Have you ever been nervous before a gig that you have attended? Sure, there’s always some nervous energy, or even some nervous form of excitement if you’re looking forward to the act(s)… But I’m talking genuine nerves here. Because it happened to me for the first time a week or so back. New York funk-metal quartet Living Colour have always been one of my favourite bands, and I unfortunately was not in a position to have seen them live during their ‘90s heyday. So I was never going to miss them on their first visit to Australia in well over a decade.
To put it bluntly, however, Living Colour are now old. Lead vocalist Corey Glover especially looks it; having transformed from the spandex-wearing, dreadlocked front-man of yesteryear into the grey-haired, grandpa cap wearer of today. The very little I had seen of them playing via YouTube and the like seemed to suggest an overly earnest show which lacked energy and relied on high – but faltering – technicality. Those around me didn’t help the predicament, with a higher than usual drunk factor and many a googling youngster asking “Who’s Living Colour”?
Well, I must have seen the wrong videos, because Living Colour thankfully blew my mind. And it didn’t take long for the nerves to be shaken out of me, with the earth-rattling low end of their set opener – Robert Johnson cover ‘Preachin’ Blues’. Talk about a band in sync! These four could all…
Bonjour. Oui oui monsieur et madames. Je M’appelle Davey. Comment se fait tout le monde aujourd’hui?
July 14 is Bastille Day, the national day of France. I could have written a one thousand word blog detailing French music over the decades. From Edith Piaf to Phoenix, and David Guetta to Gojira, I’m certain it could have been a winner. But I’m far too lazy for that, so a tenuous link will have to do.
Enter English indie/synth-pop act Bastille and their latest single ‘Laura Palmer’. Along with the equally mainland European sounding track ‘Pompeii’, this deceptively infectious tune is one of the twin peaks of the quartet’s excellent debut LP ‘Bad Blood’. Some guy named David Lynch told me that the french translation for fifth single is “La ura palmes er”. I think he might be pulling my leg, but I do have a feeling that he directed the video for the song, since it makes no fucking sense! When is Mullholland Drive Day anyway?
Following the electro abomination that was 2009’s ‘In This Light and On This Evening’, even fans of English indie-rock band Editors could be forgiven for approaching their follow-up ‘The Weight of Your Love’ with equal parts trepidation and dread. Anthemic, stadium-baiting lead single ‘A Ton of Love’ helped allay fears a little, although even the lead single from ‘In This Light…’ (‘Papillon’) was fairly strong.
More interesting is the curious selection of ‘The Weight’ as the new album’s 2nd single. The Muse-like ‘Sugar’ or hooky backing vocals of ‘Formaldehyde’ seemed more obvious choices, with ‘The Weight’ more playing the role of fantastic album opener, for mine. It’s a brave choice and hopefully one that will pay off.
Beginning with dark, ominous synths before giving way to an incessant beat and almost folky guitar strums, Tom Smith’s striking baritone soon captures attention, even if his trademark ambiguous lyrics (“I’m a lump of meat with a heartbeat”) occasionally confound. Most pleasing is the existence of an ever-present tension, with each sound after sound, instrument after instrument and melody after melody being meticulously added to build up and then release. Brilliantly, this pseudo title track is both thoroughly melodic and accessible.
The video – which was filmed in Nashville, where the band worked with producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon) – follows the straight-forward template from ‘A Ton of Love’: Black & White footage of the band playing the song. Borrrrring? Maybe, but it kind…
Having been released earlier this year, ‘Riptide’ isn’t a brand spanking new tune, but given it would have barely been heard around these parts, I thought it would be well worth spotlighting. It’s creator is Vance Joy, a pseudonym for 25 year-old Melbourne singer-songwriter James Keogh.
Talk about a rags to riches story: Just 4 years ago, Keogh was playing state league Australian Rules Football for the Coburg Tigers, hoping to get drafted by an AFL team. Two years later, the young man was working part-time as a gardener while also showcasing his unpolished musical skills at open mic nights around Melbourne. Come 2013, with only a five track EP to his name, Keogh has signed a five album deal with Atlantic Records!
The infectious ‘Riptide’ is undoubtedly the track which got Vance Joy noticed by the label heavyweights. It’s a fantastic little folk-pop song with its charming ukulele & bright harmonies seemingly perfect for any season of the year. Including a chorus that will instantly implant itself in your mind – as well as give you a chuckle in the below video – the song is bound to pop up on a film, tv series or advertisement some time soon. When it does, just remember that you heard it here at SputnikMusic first.
I’m beginning to think that I have some sort of affinity with bands from Louisiana. Just two years ago, I awarded my album of the year to little known indie-pop outfit Givers and their debut LP ‘In Light’. While that feat won’t be achieved in 2013 by the quintet I’m about to introduce you to, The Pelican State has once more delivered a band that has been on high rotation on my playlist of late.
Having initially caught my attention with one of those gimmicky self-proclaimed genres, Super Water Sympathy walk the talk on their second LP ‘Hydrogen Child’. The aforementioned self-labeling is that of “water pop”, but one gets the feeling that the term has only been created because it sounds better than “alternative indie pop-rock”.
Below is ‘Uh Oh!’; the lead single and album opener from ‘Hydrogen Child’. A bouncy and deceptively catchy tune where each instrument gets a chance to shine without dominating proceedings, it provides the framework for the eleven tracks which follow.
Proving that an impressively played festival set can pay future dividends, yours truly dug deep into his hip pocket to see Yellowcard after they had made quite the positive impression during their 40 minute set last year. Considering that previous to that Australian performance, the Floridian quintet shared headlining duties with Sum 41, then it was safe to say that us Aussies had been craving a full Yellowcard headline set for quite some time… And the rather intimate setting of The Hi-Fi Bar in central Melbourne was the perfect venue for the first of two sold-out shows.
First up for the night were local pop-rockers For Our Hero. Having never heard a single song by these youngsters before this night, I actually came away rather impressed. Sure, it was pretty safe stuff without any real distinguishing point… But in their spot of warming up an audience who were predominantly waiting to hear a band such as Yellowcard, then For Our Hero achieved their objective. They sounded clear, crisp & catchy with just enough variety to get by. If they can grow into their own sound as they gain experience, then this could be a band with a bright future.
Continuing the “hero” theme, Australia’s 2nd favourite pop-punk outfit Heroes For Hire were up next. I’m actually a fan of their recorded output thus far in their career. Again, they don’t do anything that hasn’t been done by superior overseas bands, but they do so in…
Having previously reviewed all three of the band’s albums, I guess it is fair to state that I am Sputnik Music’s undisputed expert in all things British India. From their exciting – if derivative – debut LP ‘Guillotine’, through to disappointing follow-up ‘Thieves’ and solid – if unspectacular – latest release ‘Avalanche’, there has always been some kind of appeal to yours truly… And it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re Melbourne boys like my good self.
Despite the occasional glimpse of promise, however, their two most recent LPs have felt as if the quartet were chasing their tail… Making do, without really progressing to a significant extent. Could that be about to change with the release of new single ‘I Can make You Love Me’? While still definitively British India – especially the yelping vocals of Declan Melia – it definitely took me a little by surprise with its build-up and dynamics. Sure, it still may not be breaking any new ground per se, but it feels like a genuine step forward for a band who I’ve always deemed to have potential.
As for the video; well, who wouldn’t love a drunk, pissed-off, lovelorn and karaoke-singing minotaur wandering the streets in the dark of the night? Hell, I think I’ve felt similarly myself on occasions. Hang on a tick, I think I also saw those identical views… I’ve definitely cursed Festival (aka Festering) Hall once or twice!
What better way to warm up on the first day of winter than to head along to your local sweat-box and listen to some quality music? On the said date in 2012, I thought I’d take in an interesting trio of acts put together at Festival Hall in Melbourne, with seemingly the only thing linking The Jezabels, Lights & Snakadaktal being that all three outfits contained female vocalists.
First up it was the distinctively named young local quintet Snakadaktal. Playing a kind of folky brand of indie-pop, the band impressed me with their tight musicianship and overall maturity. Sure, their sound is probably not suited to a 5,000 odd capacity venue, but they thankfully didn’t compromise their style for the sake of the occasion. Interestingly, Snakadaktal ordered their set so as to initially suggest to a potentially unknowing crowd that Sean Kelly was the outfit’s only vocalist. Of course, those in the know would anticipate Phoebe Cockburn taking over for the most part, even if her voice seemed just a bit too fragile in a live setting. Overall, however, this was an impressive support slot for an up-and-coming band whose forthcoming debut LP should hopefully make for a rewarding listen.
Next up was Canadian electro-pop artist Valerie Poxleitner… Better known as Lights. Since her sound wasn’t exactly similar to the night’s headliners, it was always going to be fascinating as to how the crowd would take the diminutive brunette… And I think it’s fair to say that…
With the exception of those looking to be comfortably seated, it is fair to state that most live music fans prefer their gigs in smaller venues where you can get up close to the performing musicians. Hell, many even automatically pass on 40,000+ stadium events and raise an eyebrow when even their favourite artists are booked at an arena. Exceptions are few and far between, but I recall an article from a couple of years back, where the live show reviewer wished that a NYC show had been held at an arena, rather than a club. Why? The singer was Florence Welch and the room was quite simply not large enough to do her booming voice justice. At the time, I thought “Codswallop”… Having now seen the flame-haired songstress perform live at the 10,000+ capacity Rod Laver Arena, I can understand where the writer was coming from.
First up, however, was Blood Orange… the solo side-project of Devonte Hynes (better known as Lightspeed Champion). Undoubtedly a strange choice as support, he clearly got the gig due to his sporadic writing and producing partnership with Florence + The Machine. Armed with nothing but a laptop (complete with the annoying lit-up fruit beaming into the audience), a keyboard & his guitar, Hynes struggled to garner any interest from the crowd apart from the strange images portrayed on his projector. In all honesty though, it was a decent half-hour set, with the sultry melodies & Hynes’ flamboyant guitar-work often shining through.…
Winter has come way too early to South-Eastern Australia this year, and by the sea was the last place I would usually want to be on a frigid Wednesday evening. On this particular night, however, the short tram ride out of the Melbourne CBD to St.Kilda’s charming Palais Theatre would be well and truly worth it, with City & Colour adding warmth to the first of two sold-out performances. The venue itself is an odd one for concerts: an all-seated bona fide theatre which plays home to everything from stage-shows to film festivals, and from comedians to rock gigs. Usually, I’d prefer my venues a little more – shall we say – beer-soaked, but complementing one of the world’s truly great voices with the acoustics of a high ceiling & some beautiful architecture (which was brought to life by a genuinely unexpected light-show) seemed very appropriate… Even if a portion of the strange cross-section of folk and hardcore fans may not have seen an actual theatre in their lives!
First up this evening would be the act known as Bahamas – aka 31 year old Toronto singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen. Having just joined the touring City & Colour quintet as lead guitarist, Jurvanen casually paces out all by his lonesome tonight, with nothing but an acoustic guitar, his voice and a spotlight. In front of a half-capacity audience, he initially seems uncomfortable, taking two or three songs to truly find his rhythm and win over a crowd who most…
First it was Willow Smith and then it was Miley Cyrus. Now, Neil Young (or is that late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon with his hat, guitar and harmonica?) ever so slightly matures to cover LMFAO and their ever so articulate hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’.
In order for the Canadian singer-songwriter to nail such a deep song, he clearly needs the help of someone just a little younger… Cue Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen to join the party and “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle”.
“That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life” stated LMFAO’s Redfoo. Clearly he hasn’t seen The Boss in a speedo trying to tan his cheeks!
When the powers-that-be at SSC (that’s “Sputnik Staff Central” for those out of the loop) almost ruled that all staff were to place their year-end lists on the blog this year, I quivered at the thought. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to center one picture, so could you imagine 25 or 40 of them!?
As it thankfully turned out, the consensus suggested such posting would be non-mandatory, allowing staff to be flexible with what they put up on the blog. All of a sudden, I thought that I would manage to scrape something half-decent together. And then, my learned colleagues had to get all artistic on me, didn’t they? Sowing led out before I even knew what my Top 25 albums consisted of… Chan & Tyler posted cool photos which would probably see me in jail for licensing infingements… Newbie Adam Knott went with the simple – but cool – idea of just listing songs instead of albums… Jom posted more links than I could click at… While Matt appeared from nowhere with a Hemingway-inspired half-a-dozen that totalled all of 18 words!
It was all too much for my feeble mind to take in… Resulting in this hodgepodge of albums, EPs, songs, videos, gigs & one final defining moment of 2011. Hopefully, it doesn’t come off as too informal and/or half-assed in places, and in the next week or so I will be formally posting my Top 40 albums & songs of 2011… As a LIST! Fuck…
Anyone booked on a Qantas flight right now is probably searching for something to do at an airport. Well, how about getting out your iPad, an acoustic guitar and a violin? Because that’s what these three gentlemen recently did at Shanghai airport.
For those unfamiliar with the guy under the hoodie (surely risking arrest by airport security just for wearing a hoodie) and the part-alien drummer, this is pop-punk outfit Yellowcard playing ‘My Hero’ by The Foo Fighters.
Times are tough… Unless you are in the music industry yourself (or a retired millionaire), it is difficult to attend every single gig that passes through town. Local acts will usually give you multiple opportunities – sometimes in the one year – to see them, but when it comes to international outfits, who knows when they will be back around your parts again. Favored acts are usually given the benefit of the doubt, and so was the case with Floridian rockers Anberlin early in 2011, when yours truly saw them twice in the same week (Soundwave Festival & headlining sideshow). So when the Stephen Christian led quintet announced that they would be touring Australia once more in August, I met the revelation with ambivalence. I mean, it was not as if they had released a new album in the meantime, and simply throwing “An Evening With…” on the tour poster did little for me initially. Surely, they had to woo fans some other way. And that they did!
First up – and the only support act of the night – were Sydney pop-punkers Tonight Alive. Having been impressed by the quintet at a previous supporting performace, their placement on this show was most definitely a pleasing one. As per usual, charismatic front-woman Jenna McDougall was handing out lessons on the art of smiling, while woo’ing all the (ummm) gentlemen in attendance with a Led Zeppelin t-shirt covered by a flannel shirt. Looks really are not an issue with…
With the debut albums of both bands having occupied top 10 spots in my previous two year-end lists, the double bill of Australian rock acts Dead Letter Circus and Closure In Moscow at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne sure looked like an appetizing gig. What would be unbeknownst to me at the time of entry however was that the third act on the bill – Perth outfit Wolves – would make the evening all the more attractive.
Playing a heavy, yet extremely accessible, brand of alternative rock, the quintet distinguish themselves via electric violin player Rachael Aquilina. And while she undoubtedly adds a satisfying sense of melody to proceedings, it would be foolish to overlook her colleagues, all of whom were accomplished on the night. Frontman Adam Burford has an impressive vocal range which can move from a soft croon to a harsh scream in an instant, while Russell Winter’s guitar-work was sporadically impressive. In fact, if there is one area of improvement to be highlighted, it was that Winter too often looked hesitant to steal the limelight from Aquilina. When they worked in tandem, the results were fantastic… As can be heard on Wolves’ lead single ‘Children’:
Often, the major concern with support acts is that they are going to bore the hell out of the majority of the audience who are there to see the headliners. With Wolves having done exactly the opposite, Closure In Moscow were next to step up and keep the…