Oct 31, 2008

Augie March @ Metro Theatre

Augie March played at the Metro Theatre Thursday night. The sound was great. The lighting was great. The band are excellent musicians, who barely miss a beat. Glenn Richards possesses a great voice. Yet, and yet, the show failed to move me. I think there are a couple of reasons, but the one that strikes me the most is this. This band seems to play with a lack of joy. It seems a chore, there is a discernible lack of enthusiasm on display. Another factor for my slight indifference is probably that I am not a diehard Augie March in the first place. For those of that persuasion, it quite possibly could have been a hugely enjoyable experience. For me though, I walked away thinking that I saw a performance that was reasonable, but not earth shattering. Harsh maybe, but I can only deliver to you my true feelings.

My first proper time with this lauded band was at the same venue about 18 months ago. That night was a bit of a disaster, as the crowd was terrible. Talkative and non attentive, they were a living nightmare. The music on display was OK, but it was a hard night to enjoy. Thankfully, last night's crowd was much better. Not perfect, but bearable. So, to the music. As you might know, Augie March have a new album, "Watch Me Disappear". The album, even to lifelong fans, seems disappointing. Too slick and processed, lacking grit and earthiness. Naturally, this show would see the new material feature heavily. The title track, opened the show, and this was not a great start. This song is just not very good. Thankfully, two of my favourites followed. "Lupus" is very catchy and hummable, whilst "Pennywhistle" (with a full horn section) was a sheer delight. After that though, the new material stumbled rather then soared. "The Glenorchy Bunyip" was pretty nice though, but the others just sort of flatlined. Half through the set Glenn Richards went solo acoustic with a beautiful rendition of "The Slant". This song was gorgeous and was stark evidence to me that I definitely prefer the band's slower songs. They seem to have more substance and importance then the uptempo poppier numbers. The second half of the set leant heavily on "Moo, You Bloody Choir" and it was probably predictable that their classic "One Crowded Hour" would be the closer. It's a great song to be sure and its potency is pretty hard to resist. So, the band left a little after midnight, then returned for an encore. With mixed results. I would have thought that a couple of rousing rocking numbers would have done the trick, but they played two slower songs that lacked any sort of energy. "Brundisium" was pretty special though and "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers" was great to hear, a howling song that always sounds great live and a good indication of the band's abilities.

Another feature of the night was the behaviour of Glenn Richards. A known perfectionist, he seems to find it hard to enjoy the live experience. I counted 3 songs where he stopped and started again, unhappy with the sound or just the way the song was going. At one point he muttered "Why does this always happen to us?" an attitude that seems overly pessimistic. The man has a seriously good voice and writes superb lyrics. I am not expecting the second coming of Will Sheff on stage, but I think a little joy would go a long way to making an Augie March show much more enjoyable. To me, just a voice in the darkness, I think Mr Richards might be better suited breaking out of the confines of the whole rock experience and carving out a solo career. I saw him do a solo support last year for Wilco and he was fantastic. Please don't crucify me Augie March fans, just a humble writer's opinion.

Set List
Watch Me Disappear
The Glenorchy Bunyip
The Cold Acre
Mugged By The Mob
Farmer's Son
The Devil In Me
The Slant
Owen's Lament
Thin Captain Crackers
The Baron Of Sentiment
One Crowded Hour

The Drowning Dream
This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers
There Is No Such Place

Oct 29, 2008

Lost Wisdom-Mount Eerie

I shall get straight to the point. Phil Elverum is a songwriting genius. A man of dignity, strength and undeniable beauty. A treasure to be treasured. So, any new release from him is a moment to be savoured. "Lost Wisdom" is a delicate, fragile creation. Full of quiet beauty and subtle touches. As an added bonus Julie Doiron and Fred Squire were brought on board and the results are stunning. This album is one to let sink slowly into your heart as you admire the gorgeous texture and profound tenderness on display.

"Lost Wisdom" is a near perfect marriage of quiet voice and quiet guitar. This album is low key to the extreme. Most songs are based around a quietly strummed acoustic and the superb voices of the participants involved. It is also a short album. Ten songs of brief beauty. The opening track, the title track, is in fact the longest, and quite stunning. Doiron and Elverum duet with gorgeous results. Her angelic voice is a great counterpart to Elverum's trembling vulnerability. There is not a bad song on this album I can assuredly state. They are all worthy and truly magnificent. "Voice In Headphones" is slow and hypnotic, whilst "You Swan Go On" is an unblemished ode to love. Doiron takes the lead on "Who?" and this song resonates with discerning elegance. "Flaming Home" is tenderness writ large. It's grace is quite exquisite. I could go on with more glowing adjectives. Suffice to say, this is quite simply a great album. Its themes are simple, yet quite profund. Love and human vulnerability are written about with a soul and spirit rarely displayed. Exquisite and essential.

Lost Wisdom can be purchased from P.W. Elverum & Sun.

Oct 27, 2008

The August Magnificent Album Launch

November 1. This Saturday. The Annandale Hotel. Be there for the launch of the debut album by Sydney's Dead Letter Chorus. "The August Magnificent" is opening up to the public and this will represent an excellent opportunity to hear the ragged glory that is Dead Letter Chorus, who always bring it live. The album contains 12 songs and if you head over to their MySpace now you can hear a preview of some of the tracks.

Annandale Hotel, November 1
Dead Letter Chorus, supported by Jordy Lane, Wifey and The Green Mohair Suits.
Tickets available here.

Oct 25, 2008

Blue Chicago Moon-Songs:Ohia

Jason Molina is one of the world's greatest songwriters. Without doubt. If you are not familiar with his work, please make yourself aware. I found an excellent primer to his work at Drowned in Sound. Makes for great reading. Here is a video for the great song "Blue Chicago Moon", from the wonderful Songs:Ohia album "Didn't It Rain".

Blue Chicago Moon Lyrics
Out of the ruins
Blood grown heavy from his past
His wings stripped by thunder
But those storms keep coming back
Singing birds in sickness
Sing the same blues songs
When they fell out of the emptiness
They must have brought along
Space's loneliness
Space's loneliness
Gotten so good at hiding it
Even he does not admit it
That glittering flash in his eyes
Makes it look like he might be alright
If the blues are you hunter
Then you will come face to face
With that darkness and desolation
And the endless depression
But you are not helpless
And you are not helpless
Try to beat it
Try to beat it
And live through space's loneliness
And live through space's loneliness
You are not helpless
You are not helpless
I'll help you to try to beat it

Oct 22, 2008

House With No Home-Horse Feathers

Horse Feathers are quietly great. Hushed beauty and exquisite tones are their gifts. Gifts that do not shout, but rather humbly and silently present themselves to you, expressing beauty and emotion in peaceful, muffled yet significant ways. "House With No Home" is this Portland, Oregon duo's second album, following their superb 2006 debut "Words Are Dead". That album was a hidden gem of two years ago and this album is a superb follow up, an album of spare emotional power and intense feelings. A great example in the tradition of American Folk/Acoustic music. Wrinkled voices and burnt strings make a great combination.

Horse Feathers are singer and guitarist Justin Ringle and talented instrumentalist Peter Broderick. Ringle has a crumpled, wrinkled voice, one that feels tattered and torn. It is surely a beautiful instrument, evoking barns and wooden floors. Dusty roads and unraked fields. His voice is backed up by gently plucked guitar and expertly plied violin. The combined sound is delicate and delectable. The opening two tracks set the scene perfectly. "Curs In The Weeds" and "Rude to Rile" are simply dazzling tracts of authentic music. Driven by a quiet intensity, they both exist to suck the marrow from life. Voices soar and violins weep in perfect synchronicity. The album flows beautifully after this start. Whilst the sound does not vary greatly in tone, each song is presented with admirable attention and care. "Albina" burns brightly, whilst "Helen" soars with great effect. Other highlights are the whisper quiet "Different Gray", which features subtle piano, and the stunning closer "Father", a great way to end an album of intense and remarkable grandeur. If in 2006 you slept on Horse Feathers, please don't make the same mistake twice.

MP3: Curs in the Weeds-Horse Feathers

Oct 20, 2008

Burn After Reading

"Burn After Reading" is, quite simply, a wonderful cinema experience. Funny, clever, topical, it is another chapter in the impeccable Coen Brothers book of film. Coming hot on the heels of the truly perfect "No Country For Old Men", this wildly funny film shows the Coens can access all areas of the cinematic spectrum. Superbly acted and wonderfully written, this film hits all the right marks. In spades.

"Burn After Reading" is, on the surface, an espionage film. Deep down though it is a film about human foibles and failures, told with great wit and panache. Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is a burnt out CIA operative who has quit his post after receiving a demotion. He is unhappily married to the austere Katie (Tilda Swinton), who is having an affair with the hyperactive and sometimes paranoid Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who works at Treasury and is also having his own marital problems. Stepping into their high octane world are the precipitously hopeless pair of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Felheimer (Brad Pitt), who work at a fitness centre where they find a disk of supposedly classified information. Their plan to sell the disk only leads to disaster and despair, although with hilarious results. As stated, this game of cloak and dagger and clandestine meetings is told with brisk pace and sharp wit. However, this really serves as a backdrop to the machinations of the central characters human failings. Greed, jealousy and decpetion are all in full force as scenarios play out, often badly. As would be expected, the script is razor sharp with many delicious lines. And the cast is truly superb. Malkovich is wonderful as the almost psychotic Cox, whilst Clooney is superb as the confused and harrassed Pfarrer. Brad Pitt's scenes are hilarious too, as he shines as a simple man way in over his head. The film is also a sharp commentary on the world of international politics and diplomacy, gleefully pointing out its many hypocrisies. Ladies and gentlemen, once again your cinematic experience is safe in the hands of the Coens.

Oct 18, 2008

Hold Time-New Album From M. Ward

The supremely talented M. Ward will be releasing a new album on February 17, 2009. "Hold Time" is the name and Merge Records will once again have the honour of giving us some more Ward magic. There will be some great guest performers as well. Lucinda Williams, Jason Lytle, formerly of Grandaddy, DeVotchka's Tom Hagerman and She & Him mate Zooey Deschanel. If it's as good as "Post-War" then we are in for a treat.

Hold Time Tracklisting
1 For Beginners
2 Never Had Nobody Like You
3 Jailbird
4 Hold Time
5 Rave On
6 To Save Me
7 One Hundred Million Years
8 Stars of Leo
9 Fisher of Men
10 Oh Lonesome Me
11 Epistemology
12 Blake's View
13 Shangri-La
14 Outro

Oct 16, 2008

Money Babies-The Dears

"Missiles", the new album from The Dears is released next week. Here, the band (with new lineup) perform "Money Babies" in Toronto.

Oct 14, 2008

Furr-Blitzen Trapper

Great music does not always need to be revolutionary. Breaking new ground, so to speak. Sometimes, great music can be built with the building blocks of harmony, guitar and melody. Drawing from traditions of song and creating new ones. So, this is Blitzen Trapper and this is "Furr". The Portland band's fourth album is their Sub Pop debut and it is their most mature, consistent and rewarding release to date. Less frenetic and wild then previous albums, it sees the band becoming a classic American band, their Country roots seeping through. A 21st century The Band, if you like. Well, I like, muchly.

Thirteen tracks fill "Furr", sweet sonnets of humming guitars, gentle drumming and gorgeous melodies. "Sleepytime in the Western World" is a glowing start. Guitars twang and twitch, golden moments and honey dripping seconds. This band can still rock out though. "Gold For Bread" is a rollicking tune, chirping out quite loudly. The centrepiece though is the title track, the only song clocking in at over 4 minutes. It's a delightful and intoxicating journey into a land of back porches, fur coats, howling winds, rattlesnakes and wolves. Its wistful tone set perfectly to gently strummed guitars and blown harmonicas. Besides the gentle countryish tunes, the album also features the stomping hard "Fire & Fast Bullets" and the almost funky "Saturday Nite". Showing again, Blitzen Trapper's predilection for keeping things diverse. Another highlight is "Black River Killer", a dark tale of death and destruction backgrounded by an irresisitible melody. "War On Machines" is another track to savour, containing the band's trademark spirit and verve. The guitars positively sing to each other on this one. This album is truly a joy. And a triumph. Its unfettered and uncomplicated nature are quite endearing. It's music for all parts of the body. It will make you smile and dance and laugh, all at once, whilst giving great and considerable comfort to your heart and soul.

MP3: Furr-Blitzen Trapper

Oct 13, 2008

Constructive Summer-The Hold Steady

Well, Laneway was announced today. Despite the rumours of that band not eventuating, it is still a pretty decent lineup. No Age will be exciting. Born Ruffians will be fun and The Hold Steady will rule this festival. Why? The songs. The songs. Not gleeps and gloops, dance beats, remixes. Lyrics and guitar chords. Pretty simple really. Can't wait.

Oct 12, 2008

Blitzen Trapper Live

Well, still not too many updates around here. But things are nearly back to normal, so hopefully full service will resume this week. So, here is Blitzen Trapper performing "Furr" at the Bowery Ballroom, the title track from their fantastic new album.

Oct 10, 2008

Moving Home...

Well, we have moved. To our beautiful new home in Newtown. It's very exciting and rewarding, but a little tiring. So, this has kept me busy, hence the lack of updates round here. It would seem that the world is in some sort of financial meltdown at the moment, as people with lots of money move their money into other areas, causing mass anxiety everywhere. Hopefully things will settle down and us people at the bottom of the chain will emerge unscathed.

What else has been happening? Not too much, but here are a few items.

Fleet Foxes have announced sideshows. Very sad that they clash with Stars, but I will probably have to go with the Seattleites as I have not seen them before. And all reports of their live shows are sensational.

The August Magnificent can be revealed. If you couldn't figure it before now, then it is now public knowledge that this is the debut album of Sydney band Dead Letter Chorus. The album, containing 12 tracks, is due out October 18 on CodeOne and was self produced by the band and mixed by Tim Whitten. More details will come soon.

Animal Collective have a new album due out on January 20, 2009. Happy days! "Merriweather Post Pavilion" is the title and is coming out on Domino.

Merriweather Post Pavilion Track Listing
1 In the Flowers
2 My Girls
3 Also Frightened
4 Summertime Clothes
5 Daily Routine
6 Bluish
7 Guys Eyes
8 Taste
9 Lion in a Coma
10 No More Runnin
11 Brother Sport

Oct 6, 2008

August Magnificent Updates...

Oct 5, 2008

Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band @ Enmore Theatre

Conor Oberst is something special. A performer of passion and a songwriter of substance. His show Saturday night at the Enmore Theatre was one of diversity and enjoyment. For me though, the night was very enjoyable, but not a night to be described as unforgettable. Perhaps this was because the material on offer varied in quality through out the night. As we know Mr Oberst is/was Bright Eyes, whose catalogue is brimmed to the top with quality songs. 2008 saw Conor come full circle, record under his given name and adopt a new band. The Mystic Valley Band. The new album, released in August, to my ears is a qualified success. A few great songs, a couple of good ones and a couple of bland tunes. So, an Oberst show would lean heavily on this album and I respect that decision. You know, move on. Onward and upward.

So, how did it turn out? Well, for me the same way as the album. Songs that worked were great. Songs that didn't, less so. However Oberst's infectious spirit and flat out passion managed to pull it together to create a night of fun and joy and value for money. What worked for me? Probably the slower acosutic numbers. The closer "Milk Thistle" was starkly beautiful, as was the encore opener "Lenders in the Temple". I also loved "Cape Canaveral" and the stunning ender (with Conor on piano) "Breezy". Having said that, the upbeat "Moab" and "Souled Out!!!" were great fun too, rocking and rolling the not sold out (why?) venue. Some songs that dragged are probably the ones that haven't struck a chord with me yet. Such as the underwhelming "Danny Callahan". The set was also littered with new songs, some covers and also songs that the band members count as their own. Again, some worked and some didn't. I really enjoyed "Ten Women" and also "I Got A Reason #2", which was epic and great all at once. For some reason the two covers in the encore didn't grab me. The Dylan cover (Corrina, Corrina) seemed a bit flat to me and the Paul Simon song (Kodachrome) was pretty uninteresting to me. I thought the band was great, tight and professional, although I thought they were a bit let down by the sound. There seemed to be a fair bit of feedback and in some songs Conor's vocals were buried in the mix and hard to pick up. Overall, I did enjoy the night. Conor was in great form, happy and totally appreciative. He again proved that he is a songwriter of great talent and substance. It will be interesting to see in which direction his career takes him.

Set List
Danny Callahan
Central City
Gentleman's Pact
Cape Canaveral
I Got A Reason #1
Ten Women
I Got A Reason #2
NYC-Gone, Gone
Souled Out!!!
Milk Thistle

Lenders in the Temple
Corrina, Corrina
I Don't Want To Die (in a hospital)

Oct 3, 2008

Mount Eerie @ Paddington Uniting Church

Windows. Mountains. Trees. Rivers. Love. Devotion. Heart. Beauty. Fire. Air. Moons. Suns. Love. Again. Heart. Again. Again. Again. Breaths stopped. Hearts rendered. Beauty enabled, delivered, sent, expressed. Tumbling out of the mouth of a man intent on doing one thing. Communicate and involve. Involved, enabled. That's is how we all felt Thursday night at Paddington Uniting Church. The music of Mount Eerie hang loosely in the air, before seeping into our skins and delving into our hearts and minds. Quite simply, purely a night I will never forget. Ever.

Those names. Oldham, Mangum. Sometimes Molina. Lately Krug. Names of those people who somehow have the supreme gift to encompass all that drives us. All that inspires us. All that makes us feel. All through the power of song. You just need a voice and a guitar to do it. Well, Phil Elverum I believe belongs in that celestial company. For this humble man behind The Microphones and latterly Mount Eerie is a songwriter of supernatural talent. The man behind "The Glow Pt. 2" was playing his first show on this Australian tour. We sat on the floor of this medium size church. Listening to breaths of beauty. This performance was truly unplugged. Just Phil and an acoustic, playing into a microphone. No lighting, no dramatics. Just song, song, song. He played a combination of new songs and old songs, sometimes really old songs. Each and every song was delivered with pure passion and considered heart.

In fact, I believe the first four songs were all brand new. I certainly was not familiar with them. But they were exquisite, all containing that quiet radiance that Elverum fashions. By the time he played the statuesque "I Felt My Size" I was floating. Pinching myself for the sake of it. To follow with "Stop Singing" was almost causing heart palpitations. Then at this point the singer asked for questions. A brave chap asked if it was possible to hear "The Glow Pt. 2". To everyone's delight our illustrious guest obliged, stating it wasn't planned but he liked to please the audience. However he said he would need to play "I Want To Blow" before it, as that is the only way it would work. We 'relented' and 'let' him play both. Well, ten minutes that are chiseled into the cranium, never leaving, never escaping. The rest of the set was more peaks, more crescendos. "Flaming Home" sent shivers, whilst "I Hold Nothing" was it's stark and beauteous self. I need more adjectives at this point. Then it was over. He politely thanked the audience and went to the back of the church to wait at the merchandise table. A true marvel. A true jewel. He was also so humble and gracious. Speaking quietly, but surely, he was always thanking the audience, whilst also showing that he also possessed a wry sense of humour. As said, he was humbly plying a lone acoustic. A classic guitar, with loose strings, that reverberated and vibrated, blending in beautifully with his fragile and vulnerable voice. The man from Anacortes sings about the nature of life and the life of nature. His words flow and melt, referencing water and air, wood and soil. From these he weaves sonnets of love and loss. Growth and decay. Tonight we stepped into his world, grateful and giving.

Set List*
new song?
Wind Summons
Known World
My Heart Is Not
The Gleam Pt. 2
I Felt My Size
Stop Singing
I Want Wind To Blow
The Glow Pt. 2
Flaming Home
Cold Mountain
My Burning?
I Hold Nothing
Buried In Space
new song?

*This set list is a bit sketchy, as Mr Eleverum has a huge arsenal of songs and he appeared to be playing quite a few new ones. Any help is appreciated.

I missed the first support Pikelet, but I caught the second. Lucky Dragons. Never seen anything like it before. Ever. I was entranced, bewitched, confused, delighted. Stupified. This 'band' is Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara. They are from Los Angeles, but they exist on another planet. They sat on the floor, in the middle of the audience. Armed with a laptop and various devices to make sounds, they freeformed for 45 minutes. Developing sounds as they went. An organic and electric mixture of sounds. They involved the audience in everything. Magnetic rocks were played, cymbals bashed, microphones passed, hands held and dancing as well, yes dancing. It really is impossible to put properly into words. Suffice to say, it was quite surreal, totally enjoyable and utterly unforgettable.

Oct 2, 2008

He Doesn't Know Why-Fleet Foxes

Here is the new video for Fleet Foxes, taken from their undoubtedly great debut self titled album. Those harmonies are just superb, right?

Oct 1, 2008

The Dears Set to Release Missiles

October 21 will see the release of the new album from The Dears. "Missiles" will be the Montreal band's fourth album and their first since 2006's "Gang of Losers". Dangerbird Records will be releasing the album and it represents the band's debut on this label. Also different is a new lineup. The Dears now number seven in total and only Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak remain from the original lineup. I am excited for this one.

Missiles Track Listing
1 Disclaimer
2 Dream Job
3 Money Babies
4 Berlin Heart
5 Lights Off
6 Crisis 1 & 2
7 Demons
8 Missiles
9 Meltdown in A Major
10 Saviour

Stream Money Babies here.