Nov 29, 2007

All Hour Cymbals-Yeasayer

A strange and mysterious cover. A strange and mysterious piece of music. Hmm, where to begin, what to think. Well, for starters "All Hour Cymbals" is the debut album from Brooklyn quartet Yeasayer. The music of Yeasayer honestly knows no boundaries. It draws its inspirations from many wells, the only constant being a love for experimentation and a great talent for soaring vocals. Mining some of the same territory as Akron/Family, this group embraces more poppier sounds and sometimes veers into psychedelica.

The 3 opening tracks of "All Hour Cymbals" are the ones that demand and grab your attention. "Sunrise" is dramatic and startling, featuring heavy drums, it is funky and high spirited. "Wait For the Summer" and "2080" follow the same pattern, featuring blazingly sunny pop moments. I do like these songs, but the effect fades pretty quickly for me. However, after the small interlude of the dreamy "Ah, Weir" the album enters another phase. A more substantial and giving phase, the songs reach and stretch into the sky, growing and growing till they encompass your heart. This starts with the glorious harmonies of the sometimes sombre "No Need to Worry", before running into the tribal syncopation of "Forgiveness" which has an Animal Collective feel (this has to be a good thing). "Wait For The Wintertime" is like a jam between Black Mountain and Grizzly Bear, if such a thing were possible, whilst "Worms" is all echoed drums and some more delirious harmonies. The closing song "Red Cave'' is a sumptuous piece of music with its soaring harmonies and willowy guitar. A good way to end. I like "All Hour Cymbals", but I have a feeling I will like it more in a few months, after I get to know it better. It is illuminating, but sometimes frustrating. Experimental, yet traditional in the same movement. A smorgasboard of sound and a cornucopia of ideas.

"All Hour Cymbals" can be purchased from Yeasayer.
MP3: 2080
MP3: Sunrise

Nov 28, 2007


Riflemind, showing at the Sydney Theatre, although closing soon, is a complex, sometimes insightful, occasionally meandering, always entertaining look into the world of rock 'n' roll fame and isolation. The Andrew Upton play, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, has a stellar cast that manages to enlighten and expand the material with great performances.

To tell the story, John (Hugo Weaving) was the frontman for Rifemind, a band that enjoyed huge international success. The band has gone into a 3 year hiatus, however they gather at John's plush English country estate to plan the start of a reformation tour. John is joined by bass player Phil (Marton Csokas) and drummer Moon (Steve Rodgers), along with potential newcomer Lee (Ewen Leslie). John is arrogant and distant with the reformed band. He seems comfortable in his opulent home and appears reluctant to rejoin the rock and roll lifestyle. The other band members are all keen to start again, for varying reasons and most of the first act is raucous, spirited conversation about music, egos and reminiscing about the past. On the fringes of this conversation are their manager Sam (Jeremy Sims), whose motives for the band seem purely monetary, Phil's partner Cindy (Susie Porter) and John's fragile wife Lynn (Susan Prior) who wants to protect John from the decadent rock lifestyle, but in turn we find out she has her own demons to contain. The second act is dominated by a stunning conversation between John and Phil, who emerge as the play's two most interesting characters. As they argue, comfort and cajole each other we learn the history of their relationship and how their past has brought them to the present. The play has its strengths and weaknesses. The language is vivid and real, like stepping into the middle of a real argument sometimes. And the performances are excellent, especially the charismatic Weaving and the powerfully brutal Csokas who both shfine. Sims is also warm and funny as the talkative manager. However, some of the characters don't feel fully fleshed out, their motives a little unclear and unexplained by the conclusion. The basic premise seems to me to be this. Music exists to be a living, creative thing. When it is performed as a function of pleasure it maintains its beauty. When it becomes an industry and therefore a job, the reason for starting in the first place ceases. The band "Riflemind" could exist on stage happily, but outside the arena, the pressures involved caused the band to stop. A meeting in the country only fueled all the old animosities, but seemingly they are creatures of habit. So, as they say the show must go on. This is a play with great entertainment value. It chronicles the pitfalls of the music business and documents the frailty of those involved in it. And even though the play has its moments of weakness, the robust performances elevate it to a substantial work.

Nov 27, 2007

Cuthbert & The Night Walkers

A wonderful discovery for me in 2007 has been Sydney's Cuthbert & The Night Walkers. I have caught them live twice and it has been quite a pleasure each time. They bring a certain joy and happiness to every performance. Now, they have recently released their debut album "Love Needs Us". 12 songs of life and love, ecstasy and melancholy. Their approach is quite unique. For anyone who has seen this band live, you would know that there are many parts. At the moment there are 10 members, which includes the Night Walker Choir. Lead singer Richie leads the band with his vocals and mainly acoustic guitar, whilst other members provide instrumentation such as glockenspiel, tambourine and keyboards. The instrumentation is mainly in the background as this group is all about the vocals. Harmonies soar and wash over you, they sound great on record and even better live. The album itself is quite a surprise. There are the big sing a long anthems such as "Sex Is Not Everything", "Red Frogs" and "Newtown" which evoke a very Sydney setting and are quite joyous. But there are also more introspective numbers which create quite a impression. Such as the troubled "O Death" or the Gaelic tinged "Maggie's Health" with its folk leanings. My personal favourite is "Catholic Guilt", with its mournful piano and hushed tones. A really gorgeous song. This band has the ability to run the gamut of human emotions. Bursting joy to quiet sadness. A human experience, on record and in the live arena. Please check this band out.

Cuthbert & The Night Walkers will be launching "Love Needs Us" at Spectrum on December 7.

MP3: Red Frogs-Cuthbert & The Night Walkers

Nov 26, 2007

"Girl In Port" by Okkervil River

Truly stunning from a great, great band. And we get to see them in 2008.

Nov 25, 2007

Patty Griffin @ Clarendon Guest House, Katoomba

I would have to honestly say that a few years ago, the music of Patty Griffin would not be something I would seek out or be interested in. Her style of classic country would just not be to my taste. But over time as I become more and more exposed to different styles of music, I seek out those artists who are recommended as paragons of country/folk music. And Patty Griffin is most certainly a paragon. Although she has been on the scene for quite a while, I only have her excellent 2007 release "Children Running Through" in my collection. But that was enough to seek her out on her just recently concluded Australian Tour. In fact, what better way to see her live then to enjoy her music at the historic Clarendon Guest House in the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney. The Clarendon is a lovely, historic hotel with a theatre/restaurant inside. Small and intimate it was a great way to experience the charm and majestic voice of Patty Griffin.

A quick history lesson. Patty Griffin is from Maine, but now resides in Austin, Texas. She has released 7 albums and her songs have been covered by artists such as The Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke and even Kelly Clarkson. Her music knows no boundaries of style. She swings from Country to Folk to Rock to Soul to Gospel. And so it proved Friday night. Switching from upright piano to acoustic guitar I was enthralled and bewitched by her performance. Thankfully she played a lot from her recent album, but I was also entranced by everything she played. The gorgeous "Burgundy Shoes" was stunning as was the gospel like "Heavenly Day". You could hear a pin drop when she closed with the breath taking "Up To The Mountain", whilst numbers like "No Bad News" and "Stay on the Ride" were rollicking and just sheer fun. I also loved songs that I need to investigate more such as "Truth No 2" and "Top of the World" which have both been covered by The Dixie Chicks. She was supported through out, mainly on electric guitar, by Nashville producer and musician Doug Lancio. Lancio was perfect, playing with great texture and subtlety he added just what was needed on every song. Oh, two more things elevated the night to special status. Ms Griffin is one of the most warm and generous performers I have ever seen on stage. She was humble and funny, communicating with great feeling between songs as she told sweet anecdotes about her life and music. And her voice. Holy Cow. It is something to behold. Deep and powerful, it resonated through out the room with ease. Containing every element of passion and power, it was a privilege to hear live.

Nov 22, 2007

Big Sounds and Big Hair; Whalebones, Black Mountain and Other New Sounds

Whalebones. Big sound, lots of hair. Tonnes of power, loads of fun. Watch out for this band. They recently released their first EP "Morning Man" on Lucky Horse Industries. Hand crafted and containing 5 songs it is powerful stuff. Stoner rock for the new age if you will. All the songs have an epic feel, rocking and rolling, swaying and swinging. I am loving their sound, especially the centre piece track "Don't You Know". This Seattle band is highly recommended.
MP3: Blood Bank-Whalebones
MP3: Don't You Know-Whalebones

Hailing a couple of hours up the road are Black Mountain, from Vancouver. Their sound is very similar, if you have a copy of their self titled debut album you would know that. Now this band is about to release their second album "In the Future". It drops on January 22 on the always excellent Jagjaguwar. The first track available for preview is "Tyrants" and it has the band's trademark sound. Big opening, then a slower passage, before bursting out all over again. Their new album should be epic, judging by this.
MP3: Tyrants-Black Mountain

Jason Collett, part of the always growing Broken Social Scene collective, also has a new album slated for release in early 2008. Arts and Crafts will release "Here's To Being Here" on February 5. Jason's sound veers more to the country sound, a different feeling to that emanating from BSS. To quote the artist "This is very much a guitar record, in the sense of it being very tasteful...that's the greatest accomplishment of this record" says Collett, "recording in bigger spaces and live off the floor was the ideal I wanted to shoot for with this record. Recording this way allowed for spontaneous creations, which led to many wonderful little accidents."
MP3: Out of Time-Jason Collett

Bodies of Water are from Los Angeles. They recently released their debut album "Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink" on their own label Thousand Tongues. Now, after receiving great acclaim, they have signed with Secretly Canadian and their album will receive a greater release. December 4 in the USA, then January 22 worldwide. What I have heard of the album sounds impressive. Harmonies galore, they produce a swirling mesh of folk, gospel and psychedelic pop. This band of four is going places, in a hurry.
MP3: I'll Guess We'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess-Bodies of Water

I can't tell you a lot about The Whiskers. Except this, they are very good. Oh, I do know there are six of them and they are spread all over the US, although mainly in the North-East. They recently released a self titled debut album on Awkwardcore Records. Their music is quite unique, it is mysterious and beautiful. I would say that if you desire to get into Frog Eyes, but find their music a little hard to digest, then this band could be for you. Very impressive.
MP3: Roses-The Whiskers

Nov 21, 2007

The Mountain Goats Reveal New Album Details

I think 2007 has been a special year for music, I will reveal my favourites some time in December. So, can 2008 match it. Hard to say. New Wolf Parade is rumoured for April, so that is a good start. Then there is. "Heretic Pride" is the new opus from those purveyors of soul searching and life defining music, The Mountain Goats. Yes, John Darnielle and company return with a new album on February 19 on 4AD. John Darnielle is assisted by Peter Hughes, of course, Franklin Bruno, Annie Clark and The Bright Mountain Choir, amongst others. Produced by John Vanderslice and Scott Solter, it contains 13 tracks and is sure to entertain, enlight and enrapture. Bring on February!

To quote John-
"We are really excited about this album, and we wish it were out right now, but there is a law against releasing albums in December unless you are Queen. Any album you see released in December is actually by Queen, no matter what it says on the cover. Then in January everybody is recovering from having listened to too much Queen. Hence, February. See you then!"

Heretic Pride Track Listing
1. Sax Rohmer #1
2. San Bernardino
3. Heretic Pride
4. Autoclave
5. New Zion
6. So Desperate
7. In the Craters on the Moon
8. Lovecraft in Brooklyn
9. Tianchi Lake
10. How to Embrace a Swamp Creature
11. Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident
12. Sept 15 1983
13. Michael Myers Resplendent
Spoon to Play Big Day Out; Now How About a Sideshow!

Spoon. Yes, Spoon. That reasonably good band from Austin, Texas have been included in the second round of announcements for the 2008 Big Day Out. Now, none of the other announcements are stoking my fire, but Spoon definitely are. This band can truly do no wrong. They just know how to write perfectly formed Rock songs that have bite and soul. And Britt Daniel's voice is a glorious thing to hear. So, all we have to do now is wait for a sideshow announcement. They are playing in Tasmania on the 26th, so that date is out. So I am predicting the 24th or 27th. As for a venue, their last two visits have seen them play the Gaelic Club and the Metro. I would think a return trip to the Metro or maybe the Enmore Theatre would be in order. So, please announce something soon. And you too, Arcade Fire.

Nov 20, 2007


"Pride" is a glorious thing of beauty. A long and bittersweet journey into places unknown. Full of sorrow and innate importance, this is music to dwell on, sleep on and revel in. Breathe in deeply and smell the flavour of poignant, tender shards of feeling. After the stirring "Aw Come, Aw Wry" in 2005, Phosphorescent returns with his most significant work yet. "Pride" is full to the brim of melancholy and slow burning tenderness. Effective and affecting, its many layers slowly reveal themselves, producing a work of earnest subtlety and refinement.

Phosphorescent is the nom de plume of Alabama raised and Brooklyn based Matthew Houck. The strength of his songwriting belies his tender age of 26. This is his first release on Dead Oceans and it is stunningly good. The gentle opener "A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise" doesn't give an idea of the majesty to follow. Most of the songs are mini epics, crackling and mysterious. Sad, but never maudlin. Each song features sparse instrumentation. A drum roll there, a strum of guitar there, instinctive sound effects which only adds to the feeling of unaffected grandeur. Holding all this together is the crumbling, sympathetic voice of Houck. His lilting voice cracks in all the right places. Its connection to your heart is devastatingly real. It has been compared to the great Will Oldham and although this is a credible comparison, his murmurs are singular and distinctly his. This is never more evident then on the sublime "Wolves" or the superb "Cocaine Lights", whose lyrics are quite simply some of the best I have heard in a long time. This song and many of the others cover themes of love attained and lost, redemption and forgiveness. Faded glory. The epic "My Dove, My Lamb" only reaffirms this theme. A song not to trifle with, its tattered style will melt even the coldest of hearts. "Pride" has a timeless feeling to it. You just know this music will sound just as relevant in 10 years time. It is music delivered from the heart by a messenger with the purest intentions.

Cocaine Lights lyrics

In the darkness
After the cocaine lights
I will miss you
More than ever

And to color my eyes into rose
Is to ask of my beaten bones
To be less of meat and stone
And more of feather

But lord they’re rolling me away
Ain’t they rolling me away
Don’t they roll oh oh oh
In the morning in the kitchen
I can hear my own blood clicking
So I stand there and I listen
Til' the glowing begins

There is light that pours sweet from new hips
There is beer that pours sweet through my lips
There is gold where the cold button sits
It’s just a showy amen

And in the hallway, in a slip
She says ‘hey, don’t you like my newest trick’
And I say “yeah that’s a pretty good trick
Would you show me again’

And lord I truly am awake
And lord, truly I am afraid
And, lord, truly I remain…

In the darkness
After the cocaine lights
I will miss you
With no warning

I will recover my sense of grace
And rediscover my rightful place
Yes and cover my face
With the morning

Available for purchase from Dead Oceans
MP3: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise-Phosphorescent
MP3: Cocaine Lights (Daytrotter version)-Phosphorescent

Nov 19, 2007

Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper

Brand new video for the title track from Blitzen Trapper's thrilling album released this year. This is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Sweet melodies and chiming guitars.

Nov 18, 2007

Good Bad Not Evil-Black Lips

Short. Sharp. Sweet. Fun. Raucous. 13 tracks of pure energy. That is the new album from Atlanta, Georgia's Black Lips. "Good Bad Not Evil" is full of the devil and rip roaring fun. With every track, bar the last, clocking at under 3 minutes, the pace is kept up through out. "O Katrina" is typical of this. Rambunctious and blaring, it speeds along with a blues stomp keeping the time. "It Feels Alright" will do the same, its unhinged freedom bursting forth and into your ears. This fun loving foursome are tumultuous and unpretentious, their influences bleeding into the tracks. Garage rock, punk, blues, hillbilly, swing and any other number of sounds. The up tempo numbers are great fun, but it is the more deliberative numbers that will stay with you. "Veni Vidi Vici" has Rolling Stones' swagger stamped all over it. "Bad Kids" is pop at its' best, whilst "Cold Hands" is an anthem waiting to happen, with its superb guitar work. The concluding track, "Transcendental Light", shows the band has a few more tricks up their sleeves. It creates an effortless sweet vibe, as it saunters through its strong melody. This album is perfectly made for lifting you up and making you move. Its' direct intentions guarantee fun. Good times.

MP3: Cold Hands-Black Lips

Nov 17, 2007

The Panics/Whitley @ The Annandale Hotel

The Panics show Friday night at the Annandale Hotel was sold out and well received. On the back of their recent excellent album "Cruel Guards" they seem to have garnered some more fans. Their performance was tight and polished, full of warmth and humour. But somehow, for some reason I can't explain, their performance never rose above being very good. I guess I can't always expect greatness at every show I attend. So, I should be satisfied with a very good band playing a well chosen set of their best material. They played a mix of older material and songs from the new album, alternating between each through out the night. I would have to say that the newer songs are my favourites, particularly the sweet sounding "Ruins" and the epic "Cruel Guards". I did feel a close similarity between a lot of the songs, which maybe was a reason I didn't feel the night was elevated to a special level. Naturally they closed with their single "Don't Fight It" which was a real crowd pleaser. Jae Leffer's vocals were impressive, as was his musicianship, deftly switching from keyboards to guitar through out the night. The other members of the band were impressive too, never missing a beat and joining in on vocals through out the set. An enjoyable performance from an experienced and talented Australian band. A good night, just not great.

Support act was Whitley. Well support in name only, as this was the main reason for going. As you might be aware, I have been greatly charmed by his debut album "The Submarine" this year. And I have enjoyed each of his live performances that I have caught this year. Friday night was no different. Despite some technical problems, mainly with the lead guitar, the band showed off their growing prowess as a band. Effortlessly switching from full out rock jams to sweet pop numbers to hushed ballads to country like swing, they impressed greatly. All in support of Lawrence's powerful and soulful voice. Impressive songs were the much played "Lost in Time" and "I Remember", plus the perhaps lesser known "A Shot to the Stars" and the gorgeous "More Than Life". Also welcome, done solo, was the heavenly cover of Bjork' s "Hyper Ballad". Unfortunately the old bugbear of a rude and talkative crowd raised its head. For all those paying attention there seemed to be as many talking loudly and making phone calls. I guess it's a thing we have to put up with these days, but it annoys the hell out of me. I think next time I catch this band it will be their own show in a small and more intimate venue.

Nov 15, 2007

War Elephant-Deer Tick

A great voice can sometimes be the farthest thing from technically being a great voice in itself. But I will always take a voice of character over a voice of cardboard. Well, John McCauley has a voice of character. Sometimes he sounds like he has swallowed sandpaper for breakfast. But its rawness and complete vulnerability has won me over. So much so that his one man project, Deer Tick, has produced an exciting debut album in "War Elephant".

Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, the 21 year old McCauley has produced a piece of music that is honest and 100% passionate. A vague description for his sound could be garage country or maybe grunge folk. His rasping voice is the central instrument, but there are deft touches of sweet guitar folk, such as on the opening track "Ashamed" and the sweet sounding "Dirty Dishes". "Standing at the Threshold" is raging and rollicking whilst "Long Time" is full of regret and pain. In fact there is a running theme of regret and recrimination. At times it can be a little overpowering as on the draining "Christ Jesus" and a couple of other tracks. Maybe the album could have used some slight editing. But there are other excellent tracks such as "Baltimore Blues No 1" and "These Old Shoes" which both have a blues feel to them and the quite epic "Not So Dense". I think it is better for an artist to aim too high, rather then too low and "War Elephant" is quite a considerable achievement in that regard. I can see that some people might find the voice grating, but not great. But I believe it contains such a reservoir of human emotion, that combined with the intelligent lyrics and sparse, yet effective instrumentation an exciting voice has emerged. One to listen to now and watch for the future.

War Elephant is available for purchase from Feow Records.
MP3: Ashamed-Deer Tick

Nov 13, 2007

Best of Australian Music 2007

After a number of years of only intermittent goodness bursting out of the Australian music scene, I would have to say that 2007 was a very promising year for the future of Australian music. Also, I have seen more live music this year then ever before, probably due to this blog, and I have enjoyed and been excited by quite a few native grown acts. Thankfully the live music scene seems to be in a growth area, with many new venues opening up and older ones, like the Hopetoun (pictured above) continuing to put out great nights of music. In fact, the venerable Hopetoun in Surry Hills is my favourite place to see music. Small and intimate, full of character, I always am excited to see a band there. Now if they could only do something about the red lighting.

Yesterday Sean published his annual list of Top 25 Australian bands. It is a big task to undertake and it is always interesting to read the results. I contributed to the list and I think only 6 of my picks made it. I am still confused by the fact that Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Off Your Hands managed to fill spots 2 and 3 as these acts I find quite dull and derivative, but each to their own I guess. I thought I would post my Top 25, with extra comments, to give you an idea of how I see the Australian music scene at the moment.

1. Whitley
The Submarine is my favourite Australian album of this year. A songwriter with enormous potential, he is creating poetic music that melts my heart. Seen them 3 times this year and each show has been better then the last one.

2. The Paper Scissors
Hands down the best live band out there, rhythm section is tight as and Jai's voice is just a beast. A wonderful debut album just confirms their exciting potential.

3. The Panics
They dare to make great music and they succeed. Cruel Guards is just a wonderful album, full of texture and insight. A mature and exciting band, at the peak of their powers.

4. Dead Letter Chorus
Genuine and passionate, their debut EP is only a portent of things to come. Their live shows are a thing of beauty. A debut album in 2008 is surely something to look forward to.

5. Dappled Cities Fly
They showed the world why we love them so much.

6. New Buffalo
Delightful and angelic, a beautiful voice for all to enjoy.

7. Cuthbert and The Night Walkers
Magical and charming live, they always put a smile on my face. Debut album is exciting too.

8. Old Man River
Saw them twice this year and each time was a pleasurable experience.

9. Dirty Three
They are Dirty Three. 'nuff said.

10. The Panda Band
Their sound is rich and melodic. Saw them at the Annandale and loved them.

11. Walrus
Caught them at the Hopetoun and was blown away by their sound. Explosive!

12. Bridezilla
So young, yet so good. Like Mozart crossed with Dirty Three.

13. Painted Stones
Impressively covered a Mountain Goats song live. Extremely promising this band is.

14. Augie March
Saw them in front of a disastrous crowd at the Metro. Strong songwriting still shone through.
15. Whiskey Go Go's
For a guaranteed good time, see this band live.

16. Cloud Control
Sweet, sweet pop music. A very bright future seems assured.
17. Pivot
They manufacture sweeping soundscapes, augmented by the best drummer in Australia.

18. Laura
Layer upon layer on guitar produces heavenly results.

19. Architecture in Helsinki
More here on past reputation. New album was a severe disappointment.
20. The Waysiders
These young guys are channelling Classic Indie Rock.

21. The Mares
When they refine their sound, the sky's the limit.

22. Richard in Your Mind
The singer seems to exist in another world. But what a beautiful world it is.

23. Darren Hanlon
Saw him live for the first time recently and was charmed by his music.

24. The Seabellies
When their recorded output catches up with their live shows, look out!

25. Poly and the Statics
Saw them live once, was impressed. Need to see them again.

Nov 12, 2007

Becoming All Things-Zookeeper

No statement can have true finality. Life is a fluid and moving thing. But I feel reasonably confident in stating this. "Becoming All Things" by Zookeeper is the last truly great album of 2007. This symphony of joy is a nearly perfect concoction of great sounds. It clearly and cleanly defines how music can uplift your spirit and delve deep into your heart. The hardest thing perhaps in music is to try and write songs that have soul and joy, yet still have that melancholy sensibility that resonates long after the smile finally fades away. Yet somehow Chris Simpson has achieved this, and in spades.

I wasn't aware, until recently, of Chris Simpson's musical heritage. But apparently he has been on the scene for years. Originally from Denver he was in two bands, Mineral and The Gloria Record, that are said to have had a totally different style to Zookeeper. After a hiatus of two years, Simpson re emerged in Austin to collaborate with former band members and new musicians to form Zookeeper and produce a six track EP (which is excellent too) before recording their debut album "Becoming All Things". The title is apt as this album is an eclectic mix of styles and spirits. There are downright pure melodic pop moments, such as "Snow in Berlin" and "Ballad Of My Friends" which are rousing and stimulating. Then there exists "Boy & The Street Choir" which is all hushed and glorious. The album is certainly seamless, songs expertly dovetail into the next creating a kaleidoscope of majestic music. The songs all have an unstoppable momentum, there is no traditional verse-chorus structure, building and building before often bursting into life. With great results. Simpson's voice is earthy and sometimes world weary, straining at times to emit the emotion of his lyrics. Set against lush pop melodies, with acoustic guitar and tinkling piano the effect is delivered with great surety and intention. This is never more evident then on the epic title track, which is just sublime. The song has a quiet beauty as Simpson warbles with great emotion over a constant piano line as guitars and various instruments twitter and stutter in the background. By the finish, the song struts and floats before slowly dying. Thankfully the song after, the last one, "Born With Things To Do" is quite a return to joy as it is a rollicking tune, full of optimism and hope. Which is the strongest feeling I receive from this album. Hope and optimism abound in the lush pop symphonies. But there are also many other layers at work here. Enough to give you constant and unfettered listening pleasure.

You can purchase "Becoming All Things" from Belle City Pop.
MP3: Becoming All Things
MP3: Trumpets
Explosions in the Sky Tour Australia For First Time

As Dan Boeckner (a great man) once said, "It's getting better all the time". Yes, it's true, Explosions in the Sky are finally touring Australia. Of all the amazing music coming our way in early 2008 this is perhaps bigger then anything else. Why? Because this Austin band make their guitars cry. They can express more emotion without the presence of words then 90% of bands out their that take the vocal path. If you don't believe me listen to "The Only Moment We Were Alone" and try not to cry. Particularly at the 8.30 minute mark when the guitars cascade like a waterfall. Pure magic. So before they play the Perth Festival they are playing 3 shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We in Sydney will see them at the Manning Bar, a venue I am not familiar with, so I hope it is appropriate. Be still, my beating heart.

Tour Dates
14 February 2008, Thursday, Brisbane, The Zoo
15 February 2008, Friday, Sydney, Manning Bar
16 February 2008, Saturday, Melbourne, Corner Hotel
Tickets on sale November 23

A reminder of their greatness-
MP3: Welcome, Ghosts
MP3: Memorial

Nov 11, 2007

Newtown Festival; Or How to See Your Favourite Bands For Free

Music for free. Great music for free. Has to be a great combination. In a great location on a gorgeous sunny day in Sydney. Has to be even better. Today I ventured to Camperdown Memorial Park to take in the Newtown Festival. Although it was a late start to the day, I managed to see my 2 favourite bands. Firstly Paper Scissors (with a new drummer) tore through a frenetic half hour set, once again proving this band has few peers on the live music scene. Just wished they could have played a longer set, just to hear Jai Pyne's weapon of a voice and the great rhythmic beats this band can whip up. Luckily it seemed the crowd was really into it, so hopefully they have found a few new fans. Speaking of crowds, the venue seems to have outgrown the day. Wandering around the park was quite a slow battle. There was barely an inch of bare space to enjoy the sights and sounds that festivals like these have to offer. After a bit of a wander, it was off to the main stage to see Dead Letter Chorus, who had scored the headliner status on the Main Stage. Their blend of genuine traditional rock sounds, laced with touches of country and folk seemed to go down a treat with the large crowd sitting down on the grass. Despite a little muddy sound, which sometimes seems to happen at festivals, the band showed off their trademark passion and enthusiasm, pulling out all stops to enthrall and entertain. Highlights were "Magnolia Farm" and a spirited cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer". Cam announced that are planning to record their debut album and that it should see the light of day in the first half of 2008. They are playing at Spectrum next Saturday night. Definitely a gig to be at, although I will unfortunately miss it as I will be in Canberra. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I will be for sure next year. Maybe in a bigger venue?

Nov 10, 2007

Do Make Say Think - A Tender History In Rust

Truly sublime!

Nov 9, 2007

Hello, Blue Roses; Hello, Are Explosions in the Sky Playing Sydney???????

Dan Bejar is a musical treasure. So why we wait for a new Destroyer album and enjoy the songs he contributed to this years' New Pornographers album he has something new in the works. Hello, Blue Roses are Bejar and his partner Sydney Vermont. Their first creation together, a self titled disc containing 14 tracks, will be released on January 22, 2008 on Locust Music. I am hoping this duo can pull off some sort of Boeckner/Perry magic a la "Plague Park". Knowing, and loving, the music of Bejar I am sure they can. The first song for release, "Shadow Falls" has a sweet, melodic feeling with sparse instrumentation. So far, I like it.

MP3: Shadow Falls-Hello, Blue Roses

This was brought to my attention which led me to this. Holy Cow, Explosions in The Sky are playing in Perth. When do they announce Sydney dates? It's like an avalanche of music is coming our way in 2008 and EITS are the icing on the cake. This band is very close to my heart, so I can't wait to hear about Sydney dates. Also, whilst at the Factory Theatre on Wednesday night I picked up a Spunk Records flier which had under "Touring-January" the magic word Spoon. These Texans that make unparalled music have been rumoured for a while to be coming down under, so lets keep our fingers crossed that this is true. 2008 is shaping up to be phenomenal in live music.

This just keeps better. Golden Plains announced the lineup today for their festival to take place in Victoria, March 8-10. The lineup is extremely eclectic with a number of interesting names. But two stood out. Beirut and Iron & Wine. BEIRUT!!!!!!!!! More excitement, this maybe too much for your poor correspondent to handle. Now we just have to keep an eye out for Sydney sideshows.

Blog Fresh Radio is a great site to hear new music and listen to the voices of many Bloggers that you may be reading. I am fortunate enough to make an appearance on the latest episode where I talk about The Panics. Anyway the site is definitely worth checking out.

Nov 8, 2007

Bill Callahan @ The Factory

Bare Feet. Jeans. White T Shirt. Simple and unadorned. Bill Callahan Wednesday night at the Factory Theatre. However the music was far from plain. A pleasure from music derived deep in the soil was most surely appreciated by all. Grand and elegant, yet also stirring and moving, these were sounds to soak in and dwell over. Formally the artist known as Smog, Mr Callahan now sports his own name on the programme. Playing a set mostly comprised of songs from his 2007 release "Woke On A Whaleheart" and his last release as Smog, his melodic fingerpicking on a very modest sized guitar was delightful and serene. His voice always keeps on an even keel, with nary an inflection on display. It is deep and resonant, lacking great arcs but containing a soulful tone that expresses the lyrics in a direct and honest way that ensures that their power is delivered to the audience. His beautiful sounds were augmented by a great band behind him. Tim Rogers (Jack Ladder) played bass and Lawrence Pike (Pivot) showed once again that he is without peer behind the drum kit. His playing his intuitive and graceful, always in sync with the song and extremely creative to boot. Then there were 3 Violin players, whose sweeping strings only made the music seem more grand. Many wonderful songs were played, but I loved "Say Valley Maker" and "Teenage Spaceship" especially. Great to hear "Bathysphere" is still a live staple and "Rock Bottom Riser" was a moving song in the encore. A great performance, devoid of spectacle (except for Bill's strange little dance) but rich in texture and deep in meaning.

Set List

Our Anniversary
Diamond Dancer
Teenage Spaceship
Let Me See The Colts
The Well
Say Valley Maker
River Guard

Rock Bottom Riser
In The Pines
Cold Blooded Old Times

More photos at my Flickr.

Support acts were Fire Kites, whose set was pleasant but not memorable and was unfortunately ruined by a poor sound mix and Underlapper who I was very impressed by. This six piece hails from Sydney and their music is a blend of sweeping instrumentals and serene vocal excursions. With many influences on display, their sound was grand and elegant, stately and tranquil with the occasional burst of energy. They reminded me a little of Do Make Say Think, which from my point of view is a huge compliment. I picked up their recently released second album "Red Spring" after the show, which I look forward to listening to.

Nov 6, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a film of supreme elegance, majestic power and brooding intensity. Its beauty is something to behold. Quite simply it is a work of wonder and more then likely the best film I will see in 2007. Its many great qualities are ample. The cinematography, acting, writing and score are all superb. They combine to create a film that is deeply satisfying to watch and one to savour.

Director Andrew Dominik ("Chopper") has succeeded wildly in his first foray into the American film market. He has crafted a film devoid of easy explanations and standard plot lines. This is not a western in the traditional sense. There are shoot outs and action sequences, but they are few and far between, for this is much more a meditation on the price of fame and the obsession with infamy. It is a psychological drama between two men whose paths are joined together, at the time and for all of time. The film begins in 1881 and Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is giving up his 14 year life of train robbery and murder. His gang has been decimated over time and only his brother Frank (Sam Shepard) remains from the early days. After one last train robbery he secludes himself in a small town in his native Missouri. James is an immensely charismatic man, who after years of living the outlaw life, has become increasingly paranoid and agitated. Two men he thinks he can trust are recent gang members Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell) and his younger brother Robert (Casey Affleck). However Robert, a shy and introverted young man who initially idolises James, is increasingly frustrated by the lack of respect he receives from his hero. So much so that he takes matters into his hands. Not giving too much away, the film title does that, he plots to kill James and collect the bounty that the Missouri Governor has placed on his head. A cat and mouse game ensues as James and Ford are juxtaposed against each other in a battle of will and wits. James becomes more and more varied in his moods and Ford tries to summon the courage to carry out his task.

This is very much a film driven by character study. The plot is fairly simple, but the portrayal of men locked in a grim existential battle had me entranced. The acting is superb. Pitt has never been better, whilst Affleck lives and breathes his character with grim surety. Filmed in Canada, cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers stunning beauty to the screen. There are long scenes of sublime inaction and they are a joy to behold. The score by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave (he makes a late cameo) only adds to the overall feel of the film. It is subtle and touching, giving that extra layer required. This is a film of many layers, at all times there are several themes and ideas at work. Many have commented at its length, but at 160 minutes I never once felt the pace dragged. Since when there is a time limit on greatness. And this film is most assuredly great. Its stunning beauty, the train robbery sequence is one of the best film sequences I can remember, is matched by the study of characters in decline and despair. The theme of the film is more even more relevant today. The worship of fame for its own sake and the destructive hold it can have. Cinema at its most expressive and most certainly at its infinite possibilities.

Nov 5, 2007

Two Gallants-Two Gallants

Two men, covered, cloaked in obscurity. This seems inappropriate, for the music of Two Gallants is bare faced, naked and raw. The duo from San Francisco have recently released their third album, a self titled effort, and it is the very definition of a grower. Unlike past efforts this music doesn't contain as many breathless moments of fierce and fast passion. However the passion is well and truly there as this album is full of slow burning glory. Songs that are ragged and glorious, full of the sinew of life. Give this album plenty of listens and its ample qualities will slowly draw you in and a rewarding experience is nearly assured.

Two Gallants' name is derived from a story in James Joyce's "Dubliners" and I always feel a literary style in their lyrics. They normally write stories of murder, theft and the dark side of American history. On this album though the themes seem more personal, they are world weary and tear stained stories of loves abandoned and lost. There is an amazing poetry to the lyrics and the music, whilst more subdued then previously, is still full of exquisite power and honesty. Stand out tracks include the harmonica imbued "The Hand That Held Me Down", which is a plea for understanding, the mournful "The Trembling of the Rose", which features sublime strings to accompany delicate folk style finger picking. For mostly two players, Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel bring enormous variety to the table. The guitar playing is forceful, yet sparse and Vogel's drumming can be powerful, yet subtle. Undoubtedly the major instrument is Stephens' voice, which is jagged and roughhewn, a blistering iron pulled out of the fire. This is never more evident then on the forlorn "Ribbons Round My Tongue" or the salacious "Despite What You've Been Told". This is music to enjoy now, but if you like, put it on the shelf and I guarantee it will taste even better in a couple of months.

MP3: The Hand That Held Me Down
MP3: Despite What You've Been Told

Nov 4, 2007

Sculpture By The Sea

Today was a magnificent day in Sydney and a great way to spend it was taking in Sculpture By The Sea which runs between Bondi and Tamarama Beaches. It is free and runs until November 18. Over 100 works are on display and many are quite unique. The one above was my favourite and below I posted a few more of my picks. I have a few more photos at my Flickr.

Nov 3, 2007

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a journey into Romania, 1987. It is a journey into a world most of us will never touch, thankfully. It is a journey of grim reality and unrelenting tension. Ultimately this film, whilst never entertaining in the true sense, is deeply moving and immensely rewarding. Directed by Christian Mungiu, this quietly disturbing piece of cinema won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. It is easy to see why, for it will definitely stay in your mind for days after seeing it. Essentially a simple story, it is set in one night. Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) are University students. They live in a dorm, a very spartan lifestyle where simple possessions like cigarettes and candy are traded like gold. It is a very austere world, where oppression is omnipotent and desperation breathes through many minutes in their lives. Gabita is paying to have an abortion, an act deemed criminal by the state. She is scared, indecisive and weak of will. Otilia is a doer, she knows the system and organises everything for her friend. Their night is joined by Mr Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), who they intend to pay to carry out their requirements. He is objectionable and frightening to say the least and is just one of many reasons why their night is full of tension and increasing apprehension. This film is quietly shot, with long scenes of inaction and dialogue. It slowly builds a grip on you as you become entranced, and sometimes repulsed, by the scenes in front of you. Finely acted with great understatement and subtlety this film manages very skillfully to convey the fear and dread felt by the two lead characters. I felt quite drained by the finish, perhaps a film that would be hard to see twice, but absolutely one that I could recommend strongly is viewed once by all lovers of fine cinema.

Nov 2, 2007

Sydney Festival 2008; Or If This Continues I Will Have No Money and Quite Possibly No Brain

Holy friggin' Cow!!! Is the start of 2008 going to be special or what? I was pretty happy with the fact that legends Built to Spill were playing in Sydney in early January. Then on Tuesday the St Jeromes Laneway Festival announcement just blew me away. So the launch of the Sydney Festival yesterday was going to be the icing on the cake for me. Well, this is the biggest cake I could possibly ever taste. In fact I am still coming to terms with the enormity of the music that is going to be on display. So this morning I intrepidly went forth in the search of tickets. At first I was enormously frustrated by the fact that the Festival website was in meltdown and virtually impossible to get into. Then I went direct to the Ticketmaster and Ticketek sites and after a little work I was able to get all the tickets I needed. I feel relieved, excited and extremely happy now.

In short here are the events that I have purchased tickets for-
Andrew Bird at the Spiegeltent
Sufjan Stevens at the State Theatre
Low at the Spiegeltent (their Don't Look Back Now night)
The National at Angel Place Recital Hall
Joanna Newsom at the Sydney Opera House

Did everyone get the tickets they wanted?

Nov 1, 2007

Darren Hanlon @ The Factory

Strings? What is it about strings? In every form and fashion they just make for beautiful music. Last night I heard a man gently pluck a guitar, a banjo and a ukulele. All with consummate skill and generous warmth. Last night was my first night at the Factory Theatre in Enmore. A small and intimate venue, I quite enjoyed its clean and uncluttered space and good sound. Last night was also my first time seeing Darren Hanlon. In fact I really am totally unfamiliar with this man's work. But I walked away from this show, thinking that Mr Hanlon was a warm and erudite host with immense charm who writes songs that are kinda folky and plain but are still very honest and full of charm. He doesn't write songs full of fire and brimstone or tunes that will have you reaching for a huge thesaurus. But I found his songs to be full of conviction and extremely effective in telling a story. I also found him to be quintessentially Australian, but not in a corny way, but a true and genuine way. His songs, to me, are little vignettes of life, wry observances and tender feelings. Backed by mainly keyboards and drums (Pikelet), I really enjoyed his slower paced songs, especially the ones played on banjo. "Hold On" being a great example of this. I also loved the song he finished with, "Falling Aeroplanes", an emphatic ode to the power of the song. I can't say I will be filling my CD collection with Darren Hanlon albums, but I certainly won't hesitate to see him live again.

I also caught Pikelet in support. This is the one woman show of Evelyn Morris. I was certainly impressed with her angelic voice and her quite amazing dexterity switching from instrument to instrument. On most tracks she would loop each instrument to provide the appropriate backing. She never missed a beat and was very original and entertaining.