Sep 30, 2007

This Is England

This Is England. See it now. See it and revel in a film of strength, compassion, truth and honour. This is realist drama at its very best. Full of pathos and humour it will also give you an emotional kick in the guts. Written and directed by Shane Meadows, the film is set in the English summer of 1983. An era of Thatcher, The Falklands War and National Front politics. Filmed in Nottingham, it provides a snapshot of this time as we delve into the lives of a group of skinhead friends. The central character is Shaun, played brilliantly by Thomas Turgoose. He is a young boy, struggling to cope with the loss of his father in The Falklands. Bullied at school he finds refuge in a small group of skinheads who take him under his wing. The group is very tight and caring, led by the charismatic Woody (Joe Gilgun), who bond on a love of Ska, Ben Sherman shirts and Doc Martens. The group needs to reevaluate itself when Combo, played with amazing ferocity by Stephen Graham, is released from prison and splits the band of friends with National Front politics. He tries to recruit each one to his cause, causing fights, betrayal and tension along the way. Set to a soundtrack of early eighties English music this is a searing drama that will leave you gob smacked and emotionally drained at times. Its heart is very big, an insight into a period and time that seems quite distant now.

Sep 29, 2007

Cloud Control @ Oxford Art Factory

Last night in Sydney represented my first time at the newest venue in town. The Oxford Art Factory sits in the place of the old Central Stations Records on Oxford Street. Definitely the place to be at and the place to be seen, they have done a good job. All brick and steel and shiny surfaces, they have a separate bar area from the section where bands can play. The sound is very good, so I think it has the potential to become a good venue for live music.

Last night was a night of young local bands showing off their wares. I didn't see all of them but I saw the one I really wanted to see. Cloud Control. They hail from the Blue Mountains, but I think they came via Carnaby Street. They have that really shiny, glistening pop sound nailed down pretty well. Their songs aren't especially complicated but they have a dreamy quality with hummable choruses and tight melodies. Their singer has quite a powerful and confident voice. The other good news is that they are just about to release their debut EP. Six songs of quality, just beautiful vignettes of pop and wonder. They will be officially launching it at Chess Club (UTS Loft) on October 13.
You can find out more at their MySpace.
MP3: Buffalo Country

Sep 27, 2007

Spirit If...-Kevin Drew

Is this a Broken Social Scene record? Or a Kevin Drew solo album? Confusing maybe. I believe this is a Kevin Drew solo project where he is front and centre, but he does get a huge helping hand from all his Canadian friends. In the end the only thing that matters is this. Is it good? The unfortunate answer is no. Actually, it is great. It is feast for the ears and the mind and most importantly, the heart. As Mr Drew so eloquently stated, this record is all about his favourite topics "fucking, fighting, fearing and hope". This is music with enormous reservoirs of heart and joy. It possesses that unique quality of great music. It makes you tingle with excitement upon hearing it and makes your heart flutter just that little bit.

If you love Broken Social Scene, then this eloquent slab of pleasure will be right up your alley. It contains all of their great qualities. Fuzzy guitar, sweeping choruses, aching melodies. You know those things that make us swoon and sway. "Farewell To The Pressure Kids" gets things rolling nicely. Kevin sounds like he singing down a well, with a full orchestra clattering around him. I like how the vocals become one with the instrumentation. All swirling and hectic it feels immediate and in your face. It ticks like a time bomb, setting the scene. The best thing about this music is the flow. It is seamless. "TBTF", "F--cked Up Kid" and "Safety Bricks" rollick along effortlessly with desirable harmonies. "Lucky Ones" takes it up a notch with its bold choruses and sweeping arrangements. There are some languid, dreamy moments here too. "Broke Me Up" and "Gang Bang Suicide" are almost tranquil and serene. When he sings "So when you die, will you leave behind, all the leaves that we sewed, to ourselves" I think my heart skips a beat. Someone, a very good judge, said the singer sounds almost childish. This strikes at the heart of the matter with the whole BSS thing. There is the paradox of child like wonder sitting next to base human emotions. The lyrics are about love and lust, hope and decay. Seemingly sweet and innocent there is a simple majesty at work here. It is probably captured best on my favourite song "Frightening Lives", a head rush of a song that threatens to explode. "Sex and our wills will stain our lips, now put it in your head, put it in your head", indeed. If black and white emotions of love and hate can exist perfectly in a song, it is on this album. "Aging Places/Losing Places" and "Bodhi Sappy Weekend" are other delights to savour. Of course Kevin Drew is helped out by all his "kids" including "Whiteman, Haines, Feist, Canning, Millan, Peroff, Penner". They are a most talented bunch. His biggest thanks on the liner notes are fellow BSS's and DMSThinkers Benchetrit and Spearin. "...thanks to Ohad for teaching me how to close my eyes again, and to Charlie for helping me breath." I recommend you close your eyes, listen to Sprit If... and then just breathe.
MP3: Tbtf
Apartment Story-The National

For those of you that might have noticed I have had a few glitches on my blog. Things should be back to normal now. Here is one of my favourite songs of the year. In fact this song is very special to me for a number of reasons.

Sep 25, 2007

The Ghost Is Dancing

The Ghost is Dancing. Why? Because he has probably been listening to the debut album from this Toronto nine piece. Well I don't believe in ghosts but that sounds like a good story. What is it with Canadians and ghosts? If they are not singing about them they are naming bands after them. But I digress. "The Darkest Spark" is a wonderful slice of rousing pop that is a joy to listen to. The easy comparison to make (because of their origin) is to Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene. Now, they are a large band and they have rousing choruses and tonnes of instrumentation but they aren't as dark or mature as those bands. They have a lighter touch. I think a better comparison would be We All Have Hooks For Hands. They share that youthful exuberance, each song has a bounce and a step to it that is hard to resist. Their album was recorded in October, 2006 on Toronto Island and it is a kaleidoscopic piece of music. The vocals are pushed to the front, clear and distinct, while there are horns and strings a plenty to augment the music. Even though the album has plenty of charm and up tempo numbers, there is a little dark to compliment the light. "Greatlakescape" is gorgeously mournful whilst "The Dark and the Bright" has a quiet strength. I think though, my two favourite tracks are the closing two. "Wait Another Day" and "Arrivals" are a glimpse into the future perhaps. Whilst both very singable they show that this young band has the talent to write songs that will last longer then the 24 hours news cycle. If you want to check out a band going places investigate The Ghost is Dancing.
MP3: Shuttles and Planes
Available for purchase at Amazon.

Sep 24, 2007

The Roadside Graves

The Roadside Graves are American. Their music is American. Consider this and then consider investigating their music. Because there is no artifice to their music. It has no bells and whistles. It makes you feel good. It is intelligent and full of soul. On my recent trip to the US I picked up their latest release "No One Will Know Where You've Been" and it grows on me with every listen. Their latest album is their third (the first two are hard to find) and their first on Kill Buffalo. The band have now grown to seven and you can feel it in the music. Lashings of guitars, drums, piano, bass, flute and other percussive instruments are great for the ears. Then there are the vocals, centering around the husky, growling voice of John Gleason. He intones beauty in every note as he sings about the broad expanses of his native land. For his songs are tales about the road travelled, people met and loved and are steeped in that American tradition of songwriting first heard with Roger Miller, Townes Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen. The Springsteen comparison is perhaps apt because the band hails from New Jersey also. If you plunge into The Roadside Graves you will slowly fall love in love with their gentle melodies, their country subtleties and warm and generous spirit. In this throw away world this is music to slowly appreciate and let age like a good wine.
MP3: West Coast
Available for purchase from Amazon.

Sep 23, 2007

Album Covers To Love And Cherish

In the past week or so I have been admiring and enjoying my Cover Flow feature on my new iPod Classic. It truly is a thing of beauty. It made me realise that album covers can stimulate the senses in so many ways. In these days of digital music buying I wonder If people miss out on this. Having just bought the new Kevin Drew album I know for a fact that well designed and lovingly created album artwork is something to be thankful for. Arts and Crafts certainly put a lot of effort into making buying a CD a pleasurable experience. I don't know if "The Glow Pt 2" is my favourite album cover ever but I absolutely love it. Maybe I am just a sucker for cute little elephants. Below I have placed a random selection of favourite covers. By no means definitive or exhaustive these are ones I have admired recently. I would be interested to know of ones that you enjoy.

Sep 22, 2007

Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train

Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train is a stark reminder that sometimes the best entertainment should be thought provoking, compelling and confronting. Currently showing at the Belvoir Theatre, this play explores that area of life where few of us exist. Between a rock and a hard place. Between the existence of life and the threat of imminent death. And it does it to absolutely devastating effect. Directed by Wayne Blair, he also performs in one of the leading roles as convicted multiple murderer Lucius Jenkins. We meet Lucius, now a man of God preaching the Gospel, as he awaits extradition to Florida where he is destined for execution. The other main character is Angel Cruz, played superbly by Ryan Johnson. Angel is waiting to be tried for attempted murder. Although his case seems different to that of Lucius because he had motives for his crime. He was doing it for the sake of a friend. Angel appears deep down to be a good person who now seems destined to pay for a crime that was morally right but legally wrong. We also meet Valdez, the morally superior prison guard who has nothing but contempt for Lucius and D'Amico, another guard who has actually befriended Lucius. The other important character is Mary Jane Hanrahan, Angel's attorney who desperately wants to help him but has her own conflicts to deal with. All these characters come together superbly in Stephen Guirgis' play set on Riker's Island, New York. It is a story of redemption, justice, right and wrong. The most powerful theme is the responsibility of choice. Taking ownership of the choices you make. Lucius is trying to absolve his horrid past by placing himself in the hands of God. Angel has no faith in God, but must now trust that some form of human justice will see him entangled from the mess he has created for himself. The cast is uniformly excellent but Johnson and Blair are quite breathtaking in their roles. You can feel the passion dripping off the stage as these two performers use their intelligence and fierce desire to great effect. Highly recommended if you love compelling and intelligent theatre.

Sep 21, 2007

Kurt Cobain About A Son: Trailer

This looks a fitting tribute to the greatness of Kurt Cobain. Not sure when it is getting an Australian release, but definitely one to look forward to.

Sep 20, 2007

Animal Collective - Peacebone

Bizarre, sublime, magnificent. Everything and more. The first single from the incredible "Strawberry Jam". I would like to live in a world where this is the number one single.

Sep 19, 2007

Love Is Simple-Akron/Family

Love is Simple, an interesting construct. Perhaps in its purest form it is. Presented as the music of New York's Akron/Family it leaves a compelling argument. Somehow they manage to break down all the complexities of music and leave you with some of the most joyous, uplifting (dare I say it, spiritual) music you will ever hear. Yet although their style of music harks back to a seemingly simpler form of music reliant on organic instruments and multiple vocals there are many, many layers at work here. "Love is Simple" is this band's fourth album and it is a wonderful experience. It is a great testament to the power of the voice. The vocals are superb, going from full blooded chants to delightful harmonies. The album starts and ends with "Love, Love, Love" and that is definitely the theme here. It captures the vitality and curious complexities of life, leaving you feeling content and nourished after each listen. Besides the four part harmonies which will absolutely delight you, there are a multitude of instruments at work here, creating a maelstrom of noise that is guaranteed to intrigue and astound. There are some basic songs here, like the opening and closing tracks and "Crickets" which are almost lullabyes in approach. "Phenomena" also starts in this fashion before breaking out into a full on jam. Then there are some of the epic songs like "Ed Is A Portal" and "Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music For Mums" which have multiple parts and sections, but always manage to keep your interest. This is a hard record to review, because Akron/Family have created music that is constantly surprising, shifting your perceptions. Just when you believe you have a grasp on what you think about it, another listen will give you a different impression. Right now this piece of music is astounding me with its joyous spirit and amazing variety. Highly recommended.

MP3: Ed Is A Portal
MP3: Phenomena

Sep 18, 2007

Strawberry Jam-Animal Collective

Bonefish. Bonefish. The hair on the back of your neck stands to attention. Excitement overflow. You are entering the strange and mysterious world of Animal Collective. I am glad to have them back. They make music that sounds like no one else and I am so grateful for it. "Strawberry Jam" is a dazzling collection of pop gems, tribal beats, freak outs and the usual assortment of mysterious noises. This might be the Collective's best work yet and that is saying something. It is certainly their most accessible, although I doubt any commercial radio station is rushing to find a hit single. Having said that, maybe they should. There are moments of pure gold here. Dripping like honey from a music tree, I wish these songs could somehow seep into the general public's consciousness. Never mind, those of us who have made the leap of faith are rewarded yet again by these men with gold in their genes.

Ah, so back to the start. "Peacebone" comes at you with static noise before the drums kick in and the unmistakable rhythms of Animal Collective loop inside your brain. This track also shows that this album is dominated by the voice of Avey Tare. His voice is not technically great, he doesn't have the glorious melodic pipes of Panda Bear. But he sings with spirit and character and he possesses an internal rhythm that is perfectly suited to the music. And when he yelps and screams your heart skips a beat. "Unsolved Mysteries" continues the pattern. Uneven rhythms and plaintive singing somehow jell together. Then the great triumvirate is upon us. 3 soaring songs of supreme majesty that are heartbreakingly beautiful and just damn exciting. "Chores" is Panda Bear's major piece and the glorious harmonies will truly have you sighing and smiling. A song of great heart and tenderness indeed. "For Reverend Green" is quite possibly the band's greatest moment. An epic song of undeniable passion it leaves me breathless. When Avey Tare screams "Now I think it's alright to feel inhuman" I start to have conniptions. Then the shimmering beauty of "Fireworks" follows, all grace and startling splendour. Like all AC albums those moments of striving for the musical heights also produce songs that are experimental and puzzling. "#1" is a little too monotonous and "Cuckoo Cuckoo" has some lovely piano but meanders a little bit too much. But then the closing song "Derek" brings Panda Bear back into the fold with a glorious song of divine proportions. This is AC's most succinct, focused work yet. Full of incredible beauty and pulsating excitement, it makes me grateful that some people in the world have the ability to present such a wonderful gift of music.
MP3: Fireworks
MP3: Peacebone

Sep 17, 2007

The Submarine-Whitley

Sometimes I wonder if I write enough about Australian music. I do see a lot of live local music and I think there are a bunch of young, promising bands doing a good job at the moment. But anyone who knows me would know that I am the least parochial person there is. I really do consider parochialism to be a waste of time. To favour one type of music over another, based on its origin, to me seems quite silly. Music is about invention, heart and passion. It knows no borders. Right now I seem to be obsessed about music from Montreal and Portland. I remember years ago Manchester seemed to be the centre of the world. I hope one day Melbourne or Sydney could take that place. I just go where ever the music takes me. So having said all that I am delighted to write about a new Australian album that is thrillingly great. An album full of the beauty that music can offer when it is played with this sort of heart.

"The Submarine" is the debut album from Melbourne's Whitley. And I love it. I have seen this band 3 times this year and have enjoyed every performance. The sound and songwriting strength has grown with every show and it is evident here in this platter of passion. I say band because it feels like a band, having grown to 5 members the last time I saw them. I am pretty sure Whitley started out as a solo project of Lawrence Greenwood, but even he (according to the liner notes) has taken on the moniker of the name of the band. So anyway you look at it, Whitley has created a peaceful, serene album of beautiful tunes that touch on the cornerstones of folk, country and rock. The opening track, "Cheap Clothes" will draw you in straight away with its gentle strings before a banjo enters the scene. Banjo and strings, a pretty hard combination to beat. There are so many other delights through out the record. Moments of quiet beauty, gently plucked guitar, hummable tunes. All augmented by Whitley's gentle croon. His voice has a husky texture that is both comforting and inviting. Lyrically the songs are concerned with poetic images of love and loss, regret and despair. There is a mournful air at work here, but never maudlin. You will be moved, but still have a feeling of joy. I would say this is what most song writers are striving for. Besides the opening track, other stand outs are the live staple "Lost in Time", the shimmering drone of "A Shot To The Stars", the delightful "I Remember", the heart breaking "More Than Life" and the cover of Jeff Buckley's "Mojo Pin". Highly recommended for lovers of music that stirs the soul.
MP3: Lost in Time

Sep 16, 2007

Silversun Pickups @ Annandale Hotel

The spirit of rock and roll is alive and well. It lives inside Silversun Pickups. I have to come to this conclusion after witnessing their blistering, sometimes ferocious set at the Annandale Hotel on Saturday night. Their 2006 debut album "Carnavas" was particularly enjoyed by myself, but I still wasn't prepared for the passion, spirit and excitement that they would bring to Sydney. They opened with "Well Thought Out Twinkles" and the sold out venue was already ready to burst at the seams. Rest was not an option after this. The four piece from Los Angeles tore through their set, upping the ante on every song. Playing "Future Foe Scenarios" and "Kissing Families" back to back was my highlight of the night, but there were many. Of course the familiar opening riff of "Lazy Eye" sent the crowd into a frenzy as the band proceeded to build that song up, tear it apart and then bring it to a crescendo again. The delicious melody of "Common Reactor" was also well received.

A great part of the night was the interaction between the band and crowd. There was a real happy vibe in the audience, which I think the band fed off and delighted in. I would say after playing a number of support dates with Snow Patrol, to play in a small, sweaty pub where you can touch the audience (and they did) would delight the group. Lead singer Brian Aubert was constantly smiling, talking with the crowd, in between wielding his guitar with unbridled ferocity. And the man has stage presence by the bucket loads. Full of charisma, his unique voice could probably be heard in the next suburb as he kept reaching down for that last drop of passion and pain. Nikki Monninger supported him ably on bass and vocals and I was very happy to hear her close with "Creation Lake". Whilst drummer Chris Guanlao tore his drums apart with quite incredible zeal. This band welds melodies hard and fast to pulsating guitar lines. A reminder that music can be beautiful in many shapes and styles. "It's everything that is connected and beautiful. And now I know just where I stand."

Set List (This is to my best knowledge, I stand to be corrected)
Well Thought Twinkles
Rusted Wheel
Waste It On
Little Lover's So Polite
Future Foe Scenarios
Kissing Families
Three Seed
Lazy Eye
Common Reactor

Booksmart Devil
Dream at Tempo 119
Creation Lake

Sep 15, 2007

Elvis Perkins - While You were Sleeping

Brand new video for one of my favourite songs of the year.

The Paper Scissors @ Spectrum

The Paper Scissors on Friday night at Spectrum was how all live music should be. Fun, vital, passionate and that feeling of connecting with the band. The night was serving as the album launch of their debut album "Less Talk More Paper Scissors". Playing a short but ecstatic set they stormed through their material, proving once again that their formidable live reputation is well deserved. They opened with "Oxygen Accident" and didn't let up after that. Jai Pine's voice is something to behold, soulful and powerful it always resonates strongly. And the drumming was amazing, power and rhythm squared. Highlight songs for me were "Tipped Hat" and "Grammar", whilst "Yamanote Line" was a sure fire singalong. The drummer's cap said it all "Satisfaction Guaranteed"-How Apt.

Set List
Oxygen Accident
Picture N' See
We Don't Walk
Still Small
Restless Through The Night
Tipped Hat
Bomb Package
The Bandit

Vaudeville King
Yamanote Line

Supports were excellent. Second time for me seeing Cuthbert and the Nightwalkers was just as good as the first. Their sound was a little edgier, but the beautiful harmonies were still there. I really look forward to them producing some more recorded material in the future. Opening act Richard in Your Mind once again proved that their quixotic blend of folk and psychedelic rock is very entertaining. All in all, a great night of local music.

Sep 13, 2007

I Love my new iPod; Plus Other News and Notes

The verdict is in. The new iPod Classic (80GB in black) is a resounding success. If only purely for the reason that I have music to accompany me on my way to and from work again. But there is more. It is so beautifully slim, the sound seems better and the new Cover Flow feature just looks so cool. I actually find myself constantly flicking back and forth looking at all the beautiful artwork. My musical life flashes before me, bringing me memories of all the great music that has enriched my life. And the storage is great. I have put about 800 CDs on my iPod (I didn't realise I owned that many) and still have about 37GB up my sleeve. I figure I have about 300 vinyl albums and another 100 CDs that fill out my musical collection, but they will have to stay where they are for the time being. Thanks Apple, now about that iPhone.

Where is "Strawberry Jam"? I have looked everywhere in Sydney for the latest opus from Animal Collective. I know it leaked ages ago and even I downloaded a few tracks for a taste. But I love to buy CDs and I was kind of expecting a work of this nature would be readily available by now. Oh well, will have to keep searching. I did buy the new Josh Ritter album "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter". So far, I am very satisfied with that purchase.
MP3: Fireworks-Animal Collective
MP3: To the Dogs or Whoever-Josh Ritter

Portland could be the Indie Rock capital of the world. Slate seem to think so.

"Hate to tell you, but there’s an ENDLESS SUPPLY of good-looking people in this world. In the time it takes you to make it, the machine can find someone else younger, who won’t talk back, to start paying attention to. And now, in the studio, via auto-tune, it can be made to appear that ANYBODY can sing. But not anybody can sing live, not anybody can write a song."

This quote is from a great article from the Lefsetz Letter. You can read it here.

This weekend looks excellent for live music. The Paper Scissors (truly one of our best live bands) headline a great 3 band lineup Friday night at Spectrum. Then Saturday night Silversun Pickups escape the clutches of Snow Patrol to play at a sold out Annandale Hotel.

Some music for your listening pleasure-
MP3: Winged/Wicked Things-Sunset Rubdown
MP3: Used Kids-Earwig
MP3: Curve That Bird-Head of Femur
MP3: A Sunday Smile-Beirut
MP3: Lake Michigan-Rogue Wave
MP3: Despite What You've Been Told-Two Gallants

Sep 12, 2007

New Fiery Furnaces

The Fiery Furnaces are back. On October 9 "Widow City" will be released on Thrill Jockey. After the strange and disappointing "Rehearsing My Choir" and the much better but still uneven "Bitter Tea" indications are that the brother and sister are returning to form. The form that produced "Blueberry Boat", a modern classic that was original and brilliant. Pitchfork have sourced the first song from "Widow City". "Duplexes of the Dead" sounds pretty good to me. See what you think.
MP3: Duplexes of the Dead

Sep 11, 2007

Built To Spill Tour Australia-Finally!!!

This is big news. Quite possibly the finest band in the history of rockdom (well in my opinion anyway) is touring Australia for the first time. Although my mind is all consumed with things Krug/Boeckner at the moment I haven't forgotten my musical roots. This Idaho band has created music that is dear and near to my heart. Doug Martsch can wield a guitar like no other. Oh, and that voice and those melodies and those lyrics of heart and beauty. I could go on forever, I really could. I was fortunate enough to see them live in the USA in 2003 and 2005, but it hasn't lessened the thrill I am anticipating of seeing them in Sydney town for the first time. They are gracing our shores because of The Falls Festival and Southbound Festival, but Built to Spill will play one show each in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Happy times, indeed.

Saturday 29th December: Melbourne, Corner Hotel
Tickets $44.00 + bf available online from

Wednesday 2nd January: Brisbane, The Zoo
Tickets $40.00 + bf. Available online from:

Thursday 3rd January: Sydney, The Metro
Tickets $44.00 + bf available from

MP3: Car

Sep 10, 2007

The Little Kids Love Mr Incredibubble; But The Big Kids Love The Seabellies

Sunday was spent at the Marrickville Festival. A big crowd was there to take in the tasty food on offer. I also went for the very good lineup of bands they were curated for the day. The highlight were Newcastle's The Seabellies, who played a short but exciting set. Whilst they were playing, a strange looking man called "Mr Incredibubble" was blowing huge bubbles using soap and water. This had the small children enthralled. But those of us who were listening to the music would know that The Seabellies are definitely a band to to be excited by. Whilst their songs still need development, their talent and skill is quite evident. Playing a wide variety of instruments their live show is full of passion and thrills. Plus lead singer Trent Grenell has a powerful and impressive voice.

The first set I saw was Whitley, who are quickly becoming one of my favourite Australian acts. This is the third time I have seen them and their sound is becoming bigger each time. Although a lunchtime set on a Sunday in front of small crowd is not the ideal way to show off their sound, the talent shines through none the less. Debut album "The Submarine" is out on the 15th and I am very much looking forward to giving it a good listen. I also watched Dardanelles play on the day, but despite their passion and fervour and their burgeoning reputation they failed to impress. I think their fairly basic brand of rock is not really what I can get into at the moment.

Sep 7, 2007

Pickathon Roots Music Festival

This is a little old, but what the hell. About a month ago whilst I was in Portland, Oregon I attended the Saturday session of the Pickathon Roots Music Festival. Ideally I would have liked to have gone to more then one day but I had plenty of other things to do in the Rose City. But I am extremely happy I went. I have to say it was one of the most pleasant and satisfying festivals I have ever attended. To set the scene Pickathon is now in its ninth year. It is set on Pendarvis Farm, a beautiful setting if there ever was one. Comprising 800 acres, it is set amongst the beautiful forests of Oregon. The music could best be described as "Indie Roots", a blend of authentic bluegrass and country music from all corners of the USA. Probably the biggest name was The Avett Brothers, who played on Sunday. But this festival is not about big commercial names. It is about genuine, grass roots music that is heartfelt and true. There was such a relaxed vibe too, not overly crowded, no threatening bogans here. Just music lovers enjoying a peaceful time listening to great music in a gorgeous setting.

My absolute highlight was seeing Portland locals Horse Feathers (pictured above). They played in the Galaxy Barn and I was spellbound by their mesmeric performance. Justin Ringle cuts a knife through the air with his emotional clarity. Peter Broderick gives ample support on violin, drums and vocals. Playing mostly a set comprised of material from their wonderful 2006 album "Words Are Dead" it was music in its purest form. Definitely one of the best performances I will see in 2007. Unfortunately like all festivals there is always a clash of artists you wish to see. In this case I was only able to enjoy two songs from the ferocious talent of Langhorne Slim (pictured below). What I heard made me wish that somehow I can catch this man in the future. Since then I have picked up his last album "When The Sun's Gone Down". If you desire a slice of folk/rockabilly/country Brooklyn style, I can heartily recommend it.

The other enormous highlight of the day, and there were many, was seeing Po'Girl in the Gallery Barn. A small and intimate setting, Po'Girl charmed and entertained like few other bands. The Vancouver trio (joined by a Washington guitar player), switched effortlessly from style to style and singer to singer. Their music was almost spiritual, touching on folk, blues, jazz and country. All the voices were hauntingly beautiful but the soulful voice of Alison Russell really stood out and her clarinet playing added an extra special touch. Their performance was just one of the many special moments that went into making the rich musical tapestry that is Pickathon.

MP3: In the Midnight-Langhorne Slim
MP3: Blood on the Snow-Horse Feathers
MP3: Home To You-Po'Girl

Sep 6, 2007

iPod Classic

I'm going shopping. Or more correctly, have gone shopping. If you weren't aware Apple today revealed their new lineup of iPods. Their first major release for 2 years. The nano and shuffle models have had some changes, including new colours. But there are two models I was most interested in. The most exciting is the release of the iPod Touch. Basically it is the iPhone (maybe we can expect them in Australia in 2008?) without the phone. It has Multi-Touch interface, wide screen display and Wi-fi web browsing. It looks great. However it only comes in 8GB and 16GB models. Which for me is not enough storage. My iPod is an old model 40GB and not only has it run out of room, but it recently decided to pack it in. So I have bought, online, the new iPod Classic. Not only does it come in 80GB models but also a huge 160GB model. Plenty of room, either way, to store my growing music collection. The models look slightly slimmer and are also cheaper (80GB is $349) which helps the wallet. The new Classic also has the new interface found on the nano, which includes the Cover Flow feature. I guess in the future the iPod Touch will have have increased capacity, but for now I am more then happy to see the Classic come through the mail.

Do you own an iPod? Do these new models interest or excite you? Do you prefer other brands of MP3 players? Do you buy music using iTunes? Personally I rarely use iTunes. I prefer to buy CDs and download them to iTunes. One thing I know. I love my iPod.

Sep 5, 2007

Challengers-The New Pornographers

If you are part of a band that has produced 4 albums of exquisite taste and solid consistency with nary a bad tune appearing then you probably belong to The New Pornographers. This is perfectly understandable when said group combines the talents of A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Dan (Danny on the liner notes) Bejar. "Challengers" is their latest release and it is certainly an admirable addition to their remarkable catalogue. Full of the great wit and intelligence that is a feature of their work, it is also their most understated release yet with quite a few moments of languid beauty. I for one am glad of this, I think it shows a graceful maturity that provides more variety and ultimately, more listening pleasure.

If you seek typical Pornographers sound, skip straight to "All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth". It is full of great melodies, swirling keyboards and driving guitar, power pop at its best. "Mutiny, I Promise You" will probably give you the same rush. After that though there are various nooks and crannies to dive into and discover music that is both intelligent and utterly beautiful. The opening two tracks "My Rights Versus Yours" and "All The Old Showstoppers" are evidence of pop songsters producing mature songs that are a little more satisfying upon every listen. "Unguided" is a gorgeous ode by Carl Newman to New York City, his new home. Kathryn Calder shows off her fine voice on "Adventures In Solitude", a glorious song that gets better with every listen. Then there are the majestic talents of Dan Bejar on his 3 songs. He hasn't let the side down. "Myriad Harbour" is an absolute standout, whilst "Entering White Cecilia" and "The Spirit of Giving" would fit snugly onto any Destroyer album. But the absolute standouts are concerning the sublime talent that is Neko Case. The title track and "Go Places" are quite simply divine. They will melt in your mouth. You know the more I think about it, this is music that is incredibly satisfying. It is not trying to be trendy, it is a testament to the beauty and craft of song. It will reveal its beauty more and more upon every listen. Ultimately it is more mature and varied then any of their previous work. It might not give you an instant buzz, but its sweet tasting sounds will live inside you for a considerable time.

MP3: Myriad Harbour
MP3: My Rights Versus Yours

Sep 4, 2007

Be Set Free-Langhorne Slim

I managed to catch part of Langhorne Slim's performance at last month's Pickathon Festival. I plan to give my impressions of this wonderful festival shortly. Meanwhile enjoy this remarkable talent.

Sep 3, 2007

#62.2 - Menomena - Rotten Hell

This was just put up by La Blogotheque. Absolutely brilliant. Recorded in Paris. One of my favourite songs from one of the best albums of 2007.

Sep 2, 2007


Once is a film of immense charm and great heart. It is not going to rewrite the history of film, but if you do choose to see it you will be most assuredly entertained and delighted for 90 minutes. A simple construct, we meet two unnamed leads on the streets of Dublin. Guy (Frames' singer Glen Hansard) is busking, playing other peoples' tunes during the day to earn a dollar, his own heartfelt songs during the night. Songs that he hopes one day to record and chase his dreams of making a career of it. Girl (Marketa Irglova) is a Czech immigrant who has a young daughter and makes ends meet by selling flowers. We find out that she too has musical talents, releasing her passion by playing music in a musical instrument store. We follow their story through the film. Guy has recently exited a long standing relationship and becomes smitten by the girl he has just met. She on the other hand is not looking for a relationship, but gives him a greater gift. The gift of encouragement and confidence. Together they combine their musical talents which not only bonds them, but focuses and develops their potential.

Cillian Murphy was originally going to play the lead, but after pulling out (along with the budget), the film was made for a mere $160,000. Hansard, who was only going to provide the songs for the film, was pushed into the starring role and despite his inexperience does a sterling job. His personality and fierce intelligence overcome any lack of acting experience. Irglova, a debutante as well, also shines in her role, showing tenderness and charm in a promising introduction. The film was made in only 17 days and was mainly shot using natural light. It won't win any cinematography awards, but the strength of the film is its big heart and delectable charm. Music is also featured heavily and most of the tunes are penned by Hansard. Most are pleasant and sweet with "Falling Slowly" being the song that stands out the most. This film, at its simplest, is an unconventional love story that will warm your heart and make you smile. Plus the ending is sweet and endearing, without thankfully veering into sentimentality.

Sep 1, 2007

The Stage Names-Okkervil River

If you search for music that is true, honest and original then Okkervil River is the band for you. Will Sheff's band of men have been consistently building a career based on emotion, intelligence and passion. It culminated with 2005's near masterpiece "Black Sheep Boy". Now they return with "The Stage Names", a more concise and refined album that is none the less totally satisfying and rewarding. It would seem that Will Sheff, in basically creating a themed album has left behind some of the vein popping emotional epics that characterised previous albums but instead has perhaps delivered a more joyous and uplifting album that starts strong and finishes strong as well.

The rollicking rhythms of "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe" is a great introduction. Heavy on drums and rising to a terrific crescendo it also displays another great feature of the album. Will Sheff has never sung better. Still able to reach down for those forceful moments of shrieking humanity, he now shows that his voice can handle any tune quite beautifully also. My favourite song comes up next. "Unless It's Kicks" is pure joy, thumping drums and a beat to die for, it is probably the band's most radio friendly song yet I believe. "A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene", the following number is the only song that has failed to register with me. Whilst quite catchy and pleasant it doesn't compare very well with the rest of the album. So many other great songs follow though. The simple yet touching "Savannah Smiles", the clever and delightful "Plus Ones" and the heartfelt "Title Track" all make for great listening. Then the gorgeous "John Allyn Smith Sails" closes with its very clever turn of morphing in The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B". This album represents another testament to the sheer talent of Will Sheff. He hasn't made "Black Sheep Boy 2", he has tried to create music that gives you more to ruminate on. At once fun and uplifting it is also tender and gentle. If this is not the best album of 2007 it is certainly in the discussion.

MP3: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe