Archive for October, 2007

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They were never meant to last

October 26, 2007

Live in Melbourne, February 2007

Turning up to see Camera Obscura’s Australian tour early this year, I wasn’t expecting much from the support acts. The first one up was a girl who couldn’t have been more than 20 and was in the middle of a serious Joanna Newsom wannabe-phase. Next was a stage full of young indie-looking types including a trumpeter and a violinist. “Oh shit, it’s Architecture in Melbourne,” I said to my friend.

I spoke too soon – up-and-coming Perth band Institut Polaire are something pretty special. Their seven-piece line-up works brilliantly and their literate and catchy take on jangle-pop is superb – think a less precious version of The Decemberists. Not only do they have the instrumental chops and the live show energy, they also have the songs.

Unfortunately, until a few weeks ago, fans outside of Perth had to content themselves with a smattering of east-coast shows (I’ve been to two), one side of a split-7″ that was only sold at their gigs and a few tracks on Myspace.

Now we’re not actually spoilt for material, but there’s a hell of a lot more to work with. First up, is the music video for the old 7″ side, “City Walls and Empires”, an absolutely amazing track and my vote for best pop single of the year (see the video here). Secondly is the EP “The Fauna and the Flora”, just out on Popfrenzy Records.

A couple of tracks for your listening pleasure:

Institut Polaire – “Kentucky Society Drought”

Institut Polaire – “East, West & I”

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Satansville revisited

October 23, 2007

Highway shot

Imagine my excitement today on reading that one of my all-time favourite bands is reforming for the mighty dollar. Just imagine.

Swervedriver were a minor band in the early 90s British wave of noisy rock known as “shoegazer”. They were never as critically acclaimed as My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive. They never had a big pop single like the Boo Radleys. But for those in the know, they were the band, the one you could solemnly swear undying loyalty to.

Sadly, luck was always against them. Their third album was shelved in America and their last album was greeted mostly with shrugs. But their fanbase is still strong and apparently they’ve decided there’s still a market for loud, effects-laden songs about cars and motorcycles.

The last time they toured Australia, I was still underage and couldn’t find anyone to give me a lift to Melbourne anyway. After seeing a re-formed and still-angry Pixies this year, I’m hoping for big things.

To commemorate this event, I’ll share a few of my favourite tracks from the olden days. The classic 1993 single “Last Train To Satansville” is worth your attention (it’s possibly my favourite song of all time), but I’m opting for the b-side version with the country hoedown verses, “Satansville Revisited”. And then there’s “The Birds” off the ill-fated 1996 Ejector Seat Reservation album – as perfect a slice of sun-kissed indie pop as you could imagine.

Swervedriver – “Satansville Revisited”

Swervedriver – “The Birds”

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Doom and optimism

October 22, 2007

One of my favourite artists working in the world of metal at the moment is Justin Broadrick and his Jesu project. The first Jesu album back in 2005 was a brilliant combination of stomach-turning doom metal with flashes of ethereal beauty. Since then, he’s moved even further away from his misanthropic metalhead roots in bands like Napalm Death and Godflesh. 2007’s Conqueror album could almost be considered a “pop” album. If your definition of “pop” stretches as far as mine does.

Every song moves at the speed of toxic sludge and the guitars have never been tuned higher than an octave below normal. But the chord progressions are anthemic and Broadrick’s multi-tracked vocals sound positively angelic at times. The sound isn’t exactly metal and it’s not exactly shoegazer or space rock either. It’s a sound that’s currently unique to Jesu.

The catchiest song on the album is “Mother Earth” and it’s as good an introduction as any. At this rate, the third Jesu album will be produced by Timbaland.

Or not.

Jesu – “Mother Earth”

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Compare and contrast

October 21, 2007

Band picture

The best thing about Sweden’s The Radio Dept. is that they manage to fuse so many of my favourite styles all in one band. They’re kind of jangly and twee, they can be fuzzy and shoegazer and they can also be bleepy and electronic. It’s a win-win-win situation.

I’ve been working my way backwards through their catalogue and was excited to find a track the seemed to be the exact combination of two of my favourite 90s indie pop songs. “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done” has got the same jangly-but-sad feel as “Wish I Wash Skinny” by the Boo Radleys as well as a very similar guitar lead part. But at the same time, it has the same thrashy, lo-fi amateurism that I love in “Touch the Water”, a little-known track from US shoegazers Lilys.

Maybe you can hear it too.

The Radio Dept. – “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done”

Boo Radleys – “Wish I Was Skinny”

Lilys – “Touch The Water”

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Triumphal entrance

October 16, 2007

Rogue Wave

The standard two-year-album cycle means that 2007 has brought follow-ups from many of my favourite artists of 2005 (glares at Sufjan Stevens) including anthemic indie-popsters Rogue Wave. Their second album (and first as a band proper) Descended Like Vultures snuck up on me over the summer of 2005-6 and it was only when my iTunes showed every track off the album in my Top 25 that I realised how much I loved it.

The newie is getting mixed reviews, a little bit like the last one, so maybe it has the same slow-burn potential. What doesn’t need any particular processing or digesting is the absolutely barnstorming first track. “Harmonium” is everything that is good and pure in indie rock right now and you owe it to yourself to listen to it. From the dischordant opening bars, through some “Where The Streets Have No Name” type of dramatic guitar rock and some Wrens-ish angst into the crashing final movement – it’s all compulsively listenable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, from the electrifying pen of Zac Rogue and off the enthralling new album Asleep At Heaven’s Gate, I give you:

Rogue Wave – “Harmonium”

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Dr Stringz to the rescue

October 14, 2007

Even though he’s been around for a number of years, 2007 marks my discovery of the virtuosic Andrew Bird. I remember seeing pictures of this eccentric-looking guy with an abundance of stringed instruments playing at the first Pitchfork festival a few years back and being mildly curious. But it was Armchair Apocrypha from the early months of this year that won me over to the cause.

Reasons Andrew Bird is worth your attention:

1. He can literally play any instrument with strings.

2. He performed on a children’s program as a character called Dr Stringz and it’s hilarious.

3. His vocal range and tone is truly something to behold.

Here’s a 2007 track and a not-so-new track.

Andrew Bird – “Simple X”

Andrew Bird – “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left”

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Fun for all the family

October 9, 2007

nasa astronaut cartoonSince I know that the songs I post here are being listened to by at least one small child (shout out to Thomas!), I can’t help posting something for the kids.

I’ve just recently tracked down the Paperbag Records compilation See You On The Moon, a collection of kids songs played by some supremely cool names in indie rock. It’s a pretty eclectic and oddball mix but it’s worth it for the second track alone.

Great Lake Swimmers have been one of my favourite bands this year and Tony Dekker’s voice can do things to me I can’t believe. So it’s amazing it hear him singing the title track, an astonishingly cute tale of all the options you have for when you grow up. Complete with farm animal noises.

Enjoy.

Great Lake Swimmers – “See You On The Moon”