Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Spiral's in town.

Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg is back in Australia this summer, playing Laneway Festival and a Melbourne show next week at the Northcote Social Club with a 'pickup' band of locals including his mates from Gersey and BBQ guru Julian Wu. Go figure! Along for the ride on Tuesday 3rd of February is campfire-pop heroes Port O'Brien, currently featured in TV ads locally (see below) and gathering some momentum on the back of their excellent album of 2008 "All We Could Do Was Sing".

Kannberg, in case you don't know, is the former guitar-slinger and founder of the best band ever invented in the known and unknown universe: PAVEMENT. I've been reading Rob Jovanovic's essential bio of the band "Perfect Sound Forever" which is the perfect accompaniment to the recent Pavement redux-reissues. It features interviews with the band, plus reviews, flyers, artwork, photos and anecdotes from people involved with them. So, so good.

The question on everyone's lips though is when's the Pavement reformation tour? Its now ten years since they broke up and 2009 is also the 20th anniversary of their first release. Surely, the planets are aligned? Scott told Time Off Sydney:

"I actually saw Malkmus last night, he played here in Seattle... We were supposed to have a little talk about that (the reunion), but instead we ended up having a little too much to drink. So, those best laid plans went to waste. So, I can tell you that nothing is imminent"

Boo! Come on!!! Ok, so some good news for fans of Kannberg's work as Preston School of Industries is that he'll be releasing a new, as yet un-named album, as "Scott Kannberg", in the not to distant future. It will be out through Matador. We're sure to hear some new tunes from it this coming Tuesday too!

So, anyway here's that Port O'Brien track to also get you excited about their small club show on the 3rd:

Dark Was The Night

I find it hard to get into charity compilation albums. There's an earnest element that niggles at me, and often the song and artist choice seems either overly conservative or commercially driven. Being able to reach the most amount of people with the message of your cause is one thing, filling a various artists collection with a variety of nobodies or wannabies is another. Make Mixtapes Not War is probably the only recent compilation i can think of that bucks this trend thoroughly, although I'm sure you can think of more (and feel free to suggest some in comments below). For me tribute albums present the same problems too. Maybe the fascist-mixtaper-selecta in me will never be happy with someone else's choice.

So, a tinge of trepidation is dampening my otherwise totally psyched feelings about the forthcoming compilation for the AIDS charity Red Hot Organization. Aaron and Bryce Dessner from American band The National (above) have been set the task of filling the discs with contributions from some of the leading lights in indie music.

"A total of thirty-two exclusive tracks have been recorded for the compilation, which will be available as a double cd, triple vinyl and download album, with profits benefitting the Red Hot Organization - an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS." Official 4AD link.

The list of artists involved is enough to make you gasp:

Andrew Bird
Antony + Bryce Dessner
Arcade Fire
Beach House
Blonde Redhead + Devastations
Bon Iver
Bon Iver & Aaron Dessner
The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues
The Decemberists
Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
Kevin Drew
Feist + Ben Gibbard
Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear + Feist
Iron & Wine
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Kronos Quartet
Stuart Murdoch
My Brightest Diamond
My Morning Jacket
The National
The New Pornographers
Conor Oberst & Gillian Welch
Riceboy Sleeps
Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio)
Sufjan Stevens
Yo La Tengo

You can hear Sufjan Steven's contribution on Drive By Media.

Various: Dark Was The Night is out through 4AD on February 16th.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Animal Collective

I figure if nothing else this post may get me some traffic. EVERYONE seems to be going a little nutty over the new Animal Collective album "Merriweather Post Pavillion". Now lets hope, cross fingers, pray to God that we can get some tour action down under!

Pitchfork give the new album 9.6 out of ten:

"What they've constructed here is a new kind of electronic pop-- one which is machine-generated and revels in technology but is also deeply human, never drawing too much attention to its digital nature. It's of the moment and feels new, but it's also striking in its immediacy and comes across as friendly and welcoming." LINK

Tunes from the new album are (of course) on myspace, or check out the video for standout track "My Girls" at the Animal Collective site because i can't embed it properly from Vimeo and their label, Domino, have removed it from You Tube which is weird and fricked-in-the-head.

Class of 2009

Drowned in Sound have begun a series profiling their pick of the best new bands of 2009. For my money its a better roundup than the similar BBC's Sound of 2009, which is largely packed with synthy garbage or underwhelming "ghetto" princesses.

However both lists do feature Brooklyn's Passion Pit, who, i admit, have a synthy side too, but come over like a glammy-disco Avalanches meets Hot Chip with the detached coolness (and take-off appeal) of MGMT. Tunes from their UK debut EP, Chunk Of Change, are on myspace, with a video below...

Melbourne band Temper Trap join Empire of the Sun on the BBC list which i thought was an interesting couple of Antipodean choices. And the latter's record has been inching its way back up our local charts and popping up on UK radio too. I don't have a huge amount of time for Temper Trap's U2-lite indie-rock, but there's no doubt also they have the sound of "now"... if by now you mean the last 18 months rather than the next. Judge for yourself from the video for "Sweet Disposition" below:

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Middle East

A band from Townsville, Queensland, was the support last night for Bill Callahan at the Thornbury Theatre. They are called The Middle East, and three of their members came to town and wooed us with their lush, folk harmonies and dreamy anthem-indie tunesmithery. Just two guys and a girl with keys, acoustic, electric, glock and makeshift drums. Perfect for the venue, and the seated audience seemed very responsive to this relatively unknown entity.

The Middle East are releasing music independently, and also feature on the Spunk Records singles club. You can hear some of it on their myspace and even buy the record there or on the Who The Hell blog.

They play the East Brunswick Club on February 26th with Leader Cheetah. Nice gig!

Bloggers Choice '08

Forget the magazine editors & big label marketing budgets. This is the best music from 2008 chosen by the most passionate music fans alive: music bloggers.

Hype Machine bring together the best albums, songs and artists of two-thousand-and-GREAT! And in true HypeM style there's free downloads, full albums and bloggery analysis a kimbo.

Check out Music Blog Zeitgeist.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

RIP Ron Asheton

Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton is dead at 60 of a suspected heart attack. Mike Watt pays tribute.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Leader Cheetah

A couple of years ago, when I presented a radio program called Local and/or General on Triple R, I got sent some great tunes by an Adelaide indie group called Pharoahs. I also saw them play in Melbourne and was suitably impressed by their swagger and repertoire. They've since called it a day (although they still exist on myspace), but from the ashes now grows Leader Cheetah, a band quickly gathering the kind of hype and hubbub that the Pharoahs could never quite attain.

The sound is, not too surprisingly given current trends, more 70s folk-rock inspired, shifting away from Pharoah's indie-disco abrasiveness. Less angles, more widescreen perhaps. Leader Cheetah have supported Dinosaur Jr and Blonde Redhead in their very short time together and are featuring on the upcoming Laneway Festival too. Their debut was recorded by legendary US producer Kramer, who worked on all of Galaxie 500's classic albums. Its called 'The Sunspot Letters' and is released in February through Spunk Records.

I'm actually quite excited by this band, and while we wait for the album, here's Leader Cheetah's clip for "Blood Lines":

Compelling Music Writing

With the cricket burbling away in the background, I'm devouring some quite fine music writing. The first article, by Ben Gook, is entitled "Teh Interwebs: Best Mixtape Ever?" on newmatilda.com:

"People have been fretfully holding a stethoscope to the chest of the Australian music industry ever since its birth. But the prognosis has been fundamentally altered in recent years, as technology-led changes to the consumption of music on the internet have ripped the heart out of the CD market and opened up many different paths to hearing music. One provisional — or should that be provincial? — result of this is that Australian artists can navigate the music industry more easily: DIY production has been supplanted by online tools. Another immediate result is that local musicians are less isolated." LINK

And I've also been bashing my way through an excellent article by a guy called Nick Sylvester, dissecting the "artist" known as Girltalk. From "GIRL TALK, THE MASHUP DETONATOR":

"If Girl Talk has done anything, his dead-end project is a reminder of how fiercely dominant Western pop music has become. This is a capitulation, an audio essay even, of the last 25 years of American pop music: loop-based, interchangeable parts that, turns out, are more similar than maybe we'd like to admit. The "isn't it funny how 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' sounds like that Boston song" moment is taken to its darkest, veil-lifted extreme. That we're back in the Tin Pan Alley, and all pop music might actually be the same after all. That the difference is truly manufactured, that the concerns of each song are not interesting. Taking cues from the Grand Wizard Theodor: pop music is not art, but sound design." LINK

Girl Talk is coming to Australia at the end of the month, playing the Laneway Festivals.

Thanks to Tim Shiel (Triple R announcer and the artist known as Faux Pas) for the tip off about the article above. Funnily enough he's also quoted in the top article too!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Astral Weeks

I've been listening to a bunch of new stuff in the past fortnight. I'll try to post about more of the sweet nuggets soon, but for now I'll recommend you track down Astral Weeks, the classic album by Van Morrison. Many people dig it, and now so do it. Rolling Stone rate it. So does Lester Bangs.

Its a sprawling folk-psych, jazzy, free-wheeling trip, straight out 1968. Dig it. Unpopular at the time, it seems, and I guess I can hear/see why, but it makes so much sense in light of all the post-folk, pastoral, free-spirited, mystical, wanna-be psychedelic stuff we've been hearing over the last couple of years. Maybe I sound like a wanker. Do I? I don't know why I never got into it earlier though, maybe its one of those albums your parents had to own for you to discover. It makes sense now. I'm going to need to take more of it in. Its dense, weird, imperfect, magical.

Van apparently played the album in its entirety in November last year at the Hollywood Bowl. Woah! You can watch it on Youtube with an annoying full-screen watermark. Boo.

Dead Spod

Sydney-based hyper-rad lazer-pzarty shaman SPOD has a new video for his single "Dead" from the album Superfrenz:

Spod plays in Melbourne soon - on the 17th of January at Revolver with Metronomy (UK) and Totally Michael (US). Totally RAD. Thanks to Who The Hell for the tip-off.