Jun 30, 2008

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

Long on name, long on talent, or so it would seem. This young and talented artist is releasing his debut album this July on Say Hey Records. Originally from Oregon, Mr Robinson is now domiciled in Brooklyn and has been working on this material for a couple of years with some very esteemed helpers. Namely Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear (Grizzly Bear) and Kyp Malone (TV On The Radio). His music, from the parts of the album that I have heard, is an eclectic mix of folk and rock with a totally natural feel and quite an individual voice. This song "Buriedfed" is a rollicking, rambunctious affair. Pure Gold.

MP3: Buriedfed-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

Jun 29, 2008

Bon Iver on Blogotheque

Ah, this is very nice. Bon Iver in Paris for Blogotheque. Performing "For Emma". Definitely one of my favourite songs of 2008.

Jun 27, 2008

The New Pornographers Announce Australian Sideshows

The New Pornographers, that grand Canadian purveyor of all things good, have announced their Australian sideshows. They were recently made part of the first Great Escape lineup announcement and after that appearance they will playing 5 more dates around Australia. The band made their maiden voyage to Australia in December, 2006 and I saw their excellent show at the Gaelic Club. This time I plan to see them in a similar sized venue, the Annandale Hotel. Hopefully Neko Case will be part of the lineup again. The amazing talents of Dan Bejar? We can only hope, can't we?

New Pornographers Tour Dates
October 5- The Great Escape, Sydney
October 7- The Zoo, Brisbane
October 8- Rosemount Hotel, Perth
October 10- The Gov, Adelaide
October 11- Corner Hotel, Melbourne
October 12- Annandale Hotel, Sydney

Tickets go on sale July 11, except Great Escape which go on sale July 9.

Jun 25, 2008

2008; A Look Back; A Reflection; Or Why Wolf Parade Have My Heart On A Platter...

Oh, Wolf Parade, you had me at Soldier's Grin. How does a band come to exist so perfectly? Truly, they have perfected the art of the rock song and 2008 belongs to them and no one else. They manage in each and every song to make me feel excited and rewarded. This year has existed of counting down the days until their second album was released and I am pleased to say that "At Mount Zoomer" is an unqualified success. In a world of often banal music this Montreal band manage to make music that crashes your eardrums and wraps a warm blanket around your heart. Besides their musical talent, the thing that I love about them is that they reek cool. But not in a 'Look at me, aren't I great' kind of way, but in a 'we do what we do and don't really care if you like it or not' kind of way. I mean, they don't have a website or a producer, they regard their music highly and shun any form of hype or hysteria. To me, they represent everything that is great about music.

Well, having said that, there has been much to enjoy in 2008. In the live music arena, we experienced a run of shows from January to March that we are unlikely to ever see again. It seemed that every night a great band was coming to our town. I will give a full list of my top shows at the end of the year, but right now my top three shows have been Explosions In The Sky, Okkervil River and Arcade Fire. And it will take something other worldly to top that band from Austin, Texas. As far as albums go, I would say that 2007 was an overall better year than what 2008 has dished up. A couple of bands have produced disappointing albums, such as My Morning Jacket, but there have been great discoveries, such as The Dodos. So, to be brief I have listed my top ten albums so far. At the end of the year, I will produce a top 50. Yes, I did say top 50, I just like to make lists. Also I will list some albums that I am looking forward to in the coming months.

Top Ten Albums of 2008 (So Far)
1-At Mount Zoomer-Wolf Parade
I think I like this band. No, really. This album just gets better and better with every listen. More ambitious and grand then their first, it is the sound of a band reaching for the stars and then landing in another universe.
2-Visiter-The Dodos
Six months ago I hadn't heard of this band. Now I can't get enough of them. Simple song structure, but played with such excitement and joy, that these songs become second nature to you.
3-Trouble In Dreams-Destroyer
Has Dan Bejar ever written a bad song? One of the supreme songwriters of our time returns with another collection of startlingly good songs. I love Dan.
4-Arm's Way-Islands
THE dramatic album of 2008. An epic kaleidoscope of sound. Songs that bend, but never break. A truly unique statement.
5-Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes
Universally acclaimed and rightly so. Just a beautiful tapestry of melody and harmony. Vocals that never quit and music set to become timeless.
6-The Midnight Organ Fight-Frightened Rabbit
A clear and honest portrayal of human frailty. Achingly honest lyrics combine with hummable melodies make for a winning combination. And that Scottish brogue gets me every time.
7-Red, Yellow and Blue-Born Ruffians
This album is just fun with a capital F. I never tire of its infectious melodies and poppy rhythms. Any time of day this album will make me smile.
8-Lie Down In The Light-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
On each and every day on Earth we should all be grateful that Will Oldham walks amongst us. The man is an icon and just a superb writer. This album just solidifies his reputation.
9-Parc Avenue-Plants And Animals
The only album on this list that I haven't fully reviewed. Why? Because I only just realised how great this album is. It just snuck up on me. A rich and varied album, full of delights and wonders. Damn those Montreal bands.
10-Langhorne Slim-Langhorne Slim
Langhorne makes me smile. End of story.

Five honorable mentions
Heretic Pride-The Mountain Goats
For Emma, Forever Ago-Bon Iver
Street Horsssing-Fuck Buttons

Songs that I have loved
Language City-Wolf Parade
White Winter Hymnal-Fleet Foxes
Fools-The Dodos
Foam Hands-Destroyer
Leviathan, Bound-Shearwater
The Modern Leper-Frightened Rabbit

Things to Look Forward to in the Coming Months
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson-Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Stay Positive-The Hold Steady
Something For All Of Us...-Brendan Canning
Fate-Dr Dog
Conor Oberst-Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band
You & Me-The Walkmen
The Stand Ins-Okkervil River
Soft Airplane-Chad VanGaalen
Carried to Dust-Calexico
The Hawk Is Howling-Mogwai

Jun 24, 2008


This is Shearwater's moment. In this album, "Rook", they have definitely created their finest piece of music. An elegant, refined, considered piece of music. An album of a determined inner strength and a glowing beauty. Subtle and yet also exhuming a latent power. It is an album that is sure to grow in strength as time goes by. It features poetic lyrics and exquisite musicianship, a strong and mature effort from a perhaps under rated band.

I will admit that I came to the music of Shearwater due to their connection with Okkervil River. Of course, until recently Will Sheff was a member of both bands, as was Shearwater's singer and songwriter Jonathan Meiburg. Now, in the year 2008, it is totally Meiburg's band and he is really hitting his stride. It is pointless to compare him to Sheff. For one thing, few singers or songwriters match up at all well with the great Sheff. Secondly, whilst Okkervil River write music that is deeply emotional and forceful, with the sweat and blood dripping from the CD, Shearwater's music is more orchestral and refined. It is powerful, but it is a quiet and elegant power. Their only drawback to me is the high pitched voice of Meiburg, a voice that doesn't connect with me fully. But I will return to that topic.

"Rook" was produced by the band and they have done a fine job. "On The Death of The Waters" is a quietly beautiful opener. Its hushed tones starting with a spare piano, before it crashes and flails wildly. Then comes "Rooks", which begins with a delicious guitar line and grows with intensity through out. It is a dark tale of death and destruction, sung with force and conviction. And this is how I prefer Meiburg. I find his voice a little grating when he goes into falsetto mode, much preferring when he sings strongly and deeply. This is perhaps a personal preference, but its really the only weakness that emanates from this album. "Leviathan, Bound" is a good example. It's a wonderful song, featuring glorious strings, but it really peaks when Meiburg belts out the refrain of "Still is racing" with great effect. This song is about the death throes of a hunted beast and continues the themes of the album. Tales of nature and the glorious animals of the earth. Birds and leopards. Oxen and horses. Tigers and horses and the blood that races through them. All told with a lyrical sensibility that is quite often stunning. "Home Life" is perhaps the centre piece. At over seven minutes, the longest song on the album, it is a lush and multi layered song, one that soars quite gracefully. My favourite song though is "Century Eyes", a forceful and powerful number. Short and to the point, it rocks and rolls with ease as Meiburg screams "Turn It Off". There is plenty to keep you interested through to the end. "I Was A Cloud" is haunting and quite lush, whilst "South Col" is an eerie and effective interlude. "The Hunter's Star" closes things nicely, featuring sumptuous piano and gentle strings. This album is a considered triumph, it is intelligent and mature music. The combination of worldly lyrics and divine music make "Rook" a must listen. If you become a fan of Meiburg's voice, then this album will be one you treasure.

Rook lyrics
MP3: Leviathan, Bound-Shearwater

Jun 23, 2008

Burn After Reading Trailer

The Coen Brothers can do no wrong. Plus, they work hard and fast. So, after the brilliance of "No Country For Old Men" comes "Burn After Reading". This film opens in the USA on September 12 and this trailer looks like this movie will be darkly hilarious. Most of the film was shot in Brooklyn in 2007 and it stars Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, George Clooney and Tilda Swinton. Definitely one to look forward to.

Jun 22, 2008

The Black Keys @ Manning Bar

Blistering, ferocious, passionate and intense. Just a few of the adjectives that always accompany a Black Keys show. Just when you can possibly feel jaded by the prospect of live music and its potential to deliver, this Akron, Ohio duo are a strong and potent reminder that live music of this skill and intensity will always fulfill and excite. If only I could watch a performance like this without an annoying crowd nearly ruining the experience. But, firstly the music.

I witnessed the power of The Black Keys for first time just over a year ago at the Enmore Theatre. They were outstanding then, they were outstanding Saturday night at the Manning Bar. They are just so dependable. Extremely skilled musicians playing with a fervour and zest that shows no sign of slowing down. Their music is tough and sturdy, strong and virile. Full of that emphatic blues sound that they have mastered over the years. This was never better emphasized then on their classic opener "Thickfreakness". This strapping song had the crowd shaking their rumps and feeling their bones. The night proved to be a great blend of their best songs from down the years and also a good spread of tunes from their 2008 release "Attack & Release". Songs to stand out were the incendiary "Set You Free", the explosive "10 A.M. Automatic" and a version of "Stack Shot Billy" which tore a hole in the walls of the University venue. Of the newer songs "I Got Mine" sounded great, whilst "Oceans & Streams" showed off Dan Auerbach on electric piano. Speaking of Dan, the man is a supreme guitarist. He fingers are just frenetic, blowing away chord after chord. His voice is a weapon too, soulful and deep, it reaches deep into your insides. Patrick Carney provides the beat and he is one extraordinary drummer. Playing with barbaric power, he impresses with his absolute power.

So, a great set, delivered by a band who always delivers. Now, I am sure that the audience were a devoted and adoring set of fans. But, a combination of a late start (11.30) and plentiful alcohol seem to make for an aggressive and discourteous crowd. It would appear that the ambition of enjoying a show in my own comfort zone, is made almost impossible with fans barging into me and finding a way to spill drinks all over. Now, it wasn't exactly a System of a Down show, with fans in a rapid frenzy, but a little bit of manners to your fellow concert goer isn't too much to ask for. Having said that, I do salute Dan and Patrick. Totally. Without hesitation.

Set List
Girl Is On My Mind
10 A.M. Automatic
Same Old Thing
Set You Free
Things Ain't Like They Used To Be
Stack Shot Billy
Everywhere I Go
Strange Times
Your Touch
I'm Glad (Captain Beefheart Cover)
Oceans & Streams
No Trust
I Got Mine

Psychotic Girl
Have Love Will Travel

Jun 20, 2008

The War On Drugs

Don't worry, this is not a community service announcement. But rather, a recommendation. One I received by reading Pop Headwound. The War on Drugs are a band from Philadelphia, led by songwriter and singer Adam Granduciel. Their music is quite special, walls of guitars and great melodies. A classic sound, just made for 2008. You can actually download their first EP "Barrel of Batteries" for free right here. Thanks to Secretly Canadian. It is excellent. If you like that, then you might like their debut album "Wagonwheel Blues", which is released this week.

MP3: Taking The Farm-The War On Drugs

Off to see The Black Keys this Saturday at the Manning Bar. Should be great. They always are.

Oh, and congratulations to the Boston Celtics for winning Championship 17 this week. Having seen this franchise go through a 22 year drought, it was very special to see them win another championship. Plus, Paul Pierce was Finals MVP! Even better.

Jun 17, 2008

At Mount Zoomer-Wolf Parade

So, here we arrive. At this point. With fervour and hope. With unbridled anticipation and momentous expectations. With their debut album, this Canadian band established a benchmark for all things considered monumental in the Indie Rock Universe, whatever that beast may be. "Apologies to the Queen Mary" punched a hole in the stratosphere, tore up the plans, wrote new ones, consumed our hearts and minds. Beauty was shown and excitement delivered. Oh, excitement, commotion, confusion. An achievement in sound, an exploration of the matter that exists between our ears. An innate ability to write songs that actually sound better after the 1000th listen. Lyrics of mystery and substance. Guitar lines that rang in your bones long after the last listen. Keyboards that thrilled and stunned. Vocals that spoke to us in ways unknown to us. Choruses became anthems. Verses became burned in memory. Three years has since lapsed. Things have happened. But, don't mention 'side projects' to me. Principal song writers Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner don't have 'side projects'. They have projects. They don't belong to groups. They belong to music. Wolf Parade are not their mother ship calling them home like errant boys. They write music, mostly stunning, where the muse takes them. It just so happens that in the year 2007 they joined Arlen Thompson, Hadji Bakara and Dante DeCaro to write new songs, new sounds and new chapters. Now, the fruits of that labour have been unleashed unto the world. The results....Stunning. Here is a synopsis.

Soldier's Grin
The humming keyboard instantly reminds us who made this record. Sweet and inviting, hearts rise with Dan's opening salvo. The mesh of guitar, pounding drums and swirling synth is near perfect. Dan has never sounded better and the middle section is stunning. Guitars weep with aching beauty, before the refrain of "And I rode..." sends chills. Like Springsteen woke up one morning and found himself fronting Pavement. According to Dan, this song represents the end of a friend's relationship. Whatever, it's powerful and eternally infectious. A lesson in perfectly placed time changes.

Call It A Ritual
A haunting, brief interlude from Spencer. Vibrating keyboards combine with trilling guitars to concoct a mysterious and mesmeric potion. Cryptic lyrics, it is Spencer after all, are delivered with the aid of reverb to enhance the effect. The moment when the vocals all join together as the band sing "I Am Amazed at How They Go" is simply stunning. I find this song slowly gets under your skin, to where it becomes an essential piece of the puzzle.

Language City
Dan's finest moment. That introductory guitar chord rings with clear effect, before the pounding drums drive us along. I love the ebb and flow on this song. It pushes the pace when it needs and pulls back when required. Moments of subdued beauty are quickly followed by charging choruses. The duel attack of keyboard and guitar, a definite Wolf Parade trademark, have never sounded better. The 3 minutes mark is just gorgeous, a journey to keyboard heaven. "Language City" is a metaphor for all night coke parties, where talk is cheap and unintelligible. A place where "We're tired, we can't sleep" and "It don't mean a thing to me".

Bang Your Drum
The only problem with this song is its brevity. A high pitched keyboard intro gives way to a gentle opening minute. Spencer sings about river beds and hearts and finding your way home. The song only goes into overdrive at around the two minute mark as Spencer lets loose and the song becomes a forceful beast. Probably the most Sunset Rubdown like song on the album, I feel satisfied, yet yearning for more.

California Dreamer
The most infectious song on the album? Probably, yes. A throbbing, pulsating song. Features a killer keyboard line and ferocious drumming. Each verse is a build up in tension, before the choruses cascade like waterfalls. The middle section features some proggy noodling, before the song ascends to a thrilling climax. Spencer sings a tale of letting a love escape the snow for the bright lights and sunny climes of California. Probably one of his most straight forward and hardest rocking songs that he has yet penned. A song determined to electrify live. For a very long time.

The Grey Estates
Probably the weakest moment. As if Dan wanted to prove that he could write a three minute pop song. And he did and quite a good one in that context. But for this band, it feels short of their talent. The melody feels under nourished and incomplete. Dan has said he wrote this song about the train trip from Helsinki to Moscow, continuing his theme of urban desolation and despair. I guess he wanted to wrap those themes up in something short and sweet.

Fine Young Cannibals
If the previous song was perhaps Dan going down the easy path, this number is Dan reaching for the stars. This song swaggers and stalks with epic force, a hulking bluesy excursion into murky waters. Dan has never sounded better, even breaking into some falsetto. The guitar work is vigorous and also meandering, encircling its prey. The listener. My only wish was that it included the joyous backing vocals that the live version contained. I think this song has the ability to prove to be one that gets better with age.

An Animal In Your Care
A song of two halves. A brooding, contemplative opening as Spencer lays bare his heart. He sings of letting himself be the total subject of some one he loves. Of being devoted and hoping that even after death, his memory might live on. Sparse and delicate, a staccato piano leads us to the second half where the song blossoms and grows. Spencer really sings with great conviction, backed up by a rhythmical, tempestuous whirling melody.

Kissing The Beehive
An epic. A beast. An eight-legged monster. A song co-written by Spencer and Dan. A welding of epic talents. Originally the title track, but later withdrawn because of the book of the same name. This song is a pure amalgam of all the elements that make Wolf Parade great. Here are some of the things that thrill me with song.

The slow buildup with Dan's powerful voice.
Then Spencer joins in seamlessly at 1.32.
His voice trembling as he sings, then he says 'sing' and Dan comes back in.
The drums build with intensity. Spencer gets more and more intense.
The chorus of Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohs are just heart stopping.
Then the thump, thump before a slowly twitching guitar.
Then the funky guitar and the keyboards come back in.
A slow down, then WHAM. The drums, the drums.
Spencer singing Jonathan, Jonathan. Holy cow!
The line 'put your ring back on and take your husband home', then more cascading vocals and drums and guitars.
Dan coming back and Spencer singing Oh, Ohs behind him
Then a dead silence.
Then the guitar slinks back in before the drums pound again.
Then the oh, oh, ohs again. The last thirty seconds of this song are just perfect. I always feel a complete satisfaction at the conclusion.

So, there you have it. "At Mount Zoomer", a simple name, but a complex piece of music. It retains that Wolf Parade sound, but adds to it, elongates it, abstracts it. Hard to say that it is better then their debut, few records are, but it is definitely an equally thrilling and important piece of music. If "Apologies..." was a near perfect collection of songs, this album is a tapestry of sounds and voices. Memorable melodies and rhythms, that considerable skill of piecing together crashing guitars, oscillating keyboards and hammering drums into a maelstrom of electrifying sound that few other bands can. If any. Arlen Thompson's production is careful and precise, dedicated to drawing out all the nuances in the band's songwriting. And even though this band features two very strong and unique song writers, the album still manages to feel like a group effort. Which apparently it was, the result of jamming out ideas and figuring where each sound fits best in each song. This is the sound of a band that wasn't content to make a carbon copy of their first album. It is the sound of a band searching for better, reaching into the atmosphere and pulling down lightning bolts. Scaling the peaks of sonic mountains. An effort to be different, not settle for indifference. Album of the year? What else...

MP3: Language City

Jun 16, 2008

Live Action From Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo took place in Tennessee over the weekend. The four day extravaganza had many wonderful acts, but here are the some of the best. Sigur Ros perform "Olsen Olsen", my favourite song of theirs. Excited to see them here in August.

Remember how good Broken Social Scene were at Laneway? Well, here they perform "Shoreline". Looks like the core lineup of Drew, Canning, Whiteman, Spearin and Peroff, plus the wonderful talents of Amy Millan.

Here they perform "Churches Under The Stairs", which is on the new album "Something For All Of Us..." featuring Brendan Canning. I have heard the new album and it is definitely very, very good.

Jun 15, 2008

Bell Shakespeare's Hamlet

How to make words written over 400 years ago appear fresh and interesting to a modern audience, yet not bastardizing them to such an extent that you lose what happened to make them so glorious in the first place. The dilemma, it would appear, facing any company producing Shakespeare in the 21st century. Well, I can attest that Bell Shakespeare's production of Hamlet at the Sydney Opera House succeeds in both delivering the bard's language and also giving the audience a fresh and invigorating interpretation of those words. I can attribute this success to many things, but one man is key. Brendan Cowell. A performance of such intensity and passion, it will live long in your memory.

So to Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. It is Shakespeare's most famous play and also his longest. It is a template for the history of theatre. It encompasses every base emotion and ambition imprisoned in the heart of human nature. A brief synopsis. Hamlet has recently learned of his father's death. The young prince is then visited by the ghost of his father who proceeds to tell that he was a victim of murder and that he should find his murderer and in turn, avenge his death. Hamlet discovers that Claudius, his uncle, was the perpetrator. To further complicate matters, Claudius has married Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Hamlet is also forming a relationship with Ophelia, daughter of Polonius and sister of Laertes. When Hamlet tries to exact revenge on Claudius, he accidentally kills Polonius. From here the treachery and deception spirals to a sad and deadly conclusion. If you don't know the ending, suffice to say there is a lot of bloodshed. Which would quite possibly be the understatement of the century.

This is a great revival of this historic play. A total artistic triumph. As stated, Cowell is quite stunning as Hamlet. Whilst not owning a classic sounding Shakepeare voice, he manages to impart a blinding charisma and attitude. He creates a character who is vain, confident, cunning, frail, vulnerable, passionate and starkly human. His body movements are graceful and also violent and his emphasis on certain parts of the language are quite revelatory. A virtuoso performance. The entire cast though is quite excellent. Particularly Barry Otto as the obsequious Polonious and Colin Moody as the conniving Claudius. The cast also draws forth the inherent humour that does exist in a dark and driven story. The characters of Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are especially great creations. The set is elegant and fitting and the costumes, essentially modern with a 1930s twist, are classy and suitable. As an added bonus, Sarah Blasko is in the cast as a 'player' and she sings in a few sections with the aid of piano. One section of the play allows her to sing a full song with the aid of an accordion. It is a truly touching and beautiful moment, fitting in perfectly with the texture of the play. All round, this production succeeds tremendously, a clear sign that Shakespeare is alive and well in 2008.

'To sleep, perchance to dream: — ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;'

Jun 13, 2008

Basia Bulat @ The Vanguard

Thursday night at The Vanguard was a delightful evening in a delightful setting, in the hands of a delightful performer. Yes, delighted I was, for Basia Bulat is charmed personified. This diminutive singer from London, Ontario was performing in Sydney on her first visit to Australia. I had actually seen Basia perform in Canada last year at the Wolfe Island Music Fest. On that occasion she played with a full band. There were strings and horns everywhere. For this tour, she performed solo. But in this intimate venue, it probably suited the show. And it was a good show, not in a 'change your life' way, but lovely melodic songs combined with a powerful and dramatic voice were more then enough to satisfy me.

Basia's debut album "Oh, My Darling" was released last year and naturally most of the show was drawn from that record. She actually started with just her voice and hand clapping to what appeared to be a spiritual song, written on the set list as "Hush". The first song to make an appearance from the album was "In The Night", with her early songs being played on an Autoharp. This instrument provides a dense and resonant tone, which sounds quite beautiful. It also looks hard to play, but Basia is quite skilled at this complex instrument. She split time during the night on the autoharp and also the acoustic guitar, both played with great adeptness. One one song she also pulled out an ancient looking miniature harp which produced an elegant and mellow pitch. Favourite songs of the night for me were the melodic "Before I Knew", the lavish "Little Waltz" and the refined "The Pilgriming Vine". Basia also played a Daniel Johnston cover as well as what appeared to be a few new songs. Well, they were new to me and the titles reflect the set list I was able to grab from the stage. As stated, a delicate and enjoyable night, in the hands of a performer who seemed genuinely happy to be in our company. And why not, she writes lovely songs with sweet melodies and she possesses a a very strong voice with quite an impressive range. Oh Canada, you have done it again.

Set List
In The Night
Snakes And Ladders
Before I Knew
On The Hills
Why Can't It Be Mine
Birds Of Paradise
The Shore
The Pilgriming Vine
Little Waltz
True Love Will Find You In The End (Daniel Johnston cover)
Go On
I Was A Daughter

Support was provided by Melbourne outfit Tinpan Orange. Basically an acoustic set up, I was impressed. Like the main act, they ply their craft in the world of melody and charm. They are brother and sister Emily and Jesse Lubitz, plus a guitarist who was flat out incredible. Emily took most of the vocal duties and her voice was very impressive. Soulful and powerful, her vocals raised the music to another level. Definitely worth catching if they come your way.

Jun 11, 2008

Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes

Seemingly effortless, yet hard to attain. Seemingly simplistic, yet eternally complex. Music totally bereft of artifice and gimmicks, but absolutely satisfying. Fleet Foxes have and do create music that contains a connection. It is music that doesn't strike you as being unique upon first listen, but after the tenth listen you are finding that a twentieth listen will only lead to another hundred listens. In other words, their music has a timeless quality, a non disposable quality. It is like fine wine, as opposed to cheap soft drink. It's like The Band, as opposed to No Age. Not to pick on No Age, for their album is quite good in its context. But I doubt I will be listening to "Eraser" in ten years time, where as I know I will be listening to "White Winter Hymnal" again and again in that time span. It's the power of a well written song. It is down to the beauty of the human voice. Well, a voice that carries stellar captivation. This album has created quite a buzz and if you listened to it for the first time and wasn't blown away, trust me, listen to it again and you will fall under its considerable magnetic spell.

Earlier this year Fleet Foxes gave us a taste of their talent with their first release under Sub Pop. "Sun Giant" was five songs of radiant pleasure. This self titled effort is their first full length release and it offers more of the same. But that is a good thing I believe. Golden melodies and gilded harmonies are an unbeatable combination. This album also has a seamless quality, each vivid and lush moment dovetails very nicely into the next. It doesn't give you sharp edges and ragged peaks, but rather a rather warm, fuzzy glow on the inside. "Sun It Rises" gets things going with ease, its vocals combusting before giving way to a soothing acoustic strum, which cedes to vibrant guitar. "White Winter Hymnal" is a nearly perfect demonstration of melody. It is 2.27 of superbly rendered harmony as the song tells the story of children falling into the snow. It has an almost breathless quality to add to the striking images on display. It is very easy to gush about each song on this warm and inviting album, but I will just give you some of the highlights. "Ragged Wood" is a great demonstration of the band's strength, luminous washes of guitar, delicate melody and those vocals. Oh, those vocals, the core of the band. Harmonies wash thoroughly on each track, surrounding the centre piece. Robin Pecknold's voice. The obvious comparisons have been made to Jim James and you can certainly hear them. But to me, these comparisons are useless and futile. This is Pecknold's voice, his throat muscles, born into him. The fact that they have a resemblance to the great James is something he has no control over. And it's not exactly a bad thing to be compared to anyway. So, that voice glows everywhere. "He Doesn't Know Why" is a an impassioned, gorgeous slice of harmonic pop, whilst "Heard Them Stirring" has an almost medieval quality, a gentle and delicate refrain. Then two of the strongest numbers appear near the back. "Your Protector" is a mournful, haunting tune that resonates strongly, whilst "Oliver James" contains one of the sweetest melodic lines you are likely to hear this year.

When I first listened to this album I found enjoyment came easy, but I needed to dig more to uncover its pleasures. That is because this is music to let wash over you. To play it once and then play it over and over again. The mellifluous sounds that emanate are quite irresistible, given time. And time will be extremely good to this piece of music. When other songs fade, the songs on display here will grow stronger with time. If you doubt this statement, come and see me here in a year or so. Myself and Fleet Foxes will be waiting for you. With a gentle smile and a contented heart.

MP3: White Winter Hymnal-Fleet Foxes

Jun 9, 2008

A Conversation With Cameron

Last week I sat down for a conversation with Cameron Potts, from Dead Letter Chorus. We spoke on a range of topics. From the recording of the band's debut album to the song writing process to the joy of playing live. I edited slight parts of the conversation, but this is the vast majority of it. This is my first interview on my blog, so I hope you enjoy.

Oceans Never Listen: Recently you sent out a note to your fans that you have built a studio in Yowie Bay and are recording your debut album. How is the recording going?
Cameron Potts: It's actually been pretty good. We have demoed a lot, probably over the last two months and figured out how to use the gear properly. Tomorrow morning (last Thursday) is when we start seriously going for it. We're gonna track as much as we can and see what happens over the weekend. That's where we're at the moment.
ONL: How many songs would you have written?
CP: We've got 22 brand new songs that we haven't recorded. Well, a couple of those we have played in the last year, but haven't been released yet. We're probably a bit hopeful in trying to record all of them. So we have 15 core tracks that we are definitely gonna get serious about and the other 7 will be recorded if we have time, but mightn't make the album.
ONL: Any of the 6 songs on the EP, will they be re-recorded for the new album?
CP:No, we're leaving them where they are. We're pretty much of the view that something is recorded once and that's it. It's a record of where the band is at that moment in time. So, those songs were what we wrote when we first started as a band a year and a half ago. That's what we sounded like at that time.
ONL: You still like to play those songs live?
CP: Yeah, we still like to play them. They're still interesting to play. We just don't feel any need to revisit them recording wise. We just like to move on and keep trying to improve on what we're doing.
ONL: Is there a time frame on when the album may get a release?
CP: That's the hard question. We don't to rush it, obviously. We want to get to right. But if you don't set a deadline, you kinda procrastinate. So, we're hopeful that the tracking and everything will be finished by the end of June and then we can give it the people that know and they will take it from there.
ONL: So in 2008?
CP: Definitely. What we would like is a single to be out in August and then an album to be out in October. That's what we're hoping for.
ONL: Any idea on the single?
CP: Yeah, we've got a couple in mind. But it's kinda dependent on how the they turn out, really. We have a few, yeah, but no decision yet.
ONL: And will it be a self release or are you looking for a label?
CP: It's a little complicated. We have spoken to a few different people, but we haven't made a decision on that as yet.
ONL: You're letting your management look after that?
CP: Yeah, we figure it's our job is to write and record the songs and it's their job to look after the rest. But saying that, we want to be involved in the process and make sure that we're not giving the music to someone who's not going to represent the band in the proper way. But there's a few people who we have been talking to who are excited about letting them hear the record. But it's probably going to be on our terms, rather then someone coming to us and saying "I've got this vision for the band. I want to do it this way". It'll come from us, whether it's put out by ourselves or a label.
ONL: Saw you play at the Vanguard. Loved the new songs. Have you played
the new songs live much?
CP: Most of those songs were only the first or second time we have played them live. We did a gig the night before down in Wollongong, where we tested out a couple of things. But playing the Vanguard, that was an amazing show for us. We came off stage feeling really excited about the songs. It felt like everything stepped up a level, the songs just sounded a lot fuller. There were a lot of songs we were still nervous about playing live. I guess, there's two elements to performing a new song. There's learning the chords, the notes and the lyrics, then there's the actual performance. After playing the Vanguard, we felt that we really performed them the way they should sound.
ONL: Well, they sounded great.
CP:Thanks, we were stoked. It was an amazing night.
ONL: How did the Unguarded Moment idea come about?
CP: The tour was booked. We had seen Wagons before and they had seen us and we kinda fell in love with each other's music. We decided to do a tour together, then we asked Ned Collette to come along, which was great. I think the idea actually came from Henry (Wagons). To try and record a song together. We tossed around a few ideas. And then we ended up with Unguarded Moment. We had other ideas, but we wanted to do an Australian song. But one that wasn't being smashed to bits by the Idol contingent. It has a great melody and really interesting lyrics. It also has that really deeper level, there's that underlying darker tone.
ONL: And you're touring together in July. That should be fun.
CP: Yeah, they're all lovely people. It's a cute little tour, not a lot of shows, about 7 shows in 2 weeks.
ONL: Will the song be available to buy?
CP: It will be available at shows. As part of an EP. The song, plus one song from each band.
ONL: Will you play the song live?
CP: Yeah, it's gonna be the last song that everyone will get up and play. It's gonna be great. There's gonna be thirteen musicians on stage, but we'll figure something out.
ONL: Now, your Vanguard show. You had five members. Is that the size that you will keep?
CP: Five is the core of the band. With the recording of the album we will probably ask a few friends to play with us. Andrew Webb, an amazing guitarist, used to play with us. But he's doing his own solo stuff now, but he will be playing with us on the album. But for the live shows we would probably like to keep it to five.
ONL: Are there any other instruments you would add to the band?
CP: Probably on stage it would be the same. But for the record, there's a lotta things we're gonna try. Strings, horns, whatever we've got lying around. I've written a bunch of parts that we're gonna try.
ONL: How does the song writing process work for the band?
CP: I would probably write a large amount of the song and Gabrielle would write a part, maybe 70/30. There's a few we would straight out collaborate on, 50/50. Then we would take it the band. Two or three songs we've written as a band or had ideas and pieced them together as a band. But all the lyrical writing would come from me or Gabrielle. All the songs that I sing are ones that I have written, basically. Although we also write some together.
ONL: Do the lyrics or the music come first? How does that happen?
CP: Well, a song like "11th Dream About Aeroplanes" was written after I woke up after a crazy dream and the lyrics just flowed out of that and the music came after. Sometimes it will be just sitting down with a guitar and working out a melody and the lyrics will follow after that. There's no particular method.
ONL: What appeals to you most about writing a song?
CP: The most appealing thing for me about writing a song is the impact of the song as a whole. The lyrics have to be strong and meaningful and then the music has to represent that idea in the strongest possible way that it can. Sometimes that can be a really simple melody, as long as that has an impact on the listener and myself.
ONL: How would you describe your sound?
CP: I think when we started we wanted to be a kinda Alt-Country band, but the natural progression has flowed to a more Rock sound. But, whatever the song needs, it needs. We don't want to say 'We're a Country band, let's get a slide guitar in here, because that's what we do'. So I guess we're some kinda Rock band. But we just want to write good songs and make sure all the parts contribute to make it a good song.
ONL: Do you listen to a lot of music in your spare time?
CP: Yeah, first thing I do when I wake up. I always just put on record after record. Even if I go for a two minute walk, I grab the iPod.
ONL: What sort of music would you listen to?
CP: The staple would be Dylan. And Johnny Cash, and probably Springsteen. The three great songwriters. Recently, I can't get enough of Annuals and Bon Iver and Band of Horses. I was really impressed with Okkervil River's The Stage Names. It's really grown on me. I also love The Gin Club's Junk, it's brilliant. Really mind blowing.
ONL: Who would be a dream band to support? Maybe one from the past and the present.
CP: Probably The Band or The Grateful Dead. Current day, there's so many. Hard to say, we are supporting Whitley soon again which will be great. I guess someone like Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens. A band that would challenge us to be better.
ONL: Your live shows seem like so much fun and you play with a lot passion. Are live shows fun for you?
CP: Definitely, it's great. Probably stressful as well as fun.
ONL: Any nerves?
CP: No, not really. The only time I got nervous was playing with Andrew Bird, because he's such a consummate musician. But it's really great to play with the band, there a great bunch of people. Also I think you can never recapture that moment you play a song. It's that fact that you're playing something live and that playing that song with five other people is a moment in time. To me, every time should be different and enjoyable. I always try something different every night. And I think the whole band feels the same way.
ONL: What would be the favourite venue that you have played at?
CP: We liked the Enmore. We only played one song, for an awards show. But we had a good time there. The Vanguard's great. But probably the Metro would be the best one we have played at. The onstage sound is really great. It was really good. The Tivoli in Brisbane is really amazing as well.
ONL: What other states have you played?
CP: Victoria. Queensland, three times. South Australia, twice. That would be it, I think. We're going back to Victoria in July and we are definitely going to get around Australia more this year. WA, Tasmania. Hopefully we can even get to Darwin, our EP has done well up there.
ONL: And major plans for the future?
CP: There's a plan to head overseas in 2009. Maybe North America early in the year. There's a few opportunities with bands that we have supported here. But we want to make it worthwhile if we do. You just can't go for a week, so it would be for a month or so, if we do go. I guess it depends on how the album is received.
ONL: Any five year plan?
CP: Well, we're just gonna try to keep writing good songs. We're all committed to the band for as long as we can physically do it. I feel like we have the ability and passion to keep making interesting music, as long as people want to hear it. We'll see what happens. We really enjoying playing with each other. We're not gonna try and over think it, just try to keep writing good music. We love playing festivals, traveling and meeting people. I like to meet people. Music's a great tool for that, just hang out and see what other people's stories are.

Jun 6, 2008

In An Unguarded Moment...

If you loved The Church (who didn't), then you will enjoy this. Three Australian bands, Dead Letter Chorus, Wagons and Ned Collette Band have teamed together to cover "Unguarded Moment", a truly great moment in Australian music. You will actually be able to hear the song performed live when the three performers join together for a short tour in July. And at those shows, you should be able to pick up an EP containing the recorded song.
If you wish to hear the song now, it is currently streaming right here.

Tour Dates for Dead Letter Chorus, Wagons and Ned Collette Band.
July 10-Goldenvine, Bendigo
July 11-Geelong Hotel, Geelong
July 12-Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
July 17-Brass Monkey, Sydney
July 18-Hopetoun Hotel, Sydney
July 19-Heritage Hotel, Bulli
July 20-Belmore Hotel, Maitland

Last week I sat down with Cameron from Dead Letter Chorus for a conversation. Next week I will be posting the results. Stay tuned.

Jun 4, 2008

New Swan Lake Album In The Works

These men are unfairly talented. Supremely talented. They are Dan Bejar, Carey Mercer and Spencer Krug. Individually, they are many things. Together they are Swan Lake. In 2006 they released a quixotic album named "Beast Moans". It was a strange and beautiful beast. Sometimes inaccessible, more often a thing of wonderment. These men are also the hardest working men in music. Dan Bejar is already involved in Destroyer and Hello, Blue Roses. Carey Mercer is Frog Eyes and Spencer Krug is, well very busy. He is, of course a key member of Wolf Parade, whose new album drops in two weeks. He is the leader of Sunset Rubdown, currently touring Europe. In fact I would expect a new album from them within the next year. Current indications are that they will get back into the recording studio later this year. Now, in between all that the three men joined forces earlier this year to record Swan Lake LP2.

Spencer was recently interviewed on Bristol University Radio Station Burst. To quote the man, "Swan Lake made another record. When it comes out, I don't know. It hasn't been mixed yet, we just finished the recording." He continues, "Recording is very deliberately, very outwardly 'Everyone bring X amount of songs' and I'll bring a whole song to the project and be like 'This is what I would like you guys to do on this', but their styles still get infused into the end result. That's the idea." I will keep you posted.

Jun 3, 2008

Arm's Way-Islands

"Arm's Way", the second album from Montreal's Islands is a grand and exotic journey into places unknown and seldom traveled. It is many things. Dramatic, ambitious, expansive, exhausting, satisfying, fun, strange and totally unique. It has vision and scope and it without doubt a major achievement. Having said that, I am also sure it will polarise people. It's designed to be a full meal, a long trip, a exploration of ideas and sounds. It's comparable to running a marathon, not that I have ever done such a thing, it feels long and exhausting but when you finish you feel that the effort was ultimately worth it. An achievement of imposing composition.

If "Return to The Sea" was a preliminary idea of where Islands was going, then "Arm's Way" is a full blown thesis on where they have landed. The opening track on that first album, "Swans" was a gloriously sublime epic. However a lot of the album was echoes of The Unicorns, shots of pop goodness with dashes of calypso and hip hop, an amalgam of catchy melodies and exciting rhythms. It was a triumphant album, a joy to listen to, but it felt transitional. Well, the transition has occurred. "Arm's Way" is the totally epic vision of Nick Thorburn (Diamonds). With the backing of five men, ready and able, he has reached for the stars and succeeded quite grandly. Of the twelve tracks included only two clock in at under four minutes. Ironically, given Thorburn's history, these are the least satisfying. "Creeper" swings pretty hard and "J'aime Vous Voire Quitter" is a ball of energy, but you need to look elsewhere to find the heart of this record. Where better place to start then with the opener "The Arm", a dramatic rush of glorious melody. It's a cacophony of guitars and drums and strings as it starts and stops, forever encompassing itself. Dramatic is a word that is appropriate for this album. Thorburn is forever introducing a bombastic lick or a flourish of violin or a nifty piece of percussion and his voice is a display of melodrama. But it all works, all the way through. "Pieces of You" is pure pop gold, "Abominable Snow" is a thrusting beast of a song, whilst "Life In Jail" is my personal favourite. A miniature epic, its lesson of making every second count leaves a powerful impression.

If "Life In Jail" is epic on a smaller scale, then the album cranks it up for the run home. "In The Rushes" is sumptuous and majestic, before breaking into a reprise of The Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away". Again, this brash move works well, somehow Thorburn pulls it off. "We Swim" is a quietly moving number, whilst "To A Bond" is dark and deliberate, a tale of two people being torn apart. "Don't go unraveling, traveling into the blue, returned to look for you, couldn't say goodbye, the porchlight in my heart had gone out in the dark". Then the three part "Vertigo (If It's A Crime) ends it all with heroic proportions. This is music with scope and grandeur. Thorburn has constructed a piece of music concerned with broad brush strokes and themes of death and life, love and hate. Sometimes the lyrics border on the absurd, but yet also there are moments of pure honesty. His voice is always able to carry off the ideas inherent in the music. It's plaintive and aching, yet also strong and authoritative. A unique world has been created here and like most individual visions, it will be lost on some people. However, 2008 will struggle to hear a more singular vision and more then likely, a better sounding one.

MP3: The Arm-Islands

Jun 2, 2008

Okkervil River to Release New Album In September

The rumours and stories were true after all. We will have a new, yes new Okkervil River album in September. September 9 on Jagjaguwar to be exact. "The Stand Ins" will comprise 11 songs and can be seen as a companion piece to 2007's "The Stage Names". Will Sheff explains, "We had so many songs we were excited about that we briefly threw around the idea of just putting out a double record. Instead, we decided to take a group of songs that fit with each other and turn that into The Stage Names, setting the rest aside for a future release, a The Stage Names sequel. The Stand Ins is that sequel, part two of a staggered double album." Recorded in Austin and produced by the band and Brian Beattie, it is also effectively the last contribution to the band by Jonathan Meiburg. Meiburg's band Shearwater release their brand new album "Rook" this week on Matador Records.

The Stand Ins Track Listing
1 The Stand Ins, One
2 Lost Coastlines
3 Singer Songwriter
4 Starry Stairs
5 Blue Tulip
6 The Stand Ins, Two
7 Pop Lie
8 On Tour With Zykos
9 Calling and Not Calling My Ex
10 The Stand Ins, Three
11 Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the Roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979

MP3: Rooks-Shearwater
MP3: Lost Coastlines-Okkervil River (Live on WOXY)

Added bonus-
New MP3 from "At Mount Zoomer" (otherwise known as album of the year)
MP3: Language City-Wolf Parade

Jun 1, 2008

Dead Letter Chorus @ The Vanguard

A good live band will always bring a certain joy to every performance. An undeniable enthusiasm to every show. As if each and every night means something. That each show is important and meant to entertain. No going through the motions, no wishing that another place would be a better place to be. Dead Letter Chorus epitomise this. Each time I have seen them live, they have always played with unbridled enthusiasm, genuine pleasure and dare I say it, happiness. Which I am sure must win them new fans at each show. Oh, it doesn't hurt either that they write very good songs or that they feature two excellent vocalists or that they are now a band of considerable strength.

Saturday night at the warm and intimate Vanguard was their first headline show at the Newtown venue. It was also the first time I have heard them perform a number of new songs. Songs that look set to be included on their upcoming debut album. I can report that the new songs sound great. It looks like the band has taken a step forward with their songwriting, building on the promise shown on their 2007 EP. These new songs show even greater aptitude for writing melody and have added a new layer of depth. In fact the set was a great blend of old and new. "Wait All Night" and "Sally in Red" were played from the EP, whilst songs like "11th Dream About Planes" and "Magnolia Farm" were real show stoppers. Let's hope these songs make it the new album. "11th Dream" has actually become a centre piece, its epic nature proving impressive and irresistible. The band actually do the epic thing very well. Quite a few of the songs are stretched and pulled with impressive results. This is very evident in the closer "Fathers & Daughters", a song becoming a personal favourite of mine in the band's repertoire. By my count, there were seven songs that I heard for the first time. They were all very enjoyable and rewarding, a good sign upon the first listen. I grabbed a set list and going on the short hand, my favourites were "Hearts" and "Bother". Also impressive was an acoustic number Cameron Potts performed solo in the encore. It seemed very personal and true and was a glowing example of Cam's growing stature as a vocalist. His voice has always had the requisite power and passion to win any casual fan over, but there is no doubt that it has taken on a greater depth and maturity in the year since I first saw the band play. Of course, Gabrielle Huber's voice is also a major ingredient of the band. Distinctive and full of character, she never misses a note. She also switches from keyboards to acoustic and electric guitar with consummate ease. As mentioned the band functions smoothly and gracefully as a very solid unit. Now seeming to number five, the rhythm section of Lee Carey and Andrew Rose are very tight and play with abundant authority, whilst Michael Faber plays guitar with subtlety and considerable skill. If I can be sure of one thing, a night out with Dead Letter Chorus is guaranteed to be fun, pleasurable and very rewarding. Their blend of rock, country and folk is honest and authentic and sure to please if you catch them live.