Music News 19/01/2012

Things have gone from bad to terrible for the Big Day Out with the recent announcement that this year’s Aukland event will be the last.

This year they’ve seen downsizing, Vivian Lees leave and a partnership with C3 Presents. It’ll be sad if the festival doesn’t continue, but genre festivals have made it so easy to see a certain type of band without most of the bogans.

If you feel like getting your sad on, The Mountain Goats are touring in May.

I’m actually looking for someone to come to the Melbourne show with me, so if you’re keen tweet, email or carrier pigeon me. I promise I’ll only swoon a little bit.

The dates are as follows:

The Bakery, Perth
Tuesday 1st May

The Great Northern, Byron Bay
Thursday 3rd May

The Zoo, Brisbane
Friday 4th May

The Metro, Sydney
Sunday 6th May

The Clarendon, Katoomba
Tuesday 8th May

The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Thursday 10th May

Surely Gene Simmons doesn't need a codpiece THAT big

If you like rock and rolling all night and partying every day then you’ll be more than happy to hear the Kiss are coming in 2013. Sure, given their collective age of 2 million there’s a possibility it might be a bit shit, the pyrotechnics alone will be totally worth it.

However at the moment, there are no dates.

If you’re anything like me, Valentine’s day usually involves copious amounts of chocolate and Colin Firth movies. But this year you’ll be able to get your quirky pop on  because Aleks and the Ramps will be releasing their 3rd album Facts. 

The first single Middle Aged Unicorn On Beach With Sunset (I think I need a lie down after typing all that) is excellent and the album will be out on digital download or vinyl depending on how much of a hipster you are.

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Best Albums of 2011

I know it’s 2012 and all, but my laptop threw a hissy fit and decided to delete my almost completed list. So better late than never, right?

2011 saw the class of 2009 return with new albums, dubstep becoming inexplicably popular and Adele causing mass crying amongst all the single ladies.

On the local front, Gotye finally got the recognition his music deserves (although the album was something of a let down), Triple J Unearthed became a radio station and Boy & Bear proved that you can still win an ARIA if you use instragram to create your cover art.

Since this is a personal music blog, this list is more about what I enjoyed the most, rather than the objective best albums of the year. But I hope you enjoy it anyway


19. Los Campesinos!- Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos! have always walked the thin line between total sincerity and irony and with each passing album they seem to be heading into darker territory. Like previous releases Hello Sadness combines Gareth Campensino’s desperate vocals and witty song writing backed by frantic indie pop.

With the departure of violinist Harriett Campesinos, this is a much darker and more masculine album. If you’re looking for the angsty party tunes from their debut you will be disappointed. But if you enjoyed Romance is Boring, chances are you’ll love this album just as much.

18.Ball Park Music- Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs

It would be easy to write off Ball Park music as yet another sunny Brisbane indie band. And inmany ways there is very little separating them from the likes of Hungry Kids of Hungary or whoever else Triple J is flogging this week. However there is something a shambolic about them, as thought it could all fall apart at any second.

This aspect of the band has yet to be shown properly on record, but their debut album is still a solid one.

17.Yae!Tiger- Casualty of the Avalanche

Yae!Tiger could be on this list for the pop-up cover art alone. However the music on their debut album is also worthy, featuring the kind of lo-fi indie pop that The Pains of Being Pure At Heart should have released this year.  A whole lot of fun, a little bit serious and a perfect summer album.

16.Mountain Goats- All Eternal’s Deck

Their relative obscurity is both the best and worst thing about the Mountain Goats. The worst because that kind of talent should be admired by even the most casual of folk fans, yet the idea of 16 year-olds writing the lyrics to No Children on their Facebook walls is downright scary.

Despite their high album count, every Mountain Goats album is all about the lyrics and All Eternal’s Deck does not disappoint. John Darnielle could write about what he ate for breakfast and make it sound poetic and while not as personal as 2005’s The Sunset Tree, the lyrical content is both raw and memorable. Even if the music comes second.

15.The Decemberists- The King Is Dead

2009’s The Hazards of Love was ambitious to say the least. Even for a band known for its literary influences and unusual instrument choices a fairy tale rock opera is hard to pull off. While they managed it in style, it’s not hard to see why they wanted ot turn back of their folk roots.

The King Is Dead is not the best Decemberists album and nor is it close. With guest appearances from Gillian Welsh and REM guitarist Peter Buck it wears its influences on its sleeve. And while the lyrics at times boarder on old English instead of content territory, there’s something so charming about this album that makes it worth repeated listens.

14.Cults-Cults

Cults seemed to come out of nowhere this year, but they caused a massive splash. Their sound is half 60’s girl group and half modern indie band, with just enough lo-fi buzz to stop their songs becoming saccharine.

Singles Go Outside and Abducted are by far the best tracks, but the album as a whole is still excellent.

13.Mogwai- Earth Division EP

While Mogwai released Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will this year, it’s their Earth Division EP that really grabbed my attention. Mogwai have never been a very melodic band, with the quieter moments in their music usually met with loud crescendos only moments later.  On this EP however, we get to hear them in strings mode and while it’s not their best work, it’s an interesting change from what we expect from them. The songs are pretty and delicate (never thought I’d say that about Mogwai) and it’s interesting to say the least.

12.Geoffery O’Conner-Vanity is Forever

This is not the first time Crayon Fields front man Geoffrey O’Conner has released a solo album, however it is the first under his own name. His previous solo work as Sly Hats had an adolescent quality to it, with bedroom style production and a certain sense of insecurity. Not this time.

Above everything, Vanity is Forever sounds good. An 80’s sheen covers all of the album’s tracks which suits the laid-back songs perfectly. And it isn’t too heavy on the synths, something that more bands last year really needed to take notice of.

11.Slow Club-Paradise

Much like Los Campesinos! Slow Club’s sound has matured greatly in-between releases. Their debut Yeah So felt a bit like reading a diary from your teen years to a quirky indie-folk soundtrack, and while some of their angst is still there, Paradise presents a much different sound.

Instead of focusing on the harmonies between Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, Paradise sees Taylor taking lead vocals for most of the tracks and the result is a much cleaner, more darker and much more timeless record.

10.Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring for My Halo

No matter what he’s singing Kurt Vile sounds somewhat detached  on Smoke Ring For My Halo.  Given the way folk music has started to cross over into over-earnest territory, it’s just the thing the genre needs right now.

There are no gimmicks on this record, just fuzzy Americana which is precisely why I rate it as one of the best released this year.

9.Wilco- The Whole Love

The Whole Love could almost be a best of with the amount of ground it covers. From the 70’s rock of I Might to the sweeping 12 minute One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend) it combines all of the things there are to love about Wilco. It’s no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but it’s the sound of a band who could play it safe, yet still push forward.

This is how you do an eighth album.

8.Laura Marling

Taylor Swift is 22. And she’s still singing about being the unpopular girl at school. Laura Marling is 21 and she’s released three albums that would rival anything someone twice her age can create.

On A Creature I Don’t Know she follows three separate characters and if you didn’t know anything about the record, it would be hard to pinpoint when it was released. There’s a depth to her voice that sounds like 300 heartbreaks. While it may not have the hype behind it that other female songwriters enjoyed it is nothing short of excellent.

7.Beirut- The Rip Tide

The Rip Tide is Beirut’s most accessible album to date, and his first that focuses on his own town rather than globetrotting through his influences.

The horns are still there, and so is Zach Condon’s unique voice, but this time the songs themselves seem more important than influences. Goshen is a beautiful piano driven ballad, while Santa Fe ventures into electro-pop territory.

6.Girls- Father Son Holy Ghost

Forget logcabins and broken hearts, Christopher Owens has the most interesting back-story of any current indie artist. Growing up in a religious cult, forming a band with Ariel Pink and indulging in a plethora of illicit substances has lead to the creation of some interesting and excellent music.

The album maintains a retro feel but jumps from style to style. Honey Bunny has a garage twinge while the shoegazey Vomit is an album highlight. But what makes the album so great is that Owens’ personality is visible on every track. At times its uncomfortable listening, but more often than not it’s familiar and universal.

5.Okkervil River- I Am Very Far

I Am Very Far is Okkervil River’s first non-concept album in eight years. In the past each of their releases have had similar themes running through them, making their albums a cohesive package that fans can easily spend months obsessing over.

Will Sheff’s lyricism is as strong as ever and the rock and roll lifestyle, broken relationships and metaphors about sailing still manage to find a way in. The sound however is very, very different. With many of the instruments layered in post-production it’s the biggest the band has ever sounded and for once the music is just as important as the words. The only fault of the album is that Mermaid, easily one of the year’s best songs, was cut.

It’s no Black Sheep Boy but with repeated listens it is a very rewarding album.

 

4.The Antlers- Burst Apart

2009’s Hospice was a concept album about cancer, death and strained relationships. It’s was a haunting, sad and beautiful listen that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Burst Apart is the follow-up and while there is no theme, The Antlers show they are just as capable of making brilliant music without one. There may not be as many heart-wrenching tracks and Peter Silberman’s voice sounds a lot stronger, but there is plenty to love. I Don’t Want Love and Putting The Dog to Sleep are must-listens.

3.Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

So you’ve released a highly acclaimed, near flawless debut that almost single-handedly sparked a folk revival. What now?

For The Fleet Foxes the answer was to expand on their sound and take a few risks. And it’s certainly paid off. Helplessness Blues sounds like a band in transition. All of the glorious harmonies and gentle folk that made everyone fall in love the band are still there. Montezuma echoes the insecurities of being young perfectly and Helplessness Blues is the best first single you could hope for. On the other hand, Shrine/An Argument uses aggressive horns and Battery Kinzie sudden end would be out of place on their debut.

But there’s no use comparing really. This is an album that stands up on its own and shows that second albums can be worth the hype.

2.Bon Iver- Bon Iver

In 2009 Justin Vernon’s trip into the woods would become the stuff of legend. For Emma Forever Ago helped nurse countless broken hearts and all of a sudden he became a sensation. He appeared everywhere from a Kanye West album to David Letterman and there was no way his follow-up record could sound anything like For Emma.

Bon Iver has a much fuller sound but Vernon’s falsetto is as haunting as ever. The tracks are less wispy than those on the debut and all of them are sound-outs, even the heavily eighties sounding Beth/Rest. It’s an album that’s as enjoyable on the 50th listen as it is on the first.

1.Sigur Ros

Am I allowed to include live albums on this list? Who knows? But as a release, nothing else from 2011 could match Inni, both in terms of how often it graced my stereo and sheer musical brilliance.

Taken from a film that focuses on a live performance from 2008, all of the songs except one have already been released. In fact for the most part, the track list reads like a best of that spans across most of the band’s albums. The songs lose none of their warmth live and it’s almost unbelievable they can pull a sound like theirs off without studio trickery.

Inni is my album of the year purely because nothing else released was going to be able to sound better than this.

Blood Orange @ NSC 11/01/12

Dev Hynes is something of a musical chameleon. At only 25 he’s tackled thrash punk (Test Icicles), indie pop (Lightspeed Champion) and in his latest musical incarnation Blood Orange, r&b. With its layered grooves and full sound, the thought of him replicating Coastal Grooves in a solo show was enough to bring on at least mild panic. But like all of his other projects, the gig was well and truly a success.

If Fleet Foxes and The Doors had a Radiohead obsessed child, they would sound a lot like openers Tehachapi . The harmonies were strong and the musicianship was good, but at times it felt as though the band are in need of an editor with long instrumental jams taking up too much space in many of their songs. A cover of Radiohead’s Last Flowers to the Hospital was a definite highlight lead by drummer Laura Christoforidis on vocals. They have a lot of potential.

Dev Hynes walks on stage wearing a lot of leather and the stage set up of a laptop, guitar and synth looks strangely bare. However all of that is forgotten once he opened his mouth. That voice. Incredible. Hard to believe that not that long ago he was having vocal surgery and now possesses a falsetto to rival Prince.

Singing over a backing track can easily turn into terrible karaoke, but Hynes used his guitar playing abilities  and crowd interaction to his advantage. The stage never felt empty as he ran between each side of the room, and from the third song in he frequently leapt into the crowd to play a solo or even an entire song.

Lead single Sutphin Boulevard got the biggest reaction of the night while Forget It got everyone dancing. A new song was also trialled at the gig and, it appeared to Dev’s surprise, sounded fantastic. While some of the backing tracks sounded a little thin, it was hard to deny the talent or the quaility of the songs being played on stage.

When the time to end the night came around, the cheers for an encore were met with Hyne’s admission that he didn’t have any more tracks. Instead he packed up his gear while chatting to fans. And what more could you want out of a night than that?

Monday Music News Round-up

My ancient laptop deleted my end of year albums list, so you’ll have to wait a few days until I finish rewriting it/fangirling over Bon Iver.

Until then, I thought I’d share some music news with you.

 

Oh, the ninties

 

AQUA ARE COMING!!

I’ll just let you digest that fact a little bit.

Yep, they still exist and I’m pretty sure they are still terrible.If you want to relive the hilarity of 90’s pop, they are playing a string of Australian dates, however it won’t come cheap, with tickets to the Melbourne show at $60 each. For that price, they had better play Barbie girl at least twice.

Thursday 8th March – HiFi, Brisbane
Friday 9th March – Cooly Hotel, Coolangatta
Sunday 11th March (Adelaide Cup eve) – HQ, Adelaide
Thursday 15th March – Palace, Melbourne
Friday 16th March – HiFi, Sydney
Sunday 18th March – Metropolis, Fremantle

After announcing their beak-up at Meredith, Grinderman are releasing a remix album. However rather than adding phat beats and dubstep, they’re getting the likes of Josh Homme and Matt Berninger of The National to rework the songs.

The tracklisting looks like this:

1 Grinderman / Fripp – Super Heathen Child
2 A Place to Bury Strangers – Worm Tamer
3 Nick Zinner – Bellringer Blues
4 UNKLE – Hyper Worm Tamer
5 Joshua Homme – Mickey Bloody Mouse
6 Cat’s Eyes with Luke Tristram – When My Baby Comes
7 Barry Adamson – Palaces of Montezuma
8 Silver Alert – Evil [ft. Matt Berninger]
9 SixToes – When My Baby Comes
10 Andy Weatherall – Heathen Child
11 Factory Floor – Evil
12 Grinderman – First Evil