ALBUM REVIEW: Jamie Hutchings – Bedsit

JAMIE HUTCHINGS

It’s been seven years since the last solo album from Jamie Hutchings. In the interim he’s busied himself with 2 noisy rock records with Infinity Broke and the wonderful Down The Unmarked Road, the result of his collaboration with Peter Fenton of Crow. Now he returns to the solitude of the self with the intimate, graceful and poetic Bedsit.

This is a sparser and more delicate set of songs than those on his previous solo album Avalon Cassettes. They feel weightless, unconcerned with time and the restraints of conventional song structures. There is a fragmentary and fragile quality to the music with guitars pulling in and out of focus, with gentle augmentation from strings, harmonica and the emotive piano of sister Sophie Hutchings on Above The Rain and Shadow On The Lung. For the most part this is Hutchings and his vignettes and song poems. Opener Second Winter details a dream of waking up with blocks of ice as feet and the resulting surreal happenings. A highlight is December Park, propelled by light flurries of guitar strings, upright bass and Hutchings’ voice sounding weary like a hazy, late-night afterthought.

References to dreams, seasons and nature abound, framing existential questions and the foibles of human relationships. Centennial Park and Marrickville get name checked and it feels very much like a Sydney album, albeit a reflective, introspective and intensely personal one from the melancholic side of town.

CHRIS FAMILTON

40 FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2017

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If anything, their music inhabits even darker territory, the songs collapsing in on themselves as they chug and career along – The Terminals, Antiseptic

In this day and age of accessibility and cultural saturation, it can be hard to unearth music you like, and at the same time discover new music outside the mainstream or the most prominent online access points. Digging through the detritus and overload, I’ve found that more and more I lock onto albums that give a little extra. They create their own world of music for the 30-60 minutes you spend with them. They make you wonder how the artists wrote the songs, how they composed the music. I was drawn to imperfect performances, atmosphere over precision (though The War On Drugs manage to exemplify both), melody, energy, intelligence and rhythm.

My favourite album of the year probably won’t feature on any other list you read (though hopefully it does). The Terminals, from NZ, released a record that mainlines a sense of musical nostalgia in my synapses, harkening back to the music of my teens and early 20’s in the NZ underground. The legacy of Flying Nun, alternative rock and darkly emotive music from a couple of islands at the end of the Earth. In my review I said “The Terminals have never been creatively stronger than they are on Antiseptic. It’s their finest album and the sound of musicians digging deep and exploring a lifetime of musical influences and experiences without concession to anything outside of their own ideas and instruments.”

Elsewhere you’ll find all manner of musical styles, from eccentric folk to kraut-tronica, country to ragged suburban punk rock, gothic 80s synth to skronking saxophone. Dig deep and enjoy.

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1. The Terminals – Antiseptic REVIEW

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2. Aldous Harding – Party REVIEW

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3. Kevin Morby – City Music

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4. Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness REVIEW

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5. The Tall Grass – Down The Unmarked Road REVIEW

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6. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent REVIEW

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7. Jep and Dep – They’veBeenCalled REVIEW

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8. Underground Lovers – Staring At You, Staring At Me REVIEW

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9. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding REVIEW

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10. Suicide Swans – Augusta

11. Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator

12. Ryan Adams – Prisoner REVIEW

13. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Dreaming In The Non-Dream

14. Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher REVIEW

15. Omni – Multi-Task

16. David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanack

17. Traveller – Western Movies

18. Daniel Romano – Modern Pressure

19. The Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly

20. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

21. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Rot

22. Hollow Everdaze – Cartoons REVIEW

23. Feral Ohms – Feral Ohms

24. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

25. Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now REVIEW

26. Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory

27. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

28. Trevor Sensor – Andy Warhol’s Dream

29. The Singing Skies – Head In The Trees, Heart On The Ground REVIEW

30. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

31. Chomper – Medicine Mountain

32. Ricardo Villalobos – Empirical House

33. The Afghan Whigs – In Spades REVIEW

34. Marty Stuart – Way Out West REVIEW

35. Chain And The Gang – Best Of Crime Rock REVIEW

36. Karl Blau – Out Her Space REVIEW

37. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Barefoot In The Head REVIEW

38. Destroyer – ken REVIEW

39. John Maus – Screen Memories

40. Gold Class – Drum REVIEW

Favourite Albums of 2016

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And yet again the brain-scrambling exercise of narrowing down our favourite albums released in 2016 has been successfully navigated. Much gnashing of teeth ensued, spreadsheet cells shifted frequently and the dust surrounding the shallow process of rating albums against one another has finally settled.

Over at Post To Wire, our Americana music site, we’ve already ranked our 40 favourite albums that fall under that wide stylistic umbrella but here is our all-encompassing master list of our 50 favourite albums across all genres. We’ve still got a list of 40 recommended albums to listen to, that on any day may also make this list, but the cutoff has to happen sometime. Over time some of these entries will also shift around and increase/decrease in our level of appraisal but to my ears the top 20 is pretty rock solid. Dive on in and we’ll see you in 2017.

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1  Arbor Labor Union – I Hear You

This was an album that slowly but surely dug its way into my ears and heart with its churning blend of Velvet Underground jangle and drone, the freewheeling sensibilities of some of my favourite recent guitarists such as Steve Gunn and Chris Forsyth, post-punk angles and disdain for perfection, a voice that hurls and breaks like Protomartyr and Pissed Jeans and a dusty back-roads vibe on 90s Dinosaur Jr and Smashing Pumpkins that combined to make I Hear You an unhurried and endlessly absorbing album of guitar rock.

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2  Tindersticks – The Waiting Room

The UK group made a splendid return to form in 2016 with The Waiting Room. By taking a less-is-more approach they’ve mastered a sense of graceful musical levitation where songs drift by and hang in the air on the back of Stuart Staples’ soulful, rich and austere voice and backed by the band’s blend of post-rock, soundtracks, late-night jazz stylings, uber-stoned echoes of dancehall and sophisticated funk. Nothing else sounded like it this year. In ‘Hey Lucinda’ they produced one of our favourite songs of 2016.

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3  Witch Hats – Deliverance

The Melbourne quartet continue to refine their sound and they came closest to perfecting it on Deliverance. Their dark, lurching rock ‘n’ roll is awash with howling dirges and claustrophobic angst. The bass is deep and heavy, anchoring the songs as they stagger off into Stooges proto-punk, and nihilistic post-punk. The key is the melodies that still burn a hole in the gothic, swampy vibe. They’re firmly in the realm of The Clash, The Drones and The Gun Club yet they’ve dug their own hook-laden hole and decorated it with all manner of exceptional dark pop and bruised, gutter-punk blues.

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4  Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Hood, Cooley and band have built an epic back catalogue of albums over the last two decades and American Band is right up there with their very best. It rocks, it soothes and it was the most poetically prescient album of the year. It touched on modern America and the cultural, economic, political and societal struggles it still wrestles with. The band balanced education, commentary and incisive critique with country rock ‘n’ roll and weary yet defiant melancholy.

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5  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Cave returns with his most affecting and intimate sounding album, after his family was struck by tragedy when his son died after falling from a cliff. The album was already underway when that happened but the weight of it hangs across the songs like a heavy, ghostly mist as Cave sings of drug addicts in Tijuana hotel rooms and a myriad of other characters flirting with the netherworld. It’s a hard listen emotionally as the relentless soundscapes conjured up by The Bad Seeds navigate the ominous and darkened waters yet ultimately they allow slivers of light to relieve some of the sadness and tragedy. Skeleton Tree is essential and moving music par excellence.

6  Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

7  David Bowie – Blackstar

8  Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

9  The Felice Brothers – Life In The Dark

10  Case/Lang/Veirs – Case/Lang/Veirs

11  Kyle Craft – Dolls Of Highland

12  Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

13  The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free

14  Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

15  Jason Walker – All-Night Ghost Town

16  Davey Craddock – City West

17  Eleanor Friedberger – New View

18  Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Line

19  Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Haven’t Been Sung

20  The Field – Follower

21  Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts Of Highway 20

22  William Crighton – William Crighton

23  Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep

24  Big Smoke – Time Is Golden

25  Darren Cross – _Xantastic

26  Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

27  The Goon Sax – Up To Anything

28  Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau

29  Okkervil River – Away

30  Cian Nugent – Night Fiction

31  Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Maths

32  William Tyler – Modern Country

33  Cass McCombs – Mangy Love

34  The Renderers – In The Sodium Light

35  Lambchop – FLOTUS

36  Oren Ambarchi – Hubris

37  Andy Stott – Too Many Voices

38  Lower Plenty – Sister Sister

39  Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity Of Experience

40  A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

41  Will Wood – Magpie Brain & Other Stories

42  Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face An Uncertain Future

43  Luther Dickinson – Blues & Ballads

44  Chook Race – Around The House

45  Sonic Youth – Spinhead Sessions

46  The Men – Devil Music

47  Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

48  Parquet Courts – Human Performance

49  Ghost Wave – Radio Norfolk

50  Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

DS 40 Favourite Albums of 2014

DS Fave albums 2014

Another bumper year of music eases to a close with pretty much all the year’s albums now released. This year we’ve collated our 40 favourite LPs that we heard over the last 12 months. Of course there are bound to be a few gems that we didn’t get round to hearing that we’ll discover in the months to come but as of now these are the ones that hit the spot for us here at Doubtful Sounds. Americana music was a big part of what we listened to in 2014 and that is represented in the make-up of our list. If that is your musical cup of tea you can find our full folk and alt-country best-of list over at our Post To Wire blog. That aside, there are still plenty of other styles from brutal metallic riffing to woozy indie gems, primitive electronic poetry and doomy post rock. Hopefully there are a few records here that you haven’t heard yet and might feel inclined to check out. We’d love to hear your favourites in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

  1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  2. Protomarytr – Under Color of Official Right
  3. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  4. The Delines – Colfax
  5. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  6. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  7. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
  8. The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
  9. Little Bastard – Little Bastard
  10. Infinity Broke – River Mirror
  11. Earth – Primitive and Deadly
  12. Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards – Distance
  13. Blank Realm – Grassed Inn
  14. Nikki Lane – All Or Nothin’
  15. Rosanne Cash – The River and the Thread
  16. Robert Scott – The Green House
  17. Bernie Griffen & The Thin Men – Salvation
  18. Tami Neilson – Dynamite!
  19. Shihad – FVEY
  20. East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Seven Drummers
  21. Aldous Harding – Aldous Harding
  22. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
  23. Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
  24. Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean
  25. Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
  26. David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – End Times Undone
  27. J Mascis – Tied to a Star
  28. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Intensity Ghost
  29. Doug Paisley – Strange Feelings
  30. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  31. Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers
  32. Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant
  33. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  34. Jep and Dep – Word Got Out
  35. Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues
  36. You Beauty  – Jersey Flegg
  37. Peter Bibby – Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician
  38. Donny Benet – Weekend At Donny’s
  39. Sleaford Mods – Divide & Exit
  40. Shellac – Dude Incredible

Favourite Albums of 2014 (so far)

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In the obsessive tradition of music lists, here are the albums I found myself listening to and enjoying the most in the first six months of 2014. For a more comprehensive list of our favourite ’14 Americana releases you can head over to our other blog Post To Wire.

  1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  2. Little Bastard – Little Bastard
  3. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  4. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  5. Blank Realm – Grassed Inn
  6. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
  7. Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant
  8. Infinity Broke – River Mirror
  9. The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
  10. Beck – Morning Phase
  11. Protomarytr – Under Color of Official Right
  12. East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Seven Drummers
  13. Wild Beasts – Present Tense
  14. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits
  15. Real Estate – Atlas
  16. Mogwai – Rave Tapes
  17. The Horrors – Luminous
  18. Beach Pigs – Grom Warfare
  19. You Beauty  – Jersey Flegg
  20. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: The Horrors | Luminous

Rating8square-600-4The Horrors were a band that first appeared on the music scene in 2007 like a gothic cartoon brought to life. Ridiculed in some quarters for their solemn appearance and Bauhaus/Birthday Party’isms they seemed consigned to the shadowy perimeters of popular culture, flavour of the month at best. Somehow though they clawed their way onwards and upwards through Primary Colours and Skying, bursting through the clouds with the positively interstellar love-in that is Luminous.

It is a victory against dismissive pigeonholing that the band have been able to evolve and refine their sound over such a relatively short period of time. Luminous is like a shiny, ergonomic sonic space shuttle, such is the level of polish and sculpting they’ve applied to their sound. Gone are the clumsy garage punk flailings and some of the filler material of recent albums that, though they were very good, prevented them from becoming exceptional. Now they’ve got as close as they’ll probably get to a fully realised aural manifesto.

Singer Faris Badwan has for the most part settled into a higher-register voice, adding to the ethereal space-pop vibe and on a song like ‘In And Out of Sight’ it helps them hit a hypnotic momentum that surges on and on quite magically. Moroder-esque synth chatter and bubbling bass-lines are frequent backdrops to a dreamy yet still effortlessly melodic art pop while shoegaze is still a go-to player in the woozy guitars of ‘Jealous Sun’. Elsewhere they all but namecheck Echo and the Bunnymen and Primal Scream in the beatific album peak ‘I See You’ and mid-period Radiohead on the warm glow of ‘Change Your Mind’.

Luminous is an album that possesses a hyper-colour confidence that makes it feel futuristic and  optimistic and it has the makings of a landmark English record in the way it references many of the great bands of the last thirty years without a whiff of nostalgia. This is modern, ambitious, widescreen pop music par excellence.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on FasterLouder

 

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Greta Mob | Gypsy Town (Revisited) Feat. Spencer P Jones

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After releasing Let the Sunburnt Country Burn in 2013, Sydney band Greta Mob haven’t wasted time in getting new music out on the streets with their new EP Gyspy Town due Friday March 28th. The title track (a re-working of the song that appeared on their debut album) features Spencer P. Jones (The Johnnys, Beasts of Bourbon etc) and it sounds like its been injected with blood-red technicolor. It’s musically tighter, more cinematic in scope and sonically the production is rich without losing the song’s ragged rawness. If this is a sign of where Greta Mob are heading then they’re taking giant strides.

The EP also includes a new version of Yorta Yorta from last year’s album plus two live tracks – Goliath: A Numbers Man and The Vengeful Narodnik.

You can catch the band live and for free next Thursday April 3rd at The Standard Bowl in Surry Hills with the equally great Wolf & Cub.

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LIVE REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails @ Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney (06/03/14)

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Eschewing the trend of recent years for hard rock bands to base their touring around festivals such as Soundwave and to a lesser extent Big Day Out, Josh Homme and Trent Reznor decided they could have more fun and deliver a better show for the fans by teaming up as a double-headed alt-rock tag team and playing ten arena shows across Australasia. Who would play first, would there be a strong crossover appeal for fans of each band, would they collaborate on-stage and which band would reign supreme at kicking out the proverbial jams?

Brody Dalle, (The Distillers, Spinnerette, wife of Homme) hit the stage early at 7pm and set about playing a no-frills, punk rock set featuring old songs and a preview of tracks from her forthcoming solo album. There wasn’t much stage presence happening and the songs did tend to blend into one another with the buzzsaw guitars, pounding drums and Dalle’s Courtney Love-esque raspy snarl of a voice. It was a solid but unimpressive performance that paled in comparison to what came next.

Nine Inch Nails had drawn the short straw on the coin toss to determine the playing order (presuming Reznor would prefer to play last) and after a super quick changeover the lights blacked out and Qantas Credit Union Arena was transformed into a mechanistic cyber disco with Reznor cast as a futuristic Travolta whose job was to overload senses and fuse musical genres.

NIN are of course the sonic limbs of Reznor, such is the large cast of players that have passed through its ranks and tonight he used the band members in different configurations to suit the songs.  Some songs featured live drums, others had pre-preprogrammed loops while the drummer stepped out to play bass with the other two instrumentalists. It really was a huge sound for so few on-stage musicians which was a testament to Reznor’s ability to create mood and dynamics in his music and translate that to the stage with all the tricks and tools of live performance. They opened with A Warm Place before the metallic stomp of Somewhat Damaged really ignited the arena and Reznor and co set about pulling from all corners of their discography, from Pretty Hate Machine up to the recently released Hesitation Marks, a spread of nearly 25 years of music.

The combination of the primarily white, strobing lighting, stark stage set and Reznor’s prowling, bouncing and at times messianic presence gave the performance the intensity he is renowned for, whether it was the industrial or electronic sides of NIN. The nineteen song set did a brilliant job at capturing those two aspects of their sound. From the Giorgio Moroder-ish disco thrum of Copy of A to the monstrous metallic riffing of Wish, Reznor showed what a strange and unique world he has created where dark, subterranean themes are wrapped in the sound of disparate influences such as Ministry and Depeche Mode with fans lapping up it all up with equal verocity.

The peak of the set came with the closing tracks Head Like A Hole, in all its surging, anthemic glory and Hurt, probably Reznor’s finest song and delivered with real passion and intensity. Those qualities defined NIN’s performance and left the rewarded crowd energised and buzzing as they scattered to drinks queues and toilets before Homme and gang swaggered on stage.

There was obviously discussion about each act’s stage setup in order to create contrast between the two as Queens of the Stone Age played in a tight formation in front of colour-matching amps and a giant video screen that rose from the stage to the roof. Immediately the difference between the two acts became apparent. NIN is dystopian, nihilist head music whereas QOTSA is a looser groove, from the hips with bluesy swagger and rock ‘n’ roll nonchalance. Second song in they unleashed the monolithic chopping riff of No One Knows, possibly igniting the biggest cheer of the night. It was a masterful move to play the song so early as from there on in the crowd were in the palm of their hands. The rest of the set showcased last year’s …Like Clockwork album with seven of it’s tracks with If I Had A Tail, I Sat By The Ocean and My God Is The Sun in particular already sounding like established QOTSA classics. A mid-set highlight was Make It Wit Chu, that soulful, falsetto hookworm of a song that had the arena getting their groove on and singing along in full voice as the band stripped the song bare and built it back up into a sexy ramalama rave before poisoning the sweetness with the grinding, flagellating riffs of Sick, Sick, Sick.

Homme was the consummate frontman, solid, composed and hitting the notes and when the music required it, flailing, lurching and tearing solos from his guitar strings. “How the fuck are ya Sydney?” was a favourite laconic phrase and when he introduced the band and their instruments in comic style he gave us “Hi, I’m Joshua, I’m on tequila”, raising a glass to friends and fans.

Opening the encore Homme caressed the keys for the haunting The Vampyre of Time And Memory which stood out amid all the rock bluster before they upped the frenzy with the punk blast of Feel Good Hit Of The Summer complete with Homme chastising the crowd for their sing-along sounding like Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. A segue into the gloriously deconstructed, disorientating stop-start A Song For The Dead and the audience were left sonically battered and bruised after 3 hours of modern rock from two different acts, both firing on all cylinders. It mattered little that there were no onstage collaborations as NIN and QOTSA made the double headline bill feel like such a special event, making the format an unequivocal winning formula.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on FasterLouder