Category: Music

Safia

SAFIA – Counting Sheep

This electro-indie band from Canberra has only released 6 original songs to date since 2012, with Counting Sheep being the newest. One should not, however, be fooled into thinking that their music is still in that awkward still-trying-to-figure-out-how-to-write-great-songs stage; this is a band which knows how to produce good music, exemplified by their single from April 2014, Paranoia, Ghosts and Other Sounds. With it’s pulsing synths and incredible build-up throughout the song, Paranoia has impacted many listeners greatly, leaving it a popular request in Triple J’s request hour and even making it’s way into the Hottest 100 of 2014 at number 96. This song in particular has left listeners wanting more and then even more again, so thousands have taken advantage of Counting Sheep’s appearance on SoundCloud, where it can be heard before it’s release on this Friday the 13th of March.

 

‘Friday the 13th’ is an undoubtedly intentional release date for what lead vocalist Ben Woolner-Kirkham describes as the “evil sibling” of Paranoia, a dark but catchy ode to insomnia. A ticking clock and sinister violin fill at the start set give an idea of the darker mood, though the first verse and chorus still very much sound like the SAFIA that we hear in their other songs, with pulsing synths, strong vocals, and a strong beat. The bridge that follows the chorus, however, is unlike anything heard from them before, and what follows next is not another verse as expected but rather a bunch of warped vocal excerpts talking about fear and insomnia. As the anticipated verse and chorus finally come back in, one is left wondering a little what they just heard. At only 2 minutes 53, this song is also quite short, and this is not helped by the somewhat sudden ending. This is a song that will grow on you – it leaves one scratching their head and wondering what they’d just listened to the first time, but after a few more listens it establishes itself as another great, solid song from SAFIA. All the elements of SAFIA that have captured listeners – the solid beat, Woolner-Kirkham’s soft but prevalent voice, and the fantastic utilising of side-chained synthesisers and dynamics – are still well and truly present, and while Counting Sheep is certainly different, it is absolutely in no way inferior.

 

Graphic detailing Delonge's ousting

Stay Together For the Kids? Blink 182 Breakdown

Blink 182 have a brick wall with founding member Tom DeLonge saying he no longer ‘wants to participate in Blink 182 indefinitely.’

The news came to the members on the 27th of January in the form of an email from DeLonge’s personal manager stating that “DeLonge didn’t want to participate in any Blink-182 projects indefinitely, but would rather work on his other non-musical endeavors.” Which came as a relief to Mark Hoppus, as he described the news as “ [a] weight lifting off my shoulders.”

Tom DeLonge has rejected claims of having left the band saying, “I was on the phone discussing a possible Blink-182 event in New York City when I heard the ‘news’…the only truth here is, that I have commitments that limit my availability this year. I love Blink-182 and I’m not leaving.” Leaving Delonge’s position in the band remains unclear

Despite Delonge’s departure Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba is set to replace DeLonge on tours scheduled for this year.

“Although it’s not clear if DeLonge has been replaced permanently, the band’s remaining members have high hopes for the future of Blink 182, “No hard feelings, but the show must go on for our fans.” ”

Due to the legalities involved with Delonge’s departure his position in the band remains unknown, as pointed out by Delonge that he technically didn’t quit. Yet both Hoppus and Barker are accepting his departure, whether on his behalf or not.

Looks like it’s one member down in the much beloved trio Blink 182.

Babaganouj Can't Stop Cover

Babaganouj Release New Single ‘Can’t Stop’

Babaganouj are back in 2015 packing a colourful musical punch with their single Can’t Stop. Having released two tracks in 2014and toured with The Preatures and The Lemonheads, Babaganouj have returned bringing their infectious summer vibes with them.

Hailing from Brisbane, this four piece have blown out of the water after great amounts of airplay on Triple J in the past year as well as touring nationally with renowned artists and festivals alike. Babaganouj draw inspiration from Husker Du, and Smashing Pumpkins, but sound like a tamer version of the Western Australian band, San Sisco. Babaganouj bring young playful guitars and harmonies to young Australians this summer with Can’t Stop released early this February.

Can’t Stop opens with an infectious guitar riff, a simple beat, and harmonies that makes you think about driving along the seaside. The four members join together in harmony in a playful and young verse which transforms into a counter point sustained chord, where the front man “can’t deny / what [he] feel[s] inside”. Which is followed by a dissonant bridge, until the return to the summery melody hook refreshing you in the fun youthfulness of Can’t Stop.

Download the single here.

If you love the sound of Babaganouj and wish to see them in the flesh, they are playing shows right across the East Coast of Australia:

Friday, 13th March The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
Tickets: The Spotted Cow
w/ Hound, The Basschanales

Saturday, 14th March  Old Bar, Melbourne
Tickets: $10 on the door
w/ The Spazzys, Velcro

Monday, 16th March – The Tote, Melbourne
Tickets: $8 on the door
w/ The Good Morrows, Skyways Are Highways

Friday, 20th March  The Foundry, Brisbane

Saturday, 21st March – World Bar, Sydney
Tickets: $15 on the door ($10 before 10pm)
w/ Chicks Who Love Guns, The Cathys

Sunday, 22nd March  Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
Tickets: Go Bookem
w/ A.D.K.O.B, Bell Weather Department

Saturday, 28th March  Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Tickets: $10 on the door
w/ The Good Spots, Love Sings

Saturday, 11th April  Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
w/ Bearhug, Black Zeros

Thursday, 16th April  The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine
w/ ScotDrakula

Friday, 17th April  The Grace Darling, Melbourne
w/ ScotDrakula

Saturday, 18th April – The Barwon Club, Geelong
w/ ScotDrakula

Kill me now

Red Foo – Juicy Wiggle

When I first heard that the two members of LMFAO were uncle and nephew I was a bit taken aback. You see the issue for me wasn’t that one of them was an uncle, the issue was figuring out which one was the uncle. Is it the illegitimate offspring of Kirk Hammet and Slash (Sky Blue) or the one who seems time locked to 1970s America where it was socially acceptable to un-ironically have an afro, wear bedazzled glasses and stroll about in what are glorified tracksuits as evening wear (Red Foo)?
Thankfully, one of them has finally stepped forward to put this age old question of mine to rest. Beca use only the seedy uncle who is desperate to look as though he is “down” with the “homies” would release as song such as “Juicy Wiggle”.

For those of you playing at home: Rapper, Producer, Singer (lol X-Factor), local computer salesman and tennis player (it’s on his Wikipedia page as of the writing of this review so I’m going to roll with it) Red Foo has dropped a new single titled “Juicy Wiggle“. As of the writing of this review I’m not entirely sure how to label this song. Is it a banger, dance music, house music or even disco? For the sake of simplicity I’ll just call it EDM.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t because of some stroke of genius on Red Foo’s behalf, it’s to do with the fact that this song feels so bloody middle of the road.  I mean Christ, the weird verse build-up hybrid thing it has going on is based upon the twelve bar blues structure, which as far as clichés are concerned is right up there with “letting the music take control” and having Hans Zimmer score your movie soundtrack.

This is a song whose main ambition is to inform you of a new dance, with other notable songs in this field including and not limited to : “The Macarena“, “Crank That“, “Teach Me How To Dougie” and “The Hokey Pokey“. To be honest, based on Red Foo’s instructions I feel as though I’m more likely to offend Peter Garret than actually pull of the Juicy Wiggle.

Furthermore, the drop on this song bears the same attitude that all radio friendly bangers have , a super obnoxious timbre on the synth-lead with a melody that just sounds busy and unfocused while making sure that the bass accents the off beats. For it is the nail that sticks out that will get hammered in.
The drop also feels somewhat creepy as Red Foo repeatedly whispers “get juicy” in the same way that a boost juice manager, inspired by Rolf Harris,  would whisper to their employee of the month.

To his credit, he does at least try to do something noteworthy when he attempts to get the drop to follow the chord progression of the twelve bar blues, but much like his attempts at rhyming, because apparently no one was present to inform him that riddle and middle do not rhyme with wiggle, gets somewhat fumbled in the execution.
There could be something to be said about Red Foo’s choice to use a twelve bar in the context of an EDM song, but this is a genre so notorious for its formulaic nature, that artists of that genre can have two or more of their songs played on top of each other and none would be the wiser. At this rate, to be considered innovative all one would have to do is have a verse featuring Pitbull and be produced by Simon Cowell.

His choice to release a song now about the Juicy Wiggle, a dance that has already passed its peak popularity in its city of origin,  is telling of a larger problem.

He is THAT guy.

To clarify, Red Foo is that acquaintance that can’t make rent and is therefore kicked out of his house, forcing him to move into someone’s spare couch, with that someone being the Australian entertainment industry. They let Red Foo crash under the condition that “it will be like a week or so until I get back on my feet” and even give him some help by getting him a cushy job. Before you know it, it’s been a few months, he has changed his mailing address and to the disdain of the residents of Mullumbimby, he doesn’t look like he is going anywhere in a hurry.

For those of you still with me, the song is very paint by numbers with it at times feeling a bit unintentionally comical, much like a geriatric saying “four-twenty blaze it” with a straight face, and in all is probably going to get substantial radio time and be enjoyed by people you wouldn’t want to invite to a dinner party because they would probably ruin your hardwood floor.

Red Foo’s other notable work:


Sean Wynn

Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper Album Cover

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Noah Lennox has been making music for 15 years under the name Panda Bear, both alone and as a member of Animal Collective. With his choirboy vocals and knack for songwriting Lennox has become one of the biggest names in experimental indie music, never shying away from new sounds and styles but rooting it in memorable and melodic music. But with Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper Lennox falls a little short on both fronts, delivering an album that never quite gels and doesn’t quite satisfy.

The album gets off to a good start; the unassuming Sequential Circuits opens the album with attack-heavy organ sounds and manipulated sounds of insects, with Lennox’s familiar reverberated voice ringing over the top. Things don’t stay placid for long; the next track Mr. Noah starts with unsettling samples of whimpering dogs before being subsumed by swirls of electronic sound and feedback, driven by a limping drum beat. Like many of Lennox’s best, the song wears its folk and world music influence on its sleeve; with its sing-along refrain of “this dog got bit on a le-e-e-eg..” it sounds like a simple campfire song played with a laptop and synths instead of a guitar and hand claps.

The next track, Davy Jones’ Locker, is where things start to turn sour. The track is only about 30 seconds, but it’s so irritating and unnecessary that it completely breaks the flow of the album. This change in momentum happens throughout PBVSGR; while the intended effect is probably to keep things interesting, the effect is more like musical whiplash, and the album’s cohesion suffers as a result.

Lennox has said that 90’s drum programming heavily influenced PBVSGR, but combined with the echoing keyboards and cluttered waves of sound the effect is more like Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine than a Teddy Riley production. This is especially true on Crosswords, with cheesy drum fills meeting squelching bass and staccato synths to make a strange, if slightly grating listen. The lyrics seem to be addressing Lennox’s more nostalgic fans (“stay scared while I improve/but it don’t mean I’ll do it like you want me to”), but the music behind it isn’t necessarily his strongest argument.

The next song, Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker, fares much better. The song is more ethereal and dreamlike, backed up by an endearingly tinny Bossa Nova drum machine. It’s one of the first moments on the album where the disparate sounds feel like they’re working with rather than against each other. The track is essentially a breezy pop song veiled in a thick haze, playing well to Lennox’s songwriting strengths.

With Boys Latin Lennox takes the campfire song idea to its logical conclusion, with his mantra of “Beasts don’t have a sec to think but/we don’t ‘preciate our things but…” jumping back and forth between the left and right speakers, surrounded by hypnotic reverberating percussion and a pulsing bass synth that phases in and out of time. The song is weird and disorienting in the best possible way. Come to Your Senses isn’t quite as successful; the longest song on the album, it doesn’t really have enough ideas to carry itself over its length. It aims to draw itself out and lock into a groove, but is essentially a three minute song that gets played twice, and by the time it ends its welcome is well worn out.

Where the first half of PBVSGR is a loud and at times claustrophobic listen, its second half is a more subdued affair. It also features some of the album’s better moments; the songs sound like they have room to breathe, and Panda Bear has always been good at using space effectively. This is best seen on Tropic of Cancer, the album’s emotional core and its most beautiful moment. The song features Lennox’s voice stripped of his trademark vocal reverb, accompanied only by a harp; he sounds naked and vulnerable, much like his 2004 breakthrough album Young Prayer. This song, like that album, deals with his father’s death from cancer; the song takes on an added dimension with Lennox having become a father himself and fearing the disease’s heredity. But the song is ultimately about acceptance, of death as a necessary process and of disease as just another living thing trying to survive. The track is immediately followed by Shadow of the Colossus, another short, unnecessary interlude, particularly obnoxious since it separates the two slowest and prettiest tracks with a bizarre and ugly wash of noise.

The track Lonely Wanderer is another slow burner, with Lennox singing a hymn-like melody over a cascading Debussy piano sample. The track is occasionally punctuated by a subterranean bass note drowning everything out, before building up to a sinister climax that sounds like falling through a wind turbine. Principe Real, named after an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Lennox’s adopted home of Lisbon, combines jazzy house music with Panda’s own ethereal sound. The track lives up to its name, sounding like the soundtrack to an awesome but hazy night out on the Iberian Peninsula.

The last two tracks provide a strong finish to the album. With its evocative vocal melody and simple but effective instrumentation, Selfish Gene sounds like it could’ve been written for a golden age Disney film, and its message of self-determination is a good antidote to the passive optimism of It’s a Small World or When You Wish Upon a Star. Meanwhile album closer Acid Wash is the closest Lennox has come to a lighters-in-the-air moment, a psychedelic power ballad with a huge, kaleidoscopic climax. But good as these songs are they seem to have come from a different album, one that has been building up to a big finish instead of not knowing where to begin.

Many of the best albums that Animal Collective and its members have released have been completely disorienting in a fun and engaging way. But PBVSGR ends up sounding confused itself; Panda Bear sounds like he isn’t quite sure what it should be. Many of the songs sound like they could only belong in their original context, but the album doesn’t really have the cohesion it needs to be enjoyed as a whole. It ultimately makes for a frustrating listen; Lennox’s music has always been a little opaque and obscured, but this is the first time it’s felt like he’s keeping listeners out.

D'Angelo Black Messiah

D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah

And you thought Azealia Banks had been taking her time.

At the turn of the millennium D’Angelo released his second album Voodoo, a dense and smooth fusion of soul, jazz and hip-hop that was hailed as an instant classic, a bold new direction in contemporary R&B, and the product of a songwriter and musician at the height of his powers. People couldn’t wait to see what the man behind it would do next. But wait they did, and after nearly 15 years away from the limelight, D’Angelo has released his third album, and first with new backing band The Vanguard, Black Messiah.

The album picks up where Voodoo left off, incorporating the same laid back, just-behind-the-beat groove that made that album so unique and drawing from a wider range of styles, moods and instruments to create an even more diverse and impressive listen. Lyrically, it draws from the events of the past 15 years, often returning to themes of war and civil unrest. D actually pushed the album’s release ahead in the wake of the recent shootings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and the songs were written in the context of worldwide protest and international conflict. It’s incredible to think how much has happened in the space of 15 years, and D has leapt on the opportunity to speak his mind through his music.

The first half of the album finds D’Angelo at his most eclectic. Lead track “Ain’t That Easy” begins with a slightly uneasy southern blues feel, D’s familiar multitracked and oblique vocal lines clashing with the fuzzed-out guitar tone all the while anchored by a tight bassline, before moving into a chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blackstreet album. “1000 Deaths” contains dark and foreboding lyrics about a soldier’s anticipation of a battle. The music follows the theme, never entirely settling down and seeming to run on barely restrained adrenaline.

“The Charade” plays like a reimagining of Sign O’ the Times-era Prince, with an urgent drum beat and overlapping guitar and piano lines surrounding Kendra Foster’s world-weary and introspective lyrics: “All we wanted was a chance to talk/’Stead we only got outlined in chalk”. “Sugah Daddy” finds D experimenting with many different vocal timbres and registers, and also has what sounds like a mouthpiece solo on the back end. “Really Love” somehow manages to combine New Orleans jazz and manouche all reimagined in the context of an R&B slow jam.

Two-parter “Back to the Future” begins with an odd pizzicato keyboard sound, slowly building into a tentative and skeletal jam, with lyrics about his emergence from self-imposed musical exile, and a sense of longing for the past. He makes passing reference to his uneasiness with being considered a sex symbol at the height of his fame, and the role it played in his hiatus: “So if you’re wondering about the shape I’m in/I hope it ain’t my abdomen that you’re referring to”.

“Till It’s Done (Tutu)” is a reflection on and lamentation of recent times, calling on everyone to find their place and purpose in the midst of global and national crisis, while “Prayer” calls upon God and religion for help, amidst a jerky and hazy instrumental and the occasional church bell. This is the only point where the album really falters; the song feels somewhat forced and directionless, while the lyrics don’t bring any new dimension to the age-old theme of salvation and redemption.

The final third of the album is a more understated affair. “Betray My Heart” is a breezy jazz cut, with brisk rhythm guitar and dexterous organ lines skittering throughout. “The Door” is similarly light; built around an acoustic guitar, handclaps and whistling, it sounds like it’d be more at home on a back porch than a bedroom. The piano-led “Another Life” closes the album on an expressive and soulful note, channeling Erykah Badu and featuring ?uestlove at his funkiest. This song in particular highlights the clear, beautiful piano tone that permeates the whole album.

Despite its long gestation period, Black Messiah succeeds where other “development hell” albums have failed, simply because it keeps D’Angelo’s singular voice. Nobody has been brought in to rush its production, and it isn’t weighed down by dozens of guest appearances; we’re hearing the album as D wants us to hear it, in part thanks to incredibly patient and supportive long-time collaborators such as ?uestlove and Q-Tip. And in a way, the album couldn’t have come at a better time. The last year or so has seen a resurgence in the soul and funk sounds of the 70’s and 80’s, and this renaissance looks likely to carry on, at least for a while. What better time than now for D’Angelo to turn everything on its head once again?

Black Messiah is available to stream on Spotify, and to purchase on iTunes. Physical copies of the album can be pre-ordered via MyPlay Direct.

Cover art of Stomachaches

FrnkIero – Stomachaches

As promised, My Chemical Romance have carried on, as past member Frank Iero released his debut album in late August. Entitled Stomachaches, Iero continues his own legacy of his angst aesthetic after the demise of the 10 year commitment to My Chemical Romance.

The album begins with “All I want Is Nothing”, a brilliant opener to the energetic and raw 12 track album. The energy within the opener creates the aura of angsty aggression transporting you back to your teenage years of defying authority and hating the world.

The album represents Iero’s stinted growth as a musician post-MCR, drawing on various articles of previous works and illustrates his difficulty to expand his style. I found that Joyriding pays homage to Iero’s first band Pencey Prep. The song is very juvenile and utilizes a similar dynamic range, production techniques, and simplicity of composition.

Smoke Rings reflects back on Iero’s time as front man of LeATHERMOUTH, channeling aggressive guitar tones and unapologetic yelling towards and within the climax of the piece, reinforcing Iero’s un-evolving musical aesthetic of pent-up angst against a soundscape of overdriven guitars and belting drums. Although, there was a pleasant surprise signifying a sign of evolution; She’s the prettiest girl at the party and she can prove it with a solid Right Hook, seems heavily inspired by Bright Eyes. From the main riff, reflecting the tribulations of the teen years, to Iero’s voice resembling that of Connor Oberst, and the great changes in dynamics throughout, the piece brings a fresh light onto Iero’s too-familiar sound.

The album attempts to hit a high mark and evoke emotive aggression within the listener, but fails to do so. Limited experimentation within the album really highlights Iero’s stinted musical growth, in reference to his previous bands. Iero utilizes simple composition and instrumentation to express his aggression and angst, but he seems to be repeating his own history. Iero does not bring anything new to the table and therefore makes Stomachaches seem like something you have heard before, but haven’t.

When I sat down to listen to the album what I expected was an album that didn’t stray very far from angsty guitars and stick-it-to-the-man lyrics. What I got, was a reasonably versatile album where Iero demonstrates his ability to challenge and control dynamics, and experiment with composition and structure. Stitches provides a particularly bass driven jam that brings to mind images of dark alleyways and cigarette smoke. Stitches contrasts strongly against Stage Four Fear of Trying, a simple melody and harmony track, illustrating Iero’s versatility between loud aggressively expressive tracks, and more mellow tracks that introduce a soft side to FrnkIero. I was very pleased to experience quieter tracks amongst the loud and aggressive ones.

In light of Iero’s unchanging aesthetic, there remains some standout songs to join the likings of past successes. I thoroughly enjoyed Weighted, the well-chosen single, with an anthem-like vibe and desire for adolescence; She’s the prettiest Girl and the party and she can prove it with a solid Right Hook, as Iero’s interpretation of Bright Eyes; and Where do we Belong? Anywhere but Here, central to Iero’s collection of great angsty songs.

FrnkIero And The Celebration’s debut album Stomachaches exemplifies Iero’s unchanging personal aesthetic which can please or bore. I personally found the album a representation of Iero’s lack of growth and development as a musician, but enjoyed the versatility and a few songs on the album. The album reaches the same status as Iero’s other side projects, a result of the desire to maintain an aesthetic.

Cover Art for Husky's Ruckers Hill

Husky – Rucker’s Hill

Husky, the award winning Melbournian indie folk band have returned with their second album Ruckers Hill. After three years of touring, writing and recording, Husky released Ruckers Hill on the 17th of October, filling the ears and hearts of many with gentle harmonies and soothing guitars.

The album begins with a swelling guitar chord and soft harmonies, the title track Ruckers Hill, personifies the feeling of arriving home late after a big night out. The first track is very well placed, as it introduces the audience to the album and acts as a transition from their debut album Forever So to Ruckers Hill. The track sets the pace for the entire album that swells between slow and toe-tapping tempo.

The album expresses Husky’s growth as a band through the extended instrumentation with the emphasis on percussion and piano. Along with the growth in instrumentation, Husky has developed their style in dynamic range. The dynamic range within their second album varies greatly from their debut that reflects delicate emotions through softness and delicacy within music. The greater dynamic range results catharsis within the listener, as seen in For to Make a Lead Weight Float, in the bridge section. Both the greater instrumentation and control over dynamics allows the album to have a greater emotive effect within the audience.

The album feels quite archaic, as though the album takes you on a journey into a past, like you’re traveling with a nomad, trekking through foot hills, forests, and visiting villages spreading stories through word and song. The archaic feeling is present throughout the entire album but is particularly noticeable in Mirror, the heavily story-based lyrics accompanied by guitar and simple percussion, it just feels aged, and Husky sounds so wise, as though they are a nomad, a traveler.

The album maintains elements that are unique to Husky. The lyrical imagery and story-telling characterized by Husky still remains in their second album. Wild and Free holds the most lyrical imagery, “I’ll wait in the car / But don’t go too far / it’s dark out there / the lake has turned to ice / but the snow looks so nice / all through your hair / my headlights light up the darkness.” This lyrical imagery is similar to their debut album, a small joy for the album which has greatly moved towards metaphors, and symbols. The archaic aura matched with the choice to write with metaphors and symbols illustrate Husky’s gaining musical maturity.

Despite the merits, the album holds little cohesion in comparison to their previous album Forever So, that focused on similar issues and listened as though a singular story, with songs that linked together. Ruckers Hill does not withhold that same cohesion. The album feels like a collection of songs compiled together, capturing several moments of time over a long time period.

The long awaited album achieved an outstanding reception by this reviewer. I loved this album; it feels like arriving home after a long journey. I enjoyed the instrumentation and emotional issues confronted within each song. I found this album refreshing, I enjoyed the addition of pace. The lack of cohesion is the only demerit I can find within this album. For me Ruckers Hill remains on par with their debut album. My favourite tracks include, Ruckers Hill, I’m Not Coming Back, Wild and Free, and Leaner Days. The album documents Husky’s maturing and recognizable sound.

Swans - To Be Kind

Swans – To Be Kind

Coming off the unanimous acclaim of The Seer and an entire discography that remains a circlejerk for the high-minded, not only does a reputation proceed the Swans, but brings with it weighty expectations.  I guess the question with their most recent release, To Be Kind, is not whether it’s good, rather to what to extent. More specifically, the question is: does it meet the hype? I don’t want to leave any of you taught in suspense, so I’ll let you in on a secret: it sure as hell does, but that doesn’t go without reservations.

Aesthetically, the album mirrors both its predecessor and other greats from the post-rock/experimental rock genre bracket, coupling the intricate layering of Spiritualized at their peak with the escalation and presence of Godspeed! You Black Emperor; both acts whose sound they pioneered. Fortunately, Swans have the presence of mind to avoid some of the genres biggest pitfalls, a la the emasculating effect Sigur Ros can have at times, staying true to their noisier ‘no-wave’ roots (see Oxygen and its infectious riff). These links come to surface in the tracks Some Things We Do and their thirty minute opus that is Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Overture. 

Sharing similarities with The Seer’s eponymous song, Bring the Sun brings into question of how long is too long for a single track, especially in the world of contemporary music where convenience and immediacy are paramount. Where its length might seem appealing to some, giving off the grandeur and ‘artistic integrity’ every critic salivates over, it might seem daunting to others, devolving into a more of chore than an actually enjoyable experience. For example, I feel neither Kristen Supine nor Nathalie Neal justify their length, but perhaps these are just the trappings of a genre built on being longwinded. Surprisingly, for both this track and the album as a whole, its length is redeemed by its droning flow that leads the listener from section to section fluidly, something I believe Tim Hecker’s release, Virgins, failed to do for me last year. In this, what would otherwise be a labouring experience actually becomes enjoyable, which I have to admit is something of a triumph. Even if at times it can head up its own ass and get lost in there.

However, what is not exactly an achievement on this LP is its lyricism, which stands out as its most lack-luster element for me. Whilst arguably complimenting the sonic repetitively of each track, Michael Gira’s nervous whisper of a chant falls short of making me feel or think much at all, blurring into obscurity as just another string of sounds.

Again, I’d like to stress, I’m only nitpicking with these points, as all in all, the album is a complete experience from start to finish and looks poised to take my album of the year. In a sentence, To be Kind does it for me because it lingers, not in the way a catchy pop hook does, or some powerful lyric that hangs in your mind, but in the same way your flannel clad hipster friend does, constantly asking whether you’ve given To be Kind a listen yet. He only means well.

If you like: Godspeed! You Black Emperor with an edgier buzzcut, or Slint with ever so slightly more regular rhythms.

Favourite Tracks: Bring The Sun / Toussaint L’Overture, Screen Shot, Oxygen, A Little God in My Hands

Least Favourite Tracks: None, shit’s sick.

Rating: 4.5 baby faces out of 5  

The Hives – Lex Hives

If you caught the last edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, then you’ll already know that Swedish music is currently ready to put you in a state of ‘Euphoria’. Adding to that wave of sound is another release from one of Scandinavia’s favourite rockers The Hives, taking to shelves with a much needed heavy thump with their fifth full-length album Lex Hives.

The battle to get Lex Hives into distribution hasn’t been an easy one for lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, bassist Dr. Matt Destruction and the rest of the band. After touring with their previous album The Black And White Album for nearly three years, and deciding to part ways with their previous label, the band chose to produce and release Lex Hives independently.

The battle to get Lex Hives into ears has, however, has been worth it. The Hives have gifted the music community another rock-solid record. From the opening prelude ‘Come On!’, a straight up-and-down garage rock rallying cry, the course is set for the kind of high energy, high tempo sounds that The Hives always seem so willing to provide through their albums and their live shows.

The influences that help construct Lex Hives are as diverse as they are numerous. The first single from the album, ‘Go Right Ahead’, draws on the Electric Light Orchestra’s classic ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ so much that ELO songwriter Jeff Lynne receives a co-writing credit for the track. Other influences are far more subtle. A guitar riff in ‘I Want More’ sounds almost surreptitiously like the classic riff from ACDC’s ‘Back In Black’. ‘Wait A Minute’ could easily stand as a 21st century garage revamp of the classic doo-wop of the fifties and sixties. And ‘Without The Money’ rides a blues riff that is enough to make Jack White turn green with envy.

Through all this however, in no way does it ever have any more impact than an allusive homage, and to cap off the album, The Hives inject a few tracks of their own distinct style. ‘If I Had A Cent’ and ‘1000 Answers’ are perfect examples, and while it doesn’t match successes from previous albums like ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ or ‘Two Timing Touch And Broken Bones’, it undoubtedly hails from the same garage punk roots that Hives fans have grown to know, love, and expect.

Lex Hives isn’t an album that is going to change the world. It won’t make your list of top ten of albums for 2012. It won’t even go as far as challenging your expectations. But in a music landscape where Lou Reed gets together with Metallica for a spoken-word circlejerk, and Iggy Pop is releasing French covers, surely the need for classic, dumb, hi-tempo rock like the offerings in Lex Hives is higher than ever. Even if just for the simple reason that we need something to combat the pop pap that Eurovision dredges up each and every year. This is one situation in which a formulaic album is not necessarily a bad thing.

Prince - Funknroll

Prince – FUNKNROLL

Wow, a new Prince song! Bet it’s as good as Little Red Corvette!” That’s a sentence nobody’s heard in 25 years.

The fact is, since his critical and commercial domination throughout the 80’s, the Purple One has been more or less doing whatever the hell he wants, and that only occasionally lines up with what everybody else wants to hear. Which is a shame, because for all its inconsistencies His Royal Badness’ career from the 90’s onwards has produced some great music.

Which brings us to FUNKNROLL, the latest track to drop from Prince‘s upcoming album Art Official Age (a different version of the track will also appear on Plectrum Electrum, the debut release of his new band 3rdEyeGirl).

The track opens with Prince’s band freaking out, an audience freaking out along with them in the background, before cutting to a clucking drum machine and settling into a stripped-back groove with occasional guitar licks, hand claps and chants of “Funk! Roll!” It’s the coolest thing Prince has done in years, updating the minimalist funk of Kiss and the sped-up-tape vocals of U Got the Look without relying too heavily on past triumphs.

But the biggest surprise comes towards the end when the track suddenly takes a left turn into dance music, with a sample of Prince yelling “I don’t really care what y’all be doing” riding up against pounding drums and swirling keyboard lines.

Unfortunately the song is let down by the lyrics, which are about as inane as they come. Between the line “Whether U R comin’ by bus or train/Shade throwers hatin’ like they goin’ insane” and the part where Prince tells you to party like you’re never going to party again (where have I heard that before?) you’re not going to get a whole lot of insight out of this track.

All in all the song is at once totally bizarre and catchy as hell. And ultimately, that’s what you look for in a Prince song. The Kid’s never stopped throwing new ideas at the wall, and thankfully most of what he tries here sticks.

 

FUNKNROLL is available on Amazon and iTunes. A live version with Prince’s full band is up on YouTube at time of writing, but there’s no telling how long it will stay there. Art Official Age and Plectrum Electrum are both out September 26th.

 

Sierra

Sierra – ‘Reality Redefined’ EP Stream

Mount Gambier post-hardcore outfit Sierra have teamed up with KillYourStereo.com to stream their upcoming EP ‘Reality Redefined’ in preparation for its release on Friday.

A follow-up to their 2013 self-titled release, ‘Reality Redefined’ was again tracked at Sydney’s Electric Sun Studios with producer and friend Stevie Knight.

“What you’ll get from ‘Reality Redefined’ is five individual tracks, each with their own personality, but still with common threads that bind the record together.

“The recording process was unlike any other we have undertaken – there was a real sense of open-mindedness from everyone – and a desire to keep a true sound in the studio with little manipulation.” vocalist Brett Kennedy said.

Reality Redefined’ is available independently this Friday via the band’s Bandcamp page.