunes that their commercial breakthrough contained.

Immediately you know it is still classic Isaac when he spits out "If food needed pleasing you'd suck all the seasoning off!" at the beginning of "March Into The Sea". A snarling, fierce song it is a good introduction. Then comes "Dashboard". I still think this song is just plain cheesy. It might be one for the "Nova" crowd, but after many listens it almost has skip over quality for me. "Fire It Up" was one of the new ones I heard live and I must say it translates much better on record. It has that classic Modest Mouse guitar sound and Isaac's deadpan delivery still brings a smile to my face. The next four songs are the true heart of the album I believe. Whilst everyone knows the Johnny Marr story, a real plus to the album is that James Mercer of The Shins lends his graceful, melancholic vocals to 3 of these tracks. "Florida" and "Missed The Boat" are just great songs whilst "Parting of the Sensory" I think is close to the best track on the album. Starting slowly it builds to a really emotional climax. I love the line "Someday you will die somehow and somethings gonna steal your carbon", classic Brock. The next section is a little flat with a couple of good but not great songs, although "Little Motel" is a nice slow number that I think continues to grow on me and "Steam Engenius" I think would sound great live. Then "Spitting Venom" arrives, eight minutes of classic Modest Mouse. All anger and fiery passion it is an epic song, as fine a tune as the band has recorded. The album closes with "People As Places As People" and "Invisible", which we heard live back in January. Again they sound better on the album and provide a good closing to the record. So I believe, thankfully, the band has retained the ability to write passionate music with interesting lyrics and pulsating guitar lines. This will sit well in comparison to their past work and in turn will become one of my favourite records to be released in 2007.
MP3: Spitting Venom
MP3: Missed the Boat
MP3: People As Places As People

Mar 24, 2007

Spencer Krug is a Genius; A Timely Update

sunYou might have gathered by now that I believe Spencer Krug to have quite a deal of talent. His work with Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake has been quite breathtaking to say the least. Word is that Wolf Parade have been in the studio and hope to finish recording in May for a release sometime later this year (hopefully). Spencer is soon touring Sunset Rubdown with Xiu Xiu and I just found out that Spencer has contributed a song to "Xiu Xiu Remixed and Covered", due out in April. Now I can't say that I have ever been a big fan of Xiu Xiu, I find their music quite a difficult listening journey, however Sunset Rubdown's cover of "Apistat Commander" is quite stunning. The man can do no wrong.

As an added bonus I have some live tracks recorded for Daytrotter last year. You might have heard these before, but his version of "Shut Up I Am Dreaming" is breathtaking and the unreleased song "Winged/Wicked Things" is probably better then 95% of music released in the world last year.
MP3: Apistat Commander (Xiu Xiu cover)
MP3: Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings (live at Daytrotter)
MP3: Winged/Wicked Things (Daytrotter session/unreleased)
MP3: Stadiums and Shrines II (just a reminder of the greatness)

Mar 23, 2007

Odawas/Eluvium; Music to Transport your Mind!

Odawas are a 3 piece rock band from Indiana. If you are conjuring thoughts in your mind what they sound like, then I will tell you that they defy all expectations. "Raven and The White Night" is very hard to categorise but it's very ethereal, experimental music, somehow like a tripped out My Morning Jacket might sound. I hadn't heard of them until a month ago, this is their second record, but when I heard "Alleluia" I knew I had to investigate. Plus they are on the wonderful Jagjaguwar label, always an excellent source of good music. "Alleluia" is quite simply a great song, almost spiritual in its nature. A song of epic force, its soaring vocals will make you swoon and the whistling just gets me every time I hear it. Then halfway through it comes to a halt, before taking off and building to an epic climax. Dreamy but forceful this song is just flat out greatness. Fortunately there is plenty to excite on the rest of the album. I could describe a typical track but honestly this album never sits still, ranging from discordant sounds to lush almost symphonic songs that feature sweeping strings, weeping guitars and heavenly vocals.
A track like "Getting To Another Plane" is almost Pink Floyd like with its soaring guitars, and I guess there is a 6O's feel to the record (note the artwork). But this creation still feels modern and it is certainly an ambitious and startling work from a very talented band. The only thing that you could quibble with is that for all the impressive sounds it won't make an emotional attachment like the music created by Arcade Fire, for example. But this beautiful piece of music will impress and move you in other ways.
Buy at Jagjaguwar
MP3: Alleluia

Eluvium is Matthew Cooper from Portland. "Copia" is his latest creation. If you desire music that is a touch ambient but on occasions can still stir the heart, then this might be for you. This is not the sort of music to spin at a party, but its definitely not background music. Its complex, beautiful and sometimes dense. Its probably the sort of music that's not for everyone, but if you take the time it will be very rewarding. The opening track "Amreik" is a great introduction. All melodic swirls it immediately gives you a feeling of serenity. Actually the whole album does, ranging from long ambient pieces ("Indoor Swimming At The Space Station") to stirring piano based pieces like "Prelude for Time Feelers" and "Radio Ballet" that will tug at the heart strings. This is lush, tranquil, serene music that will give you peace of mind but also has an emotional push sometimes not associated with this genre.
Very easy to purchase from the excellent Temporary Residence.
MP3: Prelude for Time Feelers

Mar 21, 2007

Archives (Mat Brooke)

Mat Brooke has a new band. If you loved Carissa's Wierd, then I'm sure you will be interested. I only became aware of that band's music after falling in love with "Everything All the Time", the debut record of Band of Horses. Of course the story goes that Carissa's Wierd existed as a cult favourite in the Seattle scene for many years before disbanding a couple of years ago. Rising out of the ashes Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke formed Band of Horses and they were signed to Subpop. Their debut album was much loved, with Ben doing most of the singing and writing. In July of last year Mat left the band and soon after formed Archives. Now armed with a four song demo, they are playing their very first show at Neumo's in Seattle as I write this missive.

There is very revealing article in The Stranger.
They have two songs up at their Myspace.
MP3: Sleepdriving

Mar 20, 2007

Essential Festival 07; or a Nice Way to spend Anzac Day; plus music making my world go round

Just announced is the 2007 Essential Music Festival to held April 25, Anzac Day, over 3 stages in Devonshire Street, Surry Hills. I missed last year's edition, but I won't be missing this renewal. A boutique festival in the truest sense, only 1000 tickets to be sold, it will run from midday to midnight, with The Gaelic Theatre being the centrepiece. The headliners are those fine party animals, Dappled Cities Fly and Gerling, but the rest of the lineup looks promising as well-
Dappled Cities Fly
Bit by Bats
Young & Restless
The Exploders
Children Collide
Old Man River
The Lovetones
Laura Imbruglia
Regular John
Belles Will Ring
I Heart Hiroshima
Pomo Mofo
The Paper Scissors
Flamingo Crash
Teenagers in Tokyo
Pig Out (nz)
Soft Tigers
Dolly Rocker Movement
The Hate Game
Theatre of Disco
Melanie Horsnell
The Seabellies
The Waysiders
Erin Marshall

Tickets are on sale March 26th.

There is a multitude of music coming into my household at the moment, hard to listen to all of it, let alone writing about it. Some of it is old, some new. I hope to review most of it in the near future. Here is what I have spinning near me at the moment-

"We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank"-Modest Mouse (I'm so happy, they have produced the goods again, I don't like Dashboard, but the rest makes up for it).
MP3: Parting of the Sensory

"Drums and Guns"-Low
"Armchair Apocrypha"-Andrew Bird (He's done it again)
"Raven and the White Night"- Odawas (Eerily brilliant)
"Rubber Factory"- The Black Keys (I'm catching up here, this is great)
"Psychic Love Star"- Forest Fire
"We, The Vehicles"- Maritime
"Words Are Dead"-Horse Feathers (Came out in 2006, this is heartbreaking)
MP3: Dustbowl

"The Now"-Mouthful of Bees (Intelligent free-wheeling Indie Rock)
MP3: Under the Glacier

Oh, and I have just ordered "Person Pitch" by Panda Bear from Paw Tracks because this is just sensational- MP3: Bros
Spoon Live At Stubb's 3/17/07

One more SXSW video. It's Spoon. Enough said.

Mar 19, 2007

Okkervil River at ACL Studios

Hopefully Okkervil River will have a new album out in the second half of the year. Here is a relatively new song "Our Life is not a Movie or Maybe" recorded at the ACL Studios for NPR and KEXP.This band equals greatness!

The Mountain Goats at Emo's at SXSW 2007

More SXSW, The Mountain Goats. For those that have seen them live, you know great they are. And they have a drummer!

Catfish Haven rock it at SXSW

Searching for music from SXSW I was able to find these gems. I love Catfish Haven. George Hunter's voice is pure gold. Here they perform "Madelin and Crazy For Leaving" as one song. If this doesn't have you grooving, perhaps you should check your pulse.

Augie March @ The Metro

I do not own any Augie March albums. I have heard a few songs here and there and I caught them live, as a support act, about 4 years ago. Apparently "One Crowded Hour" was quite a popular tune in some parts in 2006 but I never really heard it much. So I ventured to their show at the Metro on Sunday night as a blank canvas, hoping I would like them, not sure If I would. So in the end I enjoyed parts of the show, some songs were great, others not quite so much. I was with a good friend who is quite a fan, so I was able to make mental notes of the names of the songs I enjoyed. The show started a little slowly, with the vocals from Glenn Richards quite muffled and hard to hear. This improved after some suggestions from fans, although Mr. Richards seemed to be upset with his guitar at various points during the night.
"One Crowded Hour" as the closer was powerful and a good listen, but I found most of the other tracks off "Moo, You Bloody Choir" to be veering a little close to MOR to gain a lot of enjoyment from them. The songs that I was excited by were some of their older tunes. I particularly enjoyed "Men Who Followed Spring the World Round", "The Good Gardener", "This Train Will Be Taking No Prisoners", "Sunstroke House" and a blistering version of "The Hole In Your Roof". So all in all, a pleasant night of music, but I don't think I am a convert to the band yet. One other thing, it was one of the noisiest and rudest crowds I have been amongst for quite a while. People, can you please shut up during a show. For one hour of your life can you just stop talking.

Mar 18, 2007


The date is June 5, 1968. The place is the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, headquarters for the Kennedy Presidential Campaign. On this day the California Primary is taking place, a crucial point in the Senator from New York's run for President. Bobby the film, isn't a movie about Senator Robert Kennedy, he never appears in the film, rather it is about the people in the hotel on this critical day and the impact his life has on them. Emilio Estevez has written and directed an ambitious film that attempts to give a snapshot of life in America at the time. He mostly succeeds, creating an intelligent film that ultimately is very moving. There is huge cast of characters and we see their day unfold, whilst real footage of RFK is spliced into the film. We see the hotel manager (William H. Macy), who is having an affair with a receptionist (Heather Graham), behind the back of his beautician wife (Sharon Stone). He is also in conflict with the food and beverage manager (Christian Slater), who treats his minority staff (Laurence Fishburne and Freddy Rodriguez) with utter contempt. There is also a young couple (Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood) who are marrying so he won't be sent to Vietnam. An older couple, a permanently drunk singer (Demi Moore) and her exasperated husband (Estevez) have their own problems as well. In the heart of the Kennedy campaign we experience the day through the eyes of various young men (Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf). Also in the cast are Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen who lend their acting skills to the movie. With so much going on the results can be a little uneven, but I found myself mostly captivated by the ever changing cast of characters, with the real life footage of RFK always adding a touch of gravitas. However the closing scenes will have you close to tears. As the assassination of Bobby plays out in the hotel, the action is silenced and a long speech by RFK about the futility of violence is played over the top. This section of the film is a moving experience that will stay with you for days. Ultimately it gave me the feeling that in these days of political leaders that we are lumped with like George Bush and John Howard that I can only hope that maybe one day such an inspiring and charismatic leader like Robert Kennedy will come along again.

This is well worth taking the time to read-
RFK Speech "On the Mindless Menace of Violence", Cleveland, April, 1968.

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Mar 17, 2007

You, You're A History In Rust-Do Make Say Think

It seems that everyone has an opinion. In the music world there seem to be plenty to go around. Sometimes people are willing to offer an opinion without really considering what they are saying. When it comes to reviewing music, some people are ready to offer an opinion before they have really listened to the music. So when it comes to reviewing a new album I always wonder how long should I listen to the music before offering my opinion. You want to feel immediate so hopefully people can listen to your recommendations and perhaps buy the music. But truly I find that good music evolves over time and a journey of discovery is required to gain full appreciation. However that is perhaps not practical, so before I review a record I try to give it constant listening over a period of days before letting my views go into the world.

So having said that, at this very moment in time, "You, You're a History in Rust" is quite SPECIAL. How special will be determined in time, but the fifth album by Toronto's Do Make Say Think is their finest work yet. Following on from 2003's "Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn" (a sumptuous record) they have raised the bar to create a dazzling, thrilling and ultimately moving piece of work. Although operating in the Post-Rock genre, their music is not brutally powerful nor is lushly ambient. Rather it pulls all the strings of music together to create joyous, almost spiritual sounds. The opening track "Bound to Be That Way" opens quietly with a slight drum effect and quiet piano, before a horn signals the beauty of DMST. Then their trademark guitar enters the picture. Their guitars have this earthy sound that vibrate and excite, always offering something new for the ear. Then the stunner "A With Living" comes. A first for them, a full lyrical song, using the fine voices of Alex Lukashevsky, Tony Dekker and Akron/Family. I can not begin to tell you how fine a piece of music this song is. A truly moving experience, it manages to encompass all the great elements of music. A song that quietly throbs at the beginning before a rhythmic guitar line beckons the vocals, you will be swept away by its beauty, voices cry out, instruments hum, it ebbs and flows perfectly, just pure bliss. While you are coming back to earth "The Universe!" will hit you like a sledgehammer. Five minutes of flailing guitars will shred your ears. And ladies and gentlemen that is just the opening 3 tracks. The rest of the album is a treat for the ears as well, "A Tender History in Rust" (tender indeed, an almost folky instrumental, with whistling and laughter), "Herstory Of Glory" (a rumbling growler that creates an effortless groove), "Executioner's Blues" (talk about throbbing guitars, this song will floor you). "You, You're A History in Rust" will feed your soul and fill your heart. Now you can't ask anymore of music than that.
MP3: A Tender History In Rust
MP3: The Universe!
Not yet available locally, but you can buy from Constellation Records.

Mar 15, 2007

Bundles of Joy, Oodles of Goodness

You know sometimes when you buy a record and you know instantly that you are hearing something that just feels SPECIAL. Well Do Make Say Think's "You, You're a History in Rust" is special, very special. But it deserves its own special column. For now let me assure it is greatness smacked down and laid out. Having said that I am feeling very satisfied at the moment musically. Firstly, in the live arena I have witnessed tremendous shows this year by M. Ward, The Mountain Goats, Neko Case, Joanna Newsom, Andrew Bird, Calexico and The Dears. Some great albums have been released. I love the new ones by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Menomena, Arcade Fire, The Besnard Lakes, Explosions In The Sky. Also I have been engaged by recent releases by Eluvium and Odawas (reviews shortly). Having said that the second album by Bloc Party I found very disappointing. Also, though I haven't heard them in full, I wasn't moved by the Of Montreal and Deerhoof records. And remember we have new releases by Andrew Bird, Modest Mouse, Apostle of Hustle and Low just around the corner. Plus just over the horizon we can look forward to new Bright Eyes, Wilco and Frog Eyes.

So I thought I would give you a wrap up of great songs that are spinning in my household at the moment. Most of these are current, some in the recent past and some are on upcoming releases.
Now I have posted several of these before or most likely you have heard them elsewhere. But here they are anyway, enjoy or just move onto the next blog-

MP3: A Tender History in Rust- Do Make Say Think
MP3: Prelude For Time Feelers- Eluvium
MP3: Welcome, Ghosts- Explosions in The Sky
MP3: And You Lied to Me- The Besnard Lakes
MP3: Alleluia- Odawas
MP3: War- Ladyhawk
MP3: A Great Divide- Parts and Labor
MP3: Shake It Off- Wilco
MP3: Parting of The Sensory-Modest Mouse
MP3: What Light-Wilco
MP3: Four Winds- Bright Eyes
MP3: Elephant Gun-Beirut
MP3: My Sword Hand's Anger-Apostle of Hustle
MP3: Underwater (You and Me)-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
MP3: Black Wave/Bad Vibrations- Arcade Fire
MP3: Bone Tapper- The Woods
MP3: The Now- Mouthful of Bees
MP3: Bushels-Frog Eyes
MP3: Breaker- Low
MP3: Heretics- Andrew Bird
MP3: Barefoot in the Rain- Kinetic Stereokids
MP3: Terrarium- King of Prussia
MP3: Screendoor- Illinois
MP3: Muscle'n Flo- Menomena
MP3: Psychic Love Star- Forest Fire
MP3: Whirring-Arms
MP3: While You Were Sleeping- Elvis Perkins

That is all for now, I will leave you with this line from the glorious new album from Do Make Say Think-
When you die, you'll have to leave them behind. You should keep that in mind.
When you keep that in mind, you'll find a love as big as the sky.

Mar 14, 2007

The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse-The Besnard Lakes

I think 2007 is shaping up as a great year in music. Here is another record that has captured my imagination. The Besnard Lakes hail from Montreal and their sound is reminiscent of past eras, but it still pleasantly fresh. Their second album is quite a beast, its definitely not background music, very hard to categorise, but this one will delight and surprise you in so many ways. Melancholy, experimental, bruising, dreamy are just some of the diverse adjectives I would use to describe this record. The band numbers six and is headed by husband and wife Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. Lasek recorded the album at his Breakglass Studios in Montreal, where Islands, Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade have recorded in the past. Did someone just drop a magical music pill in Canadian waters recently? The opening two tracks "Disaster" and "For Agent 13" feature some of the most stunning, beautiful harmonies you will hear this year. Echoing the vocals of The Beach Boys you will just float into this record. The crashing drums and epic guitar however will prepare you for what comes next. "And You Lied To me" will leave you woozy, its almost psychedelic feel builds and builds into an overflow. Almost stoner rock, its a indication that this talented band will pull its music in all sorts of directions. Those 3 tracks are all great, but for me the heart of the album are the next two tracks. "Devastation" is a howling beast of a song featuring soaring vocals and thundering guitar. Then "Because Tonight" is the band showing its most creative side. Starting slowly, it rumbles menacingly into action, drawing you in with ethereal vocals, before halfway through the drums take over and pound a magical rhythm with the guitars. The vocals return, building to an epic climax. Magic for the ears. This is epic music, well worth tracking down, you won't be disappointed. Also, members of Stars, The Dears and Godspeed You! Black Emperor help out on various tracks.

Buy at Jagjaguwar. I have come to the conclusion that this might be the best label in the world.
MP3: And You Lied To Me

This also has me excited, trembling to be exact. Can someone please fly me to Austin?

Jagjaguwar will descend on Austin next week, to participate in the monumental sonic jubilee that is South By Southwest. Jag is hosting a split showcase with sister labels Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans on the evening of Thursday, March 15 at Mohawk:

Inside stage:
8:00 - Dirty Projectors
9:00 - Frida Hyvonen
10:00 - Catfish Haven
11:00 - David Vandervelde
12:00 - Ladyhawk
1:00 - Evangelicals

Outside stage:
8:30 - The Besnard Lakes
9:30 - I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
10:30 - Bishop Allen
11:30 - Richard Swift
12:45 - Okkervil River

Dan if you are reading this, please go and take lots of photos.

Mar 12, 2007

Playground Weekender Festival

The very first Playground Weekender Festival was held over the weekend. I couldn't attend on Saturday, although you can read an excellent review here, but I made my way up there on Sunday and it was well worth it, as I had a great time. The festival was held at Del Rio Resort on the banks of the beautiful Hawkesbury River at Wiseman's Ferry, about an hour from downtown Sydney. It is truly a perfect setting for a music festival. Surrounded by water and mountain ridges you can just soak up the scenery if you tire of the music. There seemed to be only a small crowd in attendance, I'm not too sure how many tickets were sold for the event. I had a few theories for this, first time is always hard to pull a big crowd. Also there are so many festivals going at the moment, perhaps people are choosing where to spend their money. Also despite a very good lineup there was no sure fire ticket selling headliner, plus although the location is beautiful, its a little out of the way. Having said all that I had a great time, the music was great, the vibe relaxed and everyone seemed to having a great time. I spent most of my day traversing between the main Playground Stage and the small and friendly Uncharted Shack (mainly young Sydney bands playing half hour sets, a great idea). I steered clear of the Big Top Tent (repetitive techno and hackneyed rap isn't my thing). Here is my report of the day-

Richard In Your Mind were first up for me. This four piece made quite an impression. They had a sound that echoed Neutral Milk Hotel and Pink Floyd. Not saying their in that league, but they show extreme promise. The singer's voice is a little whiny and lacks real force, but the band created a unique sound that sometimes verged on psychedelica. Will check them out again for sure.

I have heard a lot of good things about Sparkadia so I was keen to see them. They didn't disappoint. Their music is summery and optimistic. Joyful melodies and rhythmic guitar created a really good vibe. Whilst not totally original in sound, they are very tight and accomplished and as they played on, their sound expanded and they elongated their songs to give them greater depth and force. Again this is another band I would be happy to see again.

Wandering over to the main stage I found things were a little behind schedule. So English acid-jazz combo "Incognito" were playing. And they kept playing, I thought they played the one song for half an hour. The crowd seemed to lap them up but they seemed repetitive to me. Finally Operator Please came on. I don't know how young they are, they all look about 15, but they belted out their set with great gusto. These kids can really play and whilst they didn't have any stand out songs, I think they have potential to become very good as their musical minds mature. They sounded like a cross between Bloc Party and The Gossip, although the violin added that extra touch. It will interesting to watch their musical journey.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Mess Hall bring it. I have seen them twice before and they are always ferocious live. Cec Condon attacks the drums like there is no tomorrow, whilst Jed Kurzel wields a mean axe and has a powerful, soulful voice. Although in their slightly narrow genre there is a tendency for each song to have a familiar sound, I found myself entranced by their power and sheer energy. A band that always delivers live.

The Paper Scissors impressed the hell out of me. Their sound sits somewhere between garage rock and soulful funk. Their music is totally infectious, so much so that by the last song "We Don't Walk", the singer had invited all the audience onto the stage. Its always great to see a band not afraid to interact with the audience, I think it always that extra special touch to the show. By the way, the singer's voice was special too. This band is going places.

Now to the highlight of the day, or any day for that matter. The Dears. They were due to come on at 8.30, but because of a few technical problems and things running a little late, they didn't hit the stage until 9.15. They seemed to have sound issues and I thought during the set that Murray's vocals were a little buried in the mix. But I digress, because it didn't matter a jot. This band is a force of nature. Their epic songs of love, loss and regret are enough to fill anyone's heart who has the pleasure of seeing them live. They were definitely on a mission, barely talking and playing for an hour, they tore into their songs with their trademark passion. When they burst into "Ticket to Immortality" I totally lost it (a regular occurrence through the show). They preceded to play mainly from "Gang of Losers" (I have an addiction to that record), although they played 3 songs from "No Cities Left" halfway through. The band is really a machine now, the guitars are stunning, George Donoso's drumming is frenetic and Valerie Jodoin-Keaton (sigh) and Natalia Yanchak bookend the band with lovely harmonies and keyboards. But the centrepiece is Murray Lightburn. Such passion, such devotion to his music. When he sings "I hang out with all the Pariahs" you are there with him. When Murray declares and spits out "I Swear to You", you scream with him. I could gush about this band forever. Just beautiful, passionate music. It was a pity the crowd was quite small by then, those who had left don't know what they missed out on. A perfect end to a great day. I will come again next year.

Set List
Ticket to Immortality
Whites Only Party
Death or Life We Want You
We Can Have It
Lost In The Plot
22: The Death Of All The Romance
Fear Made the World Go Round
You and I Are a Gang of Losers
There Goes My Outfit
Hate Then Love

I have more photos of the day at Flickr.

Mar 10, 2007

Letters From Iwo Jima

Letters From Iwo Jima is a powerful, highly emotional, important film about the futility of war. This is legendary film maker Clint Eastwood's companion piece to last year's "Flags of Our Fathers". That filmed focused on the American soldiers battle to win the small island of Iwo Jima in the dying days of World War II. It also told the story of the Marines that raised the US flag and how that single act turned into a publicity drive for the war. This remarkable film tells the story from the Japanese point of view. Filmed almost entirely in Japanese, with the cast also from that country, this movie is based around letters that doomed Japanese soldiers sent home to their loved ones. Shot beautifully in washed out colour that makes everything seem grey and bleak, the images will stay with you for days. These are images of young men sacrificing their life for their country, although the feeling that stays with you, is just what a terrible waste of human life. The Japanese were fighting a losing cause, vastly out numbered and out gunned, they were still prepared to give up their lives in the name of country and emperor. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) knows this from the day he is sent to command the defense of the barren little isle. Watanabe is outstanding as the man who is noble and compassionate, as he looks after his men, knowing full well that their death is inevitable. Also wonderful is Kazunari Ninomiya as "Saigo", a humble baker who is non plussed by the futility of the battle, but nonetheless turns into a heroic character. In fact the whole cast is excellent, portraying every drop of human emotion in the face of grim reality. This is a magnificent film that quietly but assuredly becomes an anti-war statement before your very eyes. Highly recommended.

Mar 7, 2007

Is Sunken Treasure The Greatest Song Ever Written?; Or 99 Other Contenders

Is it easy to compile a list of your 100 favourite songs of all time. No of course it isn't. That's why I did it. Of course the first obvious thing to consider is that it is impossible to hear every song ever recorded. Also how do you compare songs of different eras. Songs that you love now and songs that came before your time. How do you compare a Public Enemy song to a Carter Family song. How about lining up The Clash versus Animal Collective.
Its not easy! However I did it and I'm happy with it. This exercise allowed me to include classic songs by artists that I don't necessarily have their entire collection but love one song in particular. I could also include lesser known and much loved album tracks over the sometimes more obvious singles. Sometimes I find it's a not as hyped album track that you grow to love. Also I find anomalies, like where my favourite Wilco record is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but my favourite Wilco songs appear on their other records. I pondered whether to inundate this list with Pavement and Built to Spill tunes which I could easily have done, but I thought it more interesting to put a song limit on those wonders of modern music. Unfair for some songs I love but I think it makes for better reading. Whilst talking about Built to Spill, I have been listening to Keep It Like A Secret a lot lately and although I have always rated it extremely highly I forgot how seriously great it is. Also upon reflection I think Broken Chairs is now my favourite song from that wonderful record, so it appears on this list.

I worked on this list, on and off, for the better part of a month.
I discarded about 100 songs that I love but didn't make the cut.
This list is fluid and could change with time.
This is a personal list and is not meant to be definitive.
This might have been a useless exercise, But I enjoyed doing it.
Enough rambling. As to number one...

Sunken Treasure-Wilco

There's rows and rows of house, with windows painted blue.
With the light from the t.v. running parallel to you.
But there is no sunken treasure, rumored to be.
Wrapped inside my ribs in a sea black with ink.
I am so out of tune with you, I am so out of tune with you.
If I had a mountain, I'd try to fold it over.
If I had a boat, you know I'd probably roll over.
And I leave it on the shore, I'd leave it for somebody.
Surely there's somebody who needs it more than me.
I am so out of tune with you, I am so out of tune with you.
All the leaves will burn and autumn fires then return.
All the fires we burn, all will return.
Music is my savior, and I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was tamed by rock and roll.
I got my name from rock and roll.

This song has everything I want from a song. A great singer effortlessly garnering every drop of emotion in every line but not over reaching in anyway. A beautiful image is burned into your mind with the first line. The lyrics are poetic but very touching. Then the song builds to the line "I am so out of tune with you" which just breaks my heart. Finally an epic climax is delivered with the plantive cry to the spirit of rock and roll. A beautiful, elegiac song full of emotion, poetry and spirit.

Listen here to this wondrous song, or all of "Being There", for that matter.

....or maybe it's...

A Baby for Pree-Neutral Milk Hotel

Blistering Pree, all smiling and swollen
Makes babies to breathe
With their hearts hanging open all over the sheets
As soft as beets in some brown dresser drawer
And with bees in her breath and the rest of her ringing
They'll sting through her chest with a force hard and beating
Till wonderfully wet she will get
Until she's soaked inside her clothes
And there is no sorry to be sorry for
For a roll around the floor some afternoon so sound and soft
It made her swallow all her sweat
With every bit of breath she coughs
And when the day it came to pour all her babies
All across the bathroom floor
She will be swimming in them all forever more

The most perfect one minute twenty one seconds in music history.
Jeff Mangum exhales this song in one breath. Is it about a beautiful
birth or the tragedy of miscarriage? All I know is this song
is an amazing creation from a genius songwriter.

Here is a live version recorded in San Francisco, circa 1998.

These two top my list. So to the songs that make me feel good
in every possible way-

1-Sunken Treasure-Wilco
2-A Baby for Pree-Neutral Milk Hotel
3-Car-Built to Spill
4-Wake Up-Arcade Fire
5-New Partner-Palace Music
6-The Bear-My Morning Jacket
7-Two-Headed Boy Part 2-Neutral Milk Hotel
8-Everything Flows-Teenage Fanclub
9-Temptation-New Order
10-I'll Believe In Anything-Wolf Parade
12-Oh Comely-Neutral Milk Hotel
13-Like A Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
14-Mogwai Fear Satan-Mogwai
15-God Only Knows-The Beach Boys
16-The Weight-The Band
17-Wrecking Ball-Gillian Welch
18-Cattle and Cane-Go Betweens
19-A Day in the Life-The Beatles
20-Atlantic City-Bruce Springsteen
21-It's All Gonna Break-Broken Social Scene
22-I See A Darkness-Bonnie "Prince" Billy
23-Banshee Beat-Animal Collective
25-Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings-Sunset Rubdown
26-Nashville To Kentucky-My Morning Jacket
27-So Come Back, I Am Waiting-Okkervil River
29-Everything's Fucked-Dirty Three
30-Teen Age Riot-Sonic Youth
31-Trudy Dies-Palace Music
32-Let It Be-The Beatles
33-Fillmore Jive-Pavement
34-Bankrupt On Selling-Modest Mouse
35-Made-Up Dreams-Built To Spill
36-The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-The Band
37-The Funeral-Band of Horses
38-Moya-Godspeed You! Black Emperor
39-Zurich Is Stained-Pavement
40-That's Entertainment-The Jam
41-Baba O'Riley-The Who
42-Do You Realize?-The Flaming Lips
43-Echos Myron-Guided by Voices
44-Mahgeeta-My Morning Jacket
45-Sister Jack-Spoon
46-The Empty Threats of Little Lord-Sunset Rubdown
47-Revelator-Gillian Welch
48-The Concept-Teenage Fanclub
49-Acuff-Rose-Uncle Tupelo
50-What's Going On-Marvin Gaye
51-Fools Gold-The Stone Roses
52-Tailights Fade-Buffalo Tom
53-The Center of the World-Bright Eyes
54-Auberge Le Mouton Noir-Do Make Say Think
55-Twenty-Four Hours-Joy Division
56-Goddess On A Hiway-Mercury Rev
57-Game of Pricks-Guided by Voices
58-Cause=Time-Broken Social Scene
59-Westfall-Okkervil River
60-A Poor Man's Memory-Explosions In The Sky
61-The Beast and Dragon, Adored-Spoon
62-The Singer's A Liar-Gaslight Radio
63-No One Knows-Queens of the Stone Age
64-Broken Chairs-Built To Spill
65-The Crane Wife 1 & 2-The Decemberists
66-Expo '86-Death Cab For Cutie
67-Obstacle 1-Interpol
68-Trani-Kings of Leon
70-Ever Fallen in Love?-Buzzcocks
71-Emily-Joanna Newsom
72-Jackson-Lucinda Williams
73-I Want Wind To Blow-The Microphones
74-Broke-Modest Mouse
75-Come On! Feel the Illinoise!-Sufjan Stevens
76-Fake Plastic Trees-Radiohead
77-Berlin Chair-You Am I
78-A Shot In The Arm-Wilco
79-Boys, You Won't-The Wrens
80-Farewell Transmission-Songs:Ohia
81-The Bad Arts-Destroyer
82-Broom People-The Mountain Goats
83-Favorite-Neko Case
84-The Laws Have Changed-The New Pornographers
85-I Will Be There When You Die-My Morning Jacket
86-Reach Out (I'll Be There)-The Four Tops
87-So. Central Rain-R.E.M.
88-Smells Like Teen Spirit-Nirvana
89-Freak Scene-Dinosaur Jr
90-This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)-Talking Heads
91-Winters Love-Animal Collective
93-Blind-TV On The Radio
94-Details of the War-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
95-Rebellion (Lies)-Arcade Fire
96-Levi Stubbs' Tears-Billy Bragg
97-So Says I-The Shins
98-Makin' Angels-Destroyer
99-On To You-The Constantines
100-Oh My Sweet Carolina-Ryan Adams

Mar 5, 2007

Neon Bible- The Arcade Fire

Neon Bible is by The Arcade Fire. This band is from Montreal. "Neon Bible" is their second record. Their first, "Funeral", melted hearts and fried brains and if you saw them live, did strange and beautiful things to your hips. These words are not opinions but facts. "Neon Bible" will be dissected like no other piece of music released in 2007. Here are my 2 cents worth. I will not be comparing this record to "Funeral". They are two separate artifacts of music and each can stand up for its own self. Suffice to say, this is important music.

Black Mirror
In someways a disappointing start to the album, for this my least favourite song. It starts with portents of doom and creates a mood, but I feel this song never soars in anyway. A fine song for most bands, but a little bit pedestrian for this group.

Keep The Car Running
This is a little better, a pulsating, rhythmic track, that I think would sound better live. Good to be sure but not great. It feels like they are trying to open up their sound, it works to a certain extent but doesn't give you those chills you expect.

Neon Bible
At first a quaint interlude, but after several listens, it grows in strength, quite touching in the end, perfectly positioned, because it leads to this-

Intervention (an earlier acoustic version)
The much talked about pipe organ comes in and you are listening to greatness immediately. An epic song that builds and builds and builds. When Win sings "I can taste your fear" it kicks me in the gut. Regine's vocals join in and this song soars. I think I would cry if I heard this live.

Black Wave/Bad Vibrations
A great dichotomy between Regine's half and Win's darker half. The first half is joyous before the song comes to a near halt and Win intones "there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea for me". A great song that thunders darkness.

Ocean of Noise
The sounds of thunder is a portent of things to come. This song has really grown on me. A slow, lumbering song that reaches down deep. Dark and ominous, it ultimately becomes optimistic as Win declares "I'm gonna work it out". The music becomes sunnier too as the band nearly breaks into Mariachi mode with a lovely crescendo of horns.

The Well And The Lighthouse
If Arcade Fire were to crossover into commercial hit territory (who knows, it could happen) this might be the song. A pulsating romp of a song, combining the best elements of the band with Win and Regine almost breaking into a duet over its catchy rhythms.

(Antichrist Television Blues)
I love this song. A testament to the frustrations and emptiness of modern life. It feels like Conor Oberst if he fronted Arcade Fire. This song has a beautiful momentum, building emotional bridges all the way to the finish until Win screams "I'm through being cute, I'm through being nice, Oh tell me, Lord, am I the Antichrist?!"

Second favourite song after Intervention. It builds on similar themes to the previous song. A slow strum leads to Win gently singing his song of despair. This contains a real emotional kick, but its rhythm is undeniable. Evidence of what this band does better then anyone else.

No Cars Go
A remake, but absolutely worth it. A live staple, this song is beyond thrilling. A song I never tire of, it has been fully fleshed out with teeming vocals and heart pounding keyboards and horns. If this doesn't excite you then perhaps you need to look elsewhere for your music.

My Body Is A Cage
I still am coming to terms with the closer. Unexpected in musical style, but that is perhaps a good thing. A final plea from Win for coming to grips with the world we live in. A quiet, emotional power envelops this song until halfway through the massive pipe organ takes over with the help of thunderous drums. Ah, I think I DO like it.

So there you have. I think this is a remarkable piece of work. Although it contains the group's talents for building epic songs that reach emotional heights, using their trademark sounds of violins, guitars and keyboards, they have shown real growth by becoming willing to stretch their sound and challenge their audience. And they do have a devoted audience because this band has built an emotional connection to their fans that is refreshing in this seemingly cynical age. I would give it a 9 out of ten. Its not perfect but it strives to be and that is a great gift to be given. Record of the year? Hard to say. Its early days yet and I have "Friend and Foe" and "All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone" giving it a run for its money at the moment.

You can buy this everywhere, but if you want extra special treats go to Merge Records.
Here is a summing up of other critics' opinions.
Pitchfork today gave it an 8.4, if that interests you.

Mar 4, 2007

2007 Sydney Laneway Festival

Well the Sydney Laneway Festival is over for another year, and whilst this year's event didn't have an act of the majesty and sheer greatness of Broken Social Scene, I think overall I enjoyed this year's renewal even more. Despite wanting to catch The Crayon Fields and Fionn Regan I didn't arrive until just before 4pm where I parked myself (excuse the pun) in front of the Park Stage for the rest of the day. This is what I witnessed.

Scotland's Camera Obscura played a very pleasant set of their melodic pop. I'm not a big fan of this style of music but they seemed to go down well with the crowd. They are hardly a magnetic presence on stage but they performed quite well with out me feeling ecstatic.

Sydney's Youth Group were next. They seemed to have copped a bit of backlash since capturing a big hit with "Forever Young". I am still a fan and really enjoyed their set. Playing a mixture off their last 2 albums, highlights were "Baby Body", "Skeleton Jar" and a great version of "Forever Young" which morphed into a stellar rendition of "Shadowland". I think Toby Martin has a lovely, soulful voice and their set was most enjoyable.

As far as I am concerned The Walkmen owned this festival. Although the great thing about the day is that there is something for everyone. But for me the New Yorkers came, saw and conquered. The best thing about them is that when you hear one of their songs you can not mistake it for any other act going around. They were unbelievably tight, their sound was so clean. Hamilton Leithauser is a dynamic figure on stage. Each song is belted out with incredible energy and Matt Barrick's drums really propels the band's driving sounds through out. Their set really hit into high gear with the second song "All Hands & The Cook", a driving, pulsating monster of a song. After that they had me hooked, other stand outs were "Louisiana", "Little House of Savages" and of course "The Rat". I wish they could have played longer.

Sweden's very own Peter Bjorn & John were next and although I find their music to be somewhat slight of nature, they really turned in a crowd pleasing set. They opened with the very catchy "Let's Call It Off". Their set mainly consisted of songs from "Writer's Block" including "Paris 2004", "Amsterdam", but their closing trio of "Young Folks" (well loved of course, with Tracy of Camera Obscura joining them), "Objects of My Affection" and "Up Against The Wall" had me thinking these Swedes might have more going for them then being a mere pop act.

My last act for the day was Yo La Tengo. If you desire to see a band that never sits still in any one style then they are definitely the band for you. I'm not a die hard fan (I own about 3 of their albums) and I find it hard to love all their work. Their slightly poppier songs "Bean Bag Chair", "Mr Tough" I find to be lacking substance. But when they push the boundaries with their experimental rock jams or play one of Georgia's soulful tunes (I loved "I Feel Like Going Home"), they really hit one out of the park, to use a baseball analogy. The second song "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" was great, but the closer "The Story Of Yo La Tango" was truly stunning. A twenty epic that was close to genius. The perfect closer to a great day of music.
MP3: Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind

You can find more photos at my Flickr. Also great to meet Oz there. I'm sure he will have a review not too far away.

Mar 3, 2007

Friend and Foe-Menomena

Dazzling, exciting, original, uplifting, unique, curious, powerful. These are some of the adjectives I could use to describe "Friend and Foe", the new record by Portland (can that city do no wrong) trio Menomena. I quite enjoyed their 2004 release "I Am the Fun Blame Monster" (an anagram of "The first Menomena Album"). It was a charming debut, full of quirky syncopated rhythms and experimental pop. However "Friend and Foe" shows enormous growth. In fact the first 3 tracks are as strong as any openings you will hear this year. Danny Seim, Justin Harris and Brent Knopf write, perform, arrange and produce the whole creation and they have done a marvelous job. The opener "Muscle'n Flo" is a stunner, drums crash in and then the vocals come with the piano. This song is almost an anthem, full of beauty and heart, then at 2.20 the organ rises up and I swear if your heart doesn't skip a beat then it mightn't be working. "The Pelican" and "Wet and Rusting'' follow and these songs are nearly just as good. "The Pelican" is a shout to the rooftops song with barnstorming guitar and full throated choruses. "Wet and Rusting" is a return to the delicate, charming pop the band are known for. The piano is super effective and this song is so warm and beautiful. That's the thing that stood out for me with "Friend and Foe", for even though it is hugely experimental, this is not a cold record. Its heart is enormous, you will be touched by its beauty. There are many other highlights, "Rotten Hell" is a delight with its melodic choruses and stirring piano and "Boyscout'n" with its dramatic whistling. What can I say, buy this, dive in and enjoy a unique album.

Also the artwork by Craig Thompson is truly unique and worth owning, as Ro can testify to.
Please buy at Barsuk, they are a wonderful label who give you absolute first class service.
MP3: Wet and Rusting
MP3: The Pelican