Tag Archives: music review

Q: Who are These New Puritans?

A: A decidedly strange indie outfit out of the UK. It is difficult to classify a particular genre for their music, as it incorporates and amalgamates so many diverse and discordant influences. Post Rock, Industrial, Minimal Electro, Shoegaze, Post Punk and Brian Eno/Thom Yorke-esque avant-gardism are just a few influences that come to mind. If nothing else, These New Puritans are an ambitious lot. The recently released Hidden LP involves the band moving far beyond the 3-4 piece standard instruments that characterise traditional rock. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the thunderous Japanese Taiko drums and the long forgotten Bassoon (yeah, they actually play a bassoon!). The result is a really interesting and surprisingly addictive album. Be prepared to spend a little time with this one…it isn’t designed or instant gratification, and you won’t hear any of their songs in a car commercial.

Not that there is anything wrong with bands who have songs that appear in car commercials. Phoenix’s massively successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix LP included a number of tracks that became ubiquitous in large part due to their use in ads. It can be somewhat annoying, but who can blame them in an era when nobody actually purchases music? Anyhow, I always felt that Love Like a Sunset was a song that had massive potential, but ended prematurely and was thus somewhat unsatisfying. In a blatant attempt to appease me, Phoenix have gone ahead and released Love Like A Sunset (Part III), which is essentially an electro remix of the song. It sounds pretty cool, but once again I feel like they could have used the song’s climax so much more creatively and effectively than they did…sigh. Fun track though!

Of course, all good music doesn’t need to be ground breaking and innovative (and in fact a lot of ‘innovative’ music is just pretentious garbage). I (and I would imagine many other people) sometimes crave the comforting simplicity of a well crafted rock song that evokes emotion and just makes me want to sing along. This is the kind of music you will get from the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit. 2008’s A Midnight Organ Fight was a fantastically earnest and melancholy album that incorporated elements of Scottish & Irish folk music. Their most recent release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (March 2010), is a decidedly more upbeat and ambitious record, incorporating a wider use of instruments and texture. I’m impressed with their ability to progress as a band, and this is a good album, but somehow it lacks that emotional punch that made A Midnight Organ Fight such a great album.

Finally, a parting gift of pure electropop sweetness from that loveable sheep shaggin land of New Zealand (thanks SP) by The Naked And Famous. Very Passion Pit/MGMT…and that’s a good thing.


Themeless, Shapeless….

I’m feeling rather magnanamous today, so I thought I’d spare everyone the arduous task of reading this. Just listen. These are songs that have found their way into my head recently, and if you’re not careful they’ll find a way into your consciousness as well.

The Arcade Fire: We Used to Wait

From the new album ‘The Suburbs’. Highly recommended. Head and shoulders above their previous stuff IMO.

Modest Mouse: Bury me With It

The Gaslamp Killer: Sitar Ride (recommended by Shikha, acclaimed music aficionado)

Kanye West, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Jay-Z: Monster

Kanye West is an annoying megalomaniac, but it’s hard to deny that he knows how to put a song or two together. Nicki Minaj’s performance, however, is by far the most impressive.

Horse Feathers: In Our Blood

Sipping Black Milk and eating Camembert

There is nothing like a good live performance. I personally prefer the intimacy of a small venue to the raw energy of a packed arena or stadium (although I did thoroughly enjoy Metallica at the ACER Arena this weekend) because I love being able to actually hear the music and see the people performing it on something other than a big TV screen while craning my neck to avoid Shaq and his 7ft NBA buddies who just happen to be standing in front of me. I don’t think that there’s a live venue in Sydney that matches the uniquely welcoming yet bizzarely unearthly environment that is the original Qirkz in Marrickville. Of course, the powers that be had to spoil our fun and close the place down, but the owners occasionally have a private party and invite some of us back. I recently attended one of these parties and had the immense pleasure and honour of seeing the venue’s owner perform with his own ARIA winning band, Monsieur Camembert. Their music is an eclectic riot of Jazz, Gypsy, Eastern European Folk, and a raft of other influences and genres all rolled in to one. I’m not sure I’d dig this sitting at home with the headphones on, but they epitomize why we bother shelling dosh out for live performances. Sadly, there isn’t a great video of them at Qirkz, so I have included a clip of another live performance of MC.

I’m sure the folks at Qirkz would appreciate the combination of imaginative, boundry spanning production and spitfire lyrical style of Detroit based producer/MC Black Milk. BM has released his follow up to 2008’s superb Tronic with the pugnaciously named Album of The Year. Such a title almost begs the critics to sharpen their knives. Thankfully, even though the album may not fully live up to its name, its pretty damn nice. Black Milk’s soul and boom bap inspired production (reminiscent of other midwest production heavyweights including J Dilla and the highly annoying yet undeniably talented Kanye) is back, but this time it includes more complex influences (string and horn samples and guitar loops are far more prominent this time) that make this record satisfyingly challenging. I’ve heard it in its entirety three times, and I like it more after each successive listen…always a good sign. Black Milk’s flow is good…characterized by a rapid delivery that works well with the production, but cameos from the likes of Royce Da 5-9 and Elzhi clearly surpass Black Milk’s ability, elucidating that he’s still a producer on  a mic rather than the other way around.

More soon…

Winter Coats & Easter Eggs

Have you ever experienced the joy of wearing your long stowed away winter coat for the first time that season and unexpectedly finding something truly valuable in one of its pockets? Perhaps its that fifty bucks that you swore that you had in your wallet, or perhaps its something more personal and lasting. Either way, that feeling of unexpected rediscovery and reunion is difficult to replicate on purpose.

This week’s post is about discovering, or rediscovering that proverbial fifty bucks from a musical perspective. I was recently backing up my hard drive, and in the process I discovered a lot of music that was accumulating digital dust. Needless to say, it feels good to give these a good shake and present them to you today.

Artist: Acoustic Ladyland Album: Living with a Tiger

The band’s name clearly pays homage to Jimi Hendrix and his seminal Electric Ladyland album. Acoustic Ladyland’s style of music is in itself reflective of Hendrix’s desire and ability meld a multitude of musical genres into something new and exciting. Acoustic Ladyland mix the often disparate yet undeniably related genres of Jazz and Rock into an energetic, punk infused sound that is both immensely fun yet clearly technical and challenging (for the artist as well as the listener) at the same time. They aren’t the first band to bring jazz instruments and experimentalism into rock music, but they’re one of the first bands to catch my ear. It’s great to hear the sax has the headline instrument rather than the trusty electric guitar. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good guitar riff as much as the next guy, but it is nice when band’s throw some of the unwritten rules of rock out the window, and the interplay between the guitar and sax is what really defines this album.

Listen HERE

Artist: Club 8 Track: Dancing with the Mentally Ill

The influence of Scandinavian pop is quite often overlooked. I know that we’ve all danced to an ABBA song at a family reunion party at some point, but contemporary Swedish indie-pop and electroclash is actually on the cutting edge of production that eventually finds its way to the broader mainstream market. Just check out music by Teddybears STHLM, Lykki Li, and Peter Bjorn & John and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Club 8 are another of the multitude of Scandi indie pop groups that are making some noise. I wasn’t hugely impressed with the album, but I loved this track.

Listen HERE

Speaking of Scandinavian artists that are making waves, I think I’ve already mentioned jj on this blog before. jj produce what can I can best describe as neo-stoner pop. Their sound is characterized by an ethereal and almost detached sound that makes me feel as if I’m listening to the music in another room through a steel pipe. They create this sound through an interesting (although not particularly novel) use of echo effects. The end result is an incredibly rich and layered sound that nonetheless retains its traditional pop accessibility. This featured track was recently released for free. Do you recognize the voice sample at the beginning? oh, and they throw in a lil’ wayne verse for fun.

Last but not least in this (somewhat lengthy) post are two songs that don’t really fit into my theme of forgotten gems, because I never forgot about them. I suppose however, that I could argue that this guy seems to have been generally overlooked outside of the insular dubstep world. ‘Brighter Day’ and ‘Get Up’ are from a dubstep producer named Pinch, and were a part of his Underwater Dancehall (2007) album. The name of the album perfectly personifies the feeling of the album. This is true night music. Dark, beat driven, and culturally diffuse.

(PS- if your internet speed allows, please try to listen to ‘Get Up’ on the HD setting (look at the bar underneath the video, and set the level to either 720p or 1080p)….and if you have headphones….use them!. It really makes a difference n the sound quality.)


New Music (Part II)

So, on to part II of new music that doesn’t make you want to cry in agony, in contrast to the persistent and deafening drone of those South African vuvuzelas in the World Cup.  If you don’t know what i’m talking about, check out the video below!

Imagine trying to play football with tens of thousands of those things….and we wonder why the standard of play has been so poor so far! But I digress…..

1) Artist: The Black Keys Album: Brothers

This blues-rock duo has really developed their sound over the last five years. Somewhat unfairly dubbed as White Stripes wannabe’s, these Akron boys are finally receiving the respect and recognition they deserve. 2008’s Attack & Release ushered in a new era for the group in which they tested the boundaries of traditional blues rock confines of thier previous albums with creative usage of stuidio techniques, distortion, and harmonies to add a level of texture and depth to their sound. Indeed, the most striking thing when listening to recent Black Key’s music is the fact that they really are only a two piece band. Their desire to experiment and expand their sound was further underscored by the recent Blakroc project (see my previous post for details, in which they collaborated with a host of hip hop artists. Brothers is clearly an attempt to continue their musical evolution while remaining faithful to their blues rock roots. It is perhaps their most accessible album, but somehow also manages to maintain the grit and rawness that sets these guys apart from a lot of more slickly produced acts. Highly recommended.

Top Songs: (the whole album is worth a listen, but if you insist…): Everlasting Light, Sinister Kid

2) Artist: Santogold (now known as Santigold) Album: Santogold

This is not a new album by any stretch of the imagination. Santogold broke into the burgeoning indiepop scene back in 2008, and her single L.E.S Artiste’s received considerable attention from both indie and mainstream media. Dubbed as the next M.I.A due to similar influences, musical choices, and fashion tastes, Santogold can definitely be seen as part of the same wider genre that blends hip hop, r&b, reggae/dancehall, as well as more eclectic world music into a more contemporary and youthful sound. In many ways, Santogold is a more maintstream artist who takes fewer risks and clearly wants to develop a radio friendly hook in her music. Hey, there ain’t nothin wrong with that if she manages to keep it interesting! I never gave her whole album a chance until recently, and I was pleasantly surprised by the consistent quality from start to finish.

Top Songs: L.E.S Artistes, Shove it

3) Arist: Foals Album: Total Life Forever

Although I enjoyed Foals’ previous album Antidotes, I found it to be a little too inconsistent and rather tinny in its production. It felt like the guys had an interesting sound (kind of a geeky, dance rock sound that combines elements of math rock, post rock, electro pop and 80’s new wave) but their songwriting hadn’t fully caught up with their ambition. Total Life Forever represents their true coming of age as a truly credible and unique band that can cut it. I have only just heard most of the album’s songs, and it is definitely among the best albums I have heard this year. Each track has offers a new twist without diverging so far that the transition is jarring, and all the songs are both instantly enjoyable but have enough depth and texture to reward deeper listening. Nice one Foals!

Top Songs: Blue Blood, Spanish Sahara

Also, check out Nucleya, an Indian electronic artist who has made a banging album that mixes bollywood tracks with a lot of cool stuff. Check it out through fairterlizer

Musical Musings-April