Nov 19, 2015

Maples @ Newtown Social Club

Carving out a career in music is hard. Especially if you are an independent artist. It takes real dedication and long hours. The pay off is giving people pleasure but often it's not enough to give up the 'day job'. Gabby Huber is one such artist. Formerly a key member of the much missed Sydney band Dead Letter Chorus, she now records as Maples. After many months of commitment and hard work she finally has an album out into the world. "Two Worlds" is the name and I attended the launch on Tuesday night at the Newtown Social Club. Her music can probably be described as emotional pop. It's weighty but still light to touch. Songs are based on love and hope and joy. The sound is driven by keyboards with the backing live of drums, bass and synths. It's danceable but there is plenty of room for ballads. It's made for decent radio airplay, so hopefully that will happen as the album is top class. Live, the songs pack a punch. Especially songs like "I Have Heart" and "Into My Arms". The highlight of the night was probably the encore though. Gabby firstly went to the back of the room and gave us a great cover of  Martha Wainwright's "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole", before joining the band to end with the single in "Stars". Maples deserves your support not just because she's an independent artist but also because she has something to say.

Sep 11, 2015

The Smith Street Band @ Manning Bar

There is a purity to The Smith Street Band that is almost undeniable. They exist in total honesty. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, without any form of irony. They are emotionally powerful and forthright. They rock extremely hard too just for good measure. Wednesday night at the Manning Bar was the first time that I have seen them live and it won't be my last.

This was the first night of their latest tour. A tour taking place about a year after the release of their latest, and greatest, record. "Throw Me in the River" was a burning document of love and life and hit home harder than any record released in Australia in 2015. Their set was taken up largely with this amazing record, but they also touched on older tunes such as "Sigourney Weaver" and "Ducks Fly Together". A sweaty mass of humanity sang along to every song. Lead man Wil Wagner sings with a passion few can match. His voice cuts straight through. It is plain and yet totally convincing. He sings about memories, love, hate and regret. It is absorbing in a way that many bands would envy. By the time they finish with "Throw Me in the River" and "I Love Life" we were putty in their hands. If this Melbourne band visit your town don't miss them!  

Set List
It's Alright, I Understand
Sunshine and Technology
Get High, See No One
Ducks Fly Together
Don't Fuck With Our Dreams
Sigourney Weaver
Calgary Girls
I Want Friends
I Don't Wanna Die Anymore
I Can't Feel My Face
Throw Me in the River
I Love Life

I Scare Myself Sometimes (with Lucy Wilson)
Young Drunk

Aug 16, 2015


My current jam. Love this song!

Jul 24, 2015

Ryan Adams @ Enmore Theatre

You probably know this by now, but I do LOVE American music. The best of it represents an earthiness, a sensibility that is quite unique. Drawing on many strands of country, rock and folk there are many artists who write songs that leap into your heart with a brutal honesty and an unwavering commitment to melody. There are many great names in this canon and most assuredly Ryan Adams belongs in this. His gravelly voice, his emotional honesty and guitar playing chops make him a substantial figure in the American music scene. It feels like Adams has been around forever. Probably because he is so prolific, with countless albums under his belt. Which is the recipe for a great show.

Which Thursday night at the Enmore Theatre most definitely was. First up we had the glorious pleasure of Jenny Lewis. I had never seen Jenny live before and she did not disappoint. Backed by a great band she sauntered around the stage with a quiet confidence delivering her varied catalogue with lashings of style. Her vocal range is very impressive and her attention to detail is precise. Her closing song, "Acid Tongue", had the crowd wanting more.  But it wasn't to be as the stage made way for Mr Adams. I had seen him live once before, in solo mode, and he was very impressive. Tonight with an ace band backing him he was equally so. A dream set list covering all the bases allowed Adams to show off his skill as an artist, performer and songwriter. He was energetic, full hearted and gave his all, displaying his skill as a guitarist with some major rock jams, such as on "Nobody Girl" My favourite though was the beautiful "Dirty Rain". That is until we got to the section where Ryan went solo on an acoustic. Breathtaking beauty culminated in my favourite song in "Oh My Sweet Carolina". I'm sure some tears were shed at this point. The only downer on the night was the persistence of some audience members to use flash photography. Adams suffers from Meniere's disease and flashes only make it worse. He asked nicely for it to stop but it didn't and he was rightly quite angry by the show's end. But he ploughed on, maybe he wouldn't have a few years, and still managed to deliver a show that we won't soon forget.

Set List
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
Stay With Me
Dirty Rain
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Dear Chicago
Magnolia Mountain
This House Is Not For Sale
Peaceful Valley
When the Stars Go Blue
Nobody Girl
New York, New York
Why Do They Leave? (Ryan solo)
My Winding Wheel (Ryan solo)
Oh My Sweet Carolina (Ryan solo)
Cold Roses
Shakedown on 9th Street
I See Monsters
Come Pick Me Up

Easy Plateau
La Cienega Just Smiled
I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say

Jul 19, 2015

Girl In A Sling-Destroyer

I can not adequately describe just how amazing this is.
"Girl in a Sling" is from the upcoming new album from Destroyer.
"Poison Season" is out August 28 on Merge.

Jul 4, 2015

Waxahatchee @ Newtown Social Club

Halfway through Friday night's set Katie Crutchfield (who is Waxahatchee) asked if we were crazy. "What are you doing here on a Friday night listening to me sing sad songs?" Well Katie I know your songs are sad, but also they are pretty great. And for me sad songs are the best. If written with a good melody they fill the soul and lift you up. And that's certainly what Katie did in Newtown on a cold Friday night.

Truly a solo show it was just Katie on electric guitar through out. Her songs are stark and painfully honest. Her voice carries strong and loud. There is emotional clarity in all her songs. She began with "Chapel of Pines" which is a song from her other project in Great Thunder. But the rest was purely Waxahatchee. Three albums to draw on and she touched on them all, with the older songs loaded more at the top of the show. It was an impressive night, with perhaps the only quibble that songs delivered starkly can sometimes show a vague sameness. But that was a minor quibble, for the honesty and truth shone through. Especially on the wonderful "La Loose", which is oddly more of a 'poppier' song but here was given a very stark rendition. The encore was great too with two powerhouse songs to finish in with "Catfish" and "Peace and Quiet". This was the first time for Katie in Australia, Let's hope she returns very soon.

Set List
Chapel of Pines
Grass Stain
Swan Dive
American Weekend
Brother Bryan
Tangled Envisioning
Under a Rock
Blue Pt II
La Loose
Summer of Love
Half Moon
I Think I Love You

Peace and Quiet

Jun 19, 2015

NOS Primavera Sound

Recently I made the pilgrimage to Portugal for NOS Primavera Sound. This was my first time in Portugal and I loved the country. Great history, great food and warm and friendly people made for a great holiday. I visited Lisbon, Sintra and then Porto for this 3 day festival. It's a smaller version of the festival run a week earlier in Barcelona, with many acts playing both festivals. I had a wonderful time. The festival is set in a beautiful park in the western area of Porto. It was very easy to get to with buses servicing the site very well and the festival was run superbly. It had a very relaxed vibe with not many queues and good food and drink. Music started each day at about 5pm and often ran until the early hours of the morning.

There were four stages and only occasionally did a clash occur that I regretted. There were some big names that I didn't actually see. Mainly because I'm not really into them. Such as Caribou, Antony and the Johnsons or Belle and Sebastian. But I managed to see some amazing music. Here is a brief report.

I love Mikal Cronin so much. His three albums have been chock full of melody and great songs. I think his latest album is his best yet. His set was fairly early on the first day and despite some sound issues it would prove to the one of the best I saw.

Set List
Turn Around
Made My Mind Up
Am I Wrong
Get Along
Shout It Out
See It My Way
Green and Blue
I have seen Interpol many times over the years and even though their earliest music is clearly their best I was happy to see them once again. They put on a great show in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Set List
Say Hello to the Angels
Hands Away
Leif Erikson
Rest My Chemistry
Everything Is Wrong
The New
Take You on a Cruise
Not Even Jail
Pioneer to the Falls
Slow Hands

Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down
All the Rage Back Home

Viet Cong have courted some controversy of late because of their name. But their music shines above all of that. A standout on Day two, their set was bruising, hard and to the point.

Set List
Throw It Away
Bunker Buster
March of Progress
Continental Shelf
Never in my lifetime did I ever think I would see The Replacements. A seminal band from the 80s their songs are timeless. But like a lot of acts they have reformed and their set was shambolic, joyous and SO much fun. And apparently they announced it would be their last show!

Set List
Takin' a Ride
Favorite Thing
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
Take Me Down to the Hospital
Little Mascara
I'm in Trouble
Waitress in the Sky
Kiss Me on the Bus
Nowhere Is My Home
I Will Dare
I'll Be You
The Ledge
Can't Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
My Boy Lollipop

20th Century Boy
If Only You Were Lonely
Left of the Dial
Alex Chilton

Day Three came and it was the best of the three days. Foxygen were the first highlight and they were so much fun. Brilliant and chaotic, with dancing girls and a front man in Sam France who never stopped talking, singing or moving. Apparently this is their last tour. If that is the case they will most definitely be missed!

After the beautiful chaos of Foxygen I moved onto the beautiful sounds of Kevin Morby. Like Mikal Cronin, Morby has great songs and a great sound. This man has my heart!

Set List
The Dead They Don't Come Back
Sucker in the Void (The Lone Mile)
Harlem River
All of My Life
Motors Runnin
Miles, Miles, Miles
I Hear You Calling/Parade
Much like Interpol, Death Cab For Cutie aren't probably what they used to be, but they still know how to put on a great show. And they did, before a much devoted audience.

Set List
I Will Possess Your Heart
Crooked Teeth
Doors Unlocked and Open
The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
Grapevine Fires
Black Sun
Little Wanderer
You Are a Tourist
The New Year
Soul Meets Body

Dan Deacon was my last act to see of the festival and it was a good way to go out. I love Deacon's music but unlike previous shows I have seen he couldn't quite get the crowd participation going properly. He tried hard but I don't think the crowd fully understood. Still, it was a nice way to end a wonderful festival in a great city.

Set List
Sheathed Wings
Mind on Fire
Wham City
Learning to Relax
When I Was Done Dying
Feel the Lightning
USA I: Is a Monster
USA II: The Great American Desert
USA IV: Manifest