Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I, A Man - Live @ Northcote Social Club (EP Launch), Feb 24

As if it wasn’t enough that I, A Man offered a killer sophomore EP, they also provided one of the best line-ups to launch it that inner-Melbourne has seen this year thus far. Namely, a handful of equally obscurely named bands, well, except for opening act Neighbourhood Youth that is.

They don’t have much visual appeal, dressed in plain shirts and shorts, they furrow the typical ‘heads-down’ mode of most fresh faced acts, but nevertheless sound far better than most opening acts should. Particularly given the small crowd, their tight rhythm section – all trebly bass and backbeat drums – suit their indie rock swell nicely. They even get some cowbell action in for Only One, with their other tunes characterised by stop-start dynamics and shuffling, danceable rhythms while frontman John Philip offers some yearning vocals. Their strongest tunes, namely the upbeat Home and hook-driven Stone, have a solid thing going, if not the performative aspect to sell them just yet. Elementally, they’ve got it going, but there’s still some gelling to go yet. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Scaramouche - Access Denied

A review for Beat magazine, originally published on-line and in-print. Reproduced here.
From their name reminding of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, to the kicking off their EP with a classic rock countdown – you’d figure Scaramouche were a ‘classic’ rock band. However, the former Canberra-now-Melbourne-based five-piece quickly un-stick those preconceptions, and start throwing musical curveballs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

'You're Boring Us All' Interview: I, a Man

An interview originally syndicated for Tone Deaf, just in time for the band's launch at The Northcote Social Club tonight.
Through no conscious effort, Melbourne four-piece I, A Man are adding to the tally of unGoogleable band names, “Yeah, we probably shouldn’t have called ourselves that” laughs singer/guitarist Dan Moss, “It’s probably the one part of the band we’ve put the least amount of thought into” admits fellow axeman Ash Hunter. “The majority of the time, you have to repeat it to people after a gig. They think ‘Iron Man!?’ The Robert Downey Jr. comparisons come flying” adds their drummer, the fabulously named Sumner Fish. Despite the confusion that suggests they’re named after the popular comic book character, or a Black Sabbath song; the quartet have put far more attention towards crafting their music.

The Dead Leaves - Live @ The Toff In Town (Album Launch), Feb 16

The following gig review was originally published in Beat, and is reproduced here in its entirety
Supporting The Dead Leaves as they launched their debut, was the musically schizophrenic Enola Fall. Hopping the pond from Tassie, and arriving on stage at the eleventh hour due to an unfortunate airport mix-up, Enola Fall and particularly band leader Joe Nuttall, look and sound a little underprepared. After delivering two songs of grinding guitars and dull tub-thumping energy that suggests at least one member is enthralled to Jimmy Eat World – they surprise with a sudden musical U-turn. Nuttall migrates to some jaunty piano, in a theatrical rock number closer to Queen’s cabaret leanings than anything their previous alt-rock contested.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Introducing... I, A Man

Apologies to Al's Music Rant purists, but I've actually already introduced Melbourne quartet I, A Man's deliciously atmospheric guitar rock to the wider masses. After hearing their sophomore EP You're Boring Us All, I was instantly smitten with their textural approach to songwriting, a deft sequencing of their striking guitar sounds, dreamy vibes and beautifully rendered songcraft. What followed was a quick turnaround on a review of the same EP for Beat magazine, and spotlighting as the second act ever for a new column for the wonderful folks over at Everguide, entitled 'You Need To Know.'

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'What's will all of this living?' Interview: The Dead Leaves

The following is an interview originally published in Beat magazine, and online, it is recreated here in an extended edit
It might be a peaking summer day outside, but in the air-conditioned confines of a label office, half of Melbourne’s The Dead Leaves are looking, as always, extremely dapper. “We heard you were coming, so we dressed up” jokes guitarist Andy Pollock, bedecked in a neat pressed shirt framed by a waistcoast and full Windsor-knotted tie. He is flanked by frontman Matt Joe Gow, he of the cool demeanour and bruised baritone that drives so much of the band’s emotional candour, today dressed in a spotless black shirt and pants – save for a flashing bronze tie buckle. Usually a band’s fashion choices aren’t really worth mentioning but for the Melbourne four-piece, it reflects not only their polished image, but their equally buffed sound.

Monday, February 13, 2012

News: Big Scary are 'Leaving Home' again, announce Vacation tour

AMR's favourite babes, Big Scary, have already announced their first international visit, hitting up the prestigious SXSW festival later this year; but today sees the announcement of their biggest national headline tour to date. The Vacation tour sees the Melbourne duo playing dates across the country throughout April, with support from the excellently eighties stylings of Geoffrey O'Connor and some, as yet unconfirmed, special guests.

Big Scary are nothing if not a thrilling live act (in fact, last year's best according to this blog) and having released their excellent debut album on their own independent label, Pieater, they're taking it back on the road - the very place that inspired it's reflective set of intropsective, genre-defying gems.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Introducing... The Dead Leaves

I've actually been tracking The Dead Leaves' progress for a little while now, having first heard their polished, brooding sonics at a set at  The Workers' Club last year; but now that their debut album, Cities On the Sea, receives an official release this month it seems appropriate to formally introduce them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

'You think you've heard this one before' Interview: The Darcys

One of the better - if not most daring - album releases during this tender end of the year would have to be The Darcys' take on Aja. A dramatic re-interpretation of Steely Dan's hallmark record, it reimagines the original's peerless jazz-rock fusion with the Canadian outfit's own glacial wash of agitated guitars and loping drums, an icy ambience of droning keys and moody tension.
AMR's own review already praised the album, but I've since been itching to know some details behind the record's conception and intentions. What better way than from the mouths of the band themselves? (None, if you can't think rhetorically). 
Though currently touring in support of both their cover album, as well as their excellent self-titled release (both available from the band's website), the band were kind enough to take time out from their trek across Canada and North America to discuss their take on the 1977 classic.

Active Child - Live @ East Brunswick Club (Laneway Sideshow), Feb 8

The following live review was syndicated with, and for, Everguide - it is recreated here in it entirety.
Opening the evening was one of Sydney’s most promising solo acts, Oliver Tank (previously introduced by AMR). Fresh from his own tour launching his debut EP, Dreams. Tank is probably a lot more acclimatised to playing to larger crowds, and he deserves more than the odd thirty that have show up early for his support slot. Delivering a short but typically warm set, he shreds on a Strat along to his refined beats, loops and backing tracks. A little rough and visibly nervy, particularly during I Can’t Sleep where he has to mask a wonky guitar tuning with beats and volume, but by the end of his blissed out reworking of Snoop Dogg’s Beautiful, his toothy, Cheshire cat grin begins to emerge.

He doesn’t need to incite the crowd but instead lull them with his nocturnal beat-making and his plaintive vocals, saying naught but ‘thanks’ and his usual little send-off in the cathartic climax of breakout tune, Last Night I Heard Everything In Slow Motion. Even brisk sets like this prove why he’s one of Sydney’s ones to watch.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wrangling The Heard: January

Well, aside from listening to a wealth of Grimes' bizarro pop, Yeo's plaintive Home (still available here kiddos), Battles after their muscular live show and, of course, The Darcys' glacial take on Aja - all of whom have had some AMR love recently. January's soundscape has been filled with a bunch of killer interesting sounds, 'like what?' you say - like this:

The Stepkids -
The Stepkids (Stones Throw)
I recently acquired a turntable for Christmas. I know, I know - it's hard to believe a music blogger and potentially snobby writer like myself didn't already possess a record player, or perhaps stomaching the idea that it's a slippery slope before I'm a cynical thirty-something audiophile. Tangent! The point is that The Stepkids' first self-titled release was one of my first purchases, without having previously owned the album on CD and at risk of sounding like I've already joined the hipster brigade, it sounds amazing on wax.
The way I've been recommending it to friends is 'imagine Unknown Mortal Orchestra if instead of drawing on hip-hop and claustrophobic garage, they dug on classic soul and funk?'
Originally session players to the likes of Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and 50 Cent (!), the Connecticut threesome employ their falsetto voices and experience as tight players then cut it with a love for jamming on vintage funk, East Coast jazz and old skool R&B. The results are then seeped through a heavy filter of heady, kaleidoscopic production in what the group label 'psychedelic soul.'
It's a fitting way to describe something like Santos and Ken or the blissed-out La La, where chunky Sly and the Family Stone grooves are peppered by droning organs and lilting harps. Elsewhere, Shadows on Behalf has the swagger of a Pharrell Williams cut, but soon descends into a colourful maelstrom of spaced-out pianos and wonky guitars. Even when they play it relatively straight, such as on the classic laidback soul of Legend In My Own Mind, all Stax horns and phased keyboards across girl-group harmnoies - there's a contemporary focus. 'Neo-retro art-funk anyone? Nah man, just put on The Stepkids.'
Shadows On Behalf by The Stepkids
Legend In My Own Mind by Stones Throw Records

Friday, February 3, 2012

San Cisco & The Jungle Giants - Live @ East Brunswick Club, Feb 2

Kicking off the month that will be the East Brunswick Club’s last (*sniff*), was the double-heading Politely Awkward gig, a triple j presented tour of two of Unearthed’s most promising emerging acts. Namely Brisbane’s The Jungle Giants and Perth’s San Cisco. Supporting, suitably, was hometown act Buckley Ward.

Not the solo work of a mopey songwriter, but in fact a five-piece band, they quickly found their comfort zone with the lazy momentum of
So Pretend then thumping along to the easy atmospheric bob of Into The Darkening Blue. The young audience, a sea of plaid shirts and top-knotted hair buns, conceded a gentle sway but were more content to chat. The tail-end of the set found some jostling for a better position near the front, mainly beer-toting fans with more enthusiasm than manners. It’s a young, hip crowd – but what else could you expect from three acts who are as young themselves, both age and career-wise.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Girl Talk - Live @ The Palace (Big Day Out Sideshow), Jan 31

Being festival season, AMR has caught an awful lot of great gigs lately. Following on from the interview with the mash-up maestro Girl Talk, the following is a live review originally published by the delightful folks at Tone Deaf and is reproduced here for your reading goodness.
“Girl Talk! Girl Talk! Girl Talk!” People are chanting, youths are sweaty with anticipation, the acrid smell of dry smoke hangs in the air. No, it’s not the encore, it’s just the opening.

The frenzy that surrounds a typical Girl Talk show has taken on a near-mythical status, tales of topless crowd-surfing and wild dancing long into the night have been passed around in hushed, revered tones. The irony being that in the cross-over from his underground shows – small clubs, carparks, anything – that made the myth to the mainstream festival circuit (and headline shows such as tonight), his show has become more organised and methodical.