Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Free NYC...the Summer Months Come Rolling In

With the official start of summer last week and the end of the year's first half, it's a special time here in New York outdoor concert season!

The options start to trickle in during June, with the beginning of the Prospect Park Celebrate Brooklyn! shows and those at the South Street Seaport - although the latter didn't start so well - but July is where things really start to heat up.

To get in the mood, I caught the latter half of English singer-songwriter Beth Orton's set here in Rockefeller Park tonight. It was everything a good outdoor NYC show should be; sun setting over the Hudson, contemplative and appreciative crowd gathered in a great park space, and of course utterly gratis. Orton's wistful lyrics and fragile melodies were possibly at odds with the light, breezy summer evening but her voice and easy-going demeanour between songs brought out the contrast nicely.

So keep an eye on these pages over the coming weeks for previews and reviews of the H-T-A friendly acts appearing live over the summer. If you've got no cash but love music, it's a great time to be in the city!

Picture courtesy of Steffe

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Italy

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Most certainly not wanting to discuss the day's footballing events, the only way to make things marginally more acceptable is to focus on one of the  Euro big guns that fell at an even earlier stage than the clowns in red today. Having crossed France off that short list, only Italy remains and it's here we check in.

The Italian music industry has many of its own little eccentricities and a very inward focus, meaning that bands can do perfectly well in their home market but not be adequately pushed outside those borders. Occasionally one gets noticed by purveyors of a niche genre, however, and happily it was so when North Carolina's Deep Elm Records got a hold of Bolognan angular rockers Settlefish.

Taking cues from genre standard-bearers Fugazi, Settlefish deliver jagged, staccato post-hardcore with just a hint of their homeland mixed in. The bombastic melodies can be attributed to the kind of rock you'll often hear emanating from Italy, though the dynamic alternating between tight, quiet passages and frenzied sonic thrashing owes much more to the DC scene of some two decades ago. 

MP3: Settlefish - Oh Well (zip file via Deep Elm)
Taken from the album The Plural of the Choir, out now - BUY


It's an engaging mix and one that fits well with their chosen home, a robustly independent label with a penchant for varied sounds across the alternative hallways of hardcore. For a taste of their current crop, check out the latest sampler, We Dream Alone.

Sometimes the 'quirky' nature of Italian bands can become quickly tiresome (Linea 77 spring to mind), but Settlefish retain a depth of influence and engaging style that keeps their tunes sounding fresh as you revisit. Unfortunately they went into hibernation as of late 2008 and haven't emerged since, so it can only be hoped that they feel the urge to make a push again some time soon. Let's not wait four years as our national teams will have to do though, eh boys?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Ghana

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Despite taking the seemingly more preferable route from group C to the knockout stages, plucky Team USA came up against a powerful Ghanaian side today. So let's focus on the positives and check out some tunes from the last African nation remaining in the tournament, carrying the torch for the continent's first World Cup.

Not so surprisingly for a continent with such deep roots between music and daily life, there are plenty of resources for artists from Ghana. The first that popped out in my travels was Ghana Music, which featured this understated, chilled tribute to Black Star - the plural version of which is the nickname of the national team - by Jay Ghartey:

Plenty of classic footy imagery to tie these together nicely. Moving into more strictly musical territory, a style of music quite the country's own is hiplife, an upbeat blend of hip-hop and more traditional highlife, reggae, and afro-beat influences. One of the more popular examples of which comes from Nana Boroo in the form of most recent hit Ahayede:

The reggae influence is evident right from the off and the tropical percussion lends an sunny, summer element to the song. It feels positive and alive, which is more than can be said for a lot of mainstream Western hip-hop nowadays. The influences of the latter can be heard in some of the beats and most certainly seen in the flashier elements of the video - Luxury cars? Check! Swanky house party? Check! Grinding girls? Check! - but are mostly subsumed by the more African influences, which makes it a pleasant change of tone.

So perhaps not your usual H-T-A fare but with fast rising indie-rock artists such as Vampire Weekend and Local Natives taking plenty of cues from Afropop, as well as the classic links via releases like Paul Simon's Graceland, it's interesting to explore what folks are listening to at a local level on the continent. 

MP3:  Vampire Weekend - Horchata (via Insound)
Taken from the album Contra, out now

Buy it at Insound!

MP3:  Local Natives - Sun Hands (via Insound)
Taken from the album Gorilla Manor, out now

Buy it at Insound!

All of which makes Ghana's continued stay at the 2010 World Cup a blessing...with the unfortunate side-effect of knocking out Bob Bradley's boys on the way.

Friday, 25 June 2010

REVIEW: The Dirty White - Vs. Evil Circles

With all the sensitive, deep-and-meaningful indie rock that does the rounds in these parts, it's easy to forget the joys of raucous, balls out rock music. Thankfully though, before acute hipster-blinkers set in, a band like The Dirty White comes along, chugs a case of beer,  plays loud & lairy for a while, and rekindles that old heavy rock warmth.

On debut album Vs. Evil Circles this South Carolina trio hit a variety of tempos and tones, all firmly rooted in their steadfast appreciation of a powerful riff. 

Opener Mighty Prehistoric sets the scene as it rides in on waves of distortion and raw guitar drive. There's a certain Southern groove beneath it, reliably stoking the engine, but the relentless rhythm section and thrashing of the guitar provide the main lure here. Dabney Coleman Pt. 5 adds a dash or six of post-hardcore jaggedness to the mix and the guitars continue their vicious writhing throughout. What starts to become clear is how unapologetically pure the band's pursuit of that loose rock n roll attitude is, regardless of the influence being channeled. Anything from the fuzzed jams of Fu Manchu (There Were Helicoptors) to the unhinged caterwaul of McLusky (Dry Bones) come to mind as we progress through the album, amongst many other artists in between. 

MP3: The Dirty White - Mighty Prehistoric
Taken from the album Vs. Evil Circles, out now - BUY

Part of the appeal lies in this apparent variation of influences, as everything is applied with an honesty and open-mindedness that keeps each song interesting without losing the central thread of loose, raw rock. Goocher, for example, isn't afraid to start off placid and somewhat melodic, returning to this state at times, but still overloads regularly with bursts of charging guitar and off-kilter dual vocals. There Were Helicoptors is another highlight, this time focusing on keeping the guitars strung out and entering something of a jam session further in, where vocals are set aside and the instruments do the talking. Whatever choice the band make, it feels genuine and, for the most part, a successful decision.

Vs. Evil Circles is relatively short with its eight tracks and isn't going to blaze any trails into new styles of music for the listener. What it does get the pulse racing and revives the thirst for checking out the band live, loud and with beer in hand. 

And that, surely, is the hallmark of any worthy rock record?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Slovenia

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Of course, being an Englishman, my eyes today were transfixed on my home nation's match with the young, skilled but inexperienced team of Slovenia. Thankfully the Three Lions managed to scrape their act together enough to get the win. Unfortunately for the couple of million Slovenians, the US managed a late late show that sent their team packing back to Ljubljana. 

So before they grab a plane home, let's focus on one of the country's more renowned musical - and indeed art media - exports, Laibach.

To even scratch the surface of an avant-garde group that formed 30 years ago, spans everything from classical and traditional genres to industrial rock, and continues to influence artists of all types today, would be a mammoth task for even one year, let alone one post. Instead we'll simply say hello and introduce a few of Laibach's more accessible entry-points.

Life Is Life is almost certainly their best known work, with the video above having received solid attention from MTV in the late 80's. Taken from the album Opus Dei, a seminal moment in their career to date, it's a fierce parody of nationalism that comes across as half propaganda and half Monty Python sketch. The band have long courted controversy with their references to extreme political perspectives, especially whenever they touch on Nazi or fascist imagery. The reality is that Laibach co-opt these influences to create discussion and, often, to ridicule the very viewpoint they're presenting.

On the lighter side, adventurous covers of pop staples such as The Final Countdown or Maggie Mae, as well as remixing Rammstein, have given them links to the mainstream that their more eccentric output could never have achieved. To wit, the band's 2006 effort Volk consisted entirely of interpretations of various national anthems, such as their own Slovania (video below). Avant-garde, indeed.

The whole concept certainly focuses the attention on the bizarre traits of nationalism, something which emerges in a mostly positive light during the World Cup tournament but whose effects can be more worrying if taken  too seriously. Never ones to shy away from open-minded discussion, one gets the feeling this is exactly what they were shooting for. 

You can dig into the other products of their wide and varied career here. Who knows, Slovania may even be spinning on the iPods of a few players as they jet home. See you in four year, fellas.

Picture source: Ines Zgonc

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Japan

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Today we'll stop off in Japan, a thriving musical market in its own right and unique in its tastes for both home-grown and international talent. Like the footy team, people often have no idea what to expect but are pleasantly surprised when they take the time to experience what's on offer.

For a unique take on JPop and a look inside the country's varied styles, visit our friends over at JPOP Lover, a blog dedicated to just such things. My own personal preference is a little more mainstream for Western audiences but still has that quintessential eccentric energy that seems to power so much Japanese music, in the form of electro-infused rockers Polysics.

MP3: Polysics - Married to a Frenchman
Taken from Hey Bob, My Friend, out now 

 Buy it at Insound!

Ever since seeing them live in Liverpool many years ago, I've had plenty of time for their bounding, synth-heavy take on Western pop/rock. Covering songs like My Sharona and The Wild One, Polysics have a respect for the more classic of rock influences but choose to project it into the future via electronic glitches and sci-fi style attire. It could come across gimmicky, were it not for their complete commitment to a full-on live experience and the honesty they exude in doing so. 

Having not caught up with newest album, Absolute Polysics, as yet, it's about time I did so. The video for Young Oh! Oh! above has them travelling in a similar Devo style direction to their previous album, which satisfied aplenty. This week will tell if their nation can beat the odds and escape the group stages at the World Cup. Meanwhile, the band continues to travel the world itself, spreading infectious JRock to startled yet appreciative audiences.  

Monday, 21 June 2010

Tales From the North Side: Brooklyn Fest Returns For Second Time This Weekend

Last year, a pretty swell line-up kicked off the inaugural Northside Festival in Brooklyn's hipster haven Williamsburg and its less renowned, more Polish sister neighbourhood Greenpoint. Big guns like The Hold Steady and Asobi Seksu lined up alongside the rising stars of the borough - and further afield - in venues across the two areas. Well, this weekend sees the return of such indie shenanigans, with the  action seemingly spread across more venues and some excellent acts.

MP3: Titus Andronicus - Four Score & Seven Part I (via Insound
Taken from The Monitor, out now

Buy it at Insound!

MP3: Electric Tickle Machine - Part of Me
Taken from Blew It Again, out now

Buy it at Insound!

Some of the bigger acts this year include Liars, Les Savy Fav, Titus Andronicus, Wavves, and Smoking Popes, though the real delights will most likely be found in exploring random venues for the varied and exciting talent the festival has to offer. All the information can be found here.

To further sweeten the deal, the organizers are running a competition with all kinds of freebies to be won, from t-shirts and festival passes to a spanking new iPad. Enter here for the chance to be one of those smug bar stewards on the L train using this swanky new piece of kit to play solitaire. But, like, big're right, we naysayers are just poor and jealous.
Taken from Burning Off Impurities, out now

Buy it at Insound!

MP3: Memory Tapes - Graphics Remodel Edit (via Insound)
Taken from Seek Magic, out now

Buy it at Insound!

If you're in the city from Thursday through the weekend, be sure to hop on the aforementioned L train - or even G, if you have the patience to wait - and check out a show or six. H-T-A will be all ears in the comments section here & on Facebook hoping to hear your reports.

Can't be everywhere, so shout up if you hear someone worth sharing!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Around the World [Cup] In 30 Days: France

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Figured I'd better cover France before they get dumped out of the tournament....oh lord let that not be tempting fate for my England on here we take a shufty at the vicious tech-metal of Hacride, from Poitiers in central France.

Not since the incessant sturm und drang of 07's Amoeba have I checked in with the natural brethren of the more widely known French metallers, Gojira. More fool me, as reports have it that their most recent album, Lazarus (BUY), is a continuation of their ascent to the top of the pile. That pile being the admittedly small - yet well formed - stack of progressively minded metal acts.
This Tool-esque video (excuse the unavoidable adverts, if you will) for the bowel loosening Perturbed gives a good indication of the raging heights the band can achieve, serrated guitars hacking away over a menacing rhythm section, with simultaneously violent and ethereal vocals blanketing the instrumentation to unnerving effect. Within all this, Hacride have a welcome nack for allowing a song to breathe and reform, before reverting to the deadly assault that came before it.
A soundtrack to fuel the fury of a confused and fragmented mindset? It all makes perfect sense for the current shambles in the camp of their national team. To Walk Among Them, indeed. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: New Zealand

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Earlier today New Zealand put on a late late show to draw with the more fancied Slovakian - team. Despite North Korea's bold efforts against the high ranking Brazilians, the drama of the NZ equaliser and the news that it means their first ever point in the finals make them today's choice. That and the fact that North Korea can consider playing rock n roll a crime, which isn't going to help my effort for their entry.

All of which sporting preamble brings us to Die! Die! Die!, an alternately raucous and melodically-inclined rock trio from Dunedin, NZ. 

The band have plied their trade for over five years, with releases reaching both the US and UK, as well as their own region. Indeed, their debut was produced by none other than one Mr Steve Albini himself, giving an idea as to their preferences when it comes to the more art-punk side of their sound. These  caustic influences are channeled into more expansive, harmonious passages of sound on new single We Built Our Own Oppressors, which nods to seminal acts like At the Drive-In and ...Trail of Dead

<a href="">We Built Our Own Oppressors by Die! Die! Die!</a>
With third album Form - from which this track is taken - ready to go any time now, if this lead track whets your appetite as it does mine then you'll want to check keep your ear to the ground for the full length. 

For now, there are two prior albums to catch up on, which you can purchase here. In between World Cup games, of course.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bonnarooooo Ends, Reports Start to Roll In

For the second year running I failed to make any effort to get down to Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but by all accounts it was a bit of a scorcher - a tragedy in the case of one poor attendee - and there were some outstanding performances from openers to headliners. I checked out various live streams from NPR (links below) over the weekend and, were it not for the World Cup fever, would probably have been pining to be taking it all in.


The reports are flooding in already, so let's compile some of the better stuff as it begins to emerge:
  • The official Bonnaroo YouTube has plenty of vids and the main site compiles various coverage as BonnarooNow
  • NPR outdid themselves over the weekend with live streams, set replays, and general wall-to-wall coverage of all the action. If like me you couldn't be there, this was the next best thing (and from the comfort of an air conditioned apartment, instead of a hot-as-balls field). Some choice cuts from H-T-A faves are below.
  • Spin has a collection of up close & personal snaps in this slideshow, as well as their live set reviews.
  • The NY Times ArtsBeat blog had some gripes with how Dave Matthews Band has developed but had plenty of positive reports from the rest of the fest.
  • Billboard has some cool interviews - such as this one below with The Gaslight Anthem - posted, as well as a main page covering both this year and those gone by.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Germany

So I was planning to get adventurous and cover Algeria today, but given their goalie's abject display to lose the points (ha, what kind of second rate national team has that problem.....oh) and the infuriatingly ongoing might of the German footy machine, I plumped for the less challenging but equally satisfying musical output of Deutschland.

And so to the music of Radiant Dragon, self-produced, atmospheric electronica originating from Frankfurt. To satisfy my Anglo-Saxon jealousy, Ming Long, the gent behind these ambient slices of serenity, now calls London home and it is from here that his soundscapes reach us. 

MP3: Radiant Dragon - In The Dawn

Everything about Radiant Dragon, from the aforementioned heavenly electro-tones to the enigmatic photographs adorning the various sites, exudes a certain heavenly, mystical atmosphere. Replete with floating, other-worldy vocals and densely layered, swirling effects, this is music for the wee hours spent contemplating how little the factors that stress our daily lives actually have a right to do so. It's fly away escape music of the highest order. Spiritual without the cloying response that description may often evoke.

That said, the efforts of 22 blokes kicking a pigs bladder around a field are entirely removed from the efforts of a skilled manipulator of sound seeking our transcendence through his creations. Should some of the world beating success of his birth nation rub off on the spread of Radiant Dragon's music, however, I'm sure the two would align with little complaint. Here's hoping.

Find out more about Radiant Dragon on Facebook or the blog site.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Around the World [Cup] In 30 Days: South Africa

With the World Cup beginning yesterday, my footy senses went into overload and have essentially taken over everything with which I'm involved. Stretching this to music blogging didn't take too long as, shock...surprise, there are great bands from all around the world in exactly the same way that there are great footy teams. And Argentina. Haaa.

So, for the duration of the shenanigans in South Africa, H-T-A will attempt to uncover a band from each participating nation and give them a brief nod on these pages, with regular posts continuing alongside them. For certain countries this will be a sinch. For others.....let's just say I may well leave North Korea until near the end.

To begin with, it seems only right to go with the host nation. I was tempted by Dave Matthews, who is coincidentally headlining at Bonnaroo Fest this weekend (coverage via NPR here), but given he's one of the largest names in US music it would hardly be breaking news. Instead, I came across Zebra & Giraffe earlier this year and dig their radio-friendly electro-pop enough to give them the shout.

From the video and sound, it will come as no surprise that the Johannesburg band supported The Killers on their most recent visit to South Africa. They have a similar modus operandi to their Vegas brethren, perhaps just injected with some Muse and filtering everything through a set of alternative rock  influences. This results in a distinctly mainstream air that could easily see the band break onto US FM radio when they inevitably head to these shores. Assuming everyone except fans of country music hasn't abandoned the format by that point, of course. 

Zebra & Giraffe released their debut set, Collected Memories, at home in 2008 and you can pick it up here if you dig the sound. Also check out their website or Myspace for more info.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Music Mid Terms: Mini Reviews From 2010 [Pt. Deux]

Continuing the H-T-A spring cleaning catch up, here's another batch of albums that really should have been scribbled about at least a month ago.  However, a smart Roman chap did point out - not directly to me, obviously - that "time discovers truth", so perhaps that validates the's that for a spun out excuse? Onwards...

Alkaline Trio This Addiction

The Chicago band's seventh album doesn't stray too far from their trademark brand of dark, acerbic-yet-accessible punk pop/rock When held up to its forebears, though, it fails to hit either the highs of the outstanding singles or the overall consistency of an album like Crimson. Were they making bold moves into new sonic territory it might not be reasonable to hold past success against this release, but that isn't the case and it's a fair criticism to say that This Addiction feels lacklustre, paling in comparison to what has come before it. There are standout, memorable tunes in Dine, Dine My Darling and the playlist-worthy Piss & Vinegar, but overall there are other Trio collections that newcomers should definitely seek out first.


Buy it at Insound!
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Mumford & Sons Sigh No More

Having been available in the UK for some time now, it was a blessed relief to finally wrap my wars around Sign No More in full earlier this year, after being steadily seduced by various freebie downloads and videos. It was worth the wait...and then some. From the self-titled opener, through gorgeously intricate tunes like The Cave and Little Lion Man, this album is painstakingly tight musically and vying with The National for pure lyrical gems. With fast-moving banjo providing the backbone on most tracks, the dashes of country and folk are perfectly balanced to add substance to the sound rather than making it hackneyed. Better still, Pitchfork slated this one, a testament to its lack of pretense or need to be of its time. Sometimes, it's acceptable to step away from the chillwave. Sometimes.

Mumford & Sons // Little Lion Man by Stayloose

Buy it at Insound!

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Midlake The Courage of Others

A much anticipated release here at the turn of the year, The Courage of Others did initially satisfy but hasn't yielded a great deal of return value thereafter. At least not in the same way as its excellent predecessor, The Trials of Van Occupanther. This one is undeniably beautiful, with reflective folk laments and the faintest of instrumentation underlining them. The air of the early 70's and similar period Fleetwood Mac informs the atmosphere of this album too, with an elegance and poise that few bands can maintain across multiple releases. So although there are plenty of positives to take from Midlake's latest, something about the execution makes it more of an occasional pleasure than a daily requirement. As a counterpoint to such an exceptional sophomore effort, though, that's just fine.

MP3: Midlake - Acts of Man (via Insound)

Buy it at Insound!
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Local Natives Gorilla Manor

Emerging with a healthy buzz from CMJ last year, these Los Angeleans soon signed to indie stalwart Frenchkiss Records and the label must be thrilled to have as luscious a debut as Gorilla Manor on their books. Crammed with sumptuously crafted, vaguely-tropical tunes heavy on the melody, this album has any number of plus points to recommend. The percussion is stunning, achieving fills, clicks, and tribal elements where any regular drummer would simply maintain a basic beat. It adds enormous interest and repeat value to every song, opening track Wide Eyes providing an exemplary starting point. Elsewhere, fluid guitar lines subtly lap against the shores of the rhythm section, as soothing vocals add memorable but unobtrusive lyrical asides. It's a combination that is held throughout Gorilla Manor and marks Local Natives out as one of the more skilled, exciting new bands of the moment to keep an eye on.

MP3: Local Natives - Sun Hands (via Insound)

Buy it at Insound!


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Streaming Conciousness: Tame Impala's InnerSpeaker

Australian trio Tame Impala first came through my speakers last week, courtesy of a track on Insound's latest digital mixtape (spread, as with all freebies, through our Facebook page....which if you wanted to 'Like' would be just dandy). A warm, hazy affair with a skewed pop sensibility, it pricked up my ears and made me take note for future reference. 

Well, the future turned out to be a mere 7 days, as new album InnerSpeaker is now up for full streaming on AOL. As I knew I'd have to listen immediately, it seemed logical to wheel out another installment of this feature, whereby thoughts are simply spilled onto the page as they arise from the first listen. If you're thinking "isn't everything here just spilled onto the page?", that's the kind of thought your mother advised you to keep to yourself when you were little. Heed her.

Opening track It Is Not Meant To Be is right in keeping with the ostensibly lazy approach of the band, which is merely a facade as the thick, sometimes dissonant layers of sound must take time and a certain mastery of production to get just right. The guitars float in and out of the mix on a cloud of reverb and the vocals lend a further hazy quality, with a distant air of 60's pop lingering to confuse matters further. Desire Be Desire Go rides in - and relies on - a more propulsive rhythm section to differentiate itself, though the same blur to the sound remains present and correct.

Alter Ego is more upbeat still, with explorations of quieter passages at various intervals adding a welcome extra dimension to the unfolding sound, alongside confident percussion and an echoing vocal. Lucidity reverts to vaguely psychedelic, chilled type for a short while before exploding into an almost stoner rock-tinged freak out to close. Following is Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind, which lacks a question mark but offers plenty more blissed out moments for those listeners not already finding themselves slumped down on the couch, journeying into the land beyond. The aforementioned free track, Solitude Is Bliss, is up next and the oft-repeated line of "You will never come close to how I feel...." makes one wonder if this isn't perfectly true, given just how laid back the singer sounds on this album. Though neatly side stepping the chillwave bandwagon with some simple, raw garage rock effects, the first 5 letters of the genre du jour suit Tame Impala to a tee.

MP3: Tame Impala - Solitude Is Bliss
Taken from the new album InnerSpeaker, out now

Buy it at Insound!

Whether or not InnerSpeaker begins to meander at this point depends on one's penchant for extended jam sessions. While I'm as happy as the next long-haired pothead to get into some fuzzed out progressive riffing, it's not until the end of the sprawling Jeremy's Storm that the song really kicks into life. Expectation drags proceedings back into more coherent territory, reviving the extreme reverb on the vocals and holding onto something of a song structure. The closing tracks offer up more variety, with the harmonized singing and optimistic guitar work of Runway, Houses, City, Clouds forging a highlight of the release as a whole. I Don't Really Mind is a much simpler, poppy choice to end things, memorable and modest in the same breath.

It will almost certainly take repeated listens of this album as a whole - probably with the added intimacy of headphones - to pass judgment on whether it gels together overall. Despite the general air of psychedelia being a constant, the band employ styles from garage to folk and back through to stoner rock (the Fu Manchu-esque The Bold Arrow of Time being one such example), perhaps increasing the chance that the release could come apart at the seams with extended listening sessions. 

On the other hand, the first listen of InnerSpeaker reveals plenty of nooks and crannies into which to poke our inquisitive ears. It doesn't sound like these Aussies are being contrary simply for the sake of an angle, rather that they want to incorporate so much into one record that it inevitably falls apart from time to time. More often, though, there's that loose haze keeping the sound in the same realm, letting the individual instruments and lyrics offer some variety. And adventurousness in music, as we know, has to be applauded as we find it. For this, Tame Impala are afforded a warm reception.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Leg It? Manchester's Running Club Provide a Reason To Hang Around

As anyone who loiters around these pages will be aware, I have a soft-spot for music from back home. And it's positively porous when the artist resides in the North West, an area which anyone with any sense understands produces the best of the best in two areas: 1) bands and 2) football teams. 

Running Club of Manchester, despite their athletically-inclined name, fall into the former category.

With an acoustic-leaning, organic take on indie-rock, this five-piece also incorporate light elements of reggae that recall Joe Strummer. As this is an lofty influence - at least from what I'm hearing - that seeps into both the instrumentation and the gravelly maturity of the vocals, it's impressive that the band pull it off with such aplomb. Both on the newly released From The Light and the simple video for Awkward Makeshift, there is an earnestness to the songs that quickly endears the ear to their sound. 

MP3: Running Club - From the Light

As a relatively young band there's little material out there yet, ahead of the planned EP for the aforementioned Awkward Makeshift next month. On the plus side, it allows us to take in these tracks and grow the anticipation for the next tunes on the horizon, see?  

H-T-A: keeping your glass half full since 2008.

Monday, 7 June 2010

LIVE REVIEW: Danny Ross @ Mercury Lounge

The last time the music of Danny Ross graced these pages with its multi-skilled employment of wide and varied instrumentation was a feature on singer-songwriters. Well, no man, regardless of musical education or raw ability, can reproduce such endeavours live without some back up. So that explains the band of eight merry men accompanying Mr. Ross as he takes the Mercury Lounge stage for the first time to date.

On record Ross achieves an eclectic blend of soulful rock songs and more emotive, stripped-bare ballads. 'Goes Electric' is the tagline for tonight's show, however, meaning that strutting rockers are the order of the day. Those being the cuts this writer took most to heart from 2009's One Way release, things are looking up right from the word go.

Initially we have new song Fault Lines to get us in the spirit, which achieves the desired effect on a crowd still trying to shake off the rigours of the work day. Cheers and dancing begin to spread, only encouraged by the immediate charge into the schmoove licks of the excellent Country Wind. Through a combination of tight playing, rich melodies, plus the odd request for audience members to take a few steps forward, the night quickly starts to come alive.
Taken from the album One Way, out now - BUY

This being a landmark show for Brooklyn-resident Ross, likely on the way to the midsize NYC venues in the not-too-distant future, he can easily be forgiven a mild air of nervousness during the first few tunes. It's an affectation that rapidly gives way to the soul of his music as the night progresses. Indeed, by the swinging horn opening of Oh, Christine the singer is as caught up in the mood of the song as the very character its lyrics describe. From here, the swagger of the next set highlight, Woman, replete with harmonica interludes and "Woman, I ain't your dial tone" admonishment, kicks the crowd into a higher gear.

The triple horn section receives a deserved nod next, adding verve and colour to the brief nod at ...And The Trumpets Sing and then a rousing full band version of This Is Just A Test, perhaps the song which best showcases the impressively versatile musicianship at play on One Way. By this point Ross has donned a set of shades that are either this summer's key fashion item or the cheapest he could find from a Midtown street vendor at short notice, depending on your perspective. Whatever your take, his ever-growing confidence on stage and the songs steeped in rock history successfully recall icons of the eras he is undoubtedly influenced by.

Ending his brief but entirely convincing set with memorable new track Think About Me and the aforementioned album's celebratory title track, Ross sings "I've seen changes / Turning pages / All this writing on the wall". As open-ended as one could interpret those words, it would be a pleasure to look back and view them in the context of a milestone show for Danny Ross, on the path to wider recognition. 

In terms of going only one way, let's hope the prophecies of British musical sage Yazz are true and it is indeed up. Baby. Sorry.


You can read more about the creation of One Way on the gent's blog here. August/Sept/Oct 2009 hold the stories behind the songs. You can also make Rupert Murdoch happy and visit Ross on Myspace here. He also plays Rockwood Music Hall on Friday June 18th - Danny, not Rupert, of course - if the above has whet your appetite.