May 31, 2009

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free-Akron/Family

The title of this album is surely appropriate. For this music is free. Is wild. Definitely good. Very good in fact. The band that was four is now three and their recently released album is a triumph in joy and of substance. It is mercurial, magical and breathes the stuff of life.

When Ryan Vanderhoof left Akron/Family in 2007 it remained to be seen whether the texture of this cerebral band would change. Thankfully the three remaining members don't appear to have missed a beat, creating music that is engaging and warm and very personal. It is also eclectic and genre defining. The opening track "Everyone Is Guilty" is ample evidence of this. Cowbells and organs chime before giving way to a funky beat that traverses for the remainder of the song, which sometimes stops to give us another Akron/Family signature. The harmonies, in three, soar here and elsewhere on this luminescent disc. If the opener is funky and raw, then "River" is pure bliss. Smooth as honey and just as tasty. The song is tender and warm. "You and I and a flame make three", indeed. The drumming is great on this song as well. The rest of the album uncovers pure delights and treasures, hopping all over the place stylistically along the way. "Creatures" displays some almost electronic wizardry, whilst "The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen" is wistful and softly, softly. A reminder of their folk tag. If this album needs an epic then it would have to be "Gravelly Mountains of the Moon", which features a pan flute for a opener. Then it becomes a perfect marriage of whisper folk and wig out guitar, with harmonies crammed on top. Trust me, it works. It nearly all does, especially the closing triumvirate of songs. "They Will Appear" is begun with a doom laden drum, before it rises to a stirring finish and amid more special harmonies. This song also features the words of Black Elk! Then "Sun Will Shine (Warmth of the Sunship Version) is simplicity itself. A repetitive, yet totally hypnotic song, that leads to the brief closer "Last Year". Closing with optimism and hope is appropriate, for Akron/Family are major traders in these ideals. Their music is hopeful, organic, beguiling and totally original. Who could ask for anything more?

May 29, 2009

Magnolia Electric Co. Return With New Album In July

Jason Molina is an American songwriting treasure. A true classic. Firstly as Songs: Ohia (basically solo) or as his full band Magnolia Electric Co. The latter return with their first album in three years in the shape of "Josephine". The album, produced by Steve Albini, is dedicated to the memory of bassist Evan Farrell who passed away in 2007. So it carries an extra weight of substance and maturity. I would expect nothing less from the great Molina. Judging by the sound of the title track this album will contain more of that classic Molina sound. "Josephine" is due out on July 21 on Secretly Canadian.

MP3: Josephine-Magnolia Electric Co.

Josephine Track Listing
1 O! Grace
2 The Rock of Ages
3 Josephine
4 Shenandoah
5 Whip-poor-will
6 Song for Willie
7 Hope Dies Last
8 The Handing Down
9 Map of the Falling Sky
10 Little Sad Eyes
11 Heartbreak at Ten Paces
12 Little Knoxville Girl
13 Shiloh
14 An Arrow in the Gale

May 28, 2009

More Mountainous Goodness From Vancouver: Infinite Light

This Vancouver collective sure is talented. Firstly we have had the pounding rock of Black Mountain, then just this month we received the newest album from Pink Mountaintops. By the way, "Outside Love" is pretty damn great. Now we have the second album from Lightning Dust to look forward to. "Infinite Light" is to be released on Jagjaguwar on August 4. It contains 10 tracks and its release sees the continuation of the partnership of Amber Webber and Joshua Wells (both of Black Mountain). Their first album, self titled, was a hidden gem of 2007. It was modest and subtle, containing a quiet beauty. Judging by "I Knew" we can expect more of the same hopefully. This song is short and sweet, full of joyous melody.

MP3: I Knew-Lightning Dust

Infinite Light Track Listing
1 Antonia Jane
2 I Knew
3 Dreamer
4 The Times
5 Never Seen
6 History
7 Honest Man
8 Waiting On The Sun To Rise
9 Wondering What Everyone Knows
10 Take It Home

May 27, 2009

Samson And Delilah

Firstly. See. This. Film. Not only is this a great film, but it is a great Australian film. Required viewing for all Australians, I do believe. It is a moving and profound exploration of a young relationship set amongst a background of desolation and despair. Shot with great imagination and beauty, many of the scenes will linger with you for days afterwards.

Samson And Delilah is the first full length feature from writer-director Warwick Thornton, himself a native of the Northern Territory where the film takes place. The film begins in an small Aboriginal community somewhere in the Territory outback. Samson (Rowan McNamara) is a bored teenager who sniffs petrol and not much else. He appears to be parentless, certainly directionless. He likes to play some heavy guitar when he can pry an instrument away from the older men that play in a small ensemble. Delilah (Marissa Gibson) is a thoughtful young girl who cares for her grandmother, who spends her time making her dot artwork. It would appear that Samson has a subtle crush on Delilah, who flatly denies any interest in a boy that seems all too frivolous for her. But a chain of events, somewhat violent, leads the two youngsters to flee the community and head for Alice Springs. On their own, they endure many hardships and travails, finding it hard to adjust to the white man's world. Whilst all the time the spectre of petrol sniffing hangs heavily over them. Especially as the plot is minimal I don't want to give too much more away. Suffice to say there are some pretty heavy and draining scenes, but there is also a ray of hope at the conclusion of this vital story.

There are three elements that make this film an essential experience. Firstly, the cinematography is masterful. Although shot on a small budget, there are many scenes of surreal beauty, reflecting the myriad of colours of the Australian outback. Many shots are beautifully framed too, accentuating the movement of the characters. Secondly, the film is realistic to the extreme. There is no absolutely no cliche or sentiment on display here. It is painfully truthful. Thirdly, you will care deeply about the characters. From the outset I found myself totally invested in the plight of the characters on screen. I might add that this is a film with minimal dialogue. It works beautifully in creating scenes of tenderness and desolation, but is also the film's only real flaw. I wish that I knew a bit more of the character's background. The whys and hows. I guess it's a trade off, but I just wanted to have a few of the gaps filled in. Although untrained, the two young leads do a fine job. Gibson excellently portrays the tender qualities of Delilah, whilst McNamara is charismatic as the lost soul Samson. This is easily a landmark Australian film. Important for many reasons, I hope it receives a large audience.

May 25, 2009

The Hazards Of Love-The Decemberists

This should have come earlier. But didn't. So now it is here. It is here because "The Hazards Of Love" is easily one of the best albums of 2009. From the first second that I heard the first second of "The Rake's Song" I knew that something special was afoot. And there was. But the reviews. Mixed to say the least. Loved and hated it would seem in equal terms. Why? Too long. Well it is long. Too bombastic. Yes, it's meant to be. Doesn't contain those usual beautiful melodies. What album are these critics listening too. This album, the fifth from The Decemberists, is everything good music should be. Ambitious, dramatic, intense, powerful, magical. Ness A Sary.

So, it's a 'concept' album. A fairly basic story is told over many acts. But it's not the story that matters so much. It's the way the story is told. With flair and drama. With intent and purpose. It's progressive and aggressive. A sure fire winner. But to the story. Margaret (voiced by Becky Stark) falls in love with the shape shifting William (Meloy) in a magical forest. Soon, Margaret is pregnant. Their love is blocked by the Queen (Shara Worden) of the forest. The star crossed couple are also threatened by a twisted, demonic character in the shape of The Rake (also Meloy), who abducts Margaret. William tries to rescue Margaret, crossing Annan Water to do so. On the way back they are trapped and after professing their love to each other, drown in each other's arms. A story about the hazards of love bears fruit as the lovers can not overcome tragedy. But as stated, it is the instruments of voice and guitar that make this adventure so exciting. It is definitely the heaviest album the band have produced. "A Bower Scene" is a short staccato burst, which leads to the dramatic and powerful "Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)" which thumps along to the ethereal voice of Stark. Even heavier is "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid" where Worden absolutely belts out the part of the Queen. Worden is a star on this album, her voice a piercing weapon. The guitar work on this, and many others, by Chris Funk is also something to behold. The darkest and most delicious tale though is "The Rake's Song", which is one of the best songs of this or any year. Macabre and grotesque, this tale of murdered children is fantastically entertaining. But, there are still beautiful quieter moments. "Isn't It A Lovely Night" is sung sweetly and kindly by Stark and Meloy. Meloy also shines on the gorgeous "Annan Water", a song that purely shows off not only the unique wordplay of Colin Meloy, but also his effective and direct vocal capabilities. This is best displayed on the closing tune "The Hazards Of Love (The Drowned)", which opens with a stirring acoustic lead and the comforting voice of Meloy. After all the storm and tempest that has come before this song acts as a come down and a comfort. A reminder that soft or loud The Decemberists are a unique and captivating presence in the world of music.

May 24, 2009

Two Weeks-Grizzly Bear

Two Weeks

Great song! Great album!

May 23, 2009

Dead Letter Chorus @ Notes, Newtown

The newest music venue in Sydney is Notes, in Newtown. Very close to the Enmore Theatre, it is also another venue that offers you a table for dinner to enjoy the music. Firstly, the venue works. The food, mostly meat or seafood platters, is very good and the venue is intimate and well staffed. From the outside the venue looks nondescript, but they have made good use of the space inside. Although I hope the next time I go there there is a more polite and respectful audience. The chatter was unbelievable and at times down right rude. Please leave the talk at the door next time.

Anyway, the music. What better then the sounds of Dead Letter Chorus. This band is consistently great live. They play with a verve and passsion that never seems to lessen in impact. Starting with "Magnolia Farm", the band was on its game from the start. Early on they gave us a different and great version of "Fred Astaire", but it was "11th Dream About Aeroplanes" that really set the night alight. I mean this is a powerful song anyway, but tonight strings were attached. Literally. We had a cello and violin in play and they worked beautifully. Especially in the second half of the song. I also loved "Silly Little Man/Kill The King", but it was a new song that worked wonders. "My Father is a Drunk and My Mother is Dead" was as dark as the title suggests. Starting with a stark guitar solo from Cam Potts it evolved into a robust and dark tale that powered live. Another welcome layer to the band that augurs well for the future. If "Sally In Red" was a great finish to the set, then the encore was thunderously good. Cam and Gabby returned alone to play the Dylan classic "I Shall Be Released". Thankfully the room remained hushed as these two singers showed off the power and beauty in their voices. The band rejoined to power through "The Peaceful Sleep Of Death" and the epic "Fathers And Daughters", where various friends joined on stage to sing the ending, including Richie Cuthbert. A great way to end the night, which was also the last Sydney show for bassist Andrew Rose. He is leaving the band to pursue a DJ career. He will be missed I am sure, but this band will no doubt power on and entertain many more audiences.

The two supports were entertaining and fun. Melbourne act Skipping Girl Vinegar were very charming and personable. Their brand of folk/rock was not very original, but they were a lot of fun. Sydney band Deep Sea Arcade were extremely impressive though. Some great guitar work combined with persuasive vocals to leave a big impression. They write great melodies and I am going to keep a keen eye on them.

May 22, 2009

You're Not A Widow Yet!

Yes, it's true. It's incredible. It's wonderful. Excuse my hyperbole, but "Dragonslayer" is the music of this year. My love for Sunset Rubdown is not slowing down. In fact, it might be getting stronger. With good reason. This album is slap in the face great. It is delivered with the sole purpose of bringing joy to those that are lucky to hear it. This album is the third full-length recorded by the band as a whole. And you can tell. Even if the genius that is Spencer Krug takes centre stage, the band plays a big part. Camilla plays a bigger part on vocals and new member Mark Nicol is a great addition on bass and percussion. This album was recorded with the intent of capturing the live feel. If "Random Spirit Lover" felt cloistered, but still impossibly exquisite, then "Dragonslayer" feels raw and vigorous. Guitars crunch and shred, voices wail and keyboards are bashed. All the while maintaining that gorgeous melodic element that Mr Krug has a mortgage on. This is music to excite and fall in love with. This is music that tumbled from the tops of mountains, into your waiting arms.

I will give a full appraisal upon the official release date (June 23), but here are some early impressions...

Silver Moons
A stunning introduction. Quiet keyboards give way to rich and lush melodies. A pure example of the art of Krug. Plus some great Camilla vocals.

Idiot Heart
The most commonly heard track is still as fresh as ever. Frenetic and over the top, Spencer pours his heart out with devastating results.

Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!
Probably the least immediate track, but a real grower. At times soft and wistful, this song features some lovely guitar work mid song.

Black Swan
Thunderous and completely mad. Serious guitar shredding is matched with ferocious vocals. One of my favourites on the album.

Paper Lace
Spencer wrote a quieter version for Swan Lake, which I probably prefer. But this shorter song contains a gem of a melody and will continue to grow on me.

You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)
We first heard this as an acoustic version in the Black Cab Sessions. That version was perfect, so it was going to be hard to match. But this is pretty damn good. The newer version really rocks and definitely includes Spencer's most poignant lyrics.

Nightingale/December Song
The only song not to have a bootleg floating around. But what a song! Probably my second favourite. The opening is almost semi-electronic, before giving away to a ramshackle acoustic song that represents a different and pleasing sound for the band.

Dragon's Lair
The epic! The song! 10 minutes on a rollercoaster of music. Truly astounding and breathtaking. The drumming is sublime and the peaks in this song are totally ecstatic.

Dragonslayer is released on Jagjaguwar on June 23.
Pre order now for a digital download of MP3s.

MP3: Idiot Heart

May 20, 2009

Grizzly Bear Delight!

Yes, yes, yes! "Veckatimest" is the shit. Its charms took a while to grab me, but I am hooked now. It gets better with every listen and the album gets stronger as it reaches its end. Here Grizzly Bear perform two of the best songs from the album on Jools Holland.

May 19, 2009

Mary And Max

Mary And Max is quite simply, a joy to behold. It will make you laugh and cry in nearly the same breath. It contains a unique sense of humour and an ocean of emotion. Yes, it's truly wonderful. In 2003 writer-director Adam Elliot released the award winning short film "Harvie Krumpet" and this is the follow up. After five years of hard work Elliot has crafted a film that will touch many people with its heart and honesty, a true gem.

Mary And Max, a claymation film, tells the story of young Mary Dinkle, who lives in suburban Melbourne and the friendship she forms with Max Horovitz, a man in his forties who lives in New York. Their friendship spans twenty years, going through many ups and downs as they write letters to each other without ever meeting. Mary lives in Mount Waverley in the 1970s. She has a nondescript father and a horrible mother. She tries her best, but she is shunned by other children and feels terribly alone. Her only true friend is her pet rooster, Ethel. One day she picks Max's name out of a telephone directory and writes to him, asking him all sorts of strange questions. Max suffers from Asperger Syndrome, is obese and very lonely. He leaps at the opportunity to form a friendship, although strange and unique. The letters between the two are lovingly created, full of humour and pathos. Warmth and reflection. There is amazing honesty in this film, it truly creates a unique world of amazing characters. Young Mary is voiced by Bethany Whitmore, whilst the older Mary is the work of Toni Collette. Max is voiced at all times by the always superb Philip Seymour Hoffman. They all do a great job, never ever descending into parody or condescendion. Holding the entire story together is the earnest narration of Barry Humphries.

Mary And Max is a true gem. The humour is wonderfully wry and the characters are more substantial and real then most live action features. The film has a unique Australian feel to it that never reaches for cliche. The Dinkles live in Lamington Drive, but it just feels appropriate, in amongst the Sherrins and jars of Marmite. It's looking like a very good year for Australian film.

May 18, 2009

Blood-The Middle East

This is a beautiful song. "Blood", played recently live in Adelaide. They are The Middle East and they are from Queensland. They also have a new album out now and will be playing The Factory on June 6. Please check them out.

May 15, 2009


If you purchased "Bury The Square" in 2007 then you will surely know that Megafaun are force to be reckoned with. That excellent piece of music was full of honesty, harmony and true originality. The band consists of brothers Brad and Phil Cook, plus Joe Westerlund. Originally from Wisconsin, they used to call Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) a fellow band member, before resurrecting themselves as Megafaun in the state of North Carolina.

Now Megafaun return with their second album in the shape of "Gather, Form & Fly". It will be released on July 21 on Hometapes. I have a preview of a new track from the album. "The Fade" is awash with lazy harmonies and glorious melody. Enough to get me excited for the new album.

MP3: The Fade-Megafaun

May 14, 2009

Synecdoche, New York

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere this review will probably be superfluous. But this superb creation only just landed in Australia, so my review begins now. Synecdoche, New York is quite possibly the most imaginative film I have ever seen. It is daring, complex, brave, humane, moving, funny and confusing. It is not perfect, but the strengths of this compelling piece of cinema are so great that I implore you to find it at a cinema very soon.

Synecdoche, New York is the first film that wonder writer Charlie Kaufman has directed. As with his previous films (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc.), the script is complex and thrillingly daring. It defies logic, yet also burns a bright spotlight on human nature. It would be impossible to sum up the film in a few words, but I will try to give you a brief overview. Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theatre director in Schenectady, New York who is totally frustrated with his life. His health is failing and he wishes he could find a work of greatness that he could direct. He is frustrated both professionally and personally. His artist wife Adele Lack (Catherine Keener) is feeling frustration also. She longs for a break in their marriage and not long into the film this occurs. Cotard does have his admirers though. There is Hazel (Samantha Morton) who works the theatre box office and is infatuated with him. There is also Claire (Michelle Williams), his leading lady. She loves Caden's intellect and artistic mind. Caden also seeks counsel with therapist Madeleine (Hope Davis), who provides an unusual sounding board. Then Caden's stroke of luck becomes his life's albatross. He receives a 'genius grant' to undertake any theatre project that his heart and mind desires. Moving to New York he starts with one thing. A big idea. A big idea to make a monumental play about the complexities of life. What starts with nothing becomes a twenty year quest to find its ending. An enormous sound stage and countless sets and actors only complicates things. So we have an artistic journey and a personal journey. Each of which mirrors and intertwines with the other.

This extraordinary film is a true journey for the audience as it is for the characters in the film. This film is concerned with big concepts and idea. Not where we come from, but what do we do with our lives while we are here. Kaufman uses the staging of the play to focus with sharp intent on those that are involved in the making of it. As the play begins with nothing, it grows until it can grow no more. The director of the play finds that he can not contain the growth and the direction of the piece of theatre. Much like life, we are unable to control the many contours and twists that are thrown our way. In our search for truth and meaning we often are found lost, only then realising that our happiness ultimately rests in the connections that we make with fellow beings. The remarkable aspect of this film is that it is all told with a clarity rarely seen. It is told with subtle wit, there are many funny scenes, and an enormous heart. Humanity flows everywhere, a credit to the great cast. Hoffman is exceptional as always as the troubled central character. Morton and Keener are wonderful also, especially Morton who plays the one character who has the biggest connection with Caden. The concept of this film is odd and unique, which makes it very hard for every emotonial scene to work completely. It is very hard to be surreal and real at the same time. But on the whole it works successfully most of the time. A credit to Kaufman and his sublime imagination. In an age of quick fix movies and five second memories it is refreshing to witness a film of such daring and bravery. This is cinema I need to experience more then just once.

May 13, 2009

I Am Lost-Jason Lytle

"Yours Truly, The Commuter", the new album from Jason Lytle is due out May 19 on Anti Records.

May 10, 2009

Another Radio Song-Okkervil River

Thanks to reader Claire for this wonderful video of this amazing song.
Thanks to all of my readers and commenters.
It was certainly a special, special night.

May 9, 2009

Okkervil River @ Annandale Hotel

Where do you start? Where do you start? How about this. If I hold up my hand and count my fingers, then one of them will show that Okkervil River are clearly one of the world's great bands. Great. Superb. Astounding. Living and breathing greatness. Friday night at the Annandale Hotel was proof yet again of this band's majesty. My fifth time seeing them felt just as fresh as the first time. Invigorating and life affirming. Will Sheff, I salute you.

If I state that the first part of the show was wonderful and fun, then I also state that the second half was damn near perfect. "Black" was fun and "A Girl In Port" was tender and lovely, but it was "A Stone" that sent the night into orbit. The band left the stage and Will (the wonderful) was left to give a stunning and exquisite rendering of this magnificent song. You could hear a pin drop as Will reached deep down in his soul. Breathtaking. Then we rocked to the rollicking "John Allyn Smith Sails", before the band knocked us on our backs with "Black Sheep Boy" and "For Real". The latter was ferocious and blood splattered. The crowd then really got involved, clapping with joy to the rampaging "Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe". At this point the band's new guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo accidentally played the opening chord of "Unless It's Kicks", before realising her mistake. I think it was meant to be "Plus Ones", but her banjo would not amp properly and Will decided to plough into "Lost Coastlines". No complaints here. It was great fun and was swiftly followed by "Unless It's Kicks". Holy cow! This song is just born to be heard live. I will never tire of this amazing song. The crowd was well and truly satisfied at this point. But it got better.

Okkervil River returned for the encore and played a 13th Floor Elevators cover, before a tender version of the heart breaking "Blue Tulip". Then it happened. Expecting and hoping for customary closer "Westfall", Will announced they would play a song from "Black Sheep Boy Appendix". My heart stopped. Could it be? Yes it was! "Another Radio Song". My surprise turned to complete and utter joy. This song is a juggernaut of heart and emotion. After I picked my jaw off the floor, the houselights signalled the end to a magical night. I just love this band. To death. They are loose and tight at the same time. Superb musicians who love playing live, they also don't worry if they play a wrong chord here or there or play a wrong note. New member Gurgiolo fits in perfectly, whilst Travis Nelsen is joy attached to a drumstick. Then there is Mr Sheff. The man is ragged and glorious. A voice that connects like few others, he pierces our hearts with his words and music, creating something that stays with you forever. In the year 2009 this night is going to be awfully hard to beat.

Set List
A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene
Singer Songwriter
The Latest Toughs
A Girl In Port
Calling And Not Calling My Ex
Pop Lie
A Stone
John Allyn Smith Sails
Black Sheep Boy
For Real
Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe
Lost Coastlines
Unless It's Kicks

You're Gonna Miss Me (13th Floor Elevators Cover)
Blue Tulip
Another Radio Song

May 7, 2009

Sunset Rubdown: Live In Prague

Not that I am counting the days or anything, but it's not too long before the beast that will "Dragonslayer" will be released upon the waiting world. Sunset Rubdown are currently on tour in Europe and here is a video from a recent show in Prague. The song is "You Go Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)". Excited? I bet you are.

May 6, 2009

We Were Promised Jetpacks

Here is the brand new video for "Quiet Little Voices" from Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks. Album out soon on FatCat.

May 5, 2009

While We Were Dreaming-Pink Mountaintops

More goodness from Pink Mountaintops.

May 4, 2009

Man Like You-Patrick Watson

This week sees the release of the new album from Patrick Watson. In 2007 Patrick won the Polaris Prize with "Close To Paradise". By all accounts, "Wooden Arms" is even better. A listen to "Man Like You" makes a convincing case that it is. Secret City are bringing the goods.

MP3: Man Like You-Patrick Watson

May 1, 2009

Wilco (the album)

It now has a title. Simple and clean. Somewhat ironic. Now we just have to wait for an album cover and hopefully some sweet, sweet music. Wilco are truly one of the world's great bands, so I am still hopeful that there is gas left in the tank. Nonesuch Records will be releasing the new album on June 30.

Wilco (the album) Track Listing
1 Wilco (the song)
2 Deeper Down
3 One Wing
4 Bull Black Nova
5 You And I
6 You Never Know
7 Country Disappeared
8 Solitaire
9 I'll Fight
10 Sonny Feeling
11 Everlasting Everything