Decoder Ring – photo by Nabil
It’s not often that I’ll buy an album without hearing a track or two first, but that’s exactly what I did with Fractions, the latest release from Decoder Ring. Of course I had heard their previous work, which had been mainly instrumental, but Fractions blew me away. Since writing the film score for the movie Somersault, the band had recruited the beautiful vocalist Lenka, whose voice is amazing and sits so well with Decoder Ring’s music.
The band still, thankfully, retain their penchant for instrumental songs, and regardless of whether their songs contain vocals or not, they’re still beautiful and accessible to any music fan. Decoder Ring are one of my favourite Australian acts, although I’m yet to witness them live though I’m told their shows are spectacular. We’ve got a cut from the Fractions album entitled ‘Out of Range’.
Decoder Ring – ‘Out of Range’
The Golden Age
Another band hitting the international touring circuit is The Golden Age. Currently in the United States, their song ‘Dirty Bird’ has an easy groove perfect for an afternoon drive through the city. Formed in 2004, they played their first gig ever with the ‘now’ band Youth Group, and went on to play Homebake by the end of year by way of winning the Hopetoun Hotel Incentive competition, a yearly competition whose prize is to open the Hopetoun stage at Homebake.
When I saw these guys at the Annandale Hotel they have a weird setup of putting the two singers/guitarists on the two sides of the stage and having the girl bassist right up the middle. It was a strange decision to set up this way considering she had almost no presence at all, while the two singers had to sing from the shadows on the wings of the stage. I hope they have fixed this strange set up because it had dampened an otherwise energetic set.
The Golden Age – ‘Dirty Bird’ (mp3)
Die! Die! Die!
“Die! Die! Die! is a three-piece band from New Zealand currently wandering the globe.”
There are so many of these post-hardcore noise bands in Australia, but very few actually make the jump and relocate overseas for a music career. Sad, but the truth is this NZ trio is doing what every Australian (or Kiwi) band should do: get out of the country and tour the world. Their hardwork has caught the attention of producer Steve Albini who worked their latest EP. Regular gigs and residencies in New York and London means it’s only a matter of time before the music media wake up and pay attention to this hyper punkers. I actually have never seen these guys before but from what I heard I’ve been missing out. No idea when they’ll be back here but I’m waiting for it.
Die! Die! Die! – ‘Year Nine Yeah’ (mp3)
Flamingo Crash has the most unfortunate luck that they are based in Brisbane. This northern based fivesome has some of the catchiest pop songs I’ve heard all year. The hardworking band has driven a full 25 hours across 3 states from Brisbane to Melbourne just in time for an instore performance! The Crash’s gig history reads like an all star hit parade: supports with The Presets, The Go! Team, Wolfmother, Wolf n Cub, The Bravery and Faker prove that if these guys were based in Sydney or Melbourne they’d be all over radio and magazines. This August they’ll be coming down to Sydney for a couple of show, check them out.
Flamingo Crash – ‘(Vamp at the) Wax Party’ (mp3)
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)