Jan 31, 2013

The Men @ Goodgod Small Club

Loud, sweaty, ferocious. Did I mention loud? The Men are from Brooklyn and this was their first show in Australia ahead of their Laneway commitments. A packed Goodgood, revved up after the spirited Royal Headache warmed things up, enjoyed the pure honesty and undeniable spirit of this band of four. If you want energy, passion and power from a gig do not miss The Men. They have the stamp of greatness waiting to to be placed on them.

I took a prime position on the side of the stage and for an hour they did not let up. Flat to the four and all that. They sweated, screamed and pummelled their instruments. No encore. It wasn't really necessary to be honest. They gave their all. The Men have a new album coming out in March and they gave us a preview of that release, playing several songs from the upcoming album. Two were standouts in particular. "Without a Face" and "I Saw Her Face" were quite complex and elaborate songs that augur well for the new record. Naturally they played a good chunk from 2012's excellent "Open Your Heart". I was really hoping for "Country Song" but the band seemed to steer towards the shorter more live friendly songs such as the title track and "Please Don't Go Away", which both went down a treat. If I could have a criticism of the gig it would be the very nature of it. Loud, ferocious rock can sometimes be a bit overwhelming at times. The songs can tend to blur into one another and you sometimes yearn for a bit of light amongst the dark. But I guess that is the beast in question. And it's a pretty ferocious one that's for sure.

Set List
Turn It Around
Without a Face
I Saw Her Face
Different Days
Night Landing
Open Your Heart
Please Don't Go Away/Oscillation
( )

*Please note there were many new songs on the set list, so this might not be totally accurate.
Any help is appreciated.

Jan 27, 2013

Woods @ Goodgod Small Club

Before I review a sublime, almost perfect show, I would like to give some thoughts that I had last night. Firstly, Woods mean a lot to me. A lot. You could say I love them. They have that blend of music that I can NOT resist. Killer melodies, falsetto voice and massive guitar jams. They combine for a potent and mind blowing mix. Before the show I was talking to the girl and trying to explain my excitement for the show. Besides the reasons stated, it was a personal connection to the band. I buy a lot of music on the web. Discovering new bands and seeking out their website and ordering the CDs. Often bands are distinctly DIY. The CDs arrive in the mail with my address hand written and sometimes little notes of thanks inside. Not only am I getting joy from new music, but I am also hopefully helping the band survive a little longer. A few years ago I discovered Woods. I heard a song called "Hunover" and fell in love. Soon the CD arrived. "At Rear House" was wonderful. It had handwritten notes and a deeply personal touch. But it also felt a mystery. I was listening from the other side of the world and I had no idea who Woods were. Who was in the band. What they looked like. I could only imagine. But I had the music. Perhaps I was the only person in Australia listening to them. It certainly felt like it. They were mine. I loved them. Then the love grew. Each year this prolific band would release an album. I would keep ordering CDs. Each album better than the last. I'm sure others were listening, but they still felt like my personal band. Soon I would read interviews and see photographs. I would know what Jeremy Earl looked like. They were real. They had jobs and lives. But they were still churning out this amazing music. Fast forward to 2013 and they have landed in Australia for the first time. On the back of the magnificent "Bend Beyond". It was actually available locally. Their audience was growing. But how much? Not much it would seem.

Saturday night they played to a below capacity crowd at Goodgod. We were the few. The dedicated few. But why so few? As yesterday was Australia Day, Hottest 100 parties were every where. But Woods were no where to be seen. Of course I didn't expect them to feature. Hell, even Grizzly Bear and Beach House got shut out. Taste, hey? It's unfathomable and inconceivable. Mediocre bands Like Ball Park Music and The Rubens feature heavily whilst a band as great as Woods goes empty. Why? Their music is tangible and personal. The melodies are sublime. They have everything. Pitchfork love them. But still. Anyway the lucky few who were there last night were treated to all that is great about music.

They played for an hour. No more. No encore. But this was ecstasy. This was everything I had hoped for. They reached across a few albums as well. Songs like "Suffering Season" and "Is It Honest" are perfectly melodic gems. As is "Cali in a Cup". "Rain On" was dappled shards of light. "Size Meets the Sounds" was everything the name implied. Huge. But "Bend Beyond" was the hugest (Is that a word?). Famous already in its live rendition, it soared and enveloped us. Devouring us with guitars as big as mountains. But it was the end that reached into the stratosphere. Two slabs of goodness from "At Echo Lake". "Blood Dries Darker" had me squealing with delight, then "I Was Gone" was turned from a two minute firebomb into a fifteen minute shredder. Easily displaying all the considerable talents of this band. Jarvis Taveniere plies a 12 string guitar that is almost mandolin in shape. It emits warm and rich tones. Kevin Morby is centre stage holding his bass guitar high under his armpits. He is an expert on bass. Also I nice guy, I spoke to him after the show. But I didn't get to speak to Jeremy Earl. The lead singer stands to the right. Hidden from the light. But he is an extraordinary guitar player. Shredding and attacking his guitar with ferocity and immense control. If I hadf spoken to him I think I would have simply thanked him. Thanked him for the great music he has given us. Thanked him for continuing to illuminate this world. Glowing brightly.
Set List
Pushing Onlys
Suffering Season
Cali in a Cup
Impossible Sky
Bend Beyond
Size Meets the Sound
Is It Honest?
Be All Be Easy
Rain On
Find Them Empty
Blood Dries Darker
I Was Gone

Perfume Genius @ Famous Spiegeltent

Our last event of the Sydney Festival was a nice one to finish on. Mike Hadreas, other wise known as Perfume Genius, gave us a tender, deeply honest and heartfelt performance. Playing keyboards he sat nervously in front of us. Speaking quietly but with good humour. It feels like Perfume Genius is a work in progress. He is an immense talent, who has showed enormous growth in his short career and between album number one and number two. The future looks most bright. You could also feel his nerves seep into the crowd. He does look like he is still getting used to the idea of playing his deeply personal bedroom pop to larger audiences. But he was able to offset that with humour and personality. The overall effect was a performance of heart and beauty. Even though the vocals were a bit buried in the mix, you could still enjoy the beauty of songs like "No Tear", "17" and my favourite, the wonderful "Dark Parts". Because most of his songs are short and sweet Hadreas was basically able to nearly play every song from his first two albums. So much so that when we clamoured for an encore he threw us a Sade song, followed by a Madonna cover. All in all this was a pretty nice way to spend a late Summer afternoon. Great songs in a great setting. It was to be my first of two shows for the day. 

Set List
Awol Marine/Perry
Lookout, Lookout
Take Me Home
No Tear
Dark Parts
Helpless (Neil Young cover)
Floating Spit
Rusty Chains
Sister Song
All Waters
Mr Peterson

By Your Side (Sade cover)
Oh Father (Madonna cover)

Jan 26, 2013

Mount Eerie @ York St Anglican Church

A certain sadness overcame me last night. At the end of Mount Eerie's sublime show Friday night I felt sad. Deflated. Not because the show wasn't great. It was. But because an event that I had looked forward to for months was suddenly over. There was no more. The happiness of a great moment is often matched by the knowing that is over. Life moves on. It has to. But at least for one shining hour I was transported to a world of inner beauty and serene peace. There are musicians in this world that operate on a level that we can't truly comprehend. They are touched by something that is unique and astounding. Phil Elverum is one such person. The man from Anacortes, Washington has graced our lives for over a decade. First as The Microphones and now as Mount Eerie. Friday night he played St Philip's Anglican Church in Sydney. Thanks to the work of Adam and Joe, who do so much for live music in Sydney. It was a unique setting for a truly unique talent. Friday nights don't get much better than this.

This tour was just Phil on guitar, an electric. He was to play a great selection from his sublime 2012 album "Clear Moon". Opening with the serene and gorgeous "Through The Trees pt. 2". The only slight downer early on was an amplifier that was playing up. It somehow was emanating a loud fuzz/buzz that didn't ruin any song but was slightly distracting. You could see Phil was certainly distracted but he handled it with good humour and grace. Soon it was fixed though and the night soared to another level. He did manage to give us a selection of older songs as well. Including two from his classic album "The Glow pt. 2". "The Moon" is close to genius, whilst "Headless Horseman" is one of my favourite songs from that superb album. I also loved the tender "I Walked Home Beholding" and the serene "Wooly Mammoth's Mighty Absence". Hell, it was all great. He is a one and only. Songs are tender, soft and strong. They pulse with life and energy. They contain, I believe, a certain spirituality. A spirit of nature. He sings a lot about rivers and mountains and moons and woods. He also touches on love and longing. With a melancholy and inner beauty that is matched by few. If any. I walked home beholding.    

Set List
Through The Trees pt. 2
The Place I Live
No Inside, No Out
The Moon
With My Hands Out
Clear Moon
Lone Bell
Headless Horseman
The Place Lives
I Walked Home Beholding
Wooly Mammoth's Mighty Absence
I  Say "No"

I should mention the two local supports. Both great.
Matt Banham. Dark and fascinating songs on an acoustic.
Packwood. Banjo and strings that combined for a sublime set of lovely music.

Jan 24, 2013

Vampire Weekend @ Metro Theatre

Oh Vampire Weekend, why did I ever doubt you? This was my first time seeing the New York popsters and it definitely won't be my last. It would be hard to find a more fun filled show than last night at the Metro Theatre. When they first appeared on the scene I didn't really buy the hype. Sure, their songs were sweet and catchy but for some reason I didn't fall in love with them. Then "Horchata" came along on album two and I DID fall in love. "Contra" was a great album, full of gorgeous melodies and insane hooks. I went back to the debut album and I started to appreciate the band more. The lyrics were more complex then I had thought, the music more complex then I had originally surmised. Songs that were seemingly light and poppy had incredible staying power. I wasn't growing tired of them. So much so that I promised myself that the next time the band came through town I wouldn't miss out. Promise kept. Happiness won.

A sold out crowd was enthralled and enraptured from start to finish. Bouncing on stage to some ASAP Rocky the band soon tore into "Cousins" and we were off on a joy ride of music. Each song is basically recognisable from the opening chord and each time the audience screamed with delight. "White Sky" was an early highlight, as was fan favourite "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa". "Run" was a hoot, whilst I would have to say that "A-Punk" probably received the biggest cheer of the night. We also received two new songs in "Unbelievers" and "Arms", which both sounded great and should be included on the new album due out in May. "I Think Ur A Contra" proved a nice change of pace mid show, before we charged into an ecstatic finish of "Oxford Comma" and "Giving Up The Gun". The encore proved a victory lap culminating in the traditional closer of "Walcott". I think everyone in the venue was singing along. It was such a great crowd. Smiles were bursting out all night. People were just so happy. Singing and dancing and such, such joy. Vampire Weekend hose down and dispatch cynicism. Their melodies are so infectious and unique. Percussion is amazing. It's quite an experience. They make people happy. What a gift that is.

Set List
White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
California English
Unbelievers (new song)
I Think Ur A Contra
I Stand Corrected
Arms (new song)
Diplomat's Son
Oxford Comma
Giving Up The Gun

One (Blake's Got A New Face)
Mansard Roof

Jan 22, 2013

Dirty Projectors @ Sydney Opera House

As live performers, and on record for that matter, Dirty Projectors present a unique and interesting challenge. Can you change your usual listening patterns to accommodate the strange and unusual sounds that emanate from this band. I believe it takes dedicated listening to uncover all the variants and layers they can give you. But once you are there it's the beginning of a beautiful journey. The Brooklyn based band were here Monday night as part of the Sydney Festival and they charmed and delighted us for over 90 interesting minutes.

Dirty Projectors are a band I have immense respect for, not exactly profound love. Their music seems deliberately challenging at times and not always easy to love Their music can even be maddeningly inconsistent at times and yet starkly beautiful. This was my first time seeing them live and it was a joy unto itself. Lead man Dave Longstreth entered the stage and performed the title track from their 2012 album solo and acoustic. It was a thing of rare beauty. Longstreth has a unique voice. It sounds offkey and warbles every which way, but it is strong and vibrant and also vulnerable and human. Soon the full band joined him and we were away. Three strong female vocals joined in the harmonic chorus and they were all great. Especially the dimunutive Amber Coffman. What range she has. Contorting her vocal from throat shouts to smooth pop with aplomb. Early highlight were "Dance For You" and two back to back tunes from "The Getty Address", an earlier album that I'm not too familiar with but will make sure I am now after last night's show. Coffman then soared on the hand clapped goodness of "Beautiful Mother", a standout for sure. The show finished with a bang with great cuts such as "Just From Chevron", the intoxicating "Stillness Is The Move" and the epic "Rise Above". All being great displays of the band's talents. They employ crazy time signatures and strange melodies. Songs often start and stop again. Complex and sometimes bewildering. It's quite an intoxicating cocktail. The encore tied the night up nicely. "Gun Has No Trigger" had us moving in our seats, whilst "Impregnable Question" raged in its quiet beauty. This was a unique live experience. From a band that is truly like no other.   

Set List
Swing Lo Magellan
Irresponsible Tune
Temecula Sunrise
Police Story
Dance For You
I Will Truck
Finches' Song at Oceanic Parking Lot
While You're Here
Cannibal Resource
Offspring are Blank
The Socialites
Beautiful Mother
See What She Singing
Just From Chevron
About To Die
Stillness Is The Move
Useful Chamber
Rise Above

Gun Has No Trigger
Impregnable Question

Jan 18, 2013

Animal Collective @ Enmore Theatre

Whether you love, hate or are just indifferent about Animal Collective there is one thing for sure. There is no one quite like them. They are unique. One of a kind. A snowflake. Please put me in the love camp. In my opinion they are the most important and influential band of the last decade. Trekking their own path, seeking their goals. Blazing a trail. Of unique, exciting, sometimes confounding music. Not pandering to any one. Integrity and exploration are in their DNA. They have a spirit. The spirit of music. It's not bound by commercial considerations or chart positions or radio play. They grow and breathe filled by the spirit of music. I'm assuming most of their fans follow them for this reason. It's living on the edge, not really knowing what is next, but knowing it will be an experience. Either great or bewildering. Thursday night at the Enmore Theatre was special for all of the reasons above, but there was one more. It was the first time the girl had seen them live (my third time). I can safely say she has never been the biggest fan. Finding the world of AC sometimes impenetrable. But she has one thing in common with them. The spirit of music. She seeks out and enjoys new music. As we left last night I asked if she enjoyed the show. With a smile she said 'It was a lot of fun'. At this I smiled. Gratified that she had felt what I felt. Big bouncing balls of joy. Smiles and laughter. I don't know if she will be rushing out to buy a copy of "Here Comes The Indian" but at least I know she has a greater appreciation of why I love them so.

2012 saw Animal Collective take a back seat critically. "Centipede Hz" was well received but the huge acclaim of previous albums escaped them. It was a dense album, lacking a "My Girls", but after many listens I could hear the excellence. The glow was still there. Last night was a huge display for the album with nine tracks played. Thankfully they shone on stage. Each song actually growing a leg live, with the audience going along for the ride. "Applesauce" in particular was enormous live and "Moonjock" was a sonic boom. But it was the last four songs that welded old and new into an orgasmic mess. "New Town Burnout" segued into "Monkey Riches" with fervour and beautiful symmetry. Then we danced. And jumped and felt our hearts burst with joy. "Brother Sport" was a jumbling, colliding firework whilst Avey Tare stepped out from the decks and rumbled through "Peacebone". A short break and the band returned for a nice encore which included the obligatory "My Girls". "Amanita" then concluded the night with beautiful grace. They are Animal Collective. They are vital. They are needed. I need them.

Set List
Rosie Oh
Today's Supernatural
Wide Eyed
Lion In A Coma
New Town Burnout
Monkey Riches
Brother Sport

My Girls

Jan 12, 2013

Sharon Van Etten in Australia

This week in Australia has belonged to Sharon Van Etten. Last Sunday we were fortunate enough to witness her astounding show courtesy of the Sydney Festival. Two more sold out shows during the week I'm sure just added to her growing fan base. Above is a great performance of two songs in "Give Out" and "Kevin's". Below is Like a Version performance in which Sharon covered Nick Cave.

Jan 7, 2013

Sharon Van Etten @ Famous Spiegeltent

Sydney in January! Oh, it's a glorious beast. On a picture perfect late afternoon we arrived in Hyde Park to see our first Sydney Festival event at the historic Famous Spiegeltent. Let me tell you, this show will not only be the best Festival event this season but there's a good chance there won't be a better show in 2013. Sharon Van Etten was that good. I had high hopes going in anyway, but I'm pretty sure she exceeded them. Funnily enough as we waited outside in the sunshine I could Sharon and her band sound checking and I heard the strains of "Magic Chords", perhaps my favourite Van Etten song. It turned out she didn't even play this number and that was categorically the ONLY fault of this entire show. The sleepy eyed beauty from Brooklyn entranced and delighted us for an hour and a bit with ease and complete mastery. She has two more shows in Sydney. If you can snare a ticket I implore you to go and see her. You will not regret it.

In early 2012 Ms Van Etten released her Jagjaguwar debut in "Tramp". This superb album would prove to be one of the year's best and naturally she played a fair chunk last night. Nine in fact including the storming opener "All I Can" which set the scene for a superb set. I was very happy though to hear a small selection from her first two albums. Especially the vibrant "Peace Signs", the song that truly made me realise that this singer was a unique talent. The oldest song she gave us was "I Wish I Knew' which Sharon performed solo and it was superlative. The rest of the night Sharon was ably backed by her band of three, which included accomplished musician Heather Woods Broderick on vocals and keyboards. They were great but it was near impossible to divert my eyes from the glorious Van Etten. Her voice has incredible range, flowing from quiet rage to melancholy hush to extreme power. Her voice is smoky and extremely effective, especially on show stoppers like "Give Out"  or the flat out great "Serpents". The show ended with a bang too with "I'm Wrong" disintegrating into a massive guitar jam before sliding into a hushed performance of "Joke or a Lie". A perfect end but there was more. "Ask" was a great encore choice and she closed with "One Day" which Sharon said was her mom's favourite song because it reminded her of Fleetwood Mac. There were little touches of that through out the show, with small stories about the meanings behind some songs. Sharon Van Etten displayed a sweet but slightly shy personality, but more so displayed a startling and sublime talent. This was her first visit to Australia. Let's hope there are many more. 

Set List
All I Can
Peace Signs
Save Yourself
Give Out
I Wish I Knew
Don't Do It
I'm Wrong
Joke or a Lie

One Day

Jan 4, 2013

Beach House @ Enmore Theatre

If last night at the Enmore Theatre was any indication then 2013 is going to be spectacular for live music. Beach House dazzled an attentive crowd with their own special brand of music. I find for many artists I can pinpoint exactly what makes them great. With Beach House I really can't. Suffice to say it's just their sound, whatever that exactly is. It's a hypnotic blend of melody and emotion. It's a feeling, a mood. By a band that is firing on all cylinders, producing exquisite and sublime music that is hard to quantify but extremely easy to love. There are many great shows on tap for 2013, but this one will be hard to top.

The duo (live a trio) from Baltimore played mainly tracks from their last two stellar albums in "Teen Dream" and "Bloom". The show had no low points, each song an enthralling and captivating experience, holding us easily in its grip. "Wild" kicked off the night with ecstatic emotion and it never let up. Songs rose and fell with effortless ease, each containing peaks and valleys. Beach House have this uncanny ability to stretch and build their songs letting the attentive listener go on a joyous journey. Their songs require attention and dedication, but it is so very worth it. Whether it's the glistening "Walk in the Park" or the the jet propelled "Norway", the music takes a grip on you and refuses to let go. Alex Scally provides the bedrock with guitar and Daniel Franz adds dynamics with his drumming but it is Victoria LeGrand who holds the most attention. She doesn't say much but she is mesmeric to watch. She drives the music with her keyboards and her androgynous voice is simply irresistible. This was starkly evident on "Silver Soul" and "Wishes", two highlights of the night. I should also mention the sublime lighting. It was simple but very elegant and effective. With the lights changing to suit each song it was perfect for the music being played. In the sublime "Take Care" the projections shone through creating a kaleidoscopic effect through out the theatre. Breath was duly taken away. "Myth" closed the main set with appropriate grace and power, whilst "Irene" sent us away into the night floating on the back of Victoria's powerful voice.
This was some show.    

Set List
Walk in the Park
Other People
Master of None
Silver Soul
The Hours
On The Sea
New Year
Take Care

10 Mile Stereo