Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011 End-of-Year Celebrations: Artists' Best Of 2011

There's been so much great music this year that there was no way that AMR was going to get to all of it, so what better way to represent the broader spectrum of the year's sounds than by asking the great artists who make it? Reaching out to a bunch of cool people/acts/shakers and makers, the Rant simply asked what their picks for 2011 were. Here are their respsones -  in vaguely alphabetical order
Melbourne's Alpine are as fresh as the snow that caps those same mountain ranges, their axeman Christian (second from left) chooses his top 5 tracks of 2011. 
Grouplove - Colours
"I heard this track in the van on our way to a show and it was the most perfect song for how brightly the sun was shining that day. They played after us at Splendour In The Grass, and they were incredible. They’re like a combination of Pixies and Modest Mouse, but with better diets."
Radiohead - Lotus Flower
"I actually saw the parody of this video before I saw the real one. I loved this track so much. Thom Yorke has the best falsetto ever, and it’s so cool to have an entire song that sits in that range again."
Lana Del Rey - Video Games
"This song is incredibly cool, its over the top orchestration, the pouting and how it just plods along and repeats that amazing chorus over and over. Love. Real love."
Kimbra - Cameo Lover
"I had to work out how to play this song for a student recently and it is an incredibly intricate, well-written bunch of chords. We love Kimbra. She’s going to take over the world."
Jay-Z & Kanye West - Lift Off (feat. Beyoncé)
"This song is so cool and it's in 6/4! I can't think of a hit in 6/4 since Sheryl Crow's Strong Enough. Great Song."

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 End-of-Year Celebrations: The Good, The Bad & The James Blunt Awards

The moment the true AMR fan waits all year for, it's the 5th Annual GB&JB ceremony. As is usual with this kind of list there's some serious awards for artistic achievements and some serious satire for the contrary, there's some old categorical favourites, there's some new ones, and there's a lot to read.
So don your best digital frock or tux, kit up in your best musical acumen, 'cause it's time to toast to 2011.
BEST ALBUM TITLE
  Spank Rock - Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is A Fucking Liar
Not particularly clever, granted, but you have to admit the electro-rap duo have some balls to brand their sophomore effort with such a bold name. It does sound a bit like the tantrum of an underpreciated indie outfit, but you have to give props for its humour; plus I like imagining their label trying to convice them to change or soften the title. Shame then that the F bomb got censored, nevertheless it says a lot about the shallowing of today's industry, even if its with the bluntest of words.
Runners Up: British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall
Grouplove - Never Trust A Happy Song

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 End of Year Celebrations: The Best (and Worst) Album Art

As is now AMR annual tradition, we kick off the end-of-year celebrations with a gallery of the year's artwork, which like the music it is accompanying, continues to evolve... or in some cases devolve.
As the industry edges closer and closer to digital distribtuion, the record sleeve is becoming more and more a package, one by which too many use to quickly judge its contents. Unfortunately this has meant an increase in the correlation between indistinct or rushed covers, but what's the point of working so hard on all that great music if you're not going to present in a way that validates it. Good album art should be something you want to look at beyond the confines of your iPod, but in some cases, maybe its best that it remains to reside there...

THE GOOD
Cults - Cults
A deceptively simple photograph that captures the pair of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion in a state of 'rocking out.' Its classic feel ensured by the grainy black and white, and in capturing a pure energetic state so many music lovers are familiar with, its conveyed kineticism captured in a perfectly frozen moment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011's Out. For. Ever!

So, we're about to get into the craziness that is the AMR end-of-year festivities, but before we do, I'd like to show you all a comprehensive list of all the EPs and albums I've listened to (in full) over the past twelve months. As in previous years its desinged both as a digtal reminder and database for myself, on top of that it should also act as both an an indulgent way to show off my credentials; as well as give you some insight into the sheer volume of proper listening that goes into the forthcoming awards, thoughts and musings.
In retrospect going through this list, it makes me realise how much I HAVEN'T covered, for instance there are no physical reviews to show for some of my favourite acts such as Big Scary, Wilco or my beloved Steven Wilson. I could say in my defense I was too busy listening to them (entirely true), but the realisation is that the limitations of a blog one by just one person means you can't cover absolutley everything (particularly when that person is working a forty-hour a week full-time job that has nothing to do with music).
There's also links to previous posts, reviews and articles that are related to these recordings before they're divvied up for humourous ceremony (The Good, The Bad & The James Blunt) and then finally into a definitive Top 20 Albums of the Year ('cause that's how we do things round here). So *deep breath*...

EPS
Alex Turner - Submarine
Childish Gambino - EP 
Cynic - Carbon-Based Anatomy
Emperors - Sam
Further Earth - Kingdom
Guineafowl - Hello Anxiety
The Hidden Venture - Baldessin Sessions II
Hudson Mohawke - Satin Panthers 
RAC - Vol. 2
Okkervil River - Golden Opportunities 2
Oliver Tank - Dreams
Olympic Ayres - EP
San Cisco - Golden Revolver 
Sekap Sempurna - Sekap Sempurna
Snakadaktal - Snakadaktal
Tessa and the Typecast - Lemons
Tokimonsta - Creature Dreams
Xenograft - Exit

Review: TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light

Another review from triple j magazine, this time the lead review on TVOTR's fourth LP

TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
Has it really been three years since the all-conquering urgency of DearScience? Its contents championed by the blogosphere, beloved by purveyors of intelligent music and in turn built substantial anticipation for its follow-up. During that down-time, side-projects emerged to sate the faithful that – although serviceable – couldn’t hide what they were: fragmented parts of a greater whole. In particular, multi-intstrumentalist/production linchpin Dave Sitek’s Maximum Balloon, which sounded like TVOTR only with a turnstile of guest vocalists.
It’s with relief and open arms then, that after Tunde Adebimpe’s leisurely half-spoken opening on Second Song, that the Brooklynites instinctively click into a spirited pulse encouraged by Kyp Malone’s wiry guitars and some dishy horns.

Album review dump

Here's a lil' collection of some of the short 'n' sweets that graced the reviews pages of triple j magazine over the course of the year, have a nibble.

Richard In Your Mind - Sun (Rice Is Nice)
Following swiftly on from the acid-washed playground of last year's My Volcano, our nation’s very own underground Flaming Lips (is that an oxymoron?) deliver their third set of kaleidoscopic pop. Sounding less daring, but more confident, Sun delivers a set of hazy tunes threaded with a borderline-obsession with the titular gas giant. Cuts like Mountainhead, lead single Vision and the ironically cheery She Took The Sun Away trade their sample-based brand of organised chaos for mellower moods without sacrificing the psychedelic pop saturation that defines their appeal.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: The Trouble With Templeton - Bleeders

The Trouble With Templeton - Bleeders (Tiny Monster)
It seems that musical prodigies are almost de rigueur in the Australian music landscape these days, thanks to the spotlighting of the likes of triple j Unearthed and their focus on young, unsigned talent –there’s a fair few musical kids out there whose talent outstrips their years.
That being said, how many can you name who, at the ripe age of twenty one, are delivering chilling troubadour ruminations worthy of the UK’s rich folk heritage? Enter one Thomas Calder, operating under the Twilight Zone name-checking The Trouble With Templeton. Despite hailing from the typically sunny Brisbane, his sincere grain and earnest guitar-plucking are closer to a chilly English sensibility of moody folk.

Review: They Might Be Giants - Join Us

They Might Be Giants - Join Us (Idlewild)
They Might Be Giants, or TMBG to their friends, are perhaps pop music’s most well-known cult act. They’ve been running unimpeded for three decades now, under no-one’s creative demands but their own, producing an overwhelmingly prolific body of work in the process. A prodigious history that includes fifteen(!) studio records, at least three children’s albums, and one very catchy TV theme tune (Malcolm In The Middle trivia fans); and yet, as treasured as they are to their fans they equally are an alternative musical cornerstone that many remain blissfully unaware of.
Join Us, the group’s first ‘serious’ album since 2007’s The Else, makes no concessions to the uninitiated. It’s a product clearly tilted towards the converted, adding another eighteen tracks to the group’s already heaving back-catalogue, but at its heart it may well be the band’s most all-encompassing and accessible set since the turn of the decade. 

Review: Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

Youth Lagoon - The Year Of Hibernation (Fat Possum)
If you’re looking for a simple way to grade your enjoyment of Youth Lagoon, it’s in direct correlation to how much you flinch at the label ‘dream pop.’ Nothing? Ok, how about ‘chillwave?’
Make no mistake, a glance at the musical heritage of Trevor Powers – the man behind the moniker – reads no differently from the recent swathe of lone Americans producing warm pop from the lo-fi confines of their bedrooms. Not such a surprise, the clue’s in the title. But even for those who struggle to distinguish Washed Out from Active Child, The Year Of Hibernation represents an accessible entry point to a genre filled with intimate rewards.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Whatever Happened To Quindon Tarver?

For all the discussion surrounding the way iTunes has forever changed, perhaps fractured, the common listening experience for better or worse; there is one unparalleled activity it has pioneered: that of shuffling one’s music library. The unique thrill of hearing a random curio that has lain unheard in your digital collection for an age, or even discovering something you weren’t even sure was there. There’s obviously a correlation between the size of a music library (some 107 days and 200GB of it, if you’re asking) and what of that amount is entirely skippable, but on those moments when the right song comes bursting through the speakers at the right time, it feels like serendipity... albeit encouraged serendipity.

I had just one such moment recently when performing an extensive clear-out of my room and the darkest recesses of my closet, with its shameful evidence of my romanticised hoarding. It was at the precise moment I was tossing up whether to dispose of some long-forgotten birthday cards or old love letters that Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) began playing. 

To say that it was the right song at the right time was a bit of an understatement, without going too deeply into the murky waters of personal problems, I’d  been going through some shit lately and its ‘personal advice as mellow song’ resonated hugely with me. There was of course, that funny nostalgic feeling one gets from hearing a song you haven’t heard in an age, that intangible feeling of dusting off the contours of something that surprisingly still fits so perfectly. I recall hearing it on triple j, then later on repeat on the fifth volume of their  Hottest 100 compilations (the year No Aphrodisiac topped the poll). Despite the various versions available, this particular one is the seven minute plus version, distinguished by its opening “Ladies and gentleman of the class of ’97.” There on my bedroom floor, amongst a pile of junk and debris, hearing those numbers sounded out struck me instantly. I would have been merely a ripe thirteen years old, and despite my steady sonic diet of skate punk, slacker rock and compilations just like this one; I remember how the song stuck out to me in its own odd way. Jump to fourteen years on, and its sentimental advice struck a chord in a way that the adolescent me almost fobbed off as not being possible.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The A/V Room: December

Video time, and no, don't worry - we're not going to inject your usual dose of quality music videos with some sort of Christmas related nonsense, just all the recent clips that are worth your peepers, and hey, they may just be some of the best this year.
Enjoy:

Fleet Foxes - The Shrine/An Argument (dir: Sean Pecknold)
One of the best tracks from one of the best albums of the year deserves not a good video, but one of the best. Sean (brother of band leader Robin) Pecknold delivers just that, in a beautifully rendered showcase of handcrafted animation with a mysterious, rustic atmosphere and rich, enigmatic characters. The visual matches to the soundtrack are brilliant and the lasting impact is that you've just beared witness to a stunning piece of art. Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps the most artsy video of the year. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Mastodon - The Hunter

Mastodon - The Hunter (Warner Bros.)
Having transcended their origins as a cult act into leaders and innovators of heavy rock with 2009’s brilliant Crack The Skye (one of that year's best according to moi), Atlanta, Georgia’s Mastodon were faced with a difficult proposition. Where does a metal band go after delivering a critically vindicated masterpiece about astral projecting Russian tsars and mind-bending, dimension-hopping? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking the hyper out of hyperactive, and putting the chill in child.

I really must apologise for that title, you see at AMR I've always tried to avoid standard bearing headers. Probably always to the detriment of topping search engines and for people browsing for simplicity's sake - but there you go. Anyway, the true curdling nature of that title is only clear if we know what we're talking about, and what are we talking about!?

Active Child. The musical banner for Los Angelean Pat Grossi, who took his upbringing with choirs and playing the harp and made into some very nice, chilled electronic sounds that feature... choirs and playing the harp. Of course!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

An edited version of the following was syndicated with Beat magazine, but for all you AMR purists - here's the director's cut:
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (Parlophone)
The difficulty with reviewing Coldplay’s latest, is that it’s going to be rendered important or successful by the sheer size of their audience. They have, to their credit, remained hugely popular for a decade now; but despite attaining global ubiquity they’ve yet to really shake things up in the way their forebears Radiohead, R.E.M. and U2 have. All have managed, in their own culturally impacting careers, to straddle the fine line between commercial success and critical irreverence; but Coldplay have yet to ‘do a Kid A’ so to speak, let alone make their own Up or even an Achtung Baby; though 2008’s Viva La Vida came close, produced as it was by Brian Eno. His provocative methods did marvellous things for Bowie and the aforementioned U2, and they seemed to challenge Coldplay to deliver what was the group’s most eclectic and intriguing set yet. So with Eno back on board for Mylo Xyloto you’d expect more winning trips outside of their comfort zone, but for all intents and purposes, it suffers from a bad case of sequelitis. Despite its adventurous title, and even the promising digital EP that preceded it, Coldplay’s sixth studio album is a safe affair, void of the risks and rewards of its predecessor.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Sour Mash)
While I haven’t taken the time to investigate Beady Eye, the other half of the Oasis split, and while it would be too didactic to simply call Noel ‘the good guy’; he always seemed – musically at least – a far more interesting character than Liam. After all, he was the chief songwriter for the large majority of Oasis’ back catalogue. The man whose alchemy was in taking a simple set of chords and binding them to an everyman appeal that struck the hearts and minds of a generation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The UK Adventures of [ME]

You may know the story, excellent local band sets off to foreign shores seeking fame and glory.
While many bands find success by touring our not unsizeable nation relentlessly, earning tags like 'hard-working' or 'live instituion,' there are many more who find Australian acceptance by first 'making' it overseas. Think of talents like Lisa Mitchell, Sarah Blasko who blossomed from their journeys in London and America respectively, or the old big in America - big at home idiom that beset INXS and Silverchair. It's a strange thing, but one that many burgeoning bands must face.
In fact, in my talks with bands like Alpine and Big Scary they touched on the limitations of touring Australia, and more specifically with Kins' trek to the UK to record, whose own Thomas Savage put it best: "big landmass, not many people."
Which brings us to [ME]...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders: Live @ The Corner

Another live review sydnicated with/from/in black sorcerous union with Everguide - your local, brilliant events guide who handily compile great gig listings, like this one...

After fawning over their sophisticated arrangements and inventive sonics for some time now, last friday afforded me the first opportunity to see Sydney experimental outfit Ghoul in concert. Supporting Jack Ladder and The Dreamlanders in a sensational double-bill, they played few recognisable cuts from mini-lp Dunks but nevertheless impressed, with their delicate balance of electronic abstractions with blooming, organic songwrting.
If the swathe of new material they played was any indication, things are boding well for their highly-anticipated debut album. Brooding subs meet looping guitars while drummer Pavle Vizintin kept things apace with some deceptively complex rhtyhms over both live and sampled beats. Meanwhile brother Ivan Vizintin's characteristically haunting croon (part-Antony Hegarty part-Wild Beasts' Tom Fleming) kept the human element alive; even joking at one point that their unofficial fifth member - a laptop - 'helps keeps us in time." Can't wait to see what Ghoul do with the canvas of a full album, given their exciting palette, though their live show lacks a visual focus or a dynamic peak - their music is marvel enough to ensure them as a must-see.

Departing the stage, the strains of Bowie’s peak Eno/Berlin period, aka Low, began humming through the room, acting as a terrific mood-setter for the evening as well as marking a smooth transition to the steady throb of Beautiful Sound’s opening.  Flanked by his latest sidemen - The Dreamlanders, their line-up augmented by Andrew Hannaford (on loan from Ghoul) - and bathed in blue light was the man himself, Mr. Jack Ladder. Looking, and often, sounding like an outcast from a Tom Waits song, he commanded a curious presence through his wafting theatrics, as if in a trance, and more-so with his rich baritone.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy - SUPER EDITION

Remember that quote from Wes Bentley in American Beauty? The one about there being too much beauty in the world in the world and he can't take it? Well I feel like that at the moment, only replace the word 'beauty' with 'music' and the floating plastic bag with a wealth of amazing new tunes.
I guess first and foremost though, I should be plugging this:

Fellow lovers and loathers of music, my latest comedy show based on this very blog is already in full swing as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2011. That's the cheeky show poster up there and essentially it's a whole new hour of music based hilarity to capitalise the momentum of my comic debut, my Difficult 2nd Album in every sense of the word.

You can book tickets and find more dates and deets here:

If you need some convincing, there's already some reviews of the show available.

So come on down to The Glasshouse from this Thurs 29 - Sun 2 or next week from Thurs 6 to Sat 8 to catch some cutting musical analysis, some crazy character work and a whole bunch of powerpoints.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's The End Of R.E.M. As We Know It...

Listen close. Hear that? It’s the sound of a million montages using Everybody Hurts being constructed... with equally pun-tastic titles like Losing My R.E.M., The R.E.M. Sleeps Tonite, What’s The Frequency, R.E.M.?, How The West Was Won And Where It Got R.E.M. and so on and so on… and the less said about the Peter Buck airline 'yoghurtincident' said, the better…

All jokes aside, it’s saddening to hear that such a highly-respected group are bowing out of an industry that long needed them as a vanguard of how to ‘make it’ without compromising. Today sees one of the cornerstones of indie rock removed. When I heard the news of R.E.M.’s decision to split, I did what any self-respecting muso would do – I returned to the music. Chucking their discography on shuffle, the first cut was the opening track from 2008’s Accelerate - a personal favourite - Living Well Is The Best Revenge, it seems a fitting enough epitaph. 

For R.E.M. lived well indeed, by a criteria that many envied but struggled in vain to replicate. Quickly achieving what most bands spend their entire lives striving to attain: commercial success balanced with a well-respected artistic integrity. Both of which they managed to consistently maintain over an astonishing 31 years. Each decade roughly representing three distinct phases in the band’s career.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

AMR and Kimbra re-united

Well Vows releases nationally today, and I'm assuming you've already headed to your local record store and picked up a copy; or you could just download one of the editions available on iTunes from the comfort of your net cave. Either way, to celebrate its release, here's an interview I conducted with Kimbra a couple months ago in the lead-up to its release in which we discussed its long gestation, her writing process and some of the records themes. Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

  • Fronting headlines is some very exciting news from triple j, who are taking the plunge into digital radio with a brand new station dedicated entirely to new Australian music. Taking triple j Unearthed to the airwaves streaming fresh, unsigned bands 24hrs a day, seven days a week on the digital radio band. Though their launch event last night was gracefully short and to the point, it was confirmed the station will go live from Wed 5 Oct with simulataneous live events running across five capital cities around the nation. This is obviously a huge milestone in the station's career, and I for one am very, very excited. You can watch some lovely videos and get more info at the triple j website (via triple j)
 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Let's make our Vows

Unless you're lacking in eyes and ears you must have heard of Kimbra by now, not least in the fact that her guest spot on Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know is currently gracing the top of the charts, but this is a special post about her ladies and gentleman. It's been three-and-a-half years in the making, and AMR has been waiting patiently to hear the finished results of her highly-anticipated debut album and come September 2nd, you too can hear it in a variety of formats. (Would you like the iTunes Deluxe version madame? or perhaps the autographed, postcard set?). For now, here is the post I've been watiting to write since I first heard Settle Down, my beefy review of Vows.

Kimbra - Vows (WarnerMusic, 2011)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

'Mon The Biff


Biffy Clyro - Revolutions // Live At Wembley (WB/14th Floor, 2011)
It’s easy to imagine rock titans like Foo Fighters and Muse selling out the gargantuan Wembley Stadium, but it’s a considerably impressive mark of their boon in popularity that the Scottish misfits, who were the support act for both, have achieved the same feat. Biffy Clyro have worked harder than most to fill that arena, their underdog story climaxing back when they broke out of the alt-rock ghetto with Puzzle in 2005. Having altogether shed the wiry eccentricities of their earlier material for leaner and more focussed work without obscuring their fiery energy or fans, an army of followers under the banner cry of: “mon the Biff”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

  • Topping headlines is AMR's favourie Melbourne duo Big Scary revealing details of their impossibly anticipated debut. Pull out your permanent makers and personal devices and mark a big red cirlce on Friday October 7, as that's when Vacation will be released, on the band's newly formed Pieater label. The press release describes how it "touches on slowly losing touch with any known constants - friends, lovers, permanent accomadtion and jobs." We've already heard the scales-tastic Mix Tape (may I point you once again to the Alice Dupre-directed video" but the next single to be lifted from the album will be Gladiator - you can read about both in AMR's 'Biggest, Scariest Interiew Yet.' Have a squizz at the William H. Luke cover art below (via Big Scary twitter)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The A/V Room: August

The reason this comes so hot on the heels of the July edition of The A/V Room, is that most of these videos are clips I didn't have room to feature last time, so here they are with their own little feature. Also, if you happen to be on facebook (which is highly likely if you have an internet connection) then may i suggest you 'like' the brand-spanking new Al's Music Rant page? If you look just to the right you'll see the widget to do so, or through your usual social media conventions as well. Lovely.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Young The Giant/Grouplove - Live @ The Corner

The lovely peeps over at everguide, a brilliant local events guide, have seen fit to publish the first half of the following review.
You can read up on Young The Giant here, then check out their page for gigs and listings in their lil' calendar format. Ace.
 
A Tuesday night is never a good night for a rock gig, but this post-Splendour double bill managed to pull a willing crowd thanks to the draw of getting two American buzz bands for the price of one.

First up, Californian outfit Young The Giant.
Starting with swelling chords and a slow-motion preamble of the doo-wop chorus, the group rattle into the lovely I Got. Opening with what is perhaps their most accomplished track from their eponymous debut is a bit of a gamble, but it does introduce the band’s strongest asset: vocalist Sameer Gadhia. With his gentle vibrato and delicate characterisation, his voice is brimming with affectation. A dual mic set-up sees him swapping restlessly between a standard mouthpiece and a classy fifties styled one with added reverb, even removing its head from the stand for St. Walker to give it the full crooner effect.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The A/V Room: July

So I've decided to make The A/V Room a semi-regular thing now, sort of like Wrangling The Heard but with visuals, let's not make a big deal of it...
I mean, I've often grumbled about the frivolities of the music video (notably here and here AMR fans), and while I still maintain that 90% of the time they're dull and boring - like this awful promo for Bon Iver - Calgary, bleerrrggggh - but they're still a pretty powerful thing when done correctly.

The following are examples of, in this blogger's humble opinion, it being done correctly.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wrangling The Written

So, last night I started rounding up some ideas and nominations for the annual The Good, The Bad & The James Blunt awards. Jumping the gun a bit I know, but since we're pretty much at the year's half-way mark I thought there's no harm in gathering my impressions and thoughts now. Besides, there's been a bit of online journalism floating around about the albums that have defined the year thus far. One of which I can highly recommend is Pitchfork's Overlooked Records of 2011 article, mainly because some of their selections coincide with mine - namely saxophone virtuoso Colin Stetson, Snowman's posthumous Δbsence, and Wild Beasts' soothing Smother. Excellent records all.

Along with the GB&JB ruminations, I was doing my research for my usual End-of-Year best/worst album covers list and discovered this ramshackle, but thoroughly knowledgable blog called Coverzplace. Be prepared to waste a good half-hour browsing through the thematic selections. 
We're digressing pretty quickly though, there's more to this post that jut sharing my 'net browsing habits. No, you're here so I can brag and show off my music writing right? Anyway, playing a bit of egotisitical catch-up with some record reviews. This way when it does come round to the end-of-year stuff, I can feel like I've informed my lovely readership - that's you, feel the love - with what's really mattered musically this year. 

So what better way to do that than to chuck up some of my writings for Beat, in easily linkable format:
tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L

Tom Vek - Leisure Seizure

Memory Tapes - Player Piano
Yeo - Bag-O-Items







Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lift Off Luv

elbow – Splendour Sideshow  @ The Palace, 27th July. 
Is there a more charming rogue than elbow’s Guy Garvey working in the industry today? Many frontmen could learn a thing or two from his simple, genteel between-song banter. Arriving first on stage with dinner jacket, this scruffy impresario takes the time to regularly check in on the audience and is never more than a few words from a well-won chuckle. ‘Are you all free-thinking, cool motherfookers?’ he ponders aloud at one point, in his distinctively thick Manchunian accent.  It’s as if your uncle from aboard has come to visit, only instead of regaling you with tales and trinkets, it’s with heart-felt lyricism and life-affirming tunes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wrangling The Heard: July

Before we launch into the usual musical round-up, just wanted to flag that the excellent new Big Scary single - Mixtape - now has an official clip. Again teaming with animator Alice Dupre, who did the promo for Tuesday Is Rent Day; it's another little stunner of a video, featuring a stack of interconnected zoetropes. Have a guernsy:
Their epicly anticipated debut is due in October, and it can't come soon enough.

Kins - Dancing Back And Forth, Covered In Whipped Cream
I really can't stop listening to this record's spellbinding rhythms, credit where credit's due for Kins also, as they translate their stripped-back style of tension and release perfectly to the live setting. Firstly, they floored with their album launch at the Worker's Club (despite frontman Thomas Savage obviously beset by an awful flu), then again at their very last 'Goodbye, For Now' gig at The Order of Melbourne (last night in fact). Goodbye because they're heading off for the UK to follow their musical aspirations (which they discussed in length in this AMR interview). In their absence, we still have their mini-LP Dancing Back And Forth... and I highly recommend it. It's a near-perfectly formed 25 minute set that takes you on an audible journey from wiry pop (Mockasin's, Lake Troposphere), gentle haunting ('Til He Stirs, For This Modern Day) to murkier rhythmic workouts (Hume Bloom, the title track). Hopefully when they return, debut album in tow, it'll be to great success.
(more after the jump)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Do you believe in Magic?

Spender Magic Man film clip launch @ The Grace Darling, July 7th
Mildlife opened the night, their sound centred around the classic Juno 60 synthesizer, complemented by a rhythm section of jutting bass and disco styled drumming. Some beat looping and sparse guitars made up the rest of the audio decor, the latter supplied by a gyrating lad in a pair of  impossibly tight jeans, who along with a projection of B-movie staple Barbarella formed the (lacking) visual element. Nevertheless they conjured up an entrancing groove of dance-rock, especially on Be More Pacific and their recently launched single Milk & Wool.

The audio-visual act that followed was Time Shield aka Faux Pas aka solo artist Tim Shiel (confused?) who can only best be described as a remix artist. Trippy cut-up visuals and obscure pop culture footage (Leonard Nimoy promoting Magnavox anyone?) played against a large screen as Shiel, set up in the audience, created a soundtrack of abstract chill-out beats and cut-up samples. Problem was, they didn’t supply tabs of acid at the door. More engaging was seeing him construct the soundtrack before your eyes, deftly manipulating the visuals (via an Xbox controller!) and sonics with a sequencer, a small midi keyboard, some live guitar and his laptop. At one point video-jamming Gilmore Girls into a breakdown of fragment Flying Lotus-isms, before revealing the sample as Carole King’s Where You Lead (I Will Follow), to call it a unique live experience was an understatement.

Before the headline act, there was one last treat, namely the debut clip from Spender and his triple j unearthed circulated cut, Magic Man. Despite the image of a man in a tux with a gothic looking, carnivalé mask on – the mood was distinctly playful. Taking a leisurely stroll through the woods before setting up a mini-projection screen that revealed a quirky dance-off; perfectly matching the pop vibe of the track, informed as it is by sixties references more than contemporary ones. With great melodies, distinctive vocals and a fun arrangement, it’s easy to like and not too much of a stretch to love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

  • Firstly, to AMR favourite Kimbra. Vows is still slated for later this year (did I mention I'm excited for that one?), but in the meantime we have her contribution to Gotyé's forthcoming Making Mirrors album in the form of Somebody That I Used To Know. Due to some (let's admit it - inevitable) internet leaks, Gotyé posted the excellent video for the track on YouTube sometime this morning. The simmering, borderline-spiteful duet soundtracks a video featuring stop-motion bodypaint and the resulting effect is visually captivating as well as emotionally felt. Enough words, have a view:

There's also a full album preview of Making Mirrors kicking around too, and it's set for release August 19.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

Wow, so Shakira is looking more like Beyoncé with each passing day...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wrangling The Heard: June

That title's a misnomer. Not that I haven't heard a lot, 2011 is turning into quite the year, but really wrangled - no, I've wrangled little. You've no doubt noticed the lack of updates 'round The Rant as of late, there's a simple explanation for that. Was in Japan for two weeks, then really sick for a week. Which has meant pretty much zero updates. Needless to say, Japan was nothing short of being thoroughly amazing, but you didn't come here to read about Al's Gushing Appraisal (at least I hope not). So let's get straight to the good stuff.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
It was lead single Calgary that was the first taste of Mr. Vernon's curiously double self-titled album, but now that we have the compelete canvas I can confirm that it's nothing less than a work of art. Following the sublime For Emma with an album of similarly bent folk would never have worked. Of course, it's not what we would have expected, but the artistic growth and musical palette that is on offer here is a delightful surprise.  All that moonlighting with the likes of Volcano Choir, Gayngs and even Kanye has leaked into the new material. The arrangements are marked as much by synths and electronic textures than guitar patterns and vocal architecture, employing also the talented likes of Greg Liesz and his elegant pedal steel guitar work; as well as saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson to colour his work. There's a lot to be said for this album, which will be said as part of a full review later, but for the time-being assure yourself that it's a strong follow-up and easily one of the best records of the year. If you're looking for a great written accompaniment to your listening though, might I suggest Pitchfork (of all things) and this great interview by Grayson Currin.

Big Scary - Mix Tape
Following on from side-project Dads (featured last month), AMR's favourite Melbourne duo have just released the lead single for their highly anticipated debut album. Holing up in Brisbane for the last couple of months, they've been tinkering on a new set of songs - that, you already knew from 'the biggest and scariest of interviews' - but if the results are anything to go by, it's going to be an essential debut record. Mix Tape plays to the group's strengths in the pop piano field with the bright, nimble ivories pushed to the fore and a big shiny chorus featuring Tom Iansek's winning vocals; while Jo Syme's drumming lends muscular emphasis and momentum. You can hear the track for nada at the band's website. Or do the supportive thing and purchase it through iTunes at the link below.


P.S. In other Big Scary news, their compilation The Big Scary Four Seasons is in the official nomination list for triple j's Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time. Being the lovely, humble sort they are, I'm sure they don't think they deserve it and wouldn't encourage their enrollment. But being the loyal sycophant I am, I'm not above such tactics. So make sure one of your ten noms is for them when you vote

Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
Here's the smart-ass review: had a suck of the new Arctic Monkeys album, and saw that it didn't. That's all you need to know really, I mean after Humbug, the general anxiety was that it marked a (perhaps necessary) change for the group but one that may have steered too far from their original appeal. Suck It And See is really the album that Humbug should have been. Ironically, now that they've left the wing of desert-rock overlord Josh Homme, the Monkeys sound more comfortable in aping his brand of scuzzy rock and roll. The evidence is there in the sixties flourishes and dirty guitars of the album's lead singles; the preposterously titled Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair and Brick By Brick (whose wailing chorus  sort of recalls Kasabian's Fire). They are red herrings for the album proper however, being the heaviest cuts amongst a set of lighter, jubilant songs. Cornerstone, one of the last tracks recorded for the Humbug sessions, proves to be a valuable stepping stone to the likes of Black Treacle, Reckless Serenade and Piledriver Waltz. More importantly, it sees some humour and Turner's gobbish turn-of-phrase returning to the group's canon - again, something Humbug sorely lacked. So return-to-form? Definitely, and proving Arctic Monkeys are still a vital force... don't care much for that artwork though.


Wild Beasts - Smother
Even back in February when I first caught wind of a new album, I knew it had the potential to be something special, and Smother is very much special. I think my triple j magazine review neatly captured it so now i'll take the opportunity to lazily reproduce it:
The acerbic post-punk dandies who spat in the face of UK’s cultural mire on Two Dancers have mellowed for album number three, choosing instead to enrich their sparse rhythmic atmosphere and sophisticated delivery. Even Hayden Thorpe’s rubbery, eccentric falsetto has been softened, draped around the warm splashes of Albatross. While co-vocalist Tom Fleming’s brassy grain offers counterpoint on the hypnotic Burning. They’ve traded portent for poignant in a set of mesmerising, magnetic tracks.