An Horse are the flag-bearers of Australian indie-pop right now. A big call, I know, but after that Mercedes Benz ad, their ridiculously great EP and both national and international tours with indie-pop superstars Tegan & Sara and Death Cab, I think it’s approaching a realistic appraisal. They now finally have their debut LP set for release. It’s already on iTunes for those who like instant digital gratification; otherwise, fans can wait until March for a physical copy. Either way, they launch the album across the country over the next month, bringing their striking brand of direct, two-man/woman pop to your locale.
If you haven’t seen them live then you haven’t absorbed the full An Horse experience. Apart from the immediacy and rawness of the live setting that heightens the impact of these songs, the two possess the confidence, charm and wit of superstars well beyond the relative youth of the project.
‘Little Lungs’ begins more fragile than some of their catchier songs, however, it only works to increase the intensity and excitement of the crescendo towards the end. Multi-tracked vocals, pounding drums and even a fuzzy bass guitar (not found elsewhere on the album) provide the song and album’s carthartic climax.
For those interested, An Horse also recorded some stuff for Shoot The Player that’s well worth checking out.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring – ‘That Time Of Day’
You definitely already know this band and you probably already know this song – it’s been floating around the blogosphere and on radio for the past fortnight and now, finally, I’ve gotten around to uploading it.
Despite how widely-disseminated it already is, this release is still worth covering because these guys put out one of the best albums (Australian or not) of 2008 and, most importantly, because ‘That Time Of Day’ is up to the same high standard presented on their sophomore effort Primary Colours.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring refuse to make the band a full-time pursuit and so it could be a while before we see another full LP with their name on it. Until then, let’s hope their 7″ output continues at a steady pace. This is a good start.
It’s been some time people, and for that I am sorry, but much news is coming in from the frosty streets of London. As 2008 drew to a bitter cold and dark end, album of the year polls rolled in with Australian and New Zealand artists popping up in most lists though disappointingly not as frequent as previous years. The most popular album of the year from Australian artists was easily Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, who featured on CLASH Magazine (#37), NME (#29), Rockfeedback (#2), Mojo (#5) and Q Magazines (#10) top 50 lists with ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ Cave’s success comes after fourteen records and almost fifteen years of experience and exposure with The Seed’s in the UK, this experience making Ladyhawke by far the break through success story of 2008, featuring on not only NME’s top 50 (coming in at #16 ain’t too shabby) but also the only Kiwi or Australian on Rough Trade’s prestigious mention, coming in at a wonderful tenth spot. Though I’m not wholly into the siren’s synthy coy bash at 80’s pop, the blonde has truly been embraced in the UK and interestingly, 2009 has been penned as the year of the ‘unique female solo artist’ with Ladyhawke being named as just one of the acts that has inspired the surge of attention and signing’s of pop friendly females.
Though getting back to lists I was somewhat sad to see Cut Copy only mentioned once; (this said, they landed an impressive #4 on Pitchfork’s list) #17 on the Rockfeedback list. ThePreset’s, sadly were not mentioned at all (unless someone can prove me wrong?) and that wonderful Pivot record was ranked #79 on Rockfeedback’s Top 80. Though some might argue that end of year polls are a load of bullocks, none can deny their role in shaping an artists career in the eye of the public and setting precedents for music in the years following. I think the results of 2008 indicate a number of things for Australian and New Zealand music but mainly reveal just how hard it is to break through the market. None can doubt Pip’s presence on the live circuit and her commitment to making an impression internationally and for that she is rewarded. Though here I’d similarly like to mention Snowman as this posse is making considerable ground on the uber-hip East London front with their kooky clash of horror rock and goo-punk.
And so, here we are in 2009 with the whole years worth of new music ahead of us. Just think of all those unheard gems waiting in the midst! And of course in London tails are already wagging for two great new Aussie acts, the first being Empire of the Sun. Yep, most of us have heard the album and seen the vid and know that these kids are HOT and are well on their way to riding the avalanche of success started by their predecessors (ie. MGMT and Yeasayer). This must be particularly exciting for Nick Littlemore whose prolific career as both a producer and as a member of Teenager and PNAU has yet to be fully acclaimed in the UK. Though equally HOT and tipped for success in 2009 is TheTemper Trap. These boys have been knocking about the sticks for what seems like a lifetime, but this incubation period has obviously done the band justice, having provided the space to develop a sound that has nabbed the attention of not just NME but also the BBC. My bets are on Temper Trap!
And another Operator Please record would be great also, but hey it’s still only January!
Snob Scrilla was the breakout hip-hop act of 2008. Hands down. His debut EP was released on Ivy League Records, his songs ‘Chasing Ghosts’ and ‘There You Go Again‘ should’ve featured highly in the JJJ Hottest 100, while another cut, ‘Mr Officer,’ featured a guest spot from Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. A fairly impressive effort, you’d have to say.
His debut album is still a couple of months away from release but the first single, ‘Houston,’ has already leaked. If you liked the pace and intensity of Scrilla’s EP then you’re probably going to love this. Though it leads with a lilting, melancholic piano line, the song soon introduces the dirty synth-bass, double-tracked vocals, and heavy guitars that made his previous effort so exciting. Tight production, great energy and a catchy chorus make this another great single in Scrilla’s short but impressive catalogue.
“I think we got a problem, Houston” – perhaps, but it’s nothing to do with this cut. Excitement is mounting for Day One.
For all the light-hearted pop he’s eschewed over his career, Ben Lee also possessed strains of over-earnestness and white-boy spirituality that sat uncomfortably alongside his more inter-textual, self-reflexive lyrics (‘We’re All In This Together’ anyone?). Fortunately, the hits always far outweighed the misses and even those who hate on this still-divisive little songwriter probably found themselves humming one of his tunes at one time or another.
It’s great, then, to hear his most transparent and heightened offering of self-aware humour so far floating around the internet. The song in question is ‘Ben Lee,’ originally recorded by The Ataris as a hate letter to title performer and presented here, unedited, with its full anti-Lee rhetoric still firmly in place.
It’s a wonder Lee can sing with his tongue clearly planted so firmly in his cheek. I don’t know whether Lee or the listener are having more fun here.
Fergus Brown - ’John, She Was Never Only Dancing’ (mp3)
New track from the Sydney based songwriter, Fergus Brown, who recently toured and performed with Martha Wainright around the country. His debut album Burgers Frown features fellow Sydney musicians Jack Ladder and Tim Derricourt of Dappled Cities. He is launching this single at the Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills, Sydney, with more dates to follow I’m sure.
17 year old Jackson McLaren from Warrnambool have finished recording his first EP with Josh Pyke in the production duties. The result is a very promising start to a budding singer-songwriter career. While this market is very crowded, the key to breaking out from the pack is having that one song. Just like Josh Pyke did with Middle of the Hill a few years back. Jackson hasn’t got that song yet, but I’m keen to keep listening for more.
More furious fiddling from The Crooked Fiddle Band, these guys have a new EP called Rise which they are touring now. I’ve been getting into bands like Balkan Beat Box, and while these guys are different, I like the punk element in the songs, it just sounds like a whole lot of fun to watch. I’m gonna check them out this weekend at The Spiegeltent, part of the Sydney Festival, it’s a free event so come along. If you can’t make it, check out other dates on theirspace.
Got your finger on the music pulse in your city? Dom Alessio and I shot this video interview of the Cassette Kids at the Beach Road Hotel for SPIN Magazine’s new international video site, and it seems to be just the beginning of an amazing global network. We’ve been working hard to capture the best bits of the music scene around Sydney, but we obviously can’t cover the whole country on our own. That said, SPIN’s on the hunt for more contributors nationwide… So if you’ve got your own camera, some skills and enthusiasm for something like this, drop Domingo an email at drobledo(at)spin.com and let him know what you think you can offer.
Matthew J Tow has had a fairly varied and impressive career, consisting of time in acclaimed 90s Sydney band Drop City, a solo album released on ultra-indie US label Sub Pop and even a tenure with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. His main preoccupation lately, though, has been The Lovetones – a psychedelic rock band with a penchant for jangly-pop, strong melodies, and dreamy vocals.
Their fourth album, Dimensions finds the band injecting a more obvious Byrds-ian/Kinks-esque songwriting flavour to their now-perfected lush, psychedlic leanings. Journeyman exhibits these strenghs in composition and aesthetic. The impressive production (courtesy of Belles Will Ring‘s Liam Judson) is broad and full, capturing the reverbed chime of the guitars that has characterised their sound. Although the vocals are never presented as the drawcard of this sound, the song is certainly steered by the melodic vocal line of the verse and the floating harmonies of the chorus before the string section takes over for the tail end.
The Lovetones also have a couple of live sets available on MoshCam for anyone interested in checking out their impressive performances and hearing some of their intimidating back-catalogue.