Bassheads Unite! New Bassnectar Mix

Bassnectar

Bass-music maestro Bassnectar has recorded a new mix for the UKs BBC Radio1 and uploaded it for our listening pleasure. As usual the North American dubstep and bass-infused hip hop king not only hits the nail on the head but knocks a hole right through the wall, leaving the listener in a dancing/headbanging stupor.

Do yourself a favour and download this. Now.

By Stuart McPhee Apr.12.2010
In: Album Reviews, Commentary, Opinion
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Searching For Fun: Almost Alice & New Young Pony Club

Because ultimately that is what we all want out of music – some fun. Sure, I like a little dourness every now and then but not when the aim is to cut loose. With this in mind, I can not begin to explain how wide of the mark the faux-soundtrack Almost Alice actually is.

Perhaps it is best to question the album’s actual existence before sinking the slipper into its content.

Music that is inspired by a film (in this case Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland) has never really sat well with me. Usually these sorts of soundtracks are vessels for off-cuts from a record company’s roster where ninety-five percent of the songs never appear in the film (save for the end credits) and almost never have any lyrical link to the movie in question.

Whilst the songs that make up Almost Alice certainly reference Lewis Carroll’s classic tale (at times too bluntly) only one of them can actually be heard in the film – during the end credits of course.

That honour belongs to the shrill-gorged tones of Avril Lavigne with ‘Alice’. With that as an indicator, the rest of Almost Alice is your stock standard American commercial pap (All Time Low, The All-American Rejects, Metro Station) cheekily throwing in Wonderland-esque lines into their oh so earnest lyrics: “If you cut me I suppose I would bleed the colors of the evening stars.”

If I never hear from Owl City again it will be too soon.

The only surprise amongst this lot is the inclusion of heavyweights like Franz Ferdinand and Wolfmother whose appearance seem as out of place as Obama at a Klan rally. And of course nothing says fun times like the inclusion of Mr Happy himself Robert Smith.

Speaking of the British, a group who actually know about fun is New Young Pony Club. While admittedly nothing on their new album The Optimist is as overtly playful as early single ‘Ice Cream’,  NYPC deliver a more mature sound without sacrificing their sense of having a good time. ‘Chaos’ begs to be played on the dance floors on a Saturday night whilst ‘Dolls’ evokes the spirit of 90s outfit Luscious Jackson.

Though The Optimist plateaus about three quarters of the way in (a sequencing problem more than anything), there is much to like from this band. You get the sense that their defining album is not too far off.

By Stuart McPhee Mar.8.2010
In: Commentary, Opinion, Other, Recommended
0 comments

The Defamation of Ben Drew

Back in the early days of The Music Blogs I wrote about the brave choices artists often make, in particular when they leave one band to start another. Ben Drew aka Plan B, though a solo artist, has effectively just done the same thing.

Anyone who picked up his startling debut, the 2006 grime-fest Who Need Actions When You’ve Got Words, may well ponder what has happened in these ensuing three years. For you see, the forthcoming The Defamation of Strickland Banks has Drew performing the old switcheroo and my guess is that some of the bruvvas ain’t going to like it. Where the first album was wall to wall rap with some tasty vocal hooks thrown in every few songs (Drew’s own secret weapon), on Defamation you will mostly find a Smokey Robinson album with rap taking a quite noticeable back seat.

I kid you not.

But I am not surprised at this and neither should you. His voice is too good to have played second fiddle for much longer and above all, Drew is a talented artist smart enough not to be pigeon-holed.

Back in 2006 I had the privilege of interviewing Plan B for a magazine I was working for at the time. In that interview he said:

“I tell stories in hip-hop because I’m not gangster and I am not anyone special, I’m just a regular guy. The only way I know how to rap and make it interesting is talking about other people’s stories and other people’s lives.”

Just as he used the genre of hip-hop to convey his stories back then, now he uses R&B to tell his tales. R&B is where Drew first started out before becoming disillusioned with it. I’d like to think all he needed was the right songs to make it happen. From what I have heard so far – he has them.

For those that are new to his work and want a comparison, here is a little something from his first album, the great ‘Mama’ and new tune ‘Writing’s On The Wall’.

The Defamation Of Strickland Banks is released on April 12.

By Stuart McPhee Nov.17.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion
0 comments

We can work it out? Apparently not.

apple-rottenIf we want to be truthful we can blame The Bubblies. If it wasn’t for this obscure French Pop band we may not have this current insult to the music world. I am talking of course about Apple Corps bizarre decision to release The Beatles collection on an Apple shaped USB Stick.

Limited to 30,000 copies and going for around $350 (AUD) this is, according to the L.A. Times,  the Fab Four embracing new models of distribution.

Well if by embracing new models of distribution you mean selling the same thing on yet another physical product then I guess you are right.

Anyone who wasn’t sick the day they taught marketing at marketing school could tell you the following:

The target audience for a new model of distribution is an audience you haven’t yet reached.

Imagine for a moment I am a teenage kid who wants to get into The Beatles.  Like most teenagers these days I have an MP3 device and an account with a digital music outlet. What I don’t have is $350 and an attention span to take in 14 albums all at once, especially on a band I am not really sure about. I want to choose the tracks that I want by previewing them so that I don’t end up with ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ or something equally as excruciating.I also do not want to open a Read Me Document to tell me how to transfer the music to my portable player. Isn’t that what my digital music outlet is supposed to do for me at a click of a button?

So how exactly does this odd looking plastic Apple reach a new audience? It doesn’t.

The ONLY audience this USB stick will reach are the hardcore collectors who insist on acquiring every format available. With a production run of only 30,000 these monstrosities won’t last long. The sad thing is most of them will remain in their original packaging collecting nothing but dust and value (value only to other hardcore collectors).

This is money for jam but it is only $10.5 million (minus retail’s cut).

Now imagine if Apple Corps and Apple Inc finally brokered a deal and The Beatles catalogue was finally made available on iTunes. Working on the basis that a single song costs $2.00 (AUD) on iTunes then The Beatles would have to have their songs downloaded 5,250,000 times to reach the same amount. Considering over 8 Billion songs have been downloaded from iTunes (since inception) and The Beatles are the most popular band in history then that 5.25 million target would be reached and passed fairly quickly. All done without any production costs or limiting your sales to only  30,000 people.

Apple’s bottom line aside, tell me this isn’t the way to reach a new audience?

To think, this is the same company that released the innovative The Beatles: Rock Band only a few months ago.

How can they get it so right one minute and so wrong the next?

By Nathanael Boehm Oct.19.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion
0 comments

Soon the recorded music industry becomes the performing music industry

An excellent article written in 2007 by owner of Littoral Records, Alan Jones that looks at the decline of the traditional business and marketing model of big record labels and predicts they’ll be run down and overtaken by smaller, more agile, responsive and smarter labels.

Read the article »

- Nathanael Boehm

By Stuart McPhee Sep.27.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion, Other
5 comments

Call It A Lesson Learned #3

A Lesson Learned

The third in a series of essays on what I may (or may not) have learned from music. The previous essay can be found here.

Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight

A few nights (and a fair few drinks) ago a few of us from the office pondered the inevitable hypothetical question: If you could only listen to one genre of music, what would it be?

I say hypothetical because any self respecting lover of music has more than one field of interest. Those who like hip-hop are probably partial to a bit of R&B (not racist at all), whilst I am convinced that there are people out there who own both James Blunt and Kings Of Leon albums (housewives from middle England is my guess).

The responses around the table were interesting, some specific (Alternate Rock 1991-1994) others wide ranging (World Music) and one from a bloke who was obviously taking the piss (Jungle). I chose Soul, a selection that did not surprise anyone at all. My love of soul music knows no bounds (There ain’t no mountain high enough you could say) but I wondered about the flipside to the discussion: What if there was no such thing as soul music? What would I choose instead?

That was a dill of a pickle.

A few nights (and a fair few drinks) later, the answer hit me: alt.country.

I realise that in hindsight selecting it as my backup was a bold move as I know almost nothing about alt.country. What was it? Does such a thing still exist (if in fact it ever did) and if so, what is out there to listen to?

Why didn’t I just say College Rock 1992 – 1997? That way I could prattle on about the genius of the first Gin Blossoms album.

So before I ventured into the deep unknown I decided it was best to take stock of what I already owned in this mysterious genre. That wasn’t a great deal either.

Are you sure you don’t want to hear about my correlation between New Miserable Experience and my teenage years? Perhaps another time then.

Due to my age and location in the world, the term alt.country first hit me in the Summer of 2000 when Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams was released. I promptly ignored that album for a variety of reasons, a few of which were:

- anyone who has a name like that is asking for trouble
- any album that starts with an in studio argument about a Morrissey song receives an automatic disqualification.

Soon after, the final release by Ryan’s former band Whiskeytown finally saw the light of day. So on a miserable Sunday afternoon as I flew solo in the record store, I threw on Pneumonia. My sole motivation was that James Iha was a guest on the record and anything tenuously linked to the Pumpkins couldn’t be all bad.

By half way through ‘Don’t Wanna Know Why‘ I was hooked.

It was country music that I could finally understand. Sure it had its pop moments (the Iha co-write ‘Don’t Be Sad’ is simply angelic) but overall it was country for those that couldn’t care less about Shania Twain and her bastardisation of the genre. To boot, the press I had read about Adams alluded to the fact he wasn’t exactly a poster boy in Nashville. That made it even better.

I humbly went back to Heartbreaker, fell in love with ‘Come Pick Me Up’ and have consumed everything he has released since (rightly or wrongly) including his weekly singles from his new digital record label PAX AM.

These days, Ryan’s music barely resembles alt.country. The same could be said for Whiskeytown. They only released 3 albums but with each one they sounded less and less like a country band. Compare ‘Too Drunk To Dream’ from their debut Faithless Street to something like the Herman’s Hermits pastiche of ‘Mirror Mirror’ off Pneumonia and you begin to wonder if it is the same band. Considering the majority of Whiskeytown’s original members had quit or were fired has a lot to do with it but perhaps it is an inherent trait with a lot of alt.country acts?

Over the course of their tenure, Minnesota band The Jayhawks drifted away from their alt.country roots (1992s Hollywood Town Hall is a must) to a more pop feel (see 2000s Smile) before returning to their classic sound on Rainy Day Music. Wilco on the other hand were a band that came from alt.country legends Uncle Tupelo and from an early stage frontman Jeff Tweedy began to distance his new band from the genre.

So it seems that on the surface of things I hitched my cart to the wrong horse. Any band who had any say in the history of alt.country didn’t stick around for very long. Heck even the Godfather of the genre, Gram Parsons, only put out two solo albums (the 2nd posthumously) before overdosing in 1973.

A few words on Gram Parsons, those two albums are pretty indispensable. Without them then Ryan would’ve stuck to punk music, a swathe of bands would never have been and more importantly, the wonderfully talented Emmylou Harris may not have made it to the big time. Her vocal contributions to those records should not be underestimated and her standing set the scene for her first ‘proper’ album Pieces Of The Sky a year later.

But what the genre lacks in terms of output is more than made up for in quality artists. Those listed above are a mere starting point and as such there are many fine musicians not mentioned including Drive-By Truckers, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Australia’s own The Gin Club to name a few.

However at this moment in time I can only take alt.country in small doses. There are more songs about hurt than there are about love. And whilst heartbreak is also a recurring theme for soul music, there is hope running through a lot of it. Alt.country doesn’t have one of these and without such will always remain in second place.

And there is no shame in that.

By Stuart McPhee Jun.8.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion
2 comments

Statement Of Intent: A Key Ingredient To Making It In This World

rock-star-babyLike the great musician Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, I believe in starts. Once you have the start the rest is inevitable.

The first song on a debut album is critical. It is the opening gambit that should sum up your dreams and aspirations and place your contemporaries on notice: This world is mine and I dare you to stop me.

Now there are some mighty fine debut albums that feature great opening tracks but the best ones are those that personify the ambitions of the artist.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Bruce Springsteen – Blinded By The Light (from the album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J)

Certainly not the biggest song in his career (throw a blanket over a dozen classics) or the most well known version (that goes to Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), ‘Blinded By The Light’ is Springsteen kicking off Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. with a Dylanesque stream of rhyme. The key line is right at the end:

“Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh but mama that’s where the fun is”

Any teenager wanting to be a musician can relate to that.

U2 – I Will Follow (from the album Boy)

29 years after its debut, ‘I Will Follow’ still sounds fresh, thanks primarily to The Edge’s guitar work. The song itself is pure youth bursting out of the speakers. The best statements of intent need a little earnestness and who better to deliver that than the most earnest band of the 1980s?

R.E.M – Radio Free Europe (from the album Murmur)

Released as a single two years prior, ‘Radio Free Europe’ was re-recorded for their debut album in 1983. Much like ‘I Will Follow’ it is more about the raw sound than the lyrical prowess. The driving beat is a strong reminder that when drummer Bill Berry left, R.E.M. would never be the same.

Hoodoo Gurus – I Want You Back (from the album Stoneage Romeos)

I have always seen the Gurus as a great singles band  but upon reflection their albums are just as strong, none more so than their debut. ‘I Want You Back’ is vintage garage rock that saw the Aussie quartet break through to college radio in America.

Oasis – Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (from the album Definitely Maybe)

Opening salvos don’t get any more direct than ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’. The song is as much about the band’s wish to get out of their own shit hole of an existence as it was Britain’s. Love them or loathe them, the Gallagher brothers have embodied the words of this tune ever since.

What is your favourite statement of intent? Let us know.

By Jye Smith Apr.17.2009
In: Commentary, Concerts, Recommended
0 comments

I'll fest your blues in a minute.

In the rush to get to the Jambalaya Stage before Toni Childs, there was a frenzied stampede in which four punters were lost.

The stampede to see Toni Childs.

It’s been three days and the post-blues blues are sort of beginning to fade. The 2009 East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival was my first Bluesfest, and proved to be a superb way to pop the cherry and chill out in Byron Bay for a few days.

What was awesome?

1. Blue King Brown – I’ve never seen BKB live before but the energy and mood of their whole set was simply joyous. Natalie Pa’apa’a was smoking in some short-shorts and a leetle black singlet. I chugged two Smirnoff Ice’s and danced the whole way through.

2. Seasick Steve – what a fascinating man. The 68 year old guitarist still looks like the hobo he used to be (and took frequent swigs of whisky from a bottle under his chair in between songs) but his sound is superb and his stories are humbling. Easily the crowd favourite among the smaller Bluesfest acts. Read the full story

By Stuart McPhee Apr.15.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion, Other, Recommended
2 comments

Your Search Is Over

rsday

“But what we will miss, when our entire culture is sold through one big chain-store shopping mall called Borderstones, is the stuff that floats to the surface on a bubble of personal enthusiasm.” – Nick Hornby

Sometime in the late 90s my good friend Bill had this crazy notion about wanting to open a record store. I say crazy for a few reasons. By the end of the century, the music retail landscape (in Australia) was dominated by HMV, Sanity and JB Hi-Fi, big companies with more buying power than some Pacific Nations. Also, a pesky little thing called Napster was just about to hit the Internet, forever changing the way we would consume music. To top it off, Bill was a Deputy Principal of a High School and in his mid-forties. His entire retail experience consisted of a part time job as a supermarket cashier before he went to teacher’s college.

Despite all this, his notion (nay his dream) became a reality and on the 1st of March 1999, Atlantis Music opened. I know this because before I became a corporate fat cat I worked in the store with Bill. The two of us along with my flatmate and great friend Chad (to complete the triumvirate) worked tirelessly for weeks on end in those first months of 1999 to get the store ready for opening day. To say we winged a lot of it is understating the gravity of the situation.

The aim of the store was simple: give the customer more than what any other music retail business could offer – outstanding customer service. No I know that is part and parcel of anyone trying to sell you something but we could never compete on the same playing field financially. Money can buy you as many CDs to stock the shelves as you desire, it could not buy you the personalised service we were offering. Any album in the world? We were prepared to track the ends of the earth to find it. Our slogan was simple: Your search is over…You’ve found Atlantis Music.

Sure, we stocked the pop princesses, but we aimed to cover much more ground than the current play lists of the Austereo Network. A decent range of back catalogue? Yes. Second hand? We had it. Vinyl? 7, 12, even 10 inch? Sure thing. 78′s? We had so many we could have sold them by the pound. Old sheet music? Enough to wallpaper a studio apartment.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even discussed memorabilia, original movie posters or our specially made record cleaner (otherwise known as the blue goo).

The range of stock was one thing but to establish a long lasting relationship was the key. We wanted a regular customer to enter the store, be greeted by their first name and engage in robust discussion about the affairs of the world. When they enquired about the new one by ‘so and so’ we wanted to have it on the new release shelf or, better still, to produce a copy from behind the counter and say, “we ordered one specifically for you”. Did this always occur? Of course not, but you bet your ass we kept aiming for that perfect customer experience.

I clocked out after 8 and a half years (Chad not long after), ready for new challenges that would lay ahead. Yet I can honestly say I enjoyed waking up every day and going to work in the store. Who wouldn’t enjoy listening and discussing music for 8 hours a day? My time there is full of so many great stories and larks but the one I always remember, which occurred in the first few months there, was when a middle aged man got a bit shouty at me over the song “Cat’s In The Cradle”. He swore black and blue it was on the album Tea For The Tillerman by Cat Stevens and was a little more than agitated that a 20 year old kid was telling him that Cat Stevens never sang it and if the man was so sure then to prove it.

I even offered him a copy of Verities & Balderdash by Harry Chapin (which contains the song he was after) to purchase.

I guess there was no pleasing some people.

I am proud to say that last month, Atlantis Music celebrated a decade in the business. Pretty phenomenal you must admit in this current state of not only music retail but global economic misery as well. It is a testament to Bill’s vision that the store is still a success whilst many of his contemporaries are sadly shutting their doors for good.

In a few days time we celebrate Record Store Day, a recent creation designed to highlight the unique culture of the independently owned record store. Whilst I understand the push for a lot of the music business to go digital, I hope deep down that there is always a place for the record store in our lives.

Now that I am the customer and no longer the retailer, a customer continually searching for new music, I mean that more than ever.

By Dan Clarke Mar.4.2009
In: Commentary, Concerts, Other, Production, Recommended
3 comments

Tony Allen - Master Drummer

Tony Allen

It’s hard not to be a little overcome in the presence of afrobeat originator Tony Allen.

After all, Brian Eno has described him as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.” Since the early sixties he’s been a pioneering force in contemporary African music, and his influence can be heard across a broad spectrum of musical styles. I asked Tony what first inspired him to pick up the drum sticks.

“I wanted to create my own style of music. God gave me a gift, and I followed my own path.”

He pauses to reflect for a moment, and adds “I always wanted to be different than other drummers, that’s why I’ve never tried to do anything else than afrobeat.”

Afrobeat was borne of an aim to provide social commentary on the inequalities inherent in African society. As a part of Fela Kuti’s Africa ’70, Allen was a foundational force in its development. He is quick to note that the problems afrobeat confronts are not exclusive to the continent, and in fact much of the drive behind the movement was motivated by struggles overseas.

“The social problems are not concentrated in Africa. Don’t forget that Fela had to go to the USA in 1969, meeting with the US black people to start to realize his Africanism.. As soon as we came back from the states, he started his fight against the governments and the dictature.”

A thoughtful expression crosses his faces as he muses “One sometimes has to move away from his own country to be completely aware of his home.”

Rather than adopt the same style of protest that his American contemporaries were developing, Allen states that he was always drawn to create something unique.

“I always wanted to sound different than U.S. jazz or hip hop artists. I hoped that maybe this alternative music vision would be able to effect someting in our society.”

With such a long history, I ask Tony whether he feels afrobeat might have lost some of its political urgency. I wonder whether it is still as politically charged.

“As long as African people will suffer of many diseases, there will always be artists fighting for them.”

His influence on popular music cannot be understated. The past twenty years have seen him collaborate with many big name artists. It would seem he has a soft spot for Blur and Gorillaz front man Damon Albarn.

(As Albarn does for him. The 2000 Blur single ‘Music Is My Radar’ is a tribute to Allen, the song ending with Albarn repeating the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing.”)

“My aim has always been to fuse afrobeat with other styles of music and to spread it all over the world. I love to experience my drumming with others, like my different collaborations with Damon Albarn.”

His work with Albarn has included drumming on The Good, The Bad and The Queen album  released in 2007, and he assures me there will be more to come from the pair, among other works.

“I am currently working with Damon Albarn on a new album project with other guests. I am also involved in Africa Express, a series of events promoting African music. We’ve had some hectic shows at Glastonbury, Liverpool, Lagos and Kinshasa, and there’s more to come in 2009.”

The world of music has changed a lot since Allen first taught himself to drum, but he remains optimistic about the industry as a whole. Whatever some might say about music losing some of its soul, it remains essential to him.

“It is vital for me. I don’t care what people may say about it.”

Allen shows no signs of retiring as time goes on, with his many collaborations in the works as well as a new album ready for release.

“My new album “Secret agent” will be released next June under World Circuit Records. But I won’t play my new album in this Australian tour.. next time for sure!”

Allen tours Australia in March. For info, head over here.

Musicfeeds - Tighter than a nun’s schedule!

By Dan Clarke
In: Commentary, Opinion, Other
0 comments

Martin Martini - Too Wierd, Too Rare

The Man and his Bone Palace Orchestra

Martin Martini is not a normal musician. Normally if a musician were to tell me that they went over to England recently with the sole purpose of finding a drag queen who picks up one hundred dollar bills with her asshole, I might be a little turned off. Normally I would. When Martin Martini explained this, however, it seemed strangely appropriate. Turns out he never found the drag queen, and he didn’t really like the country either.

“England’s a fuckin’ terrible place to play. I didn’t enjoy it at all. We went to Berlin afterwards and that was really fun. We holidayed in Berlin though, we didn’t play there.”

Everyone I know who’s been to England seems to share one major bone of contention; the cost of everything over there. Martin felt the tug on his hip pocket too.

“We lost a lot of money, put it that way. Even though people really loved what we were doing, we lost a shitload of money. The response was fantastic.”

Since then Mr. Martini has been rocking the socks off of adoring crowds in Adelaide, garnering five star reviews in the local papers to boot. He’s accompanied over there by an eclectic mix of complete strangers.

“They flew over some dude, some guy from the UK who’s two hundred kilos, and black and he dresses up in Lycra and does drag. They’ve got Paul Kapsis in the show as well and they’ve got this really cute blonde girl that kinda looks like Marilyn Monroe from Ireland who sings songs on the uke so it’s sorta all these people I don’t really know thrown into this tent to just sorta do whatever we want really.”

The option to do whatever he wants in these solo performances has prompted Martin to begin incorporating a rather obscure talent. Having learnt to tap dance from his mother as a young boy, he has decided to work it in to his live show through “a sort of a rap song accompanied by my feet.” Again, not something I would expect from a normal musician, but Martin Martini might very well have broken that mould.

“It’s a little bit weird. I’ve got a pair of dunlop volleys and I just chucked some metal plates on the bottom of those and I tap dance in those.”

Martin’s last recorded work was a dark, powerfully ominous affair. He explains that it was reflective of his experiences at the time.

“Yeah, that album, I dunno man, I was in a pretty bad place there. I was pretty sad and this woman fucked me up a bit. Then I drank too much and I got behind the wheel of a car and I fell asleep and then I went to court. Things were going down hill quick. I think it was a wake up call.”

He’s “out the other end now” and is working on a record that’s romantic again. It seems We’re All Just Monkeys was a learning experience, but not one that he wants to replay. The songs have been omitted from more recent performances, replaced by new and perhaps more uplifting fare, ready for his upcoming visit to Sydney.

“I just cut those songs out now. We’re playing a whole new set now that doesn’t really consist of the Monkeys album. We’ve pretty much got a heap of new material that we’ve been doing and I don’t think Sydney have heard much of it so this is pretty much the last time I’ll be coming to Sydney before we lay down a new album.”

The shift in attitude has also seen him concentrate on some athletic aspirations. He’s “fuckin’ obsessed with running” in an interesting experiment at reconciling his physical and mental well being. It’s a move that he hopes will make him a more prolific writer.

“That’s why I’m running, I’m trying to get fitter at writing. To be honest it’s not working yet, but it’s only early days. I’m steadily writing. I still write a song a week but I’m not writing enough. I want to write one every day.”

Most people wouldn’t make the connection between those two pursuits so readily, but Martin Martini isn’t like most people. I guess that’s what makes him so compelling on and off the stage.

For more info, head over to Martin’s myspace page.

Musicfeeds – Tighter than a nun’s schedule!

By Stuart McPhee Jan.20.2009
In: Commentary, Opinion, Recommended
0 comments

...Or rock some mink boots in the summertime like Will.I.Am

u2-no-line-on-the-horizonLove them or hate them, U2 are the only band to have lasted so long and with the same lineup while still managing to release big selling albums and hit singles.

3 things to note for their upcoming album No Line On The Horizon:

1. ‘Get On Your Boots’ is the lead single. While it is early days for me to form a decent opinion, the best description I have heard is the song is a mix of  Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump It Up’ and The Temptation’s ‘Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’. I will say that this is the most relaxed and playful they have sounded since ‘Discotheque’ dropped, subsequently confusing all and sundry.

2. It is reported that Will.I.Am is involved in some way with the track ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’. I am an open minded individual so I will reserve judgement until I hear the tune. Suffice to say I am always weary of people who have a co-writing credit on a song called ‘My Humps’. Grammy or no Grammy.

and 3. Trent Reznor deserves a credit in the liner notes. U2 have clearly pinched his style for the album cover.

For all the guff, including a stream of ‘Get On Your Boots’, go to: http://goyb.u2.com/

By Stuart McPhee Dec.22.2008
In: Album Reviews, Commentary, Opinion, Recommended
0 comments

TMB's favourite albums of 2008

switchedonsantaIf we can blow our own trumpet for a second.

The great thing about The Music Blogs is that the staff writers come from different backgrounds and different towns and have varied musical influences. We are not all from the same hipster textbook (or any textbook for that matter) but we definitely share the common love of recorded sound.

It is here, with our 1st annual list of TMB’s favourite albums, that this communal adoration of music is best illustrated. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Thanks for all your support in our first year. Here’s to a great 2009!

Andrew Stapleton

eaglesofdeathmetal

Eagles of Death Metal :: Heart On

This band is the magically sex injected mo’ sportin’ rock devil, Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes and the endlessly talented and insanely individual Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss) or “Baby Duck” as he’s known here. Heart On is basically an onslaught of catchy as all buggery fuck hooks, buzzy/cool/weird geeeeetars, broken trashbag drums, farty basslines (farty in the best possible sense; as in its your own fart, and you’re watching everyone keel over on the ground having seizures while you stand triumphantly over their quivering bodies with a smug, accomplished look on your face as you take in the wofty aromas of cheese and onion chips with oaky overtones of beer and nachos) and lyrics that are funny, sexy and even sincere and genuine at times.

It’s a great example of Josh’s ability to jam a tonne of character into every single element of a song; from the lead guitar right down to the high-hats and cowbells. He basically plays most of the intruments, plus he produced and mixed the damn thing too. This, mixed with Jesse’s loveable-ness and developed songwriting and unashamedly rock and roll, boogie-woogie stylings makes it the funnest, most danceable and re-listenable album I’ve heard in very very very very very long time.

Buy it!

Key Track: The whole thing is solid gold but I’d say High Voltage

Anique Vered

lykkeli

Lykke Li :: Youth Novels

The thing that I most love about music is how I find myself surrendering to feelings of calm, clarity, peace, heart-throbbing love VS head-banging, hip-swinging, feet-stomping craaazyiness all at the same time.  And so, whilst listening to Swedish 22 year old Lykke Li’s album Youth Novels, I’ve found myself gazing out to the horizon all melancholic-like, and at other times, dancing around like a Tom Cruise-inspired-cleaner with my 80s-punk-and-free jives.

Indeed Lykke Li exudes a freshness that seeps into your skin.  Complimented by producer and co-writer Björn Yttling, from renowned Indie-Pop band Peter Bjorn and John, this album decks up just the right amount of … well, as Lykke describes her genre herself: “Other / Other”.   Every song on “Youth Novels” takes you to another station on the Lykke Li subway – each with their own unique characters, smells, sounds and settings – add to this her radiating honesty and Björn’s beats, and you’ve got yourself the ride of the year.

This is definitely one worth buying to share with the grandkids I say.

Key tracks: Tonight and Dance Dance Dance

Annik Skelton

lauramarling

Laura Marling :: Alas, I Cannot Swim

This eighteen year old British-born indie/folk artist has released a gorgeous debut album of delicate, refreshing tracks to keep you leaning forward and listening carefully. Thought-provoking lyrics, intricate guitar work and soft-yet-powerful vocals pay testament to a maturity far beyond Marling’s years as she takes us on a journey of love, lust, religion, self-loathing, death and a constant quest for truth. Each build-up engages flawlessly as this album proves that less is definitely more.

Key tracks: Night Terror and Tap At My Window

Geoff Kim

thedears

The Dears :: Missiles

It feels a little disjointed, almost awkward, on first listen, but over the course of the year it grew to become my favourite record of 2008. There is a certain sense of tenderness and heart that has not been seen since Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ and you will be thoroughly rewarded if you allow it some time to sink in. Headphones recommended.

Key track: Crisis 1 & 2

Jye Smith

citycolour

City & Colour :: Live

Without a doubt my favourite album released this year is Dallas Green’s solo operation: City & Colour and in particular their Live release.  It’s a powerful, emotive and most noticeably of all it’s very pure.  His voice carries with it a certain piercing quality that really articulates the tone and message of each track.

The album includes a few unreleased tracks which are very special.  The alternative version of Coming Home is also a great look at the potential of these recordings — each and every song seems to have an endless amount of power behind it and Green’s control of this power is unmatched.

Key track: Day Old Hate

Nathanael Boehm

blissneso

Bliss N Eso :: Flying Colours

One of my favourite Australian hip-hop releases and album this year. A strong, pumping selection of tracks with a fresh variety of sounds across the album.

Key track: The Sea Is Rising

Peta Kiellor

eaglesofdeathmetal

Eagles Of Death Metal :: Heart On

How can you go wrong with a title like Heart On? Seriously. This album is beyond amazing as far as I’m concerned; it was the first I ever heard of these guys and was recommended by a friend who insisted he wouldn’t leave me alone until I listened to it in its entirety. Which I did… something like 7 times in the first day. And it’s still in the CD player in my car.

This album is a perfect mix of sleaze, sex and power-chord driven stoner rock in which most tracks are about girls, the beach, tight pants and parties. It’s nothing for the faint hearted, conservative, or anyone with any moral or intellectual values. Those who love this album will love it for eternity. And will understand why those of us already listening to it already only want to get drunk and party until dawn.

Go buy it. Really.

Key track: High Voltage.

Rob Tilleard

boniver

Bon Iver :: For Emma, Forever Ago

So much has already been written on the drama, sorrow and tragedies that inspired Justin Vernon’s debut as Bon Iver. It is not worth attempting to dissect the heartache and loneliness that inhabits this album. This is a man who is, or was, sad. That he manages to convey such sorrow in such a beautiful way does not make it any happier. Vernon travels to a place we have all been at least once, a dark place. A swirling mix of emotions and deep deep sorrow.

That Vernon’s lyrics themselves are disjointed, forming their own puzzle, draws us into his own isolated world. The words are as disturbed and searching as Vernon plainly was as he wrote the album. On Re:Stacks Vernon rustles up some confusing imagery: there’s a black crow sitting across from me\his wiry legs are crossed\and he’s dangling my keys he even fakes a toss\whatever could it be\that has brought me to this loss?. Shit, I have no idea what that means, seriously, can’t the fucking crow just give the poor man his keys back? Yet his tentative high pitched wail and impassioned yearning delves past that and shoots right for the heart. Easily the album of the year.

Key track: The Wolves (Act I and II) – A journey into the heart of darkness.

Scott Drummond

calexico

Calexico :: Carried To Dust

It’s been hard for me not to like Calexico, even if 2006′s Garden Ruin lacked the cinematic grandeur of some of their previous records. Happily, with Carried to Dust they’re back to their mariachi-loving, Morricone-infused best. The record features accomplished cameos from Tortoise’s Doug McCombs  and Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam, and poppy numbers like Writer’s Minor Holiday help to add light to the beautiful shade of the album’s more expansive core.

Key track: Hard to pick one, but at a push Two Silver Trees is haunting, dense yet seductive – can’t stop listening to it.

Stanley Johnston

neilyoung

Neil Young :: Sugar Mountain (Live At Canterbury House 1968)

This intimate live recording by Neil Young has been buried in the vaults for 40 years. Recorded just a couple of days before Young’s 23rd birthday, it finds him finding his feet as a solo performer following the acrimonious breakup of Buffalo Springfield. The highlight of this album is, believe it or not, the between song banter, with Young having plenty to talk about.

Key track – Many of these songs were yet to be recorded, so Young was beta testing them with a live audience. My personal favourite is the show closer – Broken Arrow.

Stewart Heys

thebug

The Bug :: London Zoo

This was an album I knew was going to be strong as soon as I started listening to it. The opening track ‘Angry’ commands attention with its drum beats alone, and when Tippa Irie gets going, you know things are going to get rough. The assault continues for most of the album, but there are moments where the ragga/ dancehall aspects drift away to leave a more Burial-esque minimalist dubstep flavour. By the time Warrior Queen appears for her second guest appearance on Poison Dart towards the end, I had experienced a distinct beginning, middle and end as if I had just heard a great story.

And that is the point of this album – there is a vast amount of creativity and variation within the tracks, but it all fits together perfectly. The spooky, dystopian tone sits nicely alongside the at times confrontational evolutionary/ revolutionary lyrics and punching, driving basslines. And these contrasts match the very positive, uplifting message I take from listening to this album – sure, things are a mess at the moment, but we can and will sort it out.

Key Track: Poison Dart featuring Warrior Queen

Stuart McPhee

teddythompson

Teddy Thompson :: A Piece Of What You Need

Due to my own strict rules/his crappy release date (circle where appropriate), Lupe Fiasco misses the cut this year. However, Brit Teddy Thompson is certainly no also-ran and his fourth album A Piece Of What You Need had me talking him up to anyone that would sit still for a minute. His sophisticated brand of Pop music blended with Country-ish vocals (think Roy Orbison) help to produce classic tunes like first single ‘In My Arms’ and the sweeping and remorseful ‘Don’t Know What I Was Thinking’.

A measure of an artist and an album is the ability to persuade the first time listener to immediately track down the rest of their back catalogue. Mission accomplished Mr Thompson, well played sir.

Key Track: In My Arms

Ty Pendlebury

deerhunter

Deerhunter :: Microcastle

I haven’t been this obsessed with an album since Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy. It’s a slow-burner and not as willfully weird as last year’s Cryptograms — though there are some Breeders’ Last Splash-type moments. This is a gorgeously languid shoegaze of an album, and if you thought the second coming of My Bloody Valentine was the most exciting thing to happen this year, then you’re almost right.

Key track: Nothing Ever Happened

By Dan Clarke Dec.5.2008
In: Commentary, Concerts, Opinion
0 comments

The Maladies & The definition of artistic license =)

The Maladies - Daniel Marando

I never knew that there were places (homes, institutions or whatever you want to call them) for people who were deaf. Daniel Marando from the diabolically bluesy Maladies sits across from me, staring out the window. Something seems to catch his eye as he turns and waves to an older lady sitting across the room, intently watching the Bold and the Beautiful with closed captions blaring.

“HI  MARGARET, HOW ARE YOU?”

Read the full story

By Peta Kiellor Dec.2.2008
In: Commentary, Opinion
2 comments

Are AC/DC to blame?

This was possibly the most ridiculous and incredibly amusing thing I have read all day.

Thankyou NineMSN for making my day.

Please note the name of the writer. L-O-L

AC/DC blamed for financial crisis…

Read the full story

By Peta Kiellor Dec.1.2008
In: Commentary, Concerts, Opinion, Other
1 comment

Where has all the music gone?

Now live music, to me in Sydney has always been great, and there has always been lots of it. But even in the past year I’ve noticed a steady downturn in not only the amount of live music that’s been going on (everyone shout – hooray economic downturn!) but also the amount of people who just don’t even seem to be keen for it anymore.

As someone who used to have a lot to do with all ages live music around the Sutherland show, I saw hundreds of kids pack themselves into a venue to watch local bands do what they do best, for a reasonable amount of money at least once a month minimum. Now, these shows have been canned for reasons beyond the promoters control and the kids just seem to have… lost it? Almost all the kids who used to come to Engadine to see bands they love would have turned 18 by now, but do I ever see any of them out at venues watching the same bands the used to love struggle to hit it in the city scene? No.

And this frustrates me.

Read the full story

By Dan Clarke Nov.11.2008
In: Commentary, Concerts, Opinion
3 comments

Dialectrix - Aussie hip hop's working class hero?

Aussie hip hop's working class hero?

Touring seems to be the most fun aspect of being a working musician. Heading out on the road for weeks at a time, neglecting concerns for personal health and indulging in excess at every turn seems to be part and parcel for most artists but as I sat down to chat with Sydney MC Dialectrix I started to realise that not everyone has it so easy.

Read the full story

By Jye Smith Nov.3.2008
In: Commentary
0 comments

HIPSTER RUNOFF: Top DJs of 2008

Hipster Runoff just put out their HRO’s Top DJs of 2k8.  What’s your thought on it all?

These are the World’s Best DJs

  1. Justice
  2. Acid Girls
  3. James Murphy
  4. Xavier De Rosnay Solo
  5. Fred Falke
  6. Guns N Bombs
  7. 2ManyDJs
  8. Paparazzi
  9. Harvard Bass
  10. HRO DJ set
  11. Girl Talk
  12. Erlend Oye
  13. Royal Rumble
  14. Red Foxxworth
  15. Local Hero
  16. Diplo
  17. DJ AM (post-escaping death)
  18. DJ AM (pre-escaping death)
  19. Alice Glass Solo DJ Set
  20. Passions
  21. Drop the Lime
  22. Simian Mobile Disco DJ set
  23. Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy)
  24. Them Jeans
  25. Mark Hunter DJ Set
  26. Busy P
  27. brodinski
  28. yuksek
  29. Crookers
  30. Bloody Beetroots
  31. Holy Ghost!
  32. Surkin
  33. Para
  34. Digitalism
  35. Jokers of the Scene
  36. Treasure Fingers
  37. The Daft Punk
  38. The Juan Maclean
  39. Pharrell (Fluo Kids)
  40. SoMe
  41. Cut Copy DJ set
  42. Steve Aoki
  43. Sebastian
  44. The Twelves
  45. DJ Skeet Skeet
  46. Perez Hilton DJ set
  47. Matt Lauer
  48. Katie Couric
  49. Al Roker
  50. Anne Curry DJ Set
  51. Samantha Ronson DJ Set
  52. DJ Mom Jeans
  53. The Teenagers DJ Set
  54. HeartsRevolution DJ Set
  55. McDonalds employee DJ set
  56. Animal Collective conceptual DJ set
  57. Miss Toats
  58. Chromeo Interracial DJ Set
  59. Radio Disc Jockeys with morning shows
  60. GorillaVsBear DJs
  61. Stereogum DJs
  62. PitchforkTV DJs
  63. Franki Chan
  64. dudes who take ‘being a DJ’ seriously because the ‘emocore’ bubble burst and their band no longer tours.
  65. female DJs who think they are awesome but kinda suck
  66. DJs who talk about music too much
  67. DJs who play too many obvious hits from 2k7
  68. FEADZ
  69. Uffie DJ Set
  70. Ed Banger Belligerent PuPuPlatter DJ Set
  71. Danny Mastersons brothers’ DJ set
  72. MSTRKRFT
  73. DJ Set by a Chili’s bartender
  74. Ben Gibbard solo DJ set in his Toyota Prius
  75. James Tambarello
  76. Postal Service UPS commercial DJ Set
  77. Ratatat DJ set
  78. Prince
  79. impromptu DJ set at a house party by an altBro with an iPod touch filled with bloghouse songs
  80. J.D. Salinger DJ Set
  81. Kurt Vonnegut’s corpse DJ set
  82. TRV$ DJ AM
  83. local altBag DJ set
  84. Miami Horror
  85. miscellaneous guidoDJ who plays cheesy techno songs from your youth
  86. DJ who plays Killers/Coldplay mashups
  87. Wilmer Valderramma ‘Yo Mama’ DJ Set
  88. The Cast of The Office DJ Set
  89. Fan Death
  90. Ryan Adams (DJ set)
  91. A-TRAK
  92. Erol Akan
  93. John Mayer
  94. Jerry Seinfeld authentic disco DJ set
  95. Madonna
  96. Alex Rodriguez/JoseCanseco (2Many Steroids)
  97. Michael Phelps DJ Set after extending his brand too far outside of his core competencies
  98. Smarter Child (DJ set)
  99. Joe the Plummer (DJ Set)
  100. Panda Bear (Noah Lennox)
By Jye Smith Oct.14.2008
In: Commentary
0 comments

Wes Borland on Black Light Burns

Following up my album review of Black Light Burns.  Great interview and accompanying montage with Wes Borland.  Thoughts on the Black Light Burns and writing music in general.

By Stuart McPhee Oct.5.2008
In: Commentary, Opinion
40 comments

Finally marching to a different tune

The history of music is littered with brave choices: Dylan plugging in at the Newport Folk Festival; Al Green turning his back on secular music; the person responsible for signing Mariah Carey to EMI.

What fascinates me is when the leader of a band decides to pack it all in and start anew. I’m not talking about going solo but forming a completely new band: new members, new name, new style.

It doesn’t often happen but when it does, rarely is it a success. Two men that have made the arduous decision and have lived to tell the tale are Paul Weller and Neil Finn.

Both had completely different reasons for dissolving their respective bands and starting again but I doubt that either made their choice lightly.

Finn’s choice was the easier and most logical of the two. He had inherited Split Enz when his elder brother Tim left so it made sense for Neil to strip it all back and start a smaller combo. The Enz never possessed a stable lineup or sound for that matter (From vaudevillian art rock to new wave) and by the time their last album was released (1984s See Ya ‘Round) they had exhausted their potential fan base. The clown make-up had not been sighted in a while either.

Their last hit song was a cracking pop tune called ‘I Walk Away’ which was loaded with connotations of leaving everything behind and starting something new and exciting.

In less than 18 months, Finn had his new band Crowded House and along with Paul Hester and Nick Seymour they cracked the US (something Split Enz never could) and finally the UK, becoming one of the world’s most loved groups. Interestingly enough, ‘I Walk Away’ was re-recorded for Crowded House’s self titled debut, with the new version taking on a more guitar driven sound that reflects Finn’s move to a three piece line-up.

It was a different kettle of fish for Paul Weller. The Jam were at their peak when Weller decided he had done all he could with the band (something Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and millions of Mods would disagree with). Weller’s interests in soul music was growing and slowly the punk in him waned. In hindsight, The Jam’s last single ‘Beat Surrender’ was like a snottier version of a song The Style Council (Weller’s next band) would soon release.

Going from sharp suits to sweaters draped over the shoulders, Paul Weller certainly took a hit in the credibility stakes. Yet for all their faults, The Style Council did produce some great music (‘Shout To The Top’ is a song) and Weller weathered the storm of the 80s to forge an acclaimed solo career.

Even though Weller survived, is such a ballsy move likely to ever happen again? Can one imagine Chris Martin leaving Coldplay to form a new venture with some other musicians? Thom Yorke ditching Radiohead? Such a notion is hard to believe but you tell that to fans of The Jam – they would disagree.