LIVE REVIEW: St Jerome’s Laneway Festival @ Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney (02/02/13)

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by Chris Familton

The biggest thought on most punters minds as they awoke was how the weather was going to affect the Sydney leg of this years Laneway Festival. Showers and wind were forecast, a contrast to previous years of hot sunny days encased in the sandstone walls of Rozelle’s SCA. The anticipated weather did intermittently sweep through the grounds but as is usually the case it served to galvanise the crowd and create a roll-with-it mood amongst the sea of plastic-clad revellers imbibing cider and sliding down slippery grass slopes.

On arrival one of the first tasks was to orient oneself with the new layout. The site had been expanded outside the immediate college buildings and now included the large sloping field near the entrance housing the main stage and a smaller adjacent one. The Courtyard Stage had always had issues of sight-lines and acoustics for the bigger acts so these changes were an excellent development alongside further diversification of the food on offer.

Much had been said about the curious timetabling decision to have Norwegians Kings of Convenience open the day but they were given a generous hour long set and they proved to be the perfect way to ease into the festival vibe with their sublime acoustic-based folk and endearing sense of humour. They added a full band for the 2nd half of their set, showcasing a wider angle to their sound.

Kings of Convenience
Kings of Convenience
Henry Wagons
Henry Wagons

Henry Wagons, in contrast to the twee openers, was his usual ball of humour and country rock. Playing tracks from his Expecting Company album and a superb Wanda Jackson cover he encouraged audience participation in the form of hangman’s noose death gurgles as he danced and lurched through the first few rows.

Twerps and their jangly US pop cousins Real Estate played back to back and though their music is perfectly suited for outdoor listening Real Estate’s sound mix meant they didn’t quite gel compared to the blissed out guitar pop of Twerps whose Dreamin’ was the first song of the day to hit the audience sweet spot.

Diversity has always been a hallmark of the festival curators and this year the harder, faster and heavier end of the spectrum was filled by The Men, Cloud Nothings and Japandroids. The latter two enjoyed the larger crowds and some fervent crowd surfing and projectile throwing due to their spots later on the bill but The Men were the more revelatory of the three, locking in with a rush of punk and psych-rock intensity and dalliances with country music. Japandroids were suffered a muddy kick-drum heavy mix but the fans were oblivious, caught up in the anthemic punk maelstrom.

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With the larger acts programmed on the new Park Stage it become the focal point for the crowds who draped themselves over the hillsides and it must have been a magical sight for the musicians gazing up the palm tree dotted slopes. In the wake of Hottest 100 success The Rubens, Of Monsters & Men and Alt-J drew predictably large and celebratory crowds. They sat on shoulders, swayed and screamed along but musically he first two offered little in terms of musical highlights. They sounded like generic music for a generic festival audience but that is the whole point of Laneway, it caters to many tastes from people there purely for the music to those there for the communal festival experience.

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Julia Holter

Hitting the smaller stages meant discovering artists with a smaller core fan-base. Julia Holter’s sublime voice cut a path through the drizzling rain offering respite from some of the grand gestures on the main stages while EL-P showed just why he is so respected as an underground hip hop artist with his intense rapid fire rhyming over a live band that created some futuristic and often dystopian beats. Jessie Ware was probably the oddest inclusion on the line-up in the sense that hers is a contemporary R&B sound but she proved another highlight with a voice that killed it live and a band that knew the importance of less is more and the power of bass. The crowning glory of the Future Classic curated stage came late in the night with Nicolas Jaar who drew a surprisingly large crowd seeing as he was up against local hero Flume. The sonic clarity of his futuristic electronica made for a wonderfully immersive set that impressed with its musical details rather than big beats or crescendo build-ups.

While Bat For Lashes entranced the majority of the audience with her elegant and creative pop music, Divine Fits were putting the exclamation mark on the festival playing their superb debut album and musically summing up the sounds of the day with their mix of pop melodies, inventive rhythms and an equal dose of rock. The twin vocals of Britt Daniels and Dan Boeckner rang clear into the night and their last song, a cover of Rowland S. Howard’s Shivers felt like the perfect conclusion to a day that saw the expansion and improvement of the Laneway Festival while still retaining a firm hand on the pulse of eclectic contemporary music.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

LIVE REVIEW: The Men, Royal Headache @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (30/01/13)

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by Chris Familton

Things kicked off with the fantastically named Raw Prawn. A band that sounded as uncooked and naive as their moniker suggests. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the band played a set that balanced precariously between authentic 70s UK punk and lo-fi primitive glam rock. It all sounded like it could fall apart at any point. Songs like None Left hit the urgent pound and strum of The Velvet Underground if they’d grown up in the inner west of Sydney and never learnt to play outside a few chords and a backbeat. It was a set that was both amusing and refreshing, like a palate cleanser to remind you how good simple music can be.

Royal Headache looked to be up for it from the moment they stepped on the Goodgod stage. Jokes and barbs were bandied about before they kicked into what Shogun called a jam but sounded like a great fully formed new song. As players the band locked in like the best power pop trios (The Jam) and created that signature bristling surge of sound that allowed Shogun to cut loose with that voice of his. On a good night, and this was one of their best, Shogun doesn’t just prowl the stage, he bounces around, stares daggers into the front row and sings those suburban love songs with real passion and that throat shredding soul howl. They are bone fide hometown heroes which set a high standard for The Men to follow.

From the opening barrage of guitars and drums that is their new single Electric, The Men were ferocious in the manner in which they approached their songs. Bassist Ben Greenberg was a flailing, thrashing blur making it hard to believe he was actually nailing the notes on his bass as efficiently as he was. By the end of the second song drummer Rich Samis looked totally spent yet he seemed to play faster and with more energy the longer they played. His krautrock precision was essential to grounding the sonic malaise that was churning and exploding around him.

Turn It Around was aired early and sounded as anthemic as its recorded version while the addition of harmonica on a couple of tracks and the airing of Candy with its Dylan playing with The Clean vibe, showed they are partial to some country rock that bizarrely didn’t sound at all out of place amid the frantic punk and psych rock sound of most of their set. The physicality and exuberance of The Men had that ‘leave nothing behind’ feel and as a result felt like you were hearing and watching a band that believed in themselves and their music 100% and played right to their limits. It was visceral music and mid week in a humid concrete basement in Sydney felt like the perfect location to be pummeled by the sound of The Men.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

NEW MUSIC: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Pissed Jeans and The Men

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The new releases are coming thick and fast at the moment as record labels look to release albums they most held over from the end of 2012 to get maximum exposure as we kick off 2013.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have already released one song (We No Who UR) from their new album Push The Sky Away and here’s another. Jubilee Street is still on the lowdown with its stately pace and mood but there is much more to latch onto here with Cave’s literary way with lyrics telling a tale of love/lust and the complications of conception. Lines like “I got a foetus on a leash” remind us that Cave hasn’t lost his edge and settled into musical complacency. Martyn P. Casey’s bass is another highlight of the new track.

Push The Sky Away is out Feb 15th. PRE-ORDER

 

Pissed Jeans have given us two stellar albums of tightly wound, swaggering punk rock and it looks like the new LP Honey will be another chugging set of humour and angst-laced songs. The latest song to emerge from the record is Cathouse. If METZ pushed all the right buttons for you in 2012 then pre-order this right now.

Honey is out Feb 12th on Subpop. PRE-ORDER

 

The Men are about to tour Australia on the back of last year’s excellent Open Your Heart LP and the good news is that the follow-up is already recorded and ready for release in March. The first track to come from the new record is Electric which sees them hitting some Primal Scream, JAMC and Ramones territory in their typical hurricane style.

New Moon is out March 5th via Sacred Bones. PRE-ORDER 7″

LIST: DS Top Albums of 2012

2012 TOP ALBUMS

2012 felt like somewhat of a mixed bag of musical lollies with our favourites encompassing americana, power pop, 80s synth, indie and many shades of psychedelia. The only thing that tied them all together was the strong streak of melody that each was built on. Even in the case of someone like Neil Young & Crazy Horse it was Young’s incredible weaving of musical notes on Old Black that made that record such a delight. Hopefully there will be a few surprises scattered across our list which will send you down another musical rabbit hole to find out if we are onto something… Hopefully we are.

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square-600-11Charlie Horse – I Hope I’m Not A Monster

square-600-16Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

LOWER PLENTYLower Plenty – Hard Rubbish

square-600-15Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

square-600-13Lee Ranaldo – Between The Times & The Tides

UnknownNeil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

square-600-17Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow

square-600Lambchop – Mr. M

square-600-14Suzy Connolly – Night Larks

square-600-12Father John Misty – Dear Fun

2012 | Twenty First Half Favourites

We’re already half away through 2012, crazy huh? It felt like it was a slow start to the year in terms of standout album releases but slowly things have picked up pace and some (in our ears) essential purchases have emerged. Here, in no particular order are twenty LPs that have captured our attention over the last six months.

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LAMBCHOP | MR. M

This is their best since Nixon, majestic, intimate and ethereal.

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE | AMERICANA

The long awaited return of Crazy Horse to the NY fold and they recommence work with brilliant primitive garage rock interpretations of folk classics.

EARTH | ANGELS OF DARKNESS, DEMONS OF LIGHT II

Dylan Carlson and co continue to explore parched and ghostly americana doom.

SHACKLETON | MUSIC FOR THE QUIET HOUR

This music for the head, food for the ears and possesses an astonishing range of electronic composition.

TORCHE | HARMONICRAFT

The sludge metallers continue to refine their heaviosity with their most realised collision of melody and surging heavy rock.

JOSEF VAN WISSEM & JIM JARMUSCH | CONCERNING THE ENTRANCE INTO ETERNITY

A fascinating journey into experimental post rock with this collaboration between a lutist and the acclaimed indie film director on electric guitar.

DR JOHN | LOCKED DOWN

The Night Tripper hooks up with a Black Key and produces his finest work in years. New Orleans voodoo swamp blues and jazz at its finest.

SINEAD O’CONNOR | HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?

O’Connor gets personal and raw on one of her best collection of songs in years. FULL REVIEW

OREN AMBARCHI | AUDIENCE OF ONE

Ambarchi’s exquisitely recorded guitar compositions are stretched fleshed out with vocals, whirs and patter making this his most holistic release to date.

DEEP SEA ARCADE | OUTLANDS

Sydney quintet Deep Sea Arcade deserve to top charts and win hearts with this stellar collection of infectious indie guitar pop. FULL REVIEW

FATHER JOHN MISTY | FEAR FUN

Josh Tillman discards his dark stark folk and reveals an album brimming with hooks and a sharp wit. FULL REVIEW

SUZY CONNOLLY | NIGHT LARKS

An early candidate for my album of the year. Night Larks is heartfelt and mature songwriting of the highest order. This will take up residency in your heart and ears. FULL REVIEW

THE CARETAKER | PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD)

Arcane, lost and forgotten sounds in a bed of crackle and hiss. Pick the right time (night, wine and headphones) and prepare to be transported through space and time.

DAMIEN JURADO | MARAQOPA

Jurado follows up his excellent Saint Bartlett with another LP of classic troubadour songs, this time a tad more psychedelic and swirling in the hands of collaborator Richard Swift.

OPOSSOM | ELECTRIC HAWAII

Essentially the solo project of ex Mint Chick Kody Nielson, this is technicolor pop music at its finest. FULL REVIEW

THE MEN | OPEN YOUR HEART

A real mix of post punk, hardcore and indie rock. The songs tumble from the speakers leaving a trail of carefree gems scattered in their wake. FULL REVIEW

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD | THIS IS PIL

The return of John Lydon and his band of merry men and what a welcome return with this dub heavy excursion into indie, post punk, industrial rhythms and rhymes.

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE | NOTHING’S GONNA CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT ME NOW

Earle is now beginning to expand his sound, taking it into Memphis soul territory with horns aplenty and a bigger band sound to match his outstanding country and folk songwriting abilities. FULL REVIEW

CHARLIE HORSE | I HOPE I’M NOT A MONSTER

A record from Sydney’s Blue Mountains that takes strong and sultry country rock vocals and marries them to some Peter Buck and Neil Young guitar anthems in waiting. FULL REVIEW

VCMG | SSSS

Who’d have thought original Depeche Moders Martin Gore and Vince Clarke would collaborate again/ They did and the results were surprisingly dark and fun on this techno collision between two stalwarts of modern electronic pop music. FULL REVIEW

ALBUM REVIEW: The Men | Open Your Heart

by Chris Familton

The Men are a quartet out of Brooklyn that have quickly caught the attention of many with their no frills take on post punk and the fuzzed out end of indie rock. Open Your Heart is their second album in as many years and sees them both refining and expanding their sound with excellent results.

From the outset The Men hit like a sledgehammer with an MC5 on amphetamines explosion of chords and tumbling drums. It feels like a sonic breath of fresh air against all the over-thought metal, faux punk and fey indie rock bands doing the rounds. The guitars peal off screeching notes, bending  and colliding with each other, barely pausing for breath before they crash into the Fugazi sound of Animal. The combination of American post punk (Fugazi, Sonic Youth), Buzzcocks styled power pop, country rock and the psychedelic grunge of the Dinosaur Jr kind makes for a furious mix of styles that, though it sounds derivative, is imbued with so much energy and knife-edge attitude that it sounds exhilaratingly fresh. The title track buzzes with an aching chorus melody that you want to scream along to while Candy encourages humming and whistling with its country strumming.

The Men also show on Open Your Heart that they have the ability to stretch a good idea into a slow burning, droning mantra on Presence, a song that could come straight off a Wooden Shjips record. At 45 minutes the album feels well paced and balanced with both fury and meditation and it is that dynamic range that makes The Men such a fascinating and rewarding band. Open your heart and treat your ears.

this review was first published in Drum Media