Tuesday, February 23, 2010

...Make (JJ)Jack a dull boy

Hello fellow readers of The Rant, as your keen peepers have no doubt noticed, I haven't been as punctual lately with my posts. I assure it's not for lack of interest, or content. But more to the fact that my time has been spread thin with other endeavours. What are they?
Well, namely full-time work, and time commitments for a new comedy show (more shameless plugging on that soon but its called Occupation Ugly running as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, more details at Comedicate).
That's not to say I've been cutting back time on music, oh lordy, no. I've continued contributions to Beat Magazine, MX and as of next month's issue, J Mag. That's right this humble writer's services have been added to the list for JJJ's official music magazine. Colour me excited. You can start reading my reviews in next month's issue.
All for which has meant for severely less bloggage time. One good thing all this published stuff has taught me is to be more economical with my writing, 170-200 word limits aren't the usual count round these parts (as readers of some of my more exahustive posts will know.) As such (after that rant of another kind) this month's post will be short and sweet, d.
A cheeky taster of what you can expect in my first published work with J Mag.

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History (etcetc/Kitsuné)

With their choppy guitars, dance-ready beats and indie credentials, this North Ireland outfit might have you groaning ‘not another fashionable guitar band,’ but Two Door Cinema Club may be swimmers, not sinkers.
Though they signed to the hip French label Kitsuné after only two singles and a single Glastonbury appearance, their debut draws from a more solid pedigree of proven musical styles.
I Can Talk’s fizzing energy picks up the skyscraping guitars Editors ditched when they went electronic. Do You Want It All? rings like Bloc Party’s This Modern Love, complete with tricky 7/4 timing; while This Is The Life, featuring Alex Trimble’s preening falsetto, sounds akin to Mew. They also recall Friendly Fires with their dual-guitar and bass setup, but the best indication of their appeal is that they’re due to support Phoenix on tour.
At 32 minutes over ten tracks, the album never lets off the setting marked ‘taut and lean’ but there’s still enough variation to its spry electro-tinged-indie-pop theme to captivate.
It may still be early in the year, but chances are you’ll hear a lot more of TDCC in 2010. And considering what’s on offer here, that’s no bad thing.

And there you have it, short, sharp, catchy and to the point. Much like the music.

Speaking of which, here's a random rundown on what I've been wrapping my eardrums around lately.
*Heaps of Wilco, who manage to convince me they are the greatest live act I've never seen whenever I listen to Kicking Television or the brilliant audio accompaniment to Ashes of American Flags.
*Plenty of Big Scary in anticipation for their EP Launch this Friday. The Newton Workers Club, Fitzroy. Be There. Need a reason? Their new single Falling Away is available as a free D/L over at JJJ.
*The new new solo album from Jón þor Birgisson, entitled Go, under the simple moniker of Jónsi - and it's all its cracked up to be.
*The new Lightspeed Champion. And yes, it's brilliant. I'll be covering that one soon for sure.
*Gone back to some classic prog-rock. We're talking Pink Floyd, Yes and King Crimson. In fact I've had Yes' Close To The Edge on high rotation, even despite the pile of CDs that need reviewing.
*Speaking of prog, a recommendation from Jem Godfrey (the amazing talent behind Frost*) led to me the little unsung band Halloween, Alaska and their brilliant little album Champagne Downtown. Check out their website for a few streams.
*and to top it all off, a small peppering of previews for some of 2010's most anticipated new releases via free mp3s from the bands themselves. Its good see major labels finally starting to catch on. We've had new cuts from the likes of Shearwater with Black Eyes, news of a new Broken Social Scene record (JOY!) with World Sick and Peter Gabriel's sweeping cover of Bon Iver's Flume. Taken from his new covers album, Scratch My Back, in which he reimagines all manner of musical heroes (Radiohead, Bowie, Arcade Fire, Elbow) with the backing of a complete orchestra.

Peow, so hopefully that'll tide you over 'till next we meet. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to bed with the old ipey.

Monday, February 8, 2010

2009 Honourable Mentions: Part 2

(EDIT: *sigh* so I got away with Part 1 it seems, but Part 2 suffered a DMCA notice takedown. If you're unclear of what that means, read this, basically though I've just removed all the links that ain't YouTube and i'll go back and replace some time.)

Woah, sorry about the break there, it's been an eventful couple of weeks. Including a slew of top-notch concerts including Big Day Out, The Decemberists, Florence & The Machine and the almighty Porcupine Tree. On top of that, I've been wrapping my ears around a whole lot of new music - either new albums for this year (Owen Pallett, FourTet, Yeasayer) as well as some great heavy rock from Australia (Sleep Parade, Eleventh He Reaches London,
Sydonia & Toehider)
I really want to just charge ahead on to new things, 2009 seems like so long ago already, but in the interest of spotlighting great music that may have otherwise been ignored, I shall fulfill my promise of part 2 of 2009's Honourable Mentions. In the words of Mario, "lets-a-go!"

Big Scary - Hey Somebody

If you've been following my writing in Beat magazine (or read my Interpol concert report) - you'll already know that I love this band, they're easily Melbourne's best unsigned act at the moment. Hey Somebody is the lead single from their brand-spanking new EP, At The Mercy Of The Elements. Displaying great diversity, immense talent and just straight-up excellent tunes, this is a band you best acquaint yourself with before they start a record label bidding war or storm the airwaves. Big Scary are that good.

Noah & The Whale
- Love Of An Orchestra

The sophomore album from this indie folk collective was inspired by the break-up between bandleader Charlie Fink and former girlfriend/collaborator Laura Marling. It's not just a mopefest though, as this sprightly anthem attests.

DM Stith
- Pity Dance

Combine Patrick Watson's inspired eccentricity, Sufjan Stevens' lush arrangements and Antony '& The Johnsons' Hegarty's haunting vocals and it would equate to DM Stith. Here is a suitably spooky cut taken from his supremely confident debut Heavy Ghost.

Kid Cudi
- Pursuit of Happiness
Though Cudi's conceptual record Man on The Moon: The End Of The Day was an unbalanced and occasionally monotonous affair, it did indeed contain its moments. By calling in psychedelic popsters MGMT and instrumental paramores Ratatat, Scott Mescudi ensured that Pursuit of Happiness was one of those moments.

The Swell Season - The Verb
The little couple that could from the delightful movie Once (aka Glenn Hansard and Markéta Irglová) make a return with a sombre set that encapsulated the full spectrum of love and heartbreak. Though it lacked a killer single, the likes of Oscar-winning Falling Slowly, it was a more consistent set peppered with strong cuts such as the dour The Verb.

Prince - (There'll Never B) Another Like Me
Taken from the second side of a double album (LotusFlow3r/MPLSoUND, a triple if you include the Prince-produced Elixer from Bria Valente... but I don't), this sees the Purple one laying down all his idiosyncracies in an equally eccentrically titled funk workout. Sample lyric:
'Slipped into the bathroom/Put some olive oil in my hair,' indeed, there will never be another like Prince, savour him at another career high.

The Melodics - Maple Leaf Rag
Even for a band whose profile is on the rise, The Melodics are still vastly under appreciated. Their confident debut 4D possessed a wealth of styles - synth pop, funk, new-wave,jazz, hip hop - eschewed through songwriting smarts. Not unlike fellow Melbourne groovesters The Cat Empire. The six degrees shorten with the presence of producer Jan Scubizewski , one half of Jackson Jackson (the other being Cat trumpeter Harry Angus). Maple Leaf Lag is just one of the may colours in their spectrum, sampling Joplin classic The Entertainer to dizzying effect.

Doves -
The cinematic introduction to album number four, Kingdom Of Rust, was an 'imaginary soundtrack to the closing credits of Blade Runner' according to the band. Evident from its synth-driven sci-fi chug infused with group's usual penchant for finely honed production and building textures. It also heralded a triumphant return after a nearly half a decade's absence.

Marmaduke Duke - Rubber Lover
The bonkers side-project for Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neill, who along with partner in dirty-pop crime JP Reid, produced a zany off-beat album in the appropriately titled Duke Pandemonium. Including this brief, but perfectly crafted gem - achieving the unique feat of making Billy Joel sound sexy in sampling his Sleeping With The Television On.

Major Lazer - Pon De Floor
The pseudonym for taste-making producers
Diplo and Switch gave them the freedom to conjure gritty electro inspired by the daggering dancehalls of Jamaica. Fronted by a ridiculous cartoon concept about a lazer-toting general who kills vampires and zombies, but backed by a balls-out frenetic live show and a cavalcade of guest spots.

Katatonia - Day And Then The Shade
Following on from their career-defining album, The Great Cold Distance, Katatonia solidified their unique style with Night Is The New Day. Mawkish title aside, it proffered doom-laden aesthetics and grinding metal sounds teeming with emotional pathos. If you've ever been curious about heavier rock or metal but never had an entrypoint, this is for you.

Julian Plenti - On The Esplanade
After a less-than-favourable reception to Our Love To Admire, Interpol frontman Paul Banks returned to the Julian Plenti moniker of his pre-fame days gigging as a solo act. You'd be hard-pressed to imagine these arrangements' acoustic origins however, delivering a set of songs that dispelled any doubts as to Banks' abilities as a unique voice in the rock landscape.

David Gray - Nemesis
His White Ladder chart-topping days may be behind him, but that doesn't mean that Mr. Gray's star has faded. Returning after a four year long hiatus, Draw The Line was a welcome return of a songwriter in the classical mould. Perfectly metered couplets, accessible tunes that still contained the spirit of invention and of course Gray's ever-felt presence in that voice.

Monsters Of Folk - Say Please
Not quite the sum of their legendary parts, the monsters in question - Conor Oberst & Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and influential singer-songwriter M. Ward - instead opted for casual bouts; but when the components sparked, it resulted in catchy tuneage such as this.

Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone
The Sheffield heroes' third album may have polarised the lovers of their small-town-stories-meets-angular-rock aesthetic; but Humbug instead introduced a new kind of intimacy. Their excellent narratives were still intact, they just came accompanied in new musical guises, such as this relaxed ballad couching a deeply personal lyric that features a series of trysts in pubs

The Antlers - Bear
Alloyed by a steady stream of blogosphere hype, the Brookly three-piece's Hospice was a conceptual investigation into pain and loss via grief and hospital-bound turmoil. Though the prospect of such sour-faced introspection will have most heading for the exit, Antlers managed to temper it with cathartic build and release a la Arcade Fire en route through Okkervil River. The twinkling Bear being a perfect personification of their appeal.

Phew, that became far more of a trial than it needed to be. The Rant's internet plan is simply not cutting the mustard like it used to. So in the words of Farmer Hoggett "that'll do pig... that'll do"