Jul 24, 2013

Laura Marling @ St Stephen's Church

Laura Marling is a great talent. I have no doubt about that. It was confirmed again after seeing her in the serene setting of St Stephen's Church in Sydney on Tuesday night. A sold out crowd remained hushed through out, enthralled by her striking voice and her dark tales. The venue was great too. Wide and open there were no poles or structures blocking the view. So we could all just sit and back and soak in the glory of Laura.

I think what separates Laura Marling, for me, from the folk scene at the moment is her strength and darkness. Many singers at the moment trade in pleasantness and niceties. I won't name names but Laura has a voice that cuts through and stabs you in the heart. Also her subject matter, as she admitted last night, is fairly dark. Which I like, it gives her songs true grit and gravitas. She also mentioned last night that she has pared things down. She no longer tours with a band. It's just her, two acoustic guitars and her longtime friend and cellist Ruth de Turberville. This also means quite a bit of tuning between songs. But Laura apologised for it and I dont' think anyone was seriously upset by it. The night was short but sweet, she doesn't believe in encores, and was a showcase for her new album in "Once I Was An Eagle". I was very happy that she opened with the album's opening 4 song medley. It was truly superb. She also gave us other great tracks such as "Master Hunter" and "Saved These Words". Of the older songs I think "Rambling Man" was probably the highlight. There was even time for two new songs, she told us she has aleady written a new album, although I wasn't quite sure of the titles of these ones. All in all it was a lovely and special night. And to think she is still only 23. 

Set List
Take The Night Off
I Was An Eagle
You Know
Master Hunter
David/Movie Star? (new songs)
Kathy's Song (Simon and Garfunkel cover)
Rambling Man
What He Wrote
I Speak Because I Can
Little Bird
Saved These Words

Jul 20, 2013

You Am I @ Enmore Theatre

Name the essential Australian band. My vote goes to The Go-Betweens. But you could make a compelling argument for Sydney's You Am I. Their string of albums in the 90s were near untouchable. Hard rocking with impeccable melodies. Australian to the core and virtually essential listening for anyone interested in the fabric of Australian rock. In fact I was lucky enough to be there when it was all happening. I saw them a few times either on their own or as support for an international act. "Sound As Ever" was a ball tearing first album. BERLIN CHAIR! But it was to be their two albums that would cement their greatness.

Fast forward to 2013 and we were at the Enmore Theatre on a Friday night to hear those two albums back to back. "Hourly, Daily" and "Hi Fi Way". The former is probably their most loved album. The latter I think probably their best. Both brimming with greatness. The iconic figure of Tim Rogers came on stage with a cello player close behind to serenade us with the opening sublime title track. Then the band chimed in and we were away and rocking. My favourites from this album were the melodic heights of "Good Mornin'" and the aching beauty of "Please Don't Ask Me To Smile". After a 30 minutes break the band returned to perform "Hi Fi Way". So friggin' great. "Cathy's Clown" proved the crowdpleaser of the night. But "Purple Sneakers" wasn't far behind. You could make a legitimate case for this song as one of the greatest rock songs ever written in this country. To close with "How Much Is Enough" was just more cream on the cake. An encore just topped things off. "Berlin Chair" and "Sound As Ever" brought me back to those heady days 20 years ago. You Am I were great then.
They still are.

Set List
Hourly, Daily
Good Mornin'
Mr Milk
If We Can't Get It Together
Flag Fall $1.80
Wally Raffles
Heavy Comfort
Dead Letter Chorus
Baby Clothes
Someone Else's Home
Please Don't Ask Me to Smile
Moon Shines On Trubble
Who Takes Who Home?
Forget It Sister

Ain't Gone And Open
Minor Byrd
She Digs Her
Cathy's Clown
Jewels and Bullets
Purple Sneakers
Pizza Guy
The Applecross Wing Commander
Ken (The Mother Nature's Son)
How Much Is Enough

Sound As Ever
Adam's Ribs
Young Man Blues (Mose Allison Cover)
Berlin Chair

Jul 14, 2013

Dick Diver @ Red Rattler

Do you own "Calendar Days"? Well, you should. In my opinion it's the best Australian release so far in 2013. Melbourne four piece Dick Diver, with their second album, have crafted a shining collection of melody and pathos. It's a beautiful shimmering beast. Saturday night at the Red Rattler was part of their "Calendar Days" national album tour. In a word they were great. Here's three more words. Laconic, melodic and blissful. This band is very dear to my heart.

The only fault of the night was the length of the show. With no encore they barely scratched at under an hour. Also they didn't play my favourite tune in "Keno". But the rest, as I said, was pretty great. "Alice" was probably the standout, but I also loved "Interstate Forever", which was dedicated to Canberra and casual fascism. This band does reference Australia and place and country. But in a good way. It's never cliched, but rather subtle and evocative. The band have a wry sense of humour. They are creating wondrous melodies but they never take themselves too seriously. They swap instruments and vocal duties with regularity and ease. Rupert Edwards and Alistair McKay are the main men, but Al Montfort and Steph Hughes are a fine rhythm section and shine on vocals and humour as well. They can also jam out as well, as shown on the slightly epic "Amber" and "Flying Teatowel Blues". This is a band to be reckoned with. Maybe one day they will have a bigger audience, but until then I will content to be immersed in their music.

Set List
Blue & That
Interstate Forever
Water Damage
Calendar Days
Head Back
Tender Years
Lime Green Shirt
Flying Teatowel Blues

Jul 13, 2013

Girl Named Alex-Kurt Vile

Beyond greatness! You're welcome.

Jul 6, 2013

2013: A Quick Look Back (Or, Boy That Went Fast)

2013. Impressions. Thoughts. Ideas. Now, I don't blog as regularly as I used to do, but I still devour as much music and culture as previously. In this fractured and complicated world in which we live there is still plenty of good stuff out there. You just have to wade through the muck and the mire to get there. This year has already brought plenty of highlights for me. In the live arena there was the visit to these shores of the mythic and epic Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I actually saw them twice as we paid a trip to glorious Melbourne for the ATP Festival. There was January too with the Sydney Festival, plus visits from Woods and Mount Eerie. Then there was Laneway Festival which brought us Divine Fits and The Men amongst others. There were plenty of great shows at the Opera House too with Wilco, Nick Cave and the Vivid Festival. But one band rose above all.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND. In January we saw them live for the first time and it was a night of watermelon smiles and sunshine hearts. They played two songs too off their yet to be released new album. Then in May it landed. "Modern Vampires Of The City" was a sucker punch to the heart. Their third album would prove to be their best yet. A master class in melody and melancholy. If you under rate this band then you are seriously missing out. Up until then my favourite album was the second Local Natives album. Another album deep in melody and melancholy. Kurt Vile and Phosphorescent would also present us with albums of huge depth and feeling. Locally Dick Diver gave us the best Australian album. A record brimming with sublime tunes. I also liked the Absolute Boys record and the just released Whitley comeback album is impressing already. Then in June the one and only Kanye dropped his latest opus. It's a fierce and bewildering beast. There were of course disappointments and records that I felt were over hyped. But I'm here to spread the love not the hate. So here is a list of my favourite albums of the year so far. Plus a small selection of my favourite songs. Please enjoy!

Best of 2013 (So far)
1. Modern Vampires Of The City-Vampire Weekend
2. Hummingbird-Local Natives
3. Wakin On A Pretty Daze-Kurt Vile
4. Muchacho-Phosphorescent
5. Yeezus-Kanye West
6. Sub Verses-Akron/Family
7. New Moon-The Men
8. MCII-Mikal Cronin
9. Monomania-Deerhunter
10. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace and Magic-Foxygen
11. Calendar Days-Dick Diver
12. Trouble Will Find Me-The National
13. Pedestrian Verse-Frightened Rabbit
14. Floating Coffin-Thee Oh Sees
15. Wondrous Bughouse-Youth Lagoon
16. Impersonator-Majical Cloudz
17. The Terror-The Flaming Lips
18. Caveman-Caveman
19. Push The Sky Away-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
20. The Beast In Its Tracks-Josh Ritter

Honourable Mentions
New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light-Colin Stetson
Blood Oaths of the New Blues-Wooden Wand
Fade-Yo La Tengo
American Kid-Patty Griffin
Cruise Your Illusion-Milk Music
Afraid of Heights-Wavves
Jackleg Devotional To The Heart-The Baptist Generals
Clash The Truth-Beach Fossils
Cerulean Salt-Waxahatchee
Amok-Atoms for Peace
III-Eat Skull
Tomorrow, Tomorrow-Campfires
Live Old Die Young-Cowboy Indian Bear
Heavy Flow-Absolute Boys

Jul 4, 2013

Stolen Violin

Stolen Violin is Jordan Ireland, formerly of the sadly passed The Middle East. His first album is out now on Spunk Records and is called "Temperate Touch, Tropical Tears". It was recorded mostly on 8-track cassette in Melbourne and it is sparse, powerful music.
This is definitely some of the best music to be heard in Australia this year!

Jul 3, 2013

The Silver Gymnasium-Okkervil River

Coming soon!