Category: Reviews

Memoryhouse

Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect

For those not familiar with this particular Canadian female duo, Memoryhouse have followed their 2010 EP The Past with a full length album: The Slideshow Effect. Released through Sub Pop (who also brought you Nirvana’s Bleach), this a laid-back and endearing selection of tunes that whilst not being overtly catchy, will soothe a weathered soul. This album plays like a pair of comfy old shoes: easy to get into and after a while you forget they’re even on.

The album opens with a tight a capella harmony which despite being a lesson in autotune, drags the listener in like Sirens from the Odyssey. From here we’re gently rocked along by the light-hearted driving songs such as ‘The Kids Were Wrong’ and ‘Walk With Me’, then carefully put to sleep by ‘Punctum’ and ‘Old Haunts’. If Chris Martin and Dido had a baby and Zooey Deschanel sang it to sleep, it would be Memoryhouse.

The ethereal nature of this album is an asset and provides sweet relief from the current glut of production-line-post-shoegazer-pop-rock, by private school kids who aren’t old enough to remember when Ray Bans went out of fashion. The Slideshow Effect offers aurally delicious tracks such as ‘All Our Wonder’ that will met your afternoon like caramel. If vegetable juice fails to ease a sore head on a particularly difficult Saturday-morning-after, try this album.

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Bonobo – Black Sands Remixed

Simon Green’s latest release under the Bonobo moniker, Black Sands Remixed is – as you might have guessed – a rework of his highly successful 2010 album Black Sands, featuring remixes alongside previously unreleased tracks.

As a remix album based directly off his past release, it begs direct comparison – and on this count it fails to live up to its namesake. The original Black Sands album was something you could sit down and listen to from start to finish. Black Sands Remixed on the other hand does not have the flow and continuity that made the original such a listening pleasure. You might find yourself skipping over the third ‘Eyesdown’ remix in a row, or perhaps jarring a little bit after hearing the frantic beat on the Machinedrum remix of ‘Eyesdown’ following the extremely chilled out remix of ‘Stay the Same’.

However, when you consider the album as a collection of individual songs rather than a play-through experience, the album stands up better. The Banks remix of ‘The Keeper’ has proved extremely popular; peaking at number 6 on Hype Machine’s charts, and in your reviewer’s humble opinion is in fact superior to the original, which is something not many remixes can boast. Lapalux’s reinterpretation of the intro track ‘Prelude’ also breathes new life to the original by completely rearranging it to the point where it’s almost unrecognisable with a hauntingly beautiful result. Green’s own contributions, ‘Ghost Ship’ and ‘Brace Brace’ are highlights of the album. The latter, ‘Brace Brace’, really illustrates his skill at creating delicate, interesting instrumental music.

All in all, the album holds its own but perhaps lives somewhat in the shadow of the original album. A large portion of the tracks are repeated – of the 14 tracks, over a third are double-ups – but some stand out remixes and the two original songs help to make this a solid release.

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Speech Debelle – Freedom of Speech

Potential: that’s the word that came to mind when listening to Freedom of Speech. As a follow up to her award winning album of 2009, Speech Debelle has brought an interesting mix of tracks on this release that are sure to raise some eyebrows – particularly on the faces of anyone who expected this to be a hip-hop release.

The four-minute opening track ‘Studio Back Pack Rap’ opens with a machinegun style a capella that excitedly rolls into a ‘Shake Your Rump’-style drum break into a modest verse. This allows the chorus to stand out as a bouncy tongue-twisting party anthem. At two minutes I’d had a bit of fun, but it was really time for a fade out. Instead the song presses on and elects to persevere with a beat I’m fairly sure was sampled from Bloodhound Gang’s ‘The Bad Touch’.

There are things Speech Debelle does that I really like, but unfortunately others I simply don’t understand. ‘Blaze up a Fire’ has a pleasant Amy Winehouse swing in the beat, over which Debelle does her thing providing staccato rhyming punctuated with trademark attitude here and there.  But rightly or wrongly, it reminded me of Crazy Town’s ‘Butterfly’ so I struggled with it.

‘Freedom of Speech’ has a solid, emotive orchestral beat akin to The Streets’ ‘It’s Too Late’ and it was enough to keep me going for the full 4 minutes. “X Marks the Spot” is the second shortest song on the album (at 3.49) and is by all accounts a break up song, but is lyrically infantile and clunky. This is starkly contrasted with the very next track ‘Angel Wings’ which is a beacon of light on this album, boasting emotive lyrics such as the repeated line “I ain’t afraid of flying” and a determination similar to Eminem’s tracks such as ‘Not Afraid’ (ironically).

The longest track on the album ‘Sun Dog’ is an epic seven minutes, but worth every second. A military snare helps it build wonderfully and it could easily be the soundtrack to a short film. More Karen O meets Tegan and Sara than cheeky Brit hip-hop, Debelle’s lyrics are well paced with the cut-back beat and the atmospheric production is – perhaps for the first time on this album – ideal.

So, like I said – potential. Freedom of Speech had the potential to be a powerful Brit-hop force for 2012, but I’m not sure that it will be. It certainly has some grand moments and if you’re looking for some brooding, angst-ridden tracks, you’ll potentially get a lot out of this album. But it’s not something I’d listen to in good weather and it’s certainly not going to psych you up for that next job interview.


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Toro Y Moi / Washed Out (09/02/12)

Remember that guy you used to jam with in high school? Still see him all that much? Yeah, me neither. Chaz Bundick and Ernest Greene (aka Toro Y Moi and Washed Out), on the other hand, have been friends since high school in Columbia, South Carolina, and this has continued to the point where not only are they touring the same festival, but playing joint sideshows. Strange? Perhaps, but it means that the punters get massive bang for not much buck, which in a society that demands value, I suppose can’t be a bad thing.

As it was, we trouped down to the Hi-Fi a few days after Laneway, with sufficient ciders under our belts and an optimistic view of the future, and joined the queue of baby hipsters with similar looks on their faces to ours. Once inside, we fought our way to the middle and set ourselves up behind a couple of guys who weren’t too much taller than us – which was the best we were going to get in the situation.

Washed Out, with a full (and attractive) backing band, raised the ethereal-meter to 11, with a swelling, euphoric set that made me wonder whether there wasn’t in fact a small measure of acid in the ciders from earlier. The crowd began to sway, to the point you could be forgiven for thinking that a reasonably strong breeze had somehow made it down the stairs into the Hi-Fi dungeon, and all seemed right in the world.

After Washed Out left the stage and we took a quick toilet break, it was time for the confused-sounding Toro Y Moi (Is it French? Spanish? Frenish? Spinach?) to take the stage. And the stage was indeed taken. Bundick and band managed to have the entire room jumping around with abandon. It takes something pretty special to be able to do that without any special lighting or effects – they simply did what they did, without the aid of anything but their amplifiers. The only drawback from the whole thing was Bundick’s suggestion towards the end that they may not return for a while now – I can only hope he was lying (or that someone makes him an offer he’d be stupid to refuse).

Overall, though, the two acts were superb. We walked out elated, exhausted, and completely satisfied, and I’m looking up that guy I used to jam with on Facebook as we speak.

Islands

Islands – A Sleep And A Forgetting

Gather ‘round, yon children, and let me regale you with a tale about a wonderful man from the magical far-away kingdom of Canada. There was once a man named Nick Diamonds, and many, many years ago, he fronted a band called The Unicorns. Mr Diamonds and his friends made wondrous noises together. Sometimes it was silly, sometimes it was strangely haunting, but the beautiful lo-fi pop made all the little indie children from all the lands smile their biggest smiles.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Mr Diamonds soon said goodbye to his friends, and started a new band, Islands. Friends both old and new joined Mr Diamonds as he made three very nice long-playing discs filled with indie music spanning all styles and sub-genres, packaged them up and sent them off to distant shores, creating more happy faces.

Life was good for Mr Diamonds. He was doing something that he truly enjoyed, and that people loved. But once again, all good things must come to an end. One day, Mr Diamonds found himself in a messy breakup with his partner. He got lost. He ran away. And when he eventually got his head around the situation, he sat down at a piano in la-la-land and continued doing what he does best – create music.

A Sleep And A Forgetting is the culmination of those efforts. And Nick Diamonds – or Nick Thorburn to his parents – has clearly made an effort to press a small piece of his heart and his soul into each disc. Stripped of his usual genre-flipping style and decidedly emotional, Diamonds writes openly about his broken heart and damaged dreams – the opening lyrics to ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ capture the mood and themes of the album perfectly. I miss my wife / I miss my best friend / Every night / I miss my home / I miss my own bed / And my old life.

With this in mind, it’s very easy to see why A Sleep is Diamonds’ most cohesive work to date. Sadly however, this cohesiveness is a detriment. The entire album pushes through unchallenging, piano-driven indie pop as Diamonds relentlessly purges his soul, and while you undoubtedly feel for the guy and understand his motivations, it does not make for particularly enjoyable listening. Take, for example, the first single and perhaps the most upbeat track from the album, ‘Hallways’. Written about time spent waiting in transitional spaces and seeing the simplest changes and the grandest of highlights, the track offers a perfect analogy for the entire LP. Most of the listening experience is spent waiting for something to change, something like a change of theme or tact or scenery – something that never seems to arrive.

Diamonds pulled the title of A Sleep And A Forgetting from a short story written by Science Fiction writer Orson Scott Card about complete amnesia and personal displacement. Perhaps he was trying to reflect his dislocation and desire to forget. Instead, A Sleep And A Forgetting is exactly how the label describes; an album of forgettable tracks that renders the listener liable to doze off – the album seems to operate as some sort of bedtime storybook. Nick Diamonds may be moving into a new stage of his life, but for his sake and the sake of his fans, I sincerely hope that he can move back into his best, most eclectic work, and seal a happy ending.

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Acid Flashbacks #1: Underworld, dubnobasswithmyheadman

The phenomenon of the ‘acid flashback’ – defined by Wikipedia as an episode in which “an individual experiences… some of LSD’s subjective effects long after the drug has worn off, usually in the days after typical doses” – is, scientifically, an unproven theory. I suspect that the panic attacks I now endure every time I catch a snippet of ‘WARP’ by the Bloody Beetroots and Steve Aoki would indicate otherwise, but I digress. Acid Flashbacks is the latest in a series of columns we’ll be publishing on Radio Monash, in which we’ll be looking back at some of the most seminal albums released in music’s history. Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our favourite albums, released a minimum of five years ago, which have had a significant impact on our consciousnesses.

This is our first issue, and I figured: in light of their recent twenty-year anniversary and the announcement that they had been asked to take on the role of Music Directors at the London 2012 Olympic Games in late July, who better to feature than seminal English techno favourites, Underworld, and their first proper album (most self-respecting fans like to pretend Underneath the Radar never happened), 1994’s dubnobasswithmyheadman? Damn right there isn’t anybody else.

Let’s set the context from which this record emerged: It’s 1994, and the sounds of Detroit’s techno scene are slowly migrating to London’s dance music scene, slowly but steadily building a following in the smoky, darkened clubs of the city. Underworld have almost thrown in the towel, having achieved little mainstream success with their attempts at becoming famous pop stars. Discouraged and in need of a new means to express their creative urges, Smith recruited the talents of an up-and-coming DJ friend, Darren Emerson, to provide them with advice and insight on taking them in a new direction.

The resulting record, dubnobasswithmyheadman, feels like a fitting place to begin examining the trajectory of Underworld’s career. It is, after all, the album that launched them into the mainstream zeitgeist of dance music, a fusion of the hypnotic beats of techno and Karl Hyde’s stunningly unique urban poetry. Even the cover of the record – rendered in black and white, a haphazard collage of half-finished, unspoken thoughts sets a precedent for the kind of immersive musical world that the duo have constructed, a distinctively urban record with echoes of obliquely-expressed sentiment. A recent interview with Karl Hyde by the Quietus presents an illuminating account of how the manner in which dubnobasswithmyheadman’s abstract narratives were formed:

“It was a pact – a deal – I’d send the drunk me out on the streets to experience stuff that the straight me would never dream of going anywhere near. And all this technicolour stuff came back. I started to be interested in snap shot photography. Using ten quid cameras but shooting from the hip. Literally, like a drunk would – because I was a drunk – put the camera on flash and just wander the back streets of Soho night after night. And so these things started to work. They pulled together note books which were walks through cities. And then when Rick came up with a piece that inspired me I’d look through the books and start putting my fingers in the pages and flicking them back and forth. I’d improvise and head off on a journey with the music.”

Deep shit, man. It’s from those dazed, alcohol-soaked walks that the expansive soundscapes of tracks like ‘Mmm Skyscraper I Love You’ and ‘Dark and Long’ were formed, later giving birth to 1996’s anthemic ‘Born Slippy.NUXX’, as heard in cult classic Trainspotting’s final moments. Thirty thousand feet above the earth – it’s a beautiful thing, and you’re a beautiful thing, murmurs Karl Hyde on the former, his lyrics swept up in the sounds of a throbbing baseline and a kick drum that thumps on as steadily as a heartbeat. Slowing down for the middle of the album, before climaxing in the nihilistic yet almost euphoric ten-minute ‘Dirty Epic’, then segueing straight into the electric ‘Cowgirl’ – it’s this merging of the decidedly cold, remote soundscapes of dance music with the more human warmth of rock music’s guitars and lyricism that dubnobasswithmyheadman’s mainstream success can be attributed to – as evidenced by Melody Maker’s insistence on referring to it as “the most important album since the Stone Roses and the best since Screamadelica… the one single record that saw audiences and critics switch allegiances from guitar bands to more ‘progressive’ outfits”.

Sit down one rainy evening with dubnobasswithmyheadman on the stereo, or go wander through the darkened alleyways of Melbourne’s streets with this on your iPod – Hyde’s narratives and references to city streets and machinery, late evenings and elusive lovers combined with Smith and Emerson’s outstanding production values make for a captivating experience. Go on: get your kicks on channel six with Underworld.

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Air – La Voyage Dans La Lune

In 1902, French director Georges Méliès released what was, at that time, one of the finest spectacles ever committed to film. Le Vogage dans la Lune, a film occasionally labelled as the first film blockbuster, follows the science fiction vein of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as it tells the story of a handful of brave adventurers who visit and return from the moon, beset with the style and grace of the Belle Époque and the Victorian Era.

Fast forward an astounding 110 years, and after 11 years of mind-numbing restoration, a fully restored, hand coloured version of the film has been released – with the backing of an entirely new soundtrack composed by French electronica duo Air, spawning the first “album” from the band since 2009.

Weighing in at just over half and hour long with the addition of tracks not included in the film, the album is not the first foray into film scores for Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel. Air’s sophomore album was the downtempo soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film The Virgin Suicides in 2000 – which included the hit Playground Love and was very well received.

Unfortunately though, La Voyage Dans La Lune doesn’t contain a track capable of reaching similar heights. The first single, Seven Stars, demonstrates a valiant attempt to capture the true essence of the film. Featuring husky vocals from Victoria Legrand of Beach House, a military-style opening and synths befitting the film, it combines futurism with mysticism and grittiness – wonderful in its own right, but not the kind of track to please a general public.

The playful Parade is the duo reflecting some of their former best, but I’m sure that fans would agree that the track is simply stale Air. Who Am I Now?, featuring Au Revoir Simone, wants to offer existential seasickness, but can barely muster even the most basic feeling of unease. Other tracks feel interstitial; biding time while never truly broaching the themes of the film nor comfortably consolidating the album into a cohesive work. In truth, it creates an album that feels like a small flotilla of ideas engulfed in a sea of beige.

La Voyage Dans La Lune is not a complete failure without artistic merit – when complimented with the visuals of the film, Air’s soundtrack is a wonderful and truly unique experience. As a stand-alone album however, it suffers the same affliction as any other commercially-released movie soundtrack – dull, forgettable, and difficult to justify as an addition to your music collection.

M83

Laneway Festival (04/02/2012)

Strolling down for another day at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, it’s a beautiful day to be spending at ‘that bloody hipster festival’ A.K.A. Laneway Festival. Despite not being in the laneway that it’s name sprang from, the festival grows from strength to strength each year, this year promising more of the same.

First up are Tinpan Orange, with an absolutely lovely brand of folk, but it’s too hot at the carpark so the decision is made to get some shade and just enjoy the lovely background music. After a quick inspection of the market stalls, which only really have op-shop-esque vintage gear, at five times the price of an actual op-shop, it’s time to catch more bands.

DZ Deathrays rule. Let that never be denied, ever. They play a ripper set, blasting through first single from their debut album, No Sleep, as well as classics Gebbie Street, House Party and Cops/Capacity. The only problems were the heat of the stage caused some electrical problems during the opener, and that the crowd was the least responsive bunch of hipsters I’ve ever seen. (Not helped by the horrible set-time of 12:40, in 27 degree heat, who thought that was a good idea?)

EMA has probably received a phone call from the 90’s at some point, they’d like their reverb back. She’d better not give it back, as she was a standout. Accompanied by a band who steals the title of most musical I.T. department from Hot Chip quite easily, her set covered nearly all of her brilliant debut, The Grey Ship being the early highlight of the day. Unfortunately, she was also a victim of the crowd that were just too cool to get into it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE KIDS THESE DAYS?

Givers had no such problem with getting the crowd into it. Their brand of MPP-era Animal Collective/Vampire Weekend pop had the front row jumping about like nobody’s business. They were genuinely happy to have made it down and apart from having one of their stacks of speakers drop out mid-set, they put on a very good value entertainment.

The Active Child/Laura Marling clash had a lot of people gnashing their teeth and wailing to the heavens, “O Lord, Why have thou forsaken me?”, but on the day, the choice was a lot easier. Active Child, whilst having a very beautiful aesthetic on record, the aesthetic doesn’t translate well live and comes across as slightly dull. Laura Marling is all class, her warm brand of folk making for lovely listening.

Wandering back down to catch Portugal. The Man with friends, I ask if anyone actually knows much about them. “Not really,” was the consensus. By the end of the set, we were all impressed, witnessing a veteran-like performance of psychedelic rock and roll. The Laneway booklet says they’ve done over 800 shows and with such anthemic hits like Got It All, there’s no chance they’ll be slowing down anytime.

Cults were really, really bad. The mixing was all wrong, Madeline Follin wasn’t hitting any notes and it just seemed really dull. After they opened with Abducted and The Curse, I’d had enough and decided to get some dumplings. I sat side of stage whilst trying to eat a Vietnamese salad and rice with chopsticks (I’m really glad nobody I knew saw me trying to do that) and listened to Anna Calvi for three songs, who, whilst not to my personal taste, wasn’t incredibly boring like Cults, actually showing the calibre of how you should be playing live on your debut Australian tour. Also, Calvi knew how to shred. Awesome.

Wandering back up to the Dean Turner stage, the warmth of Feist’s How Come You Never Go There, her experience of playing live compared to a lot of the buzz bands on this year’s line-up shows, playing an up-tempo set of just great songs. With Comfort Me and The Bad In Each Other standing admirably against older songs like Mushaboom and I Feel It All, Feist is a lovely addition before the party to come.

After accidentally getting to the front of stage after Feist, The Horrors came on stage to rapturous applause. Primary Colours was my Year 12/first year of university album and I missed them on their last tour because I screwed around on getting tickets, so there was no way I was missing them this time. To my ecstatic delight, they did not disappoint, showing why they’re quickly becoming a lot of people’s favourite british band, nailing a best-of Primary Colours/Skying set. Mirror’s Image, Scarlet Fields and a 14 minute Moving Further away were all utterly mind-blowing.

I had seen M83 live at the Prince Bandroom the night before and was telling anyone who would listen to go see them today. They actually improved at Laneway, the few minor sound issues they had being fixed. The transcendent set was a master class in how to headline a festival, with Intro, Reunion, Kim & Jessie, Steve McQueen and Year One, One UFO all totally amazing. Sitting and Couleurs were the highlights of the festival, turning a 2000-strong crowd who were just too cool to care earlier in the day into a raving mass of people who just wanted to lose it all and not care. Marvellous.

This year’s Laneway wasn’t quite as strong as the past couple, but it was still more than worth the price of admission. If Laneway is still regarded as “that hipster festival” for as long as it lives, then long live the FCAC as the home of the hipsters. As long as Laneway festival continues to be over-18 and continues to aim for the best bands, not just the biggest, then it will continue to be the understated highlight on the summer festival schedule.

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Tex Perkins at the Prince Bandroom 19th of August

When a new band rears its head, the first thing you’ll hear asked, often unfairly, is “Who do they sound like”? In the case of Tex Perkins and the Band of Gold (or, let’s face it, anything Perkins has done over the past decade) this is completely unneccessary. If you haven’t been hiding under an enormous rock then nobody needs to tell you that he’s gradually metamorphosing into the late Johnny Cash. The Band of Gold don’t disappoint. After touring the prison system with a series of Cash cover gigs the Tennessee Four have joined Tex once again, and Friday’s gig at the Prince bandroom was proof that they’ve done nothing but improve.

After a not-too-shabby set by the gorgeous Angie Hart (don’t pretend you don’t remember Frente!) and Blood Red Bird, Perkins humbly took to the stage and showed us what country is really SUPPOSED TO BE all about. Shunning his guitar for most of the night, Tex was joined by Rachael Tidd (June Carter?) in a magnificent series of duets before picking up his acoustic to finish off the set.

With the crowd responding almost reverently throughout most of the set, it’d be hard to say many were surprised;there was definitely an atmosphere of awe, with only one or two people doing anything other than cheer at the end of each song and stand almost dumbstruck while the band played.

The sound was perfect as Tex put his own stamp on classics by Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard to name a few, and although there was almost a kind of surrealness in hearing country played at the Prince it was definitely pulled off with the usual Perkins flair. Just buy the album. Seriously. Why are you still reading?

Daniel Harrison

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Devendra Banhart Live Review

(Prince Bandroom, July 29)

Before hitting Splendour in the Grass, Devendra Banhart and his four-piece band spent a night at the jam-packed Prince Bandroom last Friday. Clad in a battered leather jacket and skinny jeans, Banhart looked more like a guitar-rockin’, indie superstar rather than the folky, animal-loving hippy he was better known to be. Fortunately, his incomparable quirk and buckets of creative talent was still present that night. And his beard too, of course.

To kick off the evening, Banhart wooed the audience with his quavering croons on the doo-wop stomp ‘Shabop Shalom, Jane’. Superbly supported by his remarkably precise band, his captivating voice was not to be reckoned with as he plunged into crowd favourites ‘Angelika’ and ‘Baby’. Banhart’s affectionate charm and light-hearted banter was further welcomed with yelps and trills.

At one point in the night, the band had left to rest, leaving Banhart alone on stage to perform a miniature solo set. Armed with just his guitar, the stage lights dimmed as the leading man began with the achingly beautiful ‘The Body Breaks’. Not a sound escaped the masses and only after he sang his last line, the crowd finally broke into rapturous cheers. Followed by the incredibly enduring ‘At the Hop’, the hazy sways of ‘Bad Girl’ and the Jeff Buckley-chanelling ‘A Sight to Behold’, Banhart’s exquisite aura  had led someone to whisper, ‘This is so beautiful…I feel like I’m going to cry.’

‘Pay attention to the lyrics,’ Banhart said before he dived into outrageously obscure covers from exotic origins with one song that ran ‘I am a good sport / I am a sportsman’. However, it was none other than epic rocker ‘Seahorse’ that proved Banhart as a man with an undeniable stage presence. Shifting effortlessly from the serenading sounds of being ‘high, happy and free’ to the frantic rush of churning guitar strums, Banhart’s zest and dynamism was utterly infectious.

Whilst belting out ‘Long Haired Child’, Banhart’s sweeping arms started gesturing for a dance, as his voice shivered, ‘When my baby slips out my mama’s womb / We’re gonna enter a new life / Enter a new life, that’s for sure’. But it was none other than Spanish number ‘Carmencita’ that sent the band onstage and the crowd wild, gleefully chanting along ‘Lalalala…’

As the end of the night approached, Banhart began apologizing, ‘Sorry for not playing any new songs…’, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. With his clever intermesh of soothing folk melodies and jamming guitar rock tunes, his musical greatness was present throughout the night nevertheless.

Banhart had ditched his leather jacket and guitar for the encore, and was now making full use of his liberated limbs. He basked in the freedom of his unconstrained body – his arms outstretched, his hips jerked, his lean figure squiggled. Closing off with ‘I Feel Like A Child’, Banhart’s sudden burst of peculiar bodily movements captured the essence of his demeanour and the night perfectly –  a loveable sense of eccentricism, and full of unstoppable vigour.

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Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval

As album reviewing goes, this latest album from The Kaiser Chiefs creates a little bit of a headache. They’ve chosen an unconventional method of release in where they’ve released twenty tracks and given the chance for fans to choose their own tracklisting and the chance to make a little money on the side (Below is my suggested tracklisting; you can have that one for free). The Future is Medieval’s release plan has caused significant outcry, from ‘Devo did it first’, to ‘It’s a way to have your album not be panned’ and ‘Why on earth would I download it twice?’ Regardless, the collection of tracks is better than their previous efforts and provides a little bit more of an interesting listen than last time around.

The truly more interesting thing about this release is how exactly do you track an album like this? The Kaiser Chiefs new material has a rich hedonism about being British to it, clearly inspired by classic Pulp and Oasis. However, the best tracks on it don’t actually sound anything like the rest of them. ‘Starts with Nothing’, ‘Cousin in the Bronx’ and ‘Things Change’ all sound like bands other than Kaiser Chiefs and it provides a reinvigorating freshness to the album. The Chiefs have not disappeared under their new influences. Single ‘Little Shocks’ and ‘Child of the Jago’ both display the Chiefs ability to write stomping anthems for the live arena, both immediately more satisfying than anything they’ve written post Employment. Other than those tracks, everything else in the collection of twenty is pretty standard for the band. ‘Fly On The Wall’, ‘Man On Mars’ and ‘Back in December’ are all adequately catchy and ‘If You Will Have Me’ is the only acoustic moment in the twenty tracks.

Kudos to the five-piece for being one of the few big bands who aren’t Radiohead trying to make an interesting album release for the general public. All of the tracks in the 20-pack are solid and it does create a discussion point for people to work out which tracks they enjoy. Overall, A stomping return, setting them up for the incoming Splendour in the Grass tour and an improvement on The Angry Mob and Off With Their Heads.

My suggested tracklisting:
1. Cousin In The Bronx
2. Child Of The Jago
3. Things Change
4. Fly On The Wall
5. Back In December
6. I Dare You
7. Out Of Focus
8. If You Will Have Me
9. Starts With Nothing
10. Little Shocks

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Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way

(June 10th, Dew Process)

On a fateful night down in Sydney’s Annandale Hotel, Dananananaykroyd drummer-slash-vocalist, John Bailie Jnr, tried to crowd-surf and brutally snapped his arm in three places. After emergency surgery, he realised that he’d not be able to play the drums as hard as their 2009 debut Hey Everyone! required him to.

When it seemed like a situation only a lot of hard liquor could fix, JBJ dropped the drums and took up vocals full time. This was the start of something a lot better; their second album, There Is A Way.

For what Danananaykroyd lost in noise from having two drum-kits, they lost none of their energy and punk aggression. Rather, they gained restraint and even more melody. There Is A Way finds them working with Ross Robinson, whose influence (The man produced Relationship of Command for crying out loud) has polished the hardcore-like intensity to a point of possible cross-over material.

‘Reboot’ opens the album, calling forth the more recent efforts of …Trail Of Dead and setting a standard of boisterousness for all songs to follow, which they do. ‘All Us Authors’ and ‘Glee Cells Trade’ find John Bailie Jnr. and the other lead singer Calum Gunn bouncing off each other vocally, reaching almost hysteria set to art-punk guitars. ‘Muscle Memory’ and ‘Think and Feel’ sound like a dancier and punker Les Savy Fav, both being catchier than Malaria in a third-world country. The latter ‘Da-na-na-na-na-na-na’ hook is likely to burrow into your head. ‘Make A Fist’ and ‘Seven Days Late’ are just incredibly epic, the latter of which is not just the best track on the album, but one of the best of this year.

On the list of worst band names ever, Dananananaykroyd would have to rate fairly high. It’s a clear given. However, don’t dismiss them because of the name, as they’ve also become one of the best punk bands around with the release of There Is A Way. The crazy Scots have taken the relentless aggression and melody from their debut and channelled it into a fiercely precise dance-punk record. It’s precise and loose, aggressive and melodic, anarchic and restrained and above all, just really fun. If there’s a fault with this album, it’s not blatantly obvious. Other rock bands, are you even trying?