Typhoon- Common Sentiments

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Typhoon are masters of drama. All of their tracks bring together the orchestral elements, paranoid lyrics and killer dynamics, like a less wanky Arcade Fire that you don’t hate the members of. 

Their new 7″ Common Sentiments is currently available on bandcamp and I got my copy in the mail. After my parents sitting down to tell me that my latest record delivery was rattling and almost certainly broken, I opened it up to be pleasently surprised by finding 6 badges and a bonus record in the paracel. Not sure if that’s the usual thing they do, but it was awesome.

Both the tracks are great. Common Sentiments is all drama and tension and my god is it captivating. Green is definitely the b-side in this situation with it’s slow-building tempo but it’s a total grower and very different to the Daytrotter version which I also recommend.

Both tracks are from a record coming out this year.

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The Magnetic Fields- Love at the Bottom of the Sea

In 1999 The Magnetic Fields released 69 Love Songs, a triple album that did just what it said on the packet. What was remarkable about this album, aside from its scope, was the witty songwriting, genre hopping and clever use of synths. Over 10 years after its release it is still considered a classic and has the magical ability to make indie fans froth at the mouth.

In the time since 69 Love Songs and Love at the Bottom of the Sea the Magnetic Fields set themselves new sonic challenges. All of the titles on began with that letter and Distortion and Realism saw the band explore lo-fi scuzz and acoustic instruments respectively. While they were all interesting listens, even just for what they said about pop music, they we more miss than hit.

Love at the Bottom of the Sea was billed as a return to form. More synths, a return to Merge records and for the first time in over a decade, no concept tying the songs together. Unfortunately the result is less than triumphant.

For a thirty minute album, it sure feels long. The synths may be back, but they’re applied so liberally that the result is a muddy, confusing mess that ruins perfectly good melodies. It’s hard to resist the urge to rip out your headphones in frustration.

There are signs of what this album could have been. Andrew In Drag is three minutes of pure pop perfection, with lyrics detailing unrequited love for a drag queen who did it as a joke. With cleaner production and a singalong chorus it could easily qualify for love song number 70.

Your Girlfriend’s Face is delightfully vengeful and is reminiscent of Carlifornia Girls from 2008’s distortion. Quick is the most sincere sounding song on the album and features a line about the mating calls of sarcastic sharks, which is everything you could ever want from a Magnetic Fields track.

But on the other hand, you have tracks like I’d go Anywhere With Hugh which tires the moment you get the joke (and chances are you just did) and All She Cares About Is Marachi, a ponderous ode to terrible rhyming. Infatuation (With Your Gyration) sounds like a Depeche Mode parody songs while Machine in Your Hand is about a smartphone. You read that right.

While Magnetic Fields albums are always a mix of throwaway joke tracks and emotional songs that are worthy of more listens, previous albums have had a balance of the two. I wish I could say the same for Love at the Bottom of the Sea. If you’re a fan, the few decent songs are worth a listen or five. But in reality, it’s probably best to put 69 Love Songs on instead.

2011 Meredith Music Festival Review

While I was not originally intending to write about Meredith, since every man and his blog seem to do it, I thought I’d add my contribution anyway. Keep in mind that I was intoxicated and didn’t make gig notes, but you’ll get the general idea.

You know it’s a bad time for festivals when even the Big Day Out is struggling, but none of this seems to be a problem for the organisers of the Meredith Music Festival, who continued their tradition of delivering one of Australia’s best festivals for the twenty-first year.

After leaving for Meredith at 7am, my camp decided that the best way to celebrate the beginning of the festival and ward off lack of sleep would be to drink everything in sight. And seeing that the festival has such an amazing BYO policy, Friday was quite a blur.

King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard kicked off Meredith with a lot of noise and a cover of I Want To Be Your Dog.The set went down well with the newly arrived punters and it was a great way to start the festival. While Cash Savage played moody country that while decent, failed to set the amphitheatre alight.

Kurt Vile and the Violators were once of my most anticipated acts, especially after hearing wonderful things about their sideshows. Unfortunately muddy sound dampened things a little, however all was redeemed by hearing  Baby’s Arms live.

On paper Barbarion seemed like an odd choice for the festival, given the fact that they’re a medieval hair metal band. But the over the top guitar riffs, costumes (including what appeared to be bondage gear) and ridiculous lyrics were just what the festival needed and were an unexpected highlight. The pyrotechnics added another level of awesome to the set with giant flaming axes and flames whenever appropriate, which is always, of course. Their songs ranged from cocaine wenches, to favourite wives, shouting Barbarion repeatedly and axes. It was hard not to spent the rest of the weekend randomly shouting “Put down your sack/ Pick up your axe.”

From our spot in Top Camp Explosions In The Sky sounded great and I heard reports that they got a well deserved booting. My attempts to stay awake for Future of the Left thwarted by falling asleep in a camping chair, but the first few tracks sounded great.

I kicked my Saturday off with a bacon and egg sandwich and the sounds of Oscar +  Martin. The 11am Saturday slot is often regarded as a showcase of the next big things and judging by the eager crowd at the front of the ampitheatre, it seems the organiers chose wisely.

The Rechords bought retro rockabilly to the festival. With just two guitars and a double bass they caused some serious dancing. While it was nothing new, it was highly entertaining.

Deciding to skip Adalita,  Off! and Joelistics after a quick judgement from top camp, we ended up at a cocktail party in Bush Camp. We weren’t sure who was sponsoring it, but watching a guy in a wheelchair hitting a playboy model shaped piñata was one of the more surreal moments of the festival. Luckily he wasn’t hurt when he inevitably fell out.

The dark rock country sounds of Graveyard Train came complete with  members playing the ball and chain and the washboard, a clear sign of how country a band really is. Having wowed audiences at Golden Plains it was great to see them higher on the bill, and it was clear most people felt the same and dozens of boots made their way into the air. It’s a mean feat for a band to sound sinister in the bright afternoon sun, but they pulled it off perfectly.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears would probably have received he boot if Graveyard Train didn’t get in early. Every year Aunty adds relatively unknown bands to the line-up and this time she picked a winner. Described as a rock band with horns, they were exactly that and at 6:30 on a Saturday, who could ask for any more.

Icehouse are a strange choice of nostalgia act. Sitting in that awkward space between being legends and completely daggy they seemed to leave a large amount of the crowd underwhelmed. That’s not to say that their set was sub-standard, as hit likes We Can Get Together and Great Southern Land could have easily have come from a slightly cheesy album recorded this year. But coming before Cut Copy, it meant that most of crowd just weren’t in the mood. However it sounded good from the Meredith Eye, so that’s a plus.

There’s no denying Cut Copy are a great festival act, and now with three albums of crowd pleasers under their belt they were sounding better than ever. So Haunted and Need You Now got great responses but it was Lights and Music that really got things going with the threatening rain finally reaching the festival, seeming to encourage even crazier behaviour among the animal costumes and genral debauchery.

Nick Cave is a hero for many and even seeing him in the flesh was enough for most people in the amphitheatre. Little did we know at the time we were witnessing what could possibly be  Grinderman’s last ever show. With a silver curtain, red carpet and a million stage lights the band completely owned the stage. Nick Cave looked like a creepy sex-depraved uncle and crawled all over the barrier engaging everyone in the crowd. I sincerely hope nobody was having a bad trip during Kitchenette as the sight of him screeching “I JUST WANT TO RELAX” was frightening enough. No Pussy Blues went off as expected, and Worm Tamer was sufficiently sleazy. And a special mention must be made of Warren Ellis’ majestic beard. Leaving the stage with the words “that’s it for Grinderman, see you all in 10 years when we’ll be older and even uglier” it was hard to know if Cave was joking. Reports suggest he wasn’t.

The lunar eclipse was hidden by cloud but that didn’t stop Angus Sampson from getting up in a cherry picker and causing a mass sing-a-long to the national anthem of the moon, Total Eclipse of the Heart, before showering everyone in confetti.

The Juan Pablo Family Hour just turned out to be Yacht Club. Lame.

Big Freedia on the other hand was something else completely. Specialising in New Orleans bounce music, he/she gathered 10 or so scantily clad ladies to shake their asses on stage. It was a sight to behold at 2am and it seemed we all shared a look of confusion and amazement. Musically, there wasn’t a lot going on, but it’s hard not to get tracks like Azz Everywhere stuck in your head.

Silence Wedge were awesome.

Sunday started out with Master Song’s Tai Chi. Joining the other hungover bodies (as well as some bodies drinking goon at 9am) we stumbled our way through the exercises and tried not to laugh when the soundtrack gave out.

Eagle and The Worm sounded fantastic, especially after all of the reports from my friends of how terrible they are live. Catchy pop with horns was almost enough to make us forgot about the impending drive home and that Meredith weekend is a sometimes weekend.

We couldn’t see much of the gift but Denis Commeti’s commentary was spot on as he showed massive favouritism, encouraged a fight between naked girls and was just the right amount of sleazy.

The best thing about Meredith wasn’t just the carefully crafted line-up or the egg and bacon Sandwiches. It’s that the organisers have created a festival that encourages new and random traditions, and attracts the kind of people that are happy to see men dressed as dogs do beer bongs at 9am, yet frown upon dick heads. There’s less pretension, friendlier security and more couches than any other festival I’ve been to. Which is exactly why it has lived on to its 21st year. Bring on Golden Plains!

Anton Franc EP

With so many artists mixing folk and electronica, it takes a special kind of band to stand out from the crowd. Western Australia’s Anton Franc are certainly up to the task.

Recorded in basements and bedrooms in the Kimberly, their debut EP balances just the right amount of warmth with haunting isolation, resulting in a rewarding and memorable listen.

Lead single Letting Go came out of a failed fishing adventure. It was nominated for WAM song of the year contest in 2010, as well as featuring in two European advertising campaigns and it’s easy to hear why. The slow build-up and delicate electronics work to create a song that is highly memorable and possibly one of the best tracks of the year.

Other songs such as Jessy combine world music influences with standard indie, resulting in an interesting take on a well-trodden genre. Lady of the Night is atmospheric with unexpected harmonies. Despite the slower tempo it feels much shorter than it really is, which if anything, is a sign of a good song.

EP closer Memo was also nominated for WAM song of the year, in the love category. The song is well and truly bittersweet, with the most noticeable electronic elements on the entire EP. Like Letting Go it shines above most of the current indie fare and deserves plenty more attention.

The one flaw in the EP is opener Oh, Darling which doesn’t sit well with the other tracks. While the instrumentation is interesting and it is undeniably catchy, the tongue in cheek lyrics fall a bit flat compared to the rest of the record. But then again, considering this is a debut EP, it still lives up to even the highest of expectations.

There’s no doubt Jaimie Kuzich and James Bowyer, the pair behind the music have great things ahead of them. The Anton Franc EP could put many more established bands to shame and is a definite must-buy.

9/10

 

Pulp @ Festival Hall 29/07/11

While we didn’t get to meet up in the year 2000, Pulp’s reunion show at Festival Hall was well worth the wait.

Bells Will Ring knew all too well who everyone was there to see and seemed apologetic they were up on stage. While there jangly indie was pleasant it was also largely forgettable. In a smaller venue, in different circumstances they could be fantastic, but it felt like they weren’t trying hard enough to keep the audience’s attention.

This, however was not a problem Pulp had. In fact the moment roadies started to set up, anticipation had began to build within the almost capacity crowd. A sheer curtain did very little to hide the giant neon sign on stage, nor the screen made to look like a fireplace. Green laser writing which varied from the predictable “Hello Melbourne” to the ridiculous and brilliant swimming dolphin was the first sign that we were going to be in for a hell of a show.

From the opening notes of Do You Remember The First Time it was clear this was no ordinary reunion show. The band played as if they had to win the crowd over all over again and there was no sign of the mediocrity we’ve come to associate with this type of tour.

Jarvis Cocker is every bit the unlikely sex symbol he was 13 years ago, with every hip thrust causing the kind of swooning you’d be likely to see at the height of Beatlemania. With the rest of the band hovering towards the back of the stage, he threw chocolate to the audience, passed around champagne and danced like the world’s coolest creepy uncle. Joyriders and Bad Cover Version started things off well but it wasn’t until Disco 2000 provided a mid-set sing along that crowd really got moving. Sorted For Es and Wizz was the perfect comedown song, even if the rave culture it was inspired by was left in nineties.

Pulp have always been the thinking-person’s Britpop band and tracks such as This Is Hardcore and the highly underrated Sunrise hold up as well at they did over a decade ago. The Different Class heavy set still sounded relevant even though most of the crowd were no longer young and poor.

I Spy is still as sinister as it was 13 years ago and we were more than happy to relive the first time Jarvis Cocker encounter a walk-in-wardrobe with Babies. The arrival of Common People signaled the end of the nearly two-hour set and Bridezilla’s Daisy Tully joined the band to play Russel Senior’s violin part (he was the only member not to make the Australian leg of the tour). It felt surreal to hear such an iconic song live and as predicted, it went off.

After a very short break, the band came back on stage to play what could be their final three songs in Melbourne. Party Hard got the crowd moving again and it was great to see This Is Hardcore era tracks get an airing in a Different Class heavy set. The rarely played Like A Friend was a surprise inclusion and pleased many of the die-hard Pulp fans. The moment we all knew had come arrived with Mis-shapes, the perfect closer to a near perfect set.

I can honestly saw it was one of the best, if not the best gig I have ever been to. Although the sound was too bass-heavy and the venue was more of a barn than anything ( Festival Hall really need to get their shit together), Pulp put on the kind of show that puts most young bands to shame. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 13 years for them to come back.

Georgia Fair @ Southbank 19/05/11

Southbank is usually home to seedy footballers, annoying buskers and restaurants that you can only afford if you take out a second mortgage. But on Thursday night, it became an outdoor music venue, with a performance from Georgia Fair to promote Big M’s Weekender on Wheels competition.

Southbank worked surprisingly well as a music venue. The Big M bus was more than noticeable, however instead of being gimmicky, it felt oddly like sitting in someone’s living room, with the small crowd and heaters creating a cosy environment. And free flavoured milk helps.

The one downside to the event’s location was the aforementioned buskers. Being an acoustic duo, it was east for them to get drowned out by a persistent saxophonist but underneath the woodwind, the band sounded great. Their newest single Marianne sounded just as good without Boy and Bear or Lisa Mitchell and Picture Frames held its reputation as the perfect milk-drinking song.

Georgia Fair are playing a free in store at Pure Pop on the 29th May. They’ve also announced a tour with Daniel Lee Kendall, which will be all kinds of amazing.

WEDNESDAY 15 JUNE – OTIS BAR, WOLLONGONG
THURSDAY 16 JUNE – NOTES, SYDNEY
FRIDAY 17 JUNE – BRASS MONKEY, CRONULLA
SATURDAY 18 JUNE – THE LOFT, NEWCASTLE (ALL AGES)
THURSDAY 30 JUNE – RIC’S BAR, BRISBANE
SATURDAY 02 JULY – THE LOFT, GOLD COAST
SUNDAY 03 JULY – RAILWAY FRIENDLY BAR, BYRON BAY
WEDNESDAY 06 JULY – FRONT GALLERY & CAFE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY 13 JULY – THE TOFF IN TOWN, MELBOURNE

The Weekender on Wheels competition runs for a few more weeks and the bus can be seen at few Melbourne locations over the next week.
Tuesday 24th May – Swinbourne University – 10am – 4pm
• Friday 27th May – Queensbridge Square – 8am – 2pm
• Sunday 29th May – Southern Cross Station (football) – 12pm – 6pm

Okkervil River- I Am Very Far

Okkervil River’s music has always been on the darker side of the indie rock spectrum and their sixth album I Am Very Far is their least accessible to date. Recorded in short bursts and then produced, mixed and tweaked obsessively by frontman Will Sheff, the result is bigger sound that comes at the expense of the catchy hooks that made the band indie favourites.

That said, the album features some of Will Sheff’s best songwriting and although this is not a concept album like the past four releases from the band, he still paints intriguing pictures of desperate characters.

Album opener The Valley is the biggest sounding song they’ve released, with layered drums and keys creating the perfect backdrop to the ‘rock & roll dead’ he has spent over the last decade singing about.Wake and be Fine is the closest the album comes to their previous effort The Stand-Ins and contains just the right amount of swagger but pales in comparison to the wall of sound contained on the previous tracks.

Rider is the catchiest song on the album and has a stadium like quality and is a brief glimpse of optimism in an otherwise dense release. The desperate staccato of White Summer Waltz on the other hand, echos the Arcade Fire yet it’s intensity is lost when heard within the album.

The gentle waltz of Hanging From a Hit provides a welcome relief from the album’s big production and allows greater focus on the lyrics. The added touch of a trumpet solo among the tinkling keys shows the band are most effective when they’re not hiding behind theatrics. Your Past Life Was A Blast is the poppiest track on the record and is one of the few times it doesn’t sound like Will Sheff is in the middle of a mental breakdown.

Overall, I Am Very Far is a draining listen. While Okkervil River were never a carefree band, the album is almost drowned in its own heaviness. The lyrics are fantastic as always and many of the songs are sure to please fans,  but there’s a certain spark that seems to be missing from the record. Here’s hoping it comes back on the next release.

7.5/10