Jun 30, 2007

New Album From Stars; Plus All Things Canadian

"In Our Bedroom After The War" is the name of Toronto pop wonders Stars' new album which will be released on September 25 on Arts and Crafts. This is their first album since 2004's excellent release "Set Yourself On Fire". Of course the wonderful Amy Millan used her voice to great effect on her solo album last year, but it is nice to know that we can hear her voice again soon on this new album. The new song made available "The Night Starts Here" has a more electronic feel, but it still features the delicious dichotomy of vocals from Amy and Torquil Campbell.
MP3: The Night Starts Here
Track Listing
01 The Beginning After the End
02 The Night Starts Here
03 Take Me to the Riot
04 My Favourite Book
05 Midnight Coward
06 The Ghost of Genova Heights
07 Personal
08 Barricade
09 Window Bird
10 Life 2: the Unhappy Ending
11 Bitches in Tokyo
12 Today Will Be Better, I Swear!
13 In Our Bedroom After the War

If you like The New Pornographers (who doesn't) then you might like to check out Immaculate Machine. They are led by the superb voice of Kathryn Calder, who now seems to be a permanent member of the New Porno's. This Victoria, BC 3 piece mine the same power pop field as Carl Newman's outfit and they recently released their third album "Fables" on Mint Records. It is a concise and entertaining collection of pop gems. Definitely worth checking out.
MP3: Dear Confessor
You can purchase "Fables" along with other Canadian goodies at Maple Music.

If you saw The Dears when they stopped by Australia back in March then you know that you witnessed some special shows. It was a case of passion overload. Well you might like to know that their guitarist Patrick Krief has a self released EP entitled "Take It Or Leave" that can be purchased from Maple Music. Comprising 7 songs it is like a more understated version of The Dears, although still containing all the heartfelt emotion you associate with that band.
MP3: Worries Are Over

Fact: Wolf Parade are great. Fact: Handsome Furs are great. Fact: Sunset Rubdown are great.
So what about Johnny and the Moon? This is the creation of WP's Dante DeCaro. However they sound nothing like any of the afore mentioned bands. For one, the banjo features heavily here as Dante takes us on a journey of Bluegrass/Folk/Country with an Indie Rock feel. Their self titled album was released in Canada in 2006 but it is only seeing the light of day in the rest of the world in 2007. It is a very varied listen and is one album I am getting a lot of listening pleasure from. You can purchase the album from Killdevilhills Records.
MP3: Green Rocky Road

"Tears of the Valedictorian" by Frog Eyes is definitely one of the high points of 2007. A monster of a record it intrigues and astounds in countless ways. Well recently on Coke Machine Glow there was a review and an interview with singer Carey Mercer.

Here is a quote from the interview which can read in full here-
"I think it’s our best record; I think it’s accessible in a way, though, that runs contrary to what we perceive as accessible in terms of modern records. I think the things that make it kind of a cool record to my ears are like…the approach that we took was trying to make it maybe less fixed in this particular time. Our hope was that in five years you could listen to it and not know that it was made exactly in 2006. When I listen to our other records, or lots of peoples’ records, you really know when it was made. It’s funny, there’s this weird narrative of fidelity that runs through a lot of peoples’ work, and through the Collective Underground Music for the past ten or fifteen years, for as long as I’ve been paying attention..."

This review is quite possibly the best review I have read in a very long time-
"And I haven’t gotten as moving an experience out of any Frog Eyes music as I have had during the last two minutes of ‘Bushels.’ There’s nothing loose or unaccounted for. Just a series of segments repeatedly hitting the right sympathetic mark; like all the arrogance and bombast and yelping and blissed out aqueous guitars or pianos of their whole career was building to that very climax."

Jun 29, 2007

Whiskey Go Go's, British India; Plus A Smorgasbord of New Tunes

This is doing my heart good. Listening to Whiskey Go Go's debut album "Proud Tales To Them Of Us" is putting a smile on my face. It is good time music with heart and soul and passion. They are probably sick of the comparison but the similarities to Kings Of Leon are striking. But I think that is a good thing. Some of these songs growl and rumble, some delight and many flat out rock.
“It’s life,” Matt says. “I sing about what I know and feel. People wear so many masks today. But I don’t want anything between the band and the audience. No shields, no masks, no restraint. I want you to touch our songs, feel the spirit.” That quote from lead singer Matt Hutchinson I think encapsulates the sound and spirit of this band. They are from Melbourne but if you close your eyes you would swear you are in Eastern Kentucky. Their blend of Southern Rock, Blues and Folk is hard to resist. Standout songs for me are "Rodeo", "True Love" and "Boy Jewbi".

They are playing at the Hopetoun Hotel on the 14th of July. I think a good night is in store.
MP3: Rodeo. More songs are at their Myspace.

Also hailing from Melbourne but in a totally different vein are British India. Their freewheeling garage rock sound is very energetic and frenetic. I imagine they would sound very good live. So in support of their just about to be released debut album "Guillotine" they are about to embark on a national tour. They hit the Annandale Hotel on August 11 which will serve as an official album launch. You can view tour dates and listen to some "Guillotine" tracks at their Myspace.
MP3: Tie Up My Hands

A variety of new music for your enjoyment-
MP3: Thermostat-Frankel
MP3: Grand Eclipse-Coyote Bones
MP3: A Placed Called La-They Shoot Horses Don't They?
MP3: Don't Go Down To Sorrow-65daysofstatic
MP3: Live In The Mess You Are-Zookeeper
MP3: Oxford-Peel
MP3: White Dove-John Vanderslice
MP3: Going Places-Montag
MP3: No More-Julie Doiron
MP3: Saturday Night-The Battles
MP3: Tbtf-Kevin Drew
MP3: Halloweenhead-Ryan Adams
MP3: The Underdog-Spoon
MP3: (I'm A) Donkey For Your Love-BOAT
MP3: Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper

Jun 26, 2007

2007 Half Yearly Review; Or Time Flies When You Try to Figure Out Why Young Men From Canada Make Such Amazing Music

As I sit here typing out my reflections on the year so far I am listening to The National playing on NPR last week. Where was this band all my life? Quite simply this is a band making sublime music. Having said that, is "Boxer" the best album out in so far in 2007? Well it is damn close. But you see there is young man from Canada named Dan Boeckner who plays in a little band called Wolf Parade and now also makes music under the name of Handsome Furs. Suffice to say "Plague Park" has crept under my skin, drilled a hole in my heart and has found a permanent home. The exciting thing for me is trying to sort a list of favourite things in 2007. Favourite albums, shows, movies. Isn't it a great thing to see your fellow human beings creating art that can excite and make you feel great to be alive. I am a optimistic person who is always excited by new creations. Hearing a new song or seeing a new movie or standing in front of a stage listening to sounds being created is something to be treasured, is it not? Anyway without further ado here is my ruminations on the year so far. Instead of waxing lyrical about each topic (don't worry that will come later in the year) I have decided to sum up each album, movie or show in 5 words or less. Hopefully my economy of words will still convey my feelings.

Top 25 Albums
1-Plague Park-Handsome Furs
My heart bends, then breaks
2-You, You're A History in Rust-Do Make Say Think
Glorious sounds make perfect listening
3-Person Pitch-Panda Bear
Talent to burn, sublime melody
4-Boxer-The National
Matt's voice is just otherworldly
5-Neon Bible-Arcade Fire
Greatness second time around
6-Friend And Foe-Menomena
So original, so much fun
7-All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone-Explosions In The Sky
They never, ever disappoint me
8-Ash Wednesday-Elvis Perkins
Do you feel like crying?
9-Tears Of The Valedictorian-Frog Eyes
Clearly one of a kind
10-Sky Blue Sky-Wilco
Nothing wrong with great songs
11-Some Loud Thunder-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Better then you think
12-Armchair Apocrypha-Andrew Bird
He's definitely a genius
13-Icky Thump-The White Stripes
So is Jack
14-Cassadaga-Bright Eyes
It's so easy to hate
15-The National Anthem Of Nowhere-Apostle Of Hustle
Stop it Canada!
16-We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank-Modest Mouse
Still brings the excitement
17-The Pretender-We All Have Hooks For Hands
Look out, they're going places
18-The Reminder-Feist
The voice, the voice!
19-The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse-The Besnard Lakes
Compelling and mysterious
Enough here to like
21-Raven And The White Night-Odawas
Really compelling and mysterious
22-Wincing The Night Away-The Shins
Could be better, still enjoyable
23-Mapmaker-Parts & Labor
Ferocious and exciting
24-Sing The Greys-Frightened Rabbit
A very pleasant surprise
25-Five Roses-Miracle Fortress
Sweet, sweet melodies

The following I am still evaluating and haven't had enough listens yet-
Puddle City Racing Lights-Windmill
Oh, My Darling-Basia Bulat
...and The Family Telephone-Page France
Hymns For a Dark Horse-Bowerbirds
My Ion Truss-Minus Story
Lightning Dust-Lightning Dust
Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper
Fables-Immaculate Machine
Easy Tiger-Ryan Adams

Top Ten Shows
-The Mountain Goats @ The Metro
John, thank you, thank you
2-Wilco @ Enmore Theatre
Never underestimate perfection
3-M. Ward @ Spiegeltent
Perfect setting, perfect voice
4-Neko Case @ Annandale Hotel
Speaking of perfect voices...
5-M. Ward @ The Metro
He's that good, appears twice
6-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Enmore Theatre
Was hoping for greatness, delivered
7-The Dears @ Playground Weekender
Think I lost my voice
8-Joanna Newsom/Bill Callahan/Andrew Bird @ NIDA
Special night, special talents
9-Andrew Bird @ The Basement
What can't he do!
10-Calexico @ The Basement
Just great musicians

Top 10 Movies
1-Half Nelson
Ryan Gosling is perfect
This was Best Picture, surely
3-The Lives Of Others
Complex, compelling, intelligent
See above...
5-Letters From Iwo Jima
A master from Mr Eastwood
6-Pan's Labyrinth
Dazzling, startling, what fun!
Best Australian film, clearly
8-The Last King Of Scotland
Forest Whitaker is a giant
Moving slice of history
10-The Science Of Sleep
Original and mysterious

Some songs that have thrilled me (by no means a definitive list)
Fractured Skies-Parts & Labor
What We Had-Handsome Furs
Pretty Voice-Cloud Cult
My Sword Hand's Anger-Apostle of Hustle
Wet and Rusting-Menomena
Welcome, Ghosts-Explosions in the Sky
Bushels-Frog Eyes
Prelude For Time Feelers-Eluvium
Black Wave/Bad Vibrations-Arcade Fire
Heretics-Andrew Bird
Apistat Commander-Sunset Rubdown
Comfy in Nautica-Panda Bear
Fake Empire-The National
Tourist Trap-Bright Eyes
While You We're Sleeping-Elvis Perkins
Side With The Seeds-Wilco
Cindy-Ola Podrida
Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper

Things That Excite me for the rest of 2007
Our Love To Admire-Interpol
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga-Spoon
Emerald City-John Vanderslice
The Broken String-Bishop Allen
The Stage Names-Okkervil River
Places Like This-Architecture in Helsinki
Challengers-The New Pornographers
Under The Blacklight-Rilo Kiley
Spirit If...-Kevin Drew
Widow City-Fiery Furnaces
(Title TBA)-Beirut
Strawberry Jam-Animal Collective
Random Spirit Lover-Sunset Rubdown

Jun 25, 2007

To Download or Not To Download?; Or Why Are Okkervil River So Unbelievably Good

We have seen and read all the evidence. CD sales continue to fall as buying digital music continues to rise. However the biggest dent in the sale of CDs is the downloading of music via Internet file-sharing networks. Now of course if you are a music fan it just has to be great to receive great music free of charge. But is it right to do it? I think it can be, but not if you never intend to buy the work that a label and their artists have poured their life into. Now myself I never used to download music and I still only do it occasionally. I only do it when I hear a CD has leaked and if it is by one of my very favourite bands, I just can't help myself. This year I have downloaded Spoon, Handsome Furs, Do Make Say Think, Wilco and Explosions in the Sky. Oh and a bit of New Pornographers and Interpol. That is all, and in each and every case I have either bought the CD the day it came out or I intend to buy it when it is released. Make sure you buy "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" when it comes out. Why do I do this? Because if no one buys the music, will the artists concerned be able to actually make music anymore? Plus I like the feeling of having the CD in my hands, reading the liner notes and lyrics and enjoying the feeling of ownership.

Now I have heard the arguments of downloading music and never bothering to actually buy. "I can't afford to buy CD's." Well if you see a nice shirt in a shop and you can't afford it, do you just take it off the rack and walk out with it? "I need to listen to the whole album before I decide whether to buy It". Well do you read a book before you decide to buy it? Maybe you just need to make a leap of faith sometimes. I know we all make copies for friends of CDs we love. But we can be selective there and I know I have lent or copied CDs to various friends who have often become fans of the music in question and gone out and purchased more music by the artist. I think in this day and age many musicians realise that their music can be spread all over the internet and they can do nothing about it. I guess they hope that there are still enough fans that will make the effort to buy their music. Of course bloggers have a role to play in all this. We try to turn people onto music without posting entire albums on the internet. I try to only post tracks that have been approved by the artist or label. And once the album is released maybe post an extra track to give a little more of a taste. I normally avoid putting up any music that is on a major label and conversely if it a small band trying to make an impression maybe posting more songs will help their career.

Anyway here are some views from musicians I respect who have a pretty liberal and thoughtful approach to the whole issue-
Jeff Tweedy on Wilco albums leaking-
"I think it is antithetical to being a musician to expend any energy on stopping people hearing their music. I have no idea of what the percentage of people who would decide not to buy your record after it leaked would be. If you are making something that you really believe in, then you have a choice of a lot more people hearing it and falling in love with the band (when it happens). Anyway, most people really want something a little more substantial than ones and zeroes on a hard drive."

Noah Lennox on the next Animal Collective leaking in part-
"The only thing we’re really upset about with the leak is that it’s only parts of it. I think there are six songs out there now. People aren’t even able to get the full experience of the album, which bums us all out quite a bit. So if you’re listening leakers (speaking directly into the tape recorder), put up those other three songs, man, pronto."

So there you have it. "Leaking" is inevitable and downloading is here to stay. I think the idea of sharing music is great. But the idea of just downloading all your music and never paying a cent for it just has to be wrong. Please continue to buy music and preferably full albums. Listen to a whole album front to back the way the artist intended it to be heard and if you can afford it, search for more and go and see it in the live arena.

Anyway you might have known by now that the new Okkervil River has leaked and it is truly special. I was surprised at first that the band didn't include "The President's Dead" and "Love to a Monster", two amazing songs that could easily have made their way onto the "The Stage Names". But I am sure Will Sheff had an exact way he wanted this album to sound. It seems to me that he has left behind (maybe briefly) the vein popping emotional train wrecks that dotted the "Black Sheep Boy" sessions. The songs seems to be either insanely catchy up tempo numbers like "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" or "Unless It's Kicks" (this song totally rocks) or beautiful, touching songs like "Savannah Smiles", "Plus Ones" or "Title Track" (could be my favourite track). And the closer "John Allyn Smith Sails" is next to perfect as it segues into "Sloop John B". Just deliriously good. I have no intention of posting any songs except the one already approved by the label. Just trust me, come August 7 buy this album. I definitely will be.

Here are the opening verses from "Plus Ones" to give you a taste-
No one wants to hear about your 97th tear
So dry your eyes or let it go uncried, my dear
I am all out of love to mouth and to your ear
And not above letting a love song disappear before it's written

And no one wants a tune about the 100th left balloon
that was seen shooting from the window of your room
To be a spot against the sky's colossal gloom
And land deflated in some neighbor's state that's strewn with 99 others

MP3: Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe

Jun 24, 2007

Ola Podrida / Miracle Fortress

Ola Podrida is the band formed around David Wingo. If you ever managed to see the remarkable film "George Washington" you might know that Mr. Wingo provided the ethereal, touching score. Now comes his band with their debut self titled album. From Austin via Brooklyn the group have produced a moving piece of music full of hushed tones and quiet moments of beauty. This record will not hit you in the face immediately, it is one to savour late at night with the headphones on. It is thoughtful, atmospheric music mining the same field that Iron and Wine does so well. However David Wingo's voice is probably more striking than Sam Beam's. It cracks and wavers in some parts as he croons over acoustic guitar with great effect. This is warm, gentle music that whilst it won't ever startle you, it will give you consistent listening pleasure. Definite highlight song is "Cindy" which builds to a forceful climax. "Pour Me Another" and "Eastbound" are also hauntingly beautiful.
"Ola Podrida is out now on Plug Research and can be purchased at CD Universe.
MP3: Cindy

"Five Roses" is the debut full length album from Miracle Fortress. This band is the brainchild of Montreal multi-instrumentalist Graham Van Pelt, who is also a member of Think About Life. This album is a beautiful concoction of swirling melodies and subtle rhythms. The best description I have heard of the music is "The Beach Boys meets the laptop" which I think is very apt. However, just like Menomena, Miracle Fortress can make music with an electronic background that is very heartfelt. The album also manages to be a nice blend of the uplifting, dance inducing tunes and also the pure, delicious melodies. "Have You Seen In Your Dreams" is a standout with its gorgeous melodies. In fact Graham Van Pelt's almost dreamy vocals are a definite highlight, used to great effect through out. This can be heard on the delicious "Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart". I also like the gentle "Little Trees", the almost anthemic "Poetaster" and the uplifting nature of "Blasphemy". This record is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And that's always a good thing, isn't it?
It is now available from Secret City Records.
MP3: Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart
MP3: This Thing About You
Sunset Rubdown - The Empty Threats of Little Lord

Ah, this is pretty good. Sunset Rubdown live at Capital Idea Music Festival, Ottawa. June 21. The man is a walking, breathing treasure.

Jun 22, 2007

The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations

More Bonnaroo goodness! The Hold Steady-Stuck Between Stations. I need to see this band live.

Jun 21, 2007

Icky Thump-The White Stripes

Consider "Icky Thump" to be another chapter in the Rock 'n' Roll book that is Jack White's life. Consider it be very good. Consider this opinion, Jack White still has it. That is, he still produces exciting, thrilling, but gusting music which attacks the nervous system with little darts of Rock 'n' Roll fury. The White Stripes are here again ladies and gentlemen and "Icky Thump" brings back the sounds we love. After the experimental tweaks of "Get Behind Me Satan" which didn't always satisfy, this album satisfies on many occasions. Recorded in 3 weeks in Nashville's Blackbird Studios you can feel the sticky garage rock with a slight country feel oozing through the cracks in the songs. It's raw, pulsating, vivacious music which delivers in bucket loads.

The first song (the title track) is probably well known by now. It is a perfect way to start the album. A veritable force of nature, its angular rhythms and pulsating beat will have your head rocking in no time. The next two songs are two of my favourites. With "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" you can feel the Nashville influence seeping in and "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" is a hulking beast of a song, quietly building before bursting into life. There are many other songs to love. "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" is a great change of pace with its hand claps and bagpipes, "Rag & Bone" is hilarious with Jack and Meg playing the part of 2 old 'Rag & Bone' peddlers and "Little Cream Soda" is fierce enough to rip your head off. But what elevates this album into special territory are the two closing tracks. "Catch Hell Blues" is exactly what it sounds like and "Effect & Cause" is a delicious slice of stomping delta blues. Sometimes it is hard to write effectively about a White Stripes album. Lyrically they are never complex. These are mainly songs about love, love lost and memories of school and childhood. These aren't John Darnielle or Will Sheff lyrics. But I think you don't analyse a White Stripes album. You feel it, revel in it, let it sink into your bones. Call it Rock, call it Blues, call it Garage Rock Delta Blues. Doesn't matter. It is raw, human and just plain good.

MP3: Effect & Cause
Bonnaroo 2007 - White Stripes [17/18]

Note to self: never post videos again that appear on NBC. So, here are The White Stripes at Bonnaroo performing "A Martyr For My Love For You".

Jun 20, 2007

Effect and Cause - The White Stripes

The mighty White Stripes on Conan O'Brien Show. Just sensational, just loving their new album.

Jun 19, 2007

Magnolia Electric Co. To Tour

This news is just so bittersweet for me. I will explain in a minute. Magnolia Electric Co. (the full five piece band) are touring in August. Headed by Jason Molina they sort of evolved from Molina's solo project Songs:Ohia. Last year Jason played a solo acoustic set at the Hopetoun Hotel which was truly astounding. The man is one of this planet's great songwriters. His songs are pure and honest and that voice, such understated beauty. Lately I have been listening to a lot of Songs:Ohia, but I also love Magnolia Electric Co.'s work which really amplifies Molina's country/folk roots. In other good news Secretly Canadian will release a 4 CD/1 DVD box set of Magnolia Electric Co. work entitled "Sojourner" on August 7. You can read all about it here.

Why is this news bittersweet? Because I will miss this tour. I am going to Canada and the U.S.A. in August for 3 weeks, mainly for a holiday, but to my unbridled joy I am attending the Wolfe Island Music Festival in Ontario where I will be seeing Wolf Parade, Apostle of Hustle, Born Ruffians, Basia Bulat amongst many other talents. As they say, you can't be in two places at once, but I wish Jason Molina could have toured in September.

The Rawking Refuses To Stop has some "Magnolia Electric Co." demos here.

MP3: Lonesome Valley
MP3: Leave The City
MP3: Farewell Transmission
MP3: Easts Heart Divided (Songs:Ohia)

Melbourne The Corner Hotel
Tuesday August 07

Tickets $36 + b/f from The Corner Box Office 57 Swan Street Richmond, 03 9427 9198 or www.cornerhotel.com.

Sydney The Annandale Hotel
Wednesday August 08
Tickets $36 + b/f from The Annandale 02 3557 2166 or www.annandalehotel.com

Tickets go on sale June 29

There Will Be Blood

Thanks to James at Hooverdust for the heads up on the new Paul Thomas Anderson film. "There Will Be Blood" stars Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano and is based on "Oil" by Upton Sinclair. For my money PTA is the greatest talent working in film today and this trailer has me so excited for his new film. Also I love that it just gives you a feel for the film rather then a voice over giving away the whole story.

Jun 18, 2007

Wilco - Jesus, Etc. @ Bonnaroo

Any Wilco is good Wilco. Live from Bonnaroo. Oh to be there!

Jun 17, 2007

Voxtrot, Late Reviews, Other Thoughts and Ruminations; or Does It Ever Stop Raining In Sydney?

So much new music, so little time to write about it all. But I will try here, mostly in abbreviated form. I will try to cover things that are moving me musically.

The debut album for Austin pop merchants Voxtrot was released about 3 weeks ago. I haven't been able to listen to it consistently since its release, until now. After 3 EPs dripping with pure pop perfection, the glare was always going to be on any full length debut. Despite mixed reviews, I think they have generally succeeded. I give them credit for not taking the easy way out (that is, re-recording the EP tracks), but instead they have written 11 brand new songs. I imagine that would be a daunting prospect for any young band with the spotlight firmly on them. The good news is this album has several pop gems that are insanely catchy. "Introduction" is naturally first and the hummability synonomous with the band is there straight away. Highlights abound after that. "Kid Gloves", "Ghost", "Firecracker" and "Brother In Conflict" are all dynamite songs that will have legs moving and hips swaying. The front end of this album is definitely stronger then the back. As a form of song growth the band has placed some slower numbers there and whilst they are decent songs they don't demand your attention. Of these the closer "Blood Red Blood" is probably the best. So "Voxtrot" is definitely worth your effort to purchase. It is very solid, enjoyable pop music that will have you smiling. There are enough memorable tunes to make the experience worthwhile.
MP3: Kid Gloves

Cloud Cult have been flying under the radar for quite a while. However it does seem that their most recent release "The Meaning of 8" is starting to gain them greater exposure. Hailing from Minnesota, USA and the brainchild of Craig Minowa, they are very committed to their music and their ideals. If you read the liner notes you find out that is a green album in every true sense of the word. This album is a richly complex, emotionally powerful piece of music. Brimming with ideas it is perhaps sometimes over long. But their unique blend of indie rock and folk can be at times spellbinding. I especially love "Pretty Voice" and "Chemicals Collide".
You can purchase "The Meaning of 8" direct from the band here.
Chemicals Collide

"Mapmaker" is a sonic assault that is at once unsettling and also thrilling. Representing the latest release for Brooklyn noise punks Parts & Labor, this album is full of intricate rhythms, shredding guitars and shining hooks. I do believe that is a step up from their previous work. It involves more melodies, catchier choruses and more light then dark. However it still retains the intensity and hardness that is the trademark of the band. The opening song "Fractured Skies" will definitely become one of my favourite songs of 2007. The addition of horns only delivers it to greater heights. Other standouts are "The Gold We're Digging" and "Knives and Pencils".
MP3: Fractured Skies
It can be bought with great ease from Jagjaguwar.

Canada is currently a great reservoir of talent and one more band to pay attention to is Shapes and Sizes. They call Montreal home and they have just released the intriguingly titled "Split Hips, Winning Hips, A Shiner". If you like inventive, bouncy, indie pop rock you will like this album. If you like the dichotomy of male/female vocals you will definitely like this album. I like it because every song is a little journey full of surprises and I especially like the endearing voice of Caila Thompson-Hannant. This album is endearing and pretty, one that gets a little better with every listen. You can track it down on Asthmatic Kitty Records. And it's streaming here.
MP3: Alone/Alive

Some other thoughts-

I have heard a few tracks from "Challengers", the upcoming August release from The New Pornographers. Now I am biased because any band that involves Neko Case (sigh) and Dan Bejar has my undying love and affection. But what I have heard is keeping me happy. I actually like that the songs feel more subdued and considered. Neko sounds perfect as ever and Dan's contributions prove he is nearly without peer as a songwriter. Wait until you hear "Myriad Harbour". Go here for some extra special Matador Records magic.
MP3: My Rights Versus Yours

I am still thinking about the Dead Letter Chorus show from Friday night. I need to see this band again soon. Apparently they are playing again at the Hopetoun on Friday, July 7.

Is "Icky Thump" great or what? I bought it yesterday and am loving it. Jack White has done it again and I am very happy. So far I am loving "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues", "Rag & Bone" and "Catch Hell Blues". A review will be up shortly after a few more spins.

I wish I was at Bonnaroo to see stuff like this.

Jun 16, 2007

Dead Letter Chorus @ Hopetoun Hotel

Seriously, if you wish to see a Sydney band with character, spirit and enormous reservoirs of talent then do yourself a favour, check the gig guides and make sure you go and see Dead Letter Chorus WHENEVER they play next. On a Friday night windswept with rain I ventured to the Hopetoun Hotel to check out this band of six and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. Playing an infectious and emotional brand of country/folk tinged rock they impressed on many levels. Every member of the band played with skill and passion, the guitars meshed beautifully, the drums were forceful and rhythmic and the keyboards added the extra ingredient. The contrast in vocals was a sheer delight. Gabrielle Huber's angelic voice was a nice counterpoint to Cam Potts' full throated roar. You could feel the emotion dripping through each song. This band is not relying on beats and trendy rhythms, it is writing heartfelt, touching songs that mean something. Each one told a story, and the live aspect just added an extra element as quite a few of the songs became mini epics as they build with great force and effect. Two great examples of this were the opener "11th Dream About Planes" (a brand new song) and the closer "Fathers & Daughters". Other highlights were "Magnolia Farm" (very charming), "Fred Astaire" (the 'single') and a superb cover of The Cure's "In Between Days".

This night also served as the official launch of the band's debut EP "Listen Carefully (We Shall Say This Only Once)" which you will be able to find in good record stores on July 7. If they don't have it, make sure they order it in as it is a promising debut which hopefully will lead to a full length album in the not too distant future. You can listen to a couple of the tracks now on their MySpace. Here is another track for your listening pleasure-
MP3: Laces Bound

Blue Mountains quartet Cloud Control were the main support and they were very good. They played a charming set of up tempo pop numbers which certainly entertained the crowd. They were channeling a bit of 60's pop with their infectious melodies, although I actually preferred some of the slower numbers that had a folkier feel. Two songs I liked in particular were "Free Love" and "Fine Teacher". The band is currently recording their debut EP and based on what I heard tonight I will be looking forward to hearing it. The first act were three piece Johnny Vance and The Revolutionary Kind. Upon entering the venue the first song kinda reminded me of Voxtrot vocally. But the other numbers swinged between rockabilly and country. Very entertaining I wouldn't mind checking them out again. And I loved their tribute to Parker Posey.
Menomena - Rotten Hell

Brand new video from Menomena. One of my favourite songs from one of 2007's best albums.

Jun 15, 2007

Elvis Perkins in Dearland on Letterman

Elvis Perkins performs "While You Were Sleeping" on Letterman yesterday. Such a wonderful song!

Jun 14, 2007

The Mountain Goats

If you saw The Mountain Goats back in January at The Metro you will know what I mean when I say this. Best show this year (yeah, even better then Wilco), not a show but a pure and joyous night to celebrate the power of song. Well what could be better then four unreleased songs recorded recently on Daytrotter. This website is a continually excellent resource for live recordings of wonderful singers and bands. So apparently a couple of months ago during SXSW John Darnielle recorded these four tunes in acoustic mode and they are things of great beauty.

In the words of the great Darnielle-
Pinklon - "Pinklon Thomas is my hero. He was one of the best heavyweights of the 80s..."
Ethiopians -"Super-exaggerated images, plenty of melodrama, everybody always five minutes away from going off the deep end."
Red River Valley -"In the very early days of the Mountain Goats, I used to play this one live in the old holler-and-stamp-my-feet style."
Babylon Burning - "I’ve I.D.‘d it as a Peter Tosh song, but it could be a Bob Marley song: there’s a version available by the Wailers, but it was from when Tosh was in the band, and the melody sounds more Tosh than Marley to me."
Free Songs- Mountain Goats Daytrotter Sessions

On a some what related note a band that John Darnielle has praised in the past are Bowerbirds from North Carolina. They are Phil Moore, Beth Tacular and Mark Paulson and they play a melodic, dreamy style of acoustic, southern Indie rock. They have a new album out "Hymns For a Dark Horse" just released on Burly Time Records. The two tracks I have heard are excellent and I have the album on order now.
MP3: In Our Talons
MP3: Dark Horse

Oh, how good is this?
MP3: Wild Mountain Nation-Blitzen Trapper

Jun 12, 2007

Kevin Drew

Kevin Drew (that's him on the right, the one on the left can sing too) of Broken Social Scene will be releasing a solo album on Arts & Crafts on September 18. It has the rather unwieldy title of, 'Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew "Spirit If..." It involves the help of many of his friends, well here is the press release anyway...

Kevin Drew's "Spirit If..." was recorded over the last two years at Ohad Benchetrit'’s house in between social scene tours and day-to-day life. It was produced by Ohad Benchetrit, Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin.
This is the first in the BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE PRESENTS series. Brendan Canning and company are currently recording the second in Toronto. It will be released early next year.
Drew and Canning, the two co-founders of Broken Social Scene decided to approach making records as solo projects. In the process the social scene community took part and played key supporting roles, thus giving birth to this series. Along with the BSS crew, Drew has invited many other guests to perform on "Spirit If...".

The record unfolds like a emotional comic book. It's Drew's song-writing and all his favourite topics are addressed: fucking, fighting, fearing and hope. FFFH.

This fall Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, along with new members will commence the "BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE PERFORMS" touring series. They will tour select songs from this album and others from this series.

Jun 11, 2007

We All Have Hooks For Hands

Young, talented, unique, a breath of fresh air. That is We All Have Hooks For Hands. Hailing from the small metropolis of Sioux Falls, South Dakota this nine member collective have just released their debut album "The Pretender" on Afternoon Records. Believe me, it's good, real good. Echoing the rapturous sounds of Broken Social Scene, but with a more folk feel, there is an unbridled pure joy to their music. It's not just a reflection of their youth but also an indication of the uplifting sounds they are producing.

"How it would sound if you threw grand pianos at an orchestra pit filled with fiddlers" is how the band describe themselves on their My Space page and it seems quite apt. Their songs are grand but not bloated (the album is only barely longer then 30 minutes), happy but not silly, complicated but not confusing. The band has two drummers, violin, guitars, horns and the odd cowbell, banjo and hand clap thrown in to produce a delightful concoction which will have you singing along with joy to the addictive melodies on display. Authentic, genuine, uplifting music is coming from the minds and hearts of these inventive musicians.
MP3: Hold On, C'Mon

The home of We All Have Hooks For Hands is Minneapolis label Afternoon Records. Another record I purchased recently from the same label is "The End", the debut of Minneapolis natives Mouthful of Bees. Now this four piece aren't reinventing the wheel with their brand of melodic Indie rock. But damn it is catchy. Singer Chris Farstad has a sweet voice that drives all the compositions. Although lacking in great production values the album has a ramshackle charm, that shows once again there is absolutely nothing wrong with a well crafted pop tune.
MP3: The Now

If you like what you hear I can recommend purchasing from Afternoon Records and you will be looked after efficiently and promptly.
South By Inner West Festival

On a cold and wintry sunday Sydney night, the Annandale Hotel played host to the South By Inner West Festival. 6 (it was to be seven but Bright Yellow had to cancel) Australian (and one from New Zealand) bands for $20 represented good value and was a good way to enjoy a night that led into today's Public Holiday. Although the venue was nowhere closed to being filled, I think all those who attended received value for money and would have walked away with an overall feeling of satisfaction. Without doubt the highlight was the last band to enter the stage. W.A.'s The Panda Band were outstanding. Their intoxicating blend of melodic pop and spaced out guitar riffs was a perfect way to end the night. Playing a set full of songs from 2006's "This Vital Chapter" I really enjoyed that the songs were given more scope in the live setting. Often elongated and enhanced the music really took off and left a lasting impression. Definite highlights were an incendiary "We've Got The Face Of The Earth" and the addictive closer "Eyelashes". They also threw in a cover of The Ronettes' classic "Be My Baby". Oh, and Damian Crosbie's voice is quite a weapon, full of range and depth, it really filled the room.

Set List
Then You Appear
High In Your Saddle
Musical Chairs
Sleepy Little Deathtoll Town
Ghosts Have The Best Time
A Call To Your Arms
We've Got The Face Of The Earth
Be My Baby
Signing Off

I had seen The Waysiders at the Essential Festival and really enjoyed their set that day. So I was looking forward to seeing them again. They remind me of those classic American Indie rock bands of the 80/90's. Think a touch of Superchunk or Pavement. Their music is full of rhythmical drumming, snappy guitar riffs and deadpan singing. It just sounds cool and puts a smile on your face. These lads can really write a catchy pop tune. I look forward to watching their progress. "Gilded City" is a particularly favourite song.

Sydney's The Mares were the first band up. They impressed me greatly. Having just released their first EP, I think they have a bright future. The recent addition of a fourth member has really enhanced their sound. Driving guitars, intricate melodies were in plentiful supply. And the singer has a strong voice which fills the room. Although a bit shouty at times, the potential to develop with time is definitely there. A band to keep an eye on.

A quick summary of the other bands I watched. Melbourne's Moscow Schoolboy had a big powerful sound going but it felt a little too much like 80's hair rock for me and thus I found it difficult to make any connection. Three piece The Shake Up were energetic with their three chord garage rock. But this genre I find pretty limiting, so whilst they played with joy and passion, I found the music to be very derivative. I have heard many good things about Kiwis Cut Off Your Hands and whilst they played with admirable panache, flair (very nice matching black outfits) and gusto, I think that this trendy style of music (dance infused rock) just leaves me cold these days. They certainly were popular with the audience. Just not for me, I'm afraid.

Jun 9, 2007

SiCKO Trailer

The new movie from Michael Moore, taking on the American Health Industry. One to keep an eye out for. It opens here in August.

Jun 7, 2007

Dead Letter Chorus EP Launch

Mark down in your calendars Friday June 15th. That is the night that Dead Letter Chorus will be officially launching their debut EP "Listen Carefully (We Shall Say This Only Once)" at the Hopetoun Hotel. This band's blend of Indie/Folk is both dynamic and refreshing, recalling the sounds of Emmylou Harris and Ryan Adams with their own personal touch. The EP will be officially released on July 7 but this night will be a great opportunity to hear the music in a live setting, with the support of Cloud Control and Johnny Vance. Here is a new song to enjoy-
MP3: Laces Bound

Don't forget this Sunday, June 10 sees the South By Inner West Festival take place at the Annandale Hotel. It kicks off at 5.30 and you can see The Panda Band, Cut Off Your Hands, The Mares, Bright Yellow, Moscow Schoolboy, The Shake Up and The Waysiders all for just $20.

Haystack is a brand new music sharing and discovery site. It looks to be another cool place to discover music and it also features weekly interviews. In coming weeks there will be interviews with Dirty On Purpose and Blonde Redhead. Anyway it looks worth checking out.

Hey, if a label (Jagjaguwar) can release new albums in the coming months by Okkervil River and Sunset Rubdown then it must be very, very special. Right?, Right! Of course the answer is yes. Well that is not all. In June they release new albums by Minus Story and Lightning Dust. For those of you who don't know, Minus Story are from Missouri and are probably the most underrated band in the world. Lightning Dust are Amber Wells and Joshua Wells from Black Mountain and this is their debut album. To my delight if you go here, both albums are streaming for your listening pleasure. Here are a few tracks the label has made available, plus some other new music that I am enjoying at the moment-
MP3: Stitch Me Up-Minus Story
MP3: Listened On-Lightning Dust
MP3: Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe-Okkervil River
MP3: My Rights Vs Yours-The New Pornographers
MP3: The Pushers-Wooden Wand
MP3: Cindy-Ola Podrida

Jun 6, 2007

Spoon Streaming

Spoon, glorious, Spoon. You have probably realised by now that I truly love this band. In a world awash with flaccid pop, overwrought emo and generally average music, Spoon stand out as beacon of pure song writing talent. Their new album "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is due out on July 10 on Merge Records. (I guess that is fairly common knowledge). It is as good as every one has been saying. Well, now if you go here, the band is kindly streaming one song a day up until June 15, which by when the whole glorious thing will be streaming.
MP3: The Underdog
Mike Gravel-President 2008-2nd Democratic Debate

When I started this blog it was essentially going to be about music and film. But of course there are other things I think about. Politics, travel, sport, etc. So even though I don't want to meddle in the political affairs of another country, who becomes the next U.S. president is obviously important to the rest of the world. After seeing this clip I sincerely hope that Mike Gravel is that man. His views on the world I believe would make the world a safer and saner place. He is probably too truthful to become the Democratic candidate but after listening to many of his opinions I truly hope that he does.

Jun 5, 2007

No Country For Old Men

A new film from the Coen Brothers is always a time for rejoicing. "No Country For Old Men" is taken from a Cormac McCarthy novel and premiered at Cannes last week. It stars Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Woody Harrelson. Unfortunately it looks like we will have to wait until 2008 to see it.

Jun 4, 2007

Silversun Pickups to Tour?????

I read today that Snow Patrol are touring Australia again in September courtesy of Frontier Touring Co. Well that news is of no interest to me as this band's brand of rock has all the texture of cardboard. But I was excited to hear that Los Angeles' very own Silversun Pickups are providing support. Their debut 2006 album "Carnavas" was very popular round my way so I am hoping very hard that the 'Pickups' will be putting on their own show/s. They have been compared to Smashing Pumpkins but I believe they are more then just derivative of that act. Their blend of stoner rock and garage pop is augmented by great melodies. Let's just hope we get to see them in their own right.

MP3: Lazy Eye

Jun 3, 2007


Zodiac is a mature, complex film that is both entertaining and relentlessly adherent to detail. The film tells the true story of the Zodiac killer who murdered five people in Northern California in the late 1960's. Directed by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) this movie is many things, suspenseful thriller, character study, police drama, historical document. I can report here that it satisfies on all levels. Apparently the director's original cut was over 3 hours long and even though he had final cut, he managed to bring it down to 150 minutes, still bringing into sharp focus every detail and nuance of the complicated story. This is no quick fix Hollywood film with jump cuts and easy solutions. It is a journey into the hearts and minds of men. The hearts of the men trying to solve the case and catch the killer and the mind of the unknown murderer.

Set and filmed in San Francisco, the movie begins with the killing of a young couple parked in their car. The killer sends a letter written in code to the San Francisco Chronicle where we meet crime writer Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) and cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) who become entwined with the case over a number of years as the Zodiac killer (he signs his letters with a cross-hair like symbol) sends coded letters after each murder. Graysmith, although not officially connected with the case, becomes obsessed with the story and in real life would later write two books on which the film is based. The other major character is Police detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) who heads up the investigation which he pursues through many twists and turns over many years. Fincher's attention to detail is impressive. Nearly every scene is given a place and date as we go on a journey with the multitude of characters trying to find the identity of the Zodiac. We experience the dead ends and false leads that the newspapermen and police officers encounter. We feel their mounting frustrations as clues lead to more questions and answers slip through the cracks. The characters are all richly written, we understand their motivations and connect with their emotions. Beautifully shot with scope and elegance by Harris Savides, who also works with Gus Van Sant, this film is one to enjoy on many levels. It has some quiet moments of humour, some scenes of suspense and dread and it definitely works the mind over thoroughly as you try to absorb all the threads pulled together through out the film. The cast is uniformly excellent. Downey brings his magnetic personality again to the screen with his many shades of the human condition. Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo are excellent in the way they can portray characters that are full of self doubt and I always manage to empathise with the parts they play. The supporting cast is exemplary. Brian Cox, Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Elias Koteas, Philip Baker Hall and John Carroll Lynch all bring their fine acting abilities to the screen. Zodiac is an absorbing film, directed with care and attention to detail, exquisitely acted, if you give yourself over to the journey, you will find yourself ruminating on it for days to come.

Jun 2, 2007

Cold War Kids @ The Forum

Swagger. Funk. Soul. Movement. Good Times. If enjoyment wasn't to be found at Cold War Kids at the Forum last night then you are very hard to please. Ladies and Gentlemen this band is good, real good. If you weren't a fan of their debut record "Robbers and Cowards" and decided to give this show a miss then you just happened to miss a great night of music. This band deserve the hype, they were unbelievably tight, dishing out rhythms and melodies like there was no tomorrow. But first the venue. My first time there and I was impressed. Its only downfall is that like any new venue it doesn't have the character and history of a more established place. But the 3 levels of viewing create a real ampitheatre and the sound and lighting was excellent.

Cold War Kids were greeted to a warm reception and were flowing right away, starting with "Rubidoux" and "Passing the Hat". Then "We Used To Vacation" came and the crowd was in raptures. This, among things, was a highlight of the night. It was a well put together set list with the bigger numbers placed strategically through out the night. Of course "Hang Me Up To Dry" was greeted with massive cheers and provoked a big singalong but my favourite was "Hospital Beds". I was so excited to hear this and their rendition didn't let me down. They threw in a couple of new ones in the middle of the set and these sounded great and a couple of covers as well, Tom Waits and John Lennon. Other highlights were a searing rendition of "Saint John" and a ghostly version of "Robbers" where the band turned little lights on the audience as all the house lights were turned down. The great thing I found about this band is that all four members are totally immersed in the music and are so in sync together. Nathan Willet's voice is something to behold, soulful and powerful it easily filled the venue. Jonnie Russell dazzled on guitar and provided vocals when needed to, plus he managed to get sound out of a wine bottle! Matt Maust and Matt Aveiro provided a great base with the rhythm section, driving the band where it needed to go. And they seemed to be getting as much out of the night as the crowd were. I left this show with a big smile on my face and you can't ask for more than that.

For some better photos of the night go to Matt Booy's Flickr page

Set List
Passing The Hat
We Used To Vacation
Saint John
Dirt In The Ground (Tom Waits cover)
Hospital Beds
God, Make Up Your Mind
Red Wine, Success!
???? (new song)
Dreams Old Men Dream
Hang Me Up To Dry
Hair Down
Expensive Tastes

Tell Me In The Morning
Well, Well, Well (John Lennon cover)