Friday, November 30, 2007

Belles Will Ring - Mood Patterns

This 5 piece Australian outfit hail from the Blue Mountains in Sydney. This is their debut album and it seems they have slipped through the attention of the majority of the music listening nation. I'm unsure how much air time the independent radio stations like Triple J have awarded them, but I do hope they have gained a fair amount.

This is one of the better records I've heard this year, channeling the sounds of the jangly 60's, this album begins with fire on opener "The Coldest Heart" the Byrds inspired guitar playing and interwoven melodies, it's all very impressive. Though not entirely a throwback to another generation, there's still many modern traits mish mashed into the equation just not as prevalent as the older influences. I must add that the 60's revival or the so called neo-psychedelic revival, is one of my many favourite genres of music.

For those that know of the existence of Belles will Ring "Park Benches" seems to be a bit of a fan favourite with a striking chorus and rousing guitar playing. As the album unfolds, it's hard to deny the gentle and majestic quality and the ease in which they demonstrate their fine songwriting. On the occasion some tracks outweigh the brilliance of others but that's fairly normal for a band at thee opening stages of their career. "Older Younger" is them at their most profound, followed with their most rocking "And Jesus Said Unto Me" both filled full of guitar and synth interplay. "It's Only Goodbye" portrays a certain beauty, featuring melodies in full swirling motion. "Strange Girl" rounds up Mood Patterns in the best way possible, it'll have you falling in love immediately.

I don't know what it is, but records like this always evoke something in me, there's not a genre i prefer and when a band like this turns in such a terrific effort, it's just thrilling. As much as we all like keeping the music we love at bay, I hope this band achieve some success in the near future as they deserve it. Australian Album of the Year.

Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends

I first heard of this band a few years back, with the release Inches. Since then I've pretty much been in anticipation of some fresh material. Whenever you're out or at a party, there's always someone stating that there's not enough good rock and roll circulating at the moment, my first thought is that they haven't heard Les Savy Fav.

Rightfully so Let's Stay Friends is possibly one of the better rock releases this year, the album is full of jaunty guitar riffs backed with a jubilant never tiring bass section, even dance rock tags are applied to these guys. "Patty Lee" and "The Equestrian" get the show rolling, putting their upbeat material on show. Seth Jabour must be one of the most underrated guitar slingers going around today. Showing flair and style at every turn, for his more laid back and intriguing playing "Brace Yourself" to his flat out heavy riffing "What Would Wolves Do?", there's never a lack of creativity. Vocalist and main man Tim Harrington's outlandish vocal style adds to the slightly oddball blend of rock.

The second half of the album continues in the same vein of rawkish songs. In "Raging in the Plague Age" and "Slugs in the Shrubs" the punkish nature continues in stellar form. There seems to be a primitive occurence to the music in some way, even the album cover appears that way. They settle things down somewhat with the piano laden ballad "Comes & Goes" and the somewhat pop structured "Kiss Kiss Is Getting Old". The album finishing on a good note with the guitar rocking and brass (that's even done in style) filled closer "The Lowest Bitter".

Les Savy Fav have no doubt supplied one of the best records you'll hear this year, there's is not an unimpressive song here. Every song immediately takes off in one way or another and completely captivates the listener, being the impressive vocals of Harrington or the guitar work of Jarbour, even the interplay of bass and drums, it's all happening. At just under 40 minutes duration you'll have this one on repeat for sometime.



Air - Pocket Symphony

Air are one of many artists whose debut album turned out to be their career defining effort. It's sad to think they'll never top that or ever come close as it's a masterpiece of the genre. After having said that though, Air remain a group I'm never afraid to keep coming back to. Release after release they have still maintained a certain quality to their material even if falling down in comparison to the great Moon Safari. Now 5 albums in it's time to see what Pocket Symphony brings to the table.

Rarely do Air albums seem to run to far off the suggested track they have come to be known as taking. Pocket Symphony is no exception, following in similar footsteps of their previous works. Maybe this is what irks some fans, but I'm always content hearing new material even if it's not too much of a departure. They always offer such tangible and luscious tracks, so soothing, even cathartic depending on the listener. "Spacemaker" sets the familiar tone, whilst the piano heavy "Once Upon a Time" begins the trip into Pocket Symphony. Britpop icon Jarvis Cocker joins the French duo for "One Hell of a Party" a title that may have you slightly confused. "Napalm Love" is a lively Air track which remains catchy from start to finish. "Photograph" is as mystifying as it is intriguing with synthesizers and pianos dueling continuously. "Mer Du Japon" begins with a taste of a bass and piano combination until leading us into a storming swirl of brilliance as the intro climaxes into verse. The rest of the album continuing in a similar fashion.

Many critics and fans may pan this release for sticking to the same template, forgetting that Air are the masters of their field, whatever you want to call it. The album gives a sense of feeling that I can never find in other artists. I know that whenever I visit Air, whichever release it is I can always find that sense of feeling. Pocket Symphony may not be their most impressive record to date but it sure fills a certain void. It's a pleasant and elegant trip, a trip Air never fail to take you on.



Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight

Like several bands to release albums this year, I'd heard their names or a track or two a few years back. Now that music have become even more accessible, since then I've finally gotten to hear some material. Like Rilo Kiley and others who have been around for awhile I haven't had the chance to check out their previous work.

So walking past Rage one night i heard the catchiest single ever, I hung around for long enough to see who it was. The song turned out to be "The Moneymaker" the first single from the album. The record hadn't been released yet so I was hanging out for it. After I finally got my hands on it and after hearing many mixed opinions I got stuck into it, after a few listens I had it pegged as one of the best albums of the year, I've probably changed my mind since then, but Under the Blacklight will be one of the smoothest, coolest, catchiest, cheesiest things you'll hear this year.

Guilty pleasure it may be but from the beginning stages, come the sounds of delight in opener "Silver Lining" and the follow up of "Close Call", building up to the fantastic title track and the albums greatest achievement "Dreamworld". When the album soars it soars, such a pleasure to listen to, though we can't forget the average material facing us also. Jenny Lewis sometimes has the notion to write the most absurd lyrics, sometimes they work and sometimes they just leave you sitting there thinking, WHAT? This is perfectly demonstrated in "Smoke Detector". "Breakin Up" and "Dejalo" pure catchy pop tunes, but are just as fun.

Even with the uneven quality of the material and it's heavily cliched demeanour the album rarely fails to dazzle. I've heard several comments on it's failure to stand up to their past work, with taking a more commercial route. Though it makes complete sense as being their debut album on a major label. This still remains a great work of pop. Listening to Jenny Lewis sing is almost as good as looking at her.


Friday, November 23, 2007


The Cooper Temple Clause - Make This Your Own

Without managing to appeal to the masses in their just shy of a decade career, on their third and last album the Clause go out with a bang. The album has a different feel to it's predecessors, it seems more optimistic and the band appear to be confident as ever. Even if not as chaotic and fresh as their past material they still manage to create a broad template with each track offering something new at each turn.

Opening with "Damage" it's instantly one of the most cheesiest and catchiest tracks you'll hear this year. Finishing up with the pop sounds of the first track they plunge into the rocking "Homo Sapiens", a pleasant dose of aggression. Years ago, I was instantly intrigued when just reading about this band before I even heard them, (mostly named related) critics had already applied them the electronic rock tag, which intrigued me the most, as it's a hard style to pin down successfully. These guys may not be Primal Scream but playing together would be a wet dream. "Head" and "Connect" have the full blend of the electronic rock thing happening, which both work quite well. In the vein of Suede comes the catchy tune "Waiting Game", with also the Placeboesque style vocals. "Take Comfort" is a departure with the straight forward acoustic guitars and xylophone filling out the background."What Have You Gone and Done" and "Isn't it Strange" are both striking as well, exhibiting the fine songwriting the band possessed.

Influences are apparent on this record with echoes of Spiritualized, Suede, Happy Mondays and Primal Scream strewn throughout the record. Some fans may be really disappointed with the direction the band sailed in on this effort, ditching the destructive path for a more commercial sound. I almost sold this record down the river until i decided to give it a few more spins in which I'm really glad I did. Even though the album tends to falter occasionally it's still a really fine effort. It's sad to see The Cooper Temple Clause go their separate ways.


Sean B

Friday, November 16, 2007


Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Easily one of the most impressive albums to be released in the year of 2007. Where 2005's Black Sheep Boy was on the verge of finding the band some success, it wasn't until The Stage Names where Okkervil River would establish their name. Looking around the community this album has barely a bad review, and it isn't without reason.

Will Sheff does everything right here, straight off the blocks he delivers us the song of the year in "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" his voice employs a deepness, drenched in heartbreaking emotion supported by an optimistic soundtrack of effective acoustic guitar muting and heavy chord hitting, with piano, playing an integral part to the songs structure. It's been awhile since a song of this calibre evoked so much. You really seem to feel what he's feeling even if you know or know not what that is.

Continuing in the upbeat, rollicking fashion comes "Unless it Kicks", "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene" and "You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man" all smooth rock and rollers but not in guitar heavy sense, they all bop along favourably with so much style and flair. As fun as these tracks are it's in the ballads that The Stage Names really comes alive. Never have i witnessed so much emotion bombarded onto one record. "Savannah Smiles" conveys all that should be in a ballad, so much allure and charm sometimes becoming overwhelming, but that occurs in "A Girl in a Port" as soon as Sheff's voice climbs it's crippling, so much delicacy. After taking a deep breath we are handed a cover of the Beach Boys "Sloop John B" in the second part of "John Allyn Smith Sails", what a way to go out.

This album has no doubt won the band so many adoring fans and so it should have, if not the best album you'll hear this year it's one of them. It marks the arrival of yet another truly talented songwriter.

Even the artwork is great.

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse have been one of the most watched bands in indie rock since the release of their hit single "Float On". After having their first taste of commerical success, this little engine that could's next album was one of the most anticipated records to date, not only was there excitement amongst the community about hearing some new material but mostly because ex-Smiths guitar slinger Johnny Marr had supposedly joined the ranks of Isaac Brocks small army of musicians.

The record was expected to drop late 2006 but to no avail the band held off until setting a date for early 2007. It has to be said Modest Mouse probably have two sets of fans, ones existing prior to 2004's "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" and the new fans jumping on board after. The music has slightly changed since their earlier days but the method towards song writing and structure has stayed basically the same. Isaac Brock is pure oddball and that's what makes this band stand out from the rest.

Beginning fresh with the jubilant "Dashboard", filling the void for fans awaiting another "Float On" or something similar, getting the band even more radio play. The album takes some getting used to as it is a platter of mix and matched rock sorts played out by the maestro Brock. "March Into The Sea" catches our attention off the bat with it's quirky intro quickly whisked into the Modest madness we all know and love. "Fire It Up" can become quite overwhelming after a few listens only saved by some excellent musicianship three quarters into the song. Back to back is "Florida" heading towards rock track of the year and "Parting of the Sensory" a slow building journey leading towards a rather surprising but satisfying end.

The Shins front man James Mercer guest stars on a few tracks lending his voice for some back up vocals. "Missed the Boat" and "We've Got Everything" are the catchy pop crowd pleasers. "Spitting Venom" is the longest and most awarding song here, just wait till that riff kicks in, and "Little Motel" is just a such a wonderful song, the word beautiful even comes to mind.

The album is no doubt a peculiar collection of tracks plucked from all parts of the Brock spectrum, some aren't as impressive as others but even the more unimpressive songs still contain outstanding musical moments strewn throughout them. Johnny Marr definitely adds a spark to the proceedings in which his influence is felt throughout. Even if this in no way, matches the quality of their past material it's still a really great album. Brock is one of the most talented songwriters of today, serving up another dish of his quirky lyrics and unconventional guitar playing, with his outlandish vocals now unmistakable among any knowledgeable rock crowd. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank is easily one of the most enjoyable rock releases you'll hear this year.

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

Band of Horses are just one of the slew of bands (Arctic Monkeys) releasing material less than a year after their debut album. The reason I point this out, is because it's quite suprising how quick some of these bands are moving and how much fresh material they have hidden beneath their belts. Is it too fast and will these bands burn out?

We first got a taste of Band of Horses last year on "Everything All the Time" a promising debut it was, an album full of rocking numbers with a folk/country feel to it. "The Funeral" got them a substantial amount of attention, how would they fare second time round? Some have already stated they like it much more then it's predecessor, some think otherwise. Cease to Begin See's front man Ben Bridwell, expanding his songwriting talents even further with an even dose of rock and roll and balladry, even though the ballads seem to have been more at focus here. "No One's Gonna Love You" shows his versatility before leading into the albums centre piece "Detlef Schrempf" a very touching statement.

"Is There a Ghost", "Ode to LRC" and Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" are all blistering rock numbers working in perfectly with the more melancholy material, though none as equally as impressive as the jaunty "The General Specific". Considering founding member Mat Brooke decided to leave Bridwell in the lurch to pursue his own band it's surprising how much focus was retained to create such a cohesive effort. This won't be the bands most defining work but it's defintiely a promising path towards it.


Sean B

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature

Continuing on the similar path he successfully created on debut album, Veneer. Our favourite Swedish artist Gonzalez returns with a warm welcome serving up a dish of what he does best. If you loved the debut album this record is definitely for you.

Sometimes it's disappointing when certain artists do the same thing over and over without ever progressing, though Jose seems content in his vision and he makes it work at every turn. "How Low" is a worthy opener, exhibiting his fine guitar picking skills, followed by the catchy single "Down the Line" which is nothing but fine song craft. On Veneer he covered the Knife's "Heartbeats" making the song even more famous then the original version. This time around he turns his attention to one of Massive Attacks greatest achievements with "Teardrop" which he has occasionally included on set lists of recent tours.

The song is an instant highlight, drenched in guitar picking brilliance, emotional and heartbreaking the song builds and builds. The album clocks in at just over 30 minutes long, with most of the album following in the same footsteps until we reach the last and longest track here. On "Cycling Trivialities" here he displays everything that he is and him at his most powerful, swirling melodies matched by his pleasant distinctive voice.

In Our Nature is maybe seen as a Veneer sequel of sorts but it's no doubt impressive if not a little repetitive from time to time, not taking anything away from the quality of the material displayed here, this firmly establishes him as one of the most talented folk artists of today.


The Hives - The Black and White Album

Fourth album in and still rocking their hearts out. The Hives release their follow up to their successful 2004 effort Tyrannosaurus Hives. First single and track number 1 "Tick Tick Boom" is relentlessly rocking and never gets boring.

The album is a little bit of a mix and match type affair with a few catchy rockers like "Try it Again", "It Won't Be Long", "Return The Favour" and "Square One Here I Come", though none of them quite match the flair of the single. I wasn't surprised at the inclusion of experimental material and i think it pays off, even if their rock tracks may have dwindled a little in the energy and creativity department, with their attention directed elsewhere.

The quirky instrumental dystopian like "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors", the Pharrell Williams produced funky romp "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S" which is instantly catchy, the idiosyncratic "Giddy Up" and the drum and guitar less "Puppet on a String" all are strange but welcome songs to the Hives catalogue. Still rocking but a little different compared to their previous works is also other Pharrell Williams produced track "Well Alright!" and the strutting "You Dress Up For Armageddon".

The Hives are working in all moods, visions and flavours here but they always keep it fun and simplistic. The ever hedonistic front man Pelle Almqvist is in his ever blistering form, never tiring or boring belting out his ever humorous and nonsensical lyrics. The album is fairly different from anything they have done in the past but it somehow works. The record closes with the much rocking and exhilarating "Bigger Hole to Fill" going out on a complete high, the Hives are back with force. Want fun, quirk and the most ridiculously awesome front man of our times? Here it and he is, enjoy.


Sean B