By Jye Smith Oct.8.2008
In: Opinion, Production

The Best of 2008 Hip-Hop Vocoder (Key-Specific Auto-Tune)

As we near the end of of 2008, it’s been very clear that the use of key-specific autotune or the Vocoder effect has been a huge hit, and at the forefront of it all has been T-Pain.  Whether you like him or not, I think the following comments are fair:

  • T-Pain has the vocoder on too strong, and his voice ‘wobbles’ at the end of notes, rather than a nice crisp finish
  • He’s delivered something relatively traditional (see California Love or One More Time) and repositioned it with main stream audience.

As previously discussed, auto-tune has a lot of stigma attached, but when used well, it can be a really interesting and colourful effect.  Although it might be hiding T-Pain’s real talent.

So here are the biggest hits for 2008 featuring the vocoder effect, including T-Pain’s new video “Can’t Believe It” — the first innovative hip hop clip I’ve seen in a long time.

By Jye Smith Oct.7.2008
In: Concerts, Opinion
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Lifeless Ladytron

Last night Chizm and I decided to head out and see electronic pop outfit Ladytron at The Metro Theatre. What a fucking disappointment.

It was, without a doubt, the most boring concert we have ever been too.  It was like someone had an unequalized recording blasting out of the speakers.  The front female vocalists were lifeless and completely emotionless.
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By Stuart McPhee Oct.5.2008
In: Commentary, Opinion

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.

By Nathanael Boehm Sep.30.2008
In: Opinion

Wiley - Summertime

Love it or hate it? I think Daft Punk deserves more respect than Wiley has given them with his extensive sampling of Aerodynamic … well it’s not even sampling, it’s more just singing over the top of the track and then trying to make it better! No, you don’t try and improve on Daft Punk. I’ll listen to it rather than change the radio station but I’m not impressed.

But then again I rather like Kanye West’s Stronger which samples Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Nathanael Boehm

By Jye Smith Sep.26.2008
In: Album Reviews, Opinion

Jerk: When Pure is Defiled

I just can’t get into this album. Sydney-based industrial metal outfit Jerk is like a band that tried to be like every other band. The result, When Pure is Defiled, is about as meaningful as a brick wall. The overall impression I get from my first few listens is that I’m hearing the offcuts of Powerman 5000, NIN, Mazza Manson and occasionally RATM. Singer Johnathan Devoy screams a good scream and there are some interesting beats, but overall, it’s emotionless, the melodies are contrived and the whole sound is about as original as every Australian television drama series produced over the last ten years. Read the full story

By Jye Smith Sep.23.2008
In: Opinion, Recommended
1 comment

Fucking music

You bring a special stranger home from the pub and as you’re pouring them a drink, they wander over to your stereo and hit “play.” Good Charlotte blasts out, you get a punch in the face and end up watching your housemates’ porn before sleeping alone.

This all-too-common tragedy can be cleverly avoided by strategically stocking your bedroom with shag-happy tunes. Read the full story

By Jye Smith Sep.9.2008
In: Opinion

Music videos that disturbed me as a child

Judy just loves Mr Squiggle

In between Skate 2000 and head-butting my brother, I spent most of my early years watching Video Hits and Rage. For better or for worse? You be the judge…

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By Stuart McPhee Sep.8.2008
In: Commentary, Opinion
1 comment

All we need is a little patience

Something for the Gunners fans there (and don’t they need it). But while they sit on forums and ruminate as to the epicness of Chinese Democracy, us normal souls are being spoiled by guerrilla tactics from the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and now Bloc Party.

The latter’s 3rd album Intimacy dropped online a little over a week ago with very short notice from the band.  The only clue as to its sound were the dancy between album release ‘Flux’ and first single ‘Mercury’. In an era of albums leaking like the entire music industry is run by the Keystone Cops (complete with Suge Knight in the Fatty Arbuckle role) this method of releasing new material will soon become the norm.

The only thing that doesn’t fly with me in the case of Bloc Party is the way they have decided to hold the physical release of the album back about 2 months. I am still a material guy in a digital world so I need to be convinced that what I am getting by clicking on a paid download is exactly what I would receive if I went in to my local record store (sound quality aside). So when it was mentioned that the disc version of Intimacy would contain extra tracks not found on the digital release, I decided to wait it out for late October to purchase the entire box and dice.

Until that time, apart from ‘Mercury’, I will be completely shut off from the album. I do know that it has already divided listeners but after enjoying their first two efforts I will purchase Intimacy on past history alone. It certainly isn’t the first time I have made such a foolish decision and it will not be the last.

By ssheargold
In: Album Reviews, Opinion
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M is for...


Obsession is a wonderful thing. With the glut of [c]rap and hideously ordinary music in the charts these days, it is rare for me to find an album that absolutely captivates me, one that I can listen to for weeks on end without it becoming dull. So it is something of a surprise that this last month I’ve found two, quite different, albums to become obsessed with.

The first is Michael Nyman’s lush, extravagant score for Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract - a film of landscapes, devious wit, sex, and murder. It’s full of sensual harpsichord and frenetic woodwind; it is intense and sharp and makes my head spin when listened to up loud on headphones. Interesting I had familiarised with this album so totally that I was disappointed with its use in the film – cut up, edited sharply (but then, unlike a score taken on its own, the music in the film is there to support the picture.) Michael Nyman is one of those interesting composers who works in the minor key a great deal, and the minor key to me has always been very intense and expressive and emotional (for instance I’m sure “the brown noise” is in a minor key). But he is also rather one-dimensional in that his score’s tend to sound very much the same (not that this is a bad thing; every composer is a plagiarist of their own work). But he would never sound this cohesive again (except perhaps for The Piano). This score, whilst a magnificent complement to the film, is also a beautiful operatic experience in itself. It pulls you through so many shifting emotions – whimsy, sensuality, arrogance, violence – with consummate ease, and a playful deviousness.

I’ve been waking up in the morning and stepping into the shower and abruptly this will enter my head and I’ll be humming along to a particular cadence or rhythm. A mark of a good piece of music, perhaps, being maddeningly intrusive and somehow becoming the soundtrack to one’s life, too.

The second is M83’s new album – Saturdays=Youth. I’m only a recent devotee to M83. I can’t even remember how I first came to discover him – possibly a trawl through my Amazon recommendations. After the ambient bliss of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, and the ode to drug-fuelled nights that was Before the Dawn Heals Us, both albums that delivered great intensity in parts but didn’t quite make for a satisfying whole, we get the staggeringly good Saturdays=Youth. The title says it all – this is dreamy, hazy, 80’s ambient- styled electronica full of beautiful reminiscing tracks about youth. We get everything here, from angsty death-dreaming (Graveyard Girl) to happy pop (Kim & Jessie).

However, nothing compares to the perfect Skin of the Night – an intense wash of synths, sharp drum-machine and a breathy Kate Bushesque chorus that climbs and climbs into ecstasy. It’s one of those songs that you can’t get enough of, that reaches in and pulls out something in you that you thought only you could express. There’s something of an elusive freedom in it. Very much a driving song, out on vast plains, nothing but you and the car, and the road.

Ladytron in a few weeks time. Not sure what to expect. The most troubling thing is deciding what to wear. Ladytron after all are perhaps one of the coolest bands in existence. Aesthetically speaking.

By Jye Smith
In: Opinion, Other

Say what you mean

I have a rule when listening to song lyrics: if I can predict the second line after hearing the first – it’s shit.

Harsh? Perhaps. But it just makes the artist lazy in my eyes. Why would I want to listen to something I could have written myself? Lyrics should challenge, inspire, surprise; not sound like an angry ten-year-old’s diary. Common lyrical pitfalls I cringe at include the following:

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