Tag Archives: music reviews

Saturday Afternoon Mix Tape – The New Folk XVII

Spring is well and truly here (well in Brisbane anyway)… the still crisp air prickles the skin while  the sun gently warms; and the sky’s endless acres of blue stretch out over lush green and vibrant azalea blossoms. And that’s just the view from my front window.

Afternoon’s like this pull you softly into the arms of evening… so as you go on your way, here’s a few songs that have been spinning rapidly in my world. I think they make pretty good company.

Clogs – Last Song

Clogs are a genre-defying blend of classical music and traditional / indie folk. Circling around the collaboration between Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner from The National, Clogs create profound, otherworldly music that has the strange ability to inhabit your being long after the album has ceased. Last Song comes from their epic 2010 release,  The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton and features The National’s Matt Berninger delivering a vocal that rival’s Cohen for melancholic minimalism.

 

Doveman – Breathing Out

Thomas Bartlett is the artistic vision behind Doveman and his latest opus, The Conformist, is a creative peak of sorts. It is a lush, quietly propulsive album featuring members of The National (all of them in fact at some stage) and while the surface may seem shiny, there are great depths to explore here. Bartlett’s melodic whisper of a voice slips takes you from one hushed moment to another, seducing you with lyrics that slip unknowingly into your mind to reveal a sharper edge. ‘The darkness tells me that I’ve waited long enough…’ Indeed!

 

Peter Wolf Crier – Hard as Nails

Peter Wolf Crier’s debut album Inter-Be has a peculiar urgency about it, each song stretching beyond the limits of guitars and percussion, to create some wide-open spaces. Pisano’s vocals loop, wail and crescendo in a gorgeous mess, as Hard as Nails comes to a close. There are definitely hints of Jagjaguar labelmate Bon Iver’s haunted balladry here, but Peter Wolf Crier manage to maintain a sense of exuberance throughout… even when the lyrics descend into bleaker, more visceral places.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under who listens to the radio?

The New Folk XV – Winter Sounds

This Lost Shark is moving slowly today… winter sun, lapping between my shoulder blades and the gentlest of breezes prickling my neck. Sunday’s don’t come much better, and today’s soundtrack comes courtesy of two fine Australian bands and one from the windy city of Chicago. Lose your self in these sounds… let your day find its own pace.

E-Song – Nikko

Brisbane band, Nikko have just released their much anticipated debut, The Warm Side. It is a brooding, densely crafted song cycle that seeps further into your consciousness with each listen. The band swings moodily across the nine songs, creating sonic peaks and troughs for singer/guitarist Ryan Potter to climb in and out of with his sparse lyricism. The Warm Side is a mature, intelligent debut, one that combines tension and tenderness, and leaves you with a feeling of discovery. While E-Song is not from the debut, I couldn’t resist posting this collaboration – Killing Time – with filmmaker Oliver Lofgren.

II – Fabulous Diamonds

Reverberated percussion, dubby-synths, isolated vocals, ghostly saxophone, this is the sonic terrain inhabited by Melbourne duo, Fabulous Diamonds. Their recent release II, is nothing short of hypnotic, blending extended, repetitive jams with shorter, surreal pop songs. This clip captures Fabulous Diamonds onstage creating a mesmerising soundscape that takes the boundary of pop music and unrelentingly stretches it.

Red Ants – Sonoi

Hailing from Chicago, sonoi are another band that are challenging the pop stereotype, with their warmly composed instrumentals, ambient collages and off-kilter rock. Red Ants opens their debut album and is one of the tracks that comes close to combining all of their styles. It is dreamlike in its construction, the melodic guitar line, floating keys and pulsing drum rhythms providing the perfect bed for Adam Busch’s heady vocals. Other highlights on the album are the perfectly crafted angular rock of Sherry Fall and the ambitious and album changing Anchor Tattoo.

2 Comments

Filed under who listens to the radio?

Left to the Flood: The New Folk XII

There are albums that come into your life that you know will stay with you forever, that etch themselves somewhere deep and continue to reveal themselves with every listen… two such albums have come into my life in the last week: High VioletThe National & True Love Cast Out All EvilRoky Erickson with Okkervil River. Here’s a taste from each of these albums; these songs are sure to make that Autumn sun seem somehow warmer on the skin.

Runaway – The National

‘There’s no, saving anything, now you’re swallowing the shine of the sun…’ The opening line of Runaway is just one of the lines that has lodged its barb firmly in  my psyche. The rest of the lyric is just as unforgettable:

‘What makes you think I’m enjoying being left to the flood?/ We got another thing coming undone/ and it’s taking us over/ We don’t bleed, when we don’t fight/ go ahead, go ahead, throw your arms in the air tonight’

Runaway showcases Matt Berninger’s sweet baritone during one of the album’s softer moments.Throughout the album, Berninger moves from moments of personal catharsis to the blindingly surreal, while the band sound majestic, swooping divinely in and out of Berninger’s lyrical rabbit holes.

I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees – Bloodbuzz Ohio

I’m a confident liar, I put my head in the oven so you know where I’ve been – Conversation 16

Cover me in rag and bone/ and sympathy/ cause I don’t want to get over you – Sorrow

This album is going to be on super high rotation for some time… you can listen to the complete album here, prior to it’s official release on May 11.

True Love Cast Out All Evil – Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

When the sounds of crackling opener, Devotional Number One floated out of my speakers, my spinal fluid began to bubble. It reminded me of the time when I heard the first of the Cash/Rubin collaborations and how I knew then, that I had a lot of catching up to do… that I had somehow in my youth managed to overlook the genius of Johnny Cash. While I have long been a fan of Okkervil River, I have lived almost 39 years on this earth without any knowledge of Roky Erickson… thankfully that has all changed. This is a deeply spiritual album. Okkervil River frontman, Will Sheff’s liner notes (which are worth the price of the album alone) detail Erickson’s well-publicised demons, including a stint in a Texan Psychiatric Hospital and how the voices in his head, caged him for years. It is these experiences that Erickson has primarily drawn on during the writing of this album… but there is no wallowing here. This is an album of hope, redemption and the healing power of music and Will Sheff’s production is absolutely perfect. In the softer moments you can hear Roky’s lungs rattle as he draws breath and in the fuzzed up rocker, John Lawman, you can hear his spittle coat the mic. Albums like this don’t come around often…

Leave a comment

Filed under who listens to the radio?

The New Folk pt X

Sunday is shedding its light, but never fear… this handful of songs are perfect for the approaching darkness. They have been shining their light in my world of late and it has been brighter for it. Enjoy the last hours of your weekend…

Worst Friend – Vic Chesnutt

At the Cut has been on high rotation for this Lost Shark in 2010, so I was thrilled when I finally got my hands on a copy of Vic’s other album from 2009, Skitter On Take Off, recorded live in the studio with Jonathan Richman. This is classic Chesnutt… no overdubs, just the man, his beaten acoustic guitar and some very minimal backing. Lyrically Chesnutt seems to tap the global psyche, writing songs that make you stop and wonder, was that written for me? Worst Friend is one of those songs. I don’t think there is anyone alive that couldn’t put a name to at least one of the friend’s Chesnutt sings about… and the Wheel of Fortune guy sounds hilarious!

Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent pts I & II – The Besnard Lakes

Montreal ensemble, The Besnard Lakes have created another epic album – Are The Roaring Night – that rolls out of your stereo, like a driving wave. Part I slowly builds until Jace Lasek’s falsetto erupts over peaks of psychedelic guitar swirls and rumbling percussion. Rather than be constrained by the convention of a song, The Besnard Lakes create sonic landscapes of tension and beauty. Close your eyes for this one and let yourself be plunged headlong into the roaring night.

King of Spain – The Tallest Man on Earth

Scandanavian folksinger, Kristian Matsson has followed up his 2008 debut Shallow Grave with The Wild Hunt, an effortless album of raspy vocals and crackling acoustic guitar. And while there is nothing new about this sound, The Tallest Man On Earth does it better than most. He has tapped the roots of American music to write an album of earnest, front porch poetry that will have you smiling before the first four bars have rolled.

Leave a comment

Filed under who listens to the radio?

Songs of Defiance

Defiance is a personal characteristic that often gets a bad wrap, but let’s face it, there are times when we need to stand strong in the face of popular opinion and hold our ground. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little defiant, wanting to bare my teeth at the world and some of its inhabitants; wanting to lower my horns and meet the day head on. So here’s a clutch of songs from three men who aren’t afraid to make a stand… each song, shiver-inducing in its own way. Hope they help you carry the fire.

Room at the Top – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty is one of those rare artists, unflinchingly honest in his approach and able to tell it bullet-straight, while still sounding sweeter than sugarcane. When Petty sings, I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight and I ain’t coming down, he does so with a quiet ferocity. Petty, the perpetual outsider, stakes his claim and is prepared to go down swinging in its defence.  This is the sound of a band, who never once believed rock was dead…

Hurt – Johnny Cash

While the NIN original is brilliant in its own right, Cash owns this song, his dying body and thinning voice giving these lyircs an otherworldly poignance. Cash stands at the threshold of life and delivers the closing lyric, If I could start again/ a million miles away/ I would keep myself/ I would find a way, with such certainty… there is no resignation here, just a man and the knowledge that everyone goes away in the end. And this is quite possibly one of the greatest clips ever produced.

Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

Everything here is stripped back to the core… the line between an honest man and a criminal blur, as does the line between life and death. Springsteen’s voice is at its harrowing best, but at the same time defiant, triumphant in its declaration, Everything dies baby that’s a fact/ but maybe everything that dies someday comes back/ Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/ and meet me tonight in Atlantic City. This is the truth told simply… and death, theft, loneliness are part of that truth.

7 Comments

Filed under who listens to the radio?

Ain’t No Grave – The New Folk pt. VIII

 Well, it’s a grey kinda day… perfect for those voices that perforate darkness. And these three voices do just that. Cash, Scott-Heron and Manuck have that unflinching honesty that unsettles the masses. Voices that tell their truths with the necessary sparseness to ensure they hit the very centre of their targets. This handful of songs presents you with some stark realities, but then again, reality is never really sugar coated. Embrace the clouds and open yourself….

Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash

The sixth (and final) installment of the American Recordings series is about to be released and if Ain’t No Grave is any indication, it may be the crowning glory. Cash’s baritone may have lost some of its brute force in his final years, but if anything, the edge is sharper and cuts deeper. And the lyric is so true… There ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down. In life and death, Cash is a giant. A musician who embraced his fragility and channelled it into a lifetime of song.

Me and the Devil: Gil Scott-Heron

On this, his first new track in some 16 years, Scott-Heron is sounding as vital as he ever did, like he made a pact at the crossroads of blues and hip-hop and is breathing fire into this stark take on the Robert Johnson classic. His blues holler soaring over the top of the restless samples and minimalist electronica. Let’s hope I’m New Here, brings this streetwise, well lived voice to a whole new generation.

Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos): Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band

It’s always a pleasure to have folk-punk monsters A Silver Mt Zion creating their unique orchestral squall. Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos) builds to a piano-string-tight crescendo, that will tear the breath from your chest. Guitars, violin and upright bass chime together while Efrim’s French-filtered voice is an agitated wail. Kollaps is the thunderous, free falling sound of a band at its peak.

2 Comments

Filed under who listens to the radio?