Feb 28, 2013

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds @ Sydney Opera House

Nick Cave is still relevant. Relevant, I say. Well, he's SO much more than that. But after all these years he still matters. Whilst many compatriots from the 80s and 90s have ceased to matter and are touring as part of their pension plans, Nick Cave and his Seeds of Badness are pumping out ferocious and truthful music. I guess maybe a reason is because the band and Nick in particular have stood outside all musical trends. For close on 3 decades they have remained trendless, maybe even timeless. Their music is dark and moody, but also pulsing and thumping. It's malevolent and sometimes downright nasty. But most of all it sounds like no one else. To be honest I was only ever an intermittent fan, dipping my toe into the Cave but never diving in fully. Until recently. Now I am a full blown acolyte. The man is a marvel. A beast of epic proportions.

Wedneday night at the Sydney Opera House was the middle performance of 3 quickly sold out shows. We had great seats to witness a spectacular and unforgettable performance. The band only recently released album number 15. "Push The Sky Away" is a stately, brooding beast. Full of quiet moments that are poignant and beautiful. This show would have two distinct halves. The first half was the the entire new album in track order. The second half was to be a quickfire romp through a cross section of their venerable catalogue. Each proved totally satisfying for differing reasons. "Push The Sky Away" starts slowly and builds, with some songs burning with quiet fury, others exploding in all directions. The band was accompanied by string players from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and a small choir of school childern from Annandale. Even though they didn't participate on each song they were a nice touch. I would say though that they were at times drowned out by the band, limiting their effectivness. Two songs stood out in particular. "Jubilee Street" was an epic build, climbing and reaching into the sky with enormous power. "Higgs Boson Blues" was the other standout, a slow burning beauty. Then we charged head long into the finale with "From Her To Eternity" kicking things off. It was an explosive, dynamic monster displaying all the talents and greatness of St Nick. He is truly magnetic on stage, all eyes follow him as he prowls the stage. He lives each lyric, convulses each beat. A performer like few ever. Also I will never forget the mercurial Warren Ellis standing tall in front of the Orchestra summoning them to greater heights. The rest of the set was just as enjoyable. "Red Right Hand" dripped with menace, whilst "O Children" probably made best use of the choir on the night. The choir ('kiddies' as Nick called them) would leave after the classic "The Ship Song". Funnily enough, even though I love this song, it wasn't my favourite of the night. Perhaps because Nick sung it slightly mid tempo. I did absolutely love "Love Letter", with Nick taking the lead on piano and the strings coming to the fore for this song. The closing two songs were brutal to say the least. But brutal in a good way. "The Mercy Seat" pounded us into submission and left us wanting more. We stood and cheered and thankfully the band returned. We stayed standing as Nick 'serenaded' us with the dark as dark gets "Stagger Lee"."Yeah, I'm Stagger Lee, and you better get down on your knees and suck my dick because if you don't, you're gonna be dead". Oh Nick, welcome back!

Set List
We No Who U R
Wide Lovely Eyes
Water's Edge
Jubilee Street
We Real Cool
Finishing Jubilee Street
Higgs Boson Blues
Push the Sky Away
From Her to Eternity
Red Right Hand
O Children
The Ship Song
Jack the Ripper
Love Letter
The Mercy Seat

Stagger Lee

Feb 24, 2013

Oscar Thoughts

Tomorrow in Los Angeles will see the ceremony known as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences take place. It will the 85th edition, commonly known as the Oscars. Generally speaking it's one of the more worthy award ceremonies. Normally many winners are worthy and praiseworthy. Having said that there are many decisions that have puzzled. Such as Ordinary People beating Raging Bull or The King's Speech beating The Social Network. Or worse, Paul Thomas Anderson never winning anything. Ever. This year he got totally shafted with The Master missing the boat all together in the Best Picture category. Although it did score a few acting nominations. Today I saw Lincoln, which I very much enjoyed. The best Spielberg film in years. So that means the only film nominated for Best Picture that I have not yet seen is Amour. Which I will remedy next week, that's for sure. I think this year is a very fine crop of nominations. The only one I didn't really enjoy was Les Miserables. But that was probably because I don't really like musicals.
Especially ones where Russell Crowe tries to sing.

As the film years in Australia and the USA are out of sync in film distribution I thought I would revise my best films of 2012 to take in the calendar year. These are my top ten, with Pitchfork type of scores.

1. The Master 9.1
2. Moonrise Kingdom 8.9
3. Life of Pi 8.8
4. Zero Dark Thirty 8.7
5. Silver Linings Playbook 8.7
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild 8.5
7. Lincoln 8.4
8. Django Unchained 8.3
9. The Sessions 8.1
10.Killing Them Softly 8.0

Looper and Argo would be next on the list and Amour is one that could potentially make a move.

Now to my Oscar thoughts on the major categories.
These are not predictions as most people can probably guess who the likely winners are going to be.

Obviously The Master was my film of 2012. A masterpiece. But it's not there. So I would love to see Life of Pi win. It's a visual masterpiece, full of wonder and joy and huge heart. Zero Dark Thirty would be my next choice. A complex and superbly made film. A better film than Bigelow's previous winner in The Hurt Locker.

I haven't seen Denzel Washington's performance, but all other nominees here are excellent. John Hawkes for his work in The Sessions was a glaring omission, but I have no problem with the hot favourite Daniel Day-Lewis winning. His portrayal of Lincoln is quite remarkable. But, but I really hope Joaquin Phoenix can win. He is breath taking as the broken drifter Freddie Quell in The Master. The role of a lifetime.

Jessica Chastain's performance is worthy of a winner. Strong and detailed, but I loved Jennifer Lawrence as the confused and broken young woman in Silver Linings Playbook. For her age she easily managed a complex and difficult role. What a talent!

A very strong field. All performances are great. Christoph Waltz should really have been nominated as a leading role. It's De Niro's best role in ages, but how can you go past the finest actor of this generation. Philip Seymour Hoffman is just sublime. Once again!

I really hope Sally Field does not win. She really over acts in any role she plays. I think Amy Adams is great in her role, but I would give it to Helen Hunt. A compassionate and lovely performance.

Of course it's beyond a joke that Paul Thomas Anderson was not nominated. For that matter I'm stunned Kathryn Bigelow missed out too. So of the nominees I would give it to David O. Russell. His films are so steeped in humanity and humour. A great director.

A hot field. All very good. Lincoln's screenplay is very lucid and Argo is extremely well constructed, but I'm on the Russell bandwagon again with Silver Linings Playbook.

Again Paul Thomas Anderson misses out, but I really hope another Anderson wins. Moonrise Kingdom is a sheer delight and Wes Anderson is a cinematic genius. Tarantino's script is outrageously good but please give this Oscar to Wes Anderson.

Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi just has to win this category.

Feb 23, 2013

Yeah, I like your video

On a awful, rainy Sydney day here are some videos that will hopefully brighten your day!
Starting with Frightened Rabbit!

Feb 20, 2013

Father John Misty @ Metro Theatre

Seeing a band or artist so soon after the first time can sometimes make you question why. Is there a need? Especially if that artist has no new material and in this case only one album to play with. But in this case I can answer a big fat yes to all counts. We first saw Father John Misty last July, delighting us with tunes from his wonderful debut album "Fear Fun". Such a fun night. Fast forward to last night at the Metro. A slightly bigger venue and deservedly so. Although basically the same set, naturally, it was a fantastic night. Fun and hugely rewarding. This is a rising comet in the musical sky.

Father John Misty has 6 band members. All debonair and extremely talented. But the focus has to be on one man. Josh Tillman. He of the extremely wonderful voice and the miles of style. In a tan suit he declared he looked like a "gay plantation owner". But he didn't act like one. Strutting the stage, dancing like a mad man and throwing barbs at the audience. Of course the set was basically "Fear Fun", bar one song. Particular favourites were the serene "Only Son Of The Ladiesman" and the robust "This Is Sally Hatchet", which thrilled us all with its customary wig out. Hearts melted during "Everyman Needs A Companion", but it was the already classic "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" which slayed us. This great song has all the elements, but live it grows another leg. The band thrashed the song to death as Tillman writhed on stage. I was then curious to see what the encore delivered. In the end we received something old and something news. "I Love You, Honeybear" is a new song and it was pretty damn great. Then the band covered the Canned Heat classic "On The Road Again", seeing us off in great style. Singing and dancing into the night. You must never miss Father John Misty live.  

Set List
Funtimes In Babylon
Only Son Of The Ladiesman
Nancy From Now On
I'm Writing A Novel
Misty's Nightmare 1 & 2
This Is Sally Hatchet
Well, You Can Do It Without Me
Now I'm Learning To Love The War
Tee Pees 1-12
Everyman Needs A Companion
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

I Love You, Honeybear
On The Road Again (Canned Heat cover)

Feb 18, 2013

I'll Be Your Mirror Melbourne (Curated By ATP)

One word was enough. Well, more specifically four words and an explanation mark. Six months ago it was announced that All Tomorrow's Parties would be returning to Melbourne. And on the lineup was the iconic and legendary Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They would appear on the first day curated by ATP. That was enough. Day Two was to be curated by The Drones, but no never mind, it was all about Day One. In fact, if that Montreal giant wasn't on the lineup I probably would not have made the trek to Melbourne. But I'm glad I did. For, despite the heat, it was a great day. Held in the suburban surrounds of Altona in western Melbourne the venue was slightly surreal. The Westgate Entertainment Centre and Grand Star Receptions is pretty much what it sounds like. A sprawling complex of dated reception rooms and indoor sporting facilities. It was all slightly odd, but it worked. We didn't have any problems getting there and back and not too many queues formed during the day. There were two main stages and sight lines were mostly pretty good. It was, as said, a hot day but it was bearable as long as you kept liquidated. It was loud though and intense. You needed staying power. But I managed. I even managed to take in most of Swans, who bring a huge amount of intensity but not much else in my opinion. But it was an enjoyable day. Enough to hope that ATP returns again soon to Australia. Hopefully Sydney!

Thee Oh Sees were on pretty early in the day, but their enormous energy was so much fun. All their songs are supercharged and frenetic. Lead man John Dwyer hugs his guitar tightly under his arms and leads the band to join in the fun. An extremely tight rhythm section aids songs that are more complex than you probably think. Right now I wish I had attended their Sydney sideshow.

The only slight disappointment of Godspeed You! Black Emperor was the fact that their set was basically the same as the one two nights earlier in Sydney. Actually it was the same except for dropping one song. But again they were beyond greatness. In some ways reliving these songs again live maybe only added to the experience. Intricate, complex, stunning. Superlatives flow with ease. Plus, the girl was with me this time and even though she isn't the biggest fan I think she still came away suitably impressed.

Set List
Hope Drone
Chart #3
World Police and Friendly Fire

In my opinion My Bloody Valentine suffered from having to follow Godspeed You! Black Emperor. No one. No one should have to go through that. The comparison will never be favourable. Having said that I have never been the biggest fan. I appreciate the layers of guitars, but I find a lot of their songs lack melody and song craft. Also I was expecting, by reputation, them to be ear piercingly loud. Which they weren't. But I did enjoy them somewhat. Especially the opening two songs in "I Only Said" and "When You Sleep". But by all accounts they only played one song off their newly released self titled album. Which I found a little surprising. Maybe, as I was told later, they are better on headphones in your bedroom rather than on the live stage.

Set List
I Only Said
When You Sleep
New You
You Never Should
Honey Power
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come in Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much to Lose
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise

Feb 15, 2013

Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Enmore Theatre

They were a mystery. Something beyond my comprehension. Mysterious album covers. 14 word song titles. Songs that lasted 20 minutes. No interviews. Political statements. Anti everything. Something to behold. Well over a decade ago I fell under the spell of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their music was monumental. Transcendental. Epic. No, epic is an understatement. There was no one like them No one since. No one ever. I never thought I would ever see them live. Especially as they went on hiatus. But it happened. Fast forward to February 2013 and I was there. To see them. It was bliss.

For two hours they played. Five minutes of drone shook the auditorium before they came on stage. Slowly the lights dimmed and one by one they entered and they launched into "Hope Drone" with the word Hope splashed scratchily behind them. It just built the expectation. An expectation of greatness. Greatness came. In huge amounts. Basically I will just use adjectives from here on that mean something bigger than big. Huger than huge. More epic than epic. Superlatives become superfluous. Especially when "Mladic" swallows us whole. Twenty minutes of thunderous, cataclysmic music with images cascading behind us. Then "Moya" came. A classic and swallowed like honey. It features the superb violin of Sophie Trudeau. It's a song that basically breaks hearts. Then we received the monumental (there's that word again) "Monheim". The band play with amazing intensity. Delivering epic greatness through out the night. They closed with the appropriately named "Behemoth", a song yet to be recorded but now a live staple. It's 45 minutes long and features a ten minute drone mid section before building to an epic (again) conclusion. This band lived up to expectations without doubt. They combined for sheer greatness. Two drummers, five guitarists plus the violin. A double bass here and there. All played with astounding artistry. No words can really do this night justice. Suffice to say I will never forget this night.

Set List
Hope Drone
Murray Ostril: '...They Don't Sleep Anymore on the Beach..
Chart #3
World Police and Friendly Fire

Feb 12, 2013

New Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile has a new album due out April 9 on Matador. "Wakin On A Pretty Daze" is a 69 minite double album and was recorded by John Agnello.
You can listen to the title track below.

Wakin On A Pretty Daze Track Listing
1 Wakin On A Pretty Day
2 KV Crimes
3 Was All Talk
4 Girl Called Alex
5 Never Run Away
6 Pure Pain
7 Too Hard
8 Shame Chamber
9 Snowflakes Are Dancing
10 Air Bud
11 Goldtone

MP3: Wakin On A Pretty Day-Kurt Vile

Feb 9, 2013

Two Gallants @ Annandale Hotel

This was actually a co-headlining gig. Two Gallants and Deer Tick, both in the country for the first time to play Perth Festival. Two Gallants played first and even though I like Deer Tick it was the San Francisco duo I was most keen to see. So much so that I didn't stay for Deer Tick. Which I felt sort of guilty about, but it is what it is. Two Gallants are one of the most under appreciated acts going these days. They blend old and new for a ferocious mix. Did I say ferocious? Energy just pours off the stage. In waves. Friday night at the Annandale Hotel was the perfect setting for some Americana served hard.

Two Gallants, after a short break, gave us "The Bloom and the Blight" last year. Despite one publication hating on it, it was well received and I loved it. It captured all the things that make this duo great. Great storytelling, heartfelt lyrics, passionate playing. Live, it goes up another notch. And then some. Tyson Vogel, hidden in mass of hair, pounds his drum kit like there's no tomorrow. He can also go subtle. It was fun just watching him play. Singer Adam Stephens gives his all on vocals and guitar. He has a raspy, throaty roar that is enormous and seemingly endless. I don't know how his vocal chords survive each night. Truly remarkable. The band gave us a mix of old and new last night. Highlights were newer songs such as "Ride Away", "Halcyon Days" and the lovely "Broken Eyes" which was performed on keyboards and acoustic. But the biggest cheer was for two classics. "Steady Rollin'" and "Las Cruces Jail". These were basically the first two Two Gallants songs that I listened to and they hold up as strongly today. Just fantastic. This was a great set, even though we only got an hour. But what an hour it was!    

Set List
Song Of Songs
My Love Won't Wait
Despite What You've Been Told
Ride Away
Steady Rollin'
The Hand That Held Me Down
Las Cruces Jail
(new song)
Broken Eyes
Cradle Pyre
Halcyon Days 

Feb 7, 2013

Divine Fits @ Manning Bar


What makes a band a good live act? What makes them worth leaving the comfort of home, spending money and staying out late? Well of course there's the songs. I'm assuming that's why you're there in the first place. If you love the music there's a fair chance you will enjoy the show. But there must be more. I think there are a few factors at work. Effort. You really want the band to be giving a toss. Playing hard or just really trying. Some sweat flying. A difference. Songs interpreted in a slightly different way. Structures changed or songs elongated. Maybe a cover to surprise. Joy. Sometimes music is a serious business, but there must be some fun along the way. A smile or a thank you. Hopefully great communication, although not every artist is adept at this. Not every one is Billy Bragg. And lastly. Synergy. Band members meshing together, playing off each other. In tune. In sync. Well, Divine Fits have all this covered. They play hard, a ton of effort. They can jam with the best of them. They look happy. They definitely enjoy playing live. And there is certainly a truckload of synergy. They look born to play together in fact. All in all, this supergroup give a fuck. So should you if you love music. I do.

Divine Fits come out of nowhere. Seemingly. One minute we were wondering when the next Spoon record was coming out and what exactly was Dan Boeckner planning after Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs. Then we found out that Britt Daniel and Dan had formed a band. Furthermore they had recorded an album. "A Thing Called Divine Fits" was definitely one of 2012's great pleasures. It wasn't a masterpiece. But it was damn fine, with not a dud track on it. Dan and Britt split vocal duties. Pushing each other to great heights.. It was spare, lean, mean. A pulsing, dynamic slice of modern rock and roll. Each song had a sound, but each song was distinct. So it would prove when we saw them on stage at the Manning Bar on Wednesday night. The Rolling Stones classic "Street Fighting Man" was blared out over the venue and then keyboardist Alex Fischel came on stage to open with the syncopated notes of "Neopolitans".  Soon the full band joined him and we were off. All the songs soared live. Whether it was the fiercesome groove of "Baby Get Worse" or the chunky "Flaggin a Ride". My two favourites were probably the mournful tone of "Civilian Stripes" and the atmospheric "The Salton Sea". Closing song "For Your Heart" was great too, with drummer Sam Brown tearing into his drum kit as Dan and Britt traded guitar licks. They seemed to be having so much fun too, as if this new band has given them a new lease on life. Not that they were jaded or anything, but I think a fresh and new collaboration has to be good thing. They are such talented musicians, it's very exciting to see where this new band will take them. As they only have one album it seemed natural to place some covers in the set. In fact the two encore songs were both that. "Sway", a Rolling Stones classic was fantastic. All slinky and sexy. Then they closed with an Australian classic in "Shivers", which was expected as it is on the record. Britt Daniel knocks this song out of the park. His vocal does the song full justice. A great way to end a great night.     

Set List
Baby Get Worse
Flaggin a Ride
What Gets You Alone
Would That Not Be Nice
My Love Is Real
Civilian Stripes
You Got Lucky (Tom Petty cover)
The Salton Sea
Like Ice Cream
For Your Heart

Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)

Feb 5, 2013

Vampire Weekend New Album Details

Details were released today of the third Vampire Weekend album. "Modern Vampires Of The City" will be released May 7 on XL Recordings.
Get excited!

Modern Vampires Of The City Track Listing
1 Obvious Bicycle
2 Unbelievers
3 Step
4 Diane Young
5 Don't Lie
6 Hannah Hunt
7 Everlasting Arms
8 Finger Back
9 Worship You
10 Ya Hey
11 Hudson
12 Young Lion

Feb 3, 2013

Sydney Laneway Festival 2013

The 2013 edition of the Laneway Festival was brought to you by Sydney's rain. A wet couple of days leading in weren't encouraging and despite occasional showers we managed to pretty much stay dry. Which lead to a satisfying and enjoyable day of great music with great friends. This year the organizers managed to clear space and have the main stage located in a grassy valley off to the main entrance which meant more room for every one and barely a bottleneck to be seen anywhere. Sydney's food trucks were added as well which meant a better selection of food and the Bulmer's Brick Lane was very popular. Who doesn't love cider? Of course there were inevitable queues for toilets but at a festival that kind of comes with the territory. There did seem to be a greater section of douches here this year. Little girls and boys more interested in how they look and their mobile phones rather than the music. But all in all this was a great day. Cementing this festival as the best to attend in Australia.

As for the music I would grade it as a good but not great lineup. The biggest stage housed the biggest commercial successes. But none that I was particularly interested in. Bat For Lashes does nothing for me and Of Monsters and Men are too bland for my tastes. I spent most of my day at the Carpark Stage or as Britt Daniel put it, "The Rock and Roll Stage". Some acts I caught through the day included Real Estate who I missed the start of. But their sweet guitar tones are always welcome. And they played three new songs. I took in the entire set of EL-P. The Brooklyn rapper gave us a ferocious set with highlights being "The Full Retard" and "Drones Over Brooklyn". He was great to watch but like a lot of rap acts he tried to make it a rock show, thus drowning out his lyrical rhymes. I also caught the entire set of Canada's much loved Japandroids. The crowd went nuts and the two piece brought undeniable energy. But I don't really get the love. The singer has a pretty average voice and their songs just aren't strong enough to warrant the hype. Anyway, what follows are my full reviews of the acts that I really loved. With Divine Fits being the complete stars of the day. Britt and Dan, say no more.

File The Men under "band that deserved a much later spot". But no matter, the Brooklyn band played a blistering, ferocious set that was somewhat better than their sideshow during the week. Mainly because the sound was much better here. You could hear the vocals much better, meaning that the complexity of their music was brought much larger into the light. They have a new album due out in March and by the sounds of the new songs that they have been playing it should be great.

Set List
Turn It Around
Without a Face
Open Your Heart
Please Don't Go Away/Oscillation

High Highs filled a great spot in the middle of the afternoon and were pretty wonderful. The Brooklyn based Australians have just released their debut album and naturally that was the basis of their great set. They write great melodies that are pleasant but definitely not lightweight. I thought that live their tunes might drift off into the air, but no so. Great drumming seemed to solidify and give each song a robustness that made them live quite an act. "Flowers Bloom" and "Open Season" book ended a totally enjoyable set.

Set List
Flowers Bloom
White Water
Once Around The House
Love Is All
In A Dream
Open Season

I made the mistake of standing right in front of the speakers during Cloud Nothings. I think I went deaf. But it was worth it. For this was an aural assault of guitars that was compelling and entrancing. The Ohio band sent the crowd into spasms of delight, with quite a big moshpit breaking out. The entire set was drawn from their 2012 excellent album in "Attack On Memory". Songs like "Wasted Days" and "No Future/No Past" have become anthems for their devoted fans and live they just exploded. The band are extremely tight playing with a admirable ferocity, interweaving complex guitar lines that produce a dynamite mix.

Set List
Fall In
Cut You
Stay Useless
Wasted Days
No Sentiment
Our Plans
No Future/No Past

So to the cream of the day. The class. The wonder. What happens when you take two modern day greats and put them in a band together. Greatness. What else? Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner are Divine Fits and they were truly great. They only have one album, but it's pretty damn good and every song went down a treat. Opening with "Neopolitans" they gave us a tight, exciting set of well written rocking songs that showed off the talents of the two front men. They write seemingly straight forward rock songs that are actually quite intricate and complex. Spare rhythms and great melodies. They seemed to being having so much fun too. We certainly were. "Shivers" was a great choice for closing. Especially given the Australian setting. The crowd loved this Australian classic. They also loved Divine Fits.

Set List
Baby Get Worse
Flaggin a Ride
Would That Not Be Nice
My Love Is Real
Civilian Stripes
The Salton Sea
Like Ice Cream
For Your Heart

Feb 2, 2013

You & I-Local Natives

I'm so in love with the new Local Natives record. The band's second album is full of rich harmonies and beautiful melodies. It will definitely become one of the best albums of 2013.
This track is perhaps the best on a stunning album.

MP3: You & I-Local Natives