Splendour Sideshows

Splendour in the Grass sold out in 42 minutes this year. And while most of the exciting bands (well, pretty much all of them really) were only playing the festival, some of the bands further down the poster announced sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne.

My personal picks for sideshows are The Shins (tickets went on sale today), former Fleet Fox Father John Misty and Youth Lagoon who was here only a few months ago.

All tickets are on sale at 9am on May 4.

The Afghan Whigs Splendour sideshows:
Wednesday July 25th – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Thursday July 26th – The Factory Theatre, Sydney

Band Of Skulls Splendour sideshows:
Thursday July 26th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Friday July 27th – The Factory Theatre, Sydney

Michael Kiwanuka Splendour sideshows with Ben Howard:
Tuesday July 24th – The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday July 25th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Django Django Splendour sideshows with The Cast Of Cheers:
Tuesday July 31st – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Wednesday August 1st – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Howler Splendour sideshows with Zulu Winter:
Tuesday July 24th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Wednesday July 25th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Friends Splendour sideshows:
Wednesday July 25th – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Thursday July 26th – The Standard, Sydney

Electric Guest SPlendour sideshows:
Tuesday July 31st – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Wednesday August 1st – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne

Father John Misty Splendour sideshows:
Friday July 27th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday July 28th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Youth Lagoon Splendour sideshows:
Saturday July 28th – The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Sunday July 29th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

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.

First Aid Kit sideshows

Ridiculously talented Swedish sisters, First Aid Kit will be returning to Australia in March.

The band will be down here for Golden Plains but will also play shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

If their history is anything to go by, this might be the last time we get to see them in such intimate venues. With a Fleet Foxes cover that has over 2,000,000 views on youtube (take that Bieber), an impressive debut album and the ability to move Patti Smith to tears, these girls have massive things ahead of them.

They will also be releasing their second album The Lion’s Roar on the 27th of January.

Their Australian dates are:

Wednesday 14th March – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Thursday 15th March – The Standard, Sydney
Friday 16th March – The Zoo, Brisbane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleet Foxes auction off new album and unveil new track

After a natural disaster strikes, we often see musicians helping out. Whether it’s the Foo Fighters playing a show in Christchurch, Powderfinger releasing a B-side or Bono putting his face on every charity campaign he can find.

Fleet Foxes are the latest band to help charity. The band have placed a test vinyl pressing of their second album Helplessness Blues on ebay, with all money going to the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief fund.

The album isn’t released until May 3 and to say it’s highly anticipated would be an understatement. There are just over 5 days left of bidding, and the total is  already $2,125.

Speaking of Fleet Foxes, a new song from Helplessness Blues has been released on British radio. Titled Battery Kinzie, it is everything you would expect from a Fleet Foxes song. Simply stunning.

 

Tuesday Covers 29/12/09

I hope all your livers are recovering well from the holidays.

This will be the last Tuesday covers segment for this year and the entire decade (bring on 2010 and not being 17) and I have a few exciting things to post for you today.

I also hope to have a best-of list up sometime this week, or early next year. I got a bunch of CDs for Christmas and want to give them time to sink in before I go list making.

When I was younger, my dad used tp play Darkside of the Moon in the car. At the time I was living on a steady diet of Kylie Minogue and manufactured pop groups and  while I would like to be able to say that it changed my life and I spent the rest of my childhood listening to classic rock, the truth is that I thought it was weird old music. There was however, one song that I didn’t mind so much  and that was Money. I think it was because it was the closest thing to a pop song and I remember looking forward to hearing it on long drives.

Today I have two covers of Money for you.

The first is from The Flaming Lips. This isn’t a live cover that a die-hard fan has recorded and posted on the internet or even a cover done for a radio station. This is a studio version that was recorded as part of the band’s cover of the entire Darkside of the Moon album, which I think is now available on itunes. Enjoy.

The Flaming Lips-Money.mp3

The other cover of Money I have for you was released a few years ago and is by The Easy All Stars who cover classic albums in the style of reggae. My personal favourite of these albums is Radiodread a cover of Radiohead’s Ok Computer, however Dub Side of the Moon is still an interesting listen, even if you aren’t a reggae fan. And it is fun to see how many puns they can come up with for album titles.

Easy All Stars-Money.mp3

I’m sure most of you would be familiar with the Magnetic Fields and their 69 Love Songs album. For those of you who don’t know, The Magnetic Fields recorded a triple album made up of 69 songs about love and love songs. Of course, having Stephen Merrit as the main songwriter meant the songs were generally sad, bitter or witty rather than sappy. Which is definetly a good thing.

As you can imagine, having such a large number of songs, most of them pretty good, has led to a number of covers. This one is a cover of Book of Love by Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes, who are pretty much responsable for making folk music cool again.

Robin Pecknold-Book of Love.mp3