ALBUM REVIEW: Cate Le Bon | Mug Museum

Rating6square-600-1Le Bon’s third album finds her retreating/advancing from the warmth and intimacy of her earlier releases and taking her quirky voice into stranger and more experimental pop places with mixed results. Instrumentally her songs have for the most part been stripped back to guitar, bass drums and organ and repeatedly the art rock pillars of The Velvet Underground (the deconstructed guitar solo of Cuckoo Through The Walls) and Television (the chiming, spiraling guitars of I Can’t Help You) emerge as strong influences. Le Bon’s voice is less folk and more icy chanteuse with austere Nico-like intonements, making it annoying and charming in equal amounts.

by Chris Familton

this review was first published in/on The Music

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NEW MUSIC: Swervedriver | Deep Wound

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Swervedriver return with their first single in 15 years. Deep Wound has been floating around for a while now with the footage in the clip below taken from their studio performance for radio station KEXP in Seattle back in April 2012. The single is available now via iTunes, Amazon and the band’s Bandcamp page backed with a dub version called Dub Wound. The single includes backing vocals by Ride’s Mark Gardener and was mixed in part by him. Word is there is a new album coming from the band in 2014.

DS Favourite Reissues of 2013

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As the trend of deluxe, remastered, expanded, repackaged and newly compiled album reissues continues we were treated to some superb releases in 2013. From classic to more underground acts there was a veritable treasure trove for music nerds. Here are some of our favourites.

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The Band – Live at the Academy of Music 1971

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Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co.

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Sly & the Family Stone – Higher!

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Nirvana – In Utero

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R.E.M. – Green

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The Clash – Sandinista

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The Clean – Vehicle

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Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait

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Elvis Presley – Elvis at Stax

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The Cult – Electric Peace

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Mad Season – Above (Deluxe Edition)

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Country Soul Sisters Volume 2: Women in Country Music 1956-79

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Roky Erickson – Gremlins Have Pictures

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Studio One Ska Fever

DS Favourite Songs of 2013

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It’s always a mighty challenge to narrow down all the songs you’ve heard in one year and slot them into order on a nice tidy list of 20. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful of gems but these are all songs that have either captured my imagination, feet, ears or all of the above and made me think “damn that is a great song”.

1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

3. Houndmouth – Penitentiary

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

5. Bad//Dreems – Caroline

6. Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

7. Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

8. Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

9. Ducktails – Under Cover

10. TV Colours – Beverly

11. Popstrangers – Heaven

12. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

13. Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

14. Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

15. Bill Callahan – Small Plane

16. Neko Case – Night Still Comes

17. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

18. Arcade Fire – We Exist

19. Suede – Barriers

20. Depeche Mode – Heaven

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

Houndmouth – Penitentiary

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

Bad//Dreems – Caroline

Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

Ducktails – Under Cover

TV Colours – Beverly

Popstrangers – Heaven

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

Suede – Barriers

Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

Bill Callahan – Small Plane

Neko Case – Night Still Comes

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Arcade Fire – We Exist

Depeche Mode – Heaven

LIVE REVIEW: Sonny & The Sunsets, Surf City, Community Radio, Adults @ Goodgod (21/11/13)

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Four shades of indie guitar pop music were on display at Goodgod with Adults being at the more obtuse end of the spectrum. The trio knocked out ramshackle, skeletal post punk songs built around restless melodies and rhythmic edge. Their songs gave the impression of being thrown together casually yet beneath the Pavement-esque delivery there lurked some interesting and restless musicality. Once the ears and brain adjusted they were occasionally frustrating and often very good.

Community Radio include members of Youth Group, Songs and The Vines with their sound sitting firmly in the vicinity of the the former two. Their dreamy, softly propulsive songs blended in well with Goodgod’s dimly lit, basement grotto feel and hypnotic spinning mirrorball. The interplay between guitarist Cameron Emerson-Elliott and bassist Patrick Matthews stood out as a highlight with intermeshed rhythms and tangled notes working out some wonderful melodies.

New Zealanders Surf City re-energised the audience with a set that had its fair share of frustrations but showed enough to justify the critical acclaim for their two albums. A bass cabinet upped and died in the first song leaving the band to battle on with the low end coming only from the stage monitors. It seemed to throw them, disrupting their vibe on stage, unnecessarily so as it still sounded great out front. They showed how well they’ve mastered the skill of blending a strong rhythm section with layered, effect-rich guitars and hook-laden vocals. You could hear the ghosts of the last 30 years of New Zealand independent music, still with Surf City’s own stamp applied.

Sonny & The Sunsets played their set in near darkness yet their music was brightest and most unabashed pop music of the night. Sure there was an abundance of dark lyrical themes but the band framed them with such infectious indie, surf and rock n roll pop shapes that they won the audience over from the get go. Goofy songs about murder, love, romance, aliens and girls filled the room via Sonny Smith’s laconic drawl that often brought to mind a jerkier, new wave Lou Reed. The musicality of The Sunsets was a real highlight from Tahlia Harbour’s girl-group backing vocals to the way they allowed so much space in their sound when it was required. This was a set of songs that sounded otherworldly and familiar, simple yet quirky, all at the same time.

by Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: The Murlocs, Los Tones, Blind Valley @ Goodgod Small Club (15/11/13)

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Three separate strains of psychedelic rock were on display at Goodgod with locals Blind Valley kicking things off in confident fashion. A quartet with a sound built around big Tame Impala-styled riffs, impressively melodic bass playing, Led Zeppelin atmospherics and a farfisa organ made them a varied and entertaining opening act. The arriving crowd responded in fashion, quickly filling that too often empty void in front of the stage and letting the music move them.

Newcomers Los Tones took the sound in a Black Lips-inspired garage rock direction with a suitably loose-hinged and physical set of whoopin’ and hollerin’, string-breaking ramalama-drenched surf rock. They have a narrowly defined sound but they executed it well, conjuring up images of mariachi bands jamming slack-jawed at drunken house parties.

The Murlocs have been building a reputation as one of the best live acts coming out of the current and fertile Melbourne psych scene. Their not-so-secret weapon is singer/harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith with his screech and slacker demeanor that rides the band’s deceivingly hypnotic sound. Crammed onto the small stage they eased into their set but it only took a few songs before the up-for-it crowd were swaying and colliding with wide grins and closed eyes.

The Murlocs are all about rhythm and groove, hitting those droning, chiming chords that draw the audience in, removing that imaginary live between band and punters and even inspiring a couple of stage dancers. The band played with a sleepy, heavy-lidded vibe that enhanced the hazy, tranced-out mood of their set yet beneath it there was still a strong energy and vibrancy to the music, giving it a celebratory feel.

Rattle The Chain stood out as a real highlight, as did the new single Space Cadet and its wonderful shimmering and choppy guitars. With the sweaty punters baying for more they returned with their cover of Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, showing the debt they owe to the original garage rock bands but also demonstrating their own style and the beat/blues/boogie sound that they’ve added to the mix. All three acts on the bill showed that rock n roll is in good hands with bands that know their musical history while still living in the now.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

ALBUM REVIEW: Anna Calvi | One Breath

Rating7square-600Anna Calvi’s debut album in 2011 marked her as a bold and confident songwriter that was matched by her exceptional voice and guitar playing. Two years later we have One Breath, a record that finds her retaining the dramatic and virtuosic elements of her music but also expanding its sonic scope by experimenting with new sounds and song structures.

Eliza is an early standout with its martial drumming and Calvi’s soaring vocals giving the chorus a euphoric skyward feel. It builds to a crescendo assisted by synths and strings, eclectically combining to maximise the song’s drama. The electronic flourishes are an example of the creative expansion Calvi has attempted on this album. They flesh the songs out and add layers of texture to what would otherwise be rather bare pieces of music, primarily her guitar, voice and percussion. The weaker moments on One Breath occur when Calvi stretches too far from her strengths as she does on Love of My Life, a playful glam stomp that feels contrived and unnecessary.

The great far outweighs the few mediocre moments on Calvi’s second album. It is a record that shows she is ambitious and is fearlessly attempting to forge her own musical path. Like contemporaries Zola Jesus and Wild Beasts, Calvi seems to share a certain aesthetic vision to embed art and theatricality in music yet hers is uniquely and rewardingly her own.

Chris Familton

 this review was first published on undertheradar.co.nz

ALBUM REVIEW: The Grand Rapids | Great Shakes

Rating8a2076097814_10The Grand Rapids’ debut album possesses a striking sense of purpose and confidence. This isn’t the skinny, frazzled-nerve psych rock that many contemporary acts trade in, this is muscular music; widescreen and bold. They employ many of the classic elements of drone and psych rock (effects, repetition and tumbling rhythms) but nothing sounds particularly generic, referencing all manner of rock from Jane’s Addiction to The Chills and Wooden Shjips. In many cases it is singer Sasha L Smith’s voice that gives the music its intensity and authority with its 80s post-punk dramatics. Songs like the title track and Julia Now are two of many highlights that make this record a real thrill and delight.

by Chris Familton

Buy Great Shakes for only $6 (or more) from The Grand Rapids Bandcamp Page.

this review was first published in The Music