FEATURE: Girls Aloud

In the last five years an increasing number of female artists have been making themselves heard above the generic indie clatter. Many of them have stepped away from the softer folk leanings of artists like Feist and Cat Power and established a stronger, more assertive aural template.

In the electronic realm the likes of Austra, Fever Ray and Zola Jesus are creating dark electronic pop music with great critical success. Their music takes influence from post punk, goth, industrial and synth pop but they meld and advance those forms with an added coat of modern digital sheen and futuristic glamour. Across the hallway in the indie room there is Anna Calvi conjuring up swooning guitar-led songs full of passion and drama while next door Florence Welch is taking the baroque sounds of Kate Bush and others and magnifying the music to maximum grandeur.

What links all of these artists is a bold and commanding vocal presence that is of a maximalist nature, projecting outwards. That strength of delivery isn’t something new – Bjork, Patti Smith, Nico, PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux were all there first –  yet this new generation of songwriters are embracing both their natural voices and a desire to invest passion and drama in their music while creating new and interesting work from established musical forms. Simon Reynolds recently wrote of the current trend for overblown sonics and production styles in his Maximal Nation article for Pitchfork. There his focus was on the electronic world yet the themes and trends he discussed are also fertile developments in the pop and indie worlds.

As these artists continue to gather an audience the trickle down effect will increasingly become apparent in other like-minded singers. Locally, acts like Brous, Melodie Nelson and to some extent Washington are embracing big bold artful pop shapes with differing levels of intensity while internationally Feist was one artist who noticeably moved away from some of the sweetness of her earlier work on last year’s Metals LP. Musically it felt like both a retreat and an advance but most of all it was an example of her desire to expand and evolve her craft. It all makes for interesting times as both nostalgia and now increasingly futurism become permanently embedded in the evolution of popular music. The number of female artists among those creating forward thinking and ambitious sounding music is an encouraging and important sign of the times.

this was first published in The Drum Media

NEWS: Laneway Festival sideshows announced…

They’ve been coming thick and fast all morning so here is a summary of the Laneway sideshows. As per usual there are the horrible clashes like The Horrors and Girls playing the same night as well as Yuck/EMA, M83 and Austra all on the same night in Sydney…

GIRLS

  • Thursday, 2nd February 2012 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
  • Wednesday, 8th February 2012 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne

THE HORRORS

  • Thursday, 2nd February 2012 – Metro Theatre, Sydney

YUCK + EMA

  • Friday February 3rd – East Brunswick Club, Melbourne
  • Thursday February 9th – Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney

ANNA CALVI

  • Friday 3rd February 2012 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
  • Wednesday 8th February 2012 – Metro Theatre (18+), Sydney

THE DRUMS + CULTS (CO-HEADLINE SHOWS)

  • Friday 3rd February 2012 – Palace Theatre, Melbourne (18+)
  • Wednesday 8th February 2012 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages)

FEIST

  • Wednesday 1st February 2012 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne (All Ages)
  • Tuesday 7th February 2012 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (All Ages)
  • Thursday 9th February – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide (All Ages)

GLASSER

  • Wednesday 1st February 2012 – The Toff in Town, Melbourne (18+)
  • Wednesday 8th February 2012 – The Standard, Sydney (18+)
GIVERS/PORTUGAL.THE MAN/GUINEAFOWL
  • Tuesday 7th February 2012 – Metro Theatre, Sydney

SBTRKT (LIVE)

  • Friday 3rd February 2012 – Metro Theatre, Sydney

M83

  • Friday 3rd February 2012 – The Prince Bandroom, Melbourne (18+)
  • Thursday 9th February 2012 – Metro Theatre, Sydney (18+)

TWIN SHADOW

  • Wednesday 1st February 2012 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
  • Monday 6th February 2012 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (18+)

WU LYF

  • Thursday 2nd February 2012 – Prince Bandroom, Melbourne (18+)
  • Monday 6th February 2012 – Metro Theatre, Sydney (18+)

ACTIVE CHILD

  • Sunday 29 January – Oxford Art Factory – Sydney
  • Wednesday 8 February – East Brunswick Club – Melbourne

AUSTRA

  • Thursday 2 February – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
  • Thursday 9 February – The Basement, Sydney

NEWS: Laneway Festival 2012 line-up announced…

Laneway today announced its line-up for the 2012 event and it’s a damn impressive one. Sure there are the buzz bands of the moment like Washed Out and Active Child who don’t don’t really measure up to the hype tossed their way but the list of bands promises to be one of the best that Laneway has hosted to date. Note to organisers – make sure Girls are playing at sunset, The Horrors are playing after dark and M83 finish the night on the main stage.

In order of Doubtful Sounds excellence here is the line-up for Australia:

  • Girls
  • The Horrors
  • M83
  • Austra
  • Anna Calvi
  • EMA
  • Feist (except Adelaide^)
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Pajama Club
  • Yuck
  • Total Control
  • Twin Shadow
  • SBTRKT (live)
  • Cults
  • DZ Deathrays
  • Active Child
  • Bullion
  • Chairlift (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne only)
  • The Drums
  • Geoffry O’Connor
  • Givers (Sydney, Melbourne only)
  • Glasser
  • Husky (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne only)
  • John Talabot
  • Jonti
  • Laura Marling
  • Oneman
  • The Panics
  • Portugal The Man
  • Toro Y Moi
  • Washed Out
  • Wu Lyf

^Feist will be playing a one-off show in Adelaide at the Thebarton Theatre

New Zealand line-up:

  • Feist
  • The Horrors
  • Gotye
  • Laura Marling
  • Pajama Club
  • SBTRKT(Live)
  • Shayne P Carter
  • Washed Out
  • Twin Shadow
  • Anna Calvi
  • M83
  • Cults
  • Girls
  • EMA
  • Yuck
  • Toro Y Moi
  • Wu Lyf
  • Glasser
  • Opossom
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
  • Austra
  • Transistors

Tickets are on sale October 19th.

Brisbane – Saturday 28th January , Alexandria Street, Fortitude Valley
Auckland – Monday 30th January , Silo Park, Beaumont Street
Melbourne – Saturday 4th February, Footscray Community Arts Centre
Sydney – Sunday 5th February, Sydney College Of The Arts
Adelaide – Friday 10th February, Fowler’s Live
Perth – Saturday 11th February, Perth Cultural Centre
Singapore – Sunday 12th February, Fort Canning

REVIEW: WILCO – Wilco (the album)

ds album reviews

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Reviewed for Fasterlouder

wilcocover450If Wilco ever wanted to use an album as a CV to show off all of their skills then this is the one. Wilco (the album) sees the band taking stock of their career and attempting to summarise it in 42 succinct minutes.

The title alone is a giveaway that the album is a pause to reflect on what they have achieved. The theme is reinforced with ‘Wilco (the song)’ and Jeff Tweedy’s direct address to the fans, pondering the different roles Wilco can play in their lives. “Are you under the impression this isn’t your life, do you dabble in depression” go the opening lines, clearly setting the scene for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek evaluation of the bands worth.

Both ‘Deeper Down’ and ‘Everlasting Feeling’ fit the template of Beatles-esque ballads with their tender piano-led melodies. It is Wilco at its most sensitive, softly spoken and easy listening (but not in a bad way).

‘You Never Know’ and ‘Sonny Feeling’ are the upbeat, good-times Wilco. The latter puts aside any pretensions and rocks and rolls with abandon, much like ‘Heavy Metal Drummer’ did on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It is the band at the most flirtatious and sounding like they are having fun.

The two tracks that have the most impact on early listens are ‘You and ‘I featuring Feist on vocals and the spidery krautrock of ‘Bull Black Nova’. You and I is a deceptively simple love song and it works brilliantly. Tweedy and Feist share the microphone rather than alternating verses or lines. It creates an intimate and sweet atmosphere for the song which  deals in the realities of relationships, the good and the bad and the desire to make things work out between two people.

Nels Cline’s guitar playing on the record is sublime and inventive as usual. When he fades into view on ‘You And I’ with a backwards guitar solo it mirrors the reflective theme of the song perfectly; such is the lyrical brilliance of his playing.

‘Bull Black Nova’ is the sole highlight for those who have come to respect and enjoy Wilco for their more experimental free-spirited songs. A standard song structure is thrown out the window and the focus is on the hypnotic rhythms of Glenn Kotche and John Stirratt. Piano and guitar chugs along over the top with ideas coming and going like an aural collage. The song provides a breath of relief among the more standard americana stylings and it is Wilco acknowledging the challenging side of their creativity and reminding us that it still remains strong.

The most interesting question to arise from Wilco (the album) is what will come next? A very good, but not a classic Wilco record, it sits in the second tier of their releases, somewhere alongside AM and Being There. It feels like a pause before another significant chapter in their story and so, as they plan their next move, it is reassuring that they can still create music this consistently good after 15 years of their existence.