The Presets – ‘A New Sky’
“My, how you’ve grown!” muses The Presets’ frontman Julian Hamilton on ‘Talk Like That’, one of many standout tracks from the duo’s second release, Apocalypso. You’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s talking to himself. After all, The Presets have transformed from underground synth junkies into full-blown popstars in a ridiculously short amount of time. When their debut record, Beams, dropped back in 2005, they signalled in the beginning of the Modular Era, which would see thousands of kids squeeze into tight jeans and bright coloured tshirts and go absolutely apeshit for dance rock. But the Presets were always way ahead of the pack, leading the way with their increasingly dark electro tunes that would eventually become the soundtrack to the New Rave generation. And with hits like ‘Are You The One?’, ‘Girl And the Sea’ and ‘I Go Hard I Go Home’ being dropped in every single club in Australia (as well as abroad), it was only a matter of time before this band went into overdrive.
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sleepmakeswaves – ‘One Day You Will Teach Me To Let Go Of All My Fears’
Now I’m not going to lie and say I’m the authority on the post-rock scene. But what I can say is sleepmakeswaves are the first of the aforementioned genre that you can actually listen to in one sitting without being bored out of your brain. Essentially, this band makes music for your head – a slow burning, hard-hitting fix for musos and nuevos alike. The great thing about post-rock stuff is that you’re likely to hear intricate guitar playing, crunching power chord blasts and swooning synths all in the space of about thirty seconds.
The trick with making these transitions effective is turning on the power at the right time, and making sure it’s switched to overdrive. SMW sounds like what would happen if Jeff Buckley never sang on his records; full of emotion and featuring many different sections that somehow fuse together to make a perfect whole. They’re already quite well known in the underground scene, having released their first EP at the end of last year and playing a whole host of shows with similar bands like Laura and Meniscus. Listen out for the metal riffage around the 1’38” mark, it’s to die for…
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Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the fashionista party of the year. A night when the the hottest, richest, best looking people in Sydney gather together to celebrate their uber-hip status and investment in this year’s biggest hype bands. For the uninitiated, this huge Christmas party combines the best of both worlds; the cooler-than-thou fashion of Ksubi (formerly known as ‘Tsubi’ before some ridiculous lawsuit) and ‘next big thing’ magnets Modular, an Australian indie label with an international prescence. And that’s a guranteed combination for a sell-out, with literally thousands of indie kids descending on Sydney’s Fox Studios, clad in some of the most ridiculous clothes ever witnessed by man. Be it fluro-green hot pants, painted tshirts or overalls, the DIY aesthetic was in full force.
But first, a little background:
Modular is truly a success story of the new music millenium. Founded by Sydney concert promoter Steven Pavlovic, this small label gained national respect when it began to pick-up bands using a grassroots approach and transform them into stars, a la The Avalanches. The label has since signed many impressive acts, from dance-rock pioneers The Presets and 80s revivalists Van She, to (arguably) the biggest band Australia has produced in the last five years, Wolfmother. In 2005, Modular opened an office in London, and have since signed a swag of the hottest artists, many of whom were on display tonight, including new-ravers, The Klaxons.
Right now, where were we? The night began with a live DJ set from Cut Copy, who, along with the Presets and The Avalanches have redefined the nature of electronic music in Australiaon the same scale that MSTRKRFT have internationally. Basically spinning their own tracks and interdispersing punk-funk favourites, they warmed up the crowd suitably for whothehell’s hot pick, The Ghosts. With their screaming take on indie, these teenagers(!) were far from transparent, winning over legions of new fans. As The Avlanches dropped the bomb outside, this reviewer stuck indoors to see what all the fuss about Van She was.
Often cited as the best looking outfit to come out of the Sydney rock scene, the Van She boys have carved themselves a niche in the market of 80s imitators, by being better, tighter and more talented than the rest. Tonight was no exception, the synths were full-on, disco beats cracking and lots of pedal basslines. I await their album with high expectations.
Since this blog is about Australian acts, I’m not going to go into huge detail about the UK acts. But needless to say, New Young Pony Club deserve more credit than their psycho counterparts the Klaxons, who incited a near riot despite a sheer lack of musicality. There. I said it. Feel free to let fly with anti-anti-new-rave comments. The night petered out with sets from the legendary Bang Gang DJs who are a cultural insititution in this city, playing every party that matters in the last decade. There were lots of drunk kids; wasted pretty girls in denim shorts and their bleach-blond boyfrieds, tired yet utterly content.
What else can I say? Welcome to the revolution….
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Days Like Stars – ‘Thunderstorm’
My band played a gig with these guys on Wednesday night at Sol’s Deck Bar, in Paddington, Sydney. I felt I had to make a post on Days Like Stars, because they are truly fantastic, and I want to do everything I can to let other people hear their stuff. A Sydney-based four-piece led by Billy Coleman and bass-player Tony Shane, the group first came to light in 2002 as finalists in the MusicOz Awards, a national band competition. Since then, they’ve released a number of EPs, the latest of which, Fight The Sunset, is a gorgeous piece of work. The Brag and Drum Media (free Sydney Street press) adore them, as do a number of TV producers, who have featured their tracks on sitcom episodes.
The Stars boys are like an ‘O.C Band’ on speed. They take all the best parts of indie/pop rock and throw it into the nu-millenium blender, coming out with something vastly original, yet entirely lyrics based. Apologies to those who think I’m a superlative-dropping wanker, but there’s really no way to decribe these guys unless you see them yourself. They seem to be playing 3 shows a week at the moment, so be sure to see them if you can. For all you overseas, if you like Death Cab for Cutie, The Thrills and (especially) The Shins, here is your Australian equivalent. Bring it.
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photo by Marcus Flack
Justin Grounds – ‘Cathedral Bells’ (mp3)
So, there’s been some whiplash from The White Room post, and I’ve learnt my lesson about overhyping bands. Sort of. In the spirit of fair blogging, I’ve signed up to Superlatives Anonymous to get help. To pass the time between meetings, I’m going post on someone else I think deserves a mention; who ISN’T from Sydney, but Jerry’s new hometown of Melbourne.
I discovered Justin Grounds during one of those typical 3-am-too-drunk-to-sleep-myspace-trawling evenings, and I’ve been hooked for a while. I guess I’m just a bit disillusioned with the whole spiky-indie-retro thing going on at the moment and finding someone who just writes proper songs is a breath of fresh air. And it’s also cool because it doesn’t lean towards that uber-popular brand of alt-folk that only very talented guys like Ryan Adams can pull off. Simply put, it’s a nice white boy crying his heart out – and there’s always room for more of them, if they’re good enough. This guy is going to be slapped with some rampant comparisons to fellow lost souls Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley. His voice leans more towards the latter, and he’s also got some serious proficiency on the guitar. And there’s some whacked out hippie lyrics happening, which is rad ‘cos you can start hypothesisng about whether Justin had his heart broken by some vegetarian mystic named Moonbeam. Pretty much, it’s chilled music for the soul. Nuff said, go have a listen.
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The White Room – ‘Enemies Closer’
The White Room will be, without doubt, your new favourite band. Trust me on this one, the four piece are the freshest group to emerge out of the fledgling Aussie rock scene since Silverchair became our favourite ‘Freaks’. Unlike Wolfmother (massive props to Mike Patton, hahah!), Jet, the Casanovas and the proliferation of 70s rock imitators, these guys (and one girl) are vastly original – embracing their culture rather than simply ripping off one from years gone by. Led by the power duo of Marc and Steph Collins, their debut, White Room Music is a grungy, bouncing ride that will have you addicted from the moment it hits your ears.
It’s like AC/DC meeting a 70s Funk band in a pub. Guttural but groovy, grungy but gorgeous, the White Room are a true anomaly in the Sydney scene; a group so great which continually resists catergorisation. The album was recorded by Phil McKellar, probably one of the most famous Australian producers – ever. And it shows: every note is crisply polished to perfection. The tunes rollick about with some moody-ass lyrics helping them along the way. Needless to say, there’s definitely some major label backing behind these guys but I’m yet to hear them on local radio. Check them out now, it’s definitely worth it!
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The Grates – ‘Feels Like Pain’
I challenge you, nay, I dare you to find somebody who doesn’t like these guys. The Grates are leaders of the hyperactive, red-cordial-induced revolution, in which the only rules are to smile constantly and have fun. It’s really refreshing to find a group with a high level of professionalism that don’t take themselves too seriously. And it helps when the music is so damn addictive. Patience Hodgson (i.e Hottest Girl in Australian Rock) and drummer Alana Skyring make up the core of this 3 piece, while their sunny pop debut Gravity Won’t Get You High is getting serious airplay on Aussie radio. For a small group, they make a hell of a lot of noise, just ask anybody who attended their Enmore Theatre gig in Sydney last week.
Patience has a soaring voice which transcends the simplicity of some of the tracks, as she reprimands ex-lovers and schoolyard bullies. Like UK’s Lily Allen, The Grates produce candy-coated bombs, tunes which are sunny in their disposition but upon closer inspection, deal with complex issues and themes. But if you can’t be bothered worrying about all that, just dance around like a maniac, in true Grates fasion. With cuts like ’19-20-20′ positively exploding on stereo, it looks like Patience and co. will have a long-lasting fanbase of teenage schoolkids and those young at heart. Viva la Cottee’s Cordial Kids!
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