Feb 29, 2012

Ryan Adams @ Sydney Opera House

This is the Sydney Opera House. World famous you could say. Last night we were privileged to be in the company of the wonderful Ryan Adams at this very venue. He enforces a pretty stringent no photo policy, so that is why I have a photo of the venue and not him. Tuesday night was my first time seeing Ryan in concert and I was totally blown away by his performance and his personality. He was charming, delightfully odd, responsive and touchingly real.

The man played a long set. Just over two hours, but it never lagged at any stage. He traversed his entire catalogue. Even throwing in some Whiskeytown tunes for good measure. Ryan opened the night with the eternal classic "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and we all melted as one. But there was more greatness to come as Mr Adams moved from instrument to instrument. He started in the sitting down mode with two acoustic guitars (painted red, white and blue) and harmonica. Sometimes he would move to the left of the stage to play his guitars standing up. He also gave us a few tunes on the stand up piano. These were probably my highlights. "Sylvia Plath" was a sublime wonder, whilst "New York, New York" was pared back and down to reveal a song of heartbreaking wonder. He also played quite a few songs from 2011's "Ashes & Fire" which actually sounded better live then on record. "Dirty Rain" was a particular standout I thought. Adams was also very charming and personable. Often referencing his previous 'bad' behaviour he would make jokes about how he had changed but you could meet the 'old Ryan' after the show if you liked. He conveys a certain odd charm that is actually extremely likeable, going off on strange tangents such as calling the venue the 'Temple of Doom' and talking about a fishing expedition in 1963. I didn't know he also improvises songs on stage. Which he did last night. Such as one about a mythical creature named 'Oratu' or the piano piece about his love letter to his cats. This was funny but also very touching. The man has quite a reputation. As a singer, as a performer and also as a personality. All were on display last night. His songs aren't overly complicated. Melodies are simple and direct. But they contain a beautiful sensibility, armed with a voice that is so human and so effective and affecting. It makes for a performer that connects with his audience in a major way. This was easy to tell with rapturous applause after every number and screams of delight at the start of each new one. I had waited a long time to see Ryan Adams perform live, but the wait was well worth it.

Set List
Oh My Sweet Carolina
Ashes & Fire
If I Am A Stranger
Dirty Rain
My Winding Wheel
The Rescue Blues
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Jacksonville Skyline
Everybody Knows
Dear Chicago
Sylvia Plath
Let It Ride
English Girls Approximately
Chains Of Love
Lucky Now
Oratu (Improv)
Do I Wait
Mr Cat (Improv)
New York, New York
16 Days
Thank You (Improv)
Come Pick Me Up

Round & Round
Strawberry Wine

Feb 27, 2012

Oscar Thoughts

Not long to go before The Academy Awards are handed out in Los Angeles. So I thought I would share a few brief thoughts before we get started. These aren't predictions as the intense scrutiny for months means that there are few surprises when Oscars are handed out. Just my wish list.

Picture (complete with Pitchfork styles scores)
The Tree of Life (9.6)
Hugo (8.8)
Moneyball (8.4)
The Descendants (8.2)
The Artist (8.1)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (6.5)
War Horse (5.1)
Midnight in Paris (didn't see, wanted to)
The Help (didn't see, never wanted to)

The Tree of Life is so clearly the best picture of 2011 it's not really funny. It won't win, but it really should. Films like Shame, Drive and Melancholia should have scored nominations.

This should have been a contest between Michael Fassbender for Shame or Brad Pitt for The Tree of Life. But they weren't nominated. So would like to see Pitt win for Moneyball.

Only saw Streep's performance. By all accounts Viola Davis will win.

If Lubezski doesn't win I will cry!

Malick SHOULD win, but won't. Scorsese other wise.

Feb 25, 2012

Dan Mangan @ Notes Newtown

It's a great gift to put on a great live show. Firstly you need to be armed with an arsenal of great songs and then have the ability to display them in the live arena. But it's even a greater gift to be able to make every one in the room feel like a vital part of the puzzle. To make every person feel part of a community. To feel like the songs are there for you. You need energy, love and passion to pull this off. Dan Mangan has it. I doubt I have ever seen a more gregarious, caring and sharing performer. He puts every inch of his soul into his performance and then some more. But it was more then just effort and energy. It was communication and a direct response to all in the room. It was gathering us up in his arms and carrying us for an hour and a half of pure fun and emotional clarity.

I really only climbed on the Mangan bandwagon in 2011. I think it was when I first heard "How Darwinian" (so good last night) and wondered why had I been sleeping on him. I soon bought "Oh Fortune" and fell in love with its deep humanity and generous soul. I soon sought out his first two albums and came to the opinion that the man was on a definite upward curve. First album was good, second album was better and the third album was gold. Makes me excited for album number four. But what of Friday night in Newtown. Well firstly Dan has a great, great band. Gord Grdina was a powerhouse on guitar. Kenton Loewen was as good as a drummer that I have seen. A powerhouse too, but also supremely capable of subtle and elegant moments. They were rounded out superbly by bassist John Walsh. They all came together perfectly on opener "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All" which also signaled that this night wouldn't just be quiet and acoustic. It would be ferocious. A clear intent of heart and fury. Ably demonstrated further on rockers like "Post-War Blues", "Sold" and "Some People". There were times for quiet moments too though. A huge standout was when Dan went solo to serenade us with "Basket". I'm pretty sure there were a few tears shed during this great song. It also showcased Mangan's strengths as a vocalist. His voice is earthy and soulful, masculine and deeply touching. Closing song "Jeopardy" was a perfect way to show all of this off. Frankly that would have been enough. Satisfaction guaranteed. But the encore took it up a notch. We had the wonderful Sydney singer Gabby Huber join Dan on stage for "The Indie Queens Are Waiting", which was followed by the customary crowd singalong in "Robots". But Dan wanted to give us more. He went unplugged, went into the crowd, stood on a chair and invited us all to sing along with "So Much For Everyone". It was precious moment, a moment that will stay with me for a long time. We all connected and quite frankly our lives are the better for it. Music, hey? It's pretty good.

Set List
About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All
Oh Fortune
Leaves, Trees, Forest
Post-War Blues
Road Regrets
How Darwinian
Starts With Them, Ends With Us
Some People
Rows Of Houses
Regarding Death and Dying

The Indie Queens Are Waiting
So Much For Everyone

Feb 24, 2012

Hallelujah The Hills Set To Release New Album

Without doubt Hallelujah The Hills are one of the most under appreciated bands going around. Their melodic, fiercely independent brand of music reminds you of all of your favourite bands from the 90s. Guitars and melodies. Guts and determination. May 22 will see them release album number 3. "No One Knows What Happens Next" was recorded direct to analog tape in Boston, Massachusetts and will be released on Discrete Pageantry Records.

No One Knows What Happens Next Track Listing
1  Get Me In A Room
2  Nightingale Lightning
3  Care To Collapse
4  Hungry Ghost Extraordinaire
5  No One Knows What Happens Next
6  Dead People's Music
7  People Breathe Into Other People
8  The Game Changes Me
9  Hello, My Destroyer
10 Call Off Your Horses

Feb 22, 2012

Jack White Album Details

As you are probably aware Jack White has a new album coming out on April 24. His first solo album in fact. "Blunderbuss" will be released on Third Man Records and above is the cover art.

Blunderbuss Track Listing
1 Missing Pieces
2 Sixteen Saltines
3 Freedom at 21
4 Love Interruption
5 Blunderbuss
6 Hypocritical Kiss
7 Weep Themselves to Sleep
8 I'm Shakin'
9 Trash Tongue Talker
10 Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
11 I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
12 On And On And On
13 Take Me With You When You Go

Feb 17, 2012

Youth Lagoon @ Oxford Art Factory

A show small in stature, but big in heart. A show without fanfare, but one that attracted plenty of fans. Just a man and a keyboard, a synth and someone to play guitar. Youth Lagoon was a great way to spend a Thursday night in Sydney. 'Twas at the Oxford Art Factory and it wasn't the greatest show you will ever see but it was treasured and delightful. A small glimpse into the talent of a young man.

It was a short show, less than an hour in fact. Which was probably to be expected as he only has one album and it only contains 8 songs. But they are grand songs, full of heart and emotion. Naturally he played all the songs from "The Year Of Hibernation", one of 2011's better albums. As said Trevor Powers played away on a Yamaha keyboard that was positioned beneath a small synth. And even though the sound was a bit patchy at times he managed to recreate all the intricacies of the album. I guess you could sometimes describe the music as 'bedroom pop', perhaps better suited to small spaces and headphones. But I actually found the music grew and exploded on stage. Thanks also to the handy guitar work of Logan Hyde. Most of the songs start gently and slowly before exploding into bold and exciting rhythms. Of course this was shown on great songs such as "17" and "Montana". But I think my real favourite was "Afternoon" with its highly infectious melodic romp. Encore song "Daydream" was also dreamy and beautiful. So, a small but quite satisfying night. 

Set List
The Hunt


Feb 14, 2012

Bearhug To Release Debut Album

Sydney’s Bearhug are set to release their debut album "Bill, Dance, Shiner" on March 23 on Spunk Records. Recorded and co-produced by Tim Whitten (and the band), it follows the release of the EP ‘s "To Anything" and "Cartoon Islands". After a good year or so of touring, including supporting Built to Spill and Broken Social Scene, it's exciting times for this 5 piece. There will be tour dates announced soon to support the album.

Feb 11, 2012

New Music From Moonface

This just has to be exciting! Right? Right! That genius Spencer Krug, otherwise known as Moonface, has a new record due soon. "With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery" is coming out on Jagjaguwar on April 17. It represents a collaboration with Finnish outfit Siinai. They first met in 2009 when Wolf Parade toured Europe. Friendships formed and they decided to record an album together. Siinai have performed the bulk of the music, with Spencer providing the vocals and lyrics. Spencer traveled to Finland in August, 2011 and the rest is history as they say. Track listing and first download are below. Excited!

With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery Track Listing
1 Heartbreaking Bravery
2 Yesterday’s Fire
3 Shitty City
4 Quickfire, I Tried
5 I’m Not The Phoenix Yet
6 10,000 Scorpions
7 Faraway Lightning
8 Headed For The Door
9 Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips
10 Lay Your Cheek On Down

Feb 8, 2012

Feist @ Enmore Theatre

Yes, we loved every single second of it. It was all quite spectacularly superb. From the delightful melodies to the rock out moments. From the times were held our breath to the feeling of being as one. Feist lit up the Enmore Theatre Tuesday night in a way few performers can. She is so engaging, so charming, so talented. Love.

For just on two hours Feist proved that she is one extremely talented and unique performer. Such a personable one too, she had us at hello you could most possibly say. As the booming "Undiscovered First" rang out across the venue we felt this night could be special. It also showed that she and her band could rock out with the best of them. Her latest album "Metals" is darker then her previous one and there is much more percussion woven through the record. It showed live, with songs such as "A Commotion" and "The Bad In Each Other" filling up the cavernous venue with great ease. This was helped by a great backing band that included the extremely talented Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think). Feist was also joined on stage by the wonderfully talented Mountain Man who provided superb vocal support through out the night. This proved great on songs such as "Graveyard" and "Comfort Me", where even the audience ably joined in the chorus. We still received many quiet and breathtaking moments too such as the gorgeous "Anti-Pioneer" and the older classic in "So Sorry". Probably the most fun though were the back to back "My Moon My Man" and "I Feel It All". If you weren't smiling through these then I suspect you probaly left your heart at the door. I should mention too an incident early in the night when Feist, during "How Come You Never Go There", grabbed a camera from the front row. She was objecting to the person videoing the song, explaining that in doing so they were actually missing the joy of seeing the song live. Which is a pretty fair point I would have to say.

If the show was great, then the encore maybe was even better. "When I Was A Young Girl" was just Feist and the drummer thrashing it out for nearly ten minutes. We also received a beautiful rendition of "Cicadas And Gulls", with just Feist and Mountain Man huddled together, quietly singing. Breaking our hearts. If it could get any better it did, with Feist returning alone to serenade us with "Intuition". Amazing. Incredible.

Set List
Undiscovered First
How Come You Never Go There
A Commotion
The Circle Married The Line
So Sorry
My Moon My Man
I Feel It All
The Bad In Each Other
Honey Honey
Comfort Me
Caught A Long Wind
Get It Wrong, Get It Right

When I Was A Young Girl
Cicadas And Gulls
Sea Lion Woman
Let It Die


Feb 6, 2012

Sydney Laneway Festival 2012

After a month of pretty ordinary unsummery weather Sydney turned on an absolute cracker of a day for Laneway Festival 2012. Thankfully the music matched the weather. There were highlights, and clashes, through out the day but I managed to see all acts I really wanted to see. The 2012 edition seemed to have the electronic/chillwave thing going on pretty well. Mostly that's not my cup of tea but I found plenty to keep me entertained through out the day. Austra would prove the great discovery of the day, whilst EMA absolutely killed it in an early set. Feist proved the class act of the day. She is really in a league of her own. I think the food situation needs to be looked at, a few more outlets wouldn't go astray and I believe there were many queues at the end of the day. And the market area could possibly be expanded to something greater. But the music was great, proving once again that Laneway has no peer on the festival scene in Australia.

EMA was a sledgehammer of a performer. Power and personality magnified. I only recently bought her debut album and quickly fell in love with it. So I was very excited to see her perform live. Her music is intense, personal powerful. Dark and brooding you could say. But she was also a delight on stage, smiling between songs and enjoying herself. Even when her guitar string broke and she was given a replacement one she didn't miss a beat. "The Grey Ship" and "Butterfly Knife" were great, but the absolute highlight was "California" where she abandoned her guitar and stalked the front of a stage in a way that was captivating and intense. A great start to the day.

Set List
Red Star
The Grey Ship
Butterfly Knife

The only thing I really knew about Austra before the day was that they were from Canada and they had a song called "Lose You". Which I quite liked but that was the only one I knew. Well, they turned out to be the most pleasant and exciting discovery of the day. Fronted by classically trained singer Katie Stelmanis they were a fascinating mixture of vocal rain showers and pounding synth driven rhythms. Quite intoxicating really. Might have to check out the album.

Girls are great. Of that there is little doubt. But I am really glad I went to their sideshow on Thursday night. For a couple of reasons. Firstly, we naturally received a longer set, including great renditions of "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light". Secondly the sound wasn't great here. The guitars were way too loud, which took away some of the pleasure. But pleasure was still there. How could it not be with songs as great as "Alex", "My Ma" and "Vomit". A great band.

Set List
My Ma
Honey Bunny
Lust For Life
Love Like A River

If the sound at Girls was disappointing it was probably worse at Portugal. The Man. I know it can be hard, for a variety of reasons, to get the sound right at outdoor festivals. Being outdoor doesn't help for a start. Then there is the practicality of sound checking on the run, but it would nice to get a clearer sound. The guitars here were too loud again and the vocal seemed buried. But it was still fun. This Alaskan band has throwback sound that somehow gels with the modern audience. I was really glad to get a couple of older tunes too, especially "People Say".

Set List
The Sun
People Say
Floating (Time Isn't Working My Side)
All Your Light (Times Like These)
So American
Got It All (This Can't Be Living Now)
Head Is A Flame (Cool With It)
All The Young Dudes (Mott The Hoople cover)
Work All Day
The Devil
The Woods

In this setting Feist was incomparable. A shining beacon of joy and class. It felt short though. But every second was hugely enjoyable. Backed by the girls from Mountain Man, we were swallowed up by a wave of glistening harmonies. I also believe the great Charles Spearin was helping out on a multitude of instruments. Feist leaned heavily on 2011's "Metals", which was fine by me because it is a very fine album. "Graveyard" was probably the standout, although "Comfort Me" was great with Feist encouraging us the join in a big singalong. A pleasant surprise too was classic tune 'Mushaboom", which was turned upside down with a huge percussive bent. Didn't recognize it until halfway through. Feist in undeniably a major talent. A pleasure to see again.  

Set List
A Commotion
My Moon My Man
How Come You Never Go There
Undiscovered First
Comfort Me
The Bad In Each Other
I Feel It All

Feb 3, 2012

Girls @ Oxford Art Factory

A visceral, emotionally charged night. Strong feelings hung in the air and wrapped themselves around us. Of course there was fun to be had, but Girls at the Oxford Art Factory last night was full of tender and true moments. Super charged feelings of passion and heartbreak.

I had previously written off this Californian band as overhyped and lacking substance. I liked a few of the tracks off their highly praised debut but mostly I found their songs to be cloying and just a little too twee. But 2011 changed all of that. "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" was a thunderbolt of musical power. A mixture of sublime melodies and hard tearing riffs. It was my way into the world of Girls. So much so that some of their earlier songs that I previously struggled with opened up and became enjoyable. Songs that I ended up enjoying last night such as the dreamy "Laura" and the frenetic "Lust For Life". The latter proved to be a firm crowd favourite. Of course this band is basically a duo. Lead singer Christopher Owens and bass player Chet "JR" White. But in recent times they have expanded to five. Another guitarist, who sported a mean floral shirt, a drummer and a keyboardist. This made the sound full and brimming with excitement. To augment their show garlands of flowers adorned the stage. Adding a romantic touch. Little words were spoken. Owens mumbled a few quiet thank yous, but it was the music that was front and centre. "Honey Bunny" was the first song to really get things going. So much fun. "My Ma" was huge and cathartic. "Alex" was a gorgeous ray of sunlight. I think the biggest connection of these songs are their searing emotional honesty. If you read the lyrics on a page they would perhaps seem trite, banal even. But when Owens sings them you can feel the honesty pouring out. They are true to him and therefore in turn become true to us. This is never better shown then in the epic "Vomit", a song apparently about an ex-girlfriend. I think though that the absolute highlight of the night was the back to back of "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light". These two songs raised the roof, combining the band's greatest qualities. Emotional truth, undeniable melody and buzzsaw power. It's a heady mix. Consider me a true convert.  

Set List
Honey Bunny
My Ma
Saying I Love You
Lust For Life
Love Like A River
Hellhole Ratrace
Morning Light


Feb 1, 2012

My Favourite 100 Songs of 2011 (Just Another List)

A few weeks ago I posted a selection of my favourite songs of 2011. A selection of 15 or so powered by the beauty of You Tube. Since then I have read some excellent lists that went a whole lot further. Up to 100 in fact. Like here, here, here, here and here. So I decided to create a list for myself. No real reason other then that I like to create lists. I see some list makers will limit each artist to only one song. Some go unlimited. I have decided to compromise. A limit of three songs per artist.
Hope you find something on the list you enjoy.
1. Vomit-Girls
2. Postcard From 1952-Explosions In The Sky
3. Whalesong (Song Instead Of A Kiss)-Moonface
4. Helplessness Blues-Fleet Foxes
5. The Creature-Kurt Vile
6. Calgary-Bon Iver
7. The Last Living Rose-PJ Harvey
8. Goshen-Beirut
9. Alsatian Darn-Panda Bear
10. How Darwinian-Dan Mangan
11. I Might-Wilco
12. How Come You Never Go There-Feist
13. Serve The People-Handsome Furs
14. Putting The Dog To Sleep-The Antlers
15. Quail And Dumplings-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
16. Stamp-The Rural Alberta Advantage
17. Beautiful Burning Desire-Blackout Beach
18. Wood-Rostam
19. Light Emerges-Akron/Family
20. Rivers Of Gold-Bry Webb
21. The Stars In His Head (Dark Lights Remix)-Colin Stetson
22. White Sun-Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross
23. Suicide Demo For Kara Walker-Destroyer
24. Inn Of The Seventh Ray-Eleanor Friedberger
25. Last Known Surroundings-Explosions In The Sky
26. River Jordan-The Felice Brothers
27. The Plains/Bitter Dancer-Fleet Foxes
28. My Ma-Girls
29. No Church In The Wild-Jay-Z & Kanye West
30. On Tour-Kurt Vile
31. Return To The Violence Of The Ocean Floor-Moonface
32. We Need A Myth-Okkervil River
33. Twigs and Stones-Siskiyou
34. Come To The City-The War On Drugs
35. L Y F-WU LYF
36. Holocene-Bon Iver
37. Otis-Jay-Z & Kanye West
38. Drmz-A.A. Bondy
39. Baby's Arms-Kurt Vile
40. Sara-Chad VanGaalen
41. Another Sky-Akron/Family
42. Art Of Almost-Wilco
43. Hank Williams-Roadside Graves
44. Old Friend-Caveman
45. Undertaker-Bry Webb
46. Forgiveness-Girls
47. The Shrine/An Argument-Fleet Foxes
48. Repatriated-Handsome Furs
49. Murder To Excellence-Jay-Z & Kanye West
50. Black Water Falls-The War On Drugs
51. Fast Peter-Moonface
52. In The Dark Places-PJ Harvey
53. Corsicana-The Antlers
54. Act On Impulse-We Were Promised Jetpacks
55. Dozens-The Paper Scissors
56. Shaking Down The Old Bones-The Darcys
57. Circuital-My Morning Jacket
58. Keno-Dick Diver
59. Black Night-The Dodos
60. One-Month Marathon-Eleanor Friedberger
61. Montana-Youth Lagoon
62. Calico Ghost-Deepest Bison
63. Get Right-Megafaun
64. Go-Seekae
65. The Park-Secret Cities
66. Barnes' Yard-The Rural Alberta Advantage
67. Asking Price-Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
68. The Silver Lining-Gold Leaves
69. Only In My Double Mind-Centro-Matic
70. The Gold Is Gone-Charge Group
71. Poor In Love-Destroyer
72. Everybody! Do The Twist!-Antiques
73. Cows-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
74. Dirt-WU LYF
75. Countdown-Beyonce
76. Mona Lisa-Atlas Sound
77. Surfer King-A.A. Bondy
78. Come On Over-Veronica Falls
79. The Valley-Okkervil River
80. The Autopsy Garland-The Mountain Goats
81. For 12-Other Lives
82. Black Hills-Gardens & Villa
83. About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All-Dan Mangan
84. Municipality-Real Estate
85. Cicadas And Gulls-Feist
86. 5 Chords-The Dears
87. O Holy Break Of Day-Waters
88. Swerve... the Reeping of all That is Worthwhile (Noir not Withstanding)-Shabazz Palaces
89. Goodbye Bread-Ty Segall
90. Civilian-Wye Oak
91. Rubber-Yuck
92. Dreamin-Twerps
93. Lost In The Trees-Richmond Fontaine
94. Same Mistake-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
95. Black Dress-O'Death
96. Overcoat-John Vanderslice
97. Black Death 1349-The Middle East
98. Scottish Winds-Frightened Rabbit
99. Blood-The Dears
100. Ladder Song-Bright Eyes