I became an instant Lucksmiths fan when I heard ‘Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco’ on the radio last year, a timeless pop tune. The band has released eight albums, received adulation from the usually critical Pitchfork and toured endlessly throughout Europe and US. And still managed to be overlooked by the general public. Lucksmiths’ songs are all highlighted with quirky personal lyrics delivered by Taliesyn White’s smooth white boy pop voice not unlike Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.
Early this year I caught them in a very personal backyard gig when they were in tour in Sydney. The band were literally playing underneath laundry clotheslines. About 150 people packed into the tiny space, some climbing the roof and sitting on the neighbours’ fence to watch the band. The set up was a simple three piece with Tali being the stand up drummer/vocalist in the middle. I didn’t recognise most of their songs as they picked randomly out of their massive back catalog, but when they played San Francisco I couldn’t help but reminisce my own stories about the city.
The Lucksmiths – ‘Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco’ (mp3)
There is a grand juxtaposition in terms of musical styles that are in vogue at the moment. On one hand, we have the superfluous Eighties synth/new wave fad, and on the other the simple, stripped-back folk music trend. Perth’s Bob Evans is a subject of the latter category. But rather that it be a contrived, money making exercise, Bob Evans plays honest, emotional folk music.
Truth be told, Bob Evans is actually the alter-ego of Kevin Mitchell, front man for Perth punk/pop group Jebediah. I was never a big fan of the music of Jebediah, but I’ve fallen in love with Bob Evans and his latest release Suburban Songbook. There’s nothing flashy about the record, it’s just based around simple and effective folk-rock tunes with strong songwriting at the core. It’s one of my favourite albums of the year and while it was hard to pick one song off the album to showcase, I thought it might be best to go with the opening song, and lead single, ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time?’
Bob Evans – ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’
Angus and Julia Stone – photo by Mitch Connolly
I went to Splendour in the Grass last weekend, a music festival that goes off in Byron Bay in northern New South Wales every Australian winter (that’s June to August for you northern hemispherians). Byron Bay is an area famous for laid back lifestyle, great swells for the surfing types, hippie-ish attitude with its close proximity to the drug tolerant Nimbin and an abundance of vegetarian/tofu options in restaurant menus. The drive took 14 hours with stops and it had been raining leading up to the weekend. There was not a single patch of green grass to be seen, mud was everywhere. Think Glastonburry.
There were three main stages and I went to start off at the more chilled out sitting down stage at the end of the mud trail. I sat down and saw these guys played to a half empty room which quickly filled up once Julia’s sweet voice wafted through the air. The siblings’ performance was so captivating I didn’t bother to move on to the other bigger profile tent featuring a certain hyped up Swedish prog wannabes Dungen or some other rap/dance combo at the far end stage. It has been a while since I’ve sat through an entire acoustic set, and I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys again.
Angus and Julia Stone are a brother sister combo from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. They play with drummer Mitch Connoly, formerly of the Beautiful Girls and a rotating guest bassist. While at first impression they sound like any other midweek acoustic night duo, it is really Julia Stone’s intriguing voice texture that reminds me of Joanna Newsome, albeit without the annoying shrieky bits. A lot of their numbers are down-tempo stories about domestic life and loves, though I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they find an upbeat crossover hit to take on radio.
Angus and Julia Stone – ‘Paper Aeroplane’ (mp3)
Inga Liljeström – photo by Gavin Bradstreet
Inga Liljeström – how do you describe her music? Well, her music acts more like a soundtrack, the nature of it allows you to picture the visuals in your head and create a mini-movie to what you’re hearing. She creates a form of jazz electronica, rather than trip-hop although comparisons to artists such as Björk and Portishead are often generated.
I’ve seen Inga a few times live and she’s as good live as she is on CD. Her drummer, Michael Iverson, is amazing, as is her string section. She manages to recreate all the sounds live, and at one show of hers, she even had dancers – now that’s a live experience! She’s released two albums, but Elk is the latest record, and it’s a fantastic aural journey. We’ve got the song ‘Glow’ from that album for you to wrap your ears around.
Inga Liljeström – ‘Glow’
It’s like the episode of The Simpsons where Apu is living with them, and his mother comes to stay and Lisa and Bart ask her “what’s with the dot?” Well, we could ask the same about .hinge, this rocking Melbourne five piece. They’ve been kicking around the Aussie alternative music scene sicne 1997 and musically they keep going from strength to strength. Their debut album Something To Adore was listed in the Top 10 albums of 2005 on DecoyMusic.com.
I’ve always been a fan of vocalist Glenn Johnstone and he performs even better live. Also, the guitar work of Rob Crimi and Brock Collins is reminiscent of the interplay between Billy Corgan and James Iha. .hinge don’t follow conventional song structures, but they still manage to create rock songs interwoven with intricate, effected guitar. Oh yeah, and the bass and drums groove along fantastically too! Check out the song ‘Cut The Cord’ from Something To Adore.
.hinge – ‘Cut The Cord’ (mp3)
LOUD. Real crash bang loud. That’d be the first word that comes to mind when describing these guys. TIGHT would be the next one. As anyone who has seen them would tell you, Pharaohs feature one of the most naturally gifted young drummers around, 16 years old of age. OK he’s probably 18 now but still, I’ve seen them several times and they always blow away whoever it is they are supporting. At the Mandarin Club gig in Sydney last year mid way through a song the guitarist/singer jumped on a round table and almost nearly stacked it, but he did some sort of skateboard type lip trick balancing and jumped his way out of trouble, all without missing a riff. Currently in the studio mixing down, the album should be coming out through Timberyard Records, home to Damn Arms, Riff Random & Dead Frenchmen.
The Pharaohs – ‘Keelhaul’ (mp3)
Wolf & Cub
I first heard of Wolf & Cub in 2004 when they were announced as one of the inaugural signings of the new local label Dot Dash, a collaboration with the Remote Control marketing team and indie distributors Inertia. They toured as part of the label’s showcase, and was main support for label mate New Buffalo. The latter was a disappointment, but Wolf & Cub left quite an impression on everyone.
At first I thought the double drum kit set up was superfluous and dismissed it as an attention grabbing stunt, seeing that most of their tunes just needed one good drummer instead of two average ones. Their performance reminded me of a lot of the jam bands around at the time and so I didn’t think much about it. But over time they proved to be stayers, getting picked up by local and national radio, scoring multiple festival slots, opening for a lot of touring bands. By the end of 2004 I saw them about five more times, growing to like them a bit more at each show.
Now I am convinced these guys are one of Australia’s better bands. Solid touring has moulded these guys into a rocking unit on stage and the new songs that radio have previewed sound very impressive; more cohesive song structures and driving grooves. They’ve got gigs supporting TV On The Radio this week and their upcoming album will be out in Europe through the prestigious 4AD label. While they’ve put up new songs up on their myspace, we have ‘Thousand Cuts’ below from their debut EP.
Wolf & Cub – ‘Thousand Cuts’