By Jye Smith May.12.2010
In: Opinion
8 comments

The State of the Music Industry

A perspective on the future of the music industry

Missing Link Records is recognised by all as one of Australia’s leading independent record stores. As times change, so has the way we listen to music.

Missing Link Records is launching their new digital download service, Missing Link Digital Media and we talk to owner, Nigel Rennard about their dedication to keeping indie label and unsigned bands alive.

SR: You have been in the music industry for over thirty years now, how have you seen music change over the years?

NR: Back in 1981, when I took over the shop, we were just about to embark on the arrival of the CD, as the new format for the future of music – the single largest change to music since it’s change to vinyl. Just like we did in the early 80’s we were committed to bringing new music, from both the U.S. and European arenas to Australia, along with our strong focus on Australian Independent artists. Of course we have seen the punk/new wave movement, the grunge movement, the emo movement, the advent of urban rap/hip hop music, the many various metal genres and all the other trends in music style over those years.

SR: Missing Link Records is an icon of Melbourne, have cd sales slowly declined over many years or has there been a sudden and quick drop?

NR: There is no other way to put this but yes we have, especially over the past year, seen a dramatic decline in cd sales and sales overall. As we have traditionally catered to a male audience there has been an almost total disappearance of the 14-20 year old punk/metal/thrash crowd along with just the overall trend in all age groups and genres being downward. I put this down to a number of factors, the economic conditions, the type of music being promoted and last but significantly the most damaging has been the theft of music by our target market.

SR: Do you think joining the digital download world is a necessary step in keeping music sales alive?

NR: Missing Link are currently in the process of creating Missing Link Digital Media, which is going to provide a digital download facility, along with a hard copy sales option for our customers and hopefully many, many more around the world. The writing is on the wall as digital sales increase by hundreds of percent each year and hard copy sales decline somewhere around 8-10% a year.

SR: What is your vision for MLDM?

NR: We are looking to create the largest archive of Australian Independent music stretching back as far as we can go along with the latest offering from the artist as they leave the recording studio. To this end we have been hunting down people from the late 70’s to now, in order to get hold of anything recorded by them over the past 30+ years. It is a mammoth task but we will persist to create a catalogue that will offer previously unheard music to areas of the world that has never had the opportunity to hear it. We will also provide overseas music on the service that is distributed by Independent Australian wholesalers.

SR: Is it a case of “if you cant beat them, join them”?

NR: We must get our music back from the clutches of free file sharing and once again protect copyright owners from the greatest threat to their intellectual property ever conceived, the internet. We must be part of this if this is the way that people wish to receive music. Just look around at the human zombies as they walk around, sit on the tram or elsewhere with headphones, downloading music just by putting their portable device up against a speaker to recognize a song for them, which they then hopefully pay for. We also change our shop from being a storefront in Melbourne to a storefront to the World.

SR: Some people may believe that digital downloads are killing the music industry. What do you have to say to those people?

NR: They said the same about cd’s killing off vinyl and music 30 years ago. Illegal downloads are the biggest factor, as previously mentioned, in causing the greatest damage to music and movies for that matter. Governments must create laws to stop this a.s.a.p. but all we can do is do what we are doing and become part of the new technology, provide something different to our competitors and charge money for that service.

SR: We all know that illegal downloading has been an issue for some time now. How can we stop this from happening?

NR: Governments and ALL businesses involved in the entertainment arenas need to put pressure on ISP’s to stop illegal file sharing. The mindset, amongst the young generations is that music is just a free throw away commodity, yet if asked about a career in music they all wish to be rich and famous, it doesn’t add up.

SR: What about those artists who want to sell their albums in hard copy form?

NR: Our service will be offering both single download (if permitted by the artist), album/e.p. download and if it is available, a hard copy purchase.

SR: Will we ever see physical form music completely disappear?

NR: There will be a place for hard copy and there are still millions sold each year but more likely as a collectable item in the future.

SR: It seems hard for unsigned and indie label bands to get their music heard on mainstream digital services. How is MLDM different?

NR: As our focus is on Australian indie, they will get the opportunity to self promote on our site along with us giving priority to these releases through our banner ads. They can promote their live shows, do instores at the shop and generally benefit far more than sites that give a high profile to Lady Ga Ga or other such nonsense.

SR: What has the response been so far from independent labels and unsigned bands?

NR: Just about everybody we have contacted has been very enthusiastic and signed up. Chasing down old label owners like Citadel and Aberrant, AuGo Go and many other icons from their eras like, Cosmic Psychos, Ollie Olsen, David Thrussell and plenty more has been a personal job of mine. We also have commitment from Shock, Stomp, MGM and plenty of medium and small labels that self distribute.

SR: When will we see MLDM up and running?

NR: The first week of June 2010.

By Jye Smith Apr.14.2010
In: Opinion
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Interview with tyDi

Tydi Creamfields Sydney 2010

my music is my life…something you can listen to over and over again and still find something new

I’m always excited to speak to fellow Australian artists and musicians and tyDi (aka Tyson Illingworth) delivered very well. tyDi gives us a really passion and honest look into what he loves about creating music, and exactly what creating music means to him.

Jye Smith: When did you first start DJing?

Tydi: When I was about 14, in my bedroom really, then inviting friends around to watch.  From there it was house parties til I was about 15 when I started playing my first clubs with like 50 people in the room.

JS: What were the clubs like having some 15, 16 year old playing shows?

T: The liquor licensing act meant that as long as I was contracted by the club, and was with a guardian, meant I was fine. But yeah, they were a little worried I guess.

JS: Where’s been the best place you’ve ever played?

T: If you’ve ever been to Miami, it’s an incredible city. Holland too.  But I’ve played so many shows now, and sometimes it’s the shows with only 300 people that can be the best.

JS: What do you think of the drug scene? It’s pretty heavy here in Sydney

T: I don’t take any drugs, for me personally. With my job I’m in the studio Monday to Friday, then always on flights and playing so many shows on the weekend.  All people see are the DJ’s playing, so they think it’s all party, but not really the work that goes into it.

JS: Does the drug scene ever affect you?

T: Nope, never affected me.  My interest is purely in music.  My music is my life, and that’s my passion.

JS: What is music making process like?

T: Well right now I’ve really found my zone.. I’ll call up my friend down the road who’s a guitarist and invite him around.  I’ll sit down on the piano in the studio, I’m here now, and the guitar will jam along till we come up with a sequence.

From there, I’ll take it and map it out on Logic.

JS: So you play the piano?

T: I’m not really a piano player, but I studied Music Technology at the con [Conservatory of Music] for 4 years.

JS: Would you consider yourself a bit of an audiophile?

T: Yeah, I’m a bit of a music geek I guess.

JS: What’s the biggest challenge to making music?

T: Writer’s block – sounds like something that musicians just say.  But I need every song to be unique. And when I can’t make it unique I need to take a week off and just go to the beach of something and then come back.

JS: What’s the direction of your music? Not only in the next 1-2 years, but also in the 3-4 year period?

T: I want my music to be cutting edge, intricate and have a large amount of detail involved.  Something you can listen to over and over again and still find something new with in.

JS: Does anyone else help produce the album, or just you?

T: Just me, but then the people who come in to do the strings, cellos, etc. or guitars, they usually will write the parts, and sometimes I’ll let them bring in their own ideas.


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
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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
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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
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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 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, Opinion, Other
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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
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...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
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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 Pete Ross Dec.8.2008
In: Opinion
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They don't make 'em like they used to

Neal Peart of Rush

Amongst my favourite bloggers is Sam de Brito on the Sydney Morning Herald website, who writes fairly wide-ranging entries focussing on a masculine perspective on life. A couple of weeks ago, however, he strayed uncharacteristically into the area of music. What he said irked me considerably, in several polar ways, and I really wanted an outlet in which to respond to it.

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By Dan Clarke Dec.5.2008
In: Commentary, Concerts, Opinion
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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?”

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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…

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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.

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By Stuart McPhee Nov.23.2008
In: Album Reviews, Opinion, Recommended
2 comments

Nothing a month? Yeah, I think we can swing that: My 5 favourite free downloads of 2008

As I have stated once before: I am a material guy in a digital world. Buying a full album online still does not wash with me and no amount of exclusive bonus tracks or digital booklets can sway my opinion. I do however purchase a lot of new singles to the point that I need to set up some sort of tab arrangement with iTunes like Norm had with Sam Malone.

Free albums on the other hand I’ll happily download anytime. Of course by ‘free albums’ I don’t mean using a P2P service to grab the latest Metallica album for nix. This year especially there have been some solid free releases by artists and I thought I would share with you my four favourites as well as the best free music related podcast in the world.

The CharlatansYou Cross My Path

Back in March this year, UK stalwarts The Charlatans partnered up with radio station Xfm to drop their 10th album online for nothing. Sounding more like New Order as the years go by, fourth single ‘Mis-Takes’ is one of my favourite songs of 2008. No longer available through Xfm but an album worth seeking out regardless (it was released on CD in May).

Nine Inch NailsThe Slip

With the simple message from Trent Reznor: “thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me”, The Slip was made available with no prior announcement on May 5th. All of a sudden, NIN has become prolific and we are all better for it.

Girl TalkFeed The Animals

I remember back in 2006 a guy coming into the record store that I worked in and asking for Girl Talk. After politely showing him ‘The Best of Dave Edmunds’ album he shook his head and explained the ‘Night Ripper’ album and its concept.  2008s Feed The Animals is another brilliant collection of samples blending into and on top of one another. The album’s only fault is that it doesn’t contain ‘Girls Talk’ by Dave Edmunds. Perhaps next time.

Mick Boogie & Terry UrbanViva La Hova

Whilst Coldplay purists weep on message boards around the interweb, the rest of us can’t get enough of this brilliant mash up album with Jay-Z and the second biggest band in the world. Inspired by the remix of ‘Lost!’, some great underground producers have put together some fantastic tunes, my favourites being ‘Never Changing’ and ‘Public Speeding’. Both acts have given it the thumbs up as well, that’s praise you can’t buy.

Sound OpionionsWeekly Podcast

A great weekly radio program originating from Chicago, Sound Opinions is the self proclaimed “world’s only Rock N Roll talk show”. While that boast can’t be confirmed, its hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot are well respected music critics with a wealth of knowledge. You won’t always agree with them but you will enjoy their insights and fantastic guests. Worth an hour of your time each week.

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.

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By Dan Clarke Nov.10.2008
In: Album Reviews, Opinion
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One Day As A Lion - Not too sheepish.

ONE DAY AS A LION
SELF TITLED EP
ANTI-

After Rage Against the Machine broke up in 2000, Zack De La Rocha entered into a kind of self-imposed exile for nearly seven years. Work with Trent Reznor and Dj Shadow produced very few tracks that saw the light of day. Now that the band’s back together it seems De La Rocha has regained his mojo, embarking on a side project as One Day As A Lion.

ODAAL is a collaboration between the Rage frontman and onetime Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, carrying on in the tradition of vitriolic protest music that makes Rage such essential listening. Replacing the squealing guitar work of Tom Morello with a keyboard plugged in through old 80s metal amps and guitar delay pedals De La Rocha manages to bring that very distinct Rage sound to more sparse arrangements.

One Day As A Lion is certainly a more minimalist approach but it’s just as appealing. As expected, the lyrics are littered with commentary on U.S. imperialism, inequality and injustice so anyone who tired of the rampant politicism of Rage Against The Machine might be turned off but that has always been what makes their music so relevant and compelling. It’s kinda the whole point really.  9/10

Check out http://myspace.com/onedayasalion for more info.

Musicfeeds – It’s Spanish for Awesome!

By Jye Smith Oct.9.2008
In: Concerts, Opinion
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Saul Williams coming to Australia

Saul Williams is an American poet, writer, actor and musician known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip-hop and for his leading role in the independent film Slam.

5th December – Melbourne – The Espy
6th December – Byron Bay – The Great Northern
7th December – Brisbane – The Zoo
11th December – Sydney – Oxford Art Factory
12th December – Hobart – Brisbane Hotel
13th December – Meredith Music Festival

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